Monday, 29 September 2014

"Strangely Strange But Oddly Normal: An Island Anthology 1967-1972" by VARIOUS ARTISTS - A Review Of The 2005 Universal 3CD Mini Box Set with Discography...

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“…Like Another Chance…”

The 'Island Record Label' - enough to put a Weightwatchers smile on the face of even the most overweight Fiftysomething. And this rich, crazy, inspiring 3CD 48-song Mini Box Set covering their Rock, Prog and Folk Rock late Sixties and early Seventies output will only have you doing guitar windmills in your living room once again. It's a lovely thing indeed. Here are the low sparks and high heels...

Originally released December 2005 - "Strangely Strange But Oddly Normal: An Island Anthology 1967-1972" is on Universal/Island 9822950 (Barcode 602498229507) and breaks down as follows (all catalogue numbers are UK):

Disc 1, 19 tracks, 79:09 minutes:
(Jethro Tull, Amazing Blondel, Free and Quintessence pictured on the card artwork)
1. Supernatural Tales - ART (on "Supernatural Fairy Tales", 1967 Mono LP on Island ILP 967)
2. Paper Sun - TRAFFIC (A-side of the 7" single released 1967 on Island WIP 6002)
3. Harpsichord Shuffle - WYNDER K. FROG (WKF is a pseudonym for Mick Weaver - on "Out Of The Frying Pan", 1968 Stereo LP on Island ILPS 9044)
4.  Rainbow Chaser - NIRVANA (A-side of the 7" single released 1968 on Island WIP 6029)
5. Pearly Queen -TRAMLINE (on "Moves Of Vegetables Centuries", 1969 Stereo LP on Island ILPS 9095)
6. Sunshine Help Me - SPOOKY TOOTH (A-side of the 7" single released 1968 on Island WIP 6022. Also featured on the Stereo album "It's All About" on Island ILPS 9080)
7. Dusty - JOHN MARTYN (on "The Tumbler", his 2nd album released 1968 on Island ILPS 9091)
8. Meet On The Ledge - FAIRPORT CONVENTION (on "What We Did On Our Holidays", 1969 Stereo LP on Island ILPS 9092)
9. A Song For Jeffrey - JETHRO TULL (on "This Was", their debut album from 1968 on Island ILPS 9085)
10. The Carpenter - CLOUDS (on "Scrapbook", their debut album on Island ILPS 9100)
11. I Keep Singing The Same Old Song - HEAVY JELLY (Stereo mix taken from the Island Records label sampler album "Nice Enough To Eat" released in 1969 on Island IWPS 6. The Mono Mix was released as the A-side to the UK 7" single on Island WIP 6049)
12. Black Mass: (Electric Storm In Hell) - WHITE NOISE (on "An Electric Storm", 1969 album on Island ILPS 9099)
13. Over The Green Hills (Part 1) - FREE (on "Tons Of Sobs", their debut 1968 Stereo album on Island ILPS 9089)
14. Worry - FREE (as per 13)
15. Giants - QUINTESSANCE (on "In Blissful Company", their 1969 debut album on Island ILPS 9110)
16. Queen Of Scots - AMAZING BLONDEL (on "Evensong", 1970 album on Island ILPS 9136)
17. Feelin' Alright - TRAFFIC (An 'Alternate Version' from the double-album "Dave Mason Scrapbook" released 1972 on Island ICD 5. The original mix of this Dave Mason song is on their 1968 "Traffic" album on Island ILPS 9081)
18. Sing Me A Song That I Know So Well - BLODWYN PIG (on "Ahead Rings Out", 1969 debut LP on Island ILPS 9101)
19. A Sailor's Life - FAIRPORT CONVENTION (on "Unhalfbricking", 1969 album on Island ILPS 9102)

Disc 2, 15 tracks, 73:34 minutes:
(Nick Drake, Sandy Denny, McDonald & Giles, Cat Stevens and The Incredible String Band on the card artwork)
1. A New Day Yesterday - JETHRO TULL (on "Stand Up"9172), 1969 LP on Island ILPS 9103)
2. No Time To Live - TRAFFIC (on "Traffic", 1968 album on Island ILPS 9081)
3. Three Hours - NICK DRAKE (on "Five Leaves Left", 1969 LP on Island ILPS 9105)
4. Lost In My Dream - SPOOKY TOOTH (on "Spooky Two", 1969 LP on Island ILPS 9098)
5. Stormbringer - JOHN and BEVERLEY MARTYN (on "Stormbringer!", 1970 album on Island ILPS 9113)
6. Strangely Strange But oddly Normal - Dr. STRANGELY STRANGE (on "Kip Of The Serenes", 1969 album on Island ILPS 9106)
7. Notting Hill Gate - QUINTESSANCE (A-side of a UK 7" single released January 1970 on Island WIP 6075)
8. Banks Of The Nile - FOTHERINGAY (on "Fotheringay", March 1970 LP on Island ILPS 9125. Features SANDY DENNY and members of FAIRPORT CONVENTION)
9. Wild World - CAT STEVENS (on "Tea For The Tillerman", November 1970 LP on Island ILPS 9135)
10. Painted Chariot - THE INCREDIBLE STRING BAND (on "Liquid Acrobat As Regards The Air", 1971 LP on Island ILPS 9172)
11. Cat Food - KING CRIMSON (on "In The Wake Of Poseidon", May 1970 LP on Island ILPS 9127. It's credited in the booklet as the A-side 7" single edit (at 2:47 minutes) but it plays the full album version at 4:54 minutes)
12. Groon - KING CRIMSON (non-album track, B-side to the March 1970 UK 7" single of "Cat Food" on Island WIP 6080)
13. The North Star Grassman And The Ravens - SANDY DENNY (on "The North Star Grassman And The Ravens", September 1971 LP on Island ILPS 9165)
14. Suite In C (Including Turnham Green, Here I Am And Others) - McDONALD & GILES (on "McDonald & Giles", 1970 LP on Island ILPS 9126. Ian McDonald (Saxophone and Keyboards) and Michael 'Mike' Giles (Percussion, Vocals, Writer and Arranger) were with KING CRIMSON. The track also features STEVE WINWOOD on Keyboards)
15. The Siege Of Yaddlethorpe - AMAZING BLONDEL (on "Fantasia Lindum", 1971 album on Island ILPS 9156)

Disc 3, 14 tracks, 76:18 minutes:
(Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Alan Bown, Traffic and Heads, Hands & Feet on the card artwork)
1. Knife Edge - EMERSON, LAKE & PALMER (on "Emerson, Lake & Palmer", their November 1970 debut album on Island ILPS 9132)
2. Thunderbuck Ram - MOTT THE HOOPLE (on "Bumpers", 1970 UK Double-Album Label Sampler on Island IDP 1. The mix on this double differs to the original version on the album "Mad Shadows" from 1970 on Island ILPS 9119)
3. Northern Sky - NICK DRAKE (on "Bryter Layer", November 1970 2nd LP on Island ILPS 9134)
4. Thru The Night - THE ALAN BOWN (on "El Pea", exclusive to the 1971 double-album label sampler on Island IDLP 1)
5. Dark Dance - ROBIN WILLIAMSON (on "Myrrh", 1972 album on Island HELP 2. Robin Williamson is from THE INCREDIBLE STRING BAND)
6. I Am The Walrus - SPOOKY TOOTH (on "The Last Puff", a cover version of The Beatles classic released 1970 on Island ILPS 9117)
7. Glistening Glyndebourne - JOHN MARTYN (on "Bless The Weather", an instrumental on the November 1971 LP on Island ILPS 9167)
8. Fire And Water - FREE (on "Fire And Water", June 1970 3rd album on Island ILPS 9120)
9. See My Way - BLODWYN PIG (on "Getting To This", April 1970 2nd album on Chrysalis ILPS 9122)
10. See The World (Through My Eyes) - VINEGAR JOE (on "Vinegar Joe", their debut album from 1972 on Island ILPS 9183. Both ELKIE BROOKS and ROBERT PALMER shared Vocals in the band)
11. Peace Train - CAT STEVENS (on "Teaser And The Fire Cat", September 1971 LP on Island ILPS 9154)
12. Watercolour Days - CLOUDS (on "Watercolour Days", 1971 LP on Chrysalis ILPS 9151)
13. The Low Spark Of High-Heeled Boys - TRAFFIC (on "The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys", 1971 LP on Island ILPS 9180)
14. Song For Suzie - HEADS, HANDS & FEET (on "Head, Hands & Feet", 1971 LP on Island ILPS 9149. The band featured ALBERT LEE on Guitar)

Not surprisingly the box's artwork (as well as the CD labels) uses the famous 'pink' Island colouring and the 48-page booklet is both a joy to look at and a fascinating read. Compiled by reissue heroes MARK POWELL and remastered to stunning effect by PASCHAL BYRNE (Audio Archiving) - you get three and a half hours of audacious scope and at times hippy nonsense. There's a small history of the label - then each artist is lined up (in alphabetical order) with a very detailed biography by Powell - and all of it peppered with loads of album sleeves and period photos. And the remasters are fabulous...

Some might argue about the choices and the alignment of the songs (Robin Williamson gets a one minute instrumental yet a whole page of Biography) - but time after time you're hit with the sheer diversity of British Rock bands - Traffic, Jethro Tull, Spooky Tooth, Blodwyn Pig and ELP. And the singer-songwriters like John Martyn, Nick Drake, Sandy Denny and Cat Stevens shine even brighter. And how good is it to see bands like Clouds, Vinegar Joe, Quintessence, Fotheringay and Heads, Hands & Feet get an airing. The 11-minute McDonald & Giles "Suite In C" is a complex Prog masterpiece and it's clever of the compilers to include those "Bumpers" and "El Pea" exclusives by Mott The Hoople and The Alan Bown. A favourite - the near twelve minutes of Traffic's "Low Spark" is an awesome thing (lyrics from it entitle this review)...

A fantastic reminder of a time when musically - anything seemed possible -and on the evidence it this - it clearly was...

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