I thought that, rather than acquiring more new music, I should give attention to the neglected albums in my collection that I never had a proper listen to.
Pink Floyd – Cre/ation: The Early Years 1967-1972
I kept this one after sorting through my Dad’s CD collection when we were clearing out his apartment in January. I’ve loved Pink Floyd for years and years, but I’ve pretty much stuck to the official albums and never felt the need to sift through their B-Sides, remixes, live and rare tracks and suchlike.
A collection of oddities like this is always going to be hit-and-miss, but the first disc actually made for an enjoyable listen. It’s dominated by the Syd Barrett era, which is unrecognisable from the prog-rock behemoth that made The Dark Side of the Moon and the rest, but I adore The Piper at the Gates of Dawn and I dig the warped psychedelia of the early Pink Floyd. Lovely and whimsical See Emily Play, one of my favourite Pink Floyd songs from any era, is included here, as well as live versions of Flaming and Interstellar Overdrive. There are also two different takes on Careful With That Axe, Eugene, a song that, along with the nightmarish animation from The Wall movie, had scarred my childhood; I still remember being freaked out by Roger Waters’ blood-curdling screams on the Ummagumma version.
Disc two I was less fond of; there are five tracks from the band’s Zabriskie Point soundtrack which are just ok, plus a brain-numbing 18-minute version of Atom Heart Mother that I don’t think I’d want to sit through ever again. The only song I really liked was Stay, a rather pretty piano-led piece with Richard Wright’s vocals.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – No More Shall We Part
As a massive Nick Cave fan, I’m ashamed to say that this exquisite record has been sitting on my shelf untouched since the year 2001 after maybe one half-hearted spin. I think what put me off the album back then was the prospect of listening to Cave’s upper register for over an hour; I’m well used to it now but at the time his vocals here were too hard on my ears. Of course I’m not entirely unfamiliar with the album, because a good share of its tracks – And No More Shall We Part, Love Letter, God Is in the House – still find their way into Cave’s live setlists even to this day. Also, I’ve always loved the bizarre druggy video for Fifteen Feet Of Pure White Snow with its hilarious take on choreographed dancing.
If I had to describe this album in one word, “stately” would be the word. Released four years after The Boatman’s Call, Cave’s break-up album, No More Shall We Part has some of its predecessor’s sombre restraint and mournful piano, but it’s not as intimate or musically stark, with The Bad Seeds more prominent this time. It’s probably not an album you’d just randomly put on whenever, but in the right mood its elegant melancholic beauty, Warren Ellis’ plaintive violin and Cave’s evocative lyrics go down like a treat.
The Unthanks – Here’s the Tender Coming
This excellent record from my favourite English folk group suffered at the time coming on the heels of The Bairns, which is not just my favourite album of theirs but one of my all-time favourite albums by anyone, as majestic and bleak as a northern sea in winter. Nowadays I’m fine with enjoying their distinctive modern take on the traditional folk music knowing that it will probably never hit me quite as hard, so I thought I’d give The Unthanks’ third album some love.
In hindsight, Here’s the Tender Coming sits somewhere in the middle between the rawer, earthier vibe of The Bairns and the more refined, airy sound of their later records. The vocal harmonies of sisters Becky and Rachel are still enchanting, and their group of talented musicians bring the old songs to a beautiful new life. Though the album is full of sad stories about lost sailors, dead lovers and child labour in Victorian coalmines (The Testimony of Patience Kershaw is based on a real-life testimony of a 17-year-old girl), the mood is lightened by jauntier numbers like Where’ve You Been Dick.