Sunday, September 26, 2021

Interview with Black Light Animals

After several years and the release of a single and EP, the Kansas City band initially known as Instant Karma! have rechristened themselves Black Light Animals and have released their outstanding debut album Playboys Of The Western World.  I recently interviewed lead singer Cole Bales about the name change, the new album and alot more.

The band was originally around for several years under the name Instant Karma! before you changed it last year to Black Light Animals.  Can you give me a bit of a band history and also why the name change?

Sure, Cody (lead guitar player and co-writer) and I started Instant Karma! up in High School for a talent show where we played a cover of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”. There were three guitar players on stage and no bass player because none of us wanted to be relegated to bass. I'm pretty sure we didn't win.  From there, Cody and I bonded over our shared love of The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and The Band and started playing covers at a local bar every Thursday night, including one memorably bad and ill advised instrumental cover of “Black Dog”. We eventually started writing our own tunes and sprinkling them into our cover sets, heavily inspired by songwriting teams like Jagger/Richards and McCartney/Lennon. We released an EP and a 45 on Sunflower Soul that got a little bit of attention, but we always realized in the back of our minds that we would have to change the name. For one, we were third in line in the search engines behind the John Lennon song and some pretty entertaining "Instant Karma Fails" videos, but we also felt that we had grown out of a name that we had come up with on the fly for a High School talent show, and we thought this record would be the perfect time to turn a corner. 

The album notes say it was recorded in a series of basements.  Can you elaborate on that?

I can! With the exception of one song on the record (“A Ballad”), this entire record was cut and mixed in our former drummer's basement. He moved houses in the middle of recording, hence the basement(s). We had never really been fond of our experience in studios and feeling like we were on the clock of an engineer that would rather not be there. So, with our collective interest/experience recording at home, we decided we would do this album DIY. 

Can you tell me a little about your songwriting process?

Honestly, since we started writing songs when we were 16, very little about our process has changed. One of us usually brings in a chord progression or melody, maybe a full hook, and Cody and I flesh out the lyrics together. Then we bring it to the band and usually completely turn it on it's head arrangement wise (the bass player, Branden Moser, is a genius at arranging.). Typically we're very "first take" in nature when it comes to performances and melodies come pretty quickly, but the lyrics, especially on this record, were the painstaking part. Cody and I would spend hours just chatting before we'd even attempt to dive into writing.  

I absolutely love “Dark Fantasies” with it's twists and turns.  I don’t really have a question about that song, but is there anything enlightening you can tell me about it?

Thank you! "Dark Fantasies" is definitely a favorite of ours as well. That was actually the first song we wrote for the record and it pretty much set the stage for everything else vibe wise. Cody and I basically took two completely different ideas for songs and merged them together on this one, which is probably what gave it it's schizophrenic feel. 

While “Montage” still fits in with the other songs on the album it’s also set apart from them with it’s reggae beat.  Can you tell me about where that came from?

“Montage” started from a jam session that we had that I recorded on my phone. When I went back and listened I thought the groove was too cool not to end up a full song. Plus, I've always really dug some of the dub stuff from guys like Lee Scratch Perry, so this was also just an excuse to play around with that. 

The album closer “Burning Cathedral” is very stripped down compared to all the other songs.  Was there any reason you went that direction on that song?

We briefly toyed around with having the full band come in halfway through on this one, or having some kind of string section, but I think ultimately the rest of the album was so dense that it made a stronger statement to keep this one bare. 

Your songs have a real cinematic quality to them.  Have you had anyone interested in using them in films or on TV?  You would've been awesome as one of the band's playing in Twin Peaks. 

That's high praise! I'm a huge David Lynch fan, especially of the last season of Twin Peaks, so that would obviously be a dream. So far we haven't had any takers, but I did hear that David is working on a new project so...fingers crossed. 

There is alot of depth and layers to your sound.  Is that difficult to pull off live?

That is definitely something we've had to contend with. We really didn't want to consider whether or not we could play the songs live when we were writing and recording them and it's definitely something we are paying for now. But, due to the pandemic, most of our live shows were put on hold and it's given us plenty of time to figure out how to get the vibe across with a 4 piece band, and I think we are finally finding our footing. 

I read some things that mentioned the album being released July 3, 2020, but then it says it was released on August 20, 2021. What happened there?  Was anything re-recorded for this latest release date or is it the same?

We had basically gotten tired of waiting to release the record and did a soft release last July, but the pandemic put the kibosh on any chance of touring or getting any vinyl pressed. But now that things are slowly opening back up and we have the record on vinyl,  we decided that we would do a proper release. We also added a remix of Halo to the digital album. 

Did the band come up with the concept for the “Halo” video?

We did! We have never necessarily loved the idea of music videos that just revolve around the band looking cool, lip syncing to their songs, with their hair blowing in the synthetic wind. So, we decided to do just that, but to have the masked killer basically act as a proxy for our feelings about those kinds of music videos. It fit well with our self-deprecating sense of humor and also allowed us to tip the hat to some of the Giallo influences that inspired the record. 

I love the “Love & Mercy” cover you did last year.  Can you tell me a little about that?

Thank you! That song has always meant a lot to me, and after the death of George Floyd we were angry and wanted to say something, but didn't know how we could meaningfully add to the conversation. Recording this song seemed fitting and therapeutic to us in some way. 

How did the pandemic affect the band?

Like most touring artists it completely upended our plans. We were fortunate enough to all have day jobs to keep us afloat, but we had just quit touring for a year to make this record, and as soon as we were ready to come up out of the basement and show it to the world, the pandemic hit. 

Things are still pretty hard to work around with the pandemic.  What kind of plans do you have to help support the recent release of the album?

We've been playing some shows locally, but we are hoping to get the album out on the road this Spring. But, as you said, booking shows is still very much a fluid situation right now, so we are just waiting to see. 

I read that one of your old Instant Karma! songs, “Shine On”, was used in a Sling TV commercial.  How did that come about?

The label that we released that tune on, Sunflower Soul, got us in with a licensing/sync company and companies have taken a liking to that song. We've had that song played in commercials for everything from TCM to a THINX Period Underwear commercial, which has been entertaining. I still think our crowning achievement might be getting the Instant Karma! tune "Give Me Freedom" licensed for a Cheech and Chong commercial. 

You and Branden are also in The Freedom Affair.  Are there any other side projects that any of you are involved in?

We've all just started sharing a studio together so we have a lot of production projects in the works. Right now, we are backing and working with Jass and Geraldine Glenn, both incredible artists from KC. Branden and I also cut a 45 with some members of The Freedom Affair called “The Chase”, as Los Santos Caballeros. 

Is there anything else you would like to share with readers?

I think we've pretty much covered everything. Thank you for the great questions, and thank you for listening to the record! 

(Black Light Animals - Facebook)

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Gypsy - Comes A Time - The United Artists Recordings

Initially forming as Legay in 1965 and releasing a really good psychedelic freakbeat single in 1968, this Leceister five-piece changed their name to Gypsy in 1969 and shifted musically towards a more West Coast rock sound releasing two albums for United Artists.  The new two CD set Comes A Time - The United Artists Recordings compiles newly remastered versions of both releases along with the two non-album tracks from their 1971 single.  The self-titled debut opens with a bang with “What Makes A Man A Man”, a straight-up rocker with a touch of an Allman Brothers vibe in the vocals.  They slow things down next with “Keep On Trying” and “I Don’t Care Do You Mind”, a couple of tracks that showcase their strong vocal harmonies (four of the five members contribute vocals) with a sound that often brings to mind Crosby, Stills and Nash (very evident on the latter).  The pace picks back up with “Turning Wheel”, an eight minute plus track that sounds very heavily influenced by Neil Young all the way down to the outstanding guitar jam, and is my favorite song here.  Some of the other highlights on the debut are the slow groove of ”Standing Alone Feel So Bad” and the somewhat laid-back rocker “Let Me Take You Home”, both of which showcase more excellent guitar work, and the Status Quo flavored boogie of “Pony Ride”.  Closing out the first disc are the tracks from the aforementioned single - “Changes Coming”, a hard charging tune that ended up being banned by the BBC for being too political, and “Don’t Cry On Me” a twangy, super infectious barnstorming country tune.

The second disc contains their sophomore release Brenda and the Rattlesnake, which was produced by John Anthony, who at that time had produced the likes of Genesis, Van der Graaf Generator and Lindisfarne, and had Ray Martinez replacing Rod Read on guitar.  Musically they at times moved a little more in the country and even Southern Rock direction and the production seems a little too polished and more often than not lacking the punch of the debut making it the weaker of the two, but overall still another really strong album. Highlights this time around include “Midnight Fighter”, a tune that’s almost a little too close to The Allman Brothers’ “Midnight Rider”, “Who’s Cheating”, which at times has a bit of a swampy CCR groove, the beautiful West Coast country of “Without You” complete with pedal steel, the boogie woogie groove of “Let’s Roll” with rollicking organ and horns and “Comes A Time”, another Neil Young like rocker.  Gypsy is another great band that never got their fair chance, but hopefully Comes A Time - The United Artists Recordings will give them more deserved recognition. 

(Esoteric Recordings)

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Doublepluspop - Too Loud, Too Fast, Too Much

Back in the late 90‘s or early 2000‘s frontman Paul Averitt wanted to form a pop band and with Jon Lenzer on guitar, Mike Bowman on bass and Neil Saunders on drums the Denton, Texas based Doublepluspop was born.  Over the next couple of years they recorded some tracks in various studios in the area, but broke up before they ever saw the light of day. Those tracks ended up in a vault in 2002 and sat there until March 2020.  At that time Paul got a message from Coy Green, the studio engineer who worked with them, saying he came across the tapes and was going to see what he could transfer and mix digitally.  The results of his labors are now Too Loud, Too Fast, Too Much, twelve tunes of classic power pop full of biting guitars and melodies overflowing with hooks, bringing to mind artists like Matthew Sweet and Fountains of Wayne with a touch of The Beatles popping up here and there.  While most of the songs stick to the core foundation of this sound (I was going to single out some highlights here, but there really aren’t any tracks that I would leave out) there are a few that veer off that path a little including the slower “You Can’t Be Serious”, which does a great job of showcasing Averitt’s vocals and has some excellent bluesy-tinged rock guitar work, the ragged “What A Wonderful Time” (probaby my favorite cut of the bunch) and a great cover of Todd Rundgren’s “Couldn’t I Just Tell You”, which has more of a rock edge than the original and also includes some great guitar work.  While it’s a shame that these tunes weren’t given their due back when they recorded, thankfully they have now been given the chance to be heard and Doublepluspop is getting the recognition they deserved all those years ago. 

(Kool Kat Music)

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

The Sweet Inspirations - Let It Be Me (The Atlantic Recordings 1967-1970)

Initially know for their incredible work backing the likes of Aretha Franklin and Van Morrison on songs like "You Make Me Feel (Like A Natural Woman)" and “Brown Eyed Girl”, Cissy Houston (Whitney’s Mother), Myrna Smith, Sylvia Shemwell, and Estelle Brown hit the studio in April 1967 to record their first session as The Sweet Inspirations.  Over the next three years they recorded five albums for Atlantic Records, all of which can be found on Let It Be Me (The Atlantic Recordings 1967-1970). Listen to any of the sixty-six songs found on these three discs and you would be hard pressed to find anything remotely close to a weak cut, which makes it even more surprising that while they had eight songs that charted on the R&B charts, they only had one that was a top 20 pop tune (“Sweet Inspirations”).  Included amongst the songs that they tackle are a wide variety of covers, like “To Love Somebody”, “Knock On Wood”,  “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby”,  “Unchained Melody” “Alfie” and “Make It Easy On Yourself” and whether it’s one of these or other lesser known covers, a gospel hymn or an original written for them, they always give it their own spin with their rich, soulful lead vocals and stellar harmonies.  Along with the album tracks there are also twelve non-album cuts, including eight that were recorded with Ann Williams replacing Cissy Houston after she left the group.  These were originally intended for release as an entire LP, but were never released in full until their appearance here.  The package is rounded out with a CD booklet containing an outstanding essay on the band’s history and numerous photos of the group and album and single sleeves.  

(Soul Music Records)

Monday, September 20, 2021

Mother Ghost - Somnámbulo

After a few setbacks including the death of producer James Vehslage, who worked with the band on their previous release Rivers, and had recorded their new one before passing away prior to mixing it, this Houston duo comprised of brothers Oscar and Thomas Flores have finally released their latest full-lengther Somnámbulo.  Overall the songs here have a darkness to them while also showcasing alot of diversity with elements of everything from new wave, industrial, techno and punk to darkwave, goth and even some Franz Ferdinand / Modest Mouse flavored rock.  Lyrically they cover alot of issues that are very timely and often have a political slant, dealing with topics like immigration (a common theme in several songs), economic inequality and drug addiction, but also touching on things like the emotional lows after the end of a relationship in “Le Petite Mort”.  There’s really not a bad cut in the bunch, but highlights include the indie rock opener “Hiding in a Dumpster Waiting for ICE Agents to Leave I”, “Ungraceful”, with it’s moody guitar and bass that is reminiscent of The Cure, the synth-driven darkwave of “Brundlefly”, the heavy, industrial-tinged “Avarice”, “Criminal”, an aggressive combo of industrial and noise rock and the dirty industrial techno of “ RAICES (dirt)”.

(Geodesic Records / Mother Ghost - Bandcamp)

Wednesday, September 08, 2021

Tintern Abbey: Beeside – The Complete Recordings

In 1967 British band Tintern Abbey released their debut single, which contained a couple of psychedelic gems in the swirling, early Pink Floyd reminiscent “Beeside” and the more uptempo “Vacuum Cleaner”, a tune that features some impressive drumming and a killer effects and feedback laden guitar solo.  Despite the single being far from successful, the band recorded a few more songs for the next single and had plans for a full-length release to follow, but unfortunately the planned single and album never saw the light of day. Over the years a few of these tracks have been released, including an EP with four songs from an 1968 acetate that was released in 2006, and a couple others that have popped up as compilation tracks, and ironically that single became much sought after and today sells for large sums of money. 

Now, after over twenty years of research and transferring demos, masters and reel to reels, the full picture of Tintern Alley has been compiled into the outstanding two-disc collection Beeside - The Complete Recordings.  Collecting together everything the band is known to have recorded, Beeside is an absolute treasure trove of never before heard gems that show just how much potential this band had.  Alongside the infamous single and the cuts from the aforementioned EP, some of the highlights on disc one include  “Snowman”, a fantastic, yet bizarre musical soundscape full of haunting vocals and backwards masking that was considered for the next single, “Black Jack”, another early Pink Floyd flavored tune, “Tanya”, which shows a folkier side to the band, a feedback-heavy guitar instrumental “Bodmin Blow”, “Hookah”, a psychedelic rocker with some “Purple Haze”-like guitar work, the Arabic flavored “My Prayer” and “Busy Bee”, which was the original take of “Beeside” and has a sound more reminiscent of Love. 

Over the course of their two year history the band had it’s share of disagreements and personnel changes (the essay in the 24 page CD booklet does a great job of covering the band history) and the second disc here, with the exception of a stellar second version of “Snowman”, is comprised of songs that were recorded in 1968 with the later version of the band.  While not quite as strong as the first disc, there are plenty of really great songs amongst the eighteen, all previously unreleased, tracks.  Some of the highlights on this disc include the bouncy, upbeat “Nightfall”, two versions of the poppier “Mrs Daisy”, which evolved from earlier song and almost single “How Do You Feel Today", “People Can’t See”, a slower tune with a bit of a Doors-like vibe, “My Zoo”, which sounds like it was influenced by the psychedelia coming out of San Francisco at that time, the straight-on psych rocker “My House” and a great second version of “My Prayer”. 

With thirty-six songs (twenty-eight of which were previously unreleased) and the aforementioned CD booklet full of pics, memorabilia and a detailed essay, Beeside - The Complete Recordings is a wonderful, never before heard trip into the wonderful, yet short-lived, world of Tintern Abbey.  

(Cherry Red)

Interview with Smokeheads

Drawing from a very diverse array of influences, the French four-piece Smokeheads have recently released a very impressive debut EP entitled Never Prick My Pickles.  I recently had the chance to interview the band as we talked a little about their background, the EP, their future plans and more.  

Can you give me little bit of a band history?

Philippe our drummer and David C, our lead guitar have known each other for years since they played together in several bands (Abyss, Miss Irma and HBS). Alain, our bass player, played in a band (LRM) in the same geographical area and he also played in the same AC/DC tribute band (Powerage) as Philippe.

As for David Z, he had been rehearsing in the next room for about ten years with his ex-band (Sinorma). When his band split up, the guys asked him to come and try out as a singer at first, then a friend of the band who was playing second guitar left for scheduling reasons and David Z took over the guitar at that time. That was in 2019.

I couldn’t find any songwriting information.  Do you write the songs as a group and how does the songwriting process tend to work?

There is no real writing process. When we started the group, the situation was "normal". David C and David Z, the two guitarists, would bring riffs to rehearsal and the goal was to play them together until something good came out. Just before the pandemic, we had started recording demos, then everything was stopped. We had to adapt like every band to a new style of work. The demos we had started were still there and thanks to them we could "fix" the structures and review what we didn't like. We had to start working on our own. Fortunately today the working tools are much more accessible in terms of ease of use. We were then able to see each other again during the deconfinements. The lock-down times helped us in some way, we had to anticipate what we wanted to record and prepare ourselves to be as efficient as possible. It was really a group work even if we were not physically together. 

Today we can see each other again and we will surely start working together again, but we know that once we have found the structures and the atmospheres together, we will record them right away because in the end it was a very good technique for us.

Did the band produce the album or did you work with an outside producer?

The album was produced by the 5th member of the group, Yannick V. He and Philippe are old friends and Yannick has always been the manager, sound engineer, producer... in all the bands where they were together. 

For our EP he was in charge of the technical aspect but he was also a real producer, he made us question ourselves at many moments and also pushed us to redo what was not useful for the songs. He is an essential element for the band, without him our first EP would surely not have had this quality. For the mixing and the mastering, we worked with Rob Carson, (CSS Studio in Chambéry). David Z had worked with him with his previous band. He totally understood our expectations.

Did you record the EP during the pandemic?  (If so, were you able to record as a group or did you have to record remotely?)

As I told you before, we started just before the pandemic. In France the first lock-down lasted 2 months and as soon as it was possible, we gathered in the house of our drummer to continue recording. We decided to do it in his house because our rehearsal studio was not open. We didn't want to do the final takes each in our corner, it was important for us to be together. So we did everything together but re-recorded anyway. The living room and the kitchen of our drummer became our recording studio in a way!

There are alot of interesting dynamics in your songs with shifting tempos and styles throughout every song.  Is that something you set out to do or did it just evolve that way?

When the band started, there wasn't really a guideline, a defined style or anything like that. We just knew it wasn't going to be Death Metal and it wasn't going to be Rock Blues. We had to " use " a lot of riffs in rehearsal so that at some point we could say together that it was good. In our band biography, we gave our different influences, Devin Townsend, Tool, Porcupine Tree, Mastodon, Toto, Gojira, but so many others. It's clear that we didn't want to do Classic Rock even though we love that too but I think we needed to challenge ourselves.

We don't start a new song by saying we want a change of tempo or mood at such and such measure, we make sure it serves the song according to our criteria of course. We can say that it is the song that takes us to where we need to go in a way.

I love the opening of the song “One Million Ways”.  Can you tell me a little about that?  

Thank you very much! This song is the first one we finished and especially the one we kept! The riffs were brought by David C (lead guitar). At first we had a "classy" intro, with drums but Philippe (drums) wanted to modernize it, so he took a lot of time to assemble samples together. When he came with it in rehearsal and made us listen to it, it was obvious that it would become the intro of the song. When David C was recording his guitars, he had the idea to add the slides and it was also obvious to us, it was not possible to go back! For the story all the text of the song was written by Philippe.

I don’t usually ask, but is there a story behind such an odd album title?

LOL!!! Yes there is a story, but it's complicated to explain and after that we would surely get a trip to a psychiatric hospital!!! All we can tell you is that we had a lot of laughs about the event that led to this title.

Do you have any plans yet for the next release?

We currently have 2 new songs recorded but for now the plan is to meet again in rehearsal to be able to play all the songs together and continue to work on new material. We haven't defined an exact plan, maybe we'll release a new EP or if the situation and the inspiration allow it why not an album.

We had our label (Wormholedeath Records) listen to the 2 new songs and they seem to like them, which is quite encouraging and motivates us to continue.

Have you been able to play live?

Unfortunately, we did not have the opportunity to play live for the moment. As I said before, one of our plans is to work hard so that if the situation allows it, we can play live in 2022.

Do any of you have any other projects?

No actually we are all 100% in Smokeheads. We all have busy family and professional lives, I think it would be complicated.

How is the metal scene in France?  

The French metal scene is very productive, there are a lot of very good bands in all styles, unfortunately not enough highlighted. France is not a "Metal" country at the base, even if there are bands with an international influence like Gojira for example. But for someone who is interested, there are a lot of very good discoveries to make.

Anything else you would like to share with readers?

Our EP, Never Prick my Pickles, is on streaming on all the usual platforms (Spotify, Amazon Music, Deezer...), it's possible to download it but also to buy the physical version on and on

Our first video clip, "One Million Ways" is on Youtube and you can follow our news via our Facebook page (Smokeheads Band | Facebook), we also have a website ( where you can order our merchandise. 

Monday, September 06, 2021

Dreams Divide - Milk and Leather

After initially hitting the UK live music scene in 2011 and playing with the likes of Public Service Broadcasting, Clan Of Xymox, Covenant and VNV Nation, and releasing the albums Puppet Love in 2011 and Tears From the Night Sky in 2014 (both compiled and released digitally in 2017 as Five Years), Dreams Divide took a four year hiatus before returning with an expanded lineup and their outstanding new EP Milk and Leather.  The overall sound here is very upbeat, 80‘s Depeche Mode like synthpop, never lacking in hooks, but with a bit of a punk edge that really sets them apart, especially on “Jam The Transmission” and “Freedom” (during their hiatus, original members DJ and Gemsy both played in an actively gigging punk band and brought some of that influence to Dreams Divide).  Having said that the title track does slow things down a bit and has a darker side to it both musically and lyrically as it deals with cruelty of the meat industry, while closer “Hunter” has more of a swirling dance groove.  Milk and Leather is a very welcome return from a band that hopefully we won’t have to wait another four years to hear from.  

(Analogue Trash)

Fire - Father's Name Is Dad - The Complete Fire

Before joining The Strawbs, Dave Lambert was the leader of Fire (originally known as Friday’s Chyld).  The three CD boxset Father´s Name Is Dad -The Complete Fire compiles all the known recordings of the band including singles, demos (most previously unreleased), their lone studio album The Magic Shoemaker and the live album from 2007 where the reunited band performed The Magic Shoemaker album along with a handful of other songs.  

Disc one opens with the two cuts from their first single “Father’s Name Is Dad”, an infectious mod-era Who-like song (this song is so catchy that every time I hear it I find it running through my head for days) and “Treacle Toffee World”, which also brings to mind The Who a little, but with more of the quirkiness of a John Entwistle song.  At the time the single was released the band was signed to Apple Publishing and a month after it came out, Paul McCartney had it pulled so they could record a new version.  This fuller sounding new version is included as the last track on this disc.  Following the release of that single the band went back into the studio and recorded some demos that can also be found here and really show the diversity of what they were doing.  Among the highlights of these are “Happy Sound”, a tune with a bit of a jangly glam vibe, “Spare A Copper”, which was originally going to be their second single, “Will I Find Love”, a soulful tune that at times strangely sounds a little like Deep Purple’s “Hush”, the stripped down “It’s Just Love” and powerhouse “I Know You Inside Out”,  both of which do a great job at showcasing Lambert’s vocals, the ten plus minute multi-part rock mini rock opera “Alice In Wonderland”, “Green-Legged Auntie Sally”, an almost nine minute long blues rock jam with some outstanding guitar work, and covers of Moby Grape’s “Can’t Be So Bad”, which stays pretty close to the original and J.A. Freedman’s “Man In The Teapot”.  Also included on disc one are the four cuts recorded by the aforementioned pre-Fire band Friday’s Chyld and the tracks from the debacle that was their second single.  While the band had several really strong songs for this next single, Mike Berry, who was the head of Apple Publishing, rejected all of them and told them they needed to record a song he had written called “Round The Gum Tree”.  The whole band was opposed to this and refused to play on it, even though Lambert did reluctantly agree to contribute the vocals.  When they were told that the flipside would also be a non-Fire song (“Toothy Ruthie”), and was actually one written by Berry along with the band’s two managers John Turner and Derek Savage, the band refused to contribute at all, so Savage and Turner handled the vocals resulting in a song that was credited to the band, but actually had no band members on it.  Both these songs are nothing more than novelty songs and really have nothing in common with the rest of the band’s work

The second disc starts off with the band’s only studio album, The Magic Shoemaker, a song cycle of sorts about a cobbler and a pair of magic shoes.  The songs on the album are tied together with Lambert reading the story to a group of schoolchildren who were actually recorded at a birthday party.  Once again the diversity of the band is on display with highlights including the psychedelic tinged “Tell You A Story”, a tune that also has some prog elements, the extremely catchy pop sounds of “Magic Shoes”, which also has a bit of psychedelia and some excellent guitar work from Lambert, “Reason For Everything” and “Only A Dream”, a couple of songs that slow things down and show a more dramatic side to their sound, “Flies Like A Bird”, a straight-ahead rocker with some great garage rock guitars, “I Can See the Sky”, which again has a bit of a Who vibe and “Happy Man I Am”, a short little country jugband tune complete with banjo from Lambert’s future bandmate and Strawbs leader Dave Cousins.  In addition to the album cuts there are also 4 demos that were recorded for the album, including “Mama When Will I Understand”, a really strong blues tune with a powerful, very emotional vocal performance.  After the lack of success for the album, Lambert fired the whole band and then got a whole new group together to record the last two tracks here - the R&B flavored “Live to Live” and bluesy “Back There Again”.

Wrapping things up with disc three is the band’s live album The Magic Shoemaker Live!.  After getting together with the rest of the band for a Christmas meal at the end of 2006, Lambert told them that he had been thinking about doing a live performance of the album for a while and the rest of the band jumped on board.  Recorded in late 2007, the band sounds in fine form, almost like they had never been apart, making it a very fitting ending to the box set.  In addition to performing the album in it’s entirety they also sprinkled a few other songs into the set including great versions of “Father’s Name Is Dad" and “Treacle Toffee World" the two songs that really started it all, and a haunting reimagined version of “Mama When Will I Understand”.  

Rouding out the box set is a great CD booklet with a comprehensive essay detailing the music and the band's history along with pictures and memorabilia.  

(Cherry Red)