Friday, 22 February 2013
Sunday, 10 February 2013
I recently saw a poster advertising a “Farewell” tour by Thin Lizzy - yes, the same Thin Lizzy you thought split up thirty years ago. I assume somebody in the photo used to be in the band when Phil Lynott was the singer, but to be honest, it could just as easily have been Machine Head or Paradise Lost in that picture, it was so anonymous. It screamed “Classic Rock”.
And yet, even though Lizzy did become famous once they went into the world of ’Hard Rock’, and became regulars at the Reading Festival, they were so much more than that. Indeed, when they started, for the first few years of their career they were so far removed from the metal sound that they sometimes veered dangerously close to later on, that it’s sometimes hard to think that it was the same band who did both “The Boys Are Back In Town” and “Whisky In The Jar”.
In recent years, much of the band’s back catalogue has been reissued on CD in expanded form, which - as ever - should really be the last word on their albums, so I figured I would do a quick blog on the band, looking at what stage these reissues are up to.
The remaining trio were then signed to Decca, relocated to London, and their first release outside of Ireland was their 1971 debut LP, simply titled “Thin Lizzy”. It too was something of a commercial non event, but it showcased the band’s sound perfectly. It’s difficult to describe just how early period Thin Lizzy sound, Wikipedia refers to this and the other Decca LP’s as “Celtic Rock”, which is a reasonable effort, but the band’s early material has always sounded quite complex and “prog” to me, indeed the sleeve notes to the band’s 2002 boxset “Vagabonds Kings Warriors Angels” talks about how the band loved a nice time signature change whenever the need arose. There is a real ambitiousness about this and the other early albums, that was mostly lost when they went “rock”, where they usually decided to try and capture what they wanted to within the space of three or four minutes instead. Furthermore, having titles like “The Friendly Ranger At Clontarf Castle” summons up images of Gabriel era Genesis, rather than Kiss or AC/DC.
After the release of new material in the form of the “New Day” EP later the same year, 1972 saw the release of “Shades Of A Blue Orphange”, with the commercial breakthrough still not quite happening. Thereafter, the band returned to the studio to record new material to be spread out on forthcoming singles, including their version of the traditional Irish song “Whisky In The Jar”. This six minute epic was thought of as B-side material by the band, as they were starting to develop their sound beyond their Celtic Rock roots. So when the label decided to issue it as the A-side of their next single, the band were reportedly unhappy. But for once, the record company got it right. “Whisky” gave the band a huge hit when released later that year, and suddenly put Thin Lizzy on the map. The band had already begun to garner the attention of Radio 1 DJ’s like John Peel, but when the follow up single “Randolph’s Tango” didn’t have quite the same impact, Lizzy were in danger of becoming one hit wonders - and with a hit that some thought no more than a novelty folk rock cover.
1973’s “Vagabonds Of The Western World” still didn’t turn Lizzy into superstars, but is regarded now as an early period classic. In some respects, it showcases perfectly the schizophrenic nature of the band. “The Rocker”, as it’s title suggests, was a noisy guitar stomp, a sign of things to come, whilst the album closer, “A Song For While I’m Away”, was a string-driven thing of beauty, a million miles away from the loud rampant roar of “Jailbreak”.
It was time for the next line up change, and a change of label, with Bell leaving the band. After several experimental line up changes (including the brief recruitment of Gary Moore), Bell was eventually replaced by the “twin guitar” attack of Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson. The group signed to the one-time prog label Vertigo, and released their fourth LP, “Nightlife”, in 1974. Despite being given the honour of a double disc deluxe reissue in recent times, it’s always been thought of as a patchy effort, not least by some of the band themselves, caught somewhere between the psychedelic blues rock sometimes found during the Decca years, and the thunderous sound of the later records. The epic ballad that was “Still In Love with You”, complete with Moore’s (at the time) only studio contribution to the band before leaving, is seen by many as the album’s highlight, and the Allmusic review describes the slightly oddball nature of the album well - “a soulful record, smooth in ways that Thin Lizzy never were before and rarely were afterwards”.
After another studio LP the same year, “Johnny The Fox”, the band returned - mostly - for 1977’s “Bad Reputation”. Due to an injury he had sustained, Brian Robertson was absent for much of the recording, and the front cover of the LP featured just the remaining trio, although all four did appear on the back of the LP sleeve. It continued the Lizzy sound - mostly guitar driven, but still with the odd melodic curveball thrown in for good measure, most notably on the Van Morrison inspired shuffle of “Dancing In The Moonlight”.
Robertson was officially in the band again full time for the following tour, and in 1978, the band issued a double live LP called “Live And Dangerous”, culled from tours supporting the two previous albums. Although cited by many as one of the finest live records ever made, it has been the subject of much controversy, with producer Tony Visconti claming that three quarters of the album consists of overdubs done in the studio - a claim denied by the band.
It was a new line up that reconvened to record 1979’s “Black Rose”, with Gary Moore coming in to replace Robertson. “Black Rose” is regarded by many as the band’s last great LP, spawning hits in the form of the guitar driven “Waiting For An Alibi” and the stunning ballad “Sarah”. The band had previously given a song on their second album the same title, but both songs were about different members of Lynott’s family (the “Black Rose” one was about his daughter). By the time of the latter single’s release, Moore had left again, and “Sarah” was issued in three different covers, one for each remaining member of the group.
Thereafter, Lizzy’s reign as purveyors of catchy guitar rock started to slip. 1980’s “Chinatown”, the first with new second guitarist Snowy White, failed to get into the Billboard Top 100 in the US, and has always been regarded as a poor follow up to “Black Rose”, as was 1981’s “Renegade”. The singles being released from these albums also started to struggle to do much in the hit parade, with “Hollywood“ from the latter LP flopping quite badly. This album saw Lizzy officially increased to a five piece with addition of keyboardist Darren Wharton, but this line up lasted no longer than one album, with White leaving before the release of the band’s next, and final studio LP, 1983’s “Thunder And Lightning”. This LP, featuring John Sykes as the second guitarist, was issued as both a double LP and long play cassette with four bonus live tracks (including a live rendition of “The Boys Are Back In Town”, presumably to try and reel the punters in), but it still failed to win over the hearts of floating fans, although critics saw it as a return to form. Various issues saw the band finally throw in the towel, bowing out with another live album, 1983’s confusingly titled “Life Live”. This LP featured, on “The Rocker”, many of the band’s old guitarists on stage together, making one final line up change before the end. Lynott, having released some solo material during the final years of the band, which seemed to be more high profile than his final outings with Lizzy, passed away in January 1986.
“Remembering Part 1” was issued by Decca in 1976 to coincide with Lizzy’s sudden rush of success, and was a run through of bits and pieces of the early years. Aside from stand alone A-sides and B-sides, two other rarities were included in the form of “Little Darling” and “Sitamoia”, never before issued on a Lizzy LP, although the former had appeared as a 7” single in 1974. Despite it’s obvious “cash in” nature, the cover does look very much like a contemporary Lizzy LP from the time.
In 1979, another Decca album appeared, but this time with major input from the then line up of the group. “The Continuing Saga Of The Ageing Orphans” again dealt with the early years, but most of the songs on this 11-track LP consisted of revamped, remixed or even re-recorded versions. Three songs from “Vagabonds Of The Western World” appeared in untouched form, but the remainder were reworked by - at times - a very temporary line up of the band consisting of Lynott, Gary Moore and Midge Ure. Ure would later join the band properly as a live member when Moore left the band after “Black Rose”, and was an additional musician on the “Chinatown” LP. Lizzy have had plenty of other “live performances only” line up variations over the years.
Two songs from “Thin Lizzy” were reworked for the album, as were two from the “New Day” EP, one of which, “Things Ain’t Working Out Down At The Farm”, was issued as a single by Decca to coincide. Three songs from “Shades Of A Blue Orphange” were reworked along with “Slow Blues” from “Vagabonds”. All of these eight songs were later included on CD reissues of the band’s first three albums when they were re-released a few years ago.
Lynott’s death in 1986 brought, as expected, a new wave of compilation albums. The one I have from the period is a release on the budget label Contour, “Whisky In The Jar”, but due to the usual record company politics, it consists purely of Decca era material, although the version of “Things Ain’t Working Out” is the revamped (and edited) version from the “Ageing Orphans” LP.
If you only buy one Thin Lizzy best of, then 1991’s “Dedication” is the choice. It’s title comes from the one new song that appeared on the record, originally taped by the short lived (and never signed) post-Lizzy project fronted by Lynott, Grand Slam, this song featured additional overdubs by Gorham and Downey to make it into a “Thin Lizzy” record. The compilation cheated a bit by including solo material, including “Parisienne Walkways”, a single by Gary Moore with vocals by Lynott and one other member of Lizzy in the background, but it’s still never really been bettered by any of the other compilations that followed.
Mentioned previously is the band’s career spanning boxset “Vagabonds Kings Warriors Angels”. This is, for the most part, basically a very big best of, with little in the way of unreleased material, although most of the band’s B-sides are present and correct. Again, designed to cover Lynott’s life up to the very end, it thus includes solo material from as late as 1985. It’s main selling point is the inclusion of a non-UK b-side, “Cruising In The Lizzymobile”, a track which when originally released was called “A Ride In The Lizzymobile”. Perhaps Vertigo couldn’t face releasing it in the UK due to it’s horrible title.
The Decca ones were first reissued on CD in the early 1990’s. “Thin Lizzy” appeared in expanded form, with the four tracks from the “New Day” EP tagged on as bonus tracks. “Vagabonds Of The Western World” was expanded by including the a-sides and b-sides of the band’s two stand alone 45’s from the period, “Whisky In The Jar” and “Randolph’s Tango”, both of which had originally been issued in the months leading up to the release of the LP.
In the last couple of years, all three Decca albums have reappeared in remastered and expanded form. The debut still includes the “New Day” EP, but is now also joined by “The Farmer” (but not it’s corresponding B-side), and the four “reworkings” from the “Ageing Orphans” album. The reworked songs are “Look What The Wind Blew In” and “Honesty Is No Excuse” from the LP, and “Dublin” and the aforementioned “Things Ain’t Working Out” from the EP.
“Shades” was expanded to include both sides of the “Whisky In The Jar” 7”, and four songs from a John Peel Session. The other three bonuses are the three songs from the album that were reworked for the “Orphans” LP - “Buffalo Gal”, “Sarah” and “Brought Down”.
Given it’s classic album status, the most recent issue of “Vagabonds Of The Western World” has seen it expanded to double CD length. CD1 includes both sides of the “Randolph’s Tango” and “The Rocker” 45’s (the latter was lifted from the LP, but edited for single release, and included a non-album b-side), along with the aforementioned “Lizzymobile”, “Little Darling” and “Sitamoia”. Also included is the reworked song from the album that appeared on “Orphans” (“Slow Blues”), as well as the radio edit mixes of “Randolph’s Tango” and “Whisky In The Jar”. CD2 features a selection of BBC Radio Session material, although much of this material has since appeared on the “At The BBC” release.
All of the Vertigo era albums from “Nightlife” to “Johnny The Fox” inclusive have recently been issued as double disc releases. Again, much of the bonus material is from the BBC vaults, but each release includes at least one other rarity from the period. The “Fighting” reissue comes in the UK sleeve, but the booklet uses the American album cover image on it’s front. Some, maybe all, copies have been mispressed, and instead of playing the US mix of “Rosalie” as promised on disc 2, play the UK album mix again.
Despite it’s good reputation, “Bad Reputation” reappeared in expanded, but only single disc, form in 2011. It ends with a “sound check” version of “Me And The Boys”, the original studio version of which appeared on the B-side of the “Live” version of “Rosalie” that was issued as a single to plug the “Live And Dangerous” LP in 1978.
“Live and Dangerous” has also appeared in deluxe form, as a 3-disc release. The original LP is boosted now by two extra live tracks (from, I think, the "Killers Live EP"), whilst disc 3 is a DVD. Don’t get too excited though - it’s basically part of a separately available DVD called “Live At The Rainbow Theatre 1977”, which comes boosted with bonus features, whereas the version inside “Live And Dangerous” consists of the Rainbow Theatre gig only, but it’s a nice touch.
Both “Black Rose” and “Chinatown” have also appeared as double CD releases, but as I type this, no recent reissues have been made of either “Renegade”, “Thunder And Lightning” or “Life”, with the CD editions currently on sale being the same ones released back in the 1990’s. As regards “Thunder And Lightning”, this means the bonus tracks from the original LP + 12” release are currently AWOL.
Shown below are the main items of interest for the band in the UK and Ireland. The albums list relates to the most recent CD pressing of each studio or live album that was originally released before Lynott’s death. The 45’s list is self explanatory, whilst also detailed are the compilation records listed above - plus a few others of interest.
Thin Lizzy (1971, Decca 984 447-7)
Shades Of A Blue Orphanage (1972, Decca 984 448-2)
Vagabonds Of The Western World (1973, Decca 984 194-9)
Nightlife (1974, Mercury 279 2226)
Fighting (1975, Mercury 279 2227)
Jailbreak (1976, Mercury 533 2052)
Johnny The Fox (1976, Mercury 533 2077)
Bad Reputation (1977, Mercury 277 2693)
Live And Dangerous (1978, Mercury 533 2073)
Black Rose (1979, Mercury 277 2700)
Chinatown (1980, Mercury 277 2696)
Renegade (1981, Vertigo 842 435 2)
Thunder And Lightning (1983, Vertigo 810 490-2, vinyl copies include free 12“ [LIZLP 3])
Life Live (1983, Vertigo 812 882-2)
For many of Lizzy’s 45’s, they were only issued on 7”, and that format forms the bulk of the list below. However, where a single was issued on some fancy extended play format, this was usually done to include some sort of extra rare material, and thus wherever a single was issued on 12”, or CD, or as a 7” doublepack, these are shown in preference to the 7” version. However, any other 7” singles of interest for the same release are listed where it is felt necessary, as are picture discs.
The Farmer/I Need You (7”, Parlophone DIP 513)
New Day EP: Dublin/Remembering Part 2/Old Moon Madness/ Things Ain’t Working Out Down At The Farm (7”, Decca F13208)
Whisky In The Jar/Black Boys On The Corner (7”, Decca F13355)
Randolph’s Tango/Broken Dream (7”, Decca F13402)
The Rocker (7” Mix)/Here I Go Again (7”, Decca F13467)
Little Darling/Buffalo Gal (7”, Decca F13507)
Philomena/Sha La La (7”, Vertigo 6059 111)
Rosalie/Half Caste (7”, Vertigo 6059 124)
Wild One/For Those Who Love To Live (7”, Vertigo 6059 129)
The Boys Are Back In Town/Emerald (7”, Vertigo 6059 139)
Jailbreak/Running Back (7”, Vertigo 6059 150)
Whiskey In The Jar/Vagabonds Of The Western World/Sitamoia (7”, Decca F13748)
Don’t Believe A Word/Old Flame (7”, Vertigo LIZZY 1)
Dancing In The Moonlight/Bad Reputation (7”, Vertigo 6059 177)
Rosalie (Live)/Me And The Boys (7”, Vertigo LIZZY 2)
Things Ain’t Working Out Down At The Farm (1977 Version)/The Rocker/Little Darling (7”, Decca THIN 1)
Waiting For An Alibi/With Love (7”, Vertigo LIZZY 3)
Do Anything You Want To/Just The Two Of Us (7”, Vertigo LIZZY 4)
Sarah/Got To Give It Up (7”, Vertigo LIZZY 5)
Chinatown/Sugar Blues (Live) (7”, Vertigo LIZZY 6)
Killer On The Loose/Don’t Play Around/Chinatown (Live, June 1980)/Got To Give It Up (Live, June 1980) (2x7”, Vertigo LIZZY 77)
Killers Live EP: Bad Reputation (Live)/Opium Trail (Live)/Are You Ready (Live)/Dear Miss Lonely Hearts (Live) (12”, Vertigo LIZZY 812)
Song For Jimmy (4 track Flexi disc, other songs by other artists, Flexipop 010)
Trouble Boys/Memory Pain (7”, Vertigo LIZZY 9)
Hollywood/The Pressure Will Blow (7”, Vertigo LIZZY 10)
Hollywood/The Pressure Will Blow (7” Picture Disc, Vertigo LIZPD 10)
Cold Sweat/Bad Habits/Angel Of Death (Live, Hammersmith Odeon 1981)/Don’t Believe A Word (Live, Hammersmith Odeon 1981) (2x7”, Vertigo LIZZY 11-22)
Cold Sweat/Bad Habits/Angel Of Death (Live, Hammersmith Odeon 1981)/Don’t Believe A Word (Live, Hammersmith Odeon 1981) (12“, Vertigo LIZZY 1112)
Thunder And Lightning/Still In Love With You (Live) (7”, Vertigo LIZZY 12)
Thunder And Lightning/Still In Love With You (live) (12”, Vertigo LIZZY 1212)
The Sun Goes Down (Remix/Edit)/Baby Please Don’t Go (7”, Vertigo LIZZY 13)
The Sun Goes Down (Extended Version)/(12 Inch Remix Version)/Baby Please Don’t Go (12”, Vertigo LIZZY 1312)
Whisky In The Jay (Live, Eire 1978) (1-sided 7”, Polydor PLYN 1, given free with solo Phil Lynott 45)
Whisky in The Jar/The Rocker/Sarah (Decca Version)/Black Boys On The Corner (12”, Castle TOF 108)
Dedication/Cold Sweat/Emerald (Live)/Sill In Love With You (Live) (CD, Vertigo LIZCD 14)
The Boys Are Back In Town (Remix)/Johnny The Fox/Black Boys On The Corner/Me And The Boys (Live) (12” with poster, Vertigo LIZZY 115)
The Boys Are Back In Town (Remix)/Johnny The Fox/Black Boys On The Corner/Me And The Boys (Live) (12” Picture Disc, Vertigo LIZP 115)
The Boys Are Back In Town (Remix)/Johnny The Fox/Black Boys On The Corner/Me And The Boys (Live) (CD, Vertigo LIZCD 15)
SELECTED COMPIlATION/POSTHUMOUS LIVE ALBUMS
Remembering Part 1 (1976, LP, Decca SKL 5249)
The Continuing Saga Of The Ageing Orphans (1979, LP, Decca SKL 5298)
The Adventures Of Thin Lizzy (1981, first “hits” album, LP, Vertigo LIZTV 1)
The Collection (1985, issued in conjunction with Castle’s “Whisky In The Jar” 12”, 2xLP, Castle CCSLP 117)
Whisky In The Jar (1986, same title reused for other later comps, LP, Contour CN 2080)
Dedication (1991, CD, Vertigo 848 192-2)
BBC Radio One Live In Concert (1992, CD, Windsong WINCD 024)
The Peel Sessions (1994, CD, Strange Fruit SFRCD 130)
Wild One (1996, initial Japanese copies included rarities disc of live recordings previously issued on 45 and EP releases, CD, Vertigo 528 113-2)
Vagabonds Kings Warriors Angels (2002, 4xCD, Mercury 556 495-2)
Greatest Hits (2007, 2xCD, Universal 984 9627)
UK Tour 75 (2008, CD, Major League MLP 16CD)
Still Dangerous (2009, “follow up” to “Live And Dangerous”, Thin Lizzy Productions TLPCD 001)
At The BBC (2011, 6xCD + DVD, Mercury 278 2155)
Thursday, 7 February 2013
Now, if this list of classic albums were strictly to be in chronological order, we’d be looking at “Pet Sounds” now, or “Sticky Fingers”, or something like that. But I am not sure what I could say about those records that hasn’t already been said. Maybe another time. So I figured I would pick the first of my favourites that aren’t necessarily critically acclaimed long players, but which I completely and utterly love. Records that might even be regarded as amongst the weakest in said artist’s back catalogue, but which I keep returning to, or keep meaning to return to. Records that maybe, in my view, deserve to become the centre of attention, but are currently overshadowed by other albums in the artists' repertoire, or maybe are simply overshadowed by other bands altogether.
“’Til The Band Comes In” is not necessarily the greatest Scott Walker LP. If I was writing for Mojo, it’d be “Scott 3” or “Scott 4”, if I was writing for Clash, it would probably be “Tilt” or “The Drift”. Obvious choices, depending on your age, basically. But it’s this mega flop from 1970 that I love the most. Yes, choosing this one above all others - currently not available on CD in the UK - might be a bit snobby, but I can’t help it. This record is, until it gets towards the final stages, a piece of towering genius.
You have to rewind a bit to put the recording of the album into context. Scott forms The Walker Brothers in the early 60's, they turn into huge stars, then split. He exerts more “artistic control” over his work, releases some huge selling solo albums, but starts to go a bit “pompous” - there are stories of audiences being told to remain silent during gigs until songs are over, and reports that the man himself is “bored” of some of his hit singles, seemingly only weeks after debuting them on stage. In 1969, he records the remarkable “Scott 3”, ten self penned songs and three by his beloved Jacques Brel, and it shifts quite a few copies - but not quite as many as it’s predecessor, the chart topping “Scott 2”.
Scott gets invited to do his own TV show, agrees, but is told by the powers that be that he will be required to do a few “MOR Standards” in each show in order to avoid the millions of TV viewers from switching off every time he does something off “Scott 3”. In a cash in move by the record company, he is asked to record selected numbers of these covers for the much forgotten fourth LP, “Scott Sings Songs From His TV Series”. It sells well, but it’s creator maintains a safe distance from it, as it sounds unlike the sort of album he actually wants to make. That next album turns up late in 1969, titled “Scott 4” - so called as it is deemed to be the “proper” follow up to Scott 3. It is a work of unquestionable genius. Scott has written everything on it, and the label toss it out whilst nobody is looking. Reviewers, unable to understand the lyrics, moan that the album is “impenetrable”, and give it the thumbs down. It flops. Within a year, it is deleted from stock, and Scott Walker has fallen from grace.
What you have to remember about Scott is, as much as he disliked the whole “fame” aspect of the music industry (I don’t think you’ll see him being a mentor on “The X Factor”), he never liked the thought of releasing an album that nobody wanted to buy. Why would you go through all that hassle if you didn’t want it to connect with somebody? So, smarting from the criticism of “Scott 4”, he decided to try and make a slightly more accessible follow up LP. He asked his new manager, Ady Semel to “oversee” the material he was writing. Semel’s job was to smooth out any rough edges, to try and give the album a slightly more “pop” feel. Quite how much of a contribution Semel made, I don’t know, but he was given a co-write on everything Scott wrote for the LP.
Since I last wrote about Scott in 2010, I still have no idea if the ten songs he wrote that appeared on “’Til The Band Comes In” were all there was. Such is the disinterest in this record, that nobody ever seems to have written about this situation at all. Together, they have a a running time that barely touches the 25-minute mark, although as “Scott 4” struggles to get past the half hour stage, maybe this was the plan. But what is known is that at the record companies request, Scott was asked to include a number of cover versions to “entice the MOR audience” back to his work. Although the sleeve notes to the US only 2008 reissue of this album claims that Walker was “probably” short of material, and that these were “possibly” rejects from earlier sessions used to pad the LP out, it has long been known that Philips were concerned that the lack of covers on “Scott 4” had contributed to it’s demise - something Scott never believed. Friends advised him to include covers, as requested, so that when the album did become a hit, the label would back off, and he would get his creative freedom back for album number seven. Of course, it never happened.
Nonetheless, outtakes or not, Scott compromised, and five covers were tagged onto the end of the record. They felt, genuinely, like bonus tracks - they had a strange “MOR” feel to them that simply wasn’t there on the rest of the LP. Despite Scott’s own genre hopping through his own material at the start of the LP, these covers simply felt too out of place. “Stormy”, as good as it is, still sounds a bit like the theme tune to “The Streets Of San Francisco”, and “It’s Over” is a pleasant, countrified, dignified finale, whereas it should be a big, booming, roar of a finish.
“’Til The Band Comes In” was released in 1970 (Philips 6308 035), and was a massive failure. Critics cared little for it, it sold poorly, and was seemingly even more of a disaster, sales wise, than “Scott 4” had been. Scott got into a slanging match with Philips, claiming the album’s poor sales were due to the quality of the second side of the album having been dented due to the requirement by the label of him to sing “cornball schlock”, but Philips were still convinced Scott would only sell if he was an MOR crooner, and forced him to record even more covers for future singles and albums. The next LP, 1972’s “The Moviegoer”, is regarded by many as Scott’s worst album - it consisted of nothing but cover versions.
For years, “’Til The Band Comes In” - and Scott in general - was consigned to history. During the 70’s, a number of compilation and budget LP’s trickled out. Curiously, the only album to get any sort of reissue was a budget label repressing of “The Moviegoer”. The other albums went out of print, and Scott was known via a few hit singles, and his work with the Walkers. It wasn’t until the late 80’s, that various hipsters, bands and singers, began name checking him, and although this wasn’t enough to stop new Scott records like 1984’s “Climate Of Hunter” from being chart failures, there was a credibility attached to Scott’s work that went way beyond most “heritage” acts.
With the CD now proving to be a good format upon which to make deleted material available again, a concerted effort was made to “re-market” Scott in the early 1990’s, via the affiliated Fontana imprint. This started with the release of the excellent “Boy Child” collection, which although can be seen now as being the home to some rather rare material, including those songs from “’Til The Band Comes In”, was originally released before any of Scott’s LP’s were reissued on the format, and thus consisted entirely of material making it’s debut on the CD format at the time, including songs from the four numbered albums. Along with a 1968 B-side and a French only single at the start and the end respectively, it included selected numbers from each of those four LP's and “’Til The Band Comes In”, and was designed, therefore, to cover the period whilst he was signed to Philips where Scott was writing his own material (hence the absence of anything from the ’covers only’ LP that was the “TV Series” record). Four numbers from “Comes In” were included - “Prologue”, “Little Things”, “Time Operator” and “The War Is Over”. Whilst the inclusion of “Time Operator” over the title track might seem baffling, it’s still a glorious piece of music, containing as it does the immortal lyric “I wouldn’t care if you’re ugly, cos here with the lights out I couldn’t see, just picture Paul Newman, he looks a lot like me”. In recent years, “Boy Child” has come to be considered an important document of this part of Scott’s career, and the album has been reissued. It now uses the same sleeve, but with different typography and design, and an altered track listing which removes the aforementioned French 45, “The Rope And The Colt”, but the songs from “’Til The Band Comes In” remain in place, with “The War Is Over” now closing the record.
The reissue campaign at the time concentrated purely on the four numbered albums - although I don’t recall it being mentioned at the time, Scott in later years showed regret about “’Til The Band Comes In”, and of the eight albums he recorded for Philips, it was only the four numbered ones that he was sufficiently happy with. Hence, although material from the album was put onto “Boy Child”, that was probably as far as he would go. The upshot of this, was that an already rare record, was simply getting rarer.
In 1996, the specialist reissue label, The Beat Goes On, managed to get a CD re-release conducted (BGOCD 320). They have specialised in reissuing albums that the original labels seem to have no interest in re-vamping, and have done reissues for the likes of Cockney Rebel, Debbie Harry, and Scott over the years (“Stretch” and “We Had It All” were reissued on a 2-on-1 CD releases some years ago). But this edition was deleted quickly, probably at the hands of the great man himself, and copies will usually cost you at least £25.
During another bought of Scott-hysteria in the early noughties, Fontana decided to reissue all eight of the Philips era albums, cobbling the “TV Series” and “Moviegoer” albums together as “Scott On Screen”, and padding out the reissues of 1973’s “Any Day Now” and “’Til The Band Comes In” with extra tracks. Advance promos were pressed, with the CDR of “’Til The Band Comes In” coming in a simple typed out sleeve, which also details two bonus tracks (“The Lights Of Cincinatti” and “The Rope And The Colt”). I have seen a copy on eBay, which shows a picture printed on the playing disc itself, unusual for a CDR. Perhaps it’s a bootleg? What I don’t know, is if the mix of the latter is the same as that on “Boy Child”, as the original LP mix of the song (it was from a film, and thus appeared on the soundtrack LP) was slightly different.
An earlier set, 2003’s “Five Easy Pieces” boxset, was another avenue for issuing parts of the album. This box set included “Time Operator”, “Joe”, “The War Is Over”, “Long About Now” (the one song on the LP that featured a different vocalist, instead of Scott - Esther Ofarim), “Thanks For Chicago Mr James” and “Cowbells Shakin’”. But this still meant that, unless you could get the 1996 CD, some songs were still not available on CD, such as “Jean The Machine” and several of the covers. It was almost as if Scott was allowing the “good” stuff to come out in dribs and drabs, whilst leaving the dregs behind. Although if this was the case, why was “Stormy” still in limbo, a song Scott actually liked enough to have performed on stage at least once?
Over in Japan, it was a different story, as “’Til The Band Comes In” got a proper, full blown, CD reissue in 2007 (UICY-93235). This release was based around the original UK LP - the album had originally appeared in Japan in 1970 in a "zoomed in" sleeve, using a close up of the normal cover image, and was issued in two parts - the 10 originals on one edition, and the title track plus the five covers on another - it was even referred to by the label as "Scott 5". However, this CD has now been deleted (not sure if Scott got wind of it and blew the whistle?), so you’ll be lucky to find a copy. The 2008 reissue I mentioned earlier was a US CD pressing on Water Records (Water 226), but this too seems to have been deleted, as the last time I saw copies being sold via the US version of the Amazon website, they were being priced up at $50 each.
So, am I just banging on about this record just because of it’s rarity factor? No. If that was the case, I’d be going on about Sonic Youth’s “Silver Session For Jason Knuth”, or some privately pressed Prog album. But the obscurity factor does make the album a bit more interesting, the fact it keeps getting reissued then deleted, makes you think it has something on there that Scott really wants to keep quiet. And after hearing the AOR schmaltz of “What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?”, you’ll probably think the answer to that question is yes (although he does have quite a classy stab at that one). But, whenever I hear this album again, it just makes me listen in sheer wonderment. Modern day Scott may be a different beast (and after all, he’s entitled to do what he wants, even if it does upset fans like Marc Almond) but you simply can’t deny the genius of those earlier LP’s. And that includes “’Til The Band Comes In”. When it’s good, it matches anything from the numbered albums, and even when it’s bad, it’s still better than, say, Wham. Scott’s voice is at it’s very best here, and some of the songs are amongst the best he ever recorded. It could be argued it’s his last genuinely great record, with the likes of “Stretch” and “Climate Of Hunter” being good, but patchy, efforts, even the inclusion of the covers at the end can’t quite fully drag it down. The quality of the first two thirds of this album is near faultless, and for that reason alone, I insist you hunt this record down.
So there we have it. “’Til The Band Comes In”. The flawed masterpiece by the greatest singer of all time. Miss it at your peril...