In recent months, the ever-busy team at Demon Music Group's Edsel label has turned out a number of notable box sets. Today, we'll spotlight the set from Eddi Reader!
Glasgow-born singer-songwriter Eddi Reader began her career as a background vocalist, singing with punk outfit Gang of Four as well as the likes of Alison Moyet, The Waterboys, and Eurythmics. In 1987, she was signed with her band Fairground Attraction to RCA, and the major label's gamble on the new act paid off when its first single "Perfect" shot to the top of the U.K. Pop chart in 1988. Debut album The First of a Million Kisses went to No. 2 on the Albums countdown, and second single "Find My Love" also went Top 10. But Fairground Attraction only remained together for one more LP, 1990's Ay Fond Kiss. Upon the group's breakup, Eddi Reader struck out on her own with the band Patron Saints of Imperfection, remaining at RCA for 1992's Mirmama.
In 1994, the vocalist made her debut on Blanco y Negro, the label home of The Jesus and Mary Chain, and Everything But the Girl (both of whose recordings have also been chronicled on Edsel). The 5-CD box set The Blanco y Negro Years contains all three of Reader's albums for the label plus two full CDs of bonus material. Recorded in America with producer Greg Penny (k.d. lang, Elton John), Reader's eponymous sophomore album featured songs from Reader as well as her former partner in Fairground Attraction, Mark E. Nevin. Before departing the project due to creative differences with Penny, he also contributed guitar to Eddi Reader, while other musicians included session veterans Dean Parks, Curt Bisquera and David Piltch, and Roy Dodds of the Patron Saints. Blending pop, folk, and rock with an adult alternative sensibility, the LP also began Reader's partnership with songwriter Boo Hewerdine, who contributed five tracks as writer or co-writer including "Patience of Angels," a Top 40 U.K. hit.
Reader followed up the album with 1996's Candyfloss and Medicine. She co-produced the set with keyboardist Teddy Borowiecki, who had played on Eddi Reader, and Boo Hewerdine also returned with another brace of songs. Roy Dodds and David Piltch once again contributed, and the album's pretty, expansive arrangements incorporated rich harmonies and string and horn orchestration. A cover of the dramatic film theme "Town Without Pity" appeared on the U.K. edition of the album, though it was dropped for the subsequent U.S. version which added three tracks. (Don't worry, all of the songs are included!)
Angels and Electricity (1998) concluded Reader's time at Blanco y Negro. Mark Nevin's "Kiteflyers Hill" opened the album, with other songs coming from the pens of Hewerdine, Reader and singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith. Reader and Borowiecki again produced this release, continuing the blissful, relaxed and dreamy vibrations of Candyfloss and Medicine. It would prove to be Reader's final album until 2001 at which time she reemerged on the Rough Trade label.
Edsel's box set features a wealth of bonus tracks from the Blanco y Negro period. The first bonus disc following Eddi Reader includes nine B-sides (including a cover of Ray Davies' "Wonderboy") plus Larry Klein and Tonio K's "Nobody Lives Without Love," an A-side which also appeared on the Batman Forever soundtrack. The second bonus disc, following Candyfloss, boasts ten more B-sides (including covers of Freddie and the Dreamers' "If You've Got a Minute, Baby" and Sandy Denny's "Who Knows Where the Time Goes") plus "Waiting Game" with Jools Holland, released as a non-LP single. Three bonus cuts have been appended to Angels: Japanese exclusives "Homesick Son" and "St. Christopher," and Reader's rendition of Bob Dylan's "Buckets of Rain."
Eddi Reader's The Blanco y Negro Years is housed in a small, sturdy case with a flip-top lid. Each CD is housed in a mini-LP sleeve. The set, remastered by Phil Kinrade, includes a 44-page color booklet with full lyrics for every song plus copious illustrations and an essay by Colin Irwin. You can order the box set at the links below!
Eddi Reader, The Blanco y Negro Years (Edsel EDSB 4024, 2015) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)
CD 1 - Eddi Reader (Blanco y Negro 4509961772, 1994)
- The Right Place
- Patience Of Angels
- Dear John
- East Of Us
- Joke (I'm Laughing)
- The Exception
- Red Face Big Sky
- Howling In Ojai
- When I Watch You Sleeping
- Wonderful Lie
CD 2 - Bonus Tracks:
- Shirt And Comb
- Saturday Night
- Three Crosses
- Go And Sit Upon The Grass
- Battersea Moon
- When I Watch You Sleeping (Demo Version)
- What You Do With What You've Got
- That's Fair
- Nobody Lives Without Love
CD 3 - Candyfloss and Medicine (Blanco y Negro 630151202, 1996)
- Glasgow Star
- Town Without Pity
- Rebel Angel
- Lazy Heart
- I Loved A Lad
- Butterfly Jar
CD 4 - Bonus Tracks:
- Leave The Light On
- Shall I Be Mother
- If You've Got A Minute, Baby
- Sex Lives
- Sugar On The Pill
- John Anderson My Joe
- Green Grow The Rashes
- Who Knows Where The Time Goes
- Waiting Game - Jools Holland and Eddi Reader with The Rhythm & Blues Orchestra
CD 5 - Angels and Electricity (Blanco y Negro 3984228162, 1998)
- Kiteflyer's Hill
- Prayer Wheel
- Wings On My Heels
- On A Whim
- Barcelona Window
- Bell, Book And Candle
- Follow My Tears
- Psychic Reader
- Please Don't Ask Me To Dance
- Homesick Son (Bonus Track) (from Japanese version of album)
- Christopher (Bonus Track) (from Japanese version of album)
- Buckets Of Rain (Bonus Track)
Edsel has turned out a number of box sets alright. Most of them with mediocre sound.
It would be interesting to know from Mr. Kinrade if he had access to the master tapes or at least some sort of first generation tape... or if he had to work, as he candidly admitted is the case most of the times, with "compressed, 25th generation digital file" (see: The Pretenders box).
Now, that's something I'd like to know.
The major selling point to Eddi die-hards is that this set features the first CD release of the b-side "Battersea Moon", which was only released on vinyl back in the 90s.
I was pleased that the new CDs haven't had their dynamic range reduced - they're the same as the original CDs. I'm surprised to hear that it's been remastered. Why would tracks from the 90s need remastering? Truth be told, I would have liked that they'd de-maximised/increased the dynamic range on Candyfloss & Medecine, which has always had some clipping to my ears. Angels & Electricity has the same dynamic range but doesn't sound "boxy"/maximised to me (both original CD and new CD).
Otherwise, it's a well done set. The liner notes are good and Reader's typically frank attitude when talking about the "Eddi Reader" album is illuminating. I didn't know the project was saved/fixed via sessions in London after the original California sessions fell apart.
Fairground Attraction have also released a really good third album "Live In Japan" recorded in July 1989 and which contains quite a lot of unique material that Mark Nevin wrote for a mooted new FA album. As the band subsequently broke up it was then used on Nevins solo debut album. "Ay Fond Kiss" wasn't really an album as such but a collection of out-takes, b-sides and demos.
Of interest to Kirsty MacColl fans: "Dear John" is a Kirsty MacColl/Mark E. Nevin composition. (Kirsty's version can be heard on the expanded version of "Titanic Days".)