Cherry Red's Grapefruit imprint has continued its series of clamshell box sets exploring a particular period or genre in rock history with a new set dedicated to one of the U.K.'s most fertile periods. The 3-CD Lullabies for Catatonics: A Journey Through the British Avant-Pop/Art Rock Scene 1967-74 offers 49 nuggets at the intersection of pop and rock, psychedelia and pastoral folk, prog and glam, famous and unknown. Following up previous volumes like I'm a Freak Baby, Dust on the Nettles, and Come Join My Orchestra, this box concentrates (per compiler David Wells) on "the artier, more esoteric end of the spectrum."
That's not to say that there aren't some choice cuts from superstar artists, particularly on the first disc here, entitled Spontaneous Underground. David Bowie is joined by his early band The Riot Squad for a poppy cover of the Velvet Underground's "I'm Waiting for the Man," a track recorded in 1967 but originally unissued. Procol Harum's "Conquistador" is presented in its original recording from their debut album that same year; in 1972, a live version would become the band's second biggest hit after only "A Whiter Shade of Pale." Selections from the debut LPs of Yes ("Beyond and Before") and Genesis ("In the Beginning") offer glimmers of the successes the bands would soon experience.
Like those artists, The Zombies crossed over to international stardom, as well. "Butcher's Tale (Western Front 1914)," with its striking musique concrete section, is one of the lesser-known cuts from the band's classic album Odessey and Oracle. The Crazy World of Arthur Brown will be long remembered for the immortal "Fire," but the primal, bluesy hard rock dirge of "All Over the Country" showcases another side of Brown's outfit. There's a palpable sense of musical freedom on lesser-known selections from artists like Giles, Giles & Fripp ("I Talk to the Wind"), The Strawbs ("The Battle"), and Eyes of Blue ("Merry Go Round").
The second disc, Tea on the Lawn, has tracks from prog heroes Barclay James Harvest ("Mocking Bird") and the original Nirvana ("Home (Reconstruction)") among numerous other artists that incorporated classical and orchestral influences into their music. No style was off-limits for this generation of psychedelic artists, however, and throughout this disc you'll hear blues, rock, pop, jazz, folk, Eastern sounds, and even dashes of country. Curved Air name-checked "Vivaldi" as the title of their song here, while Blonde on Blonde chose a Dylan song for the name of their band. (That said, there's little Dylan would recognize in "No. 2 Psychological Decontamination Unit," a chills-inducing sonic collage.) Stackridge (represented here by "Grande Piano") wore its Beatles influences on its sleeve, even enlisting George Martin to produce their LP The Man in the Bowler Hat.
The Wind Sings Winter Songs, the final disc here, displays the breadth of the eclectic spirit of the era and the manner in which many artists altered their own styles. Deep Feeling, which evolved from the beat/soul of The Guy Darrell Syndicate, traded in their Motown-style sound for prog on tracks like "Welcome for a Soldier," which nonetheless featured an atypical section of lush harmony. As You Like It (represented with "No More Sunshine Till May") was the prog iteration of the Andrew Lloyd Webber-championed band Tales of Justine. Matching Mole ("O Caroline") was Robert Wyatt's post-Soft Machine band; Bond and Brown ("C.F.D.T. (Colonel Frights' Dancing Terrapins") paired Graham Bond of Blues Incorporated and The Graham Bond Organisation with Cream lyricist Pete Brown in a short-lived duo. 10cc went on to have greater longevity; "Somewhere in Hollywood" evinces how well they balanced art-rock with pure pop sensibilities. Before Rupert Hine became a top-flight producer (Tina Turner, Howard Jones, Stevie Nicks), he collaborated with David MacIver-Robinson on various projects including the 1973 LP Unfinished Picture, from which the orchestral "Anvils in Fire" has been culled. Another boldface name here is guitarist Mick Ronson via "Growing Up and I'm Fine," penned by David Bowie, from his RCA LP Slaughter on 10th Avenue. Three previously unreleased tracks make their debut here: Open Road's "Can I See You?" (1972), Gnome Sweet Gnome's "The Machine Grinds On" (1972), and As You Like It's aforementioned "No More Sunshine Till May."
These varied delights, curios, and oddities add up to a fascinating look at a period in which the various strains of pop and rock co-existed with enormous invention and creativity. David Wells' track-by-track liner notes in the 40-page booklet shed further light on many of these "lost" artists. Simon Murphy has remastered all tracks here. Lullabies for Catatonics is available now at the links below!
Various Artists, Lullabies for Catatonics: A Journey Through the British Avant-Pop/Art Rock Scene 1967-74 (Cherry Red/Grapefruit CRSEGBOX056, 2019) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada)
- I Should've Known - The Soft Machine
- I'm Waiting for the Man - The Riot Squad feat. David Bowie
- Conquistador - Procol Harum
- Bypass the By-Pass - The End
- World War Three - Dantalian's Chariot
- Butcher's Tale (Western Front 1914) - The Zombies
- I Talk To The Wind - Giles, Giles & Fripp
- Tramcar To Frankenstein - The Liverpool Scene
- The Battle - The Strawbs
- Xoanon Bay - Woody Kern
- In The Beginning - Genesis
- Wasted Ground (Memento Mori) - The Velvet Frogs
- Beyond And Before - Yes
- Druid One - Third Ear Band
- Through The Eyes Of A Child - Bachdenkel
- All Over The Country - The Crazy World of Arthur Brown
- Merry Go Round - Eyes of Blue
- Egyptian Tomb - Mighty Baby
- Banquet - Audience
- To Play Your Little Game - Cressida
- Parachute - Pretty Things
- Crystallised Petard - Rustic Hinge
- Vivaldi - Curved Air
- World Of Ice - Sweet Slag
- Mockingbird - Barclay James Harvest
- The Prisoner - Comus
- Home (Reconstruction) - Nirvana
- Death May Be Your Santa Claus - Second Hand
- The Prisoner (Eight By Ten) - Spring
- Don Alfonso - The Coxhill-Bedford Duo
- Grande Piano - Stackridge
- Saving It Up For So Long - Samurai
- 2 Psychological Decontamination Unit - Blonde on Blonde
- Me And My Kite - Fuchsia
- Welcome For A Soldier - Deep Feeling
- Can I See You? - Open Road (*)
- O Caroline - Matching Mole
- Unhinged - 9:30 Fly
- The Machine Grinds On - Gnome Sweet Gnome (*)
- No More Sunshine Till May - As You Like It (*)
- A Winter's Tale - Jade Warrior
- F. D. T. (Colonel Frights Dancing Terrapins) - Bond & Brown
- Ship - Gnidrolog
- Anvils In Five - Rupert Hine
- Upon Composition - Ron Geesin
- Growing Up and I'm Fine - Mick Ronson
- Adventures In A Yorkshire Landscape - Be-Bop Deluxe
- Somewhere In Hollywood - 10cc
- Mother Russia - Renaissance
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