Hot on the heels of Renascent's reissues of most of The Sound's
studio albums, comes this double CD compilation of the band's
sessions and live shows for the BBC. It's a real gem, and serves
as an excellent introduction for the uninitiated.
Music lovers of today couldn't be blamed for not having heard
of The Sound; they made a few waves back in the early 80's, but
never got the acclaim they deserved. Led by singer / guitarist
Adrian Borland, the band had a unique and absorbing post
punk sound, with Colvin Mayers' keyboards a major element
in the mix along with Borland's slashing guitar leads and the
crack rhythm section of Graham Bailey (bass) and Mike
Dudley (drums) driving things along. This group should have
at least been as big as Echo and the Bunnymen (but then
the Bunnymen should have been as big as U2, so I'd better
not go down that particular primrose path ... )
The BBC Sessions consists of one CD containing two four-song
sessions from 1980 and 1981, and a second CD containing two live
concerts from 1981 and 1985 (and complete with quaint "old-school
BBC" introductions by the plummy voiced Pete Drummond,
pop pickers !) As with most BBC releases, the group benefits from
the stripped down, quick fire session approach. The 1980 session,
featuring songs from the first album Jeopardy, frequently
surpasses the studio versions; not all that surprising given that
the band felt that Jeopardy was really just a set of demos.
The 1981 tracks don't quite reach the level of Hugh Jones'
productions on From the Lions Mouth, but Borland's gripping
songwriting and singing, coupled with band performances that are
in complete sympathy with the material, make the session a worthy
addition the The Sound's recorded ouptut.
For my money, having never had the chance to experience the band
live, the real revelations are on the in-concert CD. Every song
is rendered with an intensity that was only hinted at on the studio
albums. Mayers' keyboards cast an icy wash, sometimes carrying
the melody and sometimes being used more as additional colour,
acting as a co-lead instrument with Borland's jagged guitar lines.
Shades of the also almost-forgotten Comsat Angels ... All
the while, Bailey and Dudley push the lead players along so that
the pace never lets up.
The 1981 concert features the group at the peak of their critical
acclaim, with many friends and fans in the audience, and the atmosphere
is appropriately triumphant. By the time of the 1985 show, The
Sound's star was waning and you can hear the desperation in Borland's
performance, but the songs (mostly from the Heads and Hearts
album) are almost more compelling for it. The final two, "Whirlpool"
and "Missiles", are almost frightening - as Dudley says
in his liner notes, "Missiles" is "one of the all-time
great screams of rage and defiance ever committed to tape".
It's hard to listen to these later performances and not think
of the growing desperation that soon developed into serious
mental illness, leading Borland to take his own life in 1999
after splitting the group in 1988. By all accounts, Borland
never quite came to terms with The Sound's lack of the success
he felt they so richly deserved. He was a man with talent to
burn and a band to back it up, and there is no better evidence
of that than on these two CDs.
2. Unwritten Law
4. I Can't Escape Myself
5. Fatal Flaw
8. New Dark Age
9. Pete Drummond Intro
10. Unwritten Law
12. Fatal Flaw
14. Sense Of Purpose
16. New Dark Age
17. Pete Drummond + Intro Music
18. Golden Soldiers
19. Under You
20. Total Recall
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