Why, in the age of streaming, should you even bother buying a CD box set? As far as I am concerned, Grapefruit Records have found the answer. It is all about the accompanying booklet.
Whereas analogue LPs might be bought on the grounds of the cover art and the (questionable) quality experience of having to turn sides after 20 minutes, a digital CD might not improve much on a lossless stream from Tidal or (soon) Apple Music. But with Grapefruit label owner David Well’s incredibly well-researched and insightful liner notes in your hands, the listening experience turns into a kaleidoscopic discovery journey. Yes, they really are that good. And the stories here constantly point you to side quests, prompting you to discover music way beyond the box set itself.
For me, this time round, the major discovery was the track ‘Once Upon A Dream’ by Rusty. I have long had their 1972 acetate test press on my Discogs wish list but have not come across a copy. Not only is the song included here a fabulous late 60s sounding Beatlesque psychedelic pop song, but it turns out that Cherry Red have made the whole album available for streaming as well, and to my surprise, it is a fully realised pop album in the same vein: some of the tracks are all the way up there with the nugget included here. The streamed album is a straight vinyl rip, vinyl clicks and all, and the first track is even full of digital jitter and transfer errors, so let us hope that Grapefruit eventually gets around to issuing a properly treated CD release!
Although I have a tendency to go down a rabbit hole, I should point out that this box set is not only for nerds. It caters expertly to listeners who are interested in getting an idea of what was going on not only in the charts of 1972 but also beyond them.
Many of the big names of the day are here, such as Thin Lizzy, The Moody Blues, Slade, Mott the Hoople, Roxy Music, even Yes. And, importantly, reading about them sheds new light on their music. Take Barclay James Harvest for example. Did you know that they released a single under the pseudonym Bombadil? Read all about it here.
Still, it is the lesser known contributions that draw me in. Some of them are totally new to me, such as the fabulous Ray Davis-penned ‘Nobody’s Fool’ by Cold Turkey or the wonderful soft psychedelia of ‘Birds Must Learn To Fly’ by the strangely named Rocky Cabbage or the magical ‘I Am… I Think’ by the even more strangely named group Grobbert & Duff. Fantastic stuff!
Then there are some thankful additions to my collection, such as the single that Rockin’ Horse made under the Atlantis pseudonym. I already had the A-side ‘I Ain’t Got Time’ on another compilation but was very happy to finally get to hear the Campbell rocker on the B-side, ‘Teddy Boyd’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Show’.
Another true highlight is the McCartneyesque ‘Maybe I’m Lost Without You’ by Neil Harrison. While I have this lost gem on the original single, the sound here is better, indicating the possibility that it might come from a recovered master tape. That idea in itself is a tantalising proposition: Neil recorded more songs during his time with Southern Music, and might this lead to a chance that they tapes still exist??
However, it seems that even David Wells can get his facts wrong at rare occasions, as he writes that Neil Harrison was involved in the 1977 Jabberwock single ’Sneakin’ Snaky’, which is not true. I contacted Neil, who wasn’t even aware of the realease of this compilation, to double check, and he says: “It must have been some other Neil Harrison.”
I could ramble on forever about this compilation, but I will not distract you any longer from going out to buy it now!