20th Anniversary Special Edition
(Edsel Records) Release date 26.11.12
Is it really 20 years? Cripes. I first heard ‘Oxford Suite (Part 1)’ on BBC Radio 1 (I am sure it was ‘Fluff’ Freeman’s Saturday afternoon show) and was immediately drawn to its haunting melody over a ground bass. A sort of modern day ‘Lark Ascending’ and as ‘Oxford’ as Inspector Morse.
In truth, it was never quite the same after that. I bought the original album and the follow up (‘Ultraviolet’) but soon tired of the basic construct: Alleyne-Johnson improvising on violin over delayed effects.
It seems that Ed may have dined out on the idea ever since, as he is frequently to be seen busking in Chester or Liverpool extemporizing using a variety of effects pedals. It is a real novelty when you first hear it but begins to pall after a while. A-J adds tonal colours and range via the pedals but ultimately the technique is a bit limiting, although it never fails to raise interest at street level.
The 2oth anniversary version gets the usual very comprehensive Edsel treatment – and in addition to the original album Ed has revisited the whole piece so the second CD was recorded this year.
Has the album concept stood the test of the time and, moreover, does the new version add anything to it? Well no, and no, really – perhaps it would have been novel to have the new version scored for a small chamber orchestra.
But I suppose it’s nice to have as a comprehensive and definitive package and the liner notes by Ed are informative. He created the work as an antidote to modern ‘progress’ and has long shunned arenas where he appeared with New Model Army preferring to play close to the people – and you don’t get much closer than Chester City Centre on a busy Saturday.
If Ed and his partner Denyze (who adds ethereal vocals to the one new track ‘Improvisation 3′) represent something of a long-lost hippy philosophy, in a frankly depressed musical climate so much the better. The addition of bonus tracks including the unreleased ‘Himalaya’ round off a worthwhile reissue, especially if you missed it first time round. ****
Review by David Randall
“Ones That Got Away” (2005 Feature)
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