Edsel Records [Release date 03.02.14]
Cast embarked on their traditional low-key pre-Christmas dates in 2013 and celebrated their 20th anniversary with a new album ‘Troubled Times’. With their first four albums now expanded to deluxe editions, the time is perhaps right for a proper re-evaluation.
The band – formed in Liverpool in 1992 with members of The Las and Shack – influenced many of their Britpop contemporaries, not least the Gallaghers. It is easy to trace their lineage in Oasis’ recorded debut in 1994 and in another local band, the underrated The Real People who pre-dated them.
The band’s 1995 debut ‘All Change’ (the biggest selling debut album for the Polydor label) is full of jangly guitars and late-sixties psychedelia tinged with Fab Four inflection and now expanded with B-sides, demos, live tracks and various BBC radio sessions. Some great tracks here including ‘Sandstorm’, ‘Mankind’, ‘Four Walls’ and ‘Back Of My Mind’. *****
1997′s Mother Nature Calls is perhaps less immediate or distinctive as their debut but still produced several hit singles including ‘Live The Dream’ and ‘Guiding Star’. There’s more light and shade as on ‘I’m So Lonely’ replete with strings. Again, the bonuses include previously unreleased live tracks and a couple of BBC session tracks. ***1/2
Interestingly some observers call the band ‘The Who of the 90s’ and that second album influenced by the Stones and the Faces. I can’t hear this myself. The Kinks, maybe?
By the time of the band’s third album Magic Hour the Britpop movement had peaked. This album was a little heavier than previous and sits better with their debut. With only one hit single – ‘Beat Mama’ – the band’s fortunes were changing and several of their contemporaries had already folded or been dropped by the labels, for example, Kula Shaker.
There’s some good stuff here, notably ‘The Feeling Remains’ and the strings-inflected ‘Hideaway’. The second disc features more BBC sessions and unreleased material. ***1/2
The band’s final Polydor album Beetroot was released in 2001 and marked a distinct change of musical direction with the use of loops and samples and a Latin and mainstream pop vibe far removed from that visceral guitar-oriented debut. ***
Buyers should be aware that the BBC tracks are available on the 2007 ‘Complete BBC Sessions’ and in respect of ‘All Change’ there is some overlap with the 2010 reissue which included more demo and alternate versions than here. We didn’t have the hard copies for review or the DVDs, so I can’t comment on the packaging or the filmed content, but I would imagine Edsel have done their usual thorough job.
Cast frontman John Power has also toured on his own recently and has appeared in a play about John Lennon but the original band do still get together for those traditional end of year gigs and hopefully will continue to do so. With hindsight, and as evidenced here, a band that never quite re-captured the impact – and consistency – of that superb 1995 debut.
Review by David Randall
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