INSTANT REPLAY: Various Artists

WOW! Just where to start?! Right now, I’m like a kid in a toy shop, skipping from track to track on this wonderful triple-vinyl album – and it just keeps getting better and better.

OK – deep breath and here goes with the official press release background information:

‘Instant Replay‘ is released on ECC Records, which was founded by Mark Constantine, head honcho of the Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics chain. He is a huge music fan. And a bit of a musical romantic.

A man after my own heart, his vision is for the music business to return to a time when albums were eagerly anticipated, listened to from track one, side one, to the final track on side two and only interrupted by the physical action of turning the vinyl disc over. Sleeve notes would be assiduously studied and discussed with like-minded souls.

Mark is also a seriously, serious bird watcher. You need to know this.

The leap from handmade cosmetics to the recording industry would seem like a daunting one, and so some assistance was sought by way of producer, guitarist and founder of Afro Celt Sound System, Simon Emmerson.

Simon, I believe, is also keen on bird watching. You need to know this too.

For out of common interests, Emmerson, Corncrake and Constantine Records were born.

Instant Replay’ follows on from the earlier, similarly conceived triple album, ‘The Self Preservation Society.‘ This time around though the thirty-two tracks (count them) AND the additional five on the companion USB card are re-workings by contemporary artists of songs that were originally released between 1971 and 1981. They include some of the finest
funk, folk, pop and ballads of the time. Compositions by artists as diverse as Marvin Gaye, Joni Mitchell, Sparks, The Clash and Vangelis have been reinterpreted by a galaxy of established and rising stars including Teddy Thompson, Eliza Carthy, Jackie Oates, Marry Waterson, Stealing
Sheep, Bash & Pop
and Honeyfeet.

This is such an interesting concept for someone like myself whose own musical awakening came within that decade. For while I recognise most of the song titles, there are only a handful of the artists playing on this album that I have listened to previously.

And it all works so well because the re-imaginings don’t stray so far from the originals that they become unrecognizable. Instead, they are presented more as quirky interpretations. Quirky? Try the Dream Themes featuring Piney Gir version here of Sparks’This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both of Us.’ Genius.

I did wonder what could be different about an excerpt of the epic ‘Tubular Bells,‘ but Rhodri Marsden does not introduce a Spanish guitar, reed and pipe. glockenspiel or a double-speed guitar, but instead utilises a toy piano, bassoon and a musical saw.

There are some tracks I did not recognise or remember though, like ‘Grace Darling, originally by The Strawbs. (I know of their work, but not specifically the closing track of their 1975 album, ‘Ghosts.’) This version, by Atlas and The Pleiades though could have been written four months ago and not forty-four years back. It has a lovely, contemporary feel to it.

What I love about this release, is that it’s not just the ‘obvious’ tracks by original artists that have been given a new feel. In using, in some cases, more obscure tracks from the decade, the listener, unless they are the veritable sage of all music 70s, is taken on a gloriously fresh trip of discovery.

I would always argue that the seventies was the best time for music, simply because of the diversity on offer – from very early decade psychedelia, through the (now) classic rock to prog, the glam to punk and the disco to second wave ska and rockabilly and latterly new wave / no wave and early new romantics.

Personally, I have so many fond memories of growing up through all those genres. And while every single track on this recording is a real gem, it’s no surprise that as a big Mott the Hoople fan, I was drawn in particular to ‘All The Way From Memphis,’ by Max Poscente. The vocals are slightly ‘Bowie tinged,’ violins replace Mick Ralph’s searing guitar, and the sax solo just rips the joint apart.

But if pushed, I’d have to say that Honeyfeet’s version of The Rolling Stones’ ‘Emotional Rescue‘ is my ultimate favourite of the thirty-seven tracks. As the owner of over forty Stones albums, it takes something really special for me to say that! This is a brooding, dark version that still remains instantly recognisable.

Blimey! I haven’t half banged on a bit about this album. I doubt I could really do it justice by mere words alone – so below there are snippets of all the tracks. Regardless of whether you have recollections of the decade or not, I would suggest that ‘Instant Replay‘ stands out as fresh, contemporary collection of songs that are as relative in their presentation today as they were by the original artists some thirty-nine years, and some, years ago.

THIS, I just know, will surely be in my Top 5 releases of the year, come December.

(‘Instant Replay,’ can presently be bought from Lush outlets, but will be given a formal release on 14th June, when it will be available from record stores and online.)

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