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Various Artists (Label Samplers) - El Pea CD (album) cover

EL PEA

Various Artists (Label Samplers)

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Easy Livin
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Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars Released in 1971, "El Pea" was another fine double LP sampler (compilation) by Island records. Once again, while the bands featured now read like a who's who of early '70s prog and rock, at the time many of the artists were still .paying their dues.

Side one consists of five tracks, starting with Traffic's "Empty Pages" which, like the track on the Island sampler "Bumpers" is also taken from their "John Barleycorn" album. Sandy Denny appears on this side as a solo artist, but is absent from Fairport Convention's "Lord Marlborough" taken from "Angel delight". As the album was recorded after her departure it features Dave Swarbrick's vocals. The rather under appreciated Heads Hands and Feet contribute a rather out of character ballad in "Song for Suzie", which features some wonderful guitar work by Albert Lee. Strangely, this track was dropped from Dutch and German versions of El Pea, to be replaced by a John and Beverley Martyn offering.

Side two moves further into prog territory. It starts with the strange choice of "Mother goose" from Jethro Tull's "Aqualung", not an obvious selection to represent this classic album. Quintessence's "Dive deep" is fairly typical of their music, but also is representative of the generally understated nature of the tracks selected for this compilation. Nice guitar again though. Amazing Blondel's "Spring season" is an acoustic, folky song, with Crosby, Stills and Nash like harmonies. King Crimson offshoot McDonald and Giles appear with an extract from "Tomorrow's People - The children of today", a sparse, echo laden slightly "Schizoid man" like number. Tir Na Nog's "Our love will not decay" is a typically soft acoustic piece. The side closes with "Don't look around" the rollocking opening track to Mountain's "Nantucket sleighride", one of the classic prog related albums of the early '70's.

The third side is generally the softest, with Cat Stevens (the lovely "Wild world"), an amusing ditty by the Incredible String (sounding suspiciously like the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band), Mike Heron (of the aforementioned ISB), Jess Roden's Bronco, and a track from Free's "Highway" album.

Side four opens with ELP's wonderful "Knife edge" from their first album, and closes with ex-Jethro Tull bassist Mick Abrahams' "Greyhound Bus". In between we have contributions by the late Nick Drake, Mott the Hoople before they went glam, and cross over reggae artist Jimmy Cliff. The Jimmy Cliff track is actually far removed from reggae, being a blues/gospel inspired song. Even the Mott track is out of character, comprising of a downbeat Sutherland Brothers like song.

In all, a fine collection of artists, but a rather disappointing selection of tracks make this a desirable collection from a historical perspective only.

The sleeve was rather original, and clearly part of the marketing ploy. It has a giant pea on the front cover (a play on the phrase LP of course). Inside are two clear plastic sleeves for each of the LPs. There are sketches of each of the bands or artists featured, although names are not added, leaving it to the buyer to identify them.

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Posted Saturday, July 29, 2006 | Review Permalink

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