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Dick Heath
Jazz-Rock Specialist
4 stars Decca have done it again, with a second 3 CD box set as a follow-up to 'Legend Of A Mind'. 'Strange Pleasures' also comes with copious notes and illustrations in a fat little booklet - and the current price at Amazon.UK (mid May 2008) is a real bargain at less than 13 quid.

In the intervening 5 years, the Eclectic label (now Esoteric) have released a number of gems from the Decca/Deram archives, so now you might cynically said 'Strange Pleasures' is cheap sampler from some of those reissued (remastered for the most part) albums - but you can't go too far with that thought. Simply there is a lot of material which you will only find on 30 or 40 year old vinyl.

Whilst 'Strange Pleasures' is equally good or better than some of the competing labels' efforts to jump on the 'Legend Of A Mind' bandwagon, this isn't quite as good or balanced as 'Legend'. The compiler has again selected more than one track from the better known bands, so we once more get a couple of Caravan tracks (which IMHO are good choice), but the two TYA tracks are near forgettable, and two Moody Blues are disappointing. Elsewhere we are taken back to forgotten recordings (e.g. minor hit singles) which smack of pop rather than underground. There are number of other obscurities i.e. bands forgotten or never heard of, (even by the few of us old enough to have been around when first released): these are a mixed blessing. Some lack music creditability for this type of sampler, as not being strongly representative and/or weak musically. However, the good news, others I'm most pleased to see here: the early brass rock Satisfaction (I complained at their absence from 'Legend'), the Taste spin-off Stud (experimental rock of 1970), Darryl Way's Wolf (the first example of John Etheridge guitar with violin, here with band leader Way) and too an echo from Decca's 1969 sampler 'Wowie Zowie', Touch's Down At Circe's Place. I must comment as a devoted Touch fan, the biography of the band is the best and most detailed I've read.

I felt with the first album of the set I had to wade through 2 or 3 undistinguished choices before getting back to a track that wowed me. So I guess in the end, once you are familiar with this recording you will become selective in choices, with the weak tracks destined never to be played again. As hinted above a 4 star, which means 'Legend of A Mind' as a superior set, closer to 4.7. As I've written before a box set for those with fond memories of the period, or might use this as evidence(?) of musical changes occurring 1966 to 1975 .

Report this review (#170791)
Posted Monday, May 12, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars I've listened to quite a many prog compilation boxes, and this is among the most useful of them. On three full-length CD's is represented the prog(-related) wing of the Decca label - and even if this is a follower to another set ("Legend Of A Mind", which I sadly haven't yet heard), you get the feeling that you are on a threshold of a treasure cave full of interesting things you've never heard before. Also the physical setting is exactly up to my taste: a small box for three simple CD containers and the finely edited booklet, including the band introductions in alphabetical order.

It's too typical for large compilations to give extra notice to the major acts by e.g. including two or three tracks from them, and that's one of the less interesting features in here too. I mean, isn't it very plausible that the target audience is already very familiar with bands such as MOODY BLUES and CARAVAN? (They should have left 'Best Way to Travel' and 'Waterloo Lily' out because IMHO they're below the normal standards of these bands.) TEN YEARS AFTER didn't get me interested with any of the three tracks. Perhaps surprisingly another three-track artist here is BILL FAY who was a new name for me. Pretty good... Guess which band comes at first. GENESIS! 'In the Beginning' from their unmature debut. And right after it comes an early psychedelic gem by AL STEWART (1966). For the rest, they're almost all more or less "new" acquaintances to me. Of course not CURVED AIR or THIN LIZZY, but anyway the latter's delicate 'Sarah' was a nice surprise.

The running order is chronologic (except for the opening track). On the first disc you hear mostly hazy psychedelic stuff, most of which very interesting and enjoyable (by bands such as THE ACCENT, TINTERN ABBEY, 23rd TURNOFF and SUNFOREST). Later on you hear e.g. less known Canterbury-based bands EGG or KHAN. Funny to read how the same key figures (Dave Stewart, Steve Hillage etc) popped up under various monikers. (Sad that the mother of all Canterbury bands, WILDE FLOWERS, is not here...)

I don't remember the year on which this comes to an end (somehere in mid-70s), but on these roughly ten years Decca was very daringly releasing lots and lots of innovative bands and artists, most of which were doomed to minor sales and all too short album-releasing careers. But that's the very thing that makes it all more interesting now, more than 30 years later. You're warmly recommended to get a hold of this box, especially if you can borrow it. And if you're a serious old proghead wishing to get snippets of as many lesser bands as possible, it's surely worth buying too.

Report this review (#259856)
Posted Friday, January 8, 2010 | Review Permalink

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