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Various Artists (Label Samplers) - Losing Our Virginity: The First 4 Years '73-'77 CD (album) cover

LOSING OUR VIRGINITY: THE FIRST 4 YEARS '73-'77

Various Artists (Label Samplers)

Various Genres


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Matti
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Virgin Records was founded in 1972 by [the future millionaire] Richard Branson and three other fellows. The prog oriented label got a wonderful start with the unexpected success of its first release, Tubular Bells (1973) by Mike Oldfield, but it's definitely the challenging musical nature of that seminal album, not the commercial success, that laid the ideological groundwork for Virgin. The first few years embraced far-from-mainstream artists such as German Krautrockers Tangerine Dream, Faust and Can, the psychedelic space rock act Gong and other artists familiar to progheads from the Canterbury scene, plus some even more marginal and unorthodox artists like Ivor Cutler. To cite Paul Sexton's liner notes on this three disc set, "These were the days of unfettered, maverick artistic expression, before the words 'music' and 'business' were superglued together". Like several other prog oriented record labels (Vertigo, Harvest, Charisma, etc.) Virgin truly deserves a retrospective multi-disc compilation to be reviewed on a prog site.

Have to say that absorbing this set (borrowed from library) was not as inspiring as the various artists compilations on a specific retrospective theme can be at their best. Especially on British folk-rock I've come across many highly delightful and educative compilations. Much of the appeal has directly to do with the way the compilation is edited and represented, and in this respect "Losing Our Virginity" is disappointing. What's interesting is the outlining of the background and the birth of the company which "took its baby steps in the business of selling gramophone records via the Royal Mail". But when it comes to representing the music on offer here, the 5-page liner notes leave a lot to be desired. A minus also from the omission of track lengths and album sources. The music samples are put in a chronological order in a month's precision, which I find unnecessary and somewhat problematic for the overall reception. The miserable-looking booklet has 16 pages in total; the diminutive illustration consists of a b/w Mike Oldfield photo and four page-size album covers: Tubular Bells, the V.A. release Manor Live, Steve Hillage's L and Faust's Faust IV, not even very exciting ones from a visual point of view. For example by placing four album covers on one page there would have been 16 of them within the same space.

It is of course obligatory to start the set with Tubular Bells, but since the album is surely familiar to the listener, a 13-minute excerpt is a useless exaggeration. MIKE OLDFIELD returns on the third disc with the less heard 'First Excursion'. FAUST is represented by 'Krautrock' and 'Giggy Smile', GONG by 'The Pot Head Pixies' and 'I Never Glid Before'. Other artists on CD 1 include STEVE YORK's CAMELO PARDALIS - never heard - , KEVIN COYNE, HENRY COW ('Teenbeat Reprise'), LINK WRAY, CAPTAIN BEEFHEART and KLAUS SCHULZE ('Some Velvet Phrasing'). Since the musical styles change very radically between the tracks -- as well as the unmarked track lengths --, one cannot speak of any coherence or consistency in the listening.

CD 2 happens to include several Canterbury artists: ROBERT WYATT ('I'm a Believer', 'Yesterday Man'), HATFIELD AND THE NORTH ('Let's Eat', 'Fitter Stroke Has a Bath') and EGG ('Wring Out the Ground'). Interesting samples from COMUS, DAVID BEDFORD, TOM NEWMAN and others. The lack of album information is a pity really, and especially for the more obscure bands such as MALLARD and BOXER one would wish to have information in an articulate artist by artist approach. The liner notes do speak a little of the represented artists, but not in a user-friendly way. Also, I find the small white font on pale green tiring to read for my middle-aged eyes.

By the time you've arrived to the third CD it also becomes a little frustrating how the same artists keep reappering, and the strictly chronological running order also results as a lack of any coherent flow in music. As a Finn I'm pleased to mention that WIGWAM's 'Freddie Are You Ready' (1975) sounds lovely amidst the less accessible stuff. IVOR CUTLER's 'The Dirty Dinner' is actually a story-reading, not music. The set is finished by two pieces from CAN, 'Silent Knight' and 'Don't Say No', the latter strangely being the only 1977 recording.

So, instead of being a delightful, informative, cultivated, ear & eye opening journey into the colourful output of Virgin's first five years, "Losing Our Virginity" sadly turns out to be a frustrating mess and a missed opportunity.

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Posted Thursday, May 19, 2022 | Review Permalink

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