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Porcupine Tree - Ambulance Chasers CD (album) cover


Porcupine Tree


Heavy Prog

3.75 | 39 ratings

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4 stars This hard to find gem is a collection of most of the tracks in demo form from the album "Stupid Dream". The release of "Stupid Dream" was delayed because Porcupine Tree was trying to find a new label to get signed to. This collection somehow got released inadvertently while the public was waiting for the new CD. It is now very hard to find. The demos included from the album proper are "Even Less", "Piano Lessons", "Baby Dream in Cellophane", "Slave Called Shiver", "Don't Hate Me", "Tinto Brass", and "Stop Swimming". That accounts for 7 of the tracks on this collection. The remaining are other demos of songs previously not available on the original "Stupid Dream" album. These are "I Fail", "Ambulance Chasing", and "Disappear".

For being demos, these are still excellent versions of the originals. They are less polished, but in some cases, just as good and sometimes a little better, as in the case of "Even Less", which is on this collection as a 15 minute track, where as on the "Stupid Dream" album is edited to 7 minutes. This is the best version of "Even Less" as far as instrumentation is concerned in my opinion. The lyrics are different, and admittedly I do like the lyrics better on the version more people are familiar with, but the actual instrumentation is more raw, more intense and much more enjoyable. Now, a full length version would become available on other collections, and it is also great, but it's still not the same version as what is on here. I'm not sure if this version is available anywhere else.

"Piano Lessons" is also great as a demo, again not as polished as the official version, but a little harder. "Baby Dream in Cellophane" is not so great as a demo however and is still underdeveloped here. "I Fail" comes next and as far as I know, this is not available anywhere else. It is pretty straightforward and decent enough, but nothing special really. It sounds like an outtake which is what it is. The overall sound of rawness and less polish continues for "Slave Called Shiver" and "Don't Hate Me", the latter actually coming off better than the former. Many bands probably would have been happy calling these takes finished product.

"Disappear" was not on the "Stupid Dream" album, but a more polished version of it would show up on the official outtake release "Recordings". This version is somewhat finished, but the instrumentals are top notch while the vocals are not quite there yet. Steven's vocals on the last chorus to go up an octave though and this creates more tension at the end of the song. Again, it's interesting to hear it in this unrefined version. "Ambulance Chasing" was exclusive to this collection for quite a while and did become available on one of the reissues of "Stupid Dream" as a bonus track, but since I haven't heard that reissue, I don't know how it compares to this version. It was also released on the "Piano Lessons" single, but in a more finished version. It is all instrumental. It starts out with some atmospheric sounds from the instruments and heavy on percussion. This develops into an great sounding instrumental with a lot of atmospheric sounds and tones, but not in a psychedelic way, because it is melodic, but it is also quite heavy at times. It ends with some nice, treated wordless vocalizations.

"Tinto Brass" is about 10 minutes long on this version where as the official version was around 7 minutes. This is also an instrumental. This version takes more time to develop by having an atmospheric section at the beginning of the track with interesting noises and a longer development section involving percussion and bass. Either way, this is an excellent track in either version, a very driving instrumental with an amazing level of intensity. I do like this longer version though, because this track with more time added can only make it even better. "Stop Swimming" again is an unpolished version of the official recording, still a great song, but not much different except for the rawer sound and a bit more ambient.

This is a tough one to rate. Since it is a collection of demos, it is rather hard to find and can't be considered essential. If you are not familiar with the official versions of these songs, you wouldn't appreciate the difference, and that is the biggest draw to this collection, but it would only apply to those familiar with PT's music. I have to say that the unfinished feeling of the recordings is very nice to hear and it gives insight to the development of the songs. But this would only be appreciated by fans. It's hard to just give this a 2 star rating, but only collectors and fans would understand the difference in the tracks. The best tracks here which even come close to surpassing the official versions are "Even Less" and "Tinto Brass". These alone make this collection worth having, it you can find it, but if you can, I would consider it an excellent addition to your collection. There you go, 4 stars!

TCat | 4/5 |


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