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Rare Bird - Beautiful Scarlet: Recordings 1969-1975 CD (album) cover


Rare Bird


Crossover Prog

4.92 | 5 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars This boxed set brings together Esoteric's welcome remasters of the five Rare Bird studio albums, a biography of the band, and a hitherto-unreleased live set hailing from a few months after the release of their swansong, Born Again. The albums are presented in nice-quality cardboard sleeves replicating the LP releases (including gatecovers), which feel nice and sturdy in contrast to some of the thinner buncha-albums-in-a-boxed-set releases out there, so Esoteric have kept up their usual good production quality here.

The remastered studio albums sound as good as they ever have; the tune-up is particularly welcome when it comes to their self-titled debut and As Your Mind Flies By, both albums affected by fairly hasty and low-budget recording processes. I'd say that only As Your Mind Flies By is truly essential - but having good versions of the rest available in a well-priced package is certainly nice, and perhaps this offering might prompt people to give more of a chance to their Polydor-era albums, which seem to get short shrift - whilst I wouldn't put them on the level of As Your Mind Flies By, I think they're rather neat, and a bit more consistent than the debut.

If there's one disappointment to be had here, it's that the live set doesn't really touch on the band's early, more emphatically prog-oriented style. It's a fairly terse set (they weren't headlining, but were playing support for Barclay James Harvest), and it consists solely of songs from Born Again itself and Somebody's Watching - the band clearly wantng to promote their newer sound instead of harking back to their original style. On the plus side, the live set absolutely cooks, injecting a little extra life into this material.

It would have been good to be able to get a nice-sounding live release from their more symphonic era - there's bootlegs which circulate with material from some German dates on the As Your Mind Flies By tour, though having not heard those I can't speak to their sound quality and it's entirely possible that they are simply unusable, so I can't really mark down the box for not stretching to include substandard material.

As it is, this provides a nicely complete summation of the Rare Bird story, a worthwhile archival release that should help ensure the legacy of a band who never enjoyed the mega-success of Charisma cousins Genesis (or, for that matter, the cult stature and the rapturous reception in certain markets that fellow family member Van der Graaf Generator enjoyed), despite the early chart success of the Sympathy single. It's an OK song, but it'd be a shame for their reputation to rest solely on that; with this set, Esoteric have helped make sure that doesn't happen.

Warthur | 5/5 |


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