Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Various Artists (Label Samplers) - Strangely Strange But Oddly Normal CD (album) cover


Various Artists (Label Samplers)


Various Genres

4.00 | 9 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
4 stars Continuing the excellent tradition of revisiting the old progressive labels (or underground rock labels as they were often called by the press), we had seen first Harvest (EMI), Vertigo (Phillips), Deram-Decca, now we are dealing with Blackwell's Island Records, the name of which was making reference to his Jamaican music importing business.

Blackwell was a precursor and certainly ahead of his time. His label will start with a pink centre-label on vinyls before evolving to really cool-looking, multi-coloured Island with a coconut tree and then it will evolve again. As the colour of the box suggests, the focus will be on this first pink period. This choice is a little bit of a change because the first two Anthology Universal-made box-sets (Vertigo and Decca) were predominantly white, but for the rest you can conveniently place it on your shelves with the other two. Inside you will find exactly the same format as the other two packages: three disc-full of superb prog and related rock in cardboard sleeve and an informative 48-page booklet (this one is also in colour). The unfortunate thing is that if you own the Harvest anthology, this last one is the size of a vinyl box-set, so the four-of-a-kind is not possible. Maybe up next will be a Neon and Dawn label box-set also.

As with the other box-sets, they work chronologically from disc 1(early 67) to disc3 (somewhere in 72) but this is not systematically respected order either. I would say that the general overview of the label output is fairly represented even if there are some almost completely forgotten artists next to the very successful records. But this is the very point they are trying to make with this sort package: the real worthy and interesting stuff is the rare and obscure artist. I mean, do we really need to have Jethro Tull, Traffic, Fairport Convention, Free, Spooky Tooth, ELP, and King Crimson (a. o.) on these records since they are widely known - the main gripe I have with them being included is that most of those well-known groups are present twice if not three times on the complete compilation. Of course, those groups are the ones that made the label successful and they deserved fully to be included here, but there is somehow a wasted opportunity to shed more light on those obscure artistes (who often lacked the superior qualities of the renowned groups and this might just explain why some did not succeed), but this is the policy taken also with the Vertigo and Decca box-sets.

Disc 1 starts a bit clumsily, IMHO, as the track selection is a bit too acid induced and if not paying attention, you could believe you are listening to a Traffic album until the ninth track and first Tull track. Except for the opening track of Art (slightly Garage rock) and to a lesser extent the third from Wynder K Frog, all of the tracks have a similar sound to the many facets of Traffic. The tracks selection from Spooky Tooth, Nirvana and Tramline - who cover a Traffic track - all remind you a lot of the band's sound and also Winwood's soulful voice. The next two tracks from Martyn and Fairport could easily have sounded like the Dave Mason-folk facet of Traffic. Minor but amusing flaw. The rest of disc 1 is bettered balanced but another flaw is the presence of two Fairport, Traffic and Free tracks, which creates another imbalance. Anyway the pleasant surprises here are Tramline, Art, Heavy Jelly, White Noise - the last two are especially impressive, the 8min Heavy Jelly track only appearing on a sampler back then.

Disc 2 again starts with Tull and Traffic tracks (both present for the third time so far) before taking a steep turn towards acid-folk rock until Crimson intervenes for a double shot with both sides of Cat Food/Groon single soon followed by the McD & G lenghty Suite In C, but folk does remain present until the end of the disc. Certainly a more balanced selection than the previous disc. Disc 3 starts with a selection of well-known artists before plunging in more obscure artists Bown, Williamson, Martyn (with a superb Glistening Glyndenbourne from his first real classic album Bless The Weather), Vinegar Joe (his See The World track is a bit of a surprise too), and unknown Clouds present for the second time on this set. Maybe the best-balanced disc of the three.

Over all this box-set is just as excellent as the previous three, the weaknesses of the track selection on the first disc being compensated by a much better booklet where the artist are presented by alphabetical order. Another must-have and it will probably be much sought-after in a few years from now! And it certainly gave me the wishto discover the more obscure artists.

Sean Trane | 4/5 |


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password


Social review comments () BETA

Review related links

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives