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Porcupine Tree - Spiral Circus Live (LP)  CD (album) cover


Porcupine Tree


Heavy Prog

3.53 | 101 ratings

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2 stars Porcupine Tree's live album "Spiral Circus" actually first came out in April of 1994 and was originally only available on cassette that was given away to subscribers to the information service available during 1993 ? 1996. It was later reissued (in 1997) on violet vinyl with 500 copies pressed. This is the first official live recording of Porcupine Tree as a 4 member band with Steven Wilson, Richard Barbieri, Colin Edwin and Chris Maitland.

The recording is taken from 3 different sources; some tracks from a Radio One session and two live shows with those tracks made from desk recordings. Those two live shows were the first two PT live performances. The performances were all done before the album "The Sky Moves Sideways" was released and most of the tracks come from "Up the Downstair". There were 3 tracks on each side of the cassette/vinyl and the overall run-time was around 48 minutes.

Side A starts with "Burning Sky" from "Up the Downstair". This performance comes from two sources, the first half from Radio One live broadcast on December 6, 1993 and the 2nd half from the Borderline in London, England on December 7. 1993. The track is pretty much the same length as the original studio version at over 11 minutes. The sound, however, is not as good as the original studio version, but with the recording method, this shouldn't be too surprising. Next up is a very much shortened version of "Voyage 34" (originally from the EP of the same name) that only runs just over 5 minutes and only really has time to feature one of the themes and some dreamy effects of the much longer original. This one was entirely recorded at the Borderline in London. This isn't even the best part of the track, so it's kind of a let-down, and the sound quality is not so great. Finally, the last track on this side is "Always Never" from "Up the Downstair". This one comes entirely from the Radio One performance noted earlier. This is the first time you hear Wilson's voice on this album, and you can tell he isn't quite as confident in a live setting yet. And the sound continues to be sup-par. The performance are still decent however, especially for being their first performances live as a band.

All of side B was recorded live at The Nag's Head in High Wycombe on Dec. 4th, 1993. It starts off with a 9 minute version of "Radioactive Toy" which was available on their demo tape, a separate EP or two, and in a reworked and much better version on "On the Sunday of Life" album. Unfortunately, this live recording sounds more like the demo version, and even worse because of the low-fi recording. Since it is the demo version of the song, it is also missing the great guitar solo that's on the "?.Sunday?" album. Next comes the title track from "Up the Downstair", that excellent instrumental that on this live version seems to lose a lot of steam, mainly for the poor mix. The most interesting thing on the album is the last track "Not Beautiful Anymore", which still has a bad mix, but the synths are unevenly mixed, so they stand out a bit, especially at the end, almost giving the track a different sound.

As far as early live albums for Porcupine Tree, you are much better off getting "Coma Divine" which is recorded much better. The songs on "Spiral Circus" are good enough, but the sound and mixing is not so great, do either get the much better studio versions, or get the above mentioned live album. Otherwise, the only thing of value on this live album is the historical aspect, since it is their first live recording as a band, of their first shows together. That means, that only collectors or hardcore fans should seek this one out. And if you do decide you need it, get the vinyl remastered version.

TCat | 2/5 |


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