Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Complete Peel Sessions
Genres: Alternative Rock, World Music, Pop, Rock
"Words of expectation," finally fulfilled
John L Murphy | Los Angeles | 06/29/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Exhaustively, inevitably, ultimately, it's six hours of the long march along MES and his band of dozens. For a Fall compilation, unusually insightful (rather than inaccurate, fawning, or cryptic) liner notes accompany this compendium of John Peel's favorite band. I only wish captions were included. It would've been nice to have a Pete Frame-type of family tree of Fall members, or at least pics of each of the lineups, however. Also, the six plain-wrap cd's look identical, and you cannot see the disc listings on the back, but only by flipping the cases open. My discs keep falling out of the cardboard box as well, eager to be played! Any Fall fan will find what to like and what to skip, but after dutifully hearing it all over the course of a week, general comments for anyone considering this investment of time and money. A fine value for the committed lifer, but start with "50,000" for the double-disc appetizer. I assume any listener to this six-disc box, on the other hand, has fifty or so Fall CD's (at least) already. By the way, this completely supersedes the earlier 2-disc "Words of Expectation" issued a few years ago.(I purchased the import; Amazon's domestic cost for the set compares favorably, much less than list price.)
Sound quality's great, and even the frequent doldrums encountered throughout this audial slog are made a bit more endurable by the presence of fidelity. Lyrics often emerge more articulately than on studio versions, and since the vast majority of the tunes that have album versions benefit from either the freshness of their early takes or the lack of polish shown in these radio sessions, the production that is stripped from many of the Fall's best and some of its worst songs generally plays to the band's frenetic advantage.
The Fall's official website carries much more comprehensive reactions to the minutiae of these songs, and I will not take up too much space here enumerating the high and low stretches.
Suffice to say, Disc One has the punkiest artifacts, and these again sound better than their often dated production from the studio versions at the time. It's evident how quickly the Fall found its own style(s), for by sessions 3 and 4, the early 80s atonal assault can be heard superbly especially with Paul Hanley's drums powering "Container Drivers." Disc Two brings you through what I hold to be one of the darker periods of the band ("Garden" especially rumbles on fearsomely) pre-Brix into her arrival and transformation into a more poppy-ish sound. Continuing through Disc Three, lesser known songs such as "Gut of the Quantifier" "Faust Banana" and "Gross Chapel--British Grenadiers" and "Athlete Cured" shine unexpectedly. Disc Four pairs a chugging "Cab it Up" and "Deadbeat Descendant" to a catchy effect. By the early 90s, another fallow period gives songs like "A Lot of Wind" even less energy than on the album versions, and such listlessness dominates more often as Disc Five progresses. The 1990s is an up-and-down period for the band, and its mangling of Xmas carols, for example, is less fun than it may have seemed at the time. Session 19, however, taking material from "Light User Syndrome" cd, marks a bit of a revival and the Peel versions of "He Pep" and "Hey Student!" do make good use of background vocals, including Brix again (trying to sing more than her screeches often heard elsewhere on live renditions of many of her earlier tunes) on some of the better selections from the mid-90s. Disc Six is nearly agony to get through Sessions 21 and most of 22. By now, the disintegration of the longtime line-up can be felt, and "Antidotes" offers no remedy. Only the Saints' "This Perfect Day" salvages the first half of the final disc. Of course, the 2003 and 2004 sessions, with the newest Mrs. Smith and another energized, if no less stable, band, show a welcome maturity (and a cover of The Move's "I Can Hear the Grass Grow") and a return to caring about the sound as well as the image for MES and his hired help.
P.S. 3 stars for packaging; 5 for sound; 4 for content, as the mighty Fall does drag more as any fan knows for long stretches of this sonic marathon, best taken at shorter one-hour sprints. I still wish that John Peel's favorite session men (and women) had recorded Peel's favorite song, the Undertones' "Teenage Kicks"! But all 96 songs are here, at last."
Pasts and Futures
Laurence Upton | Wilts, UK | 08/02/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"John Peel had been presenting his show on Radio One for over a decade before he aired the first session from the Fall on 15 June 1978. Nevertheless, over his unbroken thirty-seven years of broadcasting for the BBC, his name became most closely linked with that of the mighty Fall, "the great miracle of my musical life", in a symbiotic relationship which had them recording twenty-four exclusive sessions for his programme, far more than any other one act, and they are all magnificently here.
Such a box set had been eagerly awaited for years, and the contents and presentation are pretty much everything that could have been hoped for. The sessions are presented in their entirety and a fulsome booklet gives all the details of line-ups, producers and engineers where known (oddly these details are not known for some of the sessions from 1987 onwards, including the two most recent).
Curiously, the location is not specified (usually BBC Maida Vale Studio 4, at least until 1994, though sometimes in Maida Vale 3 or 5, and once in 1981 at Langham Studio 1, in Regent Street). The liner notes were written by Fall expert Daryl Easlea and are generally illuminating and concise, and where he might express an occasional opinion with which one disagrees - well, this is part of the pleasure of the Fall experience.
The BBC sessions came about because of restrictions in the amount of records they were allowed to play ("needle time") and were turned from being regarded as something of a limitation into one of the BBC's great strengths by John Peel, who encouraged the acts he booked not to merely attempt to replicate their current single, a doomed exercise given the time and studio limitations, but to use their day as a platform to experiment and try out new material; in fact, to do whatever they wanted at the BBC's expense.
It is a testament to the production and engineering skills of the staff at London's Maida Vale that bands could turn out around four tunes in a session that were often more robust and focused than their commercially available counterparts. Though some bands would simply produce as-live versions of highlights from their latest LP, the Fall fully realised the Peel ethos by regularly previewing material that would not be recorded for a year or more, if at all - as in the case of Mess Of My, for example, or the lengthy Words Of Expectation.
They also submitted a number of exclusive and unpredictable cover versions, such as their bizarre send-up of Do The Hucklebuck; the long overdue Mr Bloe revival on Groovin' With Mr Bloe; Max Bygraves' Jingle Bell Rock; Lee Perry's Kimble The Nimble, which was released on a single and reached 34 in the 1992 Festive Fifty; This Perfect Day by the Saints in 1998, or Strychnine by the Sonics, both showing that Mark E Smith had rightly retained his love of garage.
On Nancy Sinatra's The City Never Sleeps At Night (the B-side of These Boots Were Made For Walkin', so nothing obvious) a guest singer, Lucy Rimmer, was drafted in to sing lead. Perhaps best of all was the Fall rendition of Captain Beefheart's Beatle Bones'n'Smoking Stones, originally from Strictly Personal in 1968.
Eight other Peel session tracks reached the annual Festive Fifty of listener's votes, in preference to the records, between 1985 and 1998 (Cruiser's Creek, ROD, Athlete Cured, Ladybird, M5, Hey! Student, Feeling Numb and Shake-Off), proving that the days of radio sessions being regarded as second best were truly dead and buried.
Twenty-four sessions in twenty-six years is insufficient to chronicle all the multifarious line-up changes the Fall has undergone, and by the last only Mark E Smith remained from the first, though as he has pointed out, "If it's me and your granny on bongos, it's The Fall". It is noticeable how fresh and vital the band still sound, with a passion and creativity many of today's new young pretenders should envy.
Despite his reputation as a hard taskmaster, like Captain Beefheart, it is also significant how members who have left the band are prone years later to return, presumably missing the challenges being in one of the most prolific and inventive bands around could bring. Guests were often brought in to augment the sessions, providing clarinet, fiddle or (possibly, unless it is Mark E Smith uncredited) harmonica, and on their very first session I believe I can hear Marc Riley's backing vocals on Rebellious Jukebox (he was their roadie at the time, and had only joined the band by the time of their second session).
Covering twenty-six years in a breakneck seven hours of Fall history is also insufficient to do justice to their many sides but it does highlight their remarkable consistency of quality in a variety of forms.
Fall enthusiasts will be encouraged to see that Whizz Bang from session 13 (which was never broadcast, perhaps at the band's request as the song never surfaced on record either) is included, as is the track Job Search, an extra track they recorded at their final Peel session that was broadcast on the occasion of his 65th (and final) birthday.
Other Radio One live concert broadcasts and sessions such as those for Saturday Live and the Evening Session (one of which was re-broadcast on the John Peel programme) are not included. The 5th session, incidentally, was recorded on 19 August 1981, and first broadcast on 26 August, not as stated in the liner notes.
There have been other compilations of Fall Peel sessions. Should you own any of them, throw them out now and buy this. Pass them on to any unsuitable curmudgeonly young person and brighten their life.
The Fall: "They are always different, they are always the same" - John Peel"
What you need
Jack Smith | W-S, NC uSSa | 01/18/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This set contains all 24 Peel Sessions by The Fall. What more do you need to know? This is, hands down, THE greatest Fall collection ever. The holy grail. Period. The highs (and there are so many) and the lows (there are a couple or three) all come together to provide a fairly accurate history of the band in a way that no "best-of" ever could. If you are still reading this, buy it already.