Stuart Jefferson | San Diego,Ca | 05/09/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"One disc 54 minutes approximately. The sound is improved somewhat from previous releases. There is good separation from high notes to low. Individual bass notes can be easily discerned,along with the higher notes in the vocals.
This edition comes in a handsome,substantial hardback booklet. Included are a number of color photographs and the story of this "band" (which in the beginning was thought to be legitimate) which rapidly became known under their real name. The cover is the same as previous editions. This edition has been filled out with extra material (demos) which are different enough from the original tracks to be enjoyable in their own right. The story of how this all came together,is told in the informative and fun to read album notes. There is a cd-rom video at the end of the disc which I have not viewed.
In case someone reading this doesn't know,the DUKES OF STRATOSPHEAR (complete with pseudonyms of the real band member's names) are in reality XTC,the English pop band of the mid-eighties. Their love of psychedelia of the sixties prompted them to record this and another album (25 O'CLOCK,an EP) in homage to this era's music. However,this isn't just a parody poking fun of the era,these tunes are done with an affectionate nod to all the music they had been listening to from the "psychedelic era". Working with producer John Leckie,who also produced the fine first album by THE STONE ROSES (soon to be a 3-cd re-release) they put together their idea of 60's psychedelia,complete with (very short) almost gibberish narratives between the actual songs,to better emulate this type of music. Also included here are the fuzz guitars so prevalent in the era,sound effects,and vocals that seem to have a real depth to them. In a number of these tracks the listener will hear a bit of BEATLES and quite a bit of THE BEACH BOYS,both in the arrangements and in the vocals. As I said,this is no parody,this is good legitimate music that stands on it's own very nicely. The lyrics,too,are self consciously "trippy" which only heightens the desired effect. Underneath all of this are a lot of good,pure pop tunes that need a number of listenings to fully enjoy. The craftsmanship used by the band is of the highest order-from the vocals to the guitars. Yet the band sound as if they threw this together effortlessly (which they certainly did not) from the first track through to the last.
More people should avail themselves of this and the other album mentioned above. This is good,straight (no pun intended) pop music with a psychedelic twist,of the type not found today. The up-dated sound,extra tracks,and the fine presentation can't be beat.
On the road to the garden of earthly delights...
Wayne Klein | My Little Blue Window, USA | 05/14/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Dukes return. A surprise hit XTC returned to the studio under their alias and produced another strong group of psychedelic classics. The reissue beats the 2001 remaster from Virgin (it was compressed, harsher sounding in comparison). Detail is nice but, more importantly, we have a nice dyanmic range where each instrument and the vocals get their due.
While the demos aren't quite as essential here as they are on "25 O'Clock" (where we get a number of demos that didn't make ANY of the Dukes albums or XTC), the demo for "Vanishing Girl" is. Called "No One at Home" and with some dummy lyrics, a more relaxed pace and Colin's solo vocal, it's a gem and different enough to make it essential.
The book has extensive notes from Andy, Colin with Gregsy (as the other two affectionately call guitarist Dave Gregory)giving a break down on the gear used to record the album. This is essential because 1) it sounds better than the 2001 release with some nice EQ choices 2)the bonus tracks and 3) the deluxe book. The CD slides in to a holder and the cover of the book is hardcover and we get a nice reproduction of the original vinyl cover (although now it says XTC as The Dukes...).
You can play spot the influence (for example "Vanishing Girl" was inspired by The Hollies "King Midas in Reverse")with these songs ("You're My Drug" is a bit more obvious--"Eight Miles High" being one of them).
Oh, and there's a really cool music video for "You're A Good Man Albert Brown" included as a Quicktime short.
Get it now!
25 O'Clock it's not!
fiL! | 07/02/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is a fun album with a few interesting bonuses but no truly "new" songs. It just isn't as inspired as "25 O'Clock". It seems a little too polished and lacking the fun vibe of the first. The song "Vanishing Girl" is amazing and stands out from the others. The demo versions are fine but hardly crucial. What's really cool is the deluxe packaging and liner notes. A five star treatment for a three star release equals four stars!"