For most listeners, Python Lee Jackson -- a band, not a person -- are known for one thing only: "In a Broken Dream," a hit single featuring Rod Stewart on lead vocals. Python Lee Jackson, however, were not an anonymous group cooked up as a Rod Stewart side project; they were a real band from Australia who had begun their recording career way back in 1966. For the most part, this 24-track anthology is an impeccably assembled overview of their career, except for one very important thing: it was unable to license the three tracks from Python Lee Jackson's In a Broken Dream album on which Stewart sang, including, of course, "In a Broken Dream" itself. That prevents this from being a definitive retrospective, but on all other counts this is an exemplary package, even if the quality of the music itself is highly uneven, sounding as if it's the work of several entirely different bands. By far the most interesting cuts are the nine they recorded (six of which appeared on Australian singles, three others previously unreleased) back in 1966, when they were an R&B-soul-oriented outfit with strong organ work. Somewhat reminiscent of similar U.K. mid-'60s acts such as Georgie Fame and Manfred Mann, these are generally pretty good listening for those who like that British Invasion subgenre, mixing soul covers with some original material, including the best of these tracks, "Big City Lights." Things take a downturn on the songs from their 1972 In a Broken Dream LP, recorded after their move to the U.K. On this material they often sound like just another good-time bluesy British rock group, and while the keyboardist's more wistful and soulful singer/songwriter-oriented originals are better (if not great), they could still use a much better singer -- like Stewart, who of course had moved on to far more lucrative projects after his brief stint as a Python Lee Jackson session vocalist. Also on the disc are five tracks from an uncompleted 1973 LP, which are run-of-the-mill brassy early-'70s rock, "Sweet Lady Zelda" showing some Elton John-ish singer/songwriter tendencies; one London-recorded outtake apiece from 1969 (the "Stormy Monday"-like blues "Really Tried to Love You") and 1972; and a game but, unsurprisingly, inferior 2008 update of "In a Broken Dream" (clearly labeled as a 2008 remake on the cover). The 36-page booklet does a great job of detailing Python Lee Jackson's tortuously complicated history and lineup changes (at one time including ex-Easybeat Tony Cahill), as to be expected of the Half a Cow label's reissue compilations of vintage Australian rock artists.
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