The Durutti Column


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Like Bill Frisell and Richard Thompson, Vini Reilly is one of very few instantly recognizable guitarists in pop music: you only need to hear a bar or two of his playing to realize it's him. And it's not just that he has a distinctively personal tone, though he does; it's also his unique fingerpicking style and his approach to arpeggiation that make his sound so personal and so viscerally appealing. While Durutti Column started out as a band, its membership eventually shrank to the point where it has become a vehicle for Reilly's musical projects and experiments, with which he is helped by a shifting cast of singers and accompanists, though his guitar playing is generally central. This five-disc box set is, as its title suggests, a compilation of his work during the period 2001-2009. It brings together five complete albums (Rebellion, Someone Else's Party, Keep Breathing, Idiot Savants, and Love in the Time of Recession), each packaged in a separate cardboard sleeve and each including several bonus tracks; unfortunately, there is no additional information about the musicians involved, recording dates, or any other liner notes. However, the music itself is consistently wonderful. Although every track is recognizably a Durutti Column piece, the stylistic range exhibited on these five discs is quite broad and includes funky electronica with vocal samples ("Better Must Come," "Let Me Tell You Something"), spacious dub ("Lock-Down," "Overlord, Pt. 1"), and ethnomusicological experimentation ("Protest Song") along with the bittersweetly contemplative guitar compositions that have been Reilly's stock in trade for nearly 30 years. Most musicians with a musical profile as unique as Reilly's would be difficult to listen to for five hours at a stretch, but this box is actually a pleasure to hear from end to end -- a powerful testament to Reilly's skill as a composer, his range, and the fertility of his musical imagination.

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