Various Artists

A Fine Day...and a Brilliant Evening: Cherry Red Rarities 1983-1985

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Though Cherry Red recorded quite a few artists in the first half of the 1980s, this volume of their rarities series features just three artists: Miss Jane and Ed Barton, Grab Grab the Haddock, and In Embrace. Grab Grab the Haddock will perhaps grab the most attention, as it was formed by Jane Fox and Alice Fox out of the remnants of the Marine Girls after Tracey Thorn joined Everything But the Girl full-time. Their five tracks (which comprise all but two of the seven songs they issued on their two Cherry Red EPs) are the best of the lot on this CD as well, with an innocent post-punk pop (and occasionally samba-pop/rock) ambience that sounds like it might have caught the ears of Beat Happening in the U.S. While most of their material here was obviously too minimal and quirky for the pop market, "I'm Used Now" really does sound like something that could have been a hit single, the catchy, harmonized chorus and evanescent layers of jangly guitars, bongos, and toy keyboard-like tones working wonders. Jane and Barton are somewhat in the same bag, yet with even more of a naïve art feel; on "It's a Fine Day," Miss Jane (no last name given) sounds as if she's singing to herself in the garden, so unself-conscious is the aura. Too bad the ham-handed remix of the tune by A Guy Called Gerald is here too, but the other Jane and Barton tracks have a likable, childlike, minimal pop air, some of them with hushed or wispy vocals, others putting sparse piano tinkling to the forefront. The five selections by In Embrace, however, are not up to the level of the rest of the disc, being average, mopey mid-'80s British indie pop/rock with a bent for mannered vocals. Also on the disc (as an enhanced video track) is Jane and Barton's video for "It's a Fine Day," which also appears on Cherry Red's Pillows and Prayers DVD compilation.

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