Family

BBC Radio, Vol. 1: 1968-1969

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These 16 tracks are almost wholly composed of BBC versions of songs from Family's first three albums, though one ("Holding the Compass") didn't turn up until their fourth LP; another ("No Mule's Fool") was a 1969 single; and another, "I Sing 'Um the Way I Feel," was a J.B. Lenoir blues tune the band never put on their official records. Some of this material has come out on bootlegs, but the sound on this is notably superior -- it's quite good for a BBC archive release from any era, in fact. And while the arrangements don't differ too drastically from the studio versions, these performances are excellent. There's a bit of a loose live feel, but they demonstrate that the band -- unlike some others of the early progressive rock era -- were capable of re-creating their intricate, disciplined rock-blues-jazz-folk-miscellany interplay in a live setting, without sacrificing any of their gritty energy. Some of these renditions predate the release of the studio versions, sometimes by quite a bit; in the case of "Holding the Compass," in fact, the lyrics would change by the time it made it onto the Anyway album. Some might lament the absence of some particular favorites from their early days; there's no "Hey Mr. Policeman," for example. But really there's nothing to complain about considering the strong selection of songs here, which include such highlights of their early repertoire as "See Through Windows," "Drowned in Wine," the distressingly haunting folk-rockish "The Weaver's Answer," and the wistful "Observations From a Hill."

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