Robert Calvert

Blueprints from the Cellar: The Cellar Tapes, Pts. 1&2/At the Queen Elizabeth Hall

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A two-fer reissue for two posthumous Robert Calvert albums, one -- the 1986 Live at the Queen Elizabeth Hall document -- more or less essential, the other, Blueprints from the Cellar, of somewhat more limited interest. Live at the Queen Elizabeth Hall was recorded in London in October 1986, shortly after the release of Calvert's Test Tube Conceived album. Representing less than half of the live show, this set, however, is firmly retrospective, drawing in the main from his solo debut, Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters, and the oddly overlooked Freq. As such, it goes without saying that the live versions struggle to match their studio counterparts -- both albums, after all, were very much the children of the recording studio, and a scratch band pieced together from various members of Inner City Unit simply cannot compete. The recording quality, on the other hand, is more or less excellent, and this remains a fascinating document, both for the chance to experience Calvert's on-stage conversation, and for the ferocious version of "Working Down a Diamond Mine," one of several songs that also appears on the second disc. As its title suggests, the accompanying Blueprints from the Cellar is a demo collection, drawing from Calvert's work tapes for the Freq and Test Tube Conceived albums, together with a clutch of songs that never made it onto any regular album. He himself had already released these same performances, spread across two fan club cassette-only volumes of Cellar Tapes; two songs are excised from those releases for this CD, but the scarcity of those tapes today renders that all but irrelevant. The music itself is as gripping as only Calvert could be, but little here was not performed better in its finished form, rendering Blueprints from the Cellar a must-have for confirmed collectors only. There again, if you buy this package for the live disc, think of this one as a free bonus, and enjoy it for what it is.

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