Tobin Sprout

Demos and Outtakes

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For fans only, but if you are one, this is an OK pickup. Two years after this first appeared as a double-LP on vinyl with its Beatles White Album tribute cover (an obscure issue that immediately sold out and disappeared out of print!), Demos and Outtakes finally makes its debut as an official, plentiful, CD. And though die-hards are disappointed that it has been pared down from its original thirty offerings to a "mere" twenty, more tightly edited it makes for a more concordant LP, instead of the ol' disconnected, scotch-taped mess. Most of the compositions are familiar from the cult-beloved maestro's career, from his mid-'90s heyday in Guided by Voices such as "To Remake the Young Flyer," to his numerous solo discs like "To My Beloved Martha," right through to his more recent Eyesinweasel work like "Seven and Nine." But, being rudimentary, probably four-track demos with a clumsy drum machine, these attractive pop songs are presented in a skeletal, compressed state. A drawback is that some of them fade out before their known conclusions -- but that just shows how early in the writing stage this is, as the composer feels out and arranges his hooks. Demos feels like you're on FBI stakeout, with a hidden mic in Sprout's parlor studio, getting an illicit peak at him testing and sifting. His voice sounds as agreeable as ever, trilling "E's Navy Blue" and the ever wonderful, piano-devastating "Water on the Boaters Back" (his greatest moment) to the drone-fuzz guitars and trebly bass he overdubs. Finally, the abundance of satisfactory songs never completed for release is a significant plus, too. Maybe he'll get around to putting some of these on his next disc. After all, "Seven and Nine" originally debuted here.

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