Crispy Ambulance

Frozen Blood (1980-1982)

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While various CD reissues had resurrected much of the Crispies' back catalog, there was still a variety of singles and random tracks kicking around by the time Les Temps Moderne embarked on a proper re-release program. As a result, the label topped everything off with Frozen Blood, meant to put the final seal on the group in the digital age. Starting with the long out-of-print second single Unsightly & Serene, the core of the release consists of two radio sessions, one for legendary U.K. DJ John Peel and another for Piccadilly Radio. Both are notable as together they contain six songs never officially recorded or released elsewhere by the group. Hempsall's vocals on the Peel session cuts are a touch hoarser than usual -- explained in the exhaustive liner notes as resulting from an unfortunate cold -- but collectively the band is on fire, exuding energy and confidence. "Drug User-Drug Pusher" is the winner from the Peel cuts, a six-minute rip with a fantastic midsong break and swirling lead melody from Davenport. Derbyshire and Madeley lay down an intricate rhythm line that stops and stutters even as it grooves, and there's the strong sense that a little more time spent on the song would have made a killer single. That sense is borne out by two of the Piccadilly session cuts, "The Presence" and "Concorde Square," both sounding fine here but later turned into something epic on the Live on a Hot August Night release. The final seven songs are often intriguing outtakes from the various live tapes that would end up forming Open Gates of Fire and its CD cousin Fin, taken from a number of dates around Europe in 1982, plus one studio rehearsal, "Cult." Three come from the band's last ever show, at which the band played wholly new material -- a fine way to go down fighting.

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