Dr. Strangely Strange

Halcyon Days

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An unsuccessful attempt to assemble an album of live/BBC material by Dr. Strangely Strange (not enough usable stuff could be found), unusually, led to something better -- an entire LP's worth of well-preserved 1969-1970 studio outtakes. Those ten outtakes (with two versions of one song, "Cock-a-Doodle-Doo") form the bulk of this 2007 release, topped off by three 2006 recordings supplied specifically for this project. It's the 1969-1970 material, naturally, that's the main attraction, and it's a surprise to find that -- unlike the unissued cuts excavated for most collections of this sort -- they're pretty much on a par with the two albums this fairly obscure Irish acid-folk-ish band issued during their brief lifetime. That is to say, they sound very much like the Incredible String Band without as much of an edge, a niche that cuts both ways. In some ways, more mainstream listeners (if any are indeed checking out a reissue such as this in the first place) might actually find their whimsical, drifting brand of barely-rock-influenced folk a little more pleasant and accessible than the ISB. That acknowledged, the songs, singing, and arrangements aren't as bold, striking, eclectic, or world music-influenced as those of the band with which they're inevitably compared. But those who like eccentric British Isles folk-rock in this mold, and certainly those who like the two proper Dr. Strangely Strange LPs from the era, will be pleased. The production (mostly by Joe Boyd) and sound are good, if on the low-key side; the songs are good-natured, if sometimes slight and addled; and the instrumentation quite varied, though only occasionally does this fit into what could be called rock music. Best of all, these aren't merely early demos or alternate versions, as the songs weren't used in any form on the two official albums by the band. This fits unexpectedly comfortably, then, into the primary Dr. Strangely Strange discography, though one of the outtakes (the droll disaster tale "HMS Avenger") is atypical even by the unpredictable, goofy standards of this oddball group. The three 2006 songs aren't as impressive (especially in the vocal department), but do fit in fairly well with the others in terms of both vibe and production. A bonus worth noting is the inclusion of very detailed, lengthy liner notes, which have a lot of info not only on these specific tracks, but also on the history of the band in general.

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