Live at the BBC, Vol. 1 gathers all of the BBC radio sessions recorded by Lloyd Cole & the Commotions around the time of their instant classic debut album Rattlesnakes. (Vol. 2, released at the same time, contains the sessions related to second album Easy Pieces and a full 1986 live set recorded at that year's Glastonbury Festival.) Opening with a pre-LP set on Saturday Live -- signed to a major label almost as soon as they were formed, they were never indie enough to rate a Peel Session -- the first three songs are the sound of a band in its tentative stages. Opening with a cover of Television's "Glory" makes their major influences just a bit too clear, and on both "Patience" and debut single "Perfect Skin," Cole's oddly mannered vocals clash a bit with the band's uncharacteristically ragged sound. By the time of a four-song set on the Richard Skinner set, Cole's vocals are much improved and the band's playing is considerably tighter; only the stripped-down arrangements of songs like "Rattlesnakes" and "Speedboat" differentiate these live tracks from the album. Over the course of these 19 songs, the only song from Rattlesnakes not found here is "Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken?" Six tracks are repeated twice (the superior takes consistently coming from the 1985 set at the Hammersmith Palais) and two of the album's much-vaunted B-sides, "Andy's Babies" and "Sweetness," also make an appearance. This sort of collection is truly only for the trainspotter who'll note that one version of "Four Flights Up" has slightly different lyrics in the second verse, but that subset of Cole's fans will be well pleased.
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AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason