The Associates

Radio One Sessions, Vol. 1: 1981-1983

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Strange Fruit once shoehorned highlights from the Associates' BBC sessions into one disc, but the label did a wise thing in 2003 by providing a complete restoration. Radio One Sessions, Vol. 1, the first volume of a two-disc, separately sold set, provides the four initial sessions in full -- three for John Peel, one for Kid Jensen -- that were recorded and aired between 1981 and 1983. Those who tuned in for the April 1981 session were treated to three songs that wound up on Sulk; "Me Myself and the Tragic Story" (eventually retitled "Arrogance Gave Him Up"), "Nude Spoons," and "It's Better This Way" surprisingly sound almost as thick and gauzy as their album counterparts, and even more frantic, given the untreated run-throughs. The Affectionate Punch's "A Matter of Gender" takes on a similar density, standing in stark contrast to the spindly, fractured original. The second session predates Sulk's release by a couple months but features nothing from it; B-sides and album outtakes -- "Australia," "Love Hangover," "A Severe Bout of Career Insecurity" -- along with a very early preview of "Waiting for the Love Boat" all sound rich and vibrant, on a plane with their proper album material. The third and final session for Peel finds Billy Mackenzie supported only by piano; a rendition of "God Bless the Child" and his own "This Flame," both of which are unavailable elsewhere, showed the singer to be one of the most startling cabaret singers around (there is a reason why Andrew Lloyd Webber was an awed supporter). The final session on the disc, recorded for Jensen's program, doesn't exactly close it out prettily, based on the second-rate material from Perhaps and drum programming that hasn't aged particularly well. Even so, the first three sessions make this disc a must for fans.

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