This is the collection that most fans of Lindisfarne and the late Alan Hull had been awaiting for a decade since his death, encompassing the Newcastle-based singer/songwriter's career going all the way back to his work with that city's British Invasion-era band, the Chosen Few, through his sides with Skip Bifferty and into his late-'60s solo work. For '60s completists, the four Chosen Few sides here, all co-authored by Hull and released in the second half of 1965, will be the most alluring aspect of this set. They show a band with a smooth yet punchy British Invasion pop/rock sound -- with the influence of the Beatles in the harmony singing and Paul McCartney (and perhaps Gerry & the Pacemakers) in their mix of pop melodies in a rock & roll setting. They knew how to come up with vocal and guitar hooks, and should have been more successful than they were at the time. "This We Shall Explore," backed by Skip Bifferty (which evolved out of the Chosen Few), opens with elements of "I Am the Walrus" in evidence before digressing to spaced-out singer/songwriter impulses; and "Schizoid Revolution" somehow makes one think of an earthier version of the material that the Moody Blues were experimenting with on In Search of the Lost Chord, despite some truly strange instrumental digressions that add little to the song. The first of the Hull solo sides, from 1970, follow early singer/songwriter efforts on acoustic guitar, leading into his work with Lindisfarne -- these include his original Transatlantic Records version of "We Can Swing Together." The Lindisfarne material fills up the first disc from the middle to the end, starting with "Lady Eleanor" through the mid-'70s Charisma albums Pipedream and Roll on Ruby, and a pair of live cuts off of Magic in the Air, of which "Caught in the Act" is presented at its most endearing and disarming. Some of this material, such as "Winter Song" (mastered so cleanly that you can actually hear the action on his guitar), is qualitatively and stylistically little different from his solo material, and it's easy to understand how Hull and the band's work was sometimes easily confused in the minds of listeners; other tracks, such as "Lady Eleanor" and "Fog on the Tyne," are such obvious group efforts that they stand as distinct in that regard. Disc two opens with "Run for Home" and goes on through the even more anthem-like (and nearly as compelling) "Heroes," and other examples of the band's 1990s work, before returning to Hull's final solo sides from the Statues and Liberties album. The collection finishes, appropriately enough, with his hymn-like "Clear White Light," which had been played at the funeral of Charisma Records founder Tony Stratton-Smith. All of the mastering is state-of-the-art, and the diversity of sound is sufficient so that these two discs never stand still for the listener -- there's always something new or underexpected in front of you musically, or at least different from what came before. The annotation is respectful, entertaining, and highly informative, and even longtime fans will find a lot unique (and exceptionally attractive) here to justify their purchase of this set.
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