Transistor Blast: The Best of the BBC Sessions

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XTC finally shook themselves loose of Virgin Records in early 1998, freeing themselves to finally begin recording and releasing records. The first album out the door was not the long-anticipated sequel to Nonsuch, but Transistor Blast: The Best of the BBC Sessions, a four-disc set chronicling the majority of the group's BBC recordings, from White Music through Oranges and Lemons. There have been a handful of limited releases of this material, most notably on Drums and Wireless, but usually these tracks haven't been seen anywhere outside of bootlegs -- and a significant number of cuts on the collection haven't even appeared there. All of this makes Transistor Blast seem like an ideal release for collectors, and it is. However, it's a little more than that, since the performances here are often exhilarating. Essentially, the earliest material -- and much of this dates from the pre-stage fright years, meaning White Music to English Settlement -- boasts identical arrangements to the recorded versions, but quite a few live cuts crackle with nervous energy which is undeniably exciting. Similarly, the acoustic arrangements of latter-day songs from Skylarking and Oranges and Lemons aren't necessarily revelatory, but they do present familiar songs from a welcome, different angle. And that's what's neat about Transistor Blast -- nothing here is essential to understanding XTC, but it only enhances a dedicated fan's appreciation of the group.

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