Felt - Ignite The Seven Cannons

by Jeff Penczak Rating:5 Release Date:2018-02-23

Cherry Red’s (fairly) comprehensive reissue of the Felt catalogue continues with a bastardised version of this 1985 masterpiece, their final release before Felt jumped over to Creation. Originally produced by Cocteau triplet Robin Guthrie and bearing a rather Cocteauesque sleeve design that visualises the title from two of the album's wonderful instrumentals: 'Southern State Tapestry' and Textile Ranch'), this is certainly the most frustrating of the repackages, not least of all because one song was retitled (and had over a minute sliced off) and another half dozen remixed by John A. Rivers, who produced their first two albums. If they wanted Rivers to produce it, why didn’t they get him in the first place? Yuck, sacrilege, and an abomination. To add to the misery, Side 2 was completed screwed up under the guise of making it “focused, edited and made symmetrical”, in the process dropping one of the original tracks. Oh boy.

In their original incarnation, the songs continue the impeccable pop stylings and immaculately pristine guitar interplay between Lawrence and Maurice Deebank, aided and abetted again by Gary Ainge on drums. New bassist Marco Thomas is separated from the rest of the band members in the credits, being relegated to almost “guest appearance” status, suggesting he wasn’t quite a full-fledged replacement for Mick Lloyd), and, most significantly, the album marks the introduction of Martin Duffy on keyboards, a move that will significantly alter their sound going forward.

The remix is immediately apparent on the slowed-down version of opener ‘My Darkest Light Will Shine’, one of their finest pop tunes, which here almost seems to feature a different guitar solo from Deebank. Guthrie’s original mix is glossed up so the guitars are to the fore, which is also apparent in follow-up ‘The Day Rain Came Down’, which in contrast to “Darkest Light” is actually sped up, as if Lawrence and Co. had a bus to catch. Its inherent melody lines and musical interplay are lost, and you can literally hear the “cut” before Deebank’s final solo.

Guthrie’s more staid approach is “remixed” to shove the guitars up front, an avowed intention in the decision to remix the album, but now it’s a different album, the ethereal, dreamy haze replaced with ‘80s glossy sheen. By the time we reach ‘I Don’t Know Which Way To Turn”, the unthinkable happens and Lawrence’s vocals are actually buried behind the guitars. If I didn’t know better, I’d think that Deebank himself was in the remixer’s chair! And I’ve relistened a few times and I’m also not so sure that Lawrence didn’t somehow insert some previously excised vocal tracks into this new version.

One of the album’s biggest selling points, beside St. Robin in the producer’s chair, was fellow Cocteau Liz Fraser dueting with Lawrence on the stunning ‘Primitive Painters’ (and singing in “English” for once!), and they’ve thankfully left this earthshattering performance alone. Ditto, the rollicking instro ‘Textile Ranch’, which effectively introduces Duffy’s thrilling organ fills in what is essentially a three-minute jam. ‘Black Ship In The Harbour’ is remixed to excise almost all of the emotion out of Lawrence’s vocal in another sped-up reimagining, and one of the album’s (no, Felt’s) greatest songs ever is butchered beyond belief, as the romantic tearjerker, with a melody to die for, ‘Elegance of An Only Dream’ (what a title!) is run through the ringer, buried under a thunderstorm, had its title changed to ‘Elegance In D’ (I’m not enough of a musician to tell if that’s even an accurate key description), and then faded out just as it gets interesting.

The album ends on Deebank and Lawrence’s winsome guitar interplay on the instro ‘Southern State Tapestry’, which in some ways points towards their next (all instrumental) album, which Cherry Red is also reissuing under a new title. After hearing this abortion, I’m not enthusiastic. Felt fans and newcomers being introduced to their music for the first time via this commendable reissue program should stick to (or seek out) the original album. That one rates a 10. This revisionist imposter doesn’t.

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