Felt - The Pictorial Jackson Review

by Jeff Penczak Rating:4 Release Date:2018-09-21

Well, we’ve finally reached an impasse on Cherry Red’s A Decade of Felt reissue series. Troubles ahead were hinted at in the abomination of remixes and track edits and excision that sunk Ignite The Seven Cannons and Set Sail For The Sun six months ago. But that’s a drop in the bucket compared to what they did to this one: they dropped a whole fucking side of the album!

Admittedly, it was a double-edged sword to begin with: Side 1 was a collection of Lawrence’s short, sweet pop confections and semi-autobiographical brain droppings set to suitably adorable chamber pop. Flip it over and listeners were confronted with the loungey jazz stylings of keyboard wizard Martin Duffy, the centerpiece being the stunning 12-minute ‘Sending Lady Load’, a thousand-yard-stare fantasy of smoky, dreamy Fender Rhodes to accompany one on a lazy sunny afternoon floating along on a mirror-still lake on a Summer’s day.

The second Duffy track aborted from the reissue is ‘The Darkest Ending’, a lovely Bass piano and vibe concoction with cinematic overtones (the main theme is a note-for-note recreation of Francis Lai’s ‘Thème de Catherine’ from his brilliant Vivre pour vivre (1967) soundtrack). To own these oblique but key elements of the Felt discography you’ll have to buy the original (which, of course, you should do, and leave this alone.)

But it’s just this sense of shock, confusion and wonder that gradually yields to a resigned acceptance – hey, this is fucking good! It’s not Felt, but it’s good – that is lost when they pull half an album out from under you. And it also begs the question: what is the purpose of this so-called “reissue”? Imagine Apple decides to reissue Abbey Road on vinyl, but further decides to drop that mishmash of tracks all glommed together on Side 2 and replace them with, say ‘The Ballad of John and Yoko’ and ‘Old Brown Shoe’. That’s what’s happened here. Call it what you will, just don’t call it a reissue.

But since I’ve already told you what you missed, let’s listen to Side 1 and offer some comments. The Beatles/New York City dual tribute ‘Apple Boutique’ floats around the room on Duffy’s swirling organ and Marco Thomas’s ringing guitar licks, and the swaying to-and-fro sea shanty ‘Until The Fools Get Wise’ and another self-defecating remorseful look back on a failed career, ‘How Spook Got Her Man’ are Lawrence’s best Lou Reed and Dylan impersonations yet, complete with appropriately snarky and enigmatic lyrics (and in the case of the latter, Duffy’s sensational Al Kooper organ fills!)

[Note: Another pet peeve – the new version resequences the album to place the previous two tracks next to each other, rather than separating them with the insignificant ‘Bitter End’ as on the original. Perhaps a minor complaint, but the original sequence gave the listener a chance to breath between Lawrence’s vocal shenanigans (OK, tributes J) whereas when shoved together like this they feel forced and almost denigrated to novelty, soundalike tunes, lessening their value and impact.]

‘Christopher Street’ is another jaunty pop force of nature with hurried vocals and a rollicking organ backing that continues Lawrence’s fascination with New York City (aka The Big Apple), a love affair that picks up where last year’s ‘Final Resting Of The Ark’ left off, while ‘Don’t Die On My Doorstep’ sashays along like the final encore Lawrence and band will ever play, like Ziggy announcing his last show…ever. Until the next one, of course! Duffy is once again in fine form, making his organ sing like a giddy child at a carnival.

I’m not commenting on the tracks substituted for Side 2 of the original album because they don’t belong here – they don’t even feature the same personnel (different bassist and guitarist) or have the same vibe as the regular album, but for the record (sorry!), ‘Tuesdays Secret’ wouldn’t be released for another six months (on the “Space Blues” EP) and ‘Jewels Are Set In Crowns’, a bouncy little ditty appearing for the first and only time in its exclusive Felt rendition (it would be re-recorded five years later as a glammy bubblegum toetapper on a Denim B-side, also included on the 1997 catch-all album of Denim B-sides and rarities Novelty Rock in 1997).

A bonus single comprising the two-year old ‘Rain Of Crystal Spires’ (which you already have as the lead track off Forever Breathes The Lonely Word) c/w the 92-second adrenaline rush of the speed freaky ‘I Will Die With My Head In Flames’ that sounds like Tom Verlaine on a dozen cups of espresso is included in the CD box version, along with posters, buttons and other ephemera.

As with Ignite The Seven Cannons, you’re not buying the original album, which merits a 9/10. So since we only get half an album here, this abortion gets half a score: 4. Its only raison d'être is to give us the original version of ‘Jewels Are Set In Crowns’ (aka ‘Ape Hangers’).

 

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