"Rare Tapes and Invisible Recordings" - The "Rare Tapes" series of compact discs. Review by Alan Hewitt.

I had heard much talk about this series via Paperlate and other Internet discussion groups but did not feel particularly impelled to obtain a copy initially, mainly because I already have most of the material that it contains on tape or disc.

However, when a copy of the set landed through my letter box courtesy of a fan (thanks, Lassi!) I decided to give it a go. The project certainly impressed me by the breadth of its scope and I think it shall certainly be required listening for some time or at least until the band themselves get their act together and start doing what so many other artists (King Crimson and Fish, to name but two) have done by releasing their own "bootlegs".

The first disc chronicles the band's formative years with some vintage recordings from the band's live repertoire at this time. The obvious stand-out tracks are "The Light", "Bye Bye Johnny" (an early version of "Can-Utility And The Coastliners") and "Going Out To Get You" all of which are culled from various live recordings. Quality is not an issue here; what is on display is a priceless collection of vintage moments.

Disc Two carries us forward through the band's purple patch; 1972/75 and is somewhat lacking in the interest department, mainly I suppose because live versions of just about all this material have been released officially on the band's first box set. However, the situation is redeemed by an unusual recording of "Harold The Barrel" from one of the band's London shows in 1974 by which time the track had been relegated like so much of their increasing back catalogue.

Disc Three unusually, starts in 1977 missing out the transitional album "A Trick Of The Tail" entirely. However, that is more than made up for by the rarity of the material here. "Lilywhite Lilith" and "Wot Gorilla" from the Rainbow as well as a stonking version of "All In A Mouse's Night" also from that venue but on a different night. Also here are unusual performances from the band's massive 1978 world tour including a very rare (perhaps unique?) "Apocalypse In 9/8".

Disc Four carries us into the 1980's with a further selection of unusual performances including the ever-varying medlies that the band increasingly played as a sop to the older fans as well as other unusual performances including the return of "The Knife" in 1981 and "Paperlate" and "Me And Virgil" in 1982. Once again, quality varies but in terms of historical content, these are well worth having.

The final disc carries us into the band's creative apogee drawing on material from the late eighties and beyond covering Phil's final years with the band and their re-emergence with new front man Ray Wilson. Without a shadow of a doubt, the stand out track here is the one elusive cut from "Calling All Stations": "Nowhere Else To Turn" and, having heard it, I am still at a loss as to why it was never released! Anyway, here it is now for your delectation.

As I said before, the quality of some of the recordings here leaves much to be desired, but in some cases, in actually fact, the sound quality of the source recordings has obviously been cleaned up somewhat and the basic but informative sleeve notes give you all the information you require about each recording. The people who put this compilation together are to be congratulated they have evidently worked long and hard on this set and it is certainly a worthwhile addition to any collection - well done guys, whoever you are?!

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The Rare CDs