The Olde World is an accompaniment to the reissue of Michael Head and The Strands’ classic The Magical World of The Strands. Apparently there was enough unused material from that album’s sessions that this whole record could be crafted from the remnants, making this interesting both as an alternate perspective and as an album in its own right.
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- The Olde World by Michael Head and The Strands
A friend of mine after witnessing this macabre footage of Fourtet DJing Joe’s despairing ‘Thinkin’ About’ to a roomful of goons at the Boiler Room told me that the only way to neutralise it and erase it from his mind was to watch this bleak documentary on Shack’s Michael Head in order to find some perspective on life and music.
Head has long been the nearly man of British pop with Pale Fountains and Shack both being tipped for great things only to fall away into obscurity as terrible luck and drug dependency took hold. His greatest work though came on his 1997 album as Michael Head and the Strands, an album so brilliant that it should be pressed up for free and delivered to every household in Britain. It’s soon due to be re-issued but before that we get this record of outtakes and alternate versions. You’d think that this could be a throwaway collection - the sort of thing that usually comes tacked as a bonus CD but listened to in its own right the album is a surprisingly strong and cohesive work.
Opener ‘It’s Harvest Time’ is an alternate version of the track that appears on ‘The Magical World’ and is note perfect in every way. In a nutshell the band sounds like the Stone Roses playing the soundtrack to ‘The Wicker Man’, they spent two years on this material without record company pressure and this yields music that moves slowly and thoughtfully. Someone once described Velvet Underground’s third record as ‘breezy sunny day music’ but the description is more apt for these gorgeous songs. ‘Fin Sophie, Bobby and Lance’ drifts along in a sea spray of trembling acoustics and drifting vocals, ‘Poor Jill’ on the other hand is almost comically tuneful, coming on somewhere between The La’s and Herman’s Hermits. They are unafraid to use a flute as the instrumental version of ‘Hockens Hey’ proves exemplifying along with the Love-ish ‘Glynys and Jaqui’ that the alternate versions of album tracks are just as essential as the unheard stuff.
An absolutely magnificent record - full of vim and vigour and a hazy kind of folky introspection. ‘The Magical World’ is near perfection, ‘The Olde World’ runs it very close.
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