Michael Head and The Strands produced The Magical World Of The Strands during the early 90s, first releasing the collection of work-in-progress material in 1997. Everybody loved it, so now it returns, on CD or 180g gatefold LP on Megaphone. Brand new liner notes from Mr Head himself round out the package.
CD £9.99 CDMEGA24
Reissue CD on Megaphone.
Vinyl LP £23.99 LPMEGA24
Reissue 180g vinyl gatefold LP on Megaphone.
It’s the moment I’ve been waiting for for months. A record so brilliant that I’m already preparing perfect conditions for myself pre-listen. I’m fed, I’m watered, I'm toileted and I’m sat in a comfortable position at my keyboard. Let’s go.
So Michael Head has some history. He was in parping Liverpool poppers the Pale Fountains when he was nobbut a youth then he later formed Shack with brother John Head and released several acclaimed albums. The NME in a moment of clarity described him in a front cover feature as 'our greatest ever songwriter', yet he is still relatively unknown. Fortunately the passing of time proves that the good will out eventually and Mick Head will get his day.
‘The Magical World of The Strands’ is surely his greatest work. For the uninitiated, imagine a scouse scally cross breed of Nick Drake and Arthur Lee given a string section and carte blanche to do what he likes for 40 odd minutes. The album is exquisite throughout, from the foggy, folky finger-picking of ‘Queen Matilda’ through the sweeping strings of ‘Something Like You’ to the La’s-like beat pop of ‘X Hits the Spot’, the quality never lets up throughout. Its two year gestation period allowed the band (basically made up of Shack people) to work at their own pace and unlike the Shack records it sounds completely free of record company interference. There’s a heavier folk influence in this than any of his other records - songs often sound like shanties dredged up from the sea-shore. There are lovely interludes - ‘Undecided (Reprise)’ can’t fail to put a smile on your face -- and there’s a Wickerman feel to certain tracks (‘It’s Harvest Time’). You also get a lovely drifting piece from Mick’s brother and partner in crime John (‘Loaded Man’).
As I flick through the album my guardedness about giving top scores is slowly eroded away as every track reveals itself to be majestic. Late in the album comes ‘Hocken’s Hay’ in which banjos pick and cascade over glorious melodies and my mind is made up. I’m aware that it’s easy to give higher marks to re-issues such as this which have had years to sink into your consciousness and are tangled up with your own memories but fuck it. Here Mick, have a 10.
10/10 James McKenzie 5th August 2015
How long does it take a record to lodge itself permanently into your subconscious and become something that resonates so deeply that it makes you fall properly in love with music all over again? Like a message in a bottle from a long lost friend thats rolled ashore nearly 20 years later, the answer in the case of 'The Magical World of Michael Head and the Strands' for me is merely days. I guess that's part of the beauty of discovering something late though. I'm certain if i'd heard this when it was originally released as a 17 year old it may not have struck the same chord as it is now as a 35 year old. I'd like to think my ears have become more finely tuned and well... lifes been happening so I dunno i 'get it' more i suppose. The music is beamed down directly from heaven, intrictate jangly guitar parts, strings, bursts of psychedelia ('And Luna') and lyrics of true warmth & sincerity. Music made by human beings with broken hearts and stories of regret yet glimpses of optimism. You know real life kind've music. The genius kind. All done in such a delicate, subtle and timeless way that by the time the needle hits final track 'Fontilan' and it washes over you like the most gentle sun-kisssed wave you've ever felt in your life. I'm actually a bit choked up. 'Magical World...'? Without question.
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