Here we have a reissue of Volumes 1 and 2 of the Cherry Red label’s Pillows & Prayers compilation. These 31 tracks essentially are the 1982-1984 UK indie scene, with enduring favourites like Kevin Coyne and Everything But The Girl mingling side by side with briefly existing groups such as Grab Grab The Haddock, providing a full picture. Double CD reissue.
CD £8.99 CDMRED169
Repress 2CD on Cherry Red inc. Everything But The Girl, Eyeless In Gaza, the Monochrome Set, Ben Watt, Tracey Thorn, Felt etc.
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Amazingly, the original 'Pillows and Prayers' retailed for 99p and topped -- yes topped -- the indie charts for 19 weeks.
I bought it some time in the early ’90s and spent a long time wondering about the signing policy of Cherry Red. What you get is some of the very, very best indie pop of the early '80s alongside some music that is either eccentric or awful depending on your viewpoint. But that’s what I love about this compilation - it's wildly eclectic. First the good: the jazzy and angular Five or Six, arch eyebrow aloft indie dreamers The Monochrome Set; Tracey Thorn’s best solo moment ‘Plain Sailing; Ben Watt’s bedsit, jazzy ‘Some Things Don’t Matter’ then those two together on the incredible early Everything But the Girl fragility of ‘On My Mind’;Thorn and pals re-appear in the pre EBTG Marine Girls. Felt! With true utterly amazing (and vaguely preposterous) ‘My Face is on Fire’ (a song they’d later re-record, give a different chorus and call ‘Whirlpool Vision of Shame’).
In between you get synth pop (Thomas Leer), English whimsy (Kevin Coyne), neo classical beauty (Piero Milesi), horrid synth fun (Eyeless in Gaza) funny synth non fun (The Passage) and even a Quentin Crisp spoken word piece. Let’s just say you skip it a lot... but the best bits... mmmmmmwah!
I never picked up Volume 2 (possibly because it was only released in Japan) but you get different songs by the same greats (Marine Girls, Monochrome Set, Felt) with Jane’s ‘It’s a Fine Day’ (you’ll know it, Opus III fans), post Marine Girls Grab Grab the Haddock, Ben Watt & Robert Wyatt’s excellent ‘Walter and John’ and most surprising of all Red Box who seem to have been drafted in from a completely different ’80s compilation (you may know them from their ‘Lean on Me’/‘For America’ hits).
Overall an essential and bargainous slab of indie history.
7/10 John Lewis Customer review, 6th October 2015
Well I bought this first time around and it's nice to see it being reissued, albeit in a more pricey price bracket. Back in the 80s this was an eclectic listen and when I revisited the album about a year ago it remains so. However as a representation of the punk indie scene it is a classic of its time. Fact is many of the indie labels put out similar complications of their artists (Rough Trades 'Wanna Buy a Bridge' was another favourite at the time) and each would introduce the John Peel audience to a plethora of other releases.
Tracy Thorn is really the star ( and future millionaire) of Pillows and Prayers. The sampler offer her sublime solo tune Plain Sailing together with the wonderful twee indie folk of the Marine Girls Lazy Ways and early EBTG venture On My Mind. Other highlights include The Passage, Xoyo, The Nightingales, Don't Blink and early tracks from Felt and Ben Watt. But everything on here is interesting in a post punk kinda way and you like that scene then you will appreciate this sampler 33 years after release.
It's a shame though that brief Cherry Red signing The Misfits didn't make the compilation as their greatness escaped me until all their singles were impossible to find. If any of the tracks from their Beware EP had made it to this album I might have been able to find them before they became the toast of punk collectors across the globe.
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