The release of this four-CD set of works for solo string instruments and orchestra pays tribute, as does the recently issued box-set of ‘British Piano Concertos’, to the imagination and vision of the late Richard Itter and his pioneering Lyrita label. For many, Lyrita was the British music label and was loyally supported by various ‘in house’ conductors, among them Adrian Boult, Nicholas Braithwaite, Norman Del Mar and Vernon Handley. Many of the recordings offered here are from the old Lyrita analogue and early digital catalogue but there are a few recordings made during the label’s short revival between 1993 and 1996 which were not issued until more than a decade after they were made. The set makes for fantastic value for money, each CD containing well over 70 minutes of music, and the performances are generally of tremendous vibrancy and quality.
This boxed set reassembles largely analog material from existing Lyrita CDs under a new generic grouping. Dates and locations of recording sessions are not given. Lyrita seem always to have been reticent about those details. The sound is a model of its kind – Lyrita were always able to boast glorious sound. The freshly written liner-notes are by the authoritative and accessible Paul Conway and run to ten pages. These are not a simple retread of the original notes by other authors.
Although vintage British psychedelia is viewed by many these days as an Alice In Wonderland-style enchanted garden full of beatific flower children innocently gathering flowers or chasing butterflies, there was always a more visceral element to the scene. Pointedly free of such fripperies as scarlet tunic-wearing gnomes, phenomenal cats and talismanic bicycles, the power trio format that was popularised by the likes of Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience spawned a host of imitators. As the Sixties drew to a close and pop evolved slowly but inexorably into rock, psychedelia gave way to a sound that was harder, leaner, heavier, louder.
It goes without saying that 1968 doesn't have the same kind of cachet as 1967 - a year that, in musical terms, will always be indelibly associated with the Summer of Love, Sgt Pepper and the emergence of psychedelia. But although the major players turned away from the excesses of the previous year in favour of a back-to-basics musical approach, there were arguably a greater number of psychedelic records made in 1968 than during the preceding twelve months. Vital, lysergically-inclined 45s emerged from a whole host of younger groups, with The Factory, Mike Stuart Span, Fleur de Lys, The Fire, The Barrier, Boeing Duveen, Rupert's People and numerous others all releasing singles that have long been widely regarded by psychedelic collectors as genre classics.
New Wave of British Heavy Metal band Demon were known for their shocking and elaborate performances (quite unique, considering the no-fuss, stripped-down philosophy characteristic of the movement), but never sounded as extreme as their name might suggest. Instead, they forged a mainstream hard rock/metal style, which, though it didn't stand out from the pack, has managed to keep them in business for several decades. Singer Dave Hill and guitarist Mal Spooner had already cut their teeth with various amateur acts in their native Staffordshire, England, by the time they decided to join forces and found Demon midway through 1980. With the assistance of guitarist Clive Cook, bassist Paul Riley, and drummer John Wright, they quickly secured a one-off single deal with independent Clay Records, resulting in the "Liar" 7" later that year…
There have been previous attempts to marshal a lot of British psychedelia into one compilation, but Real Life Permanent Dreams is a little different from those. This four-CD, 99-song box set isn't a best-of, but more like an attempt to assemble a very wide (though still representative) cross section of material, most of it pretty obscure to the average listener. For the most part, it succeeds in delivering a high-quality anthology that manages to offer a lot to both the collector and the less intense psychedelic fan, though it's by no means the cream of British psychedelia.
With 63 tracks and a total running time of just under four hours, Dust On The Nettles examines the metamorphosis that British folk underwent during the late 1960s, when the influence of psychedelia and the counterculture saw the idiom being twisted into all kinds of new and exotic shapes, as the finger-in-the-ear folk clubs of yore were inexorably drawn into a brave new world of Arts Labs, free festivals and the nascent college/university circuit.