Hearts around the globe may have skipped a breakbeat or two with the unexpected appearance of The Regal Years, a 6 cd retrospective comprising every note the much-missed group committed to vinyl, along with a healthy two disc dose of rarities and largely unreleased material, as well as stray b sides.
Retailing at little more than the price of a single cd, the expansive set should appeal to a new generation of fans and those of us who witnessed them first hand who, if like me, bought everything they ever did on vinyl and wore out their copies through excessive spinning and frequent moves from one unsafe address to another until arriving at semi-detached sanity.
Minor gripes about the release: there appears to be no evidence of remastering, and aside from some entertaining liner notes in the accompanying booklet by non-founder member Richard Greentree, little or no involvement from the band itself. The rarities perhaps rely too heavily on radio broadcasts, with several songs duplicated more than once, the set concluding with highlights from the last gig at Shepherd's Bush Empire - the full set had already been released as a bonus disc with The Best Of compilation. The debut Breezeblock session from 1998 (posted elsewhere on this blog) would have been a far worthier inclusion in my humble opinion.
But the package does include the sketchy demo tape that features Gordon Anderson which ultimately clinched the deal with Parlophone, as well as the 1997 Radio 1 Steve Lamacq session containing the ultra-rare Shepherd's Dub and the version of Dry The Rain which was my introduction to the band and had not heard since the original broadcast.
With The Aliens seemingly orbiting distant galaxies and Mr. Greentree presumably settled in a career in carpentry in Pompey, only Steve Mason continues to raise his public profile - this year saw the release of his strongest solo set to date with Monkey Minds In The Devil's Time. Whether The Regal Years is a taster/tester for the eventual - and in today's musical climate, inevitable - reunion remains to be seen. And with Velvet Underground out-takes still being excavated from the vaults half a century after the fact, it's probably only a matter of time the fans will be treated to super deluxe editions of The Betas three albums with appropriate demos and out-takes.
Until whenever, here's a session that you won't find on the box set, recorded for a French radio station in front of a small audience just a matter of months before the break up. This was the second time the band had visited the Parisian studios, the first around the time their eponymous debut album in 1999. Both these sets surfaced briefly as bootleg cds about five or six years ago, along with other artists that had recorded sessions for the show. Sound quality is excellent, the performance is spot on (as you'd expect), marred only be some clumsy track splitting.
Inner Meet Me
She's The One
Dog's Got A Bone