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Public Image Limited - Super Deluxe Editions: Album

Super Deluxe Editions
  Vinyl Album / Compact Disc / Digital Box Sets (UMC)

Album Vinyl


1986 was a vastly different world to the one that had given us Metal Box. We were half way through another decade, the 10th anniversary of punk no less. When Album appeared in February, it broke with the past, taking everyone by surprise. Working with seasoned musicians of the calibre of Steve Vai, L. Shankar and Ginger Baker was a radical move, one that left John and thus PiL reinvigorated.

Screeching guitars, epic drums, huge song structures, brilliant lyrics, and a sneering cutting vocal delivery not a million miles removed from Never Mind The Bollocks - it was startling stuff.

Was it metal, was it progressive rock, was it stadium rock; what was it? Like John's best work, it proved hard to categorise.

What was certain, it won praise from across the board. Those pundits usually quick to denounce John were struggling to find fault.

Album was a spectacular record, completely devoid of 80s sounding production values that date so many other records from this period. Album could easily be a product of 2017. It remains timeless.

Disc One contains the original 7 track LP, consistent in quality throughout and supremely confident, whether biting hard with FFF and Fishing, contemplating with Rise, getting dizzy with Round, or going mystical on Ease.

Disc Two, Brixton Academy 27.5.86, is a time capsule, a snapshot of the old giving way to the new. The old, unfortunately, saw the remnants of the spitting phenomenon that still prevailed on occasion. This particular night was an unpleasant experience for John "London audiences I shit on you. All you can do is spit & pose. You're useless." With the vile practice continuing throughout the gig, he finally brings Public Image to an abrupt end, "You deserve nuclear war, you really do." Despite this, PiL return for an encore, with John, to his credit, sounding upbeat. It's a bleak reminder of what many bands had to contend with.

Even when faced with these adverse conditions, the new look PiL were a fabulous live band. Different again to the 83-85 live PiL group, the interpretations of Banging The Door and Flowers Of Romance have a previously untapped dynamic. The material from Album is reproduced with aplomb, which is some compliment considering the calibre of the musicians who made the studio recording. Round and Home are near perfect in the live environment, with the electricity of the performance giving an added edge. It's also worth noting the quality of the recording, which is excellent. A superb live document, and for those like myself who caught PiL on this tour, a wonderful nostalgia trip.

Disc Three, Mixes, Outtakes & BBC Recordings.
Things In E (Ease) Alternative Laswell Mix is 13 minutes of hard rock, dripping in psychedelic ambience and percussive space, a real treat. Ginger Baker’s drumming is astonishing, even the band stop at one stage to listen to him!

Previously released 7" single edits of Rise and Home are here, as is the instrumental Rise, originally a B-side (more a semi-instrumental in truth). The Bob Clearmountain remix of Rise is welcome as, in many ways, it is as deadly as the original with variations in the prominence of the instrumentation pricking up your ears.

PiL's Whistle Test performance from May 86 (Home and Round) was important - it showed the public that the band assembled by John could replicate Album live under the TV microscope. Looking back, it's hard to imagine any other set of musicians doing it better, 2 of which, Lu Edmonds and Bruce Smith, are still in PiL today. The contributions of Allan Dias and in particular John McGeoch, cannot be under estimated either.

It was a bit surprising to see mixes of Time Zone - World Destruction included as the song predates everything else by 12 months or so. Of course it makes perfect sense, as it marked the first time Laswell & Lydon had got together. This Lydon/Afrika Bambaataa team-up was staggering at the time of release, unlike anything before or since. In an era of only 4 TV Channels in the UK, and scant music shows, the video still managed showings on both The Tube and Whistle Test. As well as screaming "the human race is becoming a disgrace" at the world, John was screaming "I'm back." It was a renaissance that would crystalise with the release of Album.

Disc Four, Demos.
Here we enter an alternative timeline. What if Lydon hadn't collaborated with Laswell? This gives a good indication. If you like your demos radically different to the finished product, these from summer 1985 will satisfy. Working with Mark Schulz and Jebin Bruni from his previous live band, the impression is of PiL probing new unexplored territory. The unmistakable avant-garde PiL-stamp and vocal experimentation is in evidence as is the wish to veer from the norm. Not all these demos were destined for Album, so let's start with the unfamiliar.
Animal. This has lineage back to Tie Me To The Length Of That, with a dark, child neglect lyric, distorted in its delivery and accompanied by a creeping, crawling, musical backing. It's both amusing and uncomfortable.
Ben Hur, the 1st of 4 unreleased instrumentals, is suspense building cinematic music; big screen PiL. Dolby Stereo (it was the 80s!) for the wide screen PiL-fan. A pleasant surprise.
Cats is fittingly a prowling, razor sharp tune that develops into a howling guitar cacophony, a hint of the forthcoming Laswell marriage.
From film to TV, Have A Nice Day has a 1970s sci-fi vibe, albeit in an embryonic state. Endearing and infectious.
The final instrumental, Untitled 3, has a bass heavy structure and serves as a traditional PiL template, if such a thing exists. It's far removed from what would become Album, but it shows a link to the past was there in spirit during gestation.

The early demos that would eventually evolve into Album are fascinating; the sound of a band in a state of flux.
Black Rubber Bags (Bags) is haunting and suffocating. When John sings "close to the edge, swallow the void" you believe the rubber is choking him.
European Cars (aka Round) is a radical funky affair, closer to Solitaire than the Laswell produced Round it would blossom into.
Farewell Fairweather Friend (aka FFF) continues this electro-funk groove, while digging a more bombastic ditch courtesy of the guitar. "I think that's enough of that rock 'n' roll bullshit" remarks John part way through.
Pearls Before Swine (aka Fishing) is minimalistic in execution. Musically, it's in its infancy, but the biting lyrics and John's disapproving delivery carry it.
Things in E (Ease) Instrumental
has an eastern, mystical, exotic sound that would filter through to Album itself. Put simply, it's an outstanding piece of music.
The final 'pearl' on this disc is an incomplete version of... Pearls Before Swine. It's hardly incomplete at almost 7 minutes, and as it progresses, there is more of a taste of what was to come compared to the alternative demo of the same song. John's vocal and enhanced yet controlled guitar make for an enjoyable end to the disc.

Overall, the demos illustrate without doubt that things could have been so different. Better? Not at all, but different certainly.

The sturdy, beautifully designed 4 vinyl LP version of the set consists of Album, Mixes & Outtakes 1 and 2 which between them cover CD3 in its entirety, and Demos which includes tracks 1-6 of CD4.
A download card ensures you get all the CD material. Art cards, a poster, and 72 page book come with both formats, but if you like them super-sized, you need the vinyl.

Album lives and breathes once more. Four hours of it.

Review by Phil Singleton

'Metal Box' Super Deluxe review >

God Save The Sex Pistols ©2017 Phil Singleton /
All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced without permission.

God Save the Sex Pistols

God Save The Sex Pistols ©Phil Singleton /