YMGTA #32 – Fall Compilations Part 2 (1999-2004)

“Essential to acolytes.”

The deluge of (often dodgy) Fall compilations that gained momentum in the late 90s – ten in two and a half years – maintained its relentless onslaught around the turn of the century, with sixteen being released between January 1999 and May 2004 (an average of one every four months).

I will continue (as I did on the previous compilations post) to give the compilations a grade on a ‘Worth buying?’ scale, using the following criteria:

  • A: Worthwhile purchase, even for those who just have a few Fall albums
  • B: Contains enough interesting material to make it worth a few quid to the more than casual Fall fan; or serves as a useful introduction to the inexperienced
  • C: A few aspects of interest, but only for the really committed who have all of the ‘proper’ stuff already
  • D: Only of interest to the really hardcore completist
  • E: Even the hardcore completist should think long and hard before parting with cash

The Peel Sessions

Released 25 January 1999 on Strange Fruit.

Front cover

Released in January 1999, The Peel Sessions was compiled by Steve Hanley and is a carefully selected overview; as Hanley himself said (The Big Midweek, p429), it was ‘impossible to pick twelve songs out of a hundred without disappointing someone’.

At the time, this was a valuable release, as most fans would only have had these songs on C90s taken from Peel’s show. Once the Peel Session Box Set was released (and session tracks started to appear on album reissues), this album became rather redundant.

Worth buying? A (then); D (now)

A Past Gone Mad

Released 19 April 2000 on Artful Records.

A Past Gone Mad (sub-titled Best Of 1990-2000) was a rather random and pointless ragbag of previously released material from the 90s albums.

Worth buying? D

Psykick Dance Hall

Released 7 August 2000 on Eagle Records.

Front cover

Psykick Dance Hall was a 3 CD set that featured 49 album and single tracks from the first few years of the group’s career. Again, it didn’t feature anything previously unreleased; according to thefall.org, it was ‘largely mastered from inferior Voiceprint CD reissues, so the audio quality is not optimal’.

Worth buying? E

Backdrop

Released 5 February 2001 on Cog Sinister/Voiceprint.

Front cover

Backdrop was a 1994 bootleg that received an official release seven years later. It was a much more valuable release than the previous two compilations, containing an interesting variety of obscure b-sides, live recordings and songs from freebies (the alternative version of Hey! Luciani, for example, came from a 7″ given away with the 28 February 1987 edition of Sounds). It also saw the first official release of Dresden Dolls.

The album concludes with an entertainingly odd lo-fi recording of MES interviewing himself, recorded just before the release of How I Wrote Elastic Man in July 1980.

Sleeve of 1994 bootleg version

In The Sunday Times, Stewart Lee described Backdrop as ‘essential to acolytes’.

Worth buying? A

A World Bewitched

Released 6 February 2001 on Artful Records.

Like A Past Gone Mad, this double-CD compilation was subtitled ‘Best of 1990-2000’. However, it was more a rarities compilation in the vein of Backdrop rather than a straightforward ‘best of’. It contained numerous hard-to-find gems, such as Theme From Error-Orrori, and also rounded up a wide range of MES collaborations, such as those with Badly Drawn Boy, Edwyn Collins, The Inspiral Carpets, Elastica and Tackhead. Whilst some of these were fairly well known, others were much more obscure.

Fistful Of Credits is an atmospheric piece of slow-tempo techno that was recorded in 2000 with ‘Mild Man Jan’, aka Spencer Marsden who co-wrote Mad.Men-Eng.Dog from The Marshall Suite.

Heads Of Dead Surfers was a track by Scottish band Long Fin Killie, released as a single in 1995 (it also appeared on their album Houdini). It’s an excellent piece of folk/jazz-tinged post-punk skronk, with MES contributing some trademark distorted ‘megaphone’ backing vocals (which sound as though they might have been sped up a little on occasion).

The album was compiled by Q‘s Ian Harrison; the magazine’s review described it as ‘a vital sieving mechanism for all but the most monomaniacal Fall panhandler’.

As nearly half of the tracks were already available on ‘regular’ Fall LPs, it didn’t have quite the value of Backdrop, but at an average price of £13 it represents very good value for money.

Worth buying? B+

Totally Wired – The Rough Trade Anthology

Released 15 July 2002 on Castle/Sanctuary.

2003 Earmark reissue

A collection of early 80s songs, all previously released. Great selection of tracks, and at £7 it would serve as a good intro to someone unfamiliar with the group’s work from that period. Not that much point to it otherwise.

Worth buying? B-

The Rough Trade Singles Box

Released on 15 July 2002 on Castle Records.

Box cover

Box set comprising the four singles released on Rough Trade. Re-released on vinyl the following year (see below) as The Rough Trade Singles Collection.

According to thefall.org:

‘Boxed set comprising the 4 singles released on Rough Trade in miniature duplicate card sleeves, plus booklet… On the original pressing of the box set, the versions of Container Drivers & New Puritan on CD5 were the album versions from Grotesque and Totale’s Turns respectively, not the John Peel session versions that appeared on the original 7″ single. This was due to initial difficulties in obtaining clearance from the BBC for the use of those session recordings. Later pressings have the correct John Peel session versions. There is nothing to visibly distinguish the different pressings

Very much for collectors only.

Worth buying? D+

High Tension Line

Released 23 September 2002 on Recall/Snapper Music.

Front cover

High Tension Line was, like A Past Gone Mad, a rather pointless and random collection of previously released 90s material. It begs the question of who, compiling a 24-track ‘best of the 90s’ would include Why Are People Grudgeful? and Cloud Of Black.

Worth buying? D-

Listening In

Released 11 November 2002 on Cog Sinister/Voiceprint.

Front cover

Subtitled “Lost Singles Tracks 1990-92”, Listening In rounds up (as the title suggests) the various b-sides from the Extricate to Code: Selfish era. It included three remixes of So What About It? from a white label promo 12″ that were otherwise hard to obtain, if not exactly essential listening. It also featured the first appearance of all three sections of Zagreb on an album.

Not the most pointless of Fall compilations, but still of niche interest only.

Worth buying? C-

Early Singles

Released 2 December 2002 on Cog Sinister/Voiceprint.

Front cover

It does, as the cliché goes, exactly what it says on the tin: a compilation of the A and B sides up to 1982. According to both Discogs and thefall.org:

‘The original concept was to include every single A and B side up to the end of 1983 on a double CD, however Voiceprint was unable to come to a satisfactory arrangement to procure the rights to the Rough Trade singles, so they had to be dropped and it ended up as a single CD.’

A useful enough round-up, although quickly made redundant by album reissues over the next few years.

Worth buying? C-

It’s The New Thing! The Step Forward Years

Released 31 March 2003 on Castle Records.

A 1978-80 singles/b-sides compilation that’s very similar to the previous release, and is no more enlightening.

Worth buying? C-

Time Enough At Last

Released 28 April 2003 on Castle Records.

Front cover

A 3-CD box set, comprised of Oxymoron and Cheetham Hill (see the first compilation post), plus the live album 15 Ways To Leave Your Man (see the Levitate post). A collection of three very patchy releases: possibly worth picking up if found in a bargain bin.

Worth buying? D

Words Of Expectation – BBC Sessions

Released 26 May 2003 on Castle Records.

Front cover

A rather odd compilation, in that it includes all the tracks from the first five Peel sessions (1978-81) and then leaps to sessions 19 and 20 from 1995 and 1996. Full of great moments, but soon superseded by the Peel Sessions box set.

Worth buying? C-

The Rough Trade Singles Collection

Released 8 September 2003 on Earmark (Italy).

Front cover

The Rough Trade Singles Box (see above) on one vinyl album. Yet another pretty pointless compilation of early 80s singles.

Worth buying? D

The War Against Intelligence – The Fontana Years

Released 20 October 2003 on Universal Music.

Front cover

Yet another compilation of early 90s material. Once again, if you’d never heard any Fall and you picked this up in a charity shop then it might form a half-decent introduction. Otherwise, it’s just the same old dead horse being flogged.

Worth buying? D

Rebellious Jukebox

Released 10 November 2003 on Shakedown Records.

2007 reissue (without DVD)

Even by the shoddy standards of most Fall compilations, this one has a dreadful cover, featuring a disembodied MES Madame Tussauds-style head looming over a catastrophic and disjointed series of fonts.

thefall.org describes it as:

‘A completely unfathomable compilation – the cover says “from 3 decades of studio recordings” yet 20 tracks are from 1978-1983, then there are 6 tracks from Extricate (1990) and 4 from Are You Are Missing Winner (2001).’

I haven’t heard the 43 minute interview (conducted by “Jet” Martin Celmins on September 19, 2002). I suspect it doesn’t rescue this carelessly knocked-out compilation from bargain basement status.

Worth buying? D-

50,000 Fall Fans Can’t Be Wrong – 39 Golden Greats

Released 31 May 2004 on Sanctuary  Records.

Front cover

Regarded by many as the best, most comprehensive Fall compilation50,000 (the title and cover of which was inspired by an Elvis Presley compilation) is a 39-track summary of the group’s work from 1978-2003. Anyone who loves The Fall could quibble about what is or isn’t included, but most would agree that it’s a pretty balanced and comprehensive retrospective. If this doesn’t convert an unbeliever…

Fair play to Daryl Easlea, Steve Hammonds and Conway Paton for undertaking the almost impossible task of summarising the group’s achievements over two discs. Mine would be different – as I’m sure yours would be – but they did a pretty sound job. Fabulous cover too.

Worth buying? A-

 

 

 

4 thoughts on “YMGTA #32 – Fall Compilations Part 2 (1999-2004)

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