Created on Wednesday, 30 May 2012 Written by Derek WalkerBeautifully packaged boxed set of the pioneer band’s dynamic early years. Great value, if you haven't already got it.
Time: 3x CDs (196 minutes), 1x DVD
As the saying goes, this does exactly what it says on the tin – except that this version of Alive and in the Can is no longer in a tin, but part of a beautifully-packaged set, along with everything that Delirious? released in the days when they were known as the Cutting Edge Band, and more.
I am not a great fan of re-packaging ad infinitum, and some of these tracks have been seen on more compilations than I can count with the digits of my whole body, but this is a superb set of material that I certainly recommend to anyone yet to properly discover the band’s early years.
For me, Delirious?’s best stage was undoubtedly the King of Fools / Mezzamorphis / Glo period, but hearing these early years again makes me realise that the Cutting Edge era was not just the prelude to that time, but a dynamic burst of Spirit-filled passion that gave the band its momentum. It was a stage when they showed a maturity beyond their years – no doubt helped by the wisdom of After the Fire front man Andy Piercy, who produced these tracks.
CD1: Cutting Edge 1 and 2
Looking back on it, I am surprised at how memorable, relevant and passionate these songs were for a début album (or to be precise, a pair of EPs). Works like “Lord You Have my Heart” and “I Could Sing of your Love Forever” stayed in the set for much of their career. If Mezzamorphis was their best work at relating faith to outsiders, then these were among their best efforts at inspiring worship – I’d take these over World Service and Mission Bell without thinking twice.
Piercy came up with a simple sound that gave the band plenty of space. You can hear Tim Jupp’s keyboards here, whereas later they seemed to become a background wash (although this may have more to do with the line-up at this time being only Jupp, Martin Smith and drummer Stew Smith, with other musicians filling in the gaps).
CD2: Cutting Edge 3 and Fore
The leap made on this disc is dramatic. The extra assurance is almost palpable. While the reflective material echoes the previous disc, the more anthemic tracks foreshadow the mature feel of Delirious? The promise shown on the first collection has matured creatively into the magnificent alt-worship of “Obsession;” strident anthems like “Shout to the North” and “I'm Not Ashamed;” the funky poppiness of “I’ve Found Jesus;” song of pain “When All Around is Fallen;” and flashes of brilliance, like “Find Me on the River” – a piece fully-formed, both musically and emotionally.
Both of the first discs are unhurried enough to let the songs linger and build (“Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble?” and “Obsession” average over nine minutes each!) and this is a particular strength of these releases. They have so many oases of space in which to meet with God, particularly the double-act of “Oh Lead Me” and “Shaken Up”, built for preparation for praise. The latter is one example of the treats available for musical archaeologists, who want to unearth lesser known tracks that never made the compilations, live or tribute releases.
CD3: Live and In The Can
While these studio discs already had a remarkable sense of space to allow worshippers time to inhabit the songs, ambient spaces became a clear feature of the live albums, of which Live and in the Can was the first. Interspersed among the ‘regular’ tracks are eight called “Spontaneous.” Some are quiet and reflective, often serving as an introduction to the tracks, while others are highly rhythmic extensions, such as the groovathon that continues “Come Like You Promised” – a track from Stu Garrard's solo release that only appeared on live albums and compilations.
This set also picks up “What a Friend I’ve Found,” which surfaced on the later King of Fools release.
Although “Obsession” still does not reach its great potential here, it is one that works well live, as do several of the more anthemic pieces, such as “I’m Not Ashamed”.
Rounding off the package, the fourth disc comprises three sections: a previously released documentary about the band's evolution, “The Delirious Story;” a version of “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever,” recorded with a gospel choir at Abbey Road, that includes a brief interview with Martin Smith; and the band’s performance of these early songs opening their last ever gig, when they supported themselves as the Cutting Edge Band.
The Farewell Show is their best work and should already be the first choice in any D-Boys fan’s collection. This support slot contains seven tracks, covering nine songs, so is a significant set with the added interest of seeing how they play the oldest songs at the end of their time.
The other features are ones that you might watch occasionally, but are more for bonus interest to make this edition complete.
This is where interested readers may have to be careful. On my set, the "Cutting Edge Band" and "The Delirious Story" were out of synch, with the visuals regularly freezing and unfreezing. It seems unlikely that this was my player, as the Abbey Road performance in between them was fine.
That said, at single album price and for anyone who has not yet caught up on the band’s genesis, this package is great value (even with the incorrect tracklisting on the cover of CD 3 and without the visuals on the DVD).
It is easy to forget the quality, passion, adventure and spirit of these earlier uninhibited releases. Now you can fall in love with them all over again.
(but 5 for value!)
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