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Various Artists - Garden Of Earthly Delights ~ An XTC Celebration (Futureman Records)

29 February 2020

“Welcome to the Garden of Earthly Delights.
Welcome to a billion Arabian nighs.” 

The band XTC need no introduction. It is not overstretching the mark to say this group were the true follow-up to the sixties heights reached by such groups as The Who and Kinks. A band who emerged from punk to throw their influence across music for the last forty-five years. Everything since the mid-seventies  vibrates with a taste of XTC. From indie to new wave, brit-pop, and art house, a multitude of bands owe a debt to Andy Partridge and crew. 

With all that in mind, a celebration of XTC regardless of the format is always welcomed, and that is exactly what Futureman Records will release on March 6th. Garden Of Earthly Delights~An XTC Celebration is a release which will appeal to a vast audience. Those who are already fans of the legendary band and those who are fans of many up-and-coming artists, some already established, who have gotten involved with the mammoth release. Over thirty-two tracks, plus a further seventeen digital only tracks, a history of dynamic music is brought into the 21st century. 

The importance of this release does not simply stop there. Beneath the adventurous and brilliant Yamato Kawada artwork, lies a further mission statement and one which should be applauded. With proceeds going to the non-profit charity, the Wild Honey Foundation, who support and strive to continue the idealism found in rock music by passing it on to the generations to come. The reasons to check this collection out abound, but the most astonishing thing is the varied sounds. That comes with the reinvention of must loved classics. 

While reviewing, listening and enjoying this collection, I decided to speak to some of the artists who gave their time to provide tracks for the album. Asking them about the importance of XTC on their own music, along with their choice of song. First off, I approached Dot Dash who perform a post-punk piece of brilliance with “Respectable Street”. Danny Ingram from the band relayed this to me – “The choice wasn’t easy – so many great songs from which to choose. But that was one we all agreed on. As for influence – there is no direct influence, per se, but the angular guitars and drumming are certainly evident in some of our songs. One thing I like about them is that they go better as they went on – expanding their musical tapestry – and reaching their zenith (in my opinion) with Skylarking. In fact, that stretch of records between Drum and Wires and Skylarking is pretty fucking incredible.” 
Whilst Terry Banks has this to say- “We wanted to do something that sort of ‘rocks’ and has some energy.  For better or worse, we pretty much did it in one take. It’s a great song — and Andy Partridge’s West Country accent is in full effect.”

One of the standouts is the Gretchen’s Wheel version of “The Last Balloon”. The sombre voice of Lindsay Murray emotionally captivates this rendition, similarly to the version she did of “Skyfall” a few years back. Lindsay however had this to say about the song choice- “I did listen to many of their songs in order to choose one to cover, and I was extremely impressed by the creativity and uniqueness of their music. So I don’t have a background of being an XTC fan for many years, but I definitely gained a great respect for them during the process of being involved with this album! Once I heard The Last Balloon, I knew right away it was the one for me. It felt like a good fit, musically and lyrically, and it seemed like it would be a fun challenge to produce it like I would one of my own songs rather than try to duplicate the original. The chord progression is wonderfully bonkers, which is something I especially love.” 

The experimental folk-rocker Chris Church turns in a guitar cranking playground in the electrifying version of “Stupidly Happy”. This is what Chris had to say about XTC and his choice of track- “I have always loved XTC for their obvious melodic brainy brilliance. I am equally drawn to a lot of artists who are far less lyrically sophisticated as long as there are guitar hooks. XTC have a few songs with loud guitar riffs and a touch of hard rock like “Towers Of London”, “Earn Enough For Us” and more that wouldn’t sound out of place on a mix tape with Billy Squier, Def Leppard or New England. I like to call it Heavy Melody. All of that wonderful willful rock and roll self delusion (haha) wraps itself up neatly for me in the song I chose to cover, “Stupidly Happy”. I added a touch of rawness (because I have no choice but to be a bit sloppy) and the song ended up sounding like it could fit right in with the originals I recorded for my upcoming album “Backwards Compatible”, out next month on Spyderpop Records.” 

Though with this recording, the further digital only seventeen bonus tracks, hold a spectacular amount of quality. Similar to the album itself there are many brilliant artists who have contributed. One such artist is the effervescent Anton Barbeau. Anton contributes a track from the most recent XTC material with “We’re All Light”. I asked Anton why this track and of course his own feelings on XTC.- “I can’t speak on anyone else’s behalf, but XTC certainly changed my life, at least my life as a songwriter. No matter how exciting the arrangements were in their songs, no matter how innovative their overall approach to music-making, they simply wrote stunningly brilliant songs, certainly some of the best songs I can think of. I’m a big fan of the Wasp Star album – it’s blasphemous to admit I prefer it to Apple Venus, but there you go! “We’re All Light” was my choice because it’s got a nice touch of cosmic-rockery to it. Plus, it’s one of the few Andy songs I can (almost) sing. Credit to Don Hawkins, who appears on this cover with me. He nailed the guitars and brought our recording to life.” 

1.This Is Pop – Pete Donnelly
2. Statue of Liberty – Phil Yates & The Affiliates
3. Life Begins at the Hop – The Kickstand Band
4. Dear Madam Barnum – Jim Laspesa and Rob Bonfiglio
5. My Bird Performs – Myrtle Park’s Fishing Club 
6. The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead – Chris Price
7. Don’t Lose Your Temper – Derrick Anderson 
8. The Last Balloon – Gretchen’s Wheel
9. Mayor of Simpleton – King Radio
10. Brainiac’s Daughter – Pop 4
11. Summer’s Cauldron/Grass – bertling noise 
12. Humble Daisy – Zach Jones
13. 1000 Umbrellas – Minky Starshine 
14. Dear God – Bird Streets
15. Stupidly Happy – Chris Church
16. Wrapped in Grey – Michael Simmons
17. I’d Like That – Pop Co-Op
18. Wake Up – Greg Pope
19. Vanishing Girl – Bebopolula
20. Everything’ll Be Alright – The Corner Laughers
21. That’s Really Super, Supergirl – Sitcom Neighbor
22. Another Satellite – Paul Melançon
23. Blue Beret – Seth Timbs
24. Rook – Paul Myers
25. Standing in for Joe – Coke Belda and El Inquieto Roque
26. Rocket From a Bottle/That Wave – Plasticsoul
27. Wonderland – The Shellye Valauskas Experience
28. Season Cycle – Smile Factory
29. Your Gold Dress – Hollywood Props
30. Where Did the Ordinary People Go? – Danny Wilkerson
31. Respectable Street – Dot Dash
32. Books Are Burning – Randy Sly
Digital Bonus Tracks 
33. Runaways – I Think Like Midnight
34. Are You Receiving Me? – The Anderson Council
35. No Thugs in Our House – Gentle Hen
36. X-Wires 99 – The Pop Up Book
37. Earn Enough for Us – Glowbox
38. I’m The Man Who Murdered Love - 
Tom Curless & the 46%
39. Battery Brides – Cinderpop
40. This World Over – Fernando Perdomo
41. We’re All Light – Anton Barbeau
42. Your Dictionary – Mark McCrite
43. Love on a Farmboy’s Wages – Jason Berk
44. Making Plans for Nigel – Corin Ashley and 
Cliff Hillis
45. Seagulls Screaming Kiss Her, Kiss Her - 
Casper Fandango & His Tiny Sick Tears
46. Say It – Kyle Richards
47. The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul - 
Joel Valder
48. Towers of London – Tim King
49. Travels in Nihilon – Maladaptive Brad and Teej

Due for release March 6th. 
For More Info: 

The Wild Honey Foundation