three in one

That old maxim about waiting ages for a bus and then three arriving at once is one that applies to my own popular music pleasures.

This week has seen the release of the new Prefab Sprout album ‘Red/Crimson’ (Icebreaker), as well as the 5.1 surround sound reissue of XTC’s 1992 album ‘Nonsuch’ (Ape).

But the Daddy of them all in terms of scope and size is Island’s 18-disc John Martyn box set ‘The Island Years’ (Island).

This very morning I clogged the aisle in our local Sainsburys, reading various music magazine reviews of the aforementioned releases.

And then I reflected for the first time in a while, I had the time to blog about said items.

So here goes.

Paddy McAloon, for those who don’t know his work, is a 24-carat songwriting genius, and that’s not just my opinion.

A fair few music lovers clearly share it as the new album’s midweek midweek chart position in the UK of number 13 bears out.

McAloon is still using his band’s Prefab Sprout moniker though in truth it’s a solo album as he plays all the instruments and sings a new collection of his own wonderful songs.

I would bracket XTC’s Andy Partridge in the same category as McAloon.

Another songwriting craftsman, Partridge’s work is complemented on ‘Nonsuch’ by Colin Moulding’s tunes and the musical contribution of Dave Gregory.

For me though, ‘Nonsuch’ is perhaps the last album the band made where the sum of their very differing contributions really hang together.

What both McAloon and Patridge have in common with John Martyn is a period of musical creativity and experimentation lasting decades.

Island Records stuck with Martyn across 20 years of careers highs and lows, and the newly-released boxed set is testament to the staying power of both parties.

What I’ve found interesting is that it’s taken the release of material by three of my favourite musicians – now like me in their 50s or in Martyn’s case sadly departed – to rekindle my musical mojo and part company with hard cash to enjoy their ‘new’ offerings.

I can certainly recommend all three and you’ll find paens to all of them elsewhere on this blog.

Crimson/Red / Prefab Sprout – official website

Nonsuch reissue/XTC – official website

youtubeJohn Martyn – the Island Years box set


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