Colin Newman’s three early 80s solo albums A-Z, provisionally entitled the singing fish and Not To, originally released on Beggars Banquet/4AD are to be re-released on Newman’s own new imprint, Sentient Sonics, including extra tracks, B-sides and demos
These albums were recorded and released between 1980 and 1982 in a ‘post 154’ rush of activity. While all the albums bear the name Colin Newman, they differ in that A-Z and Not To were recorded as ‘band’ albums with Colin being joined by Wire’s Robert Grey, Mike Thorne (who also produced, as he had the first three Wire albums) and Desmond Simmons on A-Z and Robert, Desmond and Simon Gillham on Not To. provisionally entitled the singing fish was more a solo album in that everything was played by the man himself.
The vinyl versions appear to be single disc affairs. If you’re looking for demos and rarities then you’ll also need the CD issues.
The information on the extra discs for each disc is rather scatty and haphazard but here it is in its entirety, for what it’s worth:
“The CD only A-Z bonus disc includes an additional 17 tracks, only four of which have previously been released. The demos recorded at Riverside Studios are a revelation. Without the more obvious studio interventions of their final incarnations, tracks such as But No and The Classic Remains offer startlingly different takes on the material.”
“Perhaps the biggest surprise is the demo of ‘Life on Deck’. Whilst the album version is heavy with absurdist punk abrasion, the original comes over as a piece of hook laden guitar pop. Other treats include the poignant Alone on Piano, which does exactly what it says in the title, and one of Newman’s great lost songs Not Me, later covered by This Mortal Coil on their epochal album It’ll End in Tears. Meanwhile, Newman’s original lo-fi home demos present the songs in more stark, experimental form.”
“A-Z shows Newman at the height of his powers, fashioning music which sounded utterly unlike anything else at the time. Or indeed since.”
“The CD-only bonus disc presents an additional 20 tracks, only five of which have previously seen the light of day. There’s a number of fascinating vocal versions of the Fish tracks, including the wide eyedNo Doubt (Fish 1) and the skeletal psych of You And Your Dog (Fish 11). Meanwhile, Newman’s home recordings from the era reveal that aside from experimenting with more abstract soundscapes, he was also simultaneously developing a set of vocal songs. Of particular note are the fuzz bass driven Is It Worth Repeating? which features one of Newman’s most relaxed vocals and the airy Canterbury Scene stylings of Crystal Clear. In contrast, the menacingly insistent Vox Pop sees a snarling vocal riding atop waves of pulsing distorted guitars.”
“In the late 80s, numerous artists as diverse as Barry Adamson and In The Nursery would go on to release so called imaginary soundtracks. But with 1981’s provisionally entitled the singing fish, Newman proved that, as ever, he was well ahead of the curve.”
“The additional disc presents the luminous single We Means We Starts alongside 21 previously unreleased songs, which essentially constitute the demos for what would have been Newman’s fourth solo album. And it turns out it would have included some absolute gems. But Either Way wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Wire’s 154, whilst the fizzingly optimistic You Must Decide is up there with Newman’s finest songs. Some of the demos also feature early sequencer work which point towards both Wire’s mid-80s incarnation and the ideas Newman would develop in his later solo work. Another treat is an early incarnation of the Not To track 1, 2, 3, Beep Beep. Far superior to the quirky album cut, here it comes across as much more intense, yet also far more melodic.”
“What shines out from both Not To itself and these demo recordings is an abundance of ideas and approaches, showing an artist with an ever evolving creative drive.”
Look at 28 October 2016 as the release date with £45 for all three vinyl albums and £5 for all three CD packs