XTC – ” Skylarking 30th anniversary ” Definitive CD+blu-ray Edition

Posted: April 26, 2020 in Classic Albums, MUSIC
Tags: , , , , , , ,

skylarking_cdblu

Following the identity detour of the Dukes of Stratosphear, XTC hunkered down to make their next “proper” album with producer Todd Rundgren. On paper the match made in heaven became the stuff of legendary head-butting between artist and producer Rundgren’s appointment secured the savvy pairing of two brilliant and doomed minds. Between the anglophile producer and songsmith Andy Partridge were a thousand common interests and one great chasm that would subsume egos and tear up the studio floorboards. The rift did not concern taste or etiquette so much as In one corner, the shaggy-haired, acid-frazzled Philadelphian whose passive-aggression belies a loose, honky-tonk approach to life; in the other, a three-piece reputed for 1) turning down their record label’s cocaine and 2) crafting technically brilliant pop. It was a match made in some 5-star hotel-lobby hell, and the calamity of it all enriches every second of Skylarking.. The masterful chamber-pop of XTC’s 1986 album Skylarking was one of the band’s finest hours. ‘Skylarking’ is loaded with classic songs like “The Meeting Place,” “Earn Enough For Us,” “Big Day” and “Dear God,” a song left off the original LP but issued as a b-side. It was later added to the lineup when it became a surprise rock radio hit.

Rundgren was optimistic about working with XTC. A few years earlier, he had caught the Swindon group in their element, twisting from off-brand punk toward whip-smart new wave. Soon after, in 1982, Partridge suddenly quit touring, suffering from valium withdrawal and on-stage panic attacks. He announced XTC would join the ranks as a studio outfit, a commercial disaster, to nobody’s surprise. Singles flopped, fans lost faith, and before the year was up, the group shrank to a trio when drummer Terry Chambers stormed out for good during a rehearsal.

Virgin Records had hoped an American producer would collar the firebrand and hammer the new album into the transatlantic mold of U2 and Simple Minds—a notion that, like almost everything involving the label, Partridge found this laughable. Consider the demos: Back-garden symphonies like “Summer’s Cauldron” and “Season Cycle,” among his ripest compositions to date. Fellow songwriter Colin Moulding, inspired by his move to the ancient Celtic settlement of Marlborough Downs, was clomping down the same path, composing pastorals like “Grass” and “The Meeting Place” from sampled lathes and thrums of pagan folk. Hatching a plan, he accepted Virgin’s $150,000 fee and quickly discarded dozens of the band’s demos, assembling a tracklist around a concept of his own. The song cycle would plot a lifetime over the course of a day: daybreak in “Summer’s Cauldron,” then a suite of infatuation, heartbreak, marriage, temptation, and existential reckoning that concludes—on “Dying” and “Sacrificial Bonfire”—in the dead of night. Guitarist Dave Gregory, a Rundgren superfan, was thrilled, and the docile Moulding—by now immune to Partridge’s arm-twisting—sided with Virgin, reasoning they all had mouths to feed.

As war raged, the sessions remained a spring of wonder. Moulding, a psych-pop reformist, came into his own with songs like “The Meeting Place,” reflecting Swindon’s rituals and industry in gorgeous stained glass. Partridge specialized in the melodic trapdoor, establishing awkward patterns and flooding your serotonin receptors at unexpected moments. The lyrics are just chewy enough to distract from each incoming sugar rush, creating endless replay value. (“Who’s pushing the pedals on the season cycle?” he quips wonderfully in “Season Cycle.”) Themes and images trespass between songs, from the vaudevillian pomp of “Ballet for a Rainy Day” into the melodramatic “1000 Umbrellas,” whose Dave Gregory string arrangement makes heartbreak seem an ancient, noble fate.

It’s been a busy few years for XTC‘s 1986 album “Skylarking” wth the vinyl reissue back in 2010, the ‘corrected polarity’ CD of 2014, this year’s boxed deluxe vinyl version and now – thanks to the discovery of the multi-tracks – a double-disc 30th anniversary definitive edition which delivers a Steven Wilson 5.1 surround mix on blu-ray audio, along with a wealth of other bonus material.

This new edition eschews the pubes (not a phrase I’ll write too often) and restores the original sleeve (“it was agreed that more people recognised this as the sleeve now” Andy Partridge replied on twitter, when quizzed about it) and offers a new stereo mix of the album on CD

XTC studio recording ‘ Little Lighthouse’ from the Todd Rundgren produced “Skylarking” sessions, newly mixed by Steven Wilson. Track taken from “Skylarking 30th Anniversary Definitive Edition CD + Blu ray” .
“This was destined for the ‘Dukes’ from the outset really. It was sent to Todd along with all the other “Skylarking” demos and even though we tried recording it in San Francisco (its spiritual home!), it was never going to fit with all of its pastoral playmates.”

Lead single “Grass” bombed in the UK, and the album sales stalled. A death sentence even by their commercial standards, albeit grim vindication for Partridge. But in America, a one-time single contender demoted to a B-side was making itself known especially on college radio, “Dear God” had sparked a moral panic: its narrator, griping with an absent god, appalled Bible Belt Christians and prompted a bomb threat to a Florida radio station. Everyone else seemed to love it. In a sheepish U-turn, the band’s American label, Geffen, smuggled the track onto the U.S. release of Skylarking. Over six months, the album outsold XTC’s entire prior catalogue three times over.

Moulding, who stepped back from XTC in 2006, effectively ending the group.) Among his arsenal of guitars, Partridge now keeps company with a legion of toy soldiers,

If you’ve bought any of the previous XTC CD+blu-ray reissues, you’ll know how good they are and what to expect… The blu-ray here offers the 5.1 mix, the new stereo mix in 24bit/96kHz, four additional songs from the album sessions in stereo and 5.1, the very original (uncorrected polarity) album mix in hi-res stereo, along with the same for the corrected polarity version, instrumental mixes, a complete alternate album in demo form (following producer Todd Rundgren’s original suggested running order), numerous demo and work tape sessions showing the evolution of the album and the promo films for Dear God and Grass! All that for less than £20 – amazing, as usual.

This definitive edition (for once the title lives up to the content) comes with an expanded booklet featuring sleeve-notes by Andy Partridge, Colin Moulding & Dave Gregory and will be released on 14th October 2016. the original was Released 27th October 1986.

October 17th, 2016: It’s here, the one you’ve been hankering for. Steven Wilson produced these mixes with the input of founder band member Andy Partridge and the full approval of the band. This CD/Blu-ray edition is presented in special packaging with an expanded booklet and sleeve-notes by Andy Partridge, Colin Moulding and Dave Gregory.

  • CD features the 2016 Steven Wilson stereo album mix plus four bonus tracks mixed by Steven Wilson.

Blu-ray features:

  • A 5.1 Surround mix in 24bit/96khz mixed from the original multi-track tapes available in LPCM and DTS HD MA.
  • The 2016 stereo album mix in 24bit/96khz LPCM audio.
  • Four additional songs from the album sessions in stereo and 5.1 mixed by Steven Wilson.
  • The original (uncorrected polarity) stereo album mix in hi-res stereo, plus 1 non-album track.
  • The original (corrected polarity) stereo album mix in hi-res stereo.
  • Instrumental versions (mixed by Steven Wilson) of all 2016 mixes in 24bit/96khz LPCM audio.
  • A complete alternate album in demo form (as per Todd Rundgren’s original suggested running order based on the demo recordings).
  • Numerous additional demo and work tape sessions showing the evolution of the album and associated recordings.
  • Promo films for Dear God and Grass.

Thanks to http://www.superdeluxeedition.com/

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