Think of the Edgar Broughton Band and you immediately remember the hairy freak combo that emerged out of the tail end of psychedelia, to join Hawkwind and the Pink Fairies at the apex of the early 70s festival underground. Five albums cut for Harvest between 1969 (Wasa Wasa) and 1975 (Oora) contain some of the most dramatically out there rock of the age, and some of the most brilliantly conceived, as well – who else would medley the Shadows “Apache” with Captain Beefheart’s “Drop Out Boogie”?

Less feted are the albums that the band produced over the next seven years  three studio sets and a live album to prove that even at the end of the decade, the Broughtons were a concert force to be reckoned with. Those records are the ones you’ll find here… Bandages (1975), Live Hits Harder! (1979), Parlez Vous English? (1979) and Superchip – the Final Silicone Solution (1982). And if you’re not familiar with them, let this be your introduction.

Bandages is the runt of the litter, recorded as the band struggled with both management problems and their new label… which just happened to be owned by their management. It definitely has its moments, but coming after the minor disappointment of Oora, it suggested that the band had reached the end of its tether. And so it had – the following year saw the Broughtons embark on their farewell tour.

A live album was planned, but it was three years before the tapes emerged as Live Hits Harder!, a savagely enjoyable collection even if, for Broughtons aficionados, it was recorded five years too late. Released only in Switzerland, it dribbled into the UK on import, and the story was over. Which means, nobody could have predicted what would happen next, as the band reformed at the end of 1978 and set to work on what can only be described as one of their masterpieces.

Parlez Vous English? was everything its most spirited predecessors are, but seen through a sheen that recognized all that had changed since the band was last in the studio, on record and in society. Released under the abbreviated name of the Broughtons, it’s an electrifying album, sharp and witty, demanding and demonstrative. The record did nothing chart wise, but it proved that the Broughtons were back.

And then they were gone again, vanishing for three years before re-emerging with the final album in this box, the conceptual Superchip.

Again the band had been paying attention to what was occurring outside of their studio. Synths burble and bleep all over, with the opening “Metal Storm” alone truly remarking upon the band’s former chaos. But it works. The lyrics are as crafty as ever, and Edgar’s always going to sound like Edgar, no matter what’s going on around him. And those are the elements that drag the electronics out of their then-customary roost in alienation and ice, to give Superchip an energy and an atmosphere that only John Foxx, of the contemporary wave of synth warriors, had even come close to capturing. It remains a joy.

It’s also the only album in the box to include a bonus track, the period b-side “the Virus,” but that’s barely a deficiency. Three of the four albums here demand a place in your collection, regardless of how many Broughton discs you already own; and the fourth (Bandages) will swiftly prove itself to be more than makeweight as well. Indeed, of all the early-mid seventies proggy favourites who persisted in making albums after punk scorched the ears… and that’s everyone from Caravan to ELP, from Genesis to Yes… the Broughtons truly were one of the precious few that were worth still listening to.

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