AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #2: EDWYN COLLINS

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It was nearly two months back when I launched this new series.  The idea is to take one of my favourite bands or singers and list what I think would make the idea ‘Best of’ album with a few words on why. The only proviso is that I’m going to do it as a proper old-fashioned LP…10 tracks in total with an A-side and a B-side and it’s got to hang together like a proper LP and not just a collection of greatest hits.

I started things off with The Smiths and this time round it’s the solo career of Edwyn Collins.

The inspiration from this was seeing him perform the other week, as pictured above, during the Glasgow Mix Tape event that was part of the Cultural Programme linked with the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

It was an absolutely foul day…rain of biblical proportions which at one point made me think the Noah & The Ark story in the Old Testament might not be too far-fetched.  There were 2 stages in use – one was outdoors and the other was indoors.  I had just watched a great set from Malcolm Middleton in the pouring rain and like many others, rushed across 200 yards to where Edwyn was due to take the stage in 15 minutes time.  That’s when we discovered the venue was full….not so much from folk wanting to see the great man, but more everyone taking shelter from the elements…particularly those with young children.

I’m sort of ashamed of what I did next.  Despite me knowing a few folk in the queue with whom I should have stood patiently while the one-in, one-out entry policy was enforced, I used what little influence I have and made a phone call to the event organisers and asked for help….which came in the shape of an access all areas pass for two.  It meant me and the mate who had come along with me could get in but not the others.  I really did feel bad, but there was no way I was missing it.

Edwyn Collins in concert is a real uplifting experience.  His life-threatening illnesses have wreaked havoc with his systems and it takes all his effort to walk the short distance from backstage to take his place on a stool where the words to all the songs he is going to sing are in a book in front of him.   Even though he forgets the name of his great friend who is accompanying him on acoustic guitar – James Walbourne – he makes light of it and launches into a 45 minute set comprising solo material mixed in with some Orange Juice classics, some of which worked a treat as acoustic numbers while others were a bit more shambolic….although as a veteran of Orange Juice gigs it was great to see that the great man after all these years still doesn’t take things so seriously that every note sung and every chord strummed has to be perfect.

In short….it was wonderful…..and as I say it has inspired me to make a stab at an ideal Edwyn Collins compilation album:-

Side A

1. A Girl Like You
2. The Beatle$
3. In Your Eyes
4. If You Could Love Me
5. Don’t Shilly Shally

Side B

1. Judas In Blue Jeans
2. Means To An End
3. Keep On Burning
4. 31 Years
5. Searching For The Truth (b-side version)

It’s taken about three hours of humming and hawing and numerous changes of mind before I settled on the above. There are loads of songs that I can’t believe didn’t make the final cut which may well invite ridicule from other fans. But the logic is:-

1. It’s not my favourite song by Edwyn. However, it is the one for which he is best known and its inclusion is inevitable, so putting it as the opening track serves two purposes – it gets this imaginary LP off to a great upbeat start and it means the elephant in the room has been dealt with…

2. Edwyn at his caustic, bitchy best as he delivers a swinging punch at the fag-end of Britpop.

3. Sometimes a song elevates itself through a live performance and this is such an instance.  The first completely new LP after the illness saw loads of folk work alongside Edwyn to help create a wonderfully crafted pop record.  This song was co-written and recorded with The Drums and the co-vocal with Jonathan Pierce is very enjoyable.  But on tour, the singing duties were taken up by none other than Will Collins, son of the great man who, along with his mum, had done so much to nurture Edwyn back to health.  I don’t think I have ever roared as loudly at the end of a song as I did that night at the Oran Mor in Glasgow…from where I was standing I could see Grace Maxwell standing at the side of the stage…I’m sure she was wiping away a few tears of joy and pride.

4. This is the solo song that found its way into my 45 45s at 45 list.  It’s long been my view that if something this easy on the ear with such a heartfelt lyric had, at the time, been given to some well-known pop idol (e.g. Robbie Williams) to record, then we would have been looking at an instant crowd-pleasing #1……gorgeous stuff.

5. One of the earliest solo records and one of the most enduring.  It still sounds fresh some 27 years after its initial release and rightly retains its place in the current setlists.

6. This was far too good a song to only be available as a b-side (it was the reverse of Coffee Table Song) and so I’m resurrecting it to give the b-side of my imaginary album a great beginning.

7. This was co-written with Paul Quinn who later on slowed down the tune, retained a chunk of the lyric and added his vocal talents to to create two majestic versions of the song A Passing Thought.   Edwyn’s use of the tune may not quite be up there with the mighty Quinn but it’s more than worthy of its place on this imaginary LP.

8. It’s at this point I began panicking a bit as I realised I was down to my last three tracks and so many great things were going to be left off.  I still find it very strange that so many of Edwyn’s wonderful singles failed to bother the charts. This tribute to Northern Soul is an absolute belter of a track which somehow didn’t make the playlists of the contemporary radio stations when released back in 1997.  Get yourself on the dance floor and throw some shapes….

9. Edwyn’s own tribute to his life and his work.  One of the highlights of the excellent Understated LP from 2013.

10. There’s a lovely, slightly longer version of this song which closes the LP Losing Sleep.  But some 2 years earlier, a version had sneaked out as the b-side to the single Home Again.  It was a short song, coming in at a shade under 1 minute and 50 seconds….but it provided proof that his illness may have changed his life forever, but it hadn’t taken away Edwyn’s ability to write songs.  And just listen to the great guitar work from Roddy Frame who was such an important part of the backing band the first time Edwyn went back on the road in 2008.  A perfect ending.

Edwyn turns 55 years of age in ten days time.  Happy birthday when it comes…..

mp3 : Edwyn Collins – A Girl Like You
mp3 : Edwyn Collins – The Beatle$
mp3 : Edwyn Collins – In Your Eyes
mp3 : Edwyn Collins – If You Could Love Me
mp3 : Edwyn Collins – Don’t Shilly Shally
mp3 : Edwyn Collins – Judas In Blue Jeans
mp3 : Edwyn Collins – Means To An End
mp3 : Edwyn Collins – Keep On Burning
mp3 : Edwyn Collins – 31 Years
mp3 : Edwyn Collins – Searching For The Truth (b-side version)

It’s of course the case that when you buy a vinyl LP nowadays you get a download code. I’ve decided that the code for this particular LP will contain a bonus track, a cover of a Vic Godard track that was stuck away on one of Edwyn’s b-sides:-

mp3 : Edwyn Collins – Won’t Turn Back

Enjoy

6 thoughts on “AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #2: EDWYN COLLINS

  1. Wonderful selection! What really heartens me is listening to the last two albums, images of a man who has to daily battle with his own body never come into my mind. Edwyn Collins has lost none of his wit, vitriol or ability to tell a story. Losing Sleep and Understated are two of my favorite albums of the past decade and a half and I look forward to all the work to come.

  2. Great selection. You need to start making downloadable cover art for these imaginary albums too, stick all files in a Zip file single download and Bob’s your uncle, instant albums.

  3. A great selection of tracks, considering the impossible task. I’d have to include ‘No-one waves goodbye’ and ‘pushing it to the back of my mind’ if I were to attempt to make an album, but don’t think I could stick to just 10 tracks

  4. Great list , giving me a headache just thinking about it . I would have to struggle to get whats the big idea , coffee table song , gorgeous George and low expectation, a heavy sigh and no one waved goodbye in somehow… oh I give up

  5. JC,
    I just finished your compilation in its entirety. Simply wonderful selections. The Smiths and now Edwyn. Must be like a priest picking his 10 favorite verses.

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