Two of the best albums released in 2009 came from Elbow, THE greatest band in the world at the present time. The Seldom Seen Kid Live at Abbey Road was my Number One pick for Best Albums of 2009. Elbow’s début release from 2001, Asleep in the Back, was recently re-issued in the U.K. back in November of 2009. Since it is only available in the U.S. as an import at the time of this writing, it was not in my hands until this month. I can already just about 100% guarantee a place in my 2010 Best Of list!
Back in 1990 guitarist Mark Potter asked fellow guitarist and vocalist Guy Garvey to join a band he was in with bassist Pete Turner and drummer Richard Jupp. Soon thereafter Mark’s brother Craig joined the band as their keyboard player, and the band Mr. Soft was born. Eventually the band shortened the name to simply Soft and played under that moniker for seven years.
1997 was the year the band changed their name once again, this time to Elbow. They were signed to Island Records and put together what was to be their début album. Unfortunately for the band, when Island was bought out by major label Universal Records, Elbow was dropped from the label’s roster and the album never released.
Undaunted, the band soldiered on, releasing the Noisebox EP (1998), the Newborn EP (2000) and the Any Day Now EP (2001) on Ugly Man Records before landing a deal with V2 Records.
V2 re-released the Any Day Now EP with a different track listing. This was just a taste what was to come from Elbow as they prepared to unleash their début on the world. Released in May of 2001, Asleep in the Back was such an overwhelming critical favorite that the album landed on the shortlist for both the Mercury Music Prize and BRIT Award honors.
Disc one of the reissue contains all twelve tracks from the release. Leading off with the gorgeous Any Day Now, the album is chock full of beautiful, well-written and played Britpop, with a healthy dose of tunes that contain elements of prog rock. Personal favorites include the first song I heard from the band and the one that immediately made me realize I was on to something extraordinary, Powder Blue, Scattered Black and Whites, Red and the unbelievable Newborn. That song nearly brought me to tears the one time I have seen them perform live, at the Bluebird Theatre in Denver back in May of 2008.
Most reissues will have a bonus disc of B-sides and other bonus material. Elbow put together an incredible second disc for the Asleep in the Back reissue. The first four tracks come from the legendary, out-of-print and near-impossible to find Noisebox EP. Three of the four songs, Powder Blue, Red and Can’t Stop, would be re-recorded for their début. Noisebox originally contained two more songs, and Theme from Munro Kelly is the one track that makes its way on the reissue in studio Noisebox form.
The next six tracks are from a live Elbow gig at The Astoria in 2001. The songs include Bitten By The Tail Fly, Coming Second, Don’t Mix Your Drinks, Can’t Stop, Scattered Black And Whites and George Lassoes The Moon. The last song was the fifth song on the Noisebox EP, but is included here live instead of in the studio version. The other five are all part of the classic début, with this live version of Scattered Black and Whites particularly stunning.
The last three songs are from a Radio One Steve Lamcaq session. The songs are presented in acoustic form and include Newborn, Don’t Mix Your Drinks and Red. Some bands cannot transition well to the intimacy of an acoustic show, but the delicacy of Elbow’s music translates extremely well to the setting.
Folks, we are not done! A DVD is included with the reissue containing videos for the singles released from the original album, home movies of the band from that time period, live footage and a delightful display of Guy Garvey’s antics during some technical difficulties at a show in Glasgow. Visuals are set to the music for the tracks from disc two. This is a great addition to the set, giving you an opportunity to see the band during their early days as Elbow.
This disc is difficult to find now, but trust me, this endeavor will be well worth it! If you live in Phoenix, I suggest you head over to Stinkweeds on the northwest corner of Central and Camelback. It is the only place I have seen the disc so far, and if they are out of stock they are great about placing special orders for you.
Yep, I don’t see any possibility of this reissue not being in my Top Ten for the year. Please support this great band. Elbow, how about a trip to Arizona your next venture to the States?