(NB – Apologies to the author and to Cherry Red. Nick wrote this review getting on for a month or so ago now, but due to an oversight on my part, I somehow missed it. So here’s his belated review!)
I remember standing outside Leicester’s De Montfort Hall in the early nineties, devoid of a ticket, but waiting for friends who had gone inside, hoping to meet this band from across the pond, who were sound-checking at the time. Whether they succeeded, I don’t recall, but Mercury Rev are one of those bands whose very presence on a scene where music at the time was altogether baggy, was something else entirely – leftfield, alternative rockers, hailing from Buffalo, New York, who started by producing off-kilter psychedelia, but by the time this album came around – originally released in the early noughties, had grown into a band producing piano-based Americana & and one who is rather good at it.
An album that hung 5th on their roster, this has now been given the benefit of an expanded re-issue by Cherry Red Records and what was originally a 10-track album has now been afforded a further 3 discs and 43 tracks. This additional content brings in not just the usual B-sides, Demos, and Outtakes, which to any fan used to be enough, but also concert takes from across Europe and the USA. Special Black Sessions content, recorded live in Paris, in August 2001, is also included on disc 4 and features content previously ‘unissued commercially’ (nudge-nudge, wink-wink).
This album does possess the gravitas that makes this kind of elevation worthy. Its very content possesses some kind of magic from the starting track ‘The Dark Is Rising, a cinematic number with Jonathan Donohue’s ethereal vocal quality adding its otherworldly majesty. While the closing track, ‘Hercules‘, features a lyrical story so compelling it’s easy to get lost in this numbers pacing, with of course a further 8 epic moments in-between.
But it’s not the album per se that I’m here to review, it’s the additional content and 3 discs that ooze revelations. From disc two’s opener, Black Sabbath‘s ‘Planet Caravan‘, a Peel Session and B-side to ‘All Is Dream‘ and a dreamy slice of psychedelia. Chopin‘s ‘Nocturne In C# Minor, Opus 27, No.1‘, another B-side and a tune, most definitely worthy of a place here, proving that this band is not just your run-of-the-mill rock band, and possess qualities that are far more layered than that – but I wonder just whether as a B-side this was properly experienced by fans? An epic number ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds‘, features a recording of the band coming home as I see it, performing the Beatles classic from Sgt. Pepper, and doing so in such a believable fashion that it is warming. Further B-sides and Outtakes also feature, as well as long-lost, but not forgotten Peel session tracks.
As I have suggested, a further 2 discs feature ‘Live’ content, with performances that go from Dublin, Munich, Ghent, Lille, to Detroit and Los Angeles and beyond (but no UK shows I notice), as well as The Black Sessions disc. It is worth noting that a vast quantity of these live recordings has been unavailable before now. With further sleeve notes and printed material.
Mercury Rev were on fire at this point, and this release certainly offers another facet to an album that should be afforded ”Classic” status.
All Is Dream, 4 disc edition, is out now on Cherry Red.