MUSIC WE ALSO LIKE … (Hey, it’s not all about us!)

They’re often referred to as ‘the original’ due to Kurt Cobain’s hijacking their name. But, for many other very good reasons, the adjective is appropriately-tagged to 60’s symphonic psych-pop exotica, Nirvana.

Market Square’s Peter Muir reviews …

NIRVANA – Rainbow Chaser: The 60s Recordings (The Island Years)’ (Universal)   ****

The late 1960s spring-boarding social change as they did, 50th anniversary compilations and reissues are de rigeur right now. Digipack double albums package paisley and patchouli in equal profusion, dishing up sparkling re-masters of well-worn hits that everybody knows because they are still scoring radio play.

Procul Harum springs to mind. Wonderful band, wonderful music, and rightly feted today. Yet, for all the peacock feathers of period appendage, Procul were still salt of the earth, started up in Southend-on-Sea.  Not so, Nirvana.

A London-formed loose-limbed collective with a floating line-up constituting in the main (whispers: foreigners), they looked like nothing and nobody else on the scene. Signed to Chris Blackwell’s nascent and impossibly hip Island Records, these exotic flowers scored a string of creative firsts without attaining chart heights and the commercial success needed to stay afloat. Yet they remain one of the key exemplars of music fashion of the day.

If Procul was ‘a round of Double Diamonds and a pack of Players, please’ kind-of-band, Nirvana would be swathed by an antique bong of kif, sipping tiny silver cups of raki.

Salvador Dali would have been there.  Indeed for one French TV arts show, Nirvana became the only pop band to perform live to the maestro (in the spirit of free improv, he contributed in kind, throwing arcs of paint over as the band it heroically played on); they penned the first concept album; and with 1968’s (brief) mid-charting single, “Rainbow Chaser” they introduced phasing into the music recording lexicon.

Universal’s 2CD compilation brings back that debut concept release, 1967’s ‘The Story of Simon Simopath’ and its successor, ‘The Existence of Chance is Everything and Nothing While the greatest Achievement is the Living of Life and So Say All of Us’ (surely a contender for longest album title ever).

Individually reissued a few years back, this re-master package (exemplary design with an engaging write-up by Malcolm Dome) boasts a plethora of bonus material: not only demos and alternative takes but also rare and previously unreleased tracks. It’s an Aladdin’s Cave.

No holds were barred, the band’s chamber pop song-writing partnership of Irishman Patrick Campbell Lyons and Greek Alex Spyropoulos was lavished by their label boss: the duo’s fey and catchy flights of fancy received doses of unimaginable heft from orchestral and vocal backing talent; the cream of London’s sessioneers  (Jim Sullivan, Clem Cattini, Herbie Flowers, Lesley Duncan are in the roll call as are label mates Spooky Tooth) and the town’s top production and engineering faces (Chris Thomas, Tony Visconti, Jimmy Miller and erratic genius Guy Stevens aided and abetted).

For a band that didn’t happen, Nirvana really happened. Blackwell booted their third album, ‘Black Flower’ into the long grass, and forged on with Free, Nick Drake, Jethro Tull and fellow front runners in the prog rock boom.  It was the end of the 60’s and with the decade’s turn, the lights went out, the paisley turned to tie-dye; Nirvana bye-bye.

This always engaging compilation grandstands their talent, concluding with a 2017 revisit to “Melanie Blue” recorded by Campbell Lyons that chimes nicely with his latest solo project, ‘You’re A Cloud, I’m A Comet’ – out now on Market Square …

Where to go next: for the Nirvana story and Patrick’s latest album