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coverpic flag England - Full Moon 72 - 08/22/02

A Coat of Many Cupboards
Virgin Records

XTC has already released two records full of demo versions, Homespun and Homegrown that showed how their latest albums, Apple Venus and Wasp Star came to life.

Coat Of Many Cupboards is a 4 CD box consisting of partly rehearsal or demo versions, live versions, studio outtakes and album or single versions from their huge back catalogue. The band seems to have become friends with Virgin Records (money talks, I guess), and the 60 songs to be found here are from the period with their old record label (1977-92).

In addition you get a thorough essay on the band by Harrison Sherwood, a frequent commentator on XTCs fansite Chalkhills (I was a bit put off by his style at first but - hey - this is actually a great read!) and song-by-song comments from the songwriters.

It starts off with the (rejected) demo of "Science Friction" they made for CBS. And from there on it's WHAM! BAM! BANG! through the whole of CD 1 with highlights such as live takes of "Traffic Light Rock" and sensationally good outtakes ("Let's Have Fun", "Things Fall To Bits") from their first three albums. I am quite astonished how great they were as a live band, and I had nearly forgotten how seriously fast they were in their early years.

We are halfway through CD 2 before we get our breath back and can sit back and enjoy Black Sea era material (among other things). There are more live cuts, several single recordings, both rejected and special US versions and an interesting early work tape of "Senses Working Overtime"). Going through this box also proves how good a songwriter Colin Moulding is. I must admit I was not aware of all his positive contribution to XTCs output.

I'm not sure for whom this box set is intended, as the original studio versions included are already released on ordinary and several compilation albums before. Most of us who have all their regular records are a bit put off by the fact that there are too many of these versions included. I would like to have more demo, rehearsal and live versions, so what I'll have to do then is wait for the 12 - that's twelve (!) - CD series due to be released solely containing stuff from the band's demo and rehearsal tape archive.

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You may also want to check out our XTC articles/reviews: Apple Venus Volume 1, Black Sea, Skylarking - 30th Anniversary Definitive Edition, Skylarking.

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