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The Last Fourfathers, CD (£7.43)
THE LAST FOURFATHERS is unarguably the best set of British rock'n'roll (not to mention garage punk, psych, mod soul and general Hammond-fuelled frenzy) of the past 20 years. For once, objectivity don't come into it. What would you match it against, anyhow? The Stone Roses' debut? Don't make me laff! Oasis's first album? Oh, pleeze! As you're no doubt aware, there are a multitude of records which are costly to track down, a significant percentage of which, musically speakin', simply ain't worth the vinyl they're cut on. However, the Kentish lads' third magnum opus, originally released to little or no mainstream acclaim by the band's Own Up label during 1985, is a different kettle of frogspawn entirely. That's why you can currently expect to pay around £100 for a pristine vinyl example, or even part with up to ¬£50 for a copy of the band's own CD reissue from the early 90s.
Now, thanks to the good folks at Big Beat, you can enjoy the Prisoners' finest hour - a masterful mix of suss, soul, freakbeat wigouts, arresting organ instrumentals and sly wit - without having to empty yer wallet. "You, lucky, lucky people" as the great Tommy Trinder might've said!
Following on from their impressive debut set of 1982, A TASTE OF PINK!, and 1993's slightly overblown Thewisermiserdemelza, not to mention a never-ending trawl around the lowspots of Britain and Europe, 'Fourfathers finally saw the Prisoners capturing their awesome live attack on a micrgroove longplayer.
Impeccably produced by ex-Milkshake Russell Wilkins, 'Fourfathers finds Graham Day's paint-strippingly soulful vocals and lysergic guitar facing-off against Jamie Taylor's incisive, irresistibly pumping Hammond grooves, over the rock solid yet fluid drive of bassist Alan Crockford and drummer Johnny Symons.
Kicking off with the relentlessly funky Nobody Wants Your Love (Graham's only co-write with fellow Medway Delta mensch Billy Childish), 'Fourfathers takes the listener on a trip which still reflects an exciting alternative reality for homegrown rock'n'roll. One wherein the Small Faces, The Pink Floyd, 60s soul, the Jimi Hendrix Experience's Smash Hits (in mono, natch), the Pretty Things, the first two Nice albums and the Crazy World of Arthur Brown are unassailable talismans, as is the right to dance yer legs off.
In fact, 'Fourfathers remains the perfect antidote to the outright non-grooviness of modern 'white boy' music, by proving that 'vanilla' hipsters can, indeed, sing the blues (not to mention some of the greens, and a bit of purple, too).
As Dean Rudland rightly notes in his customarily acerbic and informative sleeve notes, during the 80s, for a young & righteous music fan, there was nothing to touch the Prisoners. Such likeminded misfits as Thee Milkshakes, the Stingrays and the Playn Jayn didn't even come close, sorry!
'Fourfathers was glued to my turntable for countless months after its release, so fully did it inform and soundtrack my miserable teenage existence. And that's not to mention the fervour with which it sent me out on a quest to uncover the musical fountainhead from whence the Prisoners had quaffed, both long and deeply.
A couple of other disaffected youngsters who undeniably felt the same, and subsequently enjoyed considerable chart success with a much simplified and watered-down take on the Prisoners' sonic stew, were Tim Burgess (the Charlatans) and Clint Boon (Inspiral Carpets). Later still, Kula Shaker turned Graham and co's searing, show-stopping arrangement of Joe South's Hush into a #2 hit. And if that last claim sounds a little overblown, lend yer lugs to the astonishing live take of Hush which is included as one of the Big Beat reissue's amazing bonus tracks, and then tell me I ain't got no ears!
All 'celebrity' endorsements aside - and reflecting on a strange old career, one which has found me chewing toothpicks with Dan Penn and quaffing Guinness avec Dr John - I'm real proud to confirm that 'Fourfathers is still one of my favourite albums. It continues to sound as fresh and classy as the day when I first heard it. And if that's a bit too 'gushy' for ya, tuff titty!
By Joss Hutton (Sonic Reducer)