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TheWiserMiserDemelza Complete Sessions, CD (£11.50)
At their most psychedelic, the Prisoners recorded 23 tracks for Big Beat in 1983-4. They are gathered together here for the first time.
Medway garage band the Prisoners are loved by a legion of fans, including quite a few who went on to be in successful bands themselves. Those who saw them live speak in reverential terms, yet they never sold records in large amounts and their gigs, whilst packed, were almost always in small venues. While their recordings are treasured by fans, the band is, at best, ambivalent about them. The compromises of recording filled them with dread, and the thought of commercialising what they were doing led to them disown their final album.
With all that said, ‘Thewisermiserdemelza’ – an excellent embodiment of their British R&B-influenced sound – falls into an odd place in their career. They often professed to be unhappy with the album, yet their first-generation fans cherish it, particularly songs such as ‘Hurricane’. It was recorded in 1983 for Ace Records’ Big Beat label and produced by Phil Chevron – a new experience for the band who self-released their first album, “A Taste Of Pink”.
Better for the band were the 1984 sessions produced by their friend Russell Wilkins which yielded “The Electric Fit” EP and tracks for several other releases through the years. The EP cuts, especially ‘Melanie’ and ‘The Last Thing On Your Mind’, have long been considered their very finest work. This latest release finally gathers all of the 1983 and 1984 tracks onto one, full package.
The Prisoners left Big Beat in 1984 and went on to have an interesting afterlife. Keyboard player James Taylor enjoyed chart hits with his acid jazz group, while Graham Day and Allan Crockford continued to make thrilling guitar-based music. When the Prisoners re-formed in 1994 they were bigger than ever, playing to venues many sizes bigger than they had first time around. Their influence continues to be felt, and their whole catalogue can now be found on Big Beat.