The Bluetones have always been my band. I remember buying Slight Return on single in Exeter’s HMV all those years ago and the love-in had officially begun. It has outlasted everything. As well as seeing them live more times than I can even remember, and the fun gigs that I can just remember (blame all the usual things), their 1996 debut Expecting to Fly never dates, and now we’re already at the 25th Anniversary of this genuine modern classic. With that timeframe in the ether, Demon Music have helped collate a deservedly splendid special vinyl release and, even better, I’ve managed to get a literal look-in and listen to the Deluxe Edition, which is a wonderful fresh addition to the catalogue from Mark Morriss, Adam Devlin, Scott Morriss and Eds Chesters.
This Deluxe Set arrives in a smart, tough lift-off lid box that’s 12” x 12” and contains 3 LPs and a bonus 12” with three demos, this vinyl gives us an early insight to Time & Again, Putting out Fires and Cut Some Rug, mastered by Nigel Clark of Dodgy (no less!) in January 2021. You also get a 12” version of the original booklet that came with the CD release, and it’s all of a fine printed quality, as you’d expect from something this Superior. It’s great to flip through the photos and artwork of that booklet, almost nostalgia but mainly insightful. The difference between the Deluxe Set and the ‘normal’ boxset is that you don’t get the bonus 12” demos.
The 3 LPs in both sets are 180g blue vinyl, unsure where they got that colour idea from, and that means you get the original Expecting to Fly album itself, which deserves revisiting at any time of the day. I’d previously bought one of the previous re-releases of this album from a number of years back, but this just feels more unique and again with great printing of the sleeve, and general class, it’s a strong start.
The second LP contains all the B-sides from that era, and I particularly love its killer tracks. Sure, some of you might have the 7” Singles in your collection *hands up* but if you haven’t, then you’re in for a treat as there’s absolute blinders amongst the 12 tracks, plus the singles Are you Blue or Are you Blind? and Marblehead Johnson. The stand-out B-sides for me have always been The Simple Things and Nifkin’s Bridge, but there’s also Don’t Stand Me Down, Castle Rock and The Devil Behind My Smile in there as well. I’m pretty sure most songs hit the live circuit over the years, so if you don’t have them yet – then you will right here. I adore the choice of sleeve here, which zooms in on the Peacock feather design [See my pic below], which of course became forever linked with this album, but really stands out as a feature.
Your third is the vinyl’d-up The Early Garage Years, which features a whole host of original versions of your favourites, along with those sleeve notes from Eds Chesters, which was already May 2007. I kinda think this collection works well on vinyl, and gives it even more of that 1994 vibe, which is exactly when they were recorded. For these 10 tracks, you get to hear some ace 4 and 8-track home recordings, in their original form, alongside more demos, which simply reminds us all why they were always the best band from Hounslow.
On the sleeve notes of the B-sides, we get an appearance from the music aficionado and DJ legend himself, Steve Lamacq, who gives the band a rather lovely tribute that backs up my, somewhat biased, insight of the boys but also proves that someone of his calibre also doesn’t need to say things for the sake of it, as he fully understands their deserved place amongst the big names of those moments.
As well as those musical wealth facts, The Bluetones never really reacted ridiculously to the big hype and that’s why they’ve had such a loyal fanbase all these years. They’ve grooved and moved along to the rhythm at their unique pace, and continue to have a classy impact in the music scene, both in a nostalgic sense but also as a genuine talents still out on the road, even if this week’s tweet sounds like the dream is finally over – And yes, the beautiful sarcasm we know so well remains very much part of their magic and make-up – and long may that last.
This is absolutely worth your time, and even if you’re ‘Toned up in your life, I know you’ll want this set because it’s beautifully made and just feels right in the collection. Time and again, there’s a lot of style, and even more than a little charm on every repeat listen and so, with that in mind, will be getting some new group stuff fellas? We’d love it!