Monday, October 14, 2013

Robyn Hitchcock 23: Bad Case Of History

The second retrospective Robyn box from Yep Roc was devoted to his mid-‘80s work with the Egyptians, from before their stint on A&M (now only available illegally or on eBay). Luminous Groove presented Fegmania!, Gotta Let This Hen Out! and Element Of Light! (okay, we added the exclamation point to that one) rijigged for the third time, with the usual suspect bonus tracks and positively hideous photos. But that wasn’t all.
This time, the carrot was another two-CD set of rarities, all featuring the Egyptians, most of which had never, ever been heard before. Bad Case Of History is split between studio and live tracks, providing a wealth of new music for fans hoarding their muddy dubs. The studio half is especially intriguing, as it presents a half hour’s worth of music that could have gone onto Globe Of Frogs or Queen Elvis, including the “title track”, a full band version of “Agony Of Pleasure” and the live favorite “Evil Guy”. Much of the balance comes from after Respect, providing a glimpse into the last sessions before the band stopped, including such future solo cuts as “I Am Not Me”, “Beautiful Queen” and “Zipper In My Spine”, rounded out by the holy grail among Hitchcock heads, “Surfer Ghost”.
The live disc is equally wonderful, again compiled from the A&M years, showing what a trio perfectly in sync could accomplish given the space to try it out. Along with a pile of songs from that limbo period, there are covers of “Eight Miles High” and “Chimes Of Freedom”, plus an otherwise unavailable song called “The Living Years” one place in the packaging and “The Live-In Years” elsewhere. (Either way, it’s not the Mike + The Mechanics song.)
While it does mess with the chronology somewhat, and forces completists to hold onto their Rhino reissues, Luminous Groove does deliver a wealth of new music for those of us who consider the Egyptians to be his best band—certainly inventive, and whimsically patient, at least on the surface. And it was already a long time ago.

Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians Luminous Groove (2008)—4

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