Monday, May 3, 2010

Robyn Hitchcock 5: Gotta Let This Hen Out!

The Egyptians became a real live band on Gotta Let This Hen Out!, recorded (and filmed) live at London’s famous Marquee Club. From the start the band is tight and Robyn sounds confident, reveling in his growing role as Syd Barrett’s heir.
For the most part, the songs are equal to their studio versions, and in some cases are even improved upon. “Sometimes I Wish I Was A Pretty Girl” works well in the electric setting (although now he’s wrecking himself in the shower instead of just looking). “Acid Bird” is excellent, while “America” and “The Cars She Used To Drive” take big steps up from Groovy Decay. “Brenda’s Iron Sledge” is just as fun, with different lyrics; Robyn tends to change his words live a lot, so pay attention.
From the new album, “The Fly” goes far too long, but “My Wife And My Dead Wife”, “Egyptian Cream” and the glorious “Heaven” more than compensate. For Soft Boys fans, “Kingdom Of Love”, “Only The Stones Remain”, “Leppo And The Jooves” and “The Face Of Death” get revived and attract new listeners. The boys even swap instruments for “Listening To The Higsons”, another dumb singalong and that’s meant in a good way.
Gotta Let This Hen Out! is an very enjoyable live album, and mostly because the band is so good, especially on the songs they hadn’t recorded. After all this time, we want to know: did they only play for less than an hour? Apparently so, because the Yep Roc version, while faithful to the previous CDs, added a whopping five songs, but from a show recorded three years later in another country. They give Robyn a chance to stretch on the guitar, but don’t quite match the heat of the main program.

Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians Gotta Let This Hen Out! (1985)—4
1986 CD: same as 1985, plus 3 extra tracks
1995 Rhino reissue: same as 1986 CD
2008 Yep Roc: same as Rhino, plus 5 extra tracks

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