A Paean To Wilson - The Durutti Column Album Review
This is Durutti Column's umpteenth album for Northampton's Kookydisc label and represents a landmark release. Apart from being a fantastic package designed by Trevor Johnson, it highlights the sole wish of one friend who just wanted to stop another friend from singing.....for his own good....
The Factory myths and legends are finally becoming public thanks to Peter Hook's recent book and CD mix "The Hacienda", the film "Control", the documentary "Joy Division", "24 Hour Party People", a resurgence of ex-label bands reforming for gigs (Brussels, Dec 12th - be there) and now this double epitaph aimed as a tribute to long-standing friend , TV presenter, punk curator and manager (ha, some hope) of Durutti Column, Anthony H. Wilson. Respect. Reminiscence. Recognition. Finally.
I have banged on about Factory Records for 3 decades to anyone with an ear attached to their head and I'm about to do the same again, this time in adoration for easily the best Durutti Column album since "The Guitar & Other Machines". Or "Obey The Time". Or "Vini Reilly". Or "Sunlight To Blue". Or the last almost-entirely non-vocal DC album, "Without Mercy". Just possibly. You see Durutti Column was Wilson's coveted lover, his baby and his wife for the entirety of the label's existence and beyond. He believed that Vini Reilly's ramshackle appearance and precision-like caressing of all things six-string was 'genius' - that Vini was a genius. But, he sang like a student with a 50-grand debt. So Wilson tried to stop him singing. It would have been easier to move China to the Moon. Vini kept singing. Mournfully. Sometimes beautifully. Sometimes not beautifully but, instead, painfully. Bastard.
I like a lot of Reilly's songs but I like his actual music a lot better. Here, on this album, are several reasons why I have opted for silence amongst the tonsils of the wired and wiry one almost every time.
This 2-CD package contains 12 tracks written and recorded as a result of Wilson hearing a new DC track just prior to his death and loving it. Reilly continued to craft and nurture his other musical charges (including oft-present drummer Bruce Mitchell and classical new-wave curator and viola maestro John Metcalfe) into making several more pieces after the passing of Granada's finest. It became a 'paean' indeed.
The opening loop of Tony asking "Is this an artform or are you just a technician?" spins from speaker to speaker before the incandescent power of "Chant" throbs into play like an approaching jump-jet before getting all sparkly and pretty. The journey has begun. The mood lightens with old wizard-fingers getting the last breaths out of a Portugese quatro (on "Quatro") before reaching a cataclysm of feedback-squalls on the revisit of "Requiem".
The whole set really starts to break out of the bunker during "Stuki" (sampled-voices galore) and the reflective collusion between Reilly, pianist Poppy Morgan and one-time member with the golden trumpet, Tim Kellett on "Along Came Poppy". I hate getting all muso - but I will. Kellett may well have served time playing for Simply Red but the man casts a serene and ghostly air like no-one else in his current field (I rank him up there with Jon Hassell and Mark Isham). "Brother" and "The Truth" borrow samples from soul music in an effective and respectful manner, not unlike some of the music on the album, "Vini Reilly". And then comes the moment I actually turned off every other noisy appliance in the house to pay complete attention to one track....
The album's centrepiece (for me) is a re-working of a rare little vignette of theirs called "Royal Infirmary" (from the often-ignored 1986 album "Circuses And Bread"). The newly-titled and re-arranged piece "Duet With Piano" is so poignant that you would have to have a heart of tarmac not to be moved by it. Don't get me wrong - this is a celebration album of both Reilly's musical genius and Wilson's talent-spotting genius. And it works. It's just so, well, absorbing and desolate at the same time. A new annotation of even-rarer B-side classic "Catos Con Guantes" displays a bewildering exhibition of Portugese acoustics - boy has this man got a set of fingers on him.
The extra disc, "Heaven Sent", was only previously available via F4 (another Factory incarnation) as a download and is a welcome addition here. All the tracks are named after Vini's close circle of friends and draw from previously released tracks with the addition of rare and intricate workouts from the vaults.
This set has been on sale at recent gigs and will be released via www.kookydisc.co.uk very soon. Keep 'em peeled - because no-one has made or will make music this spine-tingling again.
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