The Durutti Column will have the first batch of their extensive back catalogue digitally remastered by their label, Kookydisc released this Monday (10th August). Imaginatively titled "The First Four Factory Albums", it features just that plus an extra 2 discs of hard-to-find live and out-take tracks added to the extensive package. These unreleased pieces will represent the era covered by the albums in the lavish set and will no doubt cause Factory collectors and DC aficionados to salivate profusely before parting with their hard-earned cash.
Although the 4 albums have been packaged together before (as the 'Japonica' collection), this is a work of love with plenty of interviews and photos otherwise unseen. So, what of the music inside the box?
The first disc is "Return Of The Durutti Column" and is generally regarded as Vini Reilly's finest hour - I would disagree since the whole set is about 30 minutes long! However, when you consider when this sparse, tranquil and atmospheric clutch of instrumentals was recorded (1979) and the technology involved (guitar, rhythm box), you can appreciate just how ahead of the game this under-rated band were. I say 'band' - these recordings were an intimate session between Reilly and production legend, Martin Hannett yet the music sounds like a small ensemble has made it.
The follow-up opus, "LC", may not have reached the heights of its predecessor but there are some inspiring moments across the 10 tracks - oh, and this was one of several early releases with Vini singing on it (much to the chagrin of Factory honcho and best friend, Antony H Wilson). It is the songs, however, that make this album as interesting as it is. "Never Known" is an achingly, desolate paean while "Missing Boy" and "Sketch For Dawn" are evocative enough, let alone the former being a nod towards another lost friend, Ian Curtis.
3rd album 'Another Setting' suffered badly from an appalling pressing quality and a muddy production. But aside from these basic drawbacks, it isn't a bad record overall. "Prayer", a previous single and a surprising inclusion (Factory rarely put singles on albums in those days) is a neo-romantic classical air, "For A Western" and "Second Family" sound like soundtracks to imaginary documentaries and vocal tracks "The Beggar" and "Dream Of A Child" are powerful tracks turned into puppies on a restraining order. Patchy, yet no less interesting.
The final album in the set is "Without Mercy" and this for me is one of Reilly's real landmarks. Just 2 tracks in length, it featured a string quartet and guest wind and brass instrumentalists who transformed the often sparse DC sound into a full-blown orchestral treat. Add in some pretty hefty DX7 drum-breaks and you have an album that is still unique to this day. Reilly isn't keen on it apparently but I think he is being harsh - this often pretty and often morose music exudes longevity and continuous play-backs.
Finally, the extra tracks are drawn from 3 live concerts and a host of out-takes and home demos including a couple of unheard tracks.
'The First Four Factory Albums' package is released via Kookydisc on Monday 10th August 2009.
Interest in Durutti Column has increased since their brief appearance on BBC2's Culture Show as well as remembrance concerts for Tony Wilson during the Summer. The legend lives on.