First Look: Orange Juice Boxed Set

 

 

Released next week by
Domino, the 6-CD/DVD box Coals to Newcastle charts Edwyn Collins’ amazing early
journey in astonishing, rarities-packed detail.

 

By A.D. Amorosi

The happily recovering (brain hemorrhage, lingering aftereffects)
Edwyn Collins has recorded and released a winningly bristling new solo album with
contributions from The Cribs, Franz Ferdinand and The Smiths’ Johnny Marr.
Fine, that. They should’ve given him all their past royalties too as it is
Collins’ previous incarnation as the leader, singer, songwriter and guitarist
for Orange Juice that not only defined their careers but opened the doors to
Scotland in ways Sir Wallace only dreamed of. Get Belle & Sebastian to kick
in a few coins too.

 

As the Postcard label’s first real sensation (The Nu-Sonics
circa 1976 became OJ late ‘78), Orange Juice – Collins, James Kirk, David
McClymont and Steven Daly – recreated post-punk to resemble something lovesick
and decidedly un-macho, smartly Bowie-esque and weirdly art-popping (not
rocking, not yet) brittle and buoyant and yes, oddly funky with decided
white-guy sinew. Punk, even post-punk in London,
wasn’t that. Post-punk’s brand of occasional funk was askew and steely (PIL,
Pop Group). Somehow being apart from the mainland made it so for OJ in the
Scottish hills; made it even fashionable for a second, to be in on “The Glasgow
School”  as it would eventually be known
and documented on the first CD of this six (??!!) CD and 1 DVD (videos like the
space-age “Rip It Up”) box set of studio treasures, live recordings, flexi-disc
rarities (FLEXI-DISC!), never-before-heard cuts and BBC sessions.

 

On the first CD you hear Collins – Bowie’s moping but never-shy
nephew – rippling through “Falling and Laughing” and the dazed “Consolation
Prize” with a raw pleading tone while Kirk’s guitars and the entirety of the
rhythm section do their sly soul boy best on “Satellite City.”  Though things get a little confusing in the
box as more recent rarities (found live items only released in 1993) cue up,
stay focused as you hear the Juice go from raw yet retiring, lit-whip-smart and
debonair to curt, cool and more aware of the complexities. Winning fey tunes
such as “Three Cheers for Our Side,” the ever-divine “Simply Thrilled Honey,”
“You Old Eccentric,” and the coy-boy “Poor Old Soul” are delightfully honest
confessionals of love, loss, unrequited affection and outmost rejection with a
confectionary edge.

 

Morrissey – were you
listening
?

 

Their Postcard singles made them crit-faves, intimate and
deliciously ire-filled as they were. But their sentiment-laced albums and EPS
sounded heavier, irked and far more intricate than expected – You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever, the
boldly buoyant, polyrhythmic and even riveting Rip It Up. The latter, with its inclusion of supple (then) new
percussionist/Zimbabwe-born Zeke Manyika and second guitarist Malcolm Ross
(ex-Josef K), made every song into a funky fat suit of emotion and soul. Manyika
and Collins’ own stinging guitar sound filled in the blank skank of  (disc 3’s) “Flesh Of My Flesh,” “Rip It Up
(12″ version – MUCH better than the single)” and “Snake Charmer” so much
so that by the time they got to the Texas
Fever EP
done in tandem with dub reggae producer Dennis Bovell it was
pretty much just those two guys fighting against other OJ members, much
frippery and scowling jams such as “Bridge,”  “Punch Drunk” and “Going Back to Texas,”
the latter tune whose queer sound manages to revisits the group’s Scot-Postcard
éclat but with a slither rather than a diffident dither.

 

While some have maligned their finale The Orange
Juice
as wrung out, overly-squeezed and reconstituted (okay, that’s
enough), I beg to differ as the twanging “What Presence?!” – hell, the first
five cuts from disc 5 like “Lean Period,” “I Guess I’m Just A Little Too
Sensitive,” “The Artisans” and “Get While The Getting’s Good” – are as cranky
and soulful and slippery as anything Collins and Co had ever done. The BBC
sessions with John Peel and Kid Jensen and such, along with their concert
tracks, show Orange Juice wasn’t just a fussbudget fancy pants studio
creation. 

 

Collins’ box full of vocals and lyrics show he was a cool
mooner. And the entire set of songs – repetitive or not – show off a sense of
improvisation and innovation you may not have got enough of in your usual
post-punk 70s and 80s diet.

 

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