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Velvet Crush | In The Presence of Greatness / A Single Odessey (Action Musik)
It's widely accepted among the pop community that 'Teenage Symphonies to God', Velvet Crush's 1994 album remains their defining statement, and subsequent offerings have only helped to ensure that things stay that way. 10 years on from it's initial release, the debut from Ric Menck, Paul Chastain and Jeffrey Underhill still falls someway short of what followed. Recorded primitively with power-pop legend Matthew Sweet, the enthusiasm and punk attitude adopted during the sessions does little to raise a fairly average batch of songs despite a long-overdue remastering. Opening with its three strongest tracks, singles Ash and Earth and Window To The World plus Drive Me Down (which was to receive an effective makeover a year on for a Creation Records b-side), 'In The Presence of Greatness' is bubbling over with potential but lacks the degree of finesse that blessed their oddly omitted debut single, If Not True/One Thing Two Believe. Thankfully those tracks and a host of other non-lp cuts appear on the superlative compilation 'A Single Odyssey' that deserves to find a home with all those disappointed by 'Heavy Changes' and 'Free Expression' (or short-changed by 'Rock Concert'). Compiled chronologically, the 20 tracks compiles (almost) every out-of-print or hard-to-find b-side including that gem of a debut 7", Remember The Lightning (previously only available in the less-than-audiophile flexi-disc format) and the superb 1997 Japan-only EP 'Be Someone Tonight'. Other highlights include the afore-mentioned acoustic Drive Me Down, their spirited run-through of Teenage Fanclub's Everything Flows (TFC's Norman Blake is rumoured to have encouraged Alan McGee to sign VC to Creation), and the trio of Byrds-related covers (the previously unreleased Gene Clark penned Elevator Operator, Roger McGuinn's Mr Spaceman and the country stylings of Gram Parson's One Hundred Years From Now. With their unique brand of power-pop infused with elements of garage, punk and country, let's hope Velvet Crush found sufficient inspiration compiling 'A Single Odessey' to venture back into a studio confident they can produce a worthy successor to 'Teenage Symphonies'.

Matt Dornan
CWAS #9 - Winter 2002