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The Jigsaw Seen | Songs Mama Used To Sing (Vibro-phonic)
Something of a curio this one. The LA-based Jigsaw Seen could hardly be described as prolific - just two full-lengths prior to this collection - 2000's 'Zenith' followed its predecessor 9 years later. This ten-track set of cover versions, five of which have been released before, is the band's first release since the 2001 limited edition acoustic EP 'Perfformiad I Mewn Cymru' ?? that's 'Recorded Live In Wales' for non-Welsh speakers out there (hey, that includes me oddly enough - I'm not attempting linguistic superiority here, merely trying to be informative). Then again perhaps curios ought to be regarded as the norm for The Jigsaw Seen. Given the fact that 'Zenith' was nominated for a Grammy ?? not for the music (even though their contemporary blend of psych-folk-pop has its moments) but more surprisingly for the album's packaging (admittedly it was an innovative design).
Nicely packaged, as you'd expect, this collection is perhaps as valid an introduction to the band as any. Existing fans of the band or those with a weakness for tribute albums (ok, ok I confess!) however, may be less enticed by only five previously unavailable recordings on offer here. In fact the best tracks here have all been released before  - Melody Fair, On A Carousel and Desiree respectively from 'Melody Fair: Songs Of The Bee Gees', 'Sing Hollies In Reverse' and 'Shadows Breaking Over Our Heads: A Tribute To The Left Banke', widely regarded, certainly by pop fans as amongst the best tribute albums around.
Although the songs they've chosen to cover aren't that revelatory ?? apart from the aforementioned triumvirate ?? songs by The Kinks and The Who for instance, there are some surprises - the slightly menacing folk-mantra of the traditional Little Know Ye Whos' Coming, which opens the set and later on a good slant on Scott Walker's 30 Century Man being examples. Although it would be churlish to deny that the Jigsaw Seen demonstrate, at the very least, a competent flair for interpretation, despite its occasionally intriguing moments, their mostly reverential approach to the material and the fact that half the album is already available elsewhere, 'Songs Mama Used To Sing' could hardly be described as essential.

Geraint Jones
CWAS #12 - Summer 2003