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Various Artists | Art School Dancing (Harvest/EMI)
Bit of a missed opportunity this one. The press release raved about the specially commissioned late pop art cover (which is indeed quite clever, quite nice) and about the wealth of talent on the Harvest label. Indeed great talents but you wouldn't be entirely convinced from some of the selections here. Perhaps it's the old various artists dilemma: a merely representative track selection and its perhaps too dull to send the punters investigating further; a great collection and the punters may feel they have all they need. So, what is the point of this collection? I'll admit that I'm not sure.  Why didn't EMI ask me to compile this? I was 16 in 1970 and well on the case, John.  
Kevin Ayers may well attract new fans for years to come but not on the strength of this laboured old single. The Edgar Broughton Band's great manic guitar freak outs are passed over for a corny Vietnam War protest which only exemplifies the pretentious, silly side of teenage hippie rebellion. Impossibly pretentious art posing informs the Roger Waters and Ron Geesin collaboration Our Song taken from the 'Music From The Body' OST.  Recorded body parts are set against some raggy piano and someone drumming their fingers on a tabletop. Great. Not. So what else? Wizzard? Please!
Well, this album still gets a very cautious recommendation. Before Deep Purple embarked on a career of power chord irresponsibility they were actually an interesting, tuneful and even subtle group. Just listen to the cut chosen here, Shield. Listen too to the cracking jazz-infused rifferama of Babe Ruth and to the left field, unpredictable tunes of Pete Brown and his Battered Ornaments.  The lovely, very English A Glade Somewhere is by some people called Forest who sound like an on-form Tull meets an on-form Fairports. More mellow magic emanates from Shirley and Dolly Collins who I imagine as dotty, gifted Hampstead hippies. (They probably write children's books now on their laptops.) Even ELO hit the mark and several other cuts really make it (man)
This record brought back memories of a rather neglected era (1969-71) which is, I guess, when psychedelia met prog. Hearing it now was akin to enjoying that neat little feeling when you rediscover a smell you had long forgotten. Omit the dross and this is quite interesting and quite enjoyable.

Stephen Ridley
CWAS #12 - Summer 2003