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Fish: Fellini Days (Expanded Remaster)

As Fish himself acknowledges in his extensive, insightful and heartfelt liner notes in this new version of Fellini Days, the latest in his rather wonderful, 3CD each, back catalogue reappraisal, the turn of the millennium was not a great time for the big Scottish singer. An ever changing band line-up on his recent tours in support of Raingods With Zippos had led to false assumptions of substandard shows and accusations his voice wasn't what it once was. Add in that follow up album Fellini Days was recorded against a backdrop of personal turmoil and impending financial ruin (debts heading towards seven figures… all of which is detailed in the aforementioned liner notes) and the perception at the time was that Fish's career was on the ropes. However, Fellini Days, as Raingods… and Sunsets On Empire had before it, proved strongly otherwise. The writing sessions may have been disjointed and ended up with eleven contributors, but inspired, as ever, by the events around him Fish somehow used his tribulations to inspire a quite remarkable set of lyrics. The theme and album title revolving around those magical days where happenstance, coincidence and split second decisions can results in the most glorious of times, or indeed in one case the avoidance of a near death experience.

Musically John Wesley (Porcupine Tree) was holding down the guitar slot, although partly due to the financial issues a revolving door of drummers, bassists and keyboard players was in operation for the writing and recording sessions and subsequent live shows. Although old hands Steve Vantsis (bass) and Dave Stewart (drums) were in their usual places alongside new keyboard player John Young for the album itself. Hence that Fellini Days came to life through a familiar, but different sound didn't prove too much of a shock. There's no doubt that this album sounds like Fish, in fact it couldn't be anyone else. However, the dark heart that beats at the core of these songs, even from a singer known for angry, revealing lyrics that show a world we all know exists but often pretend doesn't, was quite a shock. "3D" opens proceedings in that enigmatic style, a swirl of guitars making way for an intense bottom end where the bass seems more of a threat than a mere song foundation, as Wesley tears out a rabid, yet tender solo. The songs link together through clips and movie noises that allude to the fact Fish had actually wanted the album to sound as close to being an actual Fellini film as he could get it. However, often the ambient noise, which due to corrupt files couldn't be altered for this remaster, overpower some of the more subtle aspects on show and at their most cluttered actually have you leaning into the sound to try and hear past some of the more muddled sections, something the otherwise masterful "So Fellini" certainly suffers from. However the brooding celebration that is "Tiki 4" is the perfect response, biting and clear, the album's second sing along selection (I defy you not to sing 'Sooooooo Felliiiiiiiiiini' for days after you've heard that song) a real joy. Unlike its predecessors, Fellini Days does suffer from a couple of less memorable moments and while "Our Smile" and "Dancing In Fog" are hardly making up numbers, neither do they make a lasting mark. Although the sharp niggling rhythm of "Long Cold Day" is Fish at his best, reminiscent of "Credo" from the Internal Exile album in its eerie, threatening atmosphere, although this time the subject matter is much closer to home. The honesty and integrity behind "Obligatory Ballad" moves it million miles from what its name ironically suggests, before the album closes on the amazing crescendo of "The Pilgrim's Address", which barely conceals its anger, and the absolutely monumental "Clock Moves Sideways", which like most of this album seems intent on entering your head and disorientating you as much as possible; it's dense arrangement and female backing vocals proving the most ambitious and rewarding on the album.

As with the other releases in the reissue series, two discs accompany the main event, one a full collection of album demos, the other the album relived, minus "Dancing In Fog" and "Obligatory Ballad", in a variety of live settings, although we do have the bonus of "So Fellini" and "The Pilgrim's Address" in more than one guise. Even with the ever changing cast in the Fish live band, the standard never drops, however for most it will be the demos that hold most interest. The majority this time come in early, lo-fi instrumental form, although the opportunity to hear the songs in such embryonic form is more than welcome. Especially when you factor in that "Aggro", which lyrically morphed into "Square Go" a few years later, "End Of The Line" and "Federico" are all songs that never made the final cut. Add in an annoyingly thumpy remix of "Dancing In Fog" and wonderful acoustic take of "Our Smile" and this truly is an exhaustive reissue of yet another of the excellent albums in the impressive Fish catalogue.


Track Listing
CD1
1. 3D
2. So Fellini
3. Tiki 4
4. Our Smile
5. Long Cold Day
6. Dancing in Fog
7. Obligatory Ballad
8. The Pilgrim's Address
9. Clock Moves Sideways
CD 2 Demos
1. 3D (instrumental, 2 versions edited together)
2. So Fellini (instrumental)
3. So Fellini (instrumental)
4. Aggro (instrumental, track written by John Wesley ,never used and lyric idea became "Square Go" on 13th Star)
5. Clock Moves Sideways (instrumental)
6.14 Tiki 4 (acoustic instrumental)
7. Tiki 4
8. Long Cold day (instrumental)
9. End of the Line (instrumental, track written by John Wesley ,never used)
10. Federico – (full band instrumental jam, track never used)
11. Pilgrims Address
12. Our Smile (Piano/vox)
13. Dancing in Fog (remix)
CD 3 Fellini Days Radio Edits/Live versions
1. 3D (Rotterdam 2001)
2. So Fellini (from Nearfest DVD 2008)
3. Long Cold Day (Return to Childhood 2005)
4. Pilgrims Address (Oslo 2001)
5. Clock Moves Sideways (Fellini Nights 2001)
6. Our Smile (acoustic Leamington fan club convention 2012)
7. Tiki 4 (Oslo 2001)
8. Clock Moves Sideways (Oslo 2001)
9. So Fellini (Poznan 2001)
10. Pilgrims Address (acoustic version, St Mary's Haddington 2006)

Added: February 7th 2016
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Score:
Related Link: The Fishheads Clun
Hits: 2596
Language: english

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