Various (compiled by Chris Coco & Rob Da Bank) - Listen Again

All good things must come to an end. Nevertheless, it was with great sadness I read the news that BBC Radio 1's The Blue Room is to finish in September 2006. During its four years on air, I've tried to catch as much of I can of this show (before broadband not an easy task, given the unsociable broadcast times), to the extent that it feels like an old friend.

Listen Again can be regarded as the third Blue Room compilation, with presenters, Chris Coco and Rob Da Bank, each given a disc to showcase some of their favourite tracks. If the result is possibly not quite as good as its predecessors (both part of the furniture in the Donnelly household), it, at the very least, demonstrates how The Blue Room has transformed from chillout programming to arguably the best place for new music (and some old too!) in the BBC radio schedule.

The Blue Room experience is - to use a cliche - very much like a box of chocolates: a mixture of the fun and sincere, the electronic and the acoustic, the obscure and the shamelessly commercial. Then just when you think you have it sussed, a choice will subvert your expectations. In short, it's like scoffing a box of chocolates only to find you've broken your teeth on sonic gems. Or something.

Listen Again, of course, includes its fair share of electronica. Jori Holkonnen's easy house mix of Jose Gonzalez's Crosses is superb; The Freelance Hellraiser's Want You To Know and Rainbow Family's I Can See A Rainbow are the sort of big-hearted, catch all tunes that counter the accusations of music snobbery often levelled at the niche interest sector. (More so, they turn the question from "Why are you playing this weird shit?" to "Why does daytime radio ignore such potentially big songs?") Reflecting the show's "dub club" feature, the boys serve up a good helping of dub-type tracks (go on! eat! it's good for you!); from Prince Fatty's retro-styled Nina's Dance to the haunting Andy Warhol by Chris Coco himself.

Rob Da Bank, as ever, makes the more outlandish and contentious selections. Gogol Bordello's cult gypsy punk anthem, Start Wearing Purple, is about as far from downtempo as you can get. Then there's Pop The Glock, an r'n'b piss-take which is less clever than it thinks it is, and a track called Love Your Bum. If young teenagers, Kitty, Daisy, Lewis, sound like young teenagers on a BBC session cover of Canned Heat's Going Up The Country, that's surely the point. Genius or a bit naff? You decide. But at least someone isn't afraid to stick it on.

Fans of Scottish lo-fi and folk are in for a treat with three other session tracks from Arab Strap, James Yorkston and King Creosote. The latter's turn is a quite brilliant version of Nothing Compares To You. Given it's the final track on the final disc of the final Blue Room compilation, it seems rather fitting. While Blue Room virgins will now be kicking themselves for having never tuned in, the previously enlightened will no doubt be contemplating the demise of a unique radio show and - who knows? - possibly even shedding a tear.

Overall

8

out of 10

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