Various Artists - Kats Karavan: The History of John Peel on the Radio
If we loved John Peel for his flaws as much his strengths, then this 4-CD tribute to the great man just about fits the bill.
Arriving for review sans the two discs covering the 1960s, 70s and 80s made for inauspicious beginning, not aided by the fact the other discs proceeded to kill stone dead the disc drive in my PC, victim, perhaps, to some half-arsed anti-piracy measure. So if this - rather shorter than planned - piece comes over as a little surly, there are reasons, capice?
So what can we glean from the tracklist alone? Only that, like so many other similar sets, it's a compromise. A compromise between the creative types and the bean counters. While the former sneak acts like Ivor Cutler and Bearsuit onto the running order, it can't be allowed to hit the racks without the recognition factor created by 'Maps', 'In The City' or 'Whiskey In The Jar'. It's all about the sales.
It's a logic I've never understood.
Expensive sets like this are surely the domain of semi-obsessive music fans and the inclusion of over-familiar tracks like 'New Rose' or 'Pass The Dutchie' makes much of the set redundant for anyone with even a half-hearted collection. And yet the casual punter is never going to shell out for anything featuring Deaf School or Extreme Noise Terror either. So fill the discs with rare and hard-to-find material and ensure solid sales to the geeks or put out something more generalist that you can throw in the basket on the weekly visit to Asda. As things stand, this satisfies neither camp particularly well.
Of course, the tracklist reflects the breadth of material played on his radio show, although the chronological nature of the running order destroys any notion of trying to recapture the air of a typical night's broadcasting. If, as I'm let to believe, some tracks are linked by clips of dialogue it may stir a few emotions but it's a big ask to have me actually go downstairs and check the discs on another player. I would do anything for love, but I won't do that. Sorry.
There doesn't appear to be any African music and 'Teenage Kicks' is thankfully absent. We could spend the rest of the week discussing other oversights or inclusions but ultimately this is just an expensive mix-tape, of a kind you could rustle up in the comfort of your own home.
Raise a glass in his memory. Ponder upon just where Liverpool FC are going wrong this season. Put a fiver in a Diabetes UK collecting box. But buy this? About as redundant as my CD drive, to be honest - although the finished set, with its mock vinyl discs and sturdy accompanying hardback sleeve looks pleasant enough.