V.A. - Alphabeat MP3/Flac

altYou'd be forgiven for thinking at first glance that this was a Circle Records release. The graphics, layout and old-school glossy fold-over flaps cover on the LP are identical to the distinctive Circle template-even the Top Sounds logo is similar in style. Like any Circle release, Alphabeat also offers a glossy booklet insert loaded with notes and photos, and some top quality UK rarities from the closing years of the '60s. Opening the CD with a very dodgy live recording of the Barrier playing "Foxy Lady" was probably a misstep. It's not a bad version (it's the Barrier, after all) but the sub-par sound quality will immediately turn off many listeners and is not at all representative of the rest of the album, which sounds just fine, fidelity-wise (a second liver Barrier track excepted). Of most immediate interest to UK psych fans will be the four tracks by Graded Grains, a 'mystery band' known only for their two acetate-only tracks included on Chocolate Soup for Diabetics ("Animal Magic" and "Lucifer Sam"). On Alphabeat the band's identity is unmasked in the liners and "Animal Magic" is joined by three never before heard songs from a 1969 LP acetate. The group's Who-meets-Floyd sound (with a shake of Procol) is in full effect on all; "Gabriel Says Yes" and "Harry the Hermit" are particularly good, although, like "Animal Magic," infected by rather weak vocal harmonies. Even better is "Pumpkin Lantern," a haunted soul-flavored mover by the Pathfinders, taken from a 1968 acetate, paired with a decent version of the Bee Gees perennial "To Love Somebody," which also included here. Other highlights include hard drivin', Hammond-stoked rockers by Breakthru ("Here Comes the End"; from a '67 acetate) and Mississippi ("Mr Union Railway Man"; from a 1970 single). Also fantastic is a previously unknown recording by the Black Cat Bones, which appeared only on a promotional LP for the QE2. "Warmth of the Day" was recorded in 1968, when future Downliner Paul Tiller was their lead vocalist and harp player. Unlike the band's usual meat'n'spuds blues-rock fare, this is more of a psych-pop outing (though spiced with blues harp), and very tasty it is too. Hopefully, this will be the first of many Alphabeats to come.
(review by Mike Stax, "Ugly Things" magazine)

This CD (Top Sounds TSCD 001 / 2005) had also a vinyl release the same year. Top Sounds continued this series but under a new moniker: Shapes and Sounds. (By the way, did anybody say I'm not posting frequently?)

1. Barrier - Foxy Lady
2. Graded Grains - Gabriel Says Yes
3. Pathfinders - Pumpkin Lantern
4. Breakthru - Here Comes The End
5. Graded Grains - Animal Magic
6. Mississippi - Mr. Union Railway Man
7. Unknown - First Back From Heaven
8. Graded Grains - On The Dole
9. Pathfinders - To Love Somebody
10. Graded Grains - Harry The Hermit
11. Black Cat Bones - Warmth Of The Day
12. Breakthru - Spoonful
13. Barrier - Toad

Get it here (Artwork included)