12 Jun 2017

Nirvana (UK) - Local Anaesthetic / Songs of Love & Praise


Reviewed by Nathan Ford

UK psych-pop duo Nirvana had a pretty good run on Island Records. The three albums they recorded for Island are now held in high regard (although they weren't hugely successful at the time), and tracks like "Rainbow Chaser" and "Tiny Goddess" are among the very best that UK psychedelia had to offer from the next tier bands.

With the arrival of the progressive era Alex Spyropoulos amicably left, leaving Patrick Campbell Lyons in sole charge of the name and his sole album for the Vertigo label "Local Anaesthetic" is an adventurous stab at the prog-rock aesthetic from an artist who's gift was for perfect three minute pop singles. This being the case, you'd expect this to be a somewhat uncomfortable metamorphosis, but where side long tracks were the order of the day, Campbell Lyons' approach was to continue to write those perfect, short pop gems, stick them together into side long suites, and surround himself with tried and true prog legends (Jade Warrior and King Crimson's Mel Collins) who could stretch the material into more ambitious directions. It's not always 100% successful but it's never dull. And the sleeve is one of iconic Vertigo photographer Keef's very best.

More successful, but less popular from a collector's viewpoint is the followup album "Songs of Love & Praise", released on the Philips label in 1972. It's a bit of a forgotten entry in the Nirvana catalogue. All traces of psychedelia have been stripped away and the lengthy prog expeditions of "Local Anaesthetic" have been left behind in favour of a simpler, contemporary pop approach, which reminds me a lot of the sort of material that Ray Davies and Donovan were producing around this time, although the inspiration here appears to be less sporadic than the scattershot approach these two were exhibiting by this point.

The re-recordings of "Pentecost Hotel" and "Rainbow Chaser" aren't a patch on the originals and give the impression that Campbell Lyons was perhaps struggling a little in the songwriting department at the time, an impression which is certainly not borne out by the new tracks which make up the rest of the album. Again leading a crack band, Campbell Lyons seems much more comfortable here and the arrangements are inventive, with some lovely instrumental interludes.

I admit I didn't expect much from "Songs of Love & Praise", but put aside expectations of trippiness and this is a pretty hard album to dislike. It's not hugely substantial, but it is thoroughly charming. Particularly fine is the closing "Stadium", which provides a rousing, climactic end to the original album.

Both releases are lovingly remastered as is Esoteric's way, with extensive sleeve notes and bonus tracks that don't detract from the main course and will prove essential to collectors.

Available here and here.

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