1972 / US / 2023 / LP, Pink
Following a run with Cherry Red Records that featured a potential major label jump, guitarist Maurice Deebank quitting and rejoining multiple times, several pop stardom carrots just out of reach, mixing battles with Robin Guthrie, and a shocking entry into the record charts, Lawrence (just “Lawrence”, like “Cher” or “Madonna” thank you very much) knew he would be making a change with his band Felt. He would be seeing out his plan of ten albums and ten singles in ten years alongside a new partner in Creation Records. This compilation beautifully captures those years.
Creation was beginning a rapid ascent at the time, with Alan McGee serving as its hyperactive mouthpiece and focal point. McGee was all in on the band. “Lawrence achieved pop perfection, a breathless rush of sensitivity and intelligence. It was too understated to be commercial, too art to go pop, too pop to go art - in other words it was a perfect combination of all the music I loved at the time”. McGee was thrilled to have what he considered a real star on the label, and Lawrence was equally thrilled to have such an enthusiastic cheerleader. He funneled that enthusiasm into some of the most focused songwriting of his career, as well as some of his wildest experiments, all of which are on display here.
With Deebank officially departed, young Martin Duffy quickly assumed the role of songwriting foil, and his keyboard and organ work heavily colored these years in the best way possible. The compilation kicks off with Duffy’s 60s swirls racing against time in the most “Felt” titled tune ever, “I Will Die With My Head In Flames”. These years would see so many tight little 2:30 gems, as Lawrence became even more prolific. Ballads like “I Didn’t Mean To Hurt You” and the contemplative “The Final Resting Of The Ark” nestle up against the pop burst of “Sandman’s On The Rise Again” and the gorgeous shuffle of “Rain Of Crystal Spires” and total rock and roll perfection of “Ballad Of The Band”.
Duffy had become such a huge part of the band, and the Creation family, that he would be the cover star of Forever Breathes The Lonely Word and Felt would release records of only his material. His solo turns here, like “Autumn” and in particular “Magellan” showcase what a special talent he truly was. His influence created a Felt that could be equal parts Verlaine, Dylan, and Reed as well as Love and The Monkees, but it also stretched it into unknown territories. All of that coalesced into what would be the tenth and final single for the band, a song driven by Duffy’s R&B Fender Rhodes and Francis Sweeney’s violin, “Space Blues” features the perfect longing line for this era of Felt. Stars in their own orbit, yet yearning for an entirely different solar system.
“I’m your greatest fan, ‘cause you don’t give a damn”.