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Shack – Time Machine (The Best Of Shack) – 2007

Shack- Time Machine (The Best Of Shack) – 2007
Audio CD (24 Sep 2007)
Number of Discs: 1
Label: Sour Mash

One of Britain’s greatest unsung bands. Well, I mean unsung in terms of not having any renown. Not in terms that they can’t sing in tune!

This is what you could loosely term a “greatest hits” collection. Except, of course, they never had any fucking hits! While far inferior cnuts such as Oasis and the ilk mysteriously racked up countless top tens!

Life sure ain’t fair!

Reminds me of when I was a kid and this one year my mom said Santa never came because the Easter Bunny had undergone a nuclear mutation, somewhat like David Banner, and had savagely killed Santa.

Wait til I get my hands on that fucking mutated Easter Bunny!

Of course, Shack’s debut album was lost when the studio burnt down with the masters inside it. It was later “recreated” – after a fashion in the mighty Michael Head & The Strands – Magical World of the Strands already posted here.

There are well known stories relating to the Head brothers who have been the nucleas of Shack since their formation in the late 80s following the demise of the Pale Fountains. These are stories dug up everytime Shack have released a record in the last decade – their bad luck, record companies folding, studios burning down, addictions, releasing singles about disabled folk getting it on in Amsterdam (where is Oscar?), and how they should have been as big as The Roses.

Great gossipy stuff, but take that away and focus on what’s left – a bunch of great songs from several great albums and here they are (mostly, though Ted Kessler’s excellent sleevenotes address the point regarding the tracklisting – maybe they should have issued a double best of, like Flying High by Gene Clark?).

Still, here are 16 tracks from 1990 onwards (nothing from Zilch as the production by Ian Broudie was of its time – hope they re-record some of those songs, or that they turn up on the projected live album), plus two newies in the form of Holiday Abroad and Wanda. My favourite song these days is Moonshine, and that’s not here – still, I will point you back to the source records.

As a primer this collection rocks and it’s nice to have 69 minutes of greatness on one happy cd…

My first Shack album is one I still have a budget priced tape of – HMS Fable, which got some great reviews but didn’t shift much – they were great supporting Beth Orton that year and it was a pleasure every few years to get a Shack album. Hope a new one appears soon…The mythic Waterpistol is the one people go on about, a much better album than either The LA’s or The Stone Roses, it would be nice to see a tarted up/expanded version of it and the rest of the Shack back catalogue in the near future.

The album opens with ‘I Know You Well’, the earliest song here and one found as a bonus track on the pricey Japanese import of Zilch – this was a single from 1990 and one somehow lost amid the whole Madchester thing – they probably registered less high than The High! Later on is another hard to find single from 1991, ‘Al’s Vacation’ – both sound like they’ve been copied from elsewhere and not mindblowing quality, but both remain classic singles and offering the template Shack have mined since.

There is a suspicion that they put something in the water in Liverpool, so many of those bands seem to have a thing for Beefheart & Love (the Head brothers toured with Arthur Lee in the 90s and regularly covered A House is Not a Motel)- Shack were probably the first to do that, and The Coral and the decidely average Zutons owe them a debt. I’m not sure why it is that I have problems with Oasis and Weller, but have no problems with the band they call Shack – many of the songs do sound like the Byrds or Love, but somehow sound like Shack too.

People go on about the Libertines, but they only had a few tunes – Shack have loads and here most of them are. If you like great songs and melodies to live by – get some of this Psychedelic Scouse!!

Very hard to pick something from any of their albums, so I shall stress the whole primer notion – though Sgt Major had to be included, reminds me of the first time I heard Waterpistol and got my mind thoroughly blown.

Other Waterpistol gems include Neighbours (some great ba ba ba’s – up there with those on certain early records by Julian Cope). Shame that there’s nothing from the Magical World of the Strands, a collection well worth investing in, so the jump is made to HMS Fable for the tracks Comedy, Pull Together, Streets of Kenny, & Cornish Town. Great stuff, though I was bowled away by the live versions of some of the Fable tracks on their recent tour – make it a double live album please!

The selections from Here’s Tom with the Weather are great, though you’ll end up naming the missing songs, the best here is Meant to Be which is one of their most adventerous recordings with great brass and an inventive take on that Byrds/Love sound – it’s probably their You Set the Scene! Hard to quibble with the tracks from …On the Corner of Miles and Gil – Shelley Brown is a masterpiece (then again so is Moonshine…and the rest), while Cup of Tea remains a joy (why is it that bands like Shack and Super Furry Animals make these great pop songs and get nowhere?), and it’s great that Butterfly is included – the two John Head lead vocal tracks on Miles and Gil are particularly wonderful, and here he sounds a bit like Gene Clark.

If you’ve never heard Shack…you missed out, but you could start here. If you have heard of them, you’ll probably buy this anyway, and moan about what was left off. Compilation of 2007 anyway, and here’s to more stuff from Shack in 2008 – a National Treasure, I feel.

By Jason Parkes


1. I Know You Well
2. Comedy
3. Cup Of Tea
4. Al’s Vacation
5. Pull Together
6. Meant To Be
7. Butterfly
8. Sgt Major
9. On The Terrace
10. Undecided
11. Cornish Town
12. Miles Apart
13. Streets Of Kenny
14. Shelley Brown
15. Neighbours
16. Holiday Abroad
17. Wanda

Here be a Shack attack;……part1.rar……part2.rar

Big thanks to the original poster

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June 20, 2008 Posted by | Michael Head, Music_Alternative, Shack, The Strands, _MUSIC | Leave a comment

Michael Head & The Strands – Magical World of the Strands

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Michael Head & The Strands – Magical World of the Strands
Audio CD (2 Mar 1998)
Label: Megaphone
ASIN: B000024XK7

Shack’s debut album was lost when the studio burnt down with the masters inside it. The head of the record label had a DAT, but where’d he put it? In the back of a taxi somewhere in the US.

The band dissolves. A French fan with money and time offeres to fund a second record, but the band doesn’t exist anymore, so it can’t be a Shack record. Step forward Michael, it’s your songs he loves, your vision he’s bankrolling. And so, and so…

The Magical World Of The Strands is the record that resulted from that French fan’s conviction and financial commitment. What did Michael Head do? Mick Head recruited his brother on guitar, a drummer and a bassist, and augmented them with a flutist and a string quartet to record his songs, and the result is (excuse the hyperbole) one of the most precious albums ever recorded. The sound is strange and timeless, yet the complexity and space within the arrangements betray its modernity.

Mick’s quiet, forlorn voice floats in the mid-ground, flanked on either side and underpinned by his own acoustic guitar and the bright but hushed figures of his brother’s lead playing. Bass guitar and kick-drum are felt rather than heard, characterised by depth and lack of form, active at an almost impossible distance beneath the melody lines while John Head’s backing vocals exist at one remove from his brother’s voice, the familial relationship unhindered by vocal legroom. The string quartet is used almost as a lead instrument, sometimes symbiotic and sometimes juxtaposed with the guitar, oceans of harmonic space between the two exploited by the almost imperceptible droning melodies acted out by the flute which becomes textural rather than linear.

Like all great records The Magical World Of The Strands is equal parts light and darkness, joy and beauty shadowed by essential and human faculties of weakness, greed, bitterness and foolishness. Only Mick Head can sing the words “it’s harvest time” over acres of elliptical acoustic guitars and make it sound like some distant historical profundity rather than something you grow out of after autumn term at infant-school. These two brothers have struggled and succumbed and climbed out again and it’s written through the heart of this record.

There isn’t a great deal left to say… After the critical (but not commercial – you try finding a copy now) success of The Magical World Of The Strands, Shack reformed and recorded the over-eager and disappointingly straightforward HMS Fable for London Records, which NME nearly made their ‘Album of the Year’ in 1999. London then promptly dropped Shack, and the merry-go-round of misfortune and misery continued. Mick and John are scheduled to release a new Shack album, titled Here’s Tom With the Weather in August this year, but to be honest I’m hardly on tenterhooks.

The Head brothers have already made their classic. The Magical World Of The Strands is, to my ears at least, one of the greatest albums ever recorded.


1. Queen Matilda
2. Something Like You
3. And Luna
4. X Hits The Spot
5. Prize
6. Undecided
7. Glynys And Jaqui
8. It’s Harvest Time
9. Loaded Man
10. Hocken’s Hey
11. Fontilan

Here be Strands;

download shackinallbutname.rar

Big thanks to the original poster

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June 20, 2008 Posted by | Michael Head, Music_Alternative, Shack, The Strands, _MUSIC | Leave a comment