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  1. Back in 1994 sometime I was lazing at home with MTV on (in those long-lost, far-off days when MTV actually played music) and on came this amazing song. The band were called Orange and the song was “Judy Over The Rainbow”. I rushed out the very next day and bought a copy and to this day it remains a huge favourite and one of the great lost singles of the 1990’s. If only “the kids” had picked up on Orange and not some other band beginning with O around then the musical world of the 90’s could have been a very different and consequently better place. “Judy Over The Rainbow” was to be Orange’s only release and they promptly disappeared. 

    Thanx to the development of the Internet since then I would occasionally look for any other shred of info about them and eventually turned up that Orange was basically songwriter Rick Corcoran from Sheffield. I also found out he had formed another band called The Orgone Box who released a CD in Japan in 1996 that was almost impossible to find. Then, very recently, I discovered that a small Indie label in Tunbridge Wells had re-issued it on Green vinyl and here it is.

    I dropped the needle for the first time with great trepidation thinking “this is either gonna be majestic or shite”. Well, it’s neither. It’s certainly no “Judy Over The Rainbow” (even though there is a version of that song on here) but it is a million miles from being shite. Imagine if you would that prime ’67 Syd Barrettt had made a collaboration album with Jellyfish while all of them had spent a lot of time listening to the Dukes of Stratosphear while living in a flat in Liverpool and you’ll be somewhere close to where The Orgone Box are coming from.

    Opener “Hello Central...Give Me Ganymede” and final track “Ticket With No Return” both fit that last paragraph’s description perfectly (while also being the best two songs on the record), a twangy 60’s guitar riff, strange lyrics and an overall pop-psyche feel that naggingly feels like it should come from Liverpool but doesn’t. It’s all less than perfectly recorded, a lot of the tracks have the feel of demo’s about them, in fact if you played me this albums version of “Judy Over The Rainbow” and told me it was a demo by Orange, I’d believe that. Rick Corcoran seemingly hated the major label experience and the recording processes that came with it. After recording “Judy Over The Rainbow” with Orange I’ve read he walked away from his major deal, borrowed some basic recording equipment and that’s where these recordings spring from.

    I can’t help but feel that we all missed out on something of a talent when Rick Corcoran walked away from Orange and the music biz but so long as he was happy making these low key/low-fi-ish recordings then who am I to question him ? Have a listen to the two versions of “Judy Over The Rainbow” and forever wonder why it wasn’t a huge success…

    Judy Over The Rainbow (Orgone Box) - https://youtu.be/L5nl8aW1v4s?si=NdJRSp1yg1zbRs4L

    Judy Over The Rainbow (Orange) - https://youtu.be/UjRzr7p0reU?si=J200GbBYb2a2KS8F

  2. Okkervil River’s most recent release which I acquired because 1) I like them 2) it was there, and 3) it’s on very pretty Purple marbled vinyl. Released in 2018, they had released another 5 albums between “The Stand Ins” and this one including one with former 13th Floor Elevator Roky Erikson.

    As noted before, singer and main songwriter Will Sheff has a fragile kind of voice and a warped sense of lyric writing, on this album there’s definitely a flavour of Jonathan Richman about some of Sheff’s delivery. First song “Famous Tracheotonics” is about himself and various other celebrities, Gary Coleman (the actor from “Diff'rent Strokes” if you were wondering), Mary Wells, Dylan Thomas, Ray Davies, who have all had tracheotomies. It also features a musical steal from The Kinks “Waterloo Sunset” as Ray Davies experience with this particular medical procedure indirectly inspired that wonderful song.

    I’m honestly struggling with how to describe Okkervil River to you. Wikipedia tags them as being Indie, Folk and Alternative rock, none of those are wrong, but you could also tag them as Americana on the level of this being obviously American music rather than countrified which is what Americana has come to represent. Yet this album features wide use of synthesisers, electronic percussion and processed guitars and I can’t help feeling the influence of Bowie on them (listen to the Sax on “The Dream And The Light” it’s pure asthmatic Bowie Sax). They’re not an easy band to pin down, which I guess is what makes them interesting to me.

    Pulled Up The Ribbon - https://youtu.be/PZ7bMUsOu7w?si=p1DIMtNdsY75PKAN

  3. The reasons why I first began to listen to Okkervil River are lost to history. The albums I first heard I do remember were the matched pair, “The Stage Names” and this one, “The Stand Ins”, they were released a year apart but are seen as being two halves of the same album, “The Stand Ins” being part 2. Singer and chief songwriter Will Sheff has a fragile kind of voice (a voice that has something of Edwyn Collins about it) and a warped sense of lyric writing, culminating in last track “Bruce Wayne Campbell Interviewed On The Roof Of The Chelsea”, Bruce Wayne Campbell being the real name of ridiculously hyped Bowie wannabe Jobriath who met his maker in a pyramid-capped apartment atop NYC’s famed Chelsea Hotel…see what I mean, warped.

    “The Stand Ins” is a great album, but what raises it, in my estimation, to something really special is that it is home to the song “Blue Tulip” which is, and please excuse my language, fucking incredible. It’s a long meandering, melancholic torch song, the story of which appears, to me, to be of a fellow who is hopelessly in love with an actress (or maybe a dancer) and that love is completely unrequited as she has another romantic interest. But he keeps an eye on her, looking out for her in the forlorn hope that she’ll see him and…It’s utterly beautiful and when I was lucky enough to see them play it live in 2008 it reduced me to tears. To my mind that one song makes this album more than worth the entry fee.

    Every song in here is an 8/10, and it’s not often you find a record like that. It covers uptempo Motown-ish pop to mournful dirges via rip-roaring Indie-pop, all delivered in Will Sheff’s louche style. Okkervil River (or is that just Will Sheff ?) are quite a special band and it really is a mystery to me that they’re not much better known.

    Blue Tulip - https://youtu.be/TaNtRRxpReY?si=tqypxOAOi1py_y2V