Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Poets - Scotland's No. 1 Group

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Although they only released half a dozen singles, these were enough to firmly establish the Poets' status as the best Scottish rock group of the mid-'60s. It's true that this is akin to being a big fish in a small pond -- not many Scottish bands recorded in the 1960s, and not many of them were at all notable. But that shouldn't detract from the genuinely high quality of their records, which still remain known only to a relatively small band of collectors.

The Glasgow group differed from most other Scottish combos of the time in that they concentrated almost exclusively on original material, which alternated between mournful, almost fey ballads and storming mod rockers. Critics have compared the melodic, minor feel of much of their work to the Zombies... Read More...


For most purposes, this is a fine and definitive overview of the output of the band that was indeed Scotland's number one group in the 1960s, in quality if not commercial success. Both sides of all six of the Poets' 1964-1967 singles are here, as well as no less than 11 demos that were not released at the time. One flaw worth noting is that the singles are not mastered from the best possible tapes; however, the difference in fidelity between this and a compilation from more, shall we say, above-the-board sources is so minimal as to be almost meaningless. Fans of the Poets (and they are more numerous than one might suppose) might well already have another, quite similar compilation, In Your Tower, which includes much but not all of the contents from Scotland's No. 1 Group. So, how does one choose? Well, that's a tough one. Each disc has the essential core of the band's discography: both sides of those half-dozen singles. Each also has the quite good, if a little scratchy and muffled, 1965 demos "I'll Keep My Pride" and "It's So Different Now." In Your Tower, however, does have some items not on Scotland's No. 1 Group, and although some of those are pretty dispensable, two are noteworthy: the hypnotic George Gallacher post-Poets track "Dawn," and the mysterious unreleased late-'60s song "Never Thought She Would." Scotland's No. 1 Group, however, has no less than nine 1963-1964 demos not on the other compilation, and although their fidelity veers from substandard to downright treacherous, these include some very good originals: the folk-rockish "Love Is Fading Away," the doomy pseudo-Merseybeat of "This Woman Mine," and the chipper "With You By Me" (the last two of these songs are each presented in two different versions). Those interested enough in the Poets in the first place to want a compilation should throw in the towel and get both. It's still frustrating that the optimum Poets anthology -- which would include all the singles from the master tapes, everything from these two discs, and other unreleased tracks rumored to exist in the vaults -- has yet to be assembled.
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