When is a compilation not a compilation? When it is an album padded out by a few contemporaneous bonus tracks. Except it isn’t, because those additional b-sides, singles and rarities are dotted around before, after, and even during the original album’s run time.
There’s also the fact that Re-Cycled Vinyl Blues is almost everything that Neil Innes released as a solo act while he was signed to United Artists Records, omitting only his first and last singles of the era, and their accompanying B-Sides. So it’s not even exhaustive.
On paper Re-Cycled Vinyl Blues really shouldn’t work, as it follows the Kiss This pattern of just piling all of an act’s material recorded for a certain label together and releasing the damn thing. However, an initial listen to the CD reveals that quite a bit of thought had gone into the sequencing of the album. It’s not chronological, it breaks up How Sweet to Be an Idiot by having standalone singles dropped in midway through it’s running order, but it opens with “Re-Cycled Vinyl Blues”, a cracking standalone single which references the then current 70s oil-crisis, music’s habit of regurgitating the same tunes and ideas, and pop music’s inherent disposability, all in one instantly likeable tune which sets the tone for the whole compilation and raises a smile while it does it.
Other singles standout to, such as the satirical protest tune, “Lie Down and Be Counted”, but it is How Sweet to Be an Idiot which is this collection’s main course, with it being an audio kaleidoscope of funny, sweet and downright melancholic songs, with great tunes like “Immortal Invisible” and “Singing a Song Is Easy” putting together a strong case for Innes being one of the greatest undervalued pop writers that England has ever produced. Best of all though is the album’s title track, a heart wrenchingly beautiful ballad to under-achievement.
Just when you thought Re-Cycled Vinyl Blues had played it’s cards, one of the great lost B-sides of the 70s rears up like a galleon coming out of a heavy sea mist. “Fluff on the Needle” may lampoon 70s teenage angst, but that doesn’t detract from the fact it’s an absolute corker of a tune.
The collection closes with “Bandwagon” a final B-side, and one which reputedly features the talents of Michael Palin. It’s a quirky number, and while closing a compilation with a live cut could be perceived as lazy, in the case of Re-Cycled Vinyl Blues, it actually works quite well. In fact, that assessment could go for this whole compilation. It breaks all the rules, it shouldn’t work, but it’s utterly likeable regardless.
Well done Mr Innes.