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Audio CD | Box Set
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Audio CD, Box set, 7 Sep 2018
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Often referred to as the UKs answer to The Band or The Eagles, Meal Ticket were a formidable force on the booming Pub Rock circuit of the mid 70s. This 3 CD box set features each of their albums Code Of The Road, Three Times A Day and Take Away two of which have not previously been issued on CD. Two rare live B-sides have been added which, along with singles such as Simple, Yesterdays Music, The Shape Im In and Blame, give a complete round up of all of the bands released material for EMI International and Logo Records. Michael Heatley, editor of History Of Rock and long-time champion of Meal Ticket, has provided insightful sleeve notes in conjunction with the band. As well as the three albums in replica card wallets the box also contains a 20 page booklet. Mastered from the original tape source by James Bragg
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It remains a mystery why the band never made it big. Perhaps the notion of a British group singing about on-the-road adventures in remote outposts of the American Midwest or down in the Deep South just didn’t connect with UK audiences, and was seen as lacking authenticity. But musically, it was damn near faultless.
I wore out my vinyl copy decades ago, but now finally one of the most glaring reissue oversights of all time is put right with a debut CD release as part of a three-album box set, which also includes the band’s two subsequent LPs “Three Times A Day” and “Take Away”.
Unlike so many bands that take themselves far too seriously, Meal Ticket’s impressive musicianship was allied to a neat line in self-deprecation, viz the likes of “Day Job”, the tale of a band’s repeatedly unsuccessful attempts to land a deal (refrain: “I like your act, but don’t give up your day job!”), and “The Code Of The Road (Travellers Bible)”.
“Golden Girl” is a gorgeous sepia-tinted lament for lost love. You feel the narrator’s pain as you visualise the falling autumn leaves that he sadly recalls.
Even better is “The Man From Mexico”, the tale of a mysterious Shane-like character who rides into town and saves the day for the local townsfolk before disappearing into the sunset as silently and unnoticed as he’d arrived, leaving just a silver bullet on the table. The track builds slowly, finally achieving lift-off with a memorable chorale that takes the song in a completely different direction, before fading from view much like the song’s protagonist.
The second album “Three Times A Day” was released just a few months later, fueling the suspicion that these were songs that the band had left over from their debut release and which hadn’t made the cut first time round. Certainly, it’s a much more ordinary affair and lacks the sparkle of its predecessor. “This Could Be The Town”, “Oh Sister” and “Laughing Daughter” are probably the pick of the bunch but overall it was a disappointing follow-up.
With “Take Away”, released in 1978, the band rediscovered its mojo. This third album feels closer in spirit and quality to “Code Of The Road” without quite hitting the same heights. “Down On My Knees (After Memphis)”, “Lone Star Motel”, “Bonnie Lee’s Dinette”, “At The Funny Farm” and “Get On Board” are particularly memorable while the poignant “Lucy” is very much in the vein of “Golden Girl”. The two live bonus tracks on this third disc are excellent too.
Meal Ticket's subsequent output may have been patchy, but “Code Of The Road” remains their moment of glory and is worth the price of this box set on its own.
This music and storytelling still stands up today, and the booklet provides interesting 'where are they now' information.
I loved the vinyl, so I'm biased, but I loved this.
If you like 'Los Pacaminos' or Sarah Vista, you won't go wrong here.
Only downside for me was that Amazon don't provide the autoripped mp3s for this album. Dunno why, mibbe licensing?
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