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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 31 May 2008
I'll give this 5 out of sheer nostalgia. Most of the bands/solo singers on this fab compilation notably Stud, Ashkan, Caravan, Egg, Principal Ted and Keef Hartley were the bedrock of my teenage to university years record collection. All those LPs are long lost to second hand music shops so it is great to find bits of them again to help me decide whether to seek out the albums again. Although a bargain at £12.98 this will end up being an expensive purchasive as I certainly will seek out the full albums as I did after discovering its predecessor,Legend of a Mind, which re-ignited my interest in the more obscure music of this wonderful period. The only personal downside is the large number of duplications from my current CD hoard. In spite of having 19 tracks on other albums this has still been well worth buying. The excellent remastering means that the 7 tracks from Decca's Psychedelic Scene that light up CD 1 sound almost like different numbers. In spite of the 5 stars I have a couple of quibbles eg the triple selections from Moody Blues, Caravan (brilliant), TYA and Bill Fay and doubles from Thin Lizzy etc reduce the scope for showcasing even more bands. My other quibble is that, having described Clark Hutchinson's A=MH2 in the excellent booklet,as a "stunning debut" the compiler chose a short unrepresentative track from their third album Gestalt. I recall A=MH2 as being brilliantly excessive but in need of a producer, but at least I can now track it down and avoid yet another duplication. Overall a great package with excellent production values.
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on 19 March 2017
This compilation saves you a fortune as many of the tracks are from impossibly rare releases. One or two efforts are a bit long and overblown, but generally the music is of a high quality. Decent booklet too.
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on 12 May 2008
Decca have done it again, with a second 3 CD box set as a follow-up to 'Legend Of A Mind'. 'Strange Pleasures' also comes with copious notes and illustrations in a fat little booklet - and the current price at Amazon.UK (mid May 2008) is a real bargain at less than 13 quid.

In the intervening 5 years, the Eclectic label (now Esoteric) have released a number of gems from the Decca/Deram archives, so now you might cynically said 'Strange Pleasures' is cheap sampler from some of those reissues (remastered for the most part) albums - but you can't go too far with that thought. Simply there is a lot of material which you will only find on 30 or 40 year old vinyl.

Whilst 'Strange Pleasures' is equally good or better than some of the competing labels' efforts to jump on the 'Legend Of A Mind' bandwagon, this isn't quite as good or balanced as 'Legend'. The compiler has again selected more than one track from the better known bands, so we once more get a couple of Caravan tracks (which IMHO are good choice), but the two TYA tracks are far less memorable, and two Moody Blues are disappointing. Elsewhere we are taken back to forgotten recordings (e.g. minor hit singles) which smack of pop rather than underground. There are number of other obscurities i.e. bands forgotten or never heard of, (even by the few of us old enough to have been around when first released): these are a mixed blessing. Some lack music creditability for this type of sampler, as not being strongly representative and/or weak musically. However, the good news, there are others I'm most pleased to see here: the early brass rock of Satisfaction (I complained at their absence from `Legend'), the Taste spin-off Stud (experimental rock of 1970, parallelling Patto or Skid Row at the time), Darryl Way's Wolf (the first example of John Etheridge's guitar with violin, here with band leader Way) and too an echo from Decca's 1969 sampler 'Wowie Zowie', Touch's "Down At Circe's Place". I must comment as a devoted Touch fan, the biography of the band in the booklet is the best and most detailed I've read. But I also note that between the CD sets `Legend' and `Strange Pleasures', these still have not completely duplicated those tracks found on `Wowie Zowie' - does the compiler have some problems with straighter jazz and some blues rock?

Because of some poorer/less satisfactory choices than before, I felt especially with the first album of this set that I had to wade through 2 or 3 undistinguished tunes before getting back to a track that wowed me. So I guess in the end, once you are familiar with this recording you will become selective in choices, with the weak tracks destined never to be played again.

Rating: 3.5 stars having previously marked 'Legend of A Mind', a superior set, 4 stars. Admittedly I have to reassess the star ratings I've given to couple of those competing box sets issued since 2003. In particular, 'Strange Pleasures' is a box set for those with fond memories of the period, or might use this as evidence(?)of musical changes occurring 1966 to 1975.
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This follow up to 2003's "Legend Of A Mind" is an even tastier proposition than that first box set. That is a true indication of the quality of material which Decca released back in the late 60's, early 70's. This is another 3 CD's packed with some real gems from the early days of progressive rock. Of course such compilations are going to be hit and miss, but there is nothing here that is less than interesting. There will be plenty here that even the fervent prog rock aficionado won't have heard before. Where else will you here such wonders as Tintern Abbey or Principal Edwards for instance. There are choice cuts from the obvious culprits like The Moody Blues, Caravan and Genesis. But it's the comparatively less well known acts such as Egg, East Of Eden, Darryl Way's Wolf and Touch that shine and were really what labels like Deram were all about.

Highlights for me are Egg's "Contrasong", East of Eden's "Marcus Junior" and particularly "J L T" by T2, whose "No More White Horses" (best known as being covered by Swedish prog supremos Landberk) was also a highlight of "Legend Of A Mind". The sound quality of most of these tracks is nothing short of exceptional. A credit to the producers and engineers of the day and Paschal Byrnes remastering. The packaging by Phil Smee is very classy indeed, with each CD enclosed in a mini LP style sleeve. The 48 page booklet is packed with archival photos and thoroughly detailed notes by compiler Mark Powell. This might be a budget priced box set, but there is nothing cut price about the quality of the music and presentation. A class act!
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There can't be too many music lovers (British especially) who don't get a slightly sicko and vicarious thrill at the mere sight of the magical 'Decca' label - home of so much class and (frankly frank) absolute shite. Like so many of the major labels of the time (probably run by squares dare we say it) - Decca threw it's old-fart hat into the ring and signed up all manner of Avant Garde and Progressive Rock reprobates in the late Sixties and early Seventies hoping to finance the next big thing. Sometimes they got lucky - other times we did - even when most of the time both of us lost money on the deal. So once more unto the laminate-sleeves breach my good friends - once more unto the Red and Blue Mono and Stereo punch-holes on the rear cover...

Released May 2008 - "Strange Pleasures: Further Sounds Of The Decca Underground" on Universal/Decca 530 5347 (Barcode 0600753053478) is yet another one of those lovingly researched and nattily presented 3CD mini box sets that have appeared in the last decade with alarming glee (as if they've a right to be like everyone else). You get 49 tracks from the `golden age of British Prog' stretching from early 1969 to late 1975), a jam-packed 48-page booklet annotated by people who care and know their stuff - and best of all for our ageing eardrums come - properly great remastered sound that finally gives this often blindingly good music another real chance to shine.

Here are the East Of Eden Deviants, the Principal Edwards and the Curiosity Shoppe Moody Blues (and that's way more than Ten Years After the Curved Air in the Tintern Abbey I can tell you)...

Disc 1 (Decca 530 5349) - 73:25 minutes:
1. In The Beginning - GENESIS (on the March 1969 Stereo LP "From Genesis To Revelation" on Decca SKL 4990)
2. Turn Into Earth - AL STEWART (B-side of "The Elf", his debut 45 on Decca F 12467 released July 1966 - his only release on the label)
3. Red Sky At Night - THE ACCENT (A-side of their lone UK 7" single on Decca F 12679 released October 1967 - a listed £300+ rarity. The band featured RICK HAYWARD who played on Christine Perfect's debut LP "Christine Perfect" and released a self-titled solo album of his own (also on Blue Horizon Records) in 1971)
4. Vacuum Cleaner -TINTERN ABBEY (B-side of "Bee Side" - a legendarily rare Psych 45 released December 1967 on Deram DM 164 - listed at £1000 but often sells for more)
5. Secret - THE VIRGIN SLEEP (A-side of a January 1968 UK 7" single on Deram DM 173. Their 2nd Psych single for the label (the other was "Love" on DM 146 in 1967) - listed rarity at £50+)
6. Twilight Time (Evening) - THE MOODY BLUES (from the November 1967 Stereo LP "Days Of Future Passed" on Deram SML 707. Their 2nd LP and 1st for Deram - their debut was "The Magnificent Moodies on Decca in July 1965)
7. Some Good Advice - BILL FAY (A-side of an August 1967 UK 7" single on Deram DM 143 - listed rarity at £60+)
8. Michaelangelo - 23rd TURNOFF (A-side of a 1967 UK 7" single on Deram DM 150. Listed Psych rarity at £90+. The band featuring Jimmy Campbell who went on to Rocking Horse and a solo career on Vertigo Records)
9. The Sounds - TEN YEARS AFTER (B-side of their debut UK 45 "Portable People" released February 1968 on Deram DM 176. The band featured ALVIN LEE and went on to huge success - especially in the USA after an appearance at Woodstock in August 1969. Both Lee and CHICK CHURCHILL had solo albums on Chrysalis in the Seventies)
10. Baby I Need You - THE CURIOSITY SHOPPE (A-side of their lone single - November 1968 UK 45 on Deram DM 220. Known Psych rarity listed at £100 but often sells for more)
11. Like A Tear - WORLD OF OZ (B-side of "Willow's Harp" - their 3rd single released January 1969 on Deram DM 233. It's also on their lone self-titled album for the label - Deram SML 1034 released February 1969. Band featured DAVID KUBINEC who later worked as a solo artist)
12. Down At Circe's Place - TOUCH (taken from their only LP "This Is Touch" released February 1969 on Deram DML 1033 (Mono) and SML 1033 (Stereo). Rare copies came with a poster and command £150+. The Stereo mix has been used here. An American band - they featured DON GALLUCCI who produced "Fun House" by The Stooges and worked with Tom Waits - while other band members JOEY NEWMAN, BRUCE HAUSER and JEFF HAWKS formed STEPSON who had albums on ABC Records).
13. Under The Rainbow - THE END (taken from the album "Introspection" released November 1969 on Decca SKL-R 5015. GRAHAM TAYLOR and DAVE BROWN from the band became TUCKY BUZZARD who had several albums on Chrysalis. Initially helped by Billy Wyman of The Rolling Stones - The End's Graham Taylor later joined Bill Wyman's band The Rhythm Kings)
14. Opening - THE DEVIANTS
15. I'm Coming Home - THE DEVIANTS (Both 14 and 15 are taken from the March 1969 album "Ptooff!" on Decca SKL-R 4993. Originally recorded during Acid Summer of 1967 - it was first released on the privately pressed Underground Imprint label and sold via the "IT Magazine" in small areas of London. The initial press is a £350+ rarity (with liner notes from DJ john Peel) while the Decca Reissue clocks in at £90+)
16. Northern Hemisphere - EAST OF EDEN (taken from their debut album "Mercator Projected" released March 1969 on Deram SML 1038. DAVE ARBUS - the band's Violin player - does the violin solo at the end of The Who's "Baba O'Riley" - the opening track on their 1971 "Who's Next" album)
17. Magician In The Fountain - SUNFOREST (taken from the album "Sound Of Sunforest" released January 1970 on Deram Nova DN 7 (Mono) and SDN 7 (Stereo). It's a known Folk-Acid-Rock rarity and is listed at £350+. The Stereo mix is used)
18. Jenra - DAVY GRAHAM (from the album "Large As Life, Twice As Natural" released January 1969 on Decca LK 4990 (Mono) and SKL 4990 (Stereo). A listed Folk-Rock rarity at £120+. The Stereo mix is used. A hugely influential acoustic guitar player - his style has been name-check by luminaries like Jimmy Page and Paul Simon. The instrumental "Jenra" - with its Danny Thompson double-bass backdrop against a foreground of loudly picked acoustic guitar - is stylistically similar to early John Martyn too)
19. The Best Way To Travel - THE MOODY BLUES (taken from their 3rd album "In Search Of The Lost Chord" released July 1968 on Deram DML 717 (Mono) and SML 717 (Stereo). The Stereo mix is used. It reached No. 5 on the UK album charts)
20. I Will Be Absorbed - EGG (from their debut album "Egg" released March 1970 on Deram Nova DN 14 (mono) and SDN 14 (Stereo). It's a known rarity listed at £120+ (Stereo mix is used). Dave Stewart (not the Eurythmics DS) later joined Steve Hillage's KHAN and became a member of HATFIELD AND THE NORTH and NATIONAL HEALTH. See also KHAN on Disc 3)
21. Bad Scene - TEN YEARS AFTER (from their 4th LP "Ssssh" released August 1969 on Deram DML 1052 (mono) and SML 1052 (stereo). The Stereo mix is used.

Disc 2 (Decca 530 5348) - 76:45 minutes:
1. If I Could Do It All Over Again, I'd Do It All Over You - CARAVAN (A-side of an August 1970 UK 7" single on Decca F-R 13063 [miscredited as 10363 in the booklet]. Also appeared on the September 1970 album of the same name on Decca SKL-R 5052)
2. Gypsy - THE MOODY BLUES (from the album "To Our Children's Children's Children" released October 1969 on Thresh TH 1. Threshold was the label formed by The Moody Blues.)
3. Garden Song - BILL FAY (taken from his debut album "Bill Fay" released February 1970 on Deram Nova SDN 12)
4. Atmosphere - DENNY GERRARD (taken from the album "Sinister Morning" released March 1970 on Deram DN 10 (Mono) and SDN 10 (Stereo). Was part of WARM DUST and produced the first HIGH TIDE album "Sea Shanties" on Liberty Records. Members of High Tide are featured on "Sinister Morning" - Stereo mix used)
5. Skillet - GALLIARD (taken from the album "Strange Pleasure" released January 1970 on Deram Nova DN 4 (Mono) and SDN 4 (Stereo). It's a known rarity listed at £200+. The Stereo mix is used)
6. Sharing - SATISFACTION (taken from the album "Satisfaction" released January 1971 on Decca SKL 5071. Featured Trumpeter MIKE COTTON with DEREK GRIFFITHS who went to the Keef Hartley Band and MILLER ANDERSON who joined DOG SOLDIER)
7. J.L.T. - T2 (taken from the album "It'll All Work Out In Boomland" released September 1970 on Decca SKL 5050. It's a known rarity and listed at £250+. The band featured KEITH CROSS on Guitars and Keyboards)
8. The Time Is Near - KEEF HARTLEY BAND (from the album "The Time Is Near" released August 1970 on SML 1071. It reached 41 on the UK album charts)
9. First Reminder - CLARK-HUTCHINSON (Taken from the album "Gestalt" released November 1971 on Decca SML 1090. Features ANDY CLARK on Keyboards and Vocals with MICK HUTCHINSON on Guitar. Both formed the fusion band UPP who had several albums on Epic Records)
10. Practically Never Happens - ASHKAN (taken from the album "Practically Never Happens" released January 1970 on Decca Nova SDN-R 1. They were the first band on Decca's Progressive label imprint `Nova')
11. Harpo's Head - STUD (from the album "Stud" released April 1971 on Deram SML-R 1084. The band featured Bassist CHARLIE MCRACKEN and Drummer JOHN WILSON who were the rhythm section in Rory Gallagher's superb TASTE. They also featured Ace guitar player JIM CREGAN who would become a huge part of Rod Stewart's Mercury Recordings)
12. Contrasong - EGG (taken from the album "The Polite Force" released November 1970 on Deram SML 1074)
13. Marcus Junior (7" Single Version) - EAST OF EDEN (May 1970 UK 7" single on Deram DM 297. It's the B-side of "Jig-A-Jig" which eventually charted April 1971 in the UK and rose to Number 7. There is a `alternate mix' of the track on the album "Snafu" - it's combined with "Leaping Beauties For Rudy" with the instrumental "Marcus Junior" being the second part of the song)
14. Winter Wine - CARAVAN (from the album "In The Land Of The Grey And Pink" released April 1971 on Deram SDL-R 1)

Disc 3 (Decca 530 5350) - 79:06 minutes:
1. Things Ain't Working Out Down At The Farm - THIN LIZZY (released April 1971 on the "New Day" EP on Decca F 13208. It was the last track on Side 2 of a 4-track non-album Extended Play. Original British issues (which played at 33 LP speed) came in a lovely gatefold picture sleeve and are very rare - listed value at £300+)
2. I'm Coming On - TEN YEARS AFTER (from the album "Watt" released December 1970 on Deram SML 1078)
3. Space Shanty - KHAN (taken from the album "Space Shanty" released June 1972 on Deram SDL-R 11. Featuring Steve Hillage and members of EGG - see Disc 2)
4. Cosmic Bride - ZAKKARIAS (from the album "Zakkarias" released October 1971 on Deram SML 1091. GEOFF LEIGH went to play with QUIET SUN and HENRY COW)
5. Time Of The Last Persecution - BILL FAY (from his second album "Time Of The Last Persecution" released January 1971 on Decca SML 1079)
6. Waterloo Lily - CARAVAN (from the album "Waterloo Lily" released May 1972 on Deram SDL-R 8)
7. Ballad Of The Queen Of Outer Space - PETE BROWN (on the album "The `Not Forgotten' Association" released October 1973 on Deram SML 1103. Lyricist to Jack Bruce and CREAM, Brown featured in BATTERED ORNAMENTS and then his own PIBLOKTO! On Harvest Records)
8. Steal The World - DARRYL WAY'S WOLF (from the album "Night Music" released November 1974 on Deram SML 1116. Founding member of CURVED AIR - Violin virtuoso Darryl Way made 3 albums with WOLF before re-joining Curved Air in 1974)
9. Spring's Sweet Comfort _ THE PARLOUR BAND (from the album "Spring's Sweet Comfort" released May 1972 on Deram SDL 10. PIX PICKFORD (Guitar and Vocals) and CRAIG ANDERS (Guitar and Vocals) formed A BAND CALLED "O")
10. Crying Won't Help You Now - CHICKEN SHACK (from the album "Imagination Lady" released February 1972 on Deram SDL 5. Features STAN WEBB on Guitar and Vocals with JOHN GLASCOCK on Guitar (formerly with THE GODS))
11. Sarah (Version 1) - THIN LIZZY (from their 2nd album "Shades Of A Blue Orphanage" released March 1972 on Decca TXS 108. Band features PHIL LYNOTT on Bass and Vocals, ERIC BELL on Guitars and BRIAN DOWNEY JR. on Drums. The song features CLODAGH SIMONDS of MELLOW CANDLE on Piano)
12. Triplets - PRINCIPAL EDWARDS (taken from the album "Round One" released March 1974 on Deram SML 1108. Taking their name from a Dean at Exeter University - started out their career on John Peel's Dandelion Records)
13. Marie Antoinette (Live) - CURVED AIR (from the album "Curved Air Live" released 1975 on Deram SML-R 1119. Taking their name from the 1971 Terry Riley LP "A Rainbow In Curved Air" - the band featured SONJA KRISTINA, DARRYL WAY and FRANCIS MONKMAN. Way formed WOLF (see 8 above) while Monkman would later form SKY with virtuoso classical guitarist John Williams)
14. New York Ladies - MICHAEL CHAPMAN (on the album "Millstone Grit" released November 1973 on Deram SML 1105)

As you can see from the lists above - the scope is wide, not too many duplication of artists and the playing times generous (especially Disc 3). It covers not just Decca but large wads of Deram and its Prog sidekick Nova. The fantastically detailed and feature packed 46-page booklet contains quality liner notes from noted musicologist MARK POWELL while the tape transfers and 24-bit remastering has ben done by long-time engineer genius PASCHAL BYRNE - a name that regularly turns up on these kinds of sets for Universal (he also practically the in-house go-to-guy for Esoteric Recordings who've reissued large amounts of British Prog, Psych and Folk-Rock. The audio quality to a man is shockingly good - clear, warm and full of analogue presence. This was `Decca' and they didn't piss about when it came to Production standards.

And as there's so much on here by so many - I've tried to give as much info as possible in each individual entry above. But here are some highlights... the slightly mopey BILL FAY and his two albums on Deram will be an acquired taste for some - but I suspect many others will see his lovely music as a major discovery. His "Garden Song" starts out all acoustic simple then goes into wild strings and brass flourishes ala Bacharach or Jimmy Webb. It sounds like the smarm of Randy Newman with the sensitivity of Nick Drake meets the sadness of Nilsson with strings. Americana band Wilco brought his music to more public attention by covering ""Be Not So Fearful" from the first album. Gorgeous stuff. The slightly menacing phased vocals that begin the chugging "Sharing" by Satisfaction is brilliant - Derek Griffiths' guitar and Mike Cotton's overlaid trumpet spikes coming on like Ten Years After meets Aphrodite's Child. The wonderful "J.L.T." by the obscure T2 features the genuinely talented KEITH CROSS on Guitars and Keyboards sounding not unlike Colin Blunstone both vocally and musically. Esoteric Recordings have reissued his album with PETER ROSS called "Bored Civilians" from 1972 on Decca - superb stuff as well.

The Canterbury Scene is represented by CARAVAN and the wonderfully titled "If I Could Do It All Again, I'd Do It All Over You" and EGG with Dave Stewart on Keyboards (not the Eurythmics DS). Ireland's STUD with Taste rhythm section and guitar supremo JIM CREGAN bring up the pure fusion front with the seven-minute "Harpo's Head" (an instrumental until its dying minutes). There's more Celtic magic with the fab ERIC BELL line-up of THIN LIZZY giving it some rock romanticism on Disc 3 along with the wildly influential fusion band KHAN with guitar loon STEVE HILLAGE. Keef Hartley gets all Soulful Bluesy on the impressive ten-minute "The Time Is Near" (easy to see why fans rate this album so much). And who doesn't get a rush to the heart at the mere sight of the gorgeous SONJA KRISTINA from CURVED AIR pictured in full-on stage garb on Page 30. It ends perfectly with one eye on Rock's more melodic future - the deliciously atmospheric "New York Ladies" - a fabulous echoed-guitar fest by MICHAEL CHAPMAN that conjures up another Harvest Records genius - Roy Harper (see separate reviews for Chapman's superb 1970 LP "Fully Qualified Survivor" on Harvest put out by Light In The Attic Records in 2011 and Harper's masterpiece "Stormcock").

So there you have it - half genius, half bonkers and criminally forgotten in most cases when much of it shouldn't be. What a great ride it all was though and revealing too.

And where was Thin Lizzy when all this was happening you might ask? Why she was with the Queen Of Outer Space and the Magician In The Fountain inside Harpo's Head with Marcus Junior and his Cosmic Bride - of course!

You see - you've learned something already. I'm not sure what it is - but isn't that half the fun...enjoy.
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on 30 June 2009
Beautiful faux-Martin Sharp box, great sleeve notes and then the sound of Decca rifling their own vaults for what I have to assume are just a few middle aged guys with fond memories of the originals plus a few younger record collectors not quite sure if "obscure" automatically means good. It doesn't, by the way.

A pity that the nuances of this tightly compressed era have been overlooked by successive generations, because the difference between "progressive"/"underground" of 69-71 and the later prog-rock or the earlier psychedelia are presumably lost in translation. But at the time, they were important... and in some ways it was a tussle between bands considered cool, and bands most decidely uncool. Decca had a roster that leaned towards the uncool...

So this put Ten Years After and the Moody Blues - both over-represented here - on the wrong side of critical acclaim after they garnered such massive success while, for example, Caravan were at the time never thought to have compromised. Ah, the harsh judgementalism of the young.

Anyway, what you get here is a cheerful mix kicked off by a very youthful Genesis, and the gems for me are Stud, Egg's Contrasong, and the wonderfully self-important and unintentionally awful "marie Antoinette" by Curved Air.

East of Eden sound good, but the Deviants are ... just ... dire. Why oh why did Mick Farren ever get given the mike?? Maybe he simply just seized it. Anarchy was big in certain circles. Oh, the Accent are worth a listen. Bill Fay, too.

But the dross also awaits you... which is part of the fun of such collections. Not quite as entrancing as some of the Acid/Psych Folk collections you get these days. But a good job and testament to a burst of creativity among the UK music scene for about 5 years max. Then, alas, came david Bowie, Glam Rock, Yes in satin flares, ELP.... oh the horror.

This is UK music, though, and how very english it seems. Those clipped accents of Caravan and Egg, lovely.
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on 18 July 2008
the ambition of most of these bands is quite breathtaking. it's a shame punk came along because it's totalitarian philosophy not only killed off the bad, but much of the good too. still at least john lydon admits he was a big prog fan now.
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on 18 October 2010
If your a fan of 60's underground, then this is a great place to start! A subperb compilation that's been put together with care.
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on 10 April 2016
Good compilation
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on 12 April 2015
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