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TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 10 October 2009
Founded by the redoubtable Tony Stratton-Smith in 1969, Charisma Records
played a hugely important role in the musical education of a wild and
somewhat wayward young Wolf.
The label was a hallmark for quality, single-mindedness and innovation.

This wonderful 3-disc compilation is an unmissable labour of love.
There are so many treasures here from the period spanning 1969-1978
that it would take a month of Sundays to give full credit to the amazing
range of artists and music contained within its covers.

Van Der Graaf Generator; Audience; The Nice; Rare Bird; Genesis; Brand X.
All of them part of the richly rewarding soundtrack to my adolescent wanderings.
It is very moving to be reminded of the times, the sounds and the people.

Peter Hammill, singing his heart out with VDGG on the anthem-like 'Refugees'.
(Surely one of the finest and largely unnoticed voices of our time ?!)

Two incredible vocal performances too from Audience's Howard Werth on
'House On The Hill' (from the 1971 album of the same title) and 'Jackdaw'.
One of the most musically intelligent and erudite bands of the period.

There's a magical treat from Clifford T Ward with the beautiful
'Gaye' - a song I had long forgotten which, upon hearing again,
brought an honest tear to my eye.
(Hmm...A really soppy tale could be told here
but it is probably best left to memory!)

Scottish band String Driven Thing's 'Heartfeeder' is another
powerfully nostalgic highlight.

For the rest Peter Gabriel's 'Solsbury Hill' , The Nice's
'America (Second Amendment)' and 'Country Pie/Brandenburg Concerto No 6',
and Rare Bird's 'Sympathy' are extraordinary reminders of the solid and
uncompromising platform which Charisma gave to its incomparable stable
of unique artists and bands.

The most uplifting moment of all for me was hearing Brian Davison's
Every Which Way performing 'Bed Ain't What It Used To Be'.
A major force who, sadly, never fully realised their potential.

For those who care to remember even Monty Python's 'Spam Song' is here !

A big little piece of musical history.

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The forty four tracks on Refugees provide a fascinating glimpse of the first ten years of one of the UK's most quirky independent record labels - the late Tony Stratton-Smith's Famous Charisma label. Now only a shadow in the Virgin/EMI stable, in its seventies heyday the label had some top acts and was very successful.

Refugees? Well there is the single version of Van Der Graaf Generator's 1970 song of the same name included here, and also a track from the band Refugee - formed from the remains of the Nice with Swiss keyboard player Patrick Moraz. But I suppose the real refugees are the artists who couldn't find a home elsewhere and were made welcome by "Strat" on his label.

Some of the material included will be very familiar to a fair few of us, Clifford T Ward, The Nice and Rare Bird, for example, other stuff less so. The Genesis tracks featured are the B-side of a single and an EP track, rather than just adding a well known album track you probably have anyway. Most of the material has been remastered especially for this compilation with help from Abbey Road's Peter Mew.

The packaging is yet another creation of the ever talented Phil Smee, and the accompanying booklet has artist's biographies, discographies and full track details. The set is presented in a double jewel case with disc one and the booklet in the first half and discs two and three in the second half. Refugees is nicely produced and competitively priced and deserves to sell well. Although there is a good selection of 70's rock, erring towards prog, there is also some comedy from the Pythons and a hint of folk.

If you had albums featuring the Charisma pink scroll, or Sir John Tenniel's drawing of the Mad Hatter, then you will love this fine anthology collection of some of the label's high points. If you are unfamiliar with the material but like 70's rock with a British twist and a touch of prog and whimsy then this set will give you just that. A fine tribute to "Strat", his artists and his label.
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on 24 October 2009
As a collector of Charisma records since I bought my very first record; '...and then there were three...' by Genesis in 1978, I feel quite well placed to comment on this package.

Following the 'Charisma Box' released some years ago now (where have those years gone?) comes this new three disc set capturing the cream of the label in the years 1969 to 1978; some would say the heyday for the label. It's a very mixed bunch with prog, folk, AOR and even comedy from the Pythons. Something for everyone, and a tribute to the talent spotting of label founder, the late Tony Stratton-Smith. But despite the diversity, it's all good!

The set itself has been lovingly produced with a thick booklet packed with facts about the artists featured and many photos. The design and effort that has gone into this is superb; even down to the 'pink scroll' designs on the three discs. Each track has info about its original release and the track included by Bell+Arc makes its first appearance on CD.

Individual tracks that for me stand out are 'Refugees' by VDGG, 'Twilight Alehouse' the rare Genesis B-side from the 'I know what I like' single, 'City Song' by Lindisfarne from the 'Fog on the Tyne' album (containing some wonderful production by Bob Johnston, especially on the echoing harmonies), Clifford T Ward's timeless 'Gaye' and Peter Gabriel's finest solo hour in 'Solsbury Hill'. There's hardly a duff track on here really.

A few minor quibbles I do have which would have resulted in 4.5 stars if that had been possible (I rounded up to 5). There is duplication of artists and an exclusion of other contenders from the Charisma stable in this period. Gary Shearston's 'I get a kick out of you' is a major omission. I would also have liked to have seen included a track by Pacific Eardrum (one of the few Charisma bands featuring a female band member); Levinsky/Sinclair whose soaring 'Only feel this way' should have been a big hit; The Blue Max with 'Dream Machine' and finally Chris White whose Beach Boys style rendered a minor hit in 1976 with 'Spanish Wine'.

One final thought; Charisma shared catalogue numbers with B&C (Beat and Commercial)records until mid 1972. The two labels released a similar eclectic range of music and some B&C songs would not have been out of place on this set. Perhaps a collection of B&C recordings is due?

...and also, since this set covers 1969 - 1978, perhaps a second set from 1979 - 1984 should follow?
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on 8 January 2010
Lots of good music here and a good introduction for newcomers to the Charisma label, one of the greatest labels of all time, at least in the early period. Thankfully this set doesn't waste space with later period Charisma artists such as G.T Moore, Barry Humphries, etc. It DOES, thankfully, include some very cool and brilliant things like "Grass for Blades" by HOT THUMBS O'RILEY (Jim Pembroke and the Wigwam guys in disguise), from the album WICKED IVORY by HOT THUMBS O'RILEY (Love Records, Finland and Charisma, UK), one of the weirdest and coolest albums ever. However, one major oversight from the compilers: the single by Charlie Drake "You Never Know", produced by Peter Gabriel and featuring Gabriel and Fripp on voice and guitar. A VERY cool and rare and great piece, this item would have made this collection indispensable. Major bummer!! That song needs to see the light of day somehow someday on a CD or at least download.
Other omissions: Capability Brown single: "Wake Up Little Sister" / "Wind Fall". Both songs are bloody great!! Also Capability Brown "Sympathy".
So attn EMI: how about a Charisma compilation volume 2?!
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on 6 September 2010
Excellent compilation, put together with discernment. This is worth it for Peter Hammills voice alone, but on top of that you get a great history of Charisma too.
If you know some of these tracks, you wont be disappointed with the rest. If you know none of them, this will be a real eye opener and a damn good introduction to excellent, non-mainstream music during those years.
In addition there is a very informative booklet. The only thing you dont get here are the fabulous lp covers. (Someone somewhere should consider bringing out the original vinyl versions of these bands!)
Obviously there's alot of music ommitted from this set, but short of creating a set of every Charisma album (now there's an idea..!?) this is a very fine second best.
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on 19 July 2010
Excellent choice of artists and as a progressive rock fan this covers
a wide area of bands and singers.
Can we have another plaese to include Prog artists .
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on 13 December 2009
For pure depth and diversity the famous charisma label is unsurpassed,only vertigo,early island or harvest records can compare,but for me charisma wins hands down,mainly in musical terms but also for it's eccentricity.This sampler is full of the best in british early prog,jazz,rock,and folk.A bit more of their spoken word efforts ( john arlott,peter o,sullivan,sir john betjeman etc ) would have completed the package,if you can track down the sumptious 4 cd and book box set from the 80's it is well worth it.One thing absolutely clear from this collection is talent is a gift, hard earned but given to the few.Early Genesis,Van der Graaf/Peter Hammil,Lindisfarne,The Nice/Keith Emerson all in correct working order.Anyone who doesn't rate Phil Collins as a drummer should listen to Brand X awesome! For the price this purcase is a must for any fan of the best and most diverse music ever made.Strat's legacy lives on!
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on 19 May 2010
Attracted by mainstream artists present on this label (Genesis, Nice etc),with this anthology I have discovered a whole load of talent which it is well worth investing in ! Of course, on 3 Cds there is some to take & leave, but overall, a reminder that this period was extremely creative...
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on 17 October 2009
The Charisma label will be remembered as a legend that was eventually swallowed up by the Virgin label - in its heyday an outlet for some interesting, talented artists, but eventually a victim of simple economics. We can all remember the first Charisma LP we bought - probably Genesis, as mine was - and experiencing a little gulp of awe at the label artwork. However, the moment you spot Hawkwind's contribution here - Steppenwolf - you quickly realise that while most tracks are fairly good they are by no means the best available from the contributing artists. There are some far more memorable musical moments sitting in the Charisma vaults. Pleasingly, Bo Hansson has been fished from oblivion, Peter Hammill has been given a second chance at getting noticed, Van Der Graaf Generator have their full title, and Twilight Alehouse pops up for a second rare appearance on CD format. Overall an interesting sampling, and having read this review you'll know there is much better from all these artists.
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on 23 August 2015
Refugees: A Charisma Records Anthology, is another prog rock album which has Various artists on I do not on this album yet myself at some point I will but for it is on the computer with me, but I love it.
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