Thursday, November 09, 2006

PJ Harvey - The Peel Sessions 1991-2004

PJ Harvey - The Peel Sessions 1991-2004

4 out of 5 stars.

Any time PJ Harvey puts out new material, the event is a cause for celebration. While the Peel Sessions aren't new, per se, it's something different. Completists will have to have it, fans should buy it, and everyone should hear it.

PJ Harvey's career has involved multiple personas over her seven studio releases. Try listening to Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea and then Uh Huh Her and try to pretend it sounds like the same artist. Sessions covers her early Dry songs like "Oh My Lover", "Victory", "Water", and "Sheela-Na-Gig" (the album-opening 1991 session is the best material of the disc) but the only Rid Of Me material here is "Snake", yet there is even soundtrack material: "Naked Cousin" which originally appeared on the soundtrack to "The Crow: City of Angels". The disc is worthwhile if for the first five tracks alone. "You Come Through" from Uh Huh Her rounds out her career to date.

What makes the album most incredible is that Peel sessions were notorious for their unproduced, naked sound. Yet the performances here are flawless. It's no wonder that John Peel counted PJ Harvey among his favorite artists to record.

The Peel Sessions that PJ Harvey recorded lay bare the haunting, soul-stirring quality of her voice. For hardcore fans of Harvey, the selections will make plenty of sense, but not the omissions. "That Was My Veil", which appeared on an album Harvey recorded with bandmate John Parish, is one of her best singing performances on record, and is present here. What's disappointing is the lack of material from To Bring You My Love or Is This Desire?, and nothing else from Rid Of Me. A session was recorded in 1992 with Rid Of Me material, and in 1996 with Is This Desire? material, but save for one track, is absent here. PJ Harvey selected the tracks herself, so the oversight is at her intention, for whatever reason.

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