The Comsat Angels, C.S. Angels, The Headhunters, Dream Command...  All this & more
Story
The Comsat Angel's albums - A Perspective
Part 2
Chasing Shadows
Chasing Shadows cover

The Thought That Counts / The Cutting Edge / Under The Influence / Carried Away / You'll Never Know / Lost Continent / Flying Dreams / Pray For Rain

Seen by many (including the UK music press) as a return to form, Chasing Shadows proved to be the last Comsat's UK release for a good few years. The album lists Robert Palmer (a constant champion of the band) as co-producer. He also sings on one track, You'll Never Know.

One of the stand out tracks is the only single to be released from the album, The Cutting Edge, a sparsely arranged song, yet all the more powerful for it's simplicity (and also containing a great "walking" bassline).

Steve Fellows & Kevin Mooney (engineer) recording Chasing Shadows - Bath UK
After the bands attempts at a more commercial / Pop orientated sound with the previous two albums, Chasing Shadows is a lot darker and more brooding. A noticeable difference on this album is that a few of the songs are under-pinned with piano - as opposed to Andy's usual minimal keyboard washes. This works especially well on Pray For Rain & The Cutting Edge - adding a different dimension to The Comsat's sound. Steve's vocals are stunning on Chasing Shadows - plus Mik & Kevin provide a powerful, but at times subtle, rhythm back-bone to the song arrangements. The band have commented that Chasing Shadows has a consistency in the production, sound & mood - making it sound more "whole" - in the same way that Sleep No More has a similar consistency - though the two albums could not be more different in terms of content. 
The highlight of the album is probably the closing track, Pray For Rain - an emotive piece - and yet another Comsats rain song! Just vocals, piano & bass - simple yet so moving. The version that made it onto the album includes the original "guide" piano hidden deep in the mix (have a listen with headphones - it is quite audible on the CD version).

The Comsats made one of their rare TV appearances to promote the album, on the UK show The Tube, and there was talk of releasing the tracks performed on the show as a "b" side to a single release - but this never happened.

Birdmen Mik & Steve - Italy 1986
Fire On The Moon
Released under the name Dream Command
Dream Command Album Cover

Celestine / Whirlwind / Sleepwalking / Reach For Me / Ice Sculpture / Venus Hunter / Phantom Power / Transport Of Delight / She's Invisible / Mercury

Probably the weakest link in the Comsat's catalogue. Released, in limited quantities, in the US / Holland only, this album is virtually impossible to get hold of.

Even though this is undoubtedly the worst Comsat's release - the album still has it's moments. Celestine has a classic Comsat's hook and the albums closing track Mercury could have graced any Comsat's album. The lyrics let the songs down at times - and some of the keyboards are a bit "cheesy", but there is still plenty for Comsat's followers to savour.

Whirlwind, Sleepwalking and Ice Hunter stand-out as does the albums heaviest track Venus Hunter with it's Missing In Action inspired guitar ending (have a listen and see if you agree with me).

Steve & Kevin - Compass Point (note CSA t-shirt!)

According to the "In Formation" newsletter, the album was bounced back and forth between band & record company countless times, with neither party happy with the results, so it's no real surprise that the album turned out the way it did - finally leaking out in small numbers as Island dropped the band.

It is a shame that the bands stint with Island ended in this way - especially after the power and promise of Chasing Shadows. Most bands would have given up the ghost after all the disappointments and record company set-backs. But there were a few more chapters to follow...

My Mind's Eye
My Mind's Eye Cover

Driving / Beautiful Monster / Shiva Descending / My Mind's Eye / I Come From The Sun / Field Of Tall Flowers / Always Near / Route 666 / Mystery Plane / And All The Stars

Not being aware of the Dream Command album, and living at the other end of the country from Sheffield, I had presumed that the band had split after Chasing Shadows until I read about the release of a new single Driving, tucked away amongst some useless tittle-tattle in a music paper. I didn't manage to get hold of a copy of the single from a record shop - "sorry Guv, we don't deal with that distributor" was the usual response, so I contacted rpm direct to get hold of Driving and managed to find an independent mail-order shop for My Mind's Eye. Gone were the days when I could walk into Our Price and buy Comsat's releases off the shelf.

My Mind's Eye gained favourable reviews in the UK music press - and rightly so. It sounds like the album that should have been released after Sleep No More - much harder sounding, and it was often pointed out (even by the band themselves) that the Comsat's sounded almost fashionable - what with the current US "Grunge" bands doing the rounds.

My Mind's Eye contains a latter-day Comsats classic in Shiva Descending - one of the albums quieter, more reflective pieces. The overall mood of the album is set by the title track - a close cousin, sound-wise, to some of the Sleep No More tracks. A second single was released from the album - a re-mixed version of Field Of Tall Flowers.

My Mind's Eye was the last Comsat's album with the original line-up - Kevin Bacon left to concentrate on studio work (playing on and producing the late Ephraim Lewis's excellent album Skin).

The US version of the album contained the following differences - Driving has a slightly different mix and vocal track - Field Of Tall Flowers is the UK single mix - and there are two bonus cuts - Magonia (from the Dutch import CD single of Shiva Descending) and There Is No Enemy (from the Driving CD single).

My Mind's Eye (2007 version)

2007 version

Driving (alt mix) / Always Near / Beautiful Monster / Shiva Descending / My Mind's Eye / I Come From The Sun / Field Of Tall Flowers (acc mix) / Route 666 / Mystery Plane / And All The Stars / Magonia / Too Much Time / There Is No Enemy / My Mind's Eye (the wind, the bass, the drums) / Field Of Tall Flowers (original mix) / Driving (original mix)

The 2007 Renascent re-issue contains a re-sequenced album, and pulls together most of the singles tracks from the period (apart from Storm Of Change & the "Driverless" Driving mix).

The album still sounds amazing, even 15 years after its original release. The resequencing, and alternative mixes, work well, making this the definitive version of one of the highlights of the bands too short career.

Buy the 2007 version of My Minds Eye from Amazon or direct from Renascent.

Time Considered As A Helix Of Semi-Precious Stones - The BBC Sessions 1979-84
Time Considered As A Helix Of Semi-Precious Stones - The BBC Sessions 1979-84
At Sea / Be Brave / Eye Of The Lens / Total War / Real Story / Waiting For A Miracle / Ju Ju Money / Independence Day / Eye Dance / Gone / Dark Parade / Our Secret / Now I Know / Citadel / High Tide / Mr.Memory / Island Heart / You Move Me / Nature Trails
More than just a collection of Radio 1 session recordings - the album is almost a "Best Of The Comsat Angels". The sleeve-notes mention that the band often preferred the session recordings to the studio cuts - away from all the studio wizedry and in their live form a lot of these songs "breathe" more. The Jive era songs really shine in their session format especially You Move Me, High Tide & Nature Trails. This collection would serve as a great introduction to the uninitiated - buy a copy for a loved one this Christmas!
"Time Considered.." photo session - The Monument, London
Time Considered... also contains the Comsat's first released cover version (The Rolling Stones Citadel).
Time Considered... (2006 reissue) Time Considered... was re-issued by Renascent in 2006. The tracklisting remains the same, but the album contains a different booklet, and altered artwork.

Buy the 2006 re-issue of Time Considered ... from Amazon or direct from Renascent.
Unravelled
Unravelled UK version cover

UK Version

After The Rain / Always Near / Beautiful Monster / The Cutting Edge / Field Of Tall Flowers / SS100X / Our Secret / Storm Of Change / Citadel / Driving / My Mind's Eye / Shiva Descending

Unravelled European Cover

Dutch Version

After The Rain / Beautiful Monster / Cutting Edge / Field Of Tall Flowers / SS100X / Our Secret / Always Near / Eye Of The Lens / Storm Of Change / Audrey In Denim / Citadel

Another radio-sessions collection, this time from Holland. As near to "The Comsat Angels Unplugged" as you are ever going to get. The first 8 tracks (UK version) contain stripped down versions of Comsat's songs - personal highlights include After The Rain & a great live take of The Cutting Edge. It is refreshing to hear the bands songs performed, presumably, in the setting they were written in. Always Near & Field Of Tall Flowers work particularly well in this simple bass, percussion, piano & vocals format. That oft-repeated saying about great songs shining through when performed in the most rudimentary of settings springs to mind when listening to this collection. Beware though - some of the live tracks towards the end of the UK issue contain serious "bum" notes (which, of course, adds to the charm!).

Here follows an anecdote from Francis Jay, a US Comsat's fan - " On one of their tours years ago, I was chatting with Stephen Fellows about, Our Secret, and asked him why he put in the lyric....'every boy and every girl, lives in Hull' ? He laughed and said, Actually..it's 'lives in hope' ! Which, of course, makes more sense. But, have a close listen to the version on Unravelled... Doesn't it sound like he is saying 'lives in Hull' ? "

Unravelled also marks the Comsat's debuts of new boys Terry Todd & Simon Anderson. The album was released in two versions - UK and Dutch. The track listings differ somewhat and most of the versions are different takes (some of the tracks that appear on both issues are slightly longer - and the performances differ slightly - but you have to listen carefully - there are subtle differences such as a smoother version of The Cutting Edge).

The Glamour
The Glamour cover
Psychedelic Dungeon / The Glamour / Audrey In Denim / Oblivion / Web Of Sound / Breaker / SS100X / Sailor / Demon Lover / Pacific Ocean Blues / Anjelica / Valley Of The Nile / Spaced
The bands final studio offering, and the first studio set to feature new band members Simon Anderson (guitar) and Terry Todd (bass). On first listening, The Glamour seems to continue in the same vein, soundwise, as My Mind's Eye - but repeated listening reveals a more diverse set of songs. From the psychedelic Pop of Audrey In Denim to the hard-nosed title track via the mostly acoustic Sailor - this is the sound of a band still enjoying their music after all these years and after all the setbacks.
The Glamour era CSA - photo Simon Robinson (RPM)
Tracks such as Oblivion heralded a slight change in direction. Maybe being signed to a more independent, smaller label suited the band - away from major label pressures they seemed to be back on track and heading in the right direction again. This is also the longest playing Comsat's studio set - running to just over 64 minutes.

There was also a limited edition pressing of the CD, with postcards containing stenciled (by Steve) lyrics on the reverse, and the front of the card contains prints taken from an antique paper collection from Sheffield.

And that was it. At least they went out gloves raised, pride intact. I just hope that, after many years of listening to, and indeed growing up with, the music of The Comsat Angels - that there is more to come.

The Glamour (2007 version)
CD 1: I Hear A New World (alt mix, re-master) / Goddess (re-master) / Anjelica (diff vocal, alt mix) / Valley Of The Nile (alt mix) / Sailor / Pacific Ocean Blues / Oblivion / The Niala Game / Audrey In Denim / Demon Lover
CD 2: Psychedelic Dungeon / SS100X (diff vocal, alt mix) / The Glamour / Breaker / Evanescent / Hyperism I / Spaced / Web Of Sound / A Song Called Dave / Slayer Of The Real (demo)

1995's The Glamour gets a major overhaul as part of the latest Comsat's Renascent re-issue series. The 2007 2 disc version of the album collects virtually all the tracks recorded by the final, five-piece, version of the band.

The new version of The Glamour opens with an alternative / remastered mix of the Joe Meek inspired I Hear A New World, before powering into a remastered Goddess. This altered start changes the mood of the album, as its power builds gradually. Two more alternative mixes follow, including a version of Anjelica with a different vocal. Track 8 on the disc is a long-lost gem of a track, in the previously unreleased The Niala Game, with its Sleep No More washes of guitar layers, underpinned by the metronome perfect, restrained Glaisher backbeat.

Disc 2 includes a different vocal / alt mix of SS100X (fact fans - SS100X is the name of the car JFK travelled in on that fateful day of November 22, 1963). Disc 2 contains 4 more previously unreleased songs. Evanescent alternates between fractured glacial piano, and powerful Cobainesque guitar. Hyperprism 1 could easily have been included on Sleep No More, and is fast becoming one of my favourite CSA tracks from the final era of the band.

A Song Called Dave, clocking in at exactly 1.59, is probably the weakest of the 5 previously unreleased tracks on this album, mainly because it's over just as it starts to get interesting! Slayer Of The Real (Demo) finishes off the album, and although sonically not as strong as the rest of the album (well it is a demo!), it hints at a possible different direction had the band continued, and is similar in mood (with nods to the 1960's) to the albums opening track.

So overall, even if you already own the original version of The Glamour, I would recommend the 2007 version, as the alternative mixes and previously unreleased tracks add to the quality of the album.

Buy the 2007 version of The Glamour from Amazon or direct from Renascent.


"Still it's not enough"
Post-Split Releases
From Beyond 2 - A Compilation 1987-1995
From Beyond - 1987 - 1995
A Sound / My Mind's Eye / I Hear A New World / Mystery Plane / Always Near / Ice Sculpture / Goddess / Valley Of The Nile / Venus Hunter / Shiva Descending / I Wanna Destroy You / Sailor / Waves (Steve Fellows) / Not Yours (Bacon & Quarmby) / We Must Be Mad (Soup)

From Beyond 2 is the compilation covering the Comsat's later years.  Made up in the whole of tracks from the final two albums, it also takes in some unreleased tracks and 2 songs from the rare Fire On The Moon release, rounding off with 3 post CSA tracks.

A Sound opens the album - it's the harmonic pattern from She's Invisible mutated into a short snippet that leads into My Mind's Eye, here in it's original form.  I Hear A New World was inspired by a Joe Meek album - though was written before Steve had actually heard the music!  Mystery Plane is the previously released album cut, and Alway's Near is the Unravelled take.

Ice Sculpture is from the Fire On The Moon release.  Goddess is previously unreleased, and is apparently one of the last tracks recorded by the 5-piece Comsat's.  Valley Of The Nile is an acoustic mix, edited by Steve Fellows & Kevin Bacon, who chose the tracks for this release.  Venus Hunter is presented in demo form, from 1985, and though not as polished as the Fire On The Moon take, is much more dynamic and is the best recorded version of the song.

Shiva Descending is the My Mind's Eye take on the song.  I Wanna Destroy You is a Soft Boys cover, recorded around the time of Fire On The Moon, and is the only Comsat's song to feature Nick Robinson on guitar.  Short, sweet and to the point.  Sailor ends the Comsat tracks on the collection, and is the original take from The Glamour.  

The remaining 3 tracks are Waves from Steve's Mood X album, the dubby Not Yours from Bacon & Quarmby, and the Soup track We Must Be Mad.  This results in the album feeling somewhat disjointed - as they are not Comsat tracks, and don't really fit with the sound of the album as a whole. So it's a disappointing end to the album, which could have been a lot more cohesive if it just covered CSA material, but it's worth seeking out if you are already a fan, if only for I Hear A New World & Goddess

Buy From Beyond 1987-1995: the Best of the Comsat Angels Vol.2 from Amazon.

Land / 7 Day Weekend (Special Editions)
Land - Special Edition
Will You Stay Tonight? / Alicia (Can You Hear Me)? / A World Away / Independence Day / Nature Trails / Mister Memory / Island Heart / I Know That Feeling / As Above So Below / A World Away (dub) / Shining Hour / Island Heart (dub) / Scissors And The Stone / Intelligence
7 Day Weekend - Special Edition
Believe It / Forever Young / You Move Me / I'm Falling / Close Your Eyes / Day One / You're The Heroine / High Tide / New Heart & Hand / Still It's Not Enough / Land / Citadel

At last!  The long-awaited CD re-issues of the two Jive era albums (with extra tracks) finally means that all The Comsat's albums have now been released on CD.  Land received a lot of negative reviews from certain quarters of the music press at the time of release, and was even criticised by the band in later years, but it's still a strong album, and a personal favourite of mine.  7 Day Weekend is probably the stronger of the two albums, and finally makes available the much requested I'm Falling (fans of the 80's film Real Genius - stop swapping the mp3 on Napster, and buy the album!).  

Whilst not everyone's favourite CSA albums, Land & 7 Day Weekend contain enough material to warrant investigation by the casual or lapsed fan, and for those (like myself) who enjoy the bands pop material as much as the more "standard" Comsat's fare, its a pleasure finally hearing these songs on CD.

The 2001 release of the Jive albums also include comprehensive sleeve-notes from Simon Robinson and includes new comments from Mik Glaisher & Kevin Bacon, as well as quotes from Steve Fellows taken from interviews at the time of release.  The sleeve notes give a good insight into the problems the band faced at the time, and its a wonder they managed to carry on for as long as they did, continuing to make quality albums until their eventual demise in the mid-90's.

To Before
To Before (2007)
CD 1: Mass (demo) / Have You Seen (demo) / Work (demo) / I get Excited (b side) / The House That... (demo) / Red Planet (a side) / Specimen No 2(b side) / Eye Of The Lens (demo) / You Never Learn (demo) / Tilted (demo) / Island Heart (demo) / Time To Burn (demo)
CD 2: Lost Continent (demo) / Something's Got To Give (demo) / You Move Me (demo) / Carried Away (demo) / Born Again (demo) / Ice Sculpture / She's Invisible / Under The Influence (demo) / I.K.T.F (demo) / Transport Of Delight (demo) / There's Something Going On (demo)
To Before covers the first part of the bands career, and varies in sound quality (though this is clearly stated on the outside sleeve). But the occasional dips in sound quality are out of the bands control, as some of these recordings were buried on long forgotten cassettes and bootlegs, and they have been tweaked and mastered as well as can be expected, so this is a price well worth paying to hear these lost tracks.

The compilation is a treasure trove for Comsat's completists, and kicks off with a powerful demo version of Mass. Work (often refered to as Action Replays on hissy bootlegs), could have sat comfortably on the bands first studio album. I Get Excited, Specimen No2 & Red Planet sound as if they have been transfered from the original vinyl, presumably with the original masters being long lost. Long time fans will be happy to have these key early tracks tweaked and in digital format at last.

The House That... was clearly recycled later on, and rides on a classic Comsats early 80's groove. You Never Learn is a rehearsal recording from sometime between 1980 & 1982. Tilted, Eye Of The Lens and Time To Burn were recorded at the band house in Hunter House Road, and are fascinating glimpses into the bands development.

The often maligned (but not by me) Jive period is represented on this compilation with a lively version of Island Heart and a demo version of You Move Me.

The Island era is also well represented on To Before, with Dream Command tracks (studio cuts not demos) and a tight demo version of the excellent Venus Hunter.

Some of my favourite tracks on this compilation come from the Chasing Shadows demos, including wonderful versions of Lost Continent, Under The Influence and Carried Away. But the real jewel in the crown is the demo version of The Cutting Edge b-side Something's Got To Give, which, thankfully, is in great shape, in demo form, on this compilation, and shines through as one of the best Comsats songs of any period. It really should have appeared on Chasing Shadows (the only CSA album not re-issued to date).

Born Again sounds as if its from the same sessions as Fire On The Moon, and has a real Don't Fear The Reaper vibe. Or maybe that's just me!

I.K.T.F. sounds like a Jive era song (and is further evidence of healthy recycling), and is largely driven by the bass, keyboards and drums, and the album finishes with the 1991 recording of the previously unreleased There's Something Going On.

To Before successfully reaches the parts of the bands archives untouched by the earlier From Beyond compilation, and in my mind, is a much better, and more enjoyable, compilation. Even though a couple of the non-studio recordings have dips in sound quality, hearing these works-in-progress and cutting room floor recordings is hugely enjoyable, and does not detract from the bands legacy at all, which is always a worry with compilations of this nature.

The album To Before is worth buying for the incredibly moving Something's Got To Give alone, but I'm sure fans of the band will find plenty here to savour.

"The light goes on, the light goes off again"

Buy To Before from Amazon or direct from Renascent.

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