I’ve had an open love for all things Pete Astor around here — from solo recordings to an insistance that The Weather Prophets’ material has long been in need of reissue. While there have been plenty of collections of his early days in The Loft, few have been as comprehensive as the newest collection from Cherry Red. The band rose quickly in the new roster at Creation, and quite honestly their Up The Hill &a Down The Slope 12” should be considered an essential staple of any good collection. The new comp, Ghost Trains & Country Lanes (Studio, Stage & Sessions: 1984-2015), focuses on the early Creation singles, but also lets in BBC recordings from both of their active periods. Following most of the material from the singles, there’s the inclusion of a 1984 BBC session with Janice Long that gives some new life to non-single sides from the period. The session was recorded with former XTC member Barry Andrews between the release of their debut single and the aforementioned Up The Hill disc.
Given the tumultuous end of the band it’s always a bit surprising that they patched things up later on to reunite in the aughts. The band famously had a split down the middle in which Astor and Dave Morgan sought to jettison the rest of the band and continue under the Loft name with other members, but at their final gig Andy Strickland announced that the band was to dissolve following that show. Astor and Morgan continued as The Weather Prophets, ostensibly taking the material they would have recorded under The Loft name and just shifting focus. Strickland formed The Caretaker Race and bassist Bill Prince moved on to The Wishing Stones.
Despite the soured departures, the band did reunite in 2005 and recorded new songs “Model Village” and “Rickety Frame” which are included here alongside some other songs from the time that weren’t released. The set is expanded with a full live recordings from their early incarnation as The Living Room in 1984 (basically The Loft under a different name) and another session for BBC 6 that was recorded in 2015. It’s hard to get a more complete picture of the band than this, and for jangle-pop fans with a need to go deep into the history, the early recording serves as as nice counterpoint to their more well-known singles.
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