Following the success of 1999’s ‘Stupid Dream’ and 2000’s ‘Lightbulb Sun, the English progressive rock band Porcupine Tree took some time off to plan their next move. Having been signed to a major label (starting with their next full length album, 2002’s ‘In Absentia’) and in the midst of their first (and only as of this writing) permanent lineup change (replacing original drummer Chris Maitland for the more technically based Gavin Harrison), the time seemed right to clean up and dust off items from the band’s back catalog that had yet to see the light of day.
‘Recordings’, however, is not your typical B-Sides and out takes compilation. Some of the material had already been released as B-Sides to singles (an example being “Ambulance Chasing”, originally released on the ‘Piano Lessons’ CD-Single back in 1999) but others were new versions of songs altogether. For example, The song “Oceans Have No Memory” was originally demoed during the ‘Stupid Dream’ sessions, but Wilson re-recorded it in October and November of 2000 specifically for this collection. The landmark “Even Less”, found opening up the ‘Stupid Dream’ album, is here in its’ fourteen minute full version, whereas the 1999 released version is only the first seven minutes. Two new tracks, the ten minute opener “Buying New Soul” and the curiously titled “Access Denied” (the latter track sounding in places like XTC on steroids) seem, in hindsight, to be the perfect postscript to the band’s output with Maitland, as the newer material with Harrison was heavier and more metal based.
Steven Wilson explains further about the genesis of the ‘Recordings’ album, stating that “…six of the songs are taken from singles that were released in 1999 and 2000. Sometimes tracks don’t make it on to an album first time around not for reasons of quality (or lack of), but perhaps because they just didn’t fit onto the album, or one member of the band wasn’t happy with the track. Also perceptions can change and I think we all felt in hindsight that these six tracks deserved to be heard by a wider audience…The remaining 3 tracks we recorded specifically for the album. “Oceans Have No Memory” is a new band recording of a demo that was originally issued on the B-side of the ‘Piano Lessons’ 7 -inch single. “Access Denied” was written and demoed for ‘Lightbulb Sun’ but no one liked it except me! So I took the opportunity to re-present it to the band for inclusion on ‘Recordings’ and this time they let me do it. Finally “Buying New Soul” was a song recorded during writing sessions just after ‘Lightbulb Sun’ was finished. I think if it had been written a couple of months earlier it would have been included on the album. We thought about holding it back for the next album, but in the end we felt that because the next album is probably going to be moving into different musical waters it should be released now.”
Originally issued in May of 2001 as a limited edition of 20,000 copies, ‘Recordings’ quickly sold out due to the band’s success with 2002’s ‘In Absentia’, leaving many newer fans wondering about this release. Copies of this album were known to fetch hundreds of dollars on eBay, and for years Wilson stated that there were no plans to reissue it. Finally, in 2010, ‘Recordings’ was re-issued on KScope (a UK-based label), so that all could hear these nine tracks from the Porcupine Tree vaults. Most probably not the best starting point into the band’s 20+ year catalog for new fans of the band, ‘Recordings’ is still an album that has a little something for everyone and is a perfect compliment to the album’s sister releases, ‘Stupid Dream’ and ‘Lightbulb Sun’.
For more information on Porcupine Tree, check out the following links:
The official Porcupine Tree website
Porcupine Tree on Wikipedia
Porcupine Tree on ProgArchives