Friday, September 11, 2009

ace of base

This year certainly has seen a bumper crop from Saint Etienne. They started things off with the greatest hits collection, "London Conversations: The Best Of Saint Etienne", followed by deluxe, expanded, reamastered reissues of their albums, "Foxbase Alpha", "Continental", "So Tough" and "Sound Of Water". Further albums, "Tiger Bay" and "Good Humour", will get a similar treatment later this year.

Their dedicated fan following, of which I count myself as one, are shelling out a pretty penny for these delicious deluxities. Many of us, like the members of the group, are trainspotters, completists and collectors who must have everything issued by a particular group or artist. Every obscure 7" single or limited edition thingamabob adds another stripe to our ever-expanding collections and siphons more cash from our wallets, yet we don't mind.

Yesterday, just before I boarded a plane for Los Angeles, a typically cheerful and slightly pithy email turned up. It was from St. Et member, Bob Stanley, who acts as both curator and town crier for their entire output. It's always a pleasure receiving one of Bob's emails since they are often substantive and alert their fans to something exciting, shiny and new.

Yesterday's email was no exception. In typical fashion, Saint Etienne are doing something rather unfashionable in the cratered landscape of the music "biz" but fit for their fiercely loyal fans. They have allowed disco dynamo Richard X to take their groundbreaking, debut longplayer, "Foxbase Alpha" and rearrange it into a brand new beast with the inspired title, "Foxbase Beta". Mr. X has used the original masters and reswizzled them into something really special. Bob describes it as "spruced up yet reverential". Essentially, it's a 2009 update of "Foxbase Alpha" given a shot of vodka and a loving caress.

"Foxbase Beta" will be issued via the fan club as a limited edition, individually numbered, 2CD set which will also include "Foxbase Extra", three, previously unreleased recordings from the original album sessions. They include a recently discovered coda to "Girl VII", a summery instrumental called "Richard III" and the first, very different take of "Kiss And Make Up", which they recorded one afternoon in January 1990. Additionally, an informative "directors' commentary" will feature on the bonus disc.

It's a wet dream come true for fans of St. Et and pop music aficionados. Bob, Pete and Sarah, for they are the mighty Saint Etienne, have been offering fan club exclusive releases way before bands started harnessing the power of the interwebs. "Foxbase Beta" will be available for pre-order on the group's website from September 21. Got my finger on the trigger and some money in the bank.

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