"The Greatest Albums You'll Never Hear" - Bruno MacDonald et al
Written by Matt   
Wednesday, 20 May 2015
The Greatest Albums You'll Never Hear - Bruno MacDonald

Published in September 2014 by Aurum Press, the new book The Greatest Albums You'll Never Hear, curated by Bruno MacDonald (a long-term Pink Floyd fan), brings together a fascinating glimpse into the tape vaults of a wide range of artists. It takes a close look at their unreleased material - and in particular, the stuff which has become legendary for its status as being strictly under lock and key...

Now, of course, much of this sort of material starts to leak out and gets within the fan communities. it can reach the situation where those profiting from this rare music are just the bootleggers, making a profit (at very little outlay) from the work the band's and musicians who don't - for whatever reason - want an official release of the material.

This book takes a good look at some of the key recordings from the last fifty years or so, bringing together such diverse artists as The Beatles, The Sex Pistols, David Bowie, Frank Zappa, The Rolling Stones, Beck, Dr Dre, and Pink Floyd. With each, an acclaimed album cover artist imagines a suitable cover, and the text sets out the circumstances and nature of the material, and why - in some cases - it remains unheard outside the inner circle of the band's themselves, with little to no possible chance of anyone else hearing even just a note of it.

For each work under the spotlight, the authors pull together as much detail as they can on what inspired the songs, what tracks were due to be included, or were recorded, why a release didn't happen, forces, influences and events affecting the band at the time, and the likelihood of eventual release. Some of the tracks have seen the light of day - either broadly as originally intended, or as individual tracks on later official releases. Some, too, have appeared on bootlegs in varying degrees of quality.

The book is arranged in decaded "chunks" with relevant artists and their (would be) releases slotted in accordingly. Thus, for various readers, some sections will prove of much more interest than others, but as each album is discussed in its own standalone "chapter" one doesn't need to wade through all the text as with other books which may interweave a narrative thread.

It is no big surprise that the Floyd's coverage in the book starts with the ill-fated and abandoned Household Objects project, which (as we heard in 2011, when morsels were included on Immersion boxsets) offered just a few minutes of completed and useable material. The folly and sheer hard work of using everyday items from around the house/office, spending days getting them to ultimately sound like approximations of standard instruments, is set out in MacDonald's well researched essay, bringing in quotes from the various Floyds as to the enormity - and ridiculous nature, in hindsight - of the enterprise.

Later in the book, Spare Bricks, the proposed follow-up to The Wall, capturing alternate versions and other bits of the music cut from the film (and the original album) is discussed and dissected. At this stage in the band's career, a compilation like this (ignoring the rather superfluous Collection of Great Dance Songs) was very unlikely to suit Roger in particular, who was clearly heading in his own direction with his ideas and concepts. As we know, the project morphed into The Final Cut, an entirely different album to what Spare Bricks promised, and seen by many as broadly, a Roger Waters solo album.

A side panel in this section makes reference to The Big Spliff, elements of which resulted in The Endless River, released toward the end of last year, but announced after this book was published.

Particularly for those of us who find fascination in unreleased and alternative versions of songs, or for those who enjoy the background to albums, or to relationships within the various bands, this book will provide a large amount of absorbing and tantalising information. The way it is split into decade-long chunks, rather than, say, alphabetically, works well, and the research seems solid and goes into sufficient detail. Definitely worth checking out...

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