The Go-Betweens Liberty Belle And The Black Diamond Express
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Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express was the beginning of the Go-Betweens' crossover into more elegant and refined pop territory. "Robert Forster's endearingly fey persona, equal parts Bryan Ferry and gangly bookstore clerk, reaches full flower on the Go-Betweens' fourth album, which tempers the angularity and occasional claustrophobia of the band's previous work with a new airiness and nervous romanticism. The lighter sound can be partly attributed to the growing influence of co-leader Grant McLennan, whose wistful "Cattle and Cane" and "Bachelor Kisses" lent grace to the Go-Betweens' sometimes stilted early records... Liberty Belle is by no means free of the old Go-Betweens' edge (the brooding "Twin Layers of Lightning" is proof of that), but it is the pervading warmth and rueful humor of this release that make it so accessible and such a delight." Obviously, Bernard MacMahon and his Lo-Max Records label (and Jet Set in the United States) took that to heart when plotting out the reissue of the Go-Betweens' last three original albums, this one, Tallulah, and 16 Lovers Lane. Like the others, Liberty Belle is offered in a deluxe slipcase edition which contains two artfully remastered CDs (by Bill Inglot and Dave Schultz), a booklet with a load of photos, complete lyrics and sessions notes and a personal and humorous liner essay by Andrew Mueller. The album as originally released is presented on disc one. Added to its tag end are videos for "Spring Rain," and "Head Full of Steam," the two big singles from the set. American audiences will be suitably pleased with these since they aren't available anywhere else. Disc two hosts 11 bonus cuts. The first surprise is a spanking new version of "Don't Let Him Come Back." It was recorded and mixed in July of 1985, three months before the rest of the album was recorded. This one stands in sharp contrast to early versions of "The Wrong Road" and "Bow Down," also recorded at the same session, in that this one boasts a slightly different arrangement than the officially issued version. The bonus CD also sports the single version of "Head Full of Steam," and a radio session of "Apology Accepted." The rest of the tracks are, fantastically, unreleased and rare cuts that either didn't make the finished album or were recorded for other purposes or never used. These include a live cover of "I'm Gonna Knock on Your Door," which was recorded at the Boston Arms, and Liberty Belle cast-offs like the beautiful "The Life at Hand," as well as "Little Joe," and "Reunion Dinner." In all, this is a brilliant package, presenting a final, definitive picture of the Go-Betweens at an important creative juncture that ultimately shifted their aesthetic approach to both recording and writing.