1999, Music

Mendocino (1999 Compilation) by Sir Douglas Quintet

Throughout the history of recorded music, there have always been these silly little labels who try to profit off loopholes in music contract regulations, by releasing records or compilations of music that is somehow exempt from copyright protection.

This is one of those releases. And I fell for it.

Years ago this happened to me (well, one of my parents, but I was the true victim!): I was trying to get the Soft Machine’s classic debut, Volume 1. Instead, I received The Soft Machine Turns On, Volume 1, a collection of rarities from their earliest years, with some terrible sound qualify. I couldn’t figure out what had happened until I eventually saw the tiny “Turns On” on the front. I was young then. I didn’t know any better. (Nor did the person who gifted me that album.) I should know better now. Alas.

I was looking to get my hands on Mendocino, thought by some to be the Sir Douglas Quintet’s best album. However, I purchased the CD online, at a store that doesn’t always list specifics of a particular album. In this case, I don’t recall seeing anything that said “compilation.” I thought it was a reissue. But I don’t fault them. I should have done my research.

You see, this compilation (or whatever it is), is confusingly also named Mendocino. It contains, as far as I can tell, outtakes, alternate versions and live performances. (Much of it sounds like it was recorded live and then the crowd muted, or something.) I figured this out by the distinct ’80s production of many of the tracks – and a brief look-up of the original album’s track listing, which is markedly different, as you can imagine.

Now I know someone somewhere is trying to make some money, but I hate this stuff. This is a terrible collection and it has ruined my first impression of the Sir Douglas Quintet. At least with the mistake with the Soft Machine, I could hear cool ideas through the terrible recordings. This is a portrait of a band resting on its laurels, doing absolutely nothing to engage me in their music. And that will be my impression of them for a long time, in all likelihood.

And that makes me sad.


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