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Fresh Maggots - Hatched

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Artist: Fresh Maggots

Album: Hatched

Label: Sunbeam

Review date: Aug. 9, 2006

The last few years, as you may have noticed, have offered a seemingly endless bounty of reissues, particularly when it comes to psychedelia and "acid folk" or whatever moniker such sounds are bearing at the moment. Press releases unceasingly note the "astronomical prices" the latest reissue fetches in its original LP form. Thus, when yet another one comes along, a healthy skepticism must be forgiven, particularly when it's the reissue of an essentially unknown band's sole album.

As a reviewer, having one's expectations dashed can be either a very sad affair or a pleasant surprise. Fresh Maggots a pair of young lads from Nuneaton, England can be placed firmly in the latter camp. Hatched was many, many years ahead of its time with its combination of folk and fuzz-driven psych rock. Mick Burgoyne and Leigh Dolphin met as teenagers during the late '60s, both already gigging Dolphin as an accomplished acoustic guitarist, Burgoyne on electric guitar, glockenspiel, and more and teamed up to combine the rock and folk sounds they enjoyed. After only their second show as Fresh Maggots, they were signed to a management contract and proceeded to record their one and only album at the end of 1970. It took a year for the album to be released, and then, despite critical praise, it failed to sell primarily due to RCA's poor support and lack of promotion. And there ends the story, aside from the ever-escalating collector prices fetched by copies of the album and ongoing interest from fans who discover the band.

What makes the album stand out from the crowd is difficult to summarize. Dolphin's aptitude on the acoustic guitar, and Burgoyne's smooth vocals, are a good part of it, but clearly they were not alone in those departments at that time and place. Burgoyne's interjections of unexpectedly searing fuzz guitar could have felt gimmicky, but instead add a much-appreciated edge and energy to the songs, and his playing fits in tightly rather than feeling out of place. A song like "Balloon Song" could have been a light-hearted throw-away; instead, it's that most unusual of things, a rocking folk song.

"Rosemary Hill" is the album's strongest song: clear, chiming acoustic guitar and gorgeous vocals with carefully orchestrated strings and glockenspiel that will lead you to sing along. It's odd that this is one of the cleaner songs, no electric guitar to be found, but it's also one that doesn't need anything more. "Dole Song" opens the album with strummed acoustic and a thick electric lead, a protest song of sorts it even has a flute-led chorus but it's no flower-power lament. "Frustration," as suits its name, contains some of the most memorable guitar interplay, with Dolphin's frenzied acoustic strumming interlocking with fast fuzzed leads by Burgoyne.

Thanks to Sunbeam, the Fresh Maggots should now reach another new audience, and the label's done a very nice job with the reissue. Liner notes discuss the band's history and the songs, and the booklet also includes scanned press clippings, photos, and the original press release from 1971. As if that weren't enough (it's certainly more than most reissue labels manage), the CD includes seven bonus tracks that are anything but filler. The single B-sides are obvious choices, but it's the five live recordings that shine, demonstrating that the duo was more than able to do the songs justice at their shows.

By Mason Jones

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