The story of The Charlatans is one of survival. They emerged out of the “Madchester” scene of the early 1990s but were overshadowed by the likes of The Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses. Then when most folks had written them off, they reworked their sound to fit in with the Britpop of Oasis and Blur. Their 1995 self-titled album debuted at number one in the UK and the follow-up, 1997’s Tellin’ Stories did even better. But tragedy struck during the making of the album when founding keyboard player Rob Collins was killed in an auto accident.
This 15th Anniversary Edition of Tellin’ Stories features a remastered version of the original album and a second disc containing 8 “B” sides from the same era and one previously-unreleased outtake.
With the perspective of 15 years, the album still stands up as a classic of the era. Vocalist Tim Burgess has a vocal sneer that rivals Liam Gallagher and Tellin’ Stories is chock full of great songs.
With No Shoes opens the proceedings with a deep, thick bass groove (Martin Blunt’s bass sound is amazing throughout the album) and a funky loop supplied by Chemical Brother Tom Rowlands. Burgess’ vocal is brimming with attitude and guitarist Mark Collins (no relation to Rob) plays a wicked wah-wah infused solo.
North Country Boy has a breezier vocal and a lyrical reference to both Bob Dylan and Itchy and Scratchy. What more could you want from a song? Rob Collins’ swirling organ playing can be heard near the end of the track.
From there it’s one great song after another…Tellin’ Stories and One To Another were both single (there were 4 in all). You’re A Big Girl Now (another Dylan reference?) finds the band stripped down to acoustic guitar and vocals with a hint of keyboard.
The instrumental, Area 51 rocks with a think groove and highlights Rob Collins’ organ prowess. Burgess works up his best Dylan-esque drawl on Get On It and the album closes with Rob’s Theme, an instrumental jam that features their fallen band mate.
Every song is a keeper.
Of course the nine tracks that make up the bonus disc are not as strong, but there’s some good stuff here. Two Of Us is a strong guitar-driven rocker and Reputation has the same anthemic feel as Oasis’ Don’t Look Back In Anger.
Don’t Need A Gun is cool, but over long. The instrumental Down With Mook is just some percussion-heavy studio noodling. The sprawling Title Fight has a good groove but is unfocussed. The rest are solid, if unremarkable rockers.
The one previously-unreleased track is called Rainbow Chasing and it is an early take of Don’t Need A Gun. It’s tighter, with more emphasis on the guitar riff.
So, there you go. If you still have a copy of Tellin’ Stories from the 90s, you probably don’t need this edition, but if you somehow overlooked this little gem, now is as good a time as any to pick it up.
Meanwhile The Charlatans keep rolling along. They performed their first NZ show in Auckland in 2008 and are currently performing Tellin’ Stories it its entirety in the UK while also working up material for a new album.
Click here to listen to North Country Boy from Tellin’ Stories: