THE SMITHS Hatful Of Hollow (WEA)
THE SMITHS Rank (WEA)
These two are limited edition double 10" reissues produced by WEA when they bought up the Smiths back catalogue in 1992, and still available new if you know where to look. Tragically the diminished stature of the packaging means that the gatefold sleeves (and, in the case of "Hatful Of Hollow", lyrics) that adorned the Rough Trade originals have vanished in transit.
"Hatful Of Hollow" was originally released in 1984, a budget-priced stopgap that collated BBC sessions recorded for John Peel and David Jensen (how times change!) and non-album single A and B sides. Today, a frightening fifteen years later, it still sounds surprisingly fresh: just about nothing could ever tarnish the joyous Byrdsian jangle of Johnny Marr's guitar on classics like "William, It Was Really Nothing" and "This Charming Man", whilst "How Soon Is Now?" still sounds like an anthem for a dispossessed generation. (And it was originally only a B side?!) Add all this to immaculate session versions of material from their eponymous debut album (best bits being "Reel Around The Fountain" and the ever-charming "Still Ill") and "Hatful Of Hollow" stakes a claim as being one of the most essential of all the essential Smiths artefacts.
Unlike, unfortunately, "Rank". Whilst it has inestimable historical importance as the only official Smiths concert footage, this album has never really gelled as a fantastic listening experience for me, especially when none of the performances captured here venture anywhere near the excellence of their studio counterparts. Adding insult to injury, WEA's carving up of the original single album's running order to reprogram it to fit four 10" sides of vinyl means an extra unnecessary fade-in/out between "What She Said" and "Is It Really So Strange?". A deeply flawed document - one that might have stood up better had five songs not been excised from the original concert - but one that I wouldn't want to be without all the same.