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Cornflake Zoo

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Album Review

One of the most distinctive vocalists of the past four decades, from his formative days fronting John's Children on through stints with Jet and Radio Stars, and now back to the re-formed JC, Andy Ellison has had little time in which to pursue a solo career. Periodic cracks in his workload, however, have seen him at least give the subject some thought, and this much-needed compilation serves up as a superb story-so-far sampler. Subtitled "Demos and Unreleased Rarities 1967-2005 (Volume One)," Cornflake Zoo is a 16-track set that divides neatly between recordings Ellison has made over the past decade or so, and the clutch of 45s he cut at the end of the 1960s under the aegis of manager Simon Napier-Bell. Best known among these is probably "It's Been a Long Time," Ellison's solo debut, and a highlight of the soundtrack Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush. But two subsequent singles, covering the Beatles' "You Can't Do That" and George Armstrong's "Fool from Upper Eden" were equally worthy, while unreleased cuts include a half-complete (but completely over the top) cover of another Fab Four number, "Help" and three Marc Bolan numbers, "Hippy Gumbo," "Casbah Candy" and "Cornflake Zoo" itself. Leaping into the second half of the disc, things get underway with "To the Beat of a Different Drummer" and "Hurt Myself" recorded with former Sparks and the Jook mainstay Trevor White in 1981, at the very end of the Radio Stars adventure. A brace of songs from 1986 follow before things wrap up with a taster for Ellison's projected solo album ("if I ever get it finished"), recorded with Morrissey guitarist Boz Boorer last year. It's all fine stuff. Though Ellison's songwriting has always tended to be over-shadowed by his choice of bandmates (Marc Bolan and Martin Gordon), Cornflake Zoo suggests that he could easily hold his own when he needed to. Anthologies that begin and end so many years apart, and pack nothing in the middle, often leave the listener feeling somehow cheated. Ellison's cornflakes, however, remain crunchy all the way through.

Cornflake Zoo, Andy Ellison
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