There's no album cover. This was never offered in stores. And frankly, if it were, there's a good chance you wouldn't want to listen to it. This album shipped on vinyl to record stations back in the day before digital broadcasting, and is accompanied by a photocopied list of what appears on the album and a white album sleeve. In other words, this is for die-hard fans of the band, as it's one of the very last non-bootleg things recorded with the group's original vocalist, the great Stan Ridgway.
BBC College Concert #20 was originally sent out to stations to broadcast on February 6, 1983. Like old Dr. Demento shows which were also distributed via vinyl, these things find their way to old record stores and the collector market, and especially eBay. The sound quality is excellent for what it is, and fans of the band who aren't satisfied with the Ridgway-era output-- which was two LPs and an EP-- are going to want this. While bootleg CD copies might exist, this album was never distributed on CD or, as far as can be told, any other format but as an ancient black record.
The songs are culled from the band's first releases, so if you've heard Call of the West, Dark Continent, and their EP, you'll be familiar with the songs here. The songs are a little tighter than on the albums or some other live recordings, plus there's some announcer rambling and some of Stan's always entertaining "blabbing," as he's been known to call it. There's a few improvised lyric changes to the monologue in the song "Call of the West" as well as a few amusing bits changed in "Can't Make Love," plus a fairly amusing send-off from Mr. Ridgway at the end.
Obviously, those who aren't fairly in to the band already aren't going to get a lot out of this since it is a rather offbeat recording, but the song selections make this as sort of a "greatest hits" compilation. The band is obviously having a fair amount of fun and the announcer doesn't really seem to know the band, but that's to be expected. It's a wonderful package for fans of the band and it's a real shame that the limited fanbase would prevent something like this from being a financially viable candidate for a CD reissue.
If you're a WOV fan and need something new-- and given the amount of material from that band out there, odds are that's pretty much every WOV fan-- track this down. This particular sample was found on eBay a few years ago for roughly $20 and doesn't show up on a regular basis. As such, be sure to have your wallets ready when you see it. For fans of the band, it's a no-brainer-- you need this. To others, if you stumble upon this and need something new to listen to, it's quite enjoyable. Check it out if you have the chance.
November 10, 2003