PJ Harvey
"The Peel Sessions 1991-2004"

(Island 2006)PJ Harvey - The Peel Sessions 1991-2004

The release of PJ Harvey's "The Peel Sessions 1991-2004" is a good fortune for her numerous fans but it is also the result of an unfortunate loss. The emotional recordings capture the always poignant Harvey in a way that her albums only hint at. But while this anthology would undoubtedly have been released one day, it was, sadly, hastened out after the 2004 death of BBC radio DJ John Peel. In the Peel Sessions, in which musicians generally prerecorded four tracks for radio play, was a famous and successful show that helped launched many careers. But as she writes in the linear notes of the CD, Harvey always did the Peel Sessions for Peel himself.

While not quite a best of, it might as well be as performances from Harvey's 1991, 1993, 1996, and 2000 sessions highlight favorite and choice cuts off albums of the same time frame as well as a 2004 performance remembering Peel. From the 1991 appearance, a dark and emotional Harvey sings the vitriolic lullaby "Oh My Lover" before the pounding rhythm of "Victory" sweeps over you as "Sheela-Na-Gig" and "Water" come on vibrant and affecting. A bouncing and dirty "Naked Cousin" and a cover of "Wang Dang Doodle," both from 1993, are full and engaging, pushing you to the edge. 1996 sees Harvey bubble over with emotion on the seething "Snake" before the quiet and melodic "That Was My Veil." The 2004 posthumous performance of "You Come Through" puts the spotlight on Harvey as she is accompanied by acoustic guitar for a moving result.

PJ Harvey is as commanding as ever on "The Peel Sessions 1991-2004." Indeed, Harvey's Peel Sessions is an important release, especially for those on the other side of the Atlantic who lacked in BBC radio access to get a listen to these essential recordings. Long live the Peel Sessions.

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