Michael Head And The Strands

The Olde World

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New album with unreleased tracks and remixes from the sessions of classic album 'The Magical World of The Strands', produced by Oasis producer Mark Coyle.

After a couple of demos for the French promoter who paired him with his childhood hero Love’s Arthur Lee in 1992, Pale Fountains and Shack legend Michael Head entered a Liverpool recording studio the following year, with a new project in mind, ‘The Strands’. Michael teamed up with his brother and lifelong companion, John, his long-time drummer Iain Templeton and two new recruits, Michelle Brown on bass and Les Roberts on flute. The recording sessions would last two years and were only halted because Michael was offered a new major label deal. A deal, not for his current work, but for him to record as Shack again.

So it came to be that Stephane Bismuth, the French promoter, was left with 100 or so minutes of a thwarted project, only a third of which had made it to the mixing studio in Sheffield in the summer of ‘95.

Patch-working and weaving rough mixes and sketches – by engineer Steve Powell, made in Liverpool – with completed mixes by producer Mark Coyle who had hired an arranger and string section for sessions in Sheffield, Stephane Bismuth founded a new label Megaphone and finally released ‘The Magical World of The Strands’, in autumn of 1997.

This work-in-progress comprising sketches, rough mixes and fully orchestrated tracks, garnered great critical acclaim and is still rated by many as the "rarest jewel of the 90s", Q Magazine.

Still, a whole hour’s worth of recordings had not made it onto the album and, over time, the label – by now also known for its discovery of the late Karen Dalton in 1999 – along with original producer Mark Coyle, delved deeper into the tapes, found further gems, altogether different yet true to the original and entirely worthy of a second album.

In 2014 Megaphone and Mark Coyle agreed to pursue and realise this album, using both unreleased songs from the sessions as well as songs from the original album which they felt deserved a new lease of life.


Andy says: Amazing lost masterpiece from Scouse sorcerer Mick Head. Creates its own little world. Step inside!


It’s Harvest Time (Band Version)
The Version Of This Song On 1997’s 'The Magical World Of The Strands' Was An Acoustic Rough Mix. This Full Band Version Feels Like Lifting A Veil, Uncovering All The Hidden Tracks From The Original Recording.

Fin, Sophie, Bobby And Lance
Quite Typical In Style Of The Strands Sessions, The Song Has A Distinctive Jazz Feel And After A Country-like Start Veers To Improvisation. The Song Was Recorded Again, As Shack On The Album ‘The Corner Of Miles And Gil’ (2006), With A Different Melodic Line And A More Folky Tone.

Poor Jill
To A Few Insiders, The Song That Was Most Wanting On The 1997 Album.
Although It Fitted In Perfectly, It Still Lacked A Certain Something. Starting Afresh In 2014 Mark Coyle Managed To Produce This Excellent New Mix On The Very First Day Of The Mastering Session.

Something Like You (Quartet)
A Strings-only Version Of This Classic From ‘The Magical World Of The Strands’. And A Tribute To The Beautiful Work Of Helen Caddick Who Wrote The Arrangement And Conducted The Quartet.

Glynys And Jaqui (Acoustic)
An Acoustic Mix That Embellishes The Vocal Work On The Song.

Hocken’s Hey (Alternate Instrumental)
An Earlier Take Of This Song From ‘The Magical World Of The Strands’ Without Vocals But With Les’s Flute At The Forefront.

And Luna (Acoustic)
A Favourite Of Mark Coyle’s. An Acoustic Mix Of The Original Take. This Song Evokes The Aforementioned Encounter With West Coast Hero Arthur Lee.

Lizzie Mullally
The Only Mix Here From The 1995 Sessions. Sounding Exactly Like The Strands Especially When Compared To The Later Version By Shack – The B-side Of ‘Cup Of Tea’ (2006), – Yet Feeling So Different To The 1997 Album That It Couldn’t Fit Anywhere, Whatever Running Order Was Tried.

Wrapped Up In Honour
A Second Thought, Sparse, New Idea Trial, Shortly After The Recording Of 1994’s ‘Fontilan’.

The Olde World
Another Exclusive Song From The Strands Sessions That Testified That Michael Head Had Not Completely Chased Shack Away From His Dreams.

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