Andy Partridge

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Andy Partridge

Fuzzy Warbles Collector's Album (Ape House)

If your main squeeze is an XTC fanatic, your holiday shopping ends here. A longtime home recording enthusiast, the 30-year-old English mainstay's guitarist Andy Partridge began plundering his tape vaults in 2002 for a series of eclectic UK releases that eventually grew to eight volumes. The 8-CD stateside edition of Fuzzy Warbles is all that plus a nine-song bonus disc called "Hinges." At 161 songs, it's a lot to digest for the casual XTC fan, but even the mildly devoted will marvel at Partridge's factorylike production of erudite British pop tunes. Although most Warbles began as working demos, an impressive number exude grand statement potential. This is especially true of never-released revelations like whimsical Nonsuch reject "The Tiny Circus of Life" and "All I Dream of Is a Friend," which could've been an Oscar contender for best song had it appeared in James and the Giant Peach as originally intended. The simple-yet-hummable ditty "Everything'll Be Alright" was also written for Peach, and it practically begs a Partridge children's album. "Visit to the Doctor" out-Troggs the Troggs, while the fan-club-only "Candymine" cries out for bubblegum-flavored revival of the Dukes of Stratosphear, XTC's psychedelic alter-ego. Warbles also spotlights early versions of familiar XTC fare, including a spastic version of "Train Running Low on Soul Coal" from 1984's The Big Express and a fairly ridiculous skiffle take on "Dear God." Partridge packs in plenty of oddities too, like a series of jingles for Swindon, England DJ Alan Burston, a rejected theme for the short-lived Fox series Wonderfalls, and birthday wishes for a girl named Karen. This sprawling scrapbook of sound is an iconoclastic jumble in the best sense of those words.

***.5

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