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PJ Harvey

The Peel Sessions 1991-2004 (Island)

Reviewed by Audra Schroeder, Fri., Dec. 15, 2006

PJ Harvey

The Peel Sessions 1991-2004 (Island)

Phases and Stages
In 1991, John Peel wrote in Melody Maker that PJ Harvey's sound was "admirable if not always enjoyable." Obviously this was a compliment, so it's no coincidence Peel soon became Polly Jean's champion. Selected as tributes to Peel, the influential BBC DJ who passed away in 2004, this decade-spanning collection recalls an era of grit and glam for Harvey. Revived from her first appearance in 1991, "Sheela-Na-Gig" remains a sensual, sweat-soaked romp in dirty sheets ("Look at these my childbearing hips. Look at these my ruby red lips," she coos) as does "Victory," both from Harvey's seductive and ferocious Dry spell. On her 1993 Peel session cover of Willie Dixon's "Wang Dang Doodle," as well as the thrashing indictment of Biblical injustices on "Snake," we get her voice full throttle. "This Wicked Tongue," a Japanese bonus track from Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea, is a welcome and electric indulgence, and "You Come Through," from a 2004 Peel tribute, is undeniably tender ("You come through for me. You be well for me."). A near-perfect collection, if a bit short, but it's easy to see why Peel felt a kinship with Polly Jean.

***

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