The Nightriders were a Birmingham beat combo of long standing; Roy Wood was briefly their guitarist. In late ‘66 they recruited Jeff Lynne, and soon embracing psychedelic tendencies, evolved into The Idle Race with Lynne taking lead vocals. Debut single ‘Imposters Of Life’s Magazine’ was an absolute tour de force of studio effects and should have charted, likewise its follow-up, the more quirky, vaudeville, fairground fable ‘Skeleton And The Roundabout’.
The latter would open The Birthday Party; recorded with Eddie Offord, released in autumn ‘68, and a fine example of English baroque psychedelia, as well as presaging Lynne’s later ELO trademarks, notably in ‘The Birthday’. That and ‘I like My Toys’ involve misfits and arrested development, while ‘Don’t Put Your Boys In The Army, Mrs Ward’ came straight from the music hall. ‘On With The Show’ smacked of Merrie Melodies but the affecting ‘Morning Sunshine’ and ‘Follow Me Follow’ proved simply classic pop songs.
Grapefruit’s handsome repackaging includes both mono and stereo mixes, plus all non-album tracks up to May ‘69’s ‘Days Of The Broken Arrows’/’Worn Red Carpet’ single, and allows a comprehensive revisit to an under-appreciated classic.