Before, During and After the Dandelion Years, Through To Deeply Vale and Beyond

"Rockerilla" - review of "Before, During and After the Dandelion Years, Through To Deeply Vale and Beyond"

A one-mile-long title announces the reopening of the Tractor/The Way We Live file, a subterranean stream of experimentation in music and art in general, endlessly flowing since the early 70s, although concretising just a few discographic items.

The Way We Live were born from the collaboration of guitarist Jim Milne with painter, sculptor and drummer Steve Clayton down in Rochdale, soon integrated by John Brierly, a manipulator of electronic effects as well as a typical non-musician; these three fellows realised the "A Candle For Judith" album on Dandelion, before changing their name into Tractor and recording a self-titled LP in 1972.

The peculiarly narrow line-up combined with a consolidated attitude for studio alchemy favoured the blooming of very particular songs, with simple melodic lines coupled with a whimsical and unusual sound; Rochdale's musical activity was pretty intense at the time, also due to the artistic events organised by Chris Hewitt, nowadays managing the Ozit label. Through Chris, Tractor exchanged experiences with the likes of Pink Fairies and Hawkwind, and Rochdale soon became the site of a commune that gave its contribution to ferry English psychedelia to the shore of late 70s free festival season.

As the key-date of this passage we could take 1978, when the Deeply Vale festival took place, a free event organised by Chris Hewitt and Tractor, during which 51 bands were featured on stage. Tractor, by then reinforced with the addition of Dave Addison on bass, amongst the main promoters of the Manchester's legendary Electric Circus after which the band continued their race through the 80s, also crossing their adventures with those of the Body who started recording in their Rochdale's Cargo Studio; many of the 80s Tractor recordings are available on the "Worst Enemies" album, dating back 1991. The present CD is instead of a collection of unrealised and rare materials conceived during the whole Tra(je)ctor(y), then re-elaborated and re-mixed in October 1998 by Chris Hewitt. Its an appetising occasion to run across the multiform paths of Milne, Clayton and CO's creativity once more, the R'n'B and freakbeat sound of "Jester" and "About Yourself", the Lennon acidity "Bravado" and the young-like romanticism of "Who Am I", the floydian experimentalism of "Circuits Drawn On A Cigarette Packet" and "Watching White Stars", with its "saucerfully" combination of harmonium and angelic choirs.

More than everything else, we have to inscribe in the ideal anthology of all-time Tractor the rarefied and spectral electronics of "Steve's Hungarian Novel" and the big hippy-party of "Deeply Vale - Bring What You Expect to Find", among cannabis and incense smoke, West-coast guitars and free love ; you may call them perfumes of a long gone time, but it'd be wise to discover them as soon as possible, now that you pay BP60 for an admission to Glastonbury's Summer Solstice...

Rockerilla Magazine, Italy, February 2003
Review Of Tractor "Tractor" - 30th Anniversary Edition - Ozit- Morpheus CD 217

During the psychedelic era in England, 1960s and 70s, which is historically tied to the communes and free festivals, aside from renowned pioneers Arthur Brown, High Tide, Magic Muscle, Edgar Broughton and the Pink Fairies, there were some unsung heroes who weren't appreciated enough at the time, and who, to their credit, participated in the Deeply Vale Free Festival. One such example is The Way We Live who evolved into Tractor - a band that, along with Body, was often imitated at the time.

Aided by John Brierley, the nucleus of The Way We Live/Tractor, a band of mainly two musicians - excellent guitarist Jim Milne and magic drummer Steve Clayton - gave life to this album which captures the exact historic passage of pop psychadeia through to folk, always keeping the hope alive. With their manager and mentor Chris Hewitt by their side, these two have kept the band together for over thirty years; their history is explained in detail in the pages of the CD booklet enclosed therein. The approach of this latest edition is the difinitive history of Tractor - captured on record just as it happened - original material remastered with the original sound and feel of the music preserved intact. The inteligent selection of bonus tracks prompts a comparison to the live release of 2001 - 2002 by Nik Turner & his band, and the acoustic versions of those songs by Jim Milne serve as evidence of the rare sesnsibility of the group's instrumentals and the richness of their melodies. An esential reissue.

Enrico Ramunni