Finally, those of you with a permanent jones for utopian psychedelic rock should take care not to miss the sumptuous red vinyl double-LP compilation "The Road From Townhead Mill" by Rochdale legends and long-time Cope faves Tractor. For the howling, nay, devastating guitar performances contained herein blast forth with such emotion, such relentless hippy zeal and such righteous choices of notes that each song sags with tragedy and lost hope. All the big songs are here, of course, but new versions and new songs abound also, all showcasing that magnificent proto-Indie production that made this duo's home of John Peel's wonderful Dandelion Records label so righteous. Yup, while all the other white boys were busy aping Hendrix in a drippy sub-Robin Trower stylee, Messrs. Tractor & Trailer were off on a totally Krautrock trajectory, their own Hendrixisms exhibiting more Eddie Hazelisms than yer average Funkadelic record - step forwards ‘Lost On The Ocean'... Sheesh! Indeed, despite overplaying the John Peel credentials and being clad in a cheesy-cheesy sub-sub-fan club style that makes Marc On Wax look like Factory Benelux, "The Road To Townhead Mill" is chock full of soaring'n'heart-rending classics of the kind that only Tractor's Jim Milne and Steve Clayton were capable of, and for that we should kiss their long-time benefactors Ozit Records. So score this gatefold beastette from the aforemenched and tell 'em the Drude sent ya!
5 out of 5 stars - Absolutely essential compilation of classic Tractor tracks.
The 16 tracks contained on the 2 LPs of this set have been carefully selected by Tractor's manager Chris Hewitt and include notes by John Peel's widow. There are no filler tracks here, but there are some previously unreleased items. Highlights of the set include the timeless "No More Rock and Roll" and "Little Girl In Yellow." The set is on 180 gram vinyl and includes a CD containing the entire 73 minutes and 30 seconds of music found on the LP. Just to set the record straight, Tractor is very much alive and well in 2012, with guitar virtuoso Jim Milne and percussion genius Steve Clayton sounding as sharp as they did more than 40 years ago when they released their first LP "A Candle For Judith" (who would become Steve's bride) under their original moniker The Way We Live. BBC icon John Peel heard the band and became their benefactor, buying them studio gear and a P.A. system and sending them back into the studio to record for his Dandelion label. At Peel's insistence the band changed their name from The Way We Live to Tractor and as such have been recording and performing for 40 years. This set celebrates the 40th anniversary of the band's existence. The sound is quality is wonderful. I just received my copy today and it lived up to my high expectations. My suggestion, order your copy now if you haven't already. All fans of the psychedelic genre will want to add this set to their collection.
Kevin D. Rathert (Amazon review)
10 October, 2012
Celebrating four decades since their first furrow was ploughed, John Peel's favourites wheel back on the flaming red vinyl with cuts both long familiar and freshly reaped.
Those of us who didn't grow up in the UK may find it difficult to grasp the most famous British DJ's influence on music but, his radio sessions aside, John Peel made a palpable contribution to English sonic landscape when he established a studio in the mill town of Rochdale. Later a home to the likes of JOY DIVISION and known as Cargo, originally it was outfitted for TRACTOR, a duo of Jim Milne and Steve Clayton who started out as THE WAY WE LIVE yet changed their sound enough in the early '70s to prompt a name change - on the same broadcaster's suggestion. Having laid down the backing tracks for their Dandelion label mate Beau's "Creation", the band delivered their own eponymous classic whose legend keeps growing as the years go by. Cue a smattering of archive releases of which this is a crown jewel, ruby-red and red-hot.
A mix of cuts from "Tractor" and its precursor, TWWL's "A Candle For Judith", all making just a half of these two LPs, "The Road From Townhead Mill" puts things in perspective to show's the band's short-time progress from Zeppelin-esque riff-fest of "Storm" and "King Dick", that show Milne's mastery of blues guitar and soulful vocals, to the sharp, arresting drama of "Hope In Favour" and, on larger scale, of "Lost On The Ocean". But while the newly found instrumental "Abode Of The Dead" complements equally eerie "Shubunkin", the duo's soft underbelly, highlighted in "Everytime It Happens" and much rarer "Argument For One" (present here in a more sterile form and in a delicate radio rendition) is revealed in full with the recently uncovered ballad "In The Shadow Of Mills", its wordless acoustic treble tugging the toughest heartstrings before the gentle fuzz goes blitz. And if the epics such as this or "Little Girl In Yellow", combining electric thunder with nervous folk where Clayton's drums serve as a force of nature, sound raw and dirty, that only adds to the tempestuous impression and throws a bridge from TRACTOR to THE WHITE STRIPES and their ilk, especially clear in the dry, countrified "Flames", so one can draw a straight line between the glitzy "No More Rock 'n' Roll" and THE BLACK KEYS. Talk about hidden influences, then.
Grit on the mill, this collection makes a fodder for mind and soul. A glorious celebration.
Dmitry Epstein, DMME.NET, 2012