Tractor - “The Way We Live - A Candle For Judith”
Ozit Morpheus CD Ozit 216

Rochdale’s post – hippy favourites Tractor started their long, still-continuing journey back in 1971 as The Way We Live, with the album “A Candle for Judith”. Originally released on John Peel’s Dandelion imprint, in original vinyl form it is one of that label’s most salivated-over releases.

Here, those original eight songs are augmented by two unreleased tracks from the same period as the album sessions, and a further nine The Way We Live/Tractor recordings spanning 35 years from the late 60s to 2003. Throughout that time, the core of the band has been Jim Milne and Steve Clayton. Although later recordings often featured additional musicians, the two main men did everything on the original album - Milne playing guitar and singing and Clayton manning the drum kit, the two of them sharing bass and keyboard duties. That degree of flexibility is notable in itself, but the variety and quality of the material the two cooked up is nothing short of astonishing. The first three songs alone show more variety and depth than a lot of bands manage in a career. King Dick II is convincing early Zep – style heavy riffing. Squares - a keening folky ballad and Siderial - an open-tuned acoustic slide thrash.

True the lyrics creak a bit with age, but get past that and you’ll find that this is an album that lives up to its reputation. Of the two period outtakes, Watching White Stars would have fitted well on the album, The Other Marie is reminiscent of Gabriel-era Genesis. The late 70s cut Northern City is passable country soul.

Record Collector, January 2004