“In many ways my work has always been ongoing therapy, and with release of these albums, my song closets are again empty. Now, maybe, I can move on.”

So reads Mr Cole’s sleevenote on this gorgeously packaged 4-CD set. Now, while that may sound like an artist admitting he’s dressing up some leftover dirges for a bit of cash, in fact, this impressive package is filled with surprises. It includes the entire studio album The Negatives, released in May 2000, plus, Loaded, a strong live performance recorded in New York.

The Eno-inspired Plastic Wood is the weakest link. While there’s no harm in short incidental pieces, it’s unfortunate for Lloyd it comes so soon after Babybird Stephen Jones’ ambient attic clear-out, which featured tunes that make Cole’s juxtaposed loops seem tame.

Etc., however, is wonderful, seeing Cole approaching something like his best. It was recorded in 1996 after completing the Love Story tour and the collection includes some gorgeous, stripped-down melodies, alongside Cole’s self-consciously romantic lyrics – especially in versions of ‘Another Lover’ and ‘Old Enough To Know Better’. Saturated with his main influences – Dylan and Reed – the collection includes a cover of ‘You’re A Big Girl Now’, plus Karen Black’s Nashville classic, ‘Memphis’.

Altogether, this is a fascinating mini-archive, chock full with LC goodies, and the design team should win the 2001 ‘most attractive addition to a coffee table’ award.

Publication: Record Collector No 270

Publication date: 01/02/02