WINDS OF TIME – Anatomy Of A Compilation
I can’t really review the Hear No Evil / Cherry Red compilation ‘Winds Of Time’ as I was heavily involved in its compilation, but as it was a lot of fun for a NWOBHM fan to work on I thought it was worth giving its history a quick mention here.
You remember the good old days of making up compilation cassettes to pass around your friends? Well, this was pretty much the same, but on a much bigger scale! Steve Hammonds, a man whose name crops up on a bewildering array of re-issues, came up with the original concept for a triple CD a good two years ago. In my opinion his tracklisting was a little too samey, so I proposed a few changes, and from thereon in we batted suggestions back and forth while ascertaining what was available for licensing. What I wanted was a satisfying blend of familiar old favourites and lesser-known names (so, mixing the likes of Diamond Head, Girlschool and Saxon with, for example, Stormqueen, Demon Pact and Warrior) and, where possible, pulling less obvious songs out of the hat. I think my favourite memory of that time was playing Shiva’s ‘Continuance’ demos album to determine which song would best fit and after every track thinking ‘that’s the one’. Having got to the end of the album without making a decision I had to start all over again. But then, that was no hardship.
The best compilations are those that flow like a regular album, so ‘Winds Of Time’ needed a logical sequence of tracks across all three CDs, each of course starting and ending with a definitive statement. Coming up with three cracking openers was easy. Brian Tatler once told me that ‘Lightning To The Nations’ kicked off Diamond Head’s debut album because there were no other obvious candidates. “You couldn’t open an album with ‘The Prince’, could you?” he said. Well, I beg to differ. Lautrec’s ‘Mean Gasoline’ was the storming opening cut of the terrific ‘Bristol Heavy Rock Explosion’ compilation released by Bristol Archive Records in 2016, and I’ll freely admit that I ‘borrowed’ the idea from there. (Sorry!) And Venom’s ‘Witching Hour’ is an old favourite and a great scene setter for what’s to come on that particular disc. After that came endless plays of proposed material to achieve some kind of balance across the set (hey, I’m a Libran – I need harmony and balance!), and choosing a title track. The nod went to Elixir’s ‘Winds Of Time’ became the title seemed to fit with what we were trying to achieve and because, although it’s nowhere near as famous as the A-side it backed, it’s a truly great song in its own right; when I asked Phil Denton if we could license the track he was a little unsure at first, as ‘Treachery (Ride Like The Wind)’ is usually first on any Elixir hit list, but he would later come back and say: “It was great to be included in this compilation, as the whole package has been put together very well and there are many influential bands from the time included. We feel honoured to be amongst such great company, and to have the album named after our track is the icing on the cake.” ‘Winds Of Time’ copped an eight-out-of-ten review from Rich Davenport in Classic Rock, who noted that it “showcases the NWOBHM at its best, and should appeal to anyone keen to revisit or investigate the era.” Job done, in my opinion.
There was, however, one last thing about the set that bugged me. When the test discs arrived they varied in length between sixty-six and seventy-six minutes, which was something my need for balance couldn’t cope with. As such, a few more tweaks were made to the running order to harmonise the discs around the seventy-or-so minute mark. On reflection, I now wish that the live version of ‘Stallions Of The Highway’ had closed disc two, to lead into the live Venom opener on disc three, but it’s too late to worry about that. Crank it up and enjoy!
© John Tucker June 2018