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The Durutti Column \ Without Mercy [FBN 84 / CD]

Factory Benelux presents expanded 4xCD and 2xLP disc editions of Without Mercy, the fourth album by Manchester ensemble The Durutti Column, originally released in 1984 and widely regarded as Vini Reilly's most ambitious album.

In 1983 Durutti Column mentor/manager Tony Wilson asked Vini Reilly to abandon fleeting guitar miniatures in favour of a longform modern classical piece. The result was an ambitious 20 minute instrumental suite, Without Mercy, performed by core Durutti duo Vini Reilly and Bruce Mitchell along with Blaine L. Reininger and John Metcalfe (violas), Caroline Lavelle (cello), Tim Kellett (trumpet) and Maunagh Fleming (cor anglais).

Explains Vini: "Tony had just come in for a conversation one day and said, 'Look, you keep making these albums that you want to make, and I'm quite happy with you doing that, but just give me this one album and do it my way.' He wanted it to have a narrative determined by a Keats poem, La Belle Dame Sans Merci, which he said was the poet's version of a pop song: boy meets girl, falls in love with girl, loses girl, blah blah blah. It was a very, very Tony way of looking at it. He had aspirations that I should be taken seriously."

Produced by Reilly and Wilson at Strawberry Studio and Britannia Row, Without Mercy was originally split into 19 separate stanzas, some of which have now been restored using digital cue points on the CD. Bonus tracks include the original recordings of Duet, Estoril a Noite and Favourite Descending Intervals (all re-worked for inclusion on Without Mercy), as well as companion EP Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say, collaborations with John Metcalfe, Steven Brown and Benjamin Lew, and two previously unreleased live sets across Discs 3 and 4, recorded at London School of Economics in December 1984 and Oslo in December 1986.

The remastered 4xCD set is housed in a clamshell box, with inner wallets and liner notes by Reilly, Wilson, Mitchell, Reininger and Metcalfe. The cover painting is L'Etang de Trivaux by Henri Matisse (1916/17).

The outer sleeve of the double vinyl edition is printed on 500 mic grey cairn board, with letterpress typography and tipped sheets front and back. The insert (with liner notes) is printed on a 350gsm white frost card, and the whole package housed in a re-sealable polybag.

4xCD tracklist:

Disc 1 (CD)

1. Without Mercy (Stanzas I-III)
2. Without Mercy (Stanzas IV-VII)
3. Without Mercy (Stanza VIII)
4. Without Mercy (Stanzas IX-XII)
5. Without Mercy 2
6. All That Love and Maths Can Do
7. Snowflakes
8. Profondeurs des Eaux des Laques
9. The Sea Wall
10. Duet
11. Estoril a Noite
12. Favourite Descending Intervals

Disc 2 (CD)

1. Goodbye
2. The Room
3. A Little Mercy
4. Silence
5. E.E.
6. Hello(w)
7. Paresseuse Aussi
8. Mercy Theme (Live in Tokyo 1985)
9. A Little Mercy (Live in Tokyo 1985)
10. Estoril a Noite (Live in Rotterdam 1983)
11. Favourite Descending Intervals (Live in Manchester 2011)

Disc 3 (Live in London 1984 CD)

1. Sketch for Summer
2. Jacqueline
3. Mercy Theme
4. A Little Mercy
5. Pauline
6. Mercy Dance
7. E.E.
8. The Room
9. Silence
10. Ornithology
11. Prayer
12. The Beggar
13. The Missing Boy
14. Friends in Belgium

Disc 4 (Live in Oslo 1986 CD)

1. Mercy Theme
2. A Little Mercy
3. Pauline
4. Mercy Dance
5. E.E.
6. Silence
7. The Room
8. Dream of a Child
9. Tomorrow
10. Blind Elevator Girl

2xLP tracklist:

Disc 1

A1. Without Mercy I
B1. Without Mercy II

Disc 2

C1. All That Love and Maths Can Do
C2. Duet
C3. Estoril a Noite
C4. Favourite Descending Intervals
C5. A Little Mercy
D1. Mercy Theme (Live in London 1984)
D2. A Little Mercy (Live in London 1984)
D3. Mercy Dance (Live in London 1984)

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Without Mercy [FBN 84]
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"Anticipating the new classical sound three decades early, Without Mercy merged Reilly's distinctly fluid, sparkling guitar lines (which remain its heart) with classical instrumentation, including gorgeous woodwind melodies, plaintive strings and cello. Further related tracks from the same era underline his unique genius. 8/10" (Uncut, 09/2018)

"In 1983, Factory boss Tony Wilson asked Vini Reilly to write a modern classical piece based on a Keats' poem. The result was Without Mercy, an instrumental suite on which Reilly's trademark brittle guitar skeins. Reilly originally wrote this piece in 19 stanzas, relocated on this 4CD reissue using digital cue points. It's a loving restoration of a fragile reverie, and comes with companion tracks and two live sets recorded in London and Oslo" (Classic Pop, 08/2018)

"Across the stanzas of Without Mercy Reilly's unique way with guitar, electronics and drum machines grows into lush arrangements of piano, strings and brass - and contracts again, his myopic focus on tiny details and sketches" (Electronic Sound, 09/2018)

"This is a move into modern classicism. Beautiful without being cloying, the ghost of Erik Satie looming large over the proceedings, the piece develops in texture and pace in a quietly impressive manner. Worth getting for side one alone - four stars" (Sounds, 1984)

"Marking a further progression in the overall Durutti sound, Without Mercy offers both an expanded lineup and sense of what could be done with Reilly's compositions. Consisting of a two-part full-album instrumental piece, Without Mercy integrates the slight hints of classical orchestration and accompaniment from Another Setting more fully via a slew of additional players. Besides the indefatigable Mitchell on percussion and Reilly on guitar, bass, and keyboards, performers on everything from viola to cor anglais and trumpet flesh out Without Mercy's sound to newly striking heights. Reilly's work on piano sets the initial mood for the song, a sound by now as intrinsic to Durutti's approach as his guitar work, capturing both tender beauty and deep melancholy just so. Maunagh Fleming's oboe and Tim Kellet's trumpet start to step in as well as Reilly's guitar, adding in here and there as needed while the track unfolds further to another typically brilliant Reilly guitar solo. From such a striking start, the song continues to unfold over the album's full length. It's very self-consciously romantic, but the combination of new and old instruments, plus the continuation of the unique Durutti sheen and shine in the recording quality, results in quietly touching heights. Blaine Reininger's viola and violin and Caroline Lavelle's cello add even more classical atmosphere, while the restraint they exercise as well as all the other performers prevent things from becoming a bloated prog-rock monstrosity. Then again, the funky horns and beats about eight minutes into the second part don't hurt either. Even at its busiest, reflection and subdued but not inactive performing are the key, with clear echoes of Erik Satie's work at many points, while Reilly is almost always, either via keyboards or his guitar, front and centre. The CD reissue includes the Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say EP. Also appearing are two separate, very stripped-down pieces recorded around the same time, one of which, the wonderful All That Love and Maths Can Do, features violist John Metcalfe in his first recorded effort with Durutti" (All Music Guide, 1998)

"The first side of the original album (tracks 1 to 4 here) are much in a straightforward classical mode, with for most of the time piano and viola being the lead instruments. This found the band streets away from any rock/pop of the time, but they retain the passion and vision of their previous recordings, while taking on this new environment with gusto. The pacing of the piece undulates and the viola skips in and out, providing more than adequate emotion even without the assistance of words. A repeated piano riff works as the anchor and the long running time coasts by. Side 2 of that vinyl LP (track 5 here) was more in the way of Durutti Column's previous work, with Reilly's guitar back at its heart and prominent electronic percussion showing up well too. A much more urgent sounding piece, in effect the counterpoint to the reflective mood of earlier on. Altogether this was a brave experiment for a time when people were still obsessed with the singles and that Durutti Column managed to pull it off with aplomb is to their great credit.

"As well as the original album on Disc 1 we get extras in the three tracks in Duet, Estoril A Noite and Favourite Descending Intervals, which were reworked on into parts of Without Mercy. Estoril A Noite stands up particularly well away from the parent album, with the kind of flowing guitar notes Reilly had made his trademark. Also adding value are the elegant The Sea Wall and All The Love and Maths Can Do, which is imbued with a strange kind of static beauty. CD Disc 2 includes all of the 6 track Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say EP with Silence being the standout for me. It has a beautiful understated feel to it, evoking a delightfully balmy atmosphere. There are 4 live offerings which are off-cuts of Without Mercy, two of which Mercy Theme and A Little Mercy became shorthand for the full work in the live setting. There is also the brief piano skitter and percussion of Paresseuse Aussi, an odd sounding off-cut."

"Of the two live sets which make up CD Discs 3 and 4 respectively, for me the 1984 showing at the LSE just has the edge. Both feature some Without Mercy material in shortened forms and both have been captured in a pleasingly full clarity. A testimony to the hard work and expertise of the musicians who featured in the Durutti Column line up of the time and of course the Factory Benelux folk who polished them up for release. The LSE performance has great takes of Pauline and The Room. Ornithology surprises too, being a piece mainly for brass. Another different style, it is a great deal of fun expertly handled, and E.E. is another goodie full of frosty electro sheen. A fine demonstration of DC's strengths in the live setting at that point in time. The Oslo disc contains a lot of good stuff on it too, a subtle but purposeful treatment of Dreams of a Child being a real highlight. The set climaxes with the sad, sensitive pop of Tomorrow, glumly concluding 'tomorrow never comes', which juxtaposes keenly with the positive vigour of the melody. However a bright and jubilant version of Blind Elevator Girl ends things on a high, hopeful note."

"Ardent fans will be delighted with the thorough treatment Without Mercy receives here - DC are lucky to have their back catalogue curated so well, this is a beautifully packaged and authoritative release. The extras add value to the work itself and everything here is interesting and unique. You won't hear another band like them. All of which means they are certainly worth a few hours of your time." (Louder Than War, 09/2018)

Without Mercy [FBN 84]