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Dr. Feelgood - Original Album Series reissue album review

The rise and fall of the Mark II model

Not as random as it might first appear, this five-disc set joins the Feelgoods’ timeline with the Canvey Island band on the verge of major changes. Sneakin’ Suspicion was the band’s fourth release, and the last to feature guitar-toting figurehead Wilko Johnson, soon to be sacked (in ill-judged haste, considering his role as Feelgood’s sole writer).

It’s a state of affairs born out by the 1977 album’s reliance on covers, with the title track arguably the only original to meet the benchmark set by previous material. Be Seeing You, released later the same year with new strummer John Mayo, found them tapping old friends Larry Wallis and producer Nick Lowe for new songs, while reworked 60s soul hits (Wilson Pickett, Homer Banks) suggested an at least partial detour from their pub-rock roots.

All but three tracks on Let It Roll (1979) were written specifically for the album, on which various permutations of members collaborated with session player Pete Wingfield and producer Mike Vernon, most effectively on the near hit single Put Him Out Of Your Mind, but it was a relatively underwhelming collection.

They were back on track for 1980’s high-octane A Case Of The Shakes, with Lowe again producing and singer Lee Brilleaux writing with more confidence on Punch Drunk and Drives Me Wild. That album was the furthest they’d escape Johnson’s long shadow.

And as if to underline the lessening dependence on their erstwhile founder, 1981’s live release On The Job completely ignores the Wilko-era songs that were hitherto the backbone of any Feelgoods set list. It would, however, be Mayo’s last outing and mark the end of the group’s long deal with label United Artists, the law of diminishing returns heralding their final days as a force with which to be reckoned.