Shelleyan Orphan – Untitled Boxset
Shelleyan Orphan were an enigma of uniqueness. Popping up on my radar in the late ’80s due to their associations with The Cure I was floored by this duo’s second album. Then their singer, Caroline Crawley, worked with This Mortal Coil on the Blood album and I instantly became a massive fan. Sadly they only released one more album during their original tenure. After disbanding both members and other associated musicians worked together and apart on other projects but not until they reformed around 2008 to finally release their fourth album did I catch up with them again. Then, as quickly as they reappeared things went quiet and I heard nothing more about them until the sad news of Crawley’s death was announced last year.
All of that makes this gorgeous release so bittersweet it is hard to describe. This new boxset contains remastered versions of their three classic albums, Helleborine, Century Flower and Humroot, as well as a full additional CD of live, demo and b-side tracks and a DVD with some live TV performances and music videos. While there are still more b-sides, mixes and compilation tracks that could have been included for this box to cover everything except their final album I won’t make that quibble. What is in here is so lovely and nicely packaged and affordably priced that I’m just happy to have it as an audio celebration of Crawley’s life and voice.
Sure there is a hiccup or two, major among them is that Hellborine plays in the UK track order although the US listing is printed on the materials. But what is important here is the music which sounds lush and ethereal, folky but timeless, conceptual but never pretentious. The instrumentation that Jemaur Tayle, along with other musicians, created, while blissful and accomplished on its own, will always pale when compared to Caroline’s transportive vocals.
The presentation of this set, while not elaborate, is beautiful and worthy of the material it holds. Inside the box the CDs are housed in printed jackets featuring their respective album covers with colorful printed sleeves. The accompanying 20 page booklet is attractive and informative. Most striking of all is a reproduction of a handwritten letter from Jem containing musings on and remembrances of Caroline. Interesting, as that is how I see this entire box, musings on and remembrances of Shelleyan Orphan.