BBC Sessions chronicles early Belle and Sebastian

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Belle and Sebastian
The BBC Sessions
(Matador)

By Thomas Bond

For a band that began life as a one-off final project for singer Stuart Murdoch's university music business course, Scotland's Belle and Sebastian have done pretty well for themselves, now seven studio albums into their career. As it's been nearly three years since their last disc, The Life Pursuit, fans are sure to be glad to see the newly released The BBC Sessions.

Spanning five sessions recorded for Britain's national radio service over the years 1996-2001 in chronological order, you can literally hear the band growing in confidence, musicianship and songwriting ability. Some of these versions of songs differ greatly from the recordings that went on to grace various albums and singles, but even those that don't are full of charm.

Of the 14 tracks presented here, the final four will be of most interest to B&S fans as they have never been previously released. They are also the last songs to feature Isobel Campbell, who left the band shortly after recording them. Her breathy vocals on “The Magic of a Kind Word” are a terrific epitaph for her tenure in the group.

Initial copies of the Matador release feature a bonus live disc of a raucous Christmas show from December 2001.

The BBC Sessions is in stores now.

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