MARTIN NEWELL - The Greatest Living Englishman (Limited Edition Version)

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Rare cardboard cover version of this power pop classic with poster and bonus CD of Newell doing live poetry. Produced by Andy Partridge. " 4 1/2 stars. As it was produced by XTC's Andy Partridge (who also plays most of the drums), this was Newell's first project to receive any semblance of mainstream media attention in the U.S. What he was presenting, however, differed little in essence from what he'd been doing since Cleaners From Venusstarted in the early '80s: tuneful pop with heart and clever lyrics that could be joyfully optimistic, whimsically satirical, or dourly cynical. In fact, a few of these songs are remakes of things that Newellhad done in the Cleaners days, such as "Home Counties Boy" and the very Kinks-like "A Street Called Prospect" and "Christmas in Suburbia." The production was more in line with state-of-the-art standards, but really the results were no worse or better than on Newell's '80s recordings: less idiosyncratically homespun, perhaps, but more accessible to a wider audience. Playing, as always, like a snapshot of English life, it's the most suitable introduction to Newell's work, not in the least because it's one of his few albums that's reasonably obtainable without a major effort.