Rhythm & Views 

PJ Harvey

The always adventuresome Polly Jean Harvey was a frequent guest on legendary DJ John Peel's live BBC Radio One sessions. Her hypnotically charged and authoritative delivery hardly suffers in the sterile broadcasting environment, and this inexpressible quality is plentiful on The Peel Sessions 1991-2004. Released to honor Peel on the second anniversary of his death, Harvey has handpicked an eclectic batch of songs that reconfirms Peel's generous freedom for allowing artists to perform whatever obscure material they chose.

Led by her testimonial-like declarations, the unbridled stampede of Harvey's earliest material--from 1991--is abundantly evident within the thrusting rhythms of "Sheela-Na-Gig," a sexually charged bedroom romp, and the seductively ferocious "Victory," both recorded a year before Harvey's biting album debut Dry.

A laid-back though scintillating cover of Willie Dixon's "Wang Dang Doodle" and the religious fervor revealed on the starkly intimate "Snake" expose Harvey's stripped-down, experimental-blues obsession which is simultaneously tender, potent and utterly vicious.

"This Wicked Tongue," an import-only bonus track from Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea, is a refreshing and electrifying indulgence, and "You Come Through," recorded six weeks after Peel's demise, reveals Harvey's seductive voice afflicted with genuine emotion ("You come through for me / You be well for me"). This is a worthy if slightly abbreviated (only 12 songs, less than 41 minutes) selection of in-studio performances documenting the profound bond between Harvey and Peel.

More by Ron Bally


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