The All Seeing I – Pickled Eggs & Sherbet

We all have music which we know we love, but somehow inexplicably we forget about and neglect for years on end. Pickled Eggs & Sherbet is probably the best example for me. When it originally came out back in 1999 I knew I loved Walk Like a Panther and 1st Man in Space, but somehow I didn’t buy it at the time. Intermittently in the intervening years I’ve

Pickled Eggs & Sherbet opens with top ten single Walk Like a Panther, with Tony Christie‘s brilliant vocal. Even the first line harks back to Christie’s Show Me the Way to Amarillo, with its references to the outcome of his relationship with Marie. The song is co-written by Jarvis Cocker out of The 1990s, and the outcome is truly wonderful.

Walk Like a Panther mixes into No Return which introduces one of the most enormous bass sounds on any song ever. Beat Goes On follows, the first commercial hit for the group, which just missed out on a top ten placing in early 1998. It’s a great cover version of Sonny and Cher‘s 1967 single, and was justifiably a significantly bigger hit in the UK too. Interestingly you’ll also find The All Seeing I‘s production of this song but with a slightly different vocal tucked away at the end of Britney Spears‘s debut album …Baby One More Time.

There are nominally thirteen tracks (plus a couple of sneaky extra ones hiding at the end too), and every one of them has a slightly grimy northern sound which works in their favour and makes them somewhat timeless. The more ‘pop’ tracks and singles are interspersed with fun instrumentals of varying lengths.

Finally the third full single 1st Man in Space turns up with its excellent vocal from Phil Oakey. Backed, unusually for Phil, by flanged guitars, and with the ingenious lyrics, there’s a very obvious sixties feel. As with most of the vocal-based tracks, this is another Jarvis Cocker lyric, making you dream of the day of the first Yorkshire astronaut (the first Yorkshireman in space wouldn’t be until Nicholas Patrick in 2006, although Piers Sellers was a University of Leeds graduate and had visited space ten years earlier).

It quickly becomes apparent that Sheffield has a massive influence on this album. The vast majority of contributors are from the steel city, from The Human League‘s Phil Oakey to Tony ChristiePulp‘s Jarvis Cocker, Babybird‘s Stephen Jones, the band themselves who would later evolve into I Monster, and I’m sure the list could go on.

Cocker finally turns up for his own vocal on the brilliant Drive Safely Darlin’, just before Tony Christie returns for what is, in my opinion, the best track on the entire album, the swing-inspired Stars on Sunday. You can hear a lot of early I Monster on this track, but once again it’s Christie’s vocal which makes it so wonderful.

This is a deceptive album, in a way. Somehow I suspect it would be easy to miss the better songs hiding on here and just take it all to be dull and samey. But it’s worth making the extra effort and working to find what you’re looking for on here, as there are plenty of great tracks.

Happy Birthday Nicola, the third outing for Tony Christie, is a great example, turning up as it does just before the end. There’s something rather sinister about it, as Tony sings “If we’d used some contraception / I wouldn’t be here, and you wouldn’t be you,” and maybe I should leave the rest of the lyrics for you to work out for yourself, but it’s a great song. I can’t help but feel slightly that Jarvis Cocker was raiding Christie’s back catalogue again for inspiration (he sang Happy Birthday Baby back in the 1970s).

Unpredictably and unnoticeably the song mixes into Babybird‘s vocal on Plastic Diamond, and I have no idea whether the segue is solely there for aural reasons or whether it’s somehow supposed to be part of the same story. But, secret hidden material aside, that finally brings the album to a close, and a quite fantastic album it is too.

Unfortunately Pickled Eggs & Sherbet is only currently available second hand, so I’ll leave you to work out whether you prefer to buy through Amazon, Discogs, eBay, Gemm, or wherever else.

1 thought on “The All Seeing I – Pickled Eggs & Sherbet

  1. Pingback: Beginner’s guide to I Monster | Music for stowaways

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