As an album to mark over two decades making sublime, occasionally wondrous music together, Across Six Leap Years is something of an oddity. It's a compilation album, and yet gathers together a measly ten tracks from the Tindersticks twenty one year's existence and vast back catalogue of singles, studio albums and soundtracks.
The choice of songs is idiosyncratic to say the least; it would be pushing it to claim that this in any way constitutes a collection of their finest moments. There is some suggestion that these tracks were chosen because the original recordings did not turn out as the band had envisaged – if that is the case, it is somewhat curious as many of the re-worked versions contained on this record seem to have undergone minor, cosmetic changes.
'If You're Looking For a Way Out' from their very fine soul influenced 1999 release, Simple Pleasure, is a case in point. The casual listener would be hard pressed to notice the subtle differences between this and the original recording. The revisited version of 'A Night In' seems to have lost a little of the dramatic sweep of the original with a more muted string arrangement, but sticks pretty closely to the original in all other respects.
'Friday Night' and 'Marseilles Sunshine' are two tracks that ended up on singer Stuart Staple's solo album – here, they are released as Tindersticks songs for the first time. The whole album was recorded in Abbey Road, and while it does sound cohesive and holds together pretty well, it seems like a pointless and futile exercise. For the uninitiated, any one of the trio of albums released between 1993 and 1999 represents the band at their creative peak. Their live album The Bloomsbury Theatre 12.3.95 is another good starting point for those unfamiliar with the band's unique brand of string drenched romanticism.
With such an impressive and extensive back catalogue of material, there is a definitive compilation in there somewhere but this isn't it. The band may claim that's not the point of this collection but it is hard to see what real purpose it serves, being a random selection of tracks that don't sound a whole lot different to the original recordings.
One for completists only.
Review by Paul Page