Musical history is littered with abandoned projects, false starts and even completed albums placed in permafrost by frustrating record label politics. Sometimes it's the artists themselves who decide to sit on whole records and decide not to release them into the world – Neil Young, Ryan Adams and Prince fans will know this only too well. But now and again, these lost albums escape or are deemed worthy of belated appraisal.
While we wait for some recordings to be released – like Hendrix's 1970 16-song acoustic collection Black Gold – here are 5 treasures that eventually made it out alive, in some shape or form, and prove a fascinating listen. Don't let them slip away again…
1. The Cult – Peace aka Manor Sessions (1986)
If you liked the Cult's 1985 Love album and wondered why the follow-up couldn't have sounded similar, well it originally did – but the band canned it. Peace has guitarist Billy Duffy in She Sells Sanctuary mode, and that actually proved its undoing.
The band booked in with Love producer Steve Brown, again at Richard Branson's Manor studios in Oxfordshire. A whole album was recorded, but the band were unhappy with the results. “The songs were too long and just felt bloated and self-indulgent," Duffy reflected in a 2013 interview with Sabotage Times. "We’d gone back into the studio too soon, as the label just wanted us to keep laying golden eggs.
"In reality, we should have kept rehearsing and gone through a pre-production process. We knew something was not right, but didn’t quite know what it was. I remember listening to a replay of the album at the Townhouse studios and thinking, 'We’re doomed!'”
The band would end up reworking many of the songs including Wildflower, Love Removal Machine and Peace Dog, for the far leaner Rick Rubin-helmed AC/DC rock n' roll strut of Electric. And it worked – The Cult went big in the US, and yet we can't help dwelling on Peace – which finally surfaced on the Cult's now deleted 2000 Rare Cult boxset – and enjoying it for what it is: Love II, with Duffy frequently opting for the more is more route with his guitar work. And why not when it sounds so spectacular?
Electric and Peace are available together to buy as a double CD set here.
2. Neil Young – Chrome Dreams (1977)
Compiled in acetate form in 1977, it wasn't until August 2023 that Chrome Dreams officially saw the light of day as Neil Young's 44th album – though it had circulated amongst fans in bootleg form for decades. Was it worth the wait?
It wasn't the only album that failed to see a release from this era – Homegrown finally saw a release in 2020 – and, like that record, The Toronto maverick's sessions for Chrome Dreams date as far back as 1974. When it came to the crunch, Young decided to release American Stars ’N Bars in the summer of 1977 instead – using four Chrome Dreams songs for it – including Like A Hurricane. More songs would be revisited for later albums.
The acoustic Pocahontas and Powderfinger were given the electric Crazy Horse treatment for 1979's Rust Never Sleeps, Captain Kennedy ended up on 1980's Hawks & Doves, and Too Far Gone was reworked for his 1989's Freedom. The Chrome Dreams songs clearly stayed with Young and the original 1976 Malibu sessions that had birthed Pochahontas, Powderfinger and Captain Kennedy were issued as the Hitchhiker collection of demos in 2017. We are aware this is getting pretty confusing now but welcome to the world of Neil Young's discography – especially as this had no relation to 2007 album Chrome Dreams II.
It's strange then to hear these songs in their original home as originally recorded by Young, and together; the sequencing could certainly have been one of his most compelling records of the '70s. And it isn't even the only lost and found Young album you can say that about either – there's also 1973's live album of unreleased songs, Time Fades Away.
3. Joy Division – Warsaw (1978)
The lost 11-track 1978 debut – named after the band's original name – that finally saw a release in 1994, Joy Division's RCS Sessions were scrapped following the dissolution of their planned deal with the label and dissatisfaction with its production. Manager Rob Gretton ended up buying the tapes back.
Four of the songs tracked in that sessions had been recorded before in 1977, and it was these that formed their debut EP, An Ideal For Living, on the band's own label. Elsewhere, Shadowplay and Interzone would later feature on debut long-player Unknown Pleasures in 1979.
Joy Division's evolution was swift – and you can hear the shift begin as Warsaw goes on. At heart, this was a rawer, punk-rock Stoogier sound than the post-punk evolution that would be guided by Unknown Pleasures producer Martin Hannett. And it's a gem; Bernard Sumner's minimalist and perfectly paced approach to guitar and Peter Hook's powerful low end already an irresistible combination.
4. Weezer – Songs From The Black Hole (1994-1996)
What do you do after guiding your band into huge alt-rock debut album success? You plan a space-rock opera set in the future and then bin the whole thing, leaving hardcore fans obsessed with it for details. Such is the frequent contrarism of Rivers Cuomo and Weezer, and to be fair we did eventually get – according to who you ask – Weezer's greatest album with Pinkerton instead.
What could have been the follow-up to Weezer's Blue Album is Songs From The Black Hole. A subject of such fascination that fans have recorded whole covers of the record in lieu of a finished article from the band. Because things got far enough along for proposed tracklistings, and songs to populate them. So what happened?
The concept was the usual fare; an intergalactic story based in 2126 and loosely based on Rivers' conflicted feelings about his newfound fame as a rock star, with characters voiced by the band and guest vocalists. Some of that inevitably made it onto Pinkerton with compelling results. Some songs would survive to make it onto that album and b-sides – Tired Of Sex, You Gave Your Love To Me Softly, Getchoo, Devotion, Why Bother? and I Just Threw Out The Love Of My Dreams – but many didn't. The good news is they're all out there.
Cuomo recorded eight-track demos for the album during the Christmas of 1994, followed by band recording sessions in August 1995 at New York City's Electric Lady Studios. Then the singer enrolled at Harvard late that year and the concept and upbeat mood was abandoned, in favour of what became 1996's Pinkerton. The recordings that were made for Songs From The Black Hole have gradually surfaced via official releases of collected Cuomo demos and the expanded 2010 reissue of Pinkerton.
All these song and seague track recordings have been compiled at Bandcamp into the closest representation of Songs From The Black Hole you'll find. It's a showcase of just how gifted Cuomo is as a songwriter – the idea of a song like Getting Up And Leaving being cast aside is hard to fathom – but also his sense of artistic vision coming out of a hugely successful album.
5. The Who - Lifehouse / Life House (1971)
Not dissimilar to Weezer's change of plan, Pete Townshend had a grand concept for The Who – another rock opera that was even more ambitious than the album and tour that preceded it; 1969's Tommy. The album that would have been Lifehouse (and now referred to by the band as Life House) was eventually jettisoned in favour of the more straightforward Who's Next. But the songs would find lifelines elsewhere and Townshend's Life House demos are now included on a new boxset.
Lifehouse was conceived as a film, album and experimental live musical event, inspired by Townshend's experience touring Tommy. The songwriter unearthed the 1970-71 era demo tapes that now account for two discs of the new 155-song Who’s Next/Life House box set. The songs would cover eerily prophetic themes of climate catastrophe and visions of a technological future with its concept of The Grid.
“There were a few songs from Life House that were written specifically to be a part of the fictional film script, as it was,” Townshend told udiscovermusic.com . “The project was in two parts. It was a fictional film script that was science fiction – naïve science fiction, really, looking back, because however prescient it appears to be today, I was reading science fiction like everybody did, and there were fantastic stories from the ’40s onwards. Isaac Asimov and a whole number of science fiction writers that foresaw the future, as it is now. So I wasn’t as smart as my shirt appears to be today.”
Now, alongside the box set's graphic novel, fans can get a fuller picture of what Life House would have become. Townshend's demos are well-formed with him playing all the instruments – including drums. “He used to play everything," notes bandmate Roger Daltrey in the same discovermusic.com piece. "He had the ability. Pete is an incredible musician, there’s no doubt about that. In my opinion he’s the best rhythm/lead guitarist out there. No one else plays like him, he’s a total original.”
Studio sessions followed at the Record Plant in New York during March 1971. But after Townshend began suffering from depression, the ambitious project began to unravel and the band changed tack. Songs including – Won't Get Fooled Again, Baba O'Reilly and Behind Blue Eyes – some of which the band had roadtested at shows – were amongst the Life House tracks that would be recorded again with producer Glyn Johns and within two weeks Who's Next was completed.
All the Life House songs have now surfaced in some form on Whote studio album and compilations. Greyhound Girl and Teenage Wasteland (a song that shares lyrics with Baba O'Reilly) finally saw an official release on 2010's Lifehouse Chronicles.