Album: Various Artists, Kats Karavan: The History of John Peel on the Radio (Universal)

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The Independent Culture

John Peel's first stint as DJ was in 1959, for a Dallas radio station's R&B show called Kats Karavan; thereafter, the work sheet for every Peel show bore that same legend in the space reserved for the programme title.

This four-CD set offers a varied selection of the sorts of oddball, often outré music that characterised his shows, organised in chronological order. It's by no means perfect, but then neither were his shows. I'm sure that the likes of Ballboy, Bong Ra and Bearsuit have their attractions, but only the most stubborn advocate of Noughties indie would argue that there isn't a steady decline in quality from the first disc (1966-1979) – which opens with the Misunderstood's ethereal classic "I Can Take You to the Sun" and goes on to include Traffic, Tim Hardin, John Cale, Sandy Denny, the Damned, the Jam and the Slits – through each successive era. Of course, that was hardly Peel's fault, simply a reflection of changing times. But a strong case could be made for having separate, more thorough underground and punk discs – that shift representing the most significant change in his entire career – and squeezing the subsequent landfill indie on to the remaining two discs. Still, it's nice to hear his dulcet tones again.

Download this I Can Take You to the Sun; If I Were a Carpenter; Fear Is a Man's Best Friend; C'n'C Hassle Schmuk; Hawaiian Island Wranglers