Toyah – Sheep Farming in Barnet (2 CD 1 DVD Cherry Red)
Before the more pop based songs like “It’s A Mystery” and “I Want To Be Free” Toyah was aligning herself more with the Punk and New Wave movement both in acting (as part of Derek Jarman’s Jubilee) and musically. Sheep Farming in Barnet was Toyah’s first release and is probably her most adventurous musically. It was released as a 33and a 1/3 rpm 7” originally, with six tracks giving pretty good value for money though what the sound quality was like with that many tracks squeezed in I can’t imagine.
Cherry Red acquired the Safari Records catalogue and have started reissuing the labels releases with Wayne County, The Boys and Toyah being the first to arrive. Sheep Farming has been given a remaster and here is packaged as a 2 CD and DVD release with an extensive amount of single only tracks, demo versions, and alternative mixes. The final disc is a DVD which features two 2020 interviews with Toyah plus some early TV appearances and a 2020 acoustic session with performances of “Neon Womb, “Computer” and “Bird in Flight.”
It’s been a long time since I’ve heard most of these tracks and it’s more art rock than punk rock perhaps having a similar feel to Hazel O’Connor’s Breaking Glass album or early Nina Hagen.
The album here has the running order of the album version that was released after the original EP. It opens with “Neon Womb” which I believe she still plays today and it’s certainly the strongest piece on the album. Perhaps an unusual opener given its slow tempo but it’s a clever track that builds nicely and has some speed changes throughout. “Indecision” follows and is in a similar vein though heavier on the keyboards and with added sax. Not as strong as “Neon Womb” but still very entertaining. The third track “Waiting” has a Banshees influence, not surprising for a record fronted by a female singer in this genre and time but it’s more than just a pastiche it’s a strong enough track to go past it’s influences. “Computer” follows and is a nice enough New Wave track but perhaps not as strong or different to what’s gone before. In fact what you realise is the original 6 track EP running order had the strongest tracks and while the extra tracks that made up the full length album are pretty good they don’t quite hit the heights that “Neon Womb” and “Our Movie” do.
The first disc is finished off with a bunch of extra tracks., alternatives versions, some Shoestring versions, not as I originally thought relating to the budget but a nod towards a private detective TV show Toyah was in and performed tracks on as part of her character. It’s a shame they couldn’t licence the program and put these on the DVD.
Disc 2 continues with a huge amount of demos and alternative versions with a fascinating view of more stripped back less produced Toyah.
All in all a worthy release and it will be interesting to see what Cherry Red do with the rest of the release they have the rights to. DB