Frank Turner values his loyal fan base. For that he must be applauded. 'The Third Three Years', as the title suggests, is the third such release mopping up demos, covers and unreleased material. By its very nature this compilation is aimed squarely at those that are already on the Turner bandwagon, predominantly those who haven't explored any further than his studio albums. If this is to be Frank's very own 'Bootleg Series', then the period before and after last year's record 'Tape Deck Heart' seems slightly less fruitful than the material presented on the previous two compilations. In honesty, I think it's more a reflection of the tracklisting itself than the additional material he's produced in the last 36 months, there just seem to be some obvious omissions here.
That there is a distinct focus on acoustic material isn't a problem. It highlights Turner's interest in traditional folk and the strength of his song writing on the stripped down versions of his own songs. However, it is a shame the absence of his band 'The Sleeping Souls' means there's little of the electricity of his recent full band shows and 'Tape Deck Heart' on show here. Perhaps, then, it's best to think of this as a scrapbook rather than a comprehensive representation of Turner's talents.
It's not that 'The Third Three Years' isn't worth your time, it is. However, last time Turner compiled his material in this way we were treated to the bonus 'deluxe edition' tracks from 'England Keep My Bones'. Unfortunately, the equivalent material from 'Tape Deck Heart' is notable by its absence. Equally, 'The Polaroid Picture EP' only gets one entry here, despite containing a number of covers more worthy of inclusion than the likes of Noel Coward's 'The Bad Times Are Just Around The Corner' or the carbon copy of Queen's 'Somebody To Love'. Although the covers are invariably the weakest part of this compilation, they're not all forgettable. Tom Petty's 'American Girl' which is previously unreleased is heartbreaking, and the piano balladry of Cory Branan's 'The Corner' is haunting.
There are a number of highlights with the original material. 'Hits & Mrs' shows that Turner still has a wry sense of humour when crafting observational songs. 'Riot Song' is a bona fide slice of social commentary tapping into Turner's punk rock roots; it's an ode to London and the riots in 2011. Occasionally, the acoustic renditions of 'Tape Deck Heart' songs also surpass the originals. Specifically here 'The Way I Tend To Be', featuring Matt Nasir on mandolin, is a very strong entry into Turner's back pages. There's also a heart-warming camaraderie when other artists such as Emily Barker and Jon Snodgrass appear.
Really, you can't complain with 21 songs packed onto the record. While I may contest that a modified selection would have served both fans and new listeners with a stronger compilation, you can't argue that Turner's heart is definitely in the right place. It's a nice addition to 'Tape Deck Heart', but by no means essential. With material for a new record already being road tested, there's much to look forward to from Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls. Let's just hope that's why 'The Third Three Years' has a touch of afterthought about it; perhaps the band are just busy looking forwards rather than backwards.
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