PJ Harvey The Peel Sessions 1991 — 2004

It only takes PJ Harvey a couple minutes into "Oh My Lover” to induce goosebumps. This comes as no surprise to those who have seen her live and certainly wasn’t one to the late great John Peel of BBC Radio. The Peel Sessions spans her career, with a heavy focus on the early ’90s. The performances of "Sheela-Na-Gig” and "Naked Cousin” or her rendition of Willie Dixon’s "Wang Dang Doodle” remind us of Harvey’s strength and importance. The influential Peel, who introduced British audiences to everything from West coast psychedelia to punk rock and reggae, recognised Harvey as a visionary musician at the cusp of an era that produced many imitators of her visceral style. Peel’s 1991 summation of Harvey in Melody Maker aptly captured initial reactions to her work: "...admirable if not always enjoyable.” Less known to the public is Harvey’s regard for Peel: "John’s opinion mattered to me... I sought his approval always.” Harvey’s oscillation between sweet girlishness and dirty blues-ridden temptress shines on every track. From the dramatic and rapacious force of her earlier work to the "happier” characters emerging in 2000’s Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea, Harvey’s craft is the creation of persona through song. "Victory” is sung by a young Harvey and rooted in a punk/grunge framework, whereas the equally powerful "Snake” delves deeper into the pathology of the angry character. Sadly, there are no selections from her 1995 album To Bring You My Love, which was arguably Harvey at her most performative. The last two songs on this disc display a quieter, more harmonious aesthetic. This album is a fine document of Harvey’s enduring vigour and essential for any fan. (Island)