One of the most popular and well-traded recordings on the thriving, and officially endorsed, Gov't Mule bootleg circuit is what became known as the Tel-Star Sessions, which were the original recordings intended for the band's debut self-titled album, laid down at Tel-Star Studios in Florida. As part of the ongoing archive release series via new label Mascot Records, the tracks are now being released officially for the first time. For anyone unfamiliar with these recordings, on the surface they may seem like they'll be just a lower-quality run-through of the debut album songs, but in actual fact not all of these songs made it onto the debut album. Of the nine different songs here, only six were re-recorded at Bearsville Recording Studios in 1995 for Gov't Mule. Blind Man In The Dark was later re-recorded for the Dose album, and both The Same Thing and their cover of ZZ Top's Just Got Paid have never appeared on a studio album, even though they were regularly played live. Slightly superfluous is the alternate take of World of Difference, but for completeness sake it's included at the end of the album as a bonus track. All the fans who have had a copy in some or another of the bootleg release of these recordings will probably be pleased to upgrade to the proper version, but for anyone who hasn't heard them, these versions are a raw, entirely live in the studio representation of how Gov't Mule started. The unrestricted three-piece line-up really was Mule at their very best, and there probably isn't another studio recording which demonstrates that more than this one. There are plenty of differences between these versions and the final ones, which Mule aficionados will love discovering, but the main ones are that some are slower and bluesier here (e.g. Blind Man In The Dark), some are heavier (Monkey Hill) and most, which some fans will particularly revel in, give much more prominence to departed bassist Allen Woody's funky, grooving bass lines. This is essential for all Mule collectors, even those who have a bootleg copy. Casual fans might find less of interest, but this isn't really for them.Written by Andy Lye
More: 2016, Albums, Jam Bands, Quickplay Reviews, Gov't Mule
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