SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Wizzard: The Singles Collection, 2CD

WIZZARD    The Singles Collection (2CD set)

Firstly, a Happy New Year to all SMARTIES & indeed anyone else reading this review. I was hoping to put this in front of you just prior to Christmas, unfortunately with holiday postal delays my review copy arrived too late for that. But hey, like puppies Wizzard led by the wonderful Roy Wood are not just for Christmas! you can enjoy them all year round, especially if you get your hands on this new 2CD set from 7T’s Records. It’s the latest release in their ongoing ‘singles collections’ many of which have been reviewed in these pages. I have always made no secret of the fact I’m a huge fan of Roy Wood & all his work from The Move, Wizzard, collaborations & solo material. Most people i think are aware of the birth of Wizzard which came about in 1972 after Roy quit the fledgling ELO he had created with Jeff Lynne. Contrary to popular belief, however, there was no big bust up/row between Roy & Jeff who remain friends to this day. It was more to do with arguments with management (the infamous Don Arden) & other matters. And so lets get to the music…The new band made their live debut in August 1972 at Wembley as part of The London Rock & Roll Show. I saw them live for the first time some months later when they played Hastings Pier Ballroom on 9th February 1973 & here i must be scrupulously honest, they were a shambles, much to my disappointment. I can’t remember now whether i was the DJ/Compere on that occasion (i did several around then on The Pier, Gary Glitter & Chicken Shack & several others), it matters little as to whether i was there in an official capacity, or just there…but the band were clearly under rehearsed & all over the place, in stark contrast to when Roy appeared there several years earlier leading The Move. I was expecting a great night, including listening to them perform their debut hit ‘Ball Park Incident’, it was not to be. ‘Ball Park Incident’ kicks off Disc1 of this new release. It was to be the first of 6 Top 10 hits the band achieved, all naturally contained on this compilation. It was pretty obvious to all of us that loved The Ronettes, The Crystals etc that Roy’s vision of the sound of Wizzard owed a lot to Phil Spectors famous ‘Wall of Sound’ All the common tropes that made up that sound were to be found on all the big hits. Reaching their apogee in my view on (my personal favourite) ‘Angel Fingers’ (which you can view & hear at the end of this review). This is followed by the strangely named instrumental ‘The Carlsberg Special (Piano’s Demolished Phone 021 373 4472) composed by keyboard player Bill Hunt including his real phone number! Up next is arguably the bands best known and loved No 1 ‘See My Baby Jive’ which brings back fond memories of going to lunch regularly at Divito’s in St Leonards with Paul Casson back in 1973, Paul would always go straight to the juke box & play it…i even remember it was A3 on the selector…some things stay with you forever…the cheeky instrumental ‘B’ side ‘Bend Over Beethoven follows written by cellist Hugh McDowell. Then its on to the aforementioned personal favourite that is ‘Angel Fingers’ with its wonderful over-the-top production throwing in everything but the kitchen sink! ‘You Got The Jump On Me’ a rather strange offering follows written by bassist Rick Price, a rock stomper, its a bit of a mixed bag. Perennial Christmas classic ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday’ is up next & is shortly followed by the other winter release often forgotten now ‘Rock N’Roll Winter’ which features Roy’s then girlfriend the wonderful Lynsey De Paul on backing vocals. Another single that everyone seems to forget ‘This Is The Story Of My Love’ which only reached a lowly No 34 puts in a welcome appearance, its classic Wizzard & deserved to do much better. The first disc moves towards its  conclusion with the gentle instrumental ‘Dream of Unwin’, a piece I’ve often used as a ‘bed’ on my radio programmes. Disc 2 starts with the excellent invitation of ‘Are  You Ready To Rock’ A glorious confection of big band, swing, jazz & best of all some zany bagpipes! love it. It would be the bands last Top 10 hit reaching No 8. ‘Marathon Man’ an unremarkable instrumental, although featuring some fetching guitar, written by drummer Keith Smart follows, before Roy treats us to another homage to more early rock & roll shenanigans with ‘Rattlesnake Roll’. ‘Indiana Rainbow’ & ‘The Stroll’ credited respectively to Roy Wood’s Wizzard & Roy Wood’s Wizzo Band see the band take a more jazz orientated approach, but its apparent they are running out of steam. The penultimate track ‘Dancing At The Rainbows End’ sees Roy retreat to a more commercial production but it was too little too late and with little airplay and a planned tour cancelled the glory days were over. During their heyday in the early to mid 70’s Wizzard provided us with some classic Glam/Retro hits that will no doubt still be playing on the radio long after this presenter has left this earthly building & quite right too. Enjoy

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Til next time….take care…Colin…

Mick O’Dowd… I was at Wembley for their debut but can’t remember much about it. Screaming Lord Sutch had a bevvy of topless beauties and there was a lot of other big name r’n’r acts. Always loved Roy though and I last saw him in RW’s Army at Eastbourne.

Colin Bell… Mick, There were some big names there, i didn’t see it, but i know some others were Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Billy Fury & a certain new bloke in a silver suit we’d work with shortly afterwards………..

Gerry Fortsch… Mick, My Brother was with me at the gig, we paid for good seats but could not see a thing when we sat down so we pushed our way

Carol Anne… Loved Roy Wood & Wizard

Mick O’Dowd… I’ve managed to get a copy of the show on DVD


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