SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell. Reviewing I See You Live On Love Street – Music From Laurel Canyon 1967-1975, 3CD Box Set


I’m delighted to bring you this companion piece from Grapefruit Records to their well received 2022 ‘Heroes & Villains : The Sound of Los Angeles 1965 – 1968 compilation, previously reviewed in these pages. This new compilation boasts 3 CD’s spanning 72 tracks & running to over 4 hours & as ever with Grapefruit its beautifully presented in a sturdy clamshell box with each of the 3 CD’s enclosed in its own cardboard sleeve & sporting individual artwork. The accompanying 48 page booklet by label boss David Wells, is as ever, a fascinating treasure trove of information, annotating the tracks together with contemporary photo’s & I particularly liked the closing double page spread of Posters advertising gigs of the times. With the likes of The Doors, Jefferson Airplane & The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band plus others on the same bill. Wonderful. For those not familiar with the whole Laurel Canyon scene, a brief history. Whereas London & Liverpool here in the UK & New York over the pond had been the epicentres of the music world from the late 50’s onwards, By the ‘summer of love; & the whole hippie psychedelic scene of 1967 centred around San Francisco the music scene in the USA was now concentrated on the warm sunny skies of the West Coast & Los Angeles had become the place to be. A short distance from the famous Sunset Strip up in the hills lay peaceful Laurel Canyon. You may have seen the excellent Sky documentary a couple of years back on the whole scene that sprung up there. It became an incestuous hotbed of cross fertilisation between a host of unlikely bedfellows as the press release points out so aptly. You had The Monkees hanging out with Zappa, The Turtles with Judee Sill, The Doors, Steppenwolf & Warren Zevon collaborated with shady figure (i memorably met him once) Kim Fowley, a record producer amongst other things. Country rock burgeoned with the nearby Troubadour venue hosting the likes of The Byrds, Poco, CS&N, Buffalo Springfield etc. So to the compilation. Disc1 sub headed  ‘Young Girls Are Coming To The Canyon 1967-68’ gets us under way with the breezy vocals of The Association with ‘Come On In’ immediately transporting us to sunny Californian skies. Love appear with ‘The Good Humour Man, He Sees Everything’ from what i consider the best album ever recorded ‘Forever Changes’. A band I’m not familiar  with deliver a cracking slice of psyche with ‘Wildflowers’, I’ll be investigating the band further. Scott McKenzie of ‘San Francisco’ fame brings one of the best tracks on the whole compilation with ‘Twelve Thirty’ One of the best Beatles covers I;ve ever heard comes from The Sunshine Company & ‘I Need You’. Elsewhere you will find The Monkees, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The Stone Poneys, Captain Beefheart, Mamas & Papas, Buffalo Springfield & a host of others. Disc 2 sub headed ‘Going Home To California 1969-72’ starts with a song I love, but I regularly forget about it until like now it pops up, i refer to Stephen Stills & ‘Love The One You’re With’ followed by the brilliant Poco with ‘Pickin’ Up The Pieces’ The dreamy tones of Tim Buckley entrance with’ Buzzin Fly’ & Glen Campbell weighs in with my all time favourite Jim Webb song ‘Where’s The Playground Susie’ & thank you compiler for not chopping the end, as is so often the case! Other tracks to be delighted with come from the likes of Three Dog Night, Rick Nelson, Canned Heat, Steppenwolf, Frank Zappa & a great number from Dave Mason with Cass Elliot on ‘Too Much Truth-Too Much Love’. Disc 3 sub headed ‘Postcards From Hollywood 1971-75’ takes us into more generally upbeat fare opening with J D Souther with ‘Some People Call It Music’ swiftly followed by the underrated excellent Little Feat & ‘Easy To Slip’, Linda Ronstadt & Judee Sill provide soft entries with ‘Birds’ & ‘Crayon Angels’ respectively. Elsewhere there are great contributions from Nilsson, Crazy Horse, Gram Parsons, Leon Russell & a whole host of others. Sadly I don’t have the space to go track by track, however i hope I have given you at least a sample taste of all the sublime music to be had on this new compilation. Over to you. Enjoy.

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Til next time……stay safe…..Colin

Pete Prescott… Looks great !

Paul Gray… Excellent review! I have this on order. Can’t go wrong with Grapefruit Box Sets and yes, Forever Changes is the greatest album of all time!

Colin Bell… Hi Paul, thanks for your kind comment. Pleased to meet someone else who also believes ‘Forever Changes’ is the greatest album of all time! Hands down, no arguments!

Leigh Mitchell… The documentary was excellent, this sounds like a brilliant purchase for ‘him in doors’! I saw Warren Zevron when I was living in Washington DC (1982 I think) in a very small venue, he was so good. I have an LP of his somewhere…..! xx

Alan Esdaile… yes it was a great documentary.


SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing David McWilliams: Reaching For The Sun: The Major Minor Anthology 1967-1969, 2CD Digipak


I am going to set my stall out straightaway with this wonderful new release. I have been a music journalist, writing reviews, articles, gig reviews etc for over 50 years now and have always prided myself on being objective when writing about artistes, a lot of whom I know or have worked with over the years, many becoming good friends. Sometimes it’s hard to critique work, especially if it’s a negative word or two given those circumstances. There are a few artistes i confess i find it impossible to be negative about, whatever their musical work, as i love absolutely everything they do and my natural objectivity takes a rare back seat, which may be wrong but is my honest admission. Such is the case with David McWilliams and I make no apologies for waxing lyrical about this entire new compilation of his work for the Major Minor Record label. Sporting 53 tracks spread over 2 CD’s, the compilation covers David’s 3 albums for Major Minor and includes over 12 tracks making their CD debut. What is remarkable (and i can’t think of another artist that has achieved this) is the fact those 3 albums were all recorded and released over a period of just 8 months. This you might think would dilute the quality of the songs, but no that is far from the case. Born in Belfast in July 1945 David Samuel McWilliams starting writing and playing songs as a young teenager and formed his own ‘Showband’ (a popular entity in Ireland of the times), he named it the Coral Showband after the record label of the same name that released songs by his hero Buddy Holly. A demo tape of David singing his songs made it’s way to the desk of Irish music entrepreneur Phil Solomon, then domiciled in London and managing fellow Irish acts The Dubliners, The Bachelors & Them amongst others. A deal was done with CBS and in 1966 David made his debut single appearance with a strong ‘protest’ song ‘God and Country’ which opens this new Grapefruit Records compilation in fine style and given the current state of the world in relation to war is still deeply resonant all these many years later. It didn’t chart. By the end of 1966 Solomon was launching his own Record label in Major Minor. Signing David to this new enterprise in 1967 the label launched David in a blaze of publicity across the music press, on hoardings and London buses etc, not as you might think with a single, but an album entitled David McWilliams Singing Songs by David McWilliams (Vol 1) which sold moderately well in June 1967, However it was to be his second album Vol 2 released just 4 months later that would see David immortalised with the track for which he will always be remembered ‘The Days of Pearly Spencer’. This quirky insistent earworm of a song was a hit across Europe, but NOT as most people remember (wrongly) a hit in the UK. The reason we heard it so much and think it was a hit was down to Pirate stations, particularly Radio Caroline, that has seen it lodged in most peoples memories as a UK hit. It was no co-incidence that Phil Solomon had a financial interest in Caroline which guaranteed his Major Minor releases would be played to death, often to the ire of some of the stations DJ’s. This of course was ‘payola’ which came to light later at the BBC as a scandal but as the Pirates were outside the law they got away with this illegal practice of ‘hyping’ a record into the charts. The success of ‘Pearly Spencer’ saw that the second album again sell well and lead as aforementioned, to his 3rd album release in February 1968. At the time not all the music biz critics were appreciative of David’s output. Major Minor had made such a massive big deal hyping up publicity for this unknown artist, it had the detrimental effect of working against him which would lead to David becoming disillusioned with all the razzamatazz surrounding him in 1967/68 and see him buy a farm and virtually disappear from view for the next 3 years. So to the music contained on these 3 albums. Opening as aforementioned with the strong protest song ‘God and Country’ this is followed by a string of songs covering, social issues, love, repression and all facets of life. The titles tell their own story in many cases, such as ‘Redundancy Blues’ ‘The Silence is Shattered’ ‘Hiroshima’ ‘Time of Trouble’ & ‘In The Early Hours of the Morning’ to name but a few off the debut album. David much like my dear friend the late Peter Sarstedt also had that rare gift that is given to some singer/songwriters of being able to paint cinematic images in your head as you listen and get steadily drawn further into his meaningful lyrics. The 2nd album kicks off with ‘Pearly Spencer’ and it’s interesting to note that many people refer to it as that song using a ‘megaphone’. That famous signature section of the song was in fact not a megaphone but was literally phoned in to the studio from a call box outside to achieve the desired effect! A wonderful slice of music trivia to know. Immediately following ‘Pearly Spencer’ is my all time personal favourite the exquisite ‘Can I Get There By Candlelight’ which may be familiar to some of you as it was also released as a single. ‘For Josephine’ ‘How Can I Be Free’ ‘What’s the Matter With Me’ & ‘Lady Helen of the Laughing Eyes’ are  just some more of the standout tracks to be relished. The 3rd album begins with another wonderful track ‘Three O’Clock Flamingo Street’ followed by ‘Harlem Street’ which was in fact the original Major Minor single release of David’s as the ‘A’ side with ‘Pearly Spencer’ on the ‘B’ side. For reasons best known to Solomon he didn’t spot the more commercial side. Maybe he was influenced by some of the less favourable reviews from some critics. Conversely and Interestingly, several industry luminaries such as my old friend Dave Dee and old bosses Chris Stamp & Kit Lambert at Track Records as well as Roger Daltrey all praised ‘Pearly Spencer’ at the time and Disc & Music Echo singled out David’s work as making you ‘sit up and really take notice’. Of all the 3 albums contained in this compilation I personally think David’s finest work appears on the 3rd album. It contains a wonderful diversity of songs, the romantic, where the songs are often augmented throughout his recording output from his debut album onwards by some lush arrangements by Mike Leander, a guy i got to know well in later years when working with the now disgraced Gary Glitter, Mike was co-writer and arranger of the majority of Glitters hits and worked with a lot of major names over many years. I am also indebted to Alan Esdaile-Johnny Mason the founder of the SMART website where this review appears, for reminding me in a conversation (prior to me writing this piece) of what a dark and wondrous outstanding track ‘The Stranger’ is that appears on this 3rd album. David had the ability to switch from ethereal lightness to dark and brooding without missing a beat. For what is probably the majority of you reading this review throwing all these titles of great songs at you may mean very little, if like the majority, your only experience of David’s catalogue has been ‘Pearly Spencer’. All i can do is urge you to listen to one of the best home grown UK singer/songwriters we ever produced. Don’t take my word for it, no less an icon than David Bowie declared David to be his favourite singer/songwriter. As ever, with a Grapefruit Records release the fold out digipack comes with a insightful essay by label boss David Wells, always an informative and fascinating read. As i said at the beginning i think it’s now apparent my love for David’s work is now thoroughly out there. Sadly David passed away in 2002 at the too early age of 56 at home in his beloved Ireland. After his 60’s success he only made occasional forays back into the industry preferring to live a quiet life, he left us with a musical legacy which is up there with the very best. Enjoy.

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Til next time, take care………..Colin

Stephen Moran… Thank you for posting Colin’s review Alan. Beautifully written and informative as always. I had no idea that David McWilliams was so prolific. To be honest I thought he was a one hit wonder (Days of Pearly Spencer), I’m looking forward to listening to more of his recordings.

Paul Sleet… One of my favourite artists

Colin Bell… You’ll find much to enjoy on this release Paul

Mick O’Dowd… Always loved Pearly and the album that it appeared on because of the incessant plugging by Radio Caroline. I thought Pearly was a hit but probably only on the Caroline Chart. Got the album which I rate highly, but never was able to enthuse about his later work.

Leigh Mitchell… Very interesting! Pearly only came to my attention when Marc Almond covered it, but I then heard the original, which I preferred. I can’t say I have ever heard anything else by him, unless unwittingly during Brian Mathews time presenting Sounds of the 60s! Great read, Colin! xx

Colin Bell… Marc’s cover version was good, i liked it, but yes, the original is best, thanks for the kind words! xx

Alan Esdaile… Wonderful singer and writer. I got the album The Days of David McWilliams which I must have played hundreds of times and still sounds excellent.

Here’s the track ‘The Stranger’ if you haven’t heard it…

Bob Seal… My first favourite singer-songwriter of the 60’s (I have a few now!!). Beautiful melodies, great lyrics and a wonderful expressive voice. Must add – Some masterful orchestration from Mike Leander. This is ’67/’68 on a platter.

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing You Can Walk Across It On The Grass – The Boutique Sounds Of Swinging London, Various Artists 3CD Box Set

YOU CAN WALK ACROSS IT ON THE GRASS     Various Artistes  (3CD set)
Grapefruit Records have issued some really great compilations over the years, many reviewed in these pages. This latest package is right up there with their best ever. First that title. In April 1966 American heavyweight magazine Time ran a front page article with the headline ‘You Can Walk Across It On The Grass’ & went on to say how ‘Swinging London’ was the centre of the world when it came to contemporary pop culture. They were of course bang on there. From 1965 onwards, the music, fashion, art, films, actors, even furniture (remember egg shaped suspended chairs?) all were centred around one of the greatest cities in the world. It was a unique time when everything turned from the greyness of the 50’s into eye popping colour. Carnaby Street, the Kings Road, Mini Skirts, multi coloured Rolls Royce’s & Mini’s, creativity was everywhere. Tv channels started making and showing cool programmes like ‘The Avengers’ Gerry Anderson brought us classics like Thunderbirds, Dr Who appeared with the fearsome Daleks. Boutiques like Biba thrived & a plethora of clubs from the Scotch of St James to The Marquee hosted a multitude of bands every week, some would become stars, others would fall by the wayside. But everywhere there was innovation & optimism & a zest for life. This new compilation spread across 3 CD’s & over 4 hours of listening time seeks to capture the zeitgeist of that very special time. It does so admirably as it combines some great well known hit records alongside many less successful bands, who despite their lack of commercial success were very much part of ‘the scene’. To further the atmosphere of the time it also features zany offerings from icons such as Twiggy & Mandy Rice-Davies & some instrumentals synonymous with the period. This all adds up to a listening experience that transports you back to that heady time when us ‘baby boomers’ were really finding our feet & England & particularly London really was the centre of the universe. The mix of genres contained in this set is a real snapshot of the time, moving from pop, r’n’b, soul, Mod, freakbeat & more, there was room for anyone with something to say back then, when millions of 7inch pieces of vinyl flew out of the new trendy record shops. So to the music. Disc1 sets the mood perfectly with the instrumental ‘A Touch of Velvet – A Sting of Brass’ by The Mood Mosaic used extensively as intro music by DLT on Radio Caroline & later Jimmy Young (it was actually composed by Mark (Grocer Jack) Wirtz. Then its straight into the thumping sound of DD,DBM&T & ‘Hold Tight!’ followed by the excellent version Kiki Dee recorded of ‘Why Don’t I Run Away From You’. Already you can hear & visualise the diversity of ‘Cool Britannia’. The aforementioned Twiggy offers us ‘When I Think Of You’ followed by the wonderful & wacky ‘Kinky Boots’ from Avengers stars Patrick MacNee & Honor Blackman. Marquee favourites such as The Alan Bown Set, The Action & A Band of Angels (featuring local lad Mike d’Abo) make some cool contributions. What is probably one of my favourite up-tempo soul sounds of all time bursts out the speakers with the glorious ‘She Shot A Hole In My Soul’ by Geno Washington. Other artistes making up Disc1 include Dusty Springfield, The Yardbirds, Manfred Mann, Zoot Money & many more. Excellent. And speaking of excellent Disc2 gets off to a great start with a scream from Reg Presley & The Troggs as he proclaims ‘I Cant Control Myself’ followed by a young David Bowie with The Lower Third & ‘Cant Help Thinking About Me’ The Kinks provide one of the anthems of the era with ‘Dedicated Follower of Fashion’ The Fortunes remind us of the pirates with ‘Caroline’. Ron Grainer brings back TV memories with his theme to the series ‘Man In A Suitcase’ & The Who, arch Mod band at the time provide us with my favourite early single of theirs ‘I’m A Boy’. Elsewhere you can find tracks from Hastings Pier stalwarts Episode Six. Graham Bond, Tom Jones, Twinkle, John Mayall, The Merseys & a host of others. And finally to Disc3 which overall contains many of the lesser known acts who contributed to the scene such as The Untamed, The Syn, The Union & my old mate Miki Dallon. Big names are represented with tracks from The Small Faces, The Moody Blues, Georgie Fame, a pre ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ Carl Douglas, Jack Bruce & Johns Children. Reminding us of the pirates is the extremely annoying but fun ‘We Love The Pirates’ by the Roaring 60’s (an early contribution from hitmakers John Carter/Ken Lewis). This new compilation sets out to take us through an aural journey of a special time & succeeds wonderfully as many memories of sight & sound are stirred in my head, As ever Grapefruit Records boss David Wells provides a glossy 48 page booklet crammed with facts & ‘fab’ pictures. Definitely a 5 star release. Enjoy.
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Til next time…..take care….Colin

Mick O’Dowd… What a collection. Real memory jerkers here!


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


SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing HiFi Sneakers – Hip Hypnotic cd

Recently i had the pleasure in these pages of reviewing the bands charity  Christmas single, a reworking of the classic ‘Catch A Falling Star’. Now here is the brand new album from Hi-Fi Sneakers & from reading Tich Turners intro liner note the gestation period was a difficult one with Covid laying waste to gigs, the retirement of their long term drummer & a health scare, requiring an operation for Tich, who I’m very happy to say is on the mend and getting his strength back. So, to the album. If you are not familiar with the band they are a soulful act well known in South London. The album features 11 tracks & track 3 ‘Hypnotic’ is available to view on YouTube. I really don’t like to make comparisons in my reviews, as a wise man (John Lydgate in 1440) once wrote ‘comparisons are odious’. I agree, However it’s my job to inform the reader of what style/genre to expect from the band I’m reviewing if they are not a name you instantly recognise. Hi-Fi Sneakers are a 5 piece band with local lad Tich Turner as lead vocalist. Matt Percival guitar, Derek Sumption keyboards, Bob Kelly bass & new drummer James Britton & the band are augmented by a first class horn section & on this album 2 excellent female backing singers Isobel & Vanessa. So to their musical style & it’s here where inevitably I have to make a comparison with some names everyone’s familiar with. As i noted they are a soulful band, think along the lines of The Commitments as a ballpark overall view. I can hear all their nods to Stax, Motown & various soul acts in their material, all of which is original. However, after my first complete listen to the full (39mins) album something kept niggling in my head that there’s a warmth & depth about the whole album that reminds me very happily of another act. It took a while…I’m getting old now…then it came to me..& here the band may heartily disagree with my view & the references I’ve already made, the ‘feel’ & ‘warmth’ of their sound compares very favourably with Robert Cray Band around the time of his ‘Bad Influence’ & ‘Strong Persuader’ albums. Tich & the guys exude the same warmth & do it very well. The album kicks off in fine style with the up-tempo ‘Delivery Man’ where the horn section could have stepped straight out of Geno Washington’s band. Tich’s voice is assured, mature & rich as i noted when reviewing ‘Catch A Falling Star’. Track 2 ”Deeper (In Love With You’) (Gamble Huff cover) swings along in great form with some very nifty piano plus some great backing vocals. In fact having listened to the album right through 3 times (not something I do regularly I found myself returning to ‘Deeper’ several times. If they are going to release further singles from the album, my personal view is ‘Deeper’ is a strong contender & its certainly the one i would pick. Track 3 ‘Hypnotic, the lead single, is easily the most ‘commercial’ song on the album & I can see why they chose it, it’s interesting lyrical content, referencing the hold the ladies often have over us, is one most can relate to & its also an earworm of a song. Track 4 ‘Ginny Go Lightly’ is a smooth soulful song that begins slowly before changing gears & upping the tempo & developing a ‘swing’ style & contains one of Tich’s best vocals on the album, plus some fine guitar work. Track 5 ‘Cloud Cuckoo Land’ a slow-to mid tempo burner contains some of the best lyrics on the whole album in my view, again the lyrics relate to a situation, most of us have encountered, that of relationship breakdowns. It also contains some great work from the horn section. Track 6 ‘Whoops Baby’ is i personally feel the weakest track on the album (sorry lads) it’s just a little too generic, pleasant but underwhelming compared to all the other tracks. Track 7 ‘Nothing Can Stop Me’ (Curtis Mayfield cover) see’s the band back on track & full strength with a strong number containing a very ‘hooky’ horn section & a relaxed, nicely chilled vocal from Tich. Track 8 ‘When I Come Home’ comes closest to the Robert Cray comparison I made earlier (although a Stevie Winwood cover) some neat guitar work here, altogether a very pleasing track & yes, another earworm! Track 9 ‘She Sparkles’ is a really neat snappy number again dipping into swing with a soulful lick & has a very upbeat feel. The penultimate track ‘Oh Pandora’ is lyrically my favourite track with its contemporary take on the legendary fable of ‘Pandora’s Box’ a great turn from the girls on backing vocals, some fine keyboard & guitar & a warm assured vocal. The album comes to a close with Track 11 ‘Let’s Get Hot’ another up-tempo number, which I just know, played live, would be a crowd pleaser & become a favourite. It rounds off the album in fine style. So, to sum up, I’ve made comparisons with several names & the lads may disagree with my view. no problem. Robert Cray is always referred to in the press as a blues man, but i disagree, to the effect he blends blues & soul in a particular way, as do Hi-Fi Sneakers with their own material. However, here let me firmly point out Hi-Fi Sneakers & their music does not copy or plagiarise any of the artistes or specialist record labels mentioned. All their music is authentically fully theirs. So, finally just what does ‘Hip Hypnotic’ deliver to the listener. I’ll tell you. A hug. And a very warm one at that. And who doesn’t benefit & appreciate a hug?  Enjoy.

Til next time….stay safe & warm…..Colin

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Family – Bandstand – Remastered and expanded edition cd.

I was delighted to receive this new re-issue of one of my favourite bands, Family with ‘Bandstand’, Esoteric Records have done a fine job, & as the title states it’s been remastered & expanded. The remastering from the original master tapes is very good, not always the case with classic albums, that some engineers ‘tweak’ too much. The original 9 track album is doubled in size by the addition of an extra 10 bonus tracks drawn from unreleased studio outtakes & 2 tracks from a BBC session from October 1972. On the latter it’s a treat to hear the warm voice of the late great Brian Matthew doing the introductions. My own introduction to Family came to me via their debut album 1968’s ‘Music In A Doll’s House’ released in July 1968. It was played to me by John Peel at his London home where I was returning some records (a long story). I was immediately hooked by this extraordinary voice that came pouring out  the speakers.I had never heard a voice like it. It of course belonged to lead singer Roger Chapman, who was once referred to as sounding like an ‘electric goat’ a somewhat unkind sounding description, but it has to be said remarkably apposite. I think for the majority of rock fans Family are a ‘marmite’ band, you either love Roger’s unique vocal & the bands mix of psyche/rock/jazz/soul/prog/art house elements or you just don’t get on with it at all, & find them irritating to listen to. I think it’s clear already I am a fan & could happily listen to them all day. ‘Music In A Doll’s House’ contained many great tracks, amongst them ‘Old Songs New Songs’, probably the most commercial song on the album which was released as a single although it didn’t trouble the charts. The band would score their first hit the following year in 1969 with the delightful ‘No Mules Fool’ (still a big personal favourite). The band were prolific when it came to recording & ‘Bandstand’ was their 6th album release in just 4 years. The lead track ‘Burlesque’ a mid tempo rocker that showcases Roger’s voice perfectly was also released as a single & became a Top 20 record following in the wake of their other single successes, with the aforementioned ‘No Mules Fool’ ‘ ‘Strange Band’ & ‘In My Own Time’. The second track from ‘Bandstand’ alters tone considerably to tell the story of ‘Bolero Babe’ a symphonic, psyche tinged song with Rogers voiced dialled back to a softer style. Which leads us into the stately (pun intended) ‘Coronation’, Family’s songs contain wonderful stories & this is no exception with its ‘kitchen sink drama’ which, as the accompanying booklet comments, could easily have come from the pen of Ray Davies. The softer side of the band is again on view with the folksy track 4 ‘Dark Eyes’ before we return to a full on Roger & the rocking track 5 ‘Broken Nose’ another social rant which bears careful listening to & musically contains elements of all the genres I described earlier. Then it’s on to my favourite track of the album ‘My Friend the Sun’ a gorgeous whimsical song on which Roger once again displays his softer almost ethereal vocal which floats gently over your senses. I should mention here that the late Linda Lewis later covered the song admirably for her 1977 album ‘Woman Overboard’ & Linda lends her voice as a backing vocalist on ‘Bandstand’. Track 7 ‘Glove’ is another pretty straight rock ballad, featuring some excellent guitar, that builds nicely from a quiet beginning & reminds me a little of ‘In My Own Time’ This is followed by the rant of ‘Ready To Go’ which adopts a more commercial & straightforward path than the bands usual stance. Indeed overall ‘Bandstand’ is probably the bands most commercial & least esoteric album & the one the casual listener may get on best with. Track 9’s ‘Top of the Hill’ closes what was the original albums second side in fine form. Then we are treated to the 10 extra tracks, the highlight’s of which for me are the live versions of ‘My Friend the Sun’ & ‘Coronation’ both demonstrating to the listener, something I already knew, from seeing them several times at The Marquee, which was that Family were a great live band who never disappointed. So there you have it, Esoteric Records very welcome new package, celebrating a wonderful band & a great album. Enjoy

for more information go to
Til next time….stay safe & warm…..Colin


Sue Masters… Such a good album

Peter Fairless… Great track. That Rita and Greta got a lot to answer for

Alan Esdaile… Pete, a lot of drinking and sinking

Pete Prescott…I loved the Weavers Answer, In My Own Time and Burlesque (I used to sing Burlesque in the Reservoir Cats. Sadly I sang it really badly in the Res Cats album. ) One night at the Carlisle two ladies came up and assured us that they were “Rita and Greta !” And knew the band.

Colin Bell… Thanks for sharing Pete, I’ve never heard you sing a Family number, I shall expect a demo at the next SMART meet!

Graham Sherrington… in the car on a very old CD!! my friend the sun.

Nick Bloomfield… I’m a big Family fan! The Weavers Answer which is probably my favourite. Having said that I love Roger’s singing on Shadow on the Wall!


SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing We Can Work It Out – Covers of The Beatles 1962-1966, Various Artists 3CD Box Set

WE CAN WORK IT OUT  Covers Of the Beatles  1962-1966  (3CD Set)    Various Artists
This is the second compilation of Beatles covers I’ve reviewed in these pages. The first back in 2020 was Grapefruit Records ‘Looking Through A Glass Onion’ which covered The Beatles psychedelic songbook from 1966-1972. This new compilation from Strawberry Records takes an extensive look at Beatles covers from what might be termed their ‘beat years’ 1962-1966, before the band became more experimental. The first 2 main thoughts that struck me when i looked at this set were, 1 the sheer number of Beatles tracks that Lennon/McCartney wrote, many of which it’s easy to forget they did, when you’re listening to another artistes cover. And No 2 the vast range of artists that were influenced by the band and put their own spin on many Beatles classics. The diversity of artistes, styles, genres & even languages is quite breathtaking on this new compilation. Boasting 85 tracks across 3 Cd’s there is a huge wealth of talent on display & it must be said some clunkers, that recorded the Fab Fours songs for a quick ‘cash in’.  You can find examples of pop, soul, jazz & even bluegrass sung by artists from all around the world, from France to America & Italy to New Zealand. Such was the influence and the reach of the most influential band in popular music history. Sprinkled throughout the collection are some familiar favourites & well known covers such as Billy J Kramer & The Dakotas ‘Do You Want To Know A Secret’ The Fourmost ‘Hello Little Girl’ Peter & Gordon ‘World Without Love; David & Jonathan ‘Yesterday’ Cilla Black ‘Love of the Loved’ & Petula Clark ‘Rain’ to name but half a dozen. The collection kicks off on Disc1 with a cover of The Beatles debut hit ‘Love Me Do’ delivered by Dick Rivers (a pseudonym for French singer Herve Forneri) who made a name for himself singing covers of Elvis & The Beatles. One of those ‘cash ins’ i alluded to earlier. If i have one small niggle with what is overall a fascinating new compilation i don’t think I’d have chosen to start the listening experience with a cover sang in French. It may be off putting for the casual listener who may then neglect to listen to some real corkers. I’d probably have started with something better known and less esoteric. However, be that as it may, many delights await over the course of Disc1, some highlights being Mary Wells taking a break from the acknowledged Motown sound with her take on ‘Please Please Me’. The Applejacks ‘Like Dreamers Do’ a rather superb jazz big band ‘swing’ instrumental contribution from Count Basie with ‘Hold Me Tight’ Mike Redway (an artist I’d never heard of) who recorded for Embassy Records & ‘I’ll Keep You Satisfied’. And one of my favourite Beatles covers of all time in the shape of the Mamas & Papas ‘I Call Your Name’ (which you can hear at the end of this review. Disc2 starts off gently with a saccharine sweet version  of ‘If I Fell’ performed by an Irish all girl group named The Coterie, another name i confess to never having crossed my radar, but their folk/pop rendition is really quite fetching. Highlights on this disc for yours truly range from Joe Cocker ‘I’ll Cry Instead’ Strawberry Fair ‘Things We Said Today’ Jan & Dean ‘You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away’ (probably my favourite song from ‘Help!’) P J Proby with ‘That Means A Lot’ & the wonderfully named Paraffin Jack Flash Ltd ‘Norwegian Wood’. The prize for the most ‘out there’ track of this whole eclectic collection has to go to Hollywood sex siren Mae West with a frankly barmy version of ‘Day Tripper’ which has to be heard to be believed! Fabulous! Disc3 starts in fine style with one of the best covers of the whole collection with superb and vastly underrated singer Madeline Bell, & her version of ‘You Wont See Me’, which is swiftly followed by kings of pop harmony Tony Rivers & The Castaways & ‘Nowhere Man’, almost better than the original. Elsewhere other highlights for me include Spanky & Our Gang ‘And Your Bird Can Sing’ Jimmy James ‘Good Day Sunshine’ The Cryan Shames ‘If I Needed Someone’ Tempest. a prog rock band unfamiliar to me, with a stonking ‘Paperback Writer’ & Junior Parker with a soulful take on ‘Taxman’ that gives it a whole new vibe. Overall, i think Disc3 contains my favourite collection of the 3 discs & in my opinion is the strongest, but others will have their own favourite. It doesn’t really matter where you land throughout this compilation you are sure to find something interesting, fascinating & sometimes downright wrong! did i mention Mae…..And personally, I could never get into the early 60’s pop ‘crooners like Mark Wynter, but that’s my problem, counselling is available i understand…But seriously, this is a rather wonderful collection that sits nicely next to the psychedelic compilation i mentioned earlier, as a companion piece. As usual the whole package is lovingly put together by Strawberry Records in a hard clamshell box, complete with a full colour, informative booklet covering each track. Enjoy
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Til next time….stay safe & warm……Colin…

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Hi-Fi Sneakers Catch A Falling Star CD Single

I don’t normally review any singles made to support charities. However I’m more than happy to let everyone know about this one. The new release in question is ‘Catch A Falling Star’ by Hi-Fi Sneakers. The proceeds of the sale of the single are all going to a very worthwhile & important cause the Shooting Star Children’s Hospices, so do please support them. It was with some trepidation that i approached this release. The original recording of ‘Catch A Falling Star’ was a Christmas hit way back in December 1957, backed with ‘Magic Moments’ & sung by Perry Como, it was one of my departed Dads all time favourites & holds an important memory for me. However I needn’t have had any concerns, this 2023 version is an uplifting delight. From the intro sprinkled with ‘Christmas bells’ this up-temp re-imagining of the song swings along at a good pace & I’ve soon put Perry out of mind. I particularly like the horn augmentation & vocalist Tich Turner sounds great. It’s been many, many years since I first saw him perform with Whisky Mac, more than either of us probably care to remember! Back then my abiding impression of Tich was a cross between Mick Jagger & Steve Marriott. Sadly over the intervening years I haven’t seen him perform in the various bands he’s been in, due to our differing work schedules. On ‘Catch A Falling Star’ his voice has attained a warm, mature feel, albeit still with an edge, much like a finely matured aforementioned Whisky Mac! Hi-Fi Sneakers are a well respected London band, well known on the South London scene & comprise of Tich Turner (vocals) Matt Percival (guitar) Derek Sumption (keyboards) Bob Kelly (bass) & James Britton (drums) & are augmented on this release by a horn section of John O’Neill, John Telfer & Dave Boraston. A thought struck me forcibly as i was listening to the song play that it would be a perfect fit to feature in the soundtrack of a Rom-Com movie, like ‘Four Weddings’ or ‘Love Actually’ Directors are always looking to use an updated version of a classic in these movies. look no further! I sincerely hope the single does well & makes a good sum for a very worthwhile charity & next time i make it to London I’m off to a Hi-Fi Sneakers gig. That’s a promise.

Til next time, take care………..Colin

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Arthur Brown: Dance, Expanded and Remastered CD Edition


As soon as I hear Arthurs name I cannot escape smiling. When I first went to work in London in 1968 I made what would become a lifelong friend who worked at Track Records in Soho. Over the following years I was in and out of the office in Soho on many occasions. Track’s main artistes were The Who and Jimi Hendrix and then there was Arthur….I was privileged to hear the tracks he recorded, before they were released, for what became the album ‘The Crazy World of Artur Brown’ and the unsuccessful single ‘Devils Grip’ which still remains a personal favourite to this day. The album contained the record that is synonymous with Arthur, which is of course ‘Fire’ and will live on as his legacy forever. A large majority of people never looked past that era and this strange apparition who regularly set fire to his hair! For those that stuck with Arthur, many happy and bizarre experiences on vinyl were to come and reward them with some of probably the most eclectic music ever heard. After the implosion of ‘The Crazy World’ in 1969 Arthur worked with a variety of musicians that made up his Kingdom Come band which released 3 albums of wildly experimental music starting with 1971’s ‘Galactic Zoo Disaster’ and ending in 1973 with ‘Journey’. Arthur intended the 3 albums to form an arc starting with the present state of humankind, moving through the human animal itself and exploring body and mind and concluding with  focussing on the cosmic and spiritual matters that affect us. The avant-garde nature of these albums won him many new admirers and an equal number who thought it was, well…rubbish. If you’ve listened to the albums you will have made up your own mind. Musically they were notable for the prominent use of synthesisers, Mellotron & that strange instrument the Theremin. Kingdom Come never officially disbanded they just sort of withered gradually away, dogged by a combination of the ongoing disdain shown towards them by the music press and poor sales making them commercially unviable. After a couple of years had gone by Arthur returned in 1975 with the subject of this review, his solo album ‘Dance’. This new release by Esoteric Records presents the album remastered (very well) and on top of the original 11 tracks they have included an additional 6 bonus tracks recorded for a BBC Radio 1 ‘In Concert’ recorded in April 1975 to promote it’s original release. In typical Arthur style its gestation was, as ever, with him, a bizarre set of circumstances. He decided to make what was basically a ‘World Music’ album, before that even became a term. The idea was to gather dance styles from around the world and commit the results to vinyl. With this idea in his head Arthur approached none other than Stevie Wonder (backstage at a London concert) to produce it. After the 2 guys held hands in silence for several minutes Stevie agreed to produce. Then Arthur trotted off to Steve Winwoods house in search of a keyboard player…as you would naturally! Steve also agreed to appear on the proposed record. Full of enthusiasm Arthur returned to his record label (Gull Records) in high excitement to announce his success. Unfortunately, as was often the case in his career, Arthur had overlooked some pertinent details, such as the fact that Gull Records were a small label with limited resources and the 2 Stevie’s came with rather large price tags!…..Undeterred, the album still went ahead, albeit in a somewhat less grandiose manner with the help of a bunch of musicians including ex members of ‘The Crazy World’ and Kingdom Come. Depending on your point of view the result was 11 disparate tracks that are either together a glorious mess or simply just glorious….I’m in the latter camp for my sins. From the opening track with Arthur covering The Animals ‘Weve Gotta Get Outta This Place’ set to a heavy disco beat! it’s a wild ride through a mix of tracks covering the marvellous dramatic mid tempo ballad that is ‘Helen With The Sun’ where Arthurs extraordinary vocal prowess soars as only he can & which he contrasts with soft spoken tones. And it is that unique voice that towers above whatever genre Arthur chooses to turn to & on Dance that varies from disco to rock, soul, reggae & synth pop. The albums title track ‘Dance’ is i think quite majestic in the way in which it builds. It’s also a reminder of where Bruce Dickinson adopted his vocal style from (by Bruce’s own admission). Following on from ‘Dance’ is Arthur’s cover of The Stones/Chris Farlowe classic track ‘Out Of Time’ which I don’t think works as well as The Animals cover, but is certainly interesting, i love the horns on it and it bears fruit with repeated listens. The original album comes to a close with track 11 ‘Is There Nothing Beyond God’ a strangely hypnotic composition which boils down to really just a 2 & a half minute repetitive chant. The aforementioned bonus tracks follow & demonstrate what I & anyone else that has seen Arthur perform live can attest to, he can really cut it with that God given voice…or should that be the ‘God of Hellfire’ voice!…This new package comes in a digipack complete with an informative and, for me, highly amusing booklet, setting out the story of the album. Now here’s the man himself…Enjoy.

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Til next time…..take care & stay safe…Colin


Mick O’Dowd… Saw him at The Pilot Field when he was still fairly unknown(to me anyway). Give Him A Flower!

Colin Bell… Remember it well, some girls randomly painted flowers all over my face!

Pete Prescott… Fascinating!

Alan Esdaile… Yes his group Kingdom Come wasn’t to everyone’s taste but I got the compilation album ‘The Lost Ears’ and has some great tracks and also loved his performances on Hastings Pier.

Mick Mepham… What a star he is. Saw him several times in the 70s and more recently at the A New Day Festival in Kent. He still has most of his amazing vocal range and still performs brilliantly. His bands have always been great too. His more recent albums are excellent too, Tantric Lover, Magic Hat and the others with various musicians. Most famous performers have that “something” that identifies them. His voice is unmistakeable as are his songs and writing style. One in a million imho. Pardon the over-the-top praise but he’s a huge influence in my life.

Colin Bell… Hi Mick, good to hear from you, thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Mick Mepham… Clive Richardson and I both think very highly of young Arthur. I think the tickets on the pier were 50p. Now THAT’S value…

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing The Rubettes: The Singles 1974-77, 2CD

THE RUBETTES     The Singles 1974-1977  (2CD)

The latest band to feature in Cherry Reds 7T’s label ongoing ‘singles series’ release programme is those cheeky chappies in the White suits and caps The Rubettes. There is no doubt whatsoever, they will always be known for their 1974 No 1 European wide hit ‘Sugar Baby Love’. A record that divides most people between those who love it and those that loathe it! Whichever camp you were in at the time you certainly couldn’t ignore it! it was played constantly everywhere. The song actually had quite an interesting background. Written by established songwriters Wayne Bickerton & Tony Waddington it was originally intended as a possible GB entry for the Eurovision Song Contest. It was offered to both Showaddywaddy and ex Move lead singer Carl Wayne who both passed on it. So Wayne & Tony took a bunch of session musicians into the studio and recorded it. The distinctive and remarkable falsetto was provided by singer Paul Da Vinci. When the record subsequently took off (in it’s demo form) with a TOTP performance (with the band a last minute substitute for a planned Sparks slot) the band was shown with Alan Williams (one of the aforementioned session players) performing as lead singer, miming to Paul’s vocal, Paul due to contractual reasons,  having already signed a solo deal with another Record Company (Penny Farthing). Alan would subsequently re-record the single with his (very similar) vocal and mime to that (as was BBC policy at the time) on further TOTP appearances. That is the SBL story and one i have a bit of an issue with, of which more later! It’s easy to think of The Rubettes as a ‘one hit wonder’ but it shouldn’t be forgotten that although SBL was an immense hit, they followed it with 3 more Top 10 hits ‘Juke Box Jive’ (No 3) ‘I Can Do It’ (No 7) & ‘Baby I Know’ (No 10) plus another 3 Top 30 entries with Foe-Dee-Oh-Dee’, ‘Little Darling’ & ‘You’re The Reason Why’, a respectable, if not lengthy chart history. Away from the hits the other tracks spread over this 2CD set don’t settle down into any particular ‘style’ for the band or direction’ as they wander from soft pop ballads, to several Country-tinged numbers, Doo Wop & Sha-Na-Na inspired rock & roll. It’s this lack of any discernable established solid style & progression that the listener/buyer can follow that probably formed the reason that saw their recording career stall within a couple of years. The material chosen to record is pleasant, yet unremarkable and somewhat random. Included are 3 solo singles issued by Alan & John Richardson (the bands drummer) which include a rather fetching version of the Goffin/King classic ‘Take Good Care Of My Baby’ originally a big hit for Bobby Vee, which stands out and could have stood a chance of success with some good promotion. Without going into protracted reasons which space doesn’t allow, the band have had acrimonious falling out’s over the years resulting in Court appearances and 2 versions touring, one led by Alan Williams and the other by Bill Hurd. Disc2 of the set contains tracks featuring Bill such as ‘Fools And Lovers’ & ‘Everybody Knows’ which offer an interesting contrast to Alan’s vocals. The compilation concludes with ‘Cherie Amour’ (not the Stevie Wonder song) with vocals traded between Alan & John and of all the later tracks that followed after their hit period this is i think the strongest example, with shades of SBL and proof that Alan can deliver a good falsetto. Which leads me to conclude this review with that ‘issue’ i mentioned earlier. As is the case with many groups of the 70’s & 80’s The Rubettes are often called on to make guest appearances on TV in Europe on ‘Retro’ shows, especially in Germany, Holland & France. Naturally the producers of these shows want them to perform SBL. So why nearly 50 years on do these TV performances ALWAYS have Alan STILL miming to Paul’s original vocal every bloody time?! Stop it Alan, use your own vocal or credit Paul! My old friend & stalwart member of many years of Manfred Manns Earth Band, Steve Kinch was a Rubette for 3 or 4 years in the late 80’s early 90’s. Steve if you happen to read this review….thoughts on this please? As ever, the compilation as you might expect from 7T’s, comes in a sturdy clamshell box complete with an interesting booklet full of info and photo’s. Enjoy. All together now….Ah…Ah…Ah…Ah…..La!…La!…La!….
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Til next time….take care & stay safe….Colin



Gerry Fortsch… I remember my mate Graham playing the drums and singing the high bit and he was so loud that he never needed a mike. Keep on Rocking in the Free World.

Merv Kennard… I seem to remember that Sugar Baby Love was written for Showaddywaddy but they turned it down.

Colin Bell… Yes true, full story in my review

Mick O’Dowd… Had a lot of respect for these guys. Made a few floor-fillers in their time!

Steve Kinch… Hi Colin, I think you’ve very accurately summed it up. Re: the “issue” – As you know, much of what the public sees and hears in the pop world is not entirely honest😲 I don’t think The Rubettes are any worse than many other “pop” artists. I did quite a few TV shows with the Rubes… I don’t think TV producers would be interested if the band said, “We want to use this new re-recording”. It’s a sad fact of life that with manufactured pop groups, it’s all about the money and little to do with musical integrity😞.

Colin Bell… Hi Steve, thanks for the reply and insight about The Rubes, yes it’s a sad fact as you say regarding ‘manufactured bands’ It so happens i knew Paul Da Vinci back when SBL was recorded & he was a helluva nice guy who deserves his due recognition.