SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Can The Glam! 4CD Clamshell Box Set Various Artists

CAN THE GLAM!     Various Artists  (4CD Set)
Well no prizes for guessing what this latest offering from Cherry Red’s 7T’s label is all about. Over 2 years in the planning and compiling this retrospective of the early to mid 70’s UK Glam phenomenon is represented here in 80 tracks across 4 CD’s blending the Major acts with the forgotten, also rans and in respect of this reviewer the never heard before! (which after 50+ years in the business is some sort of record in itself). So lets dive in and see a sample of what’s on offer. The whole collection kicks off with the Shepperton Flames and a track called ‘Take Me For What I Am’ which is real proto Glam being recorded as early as 1969, it’s a stomper that stitches on screaming fans (think start of Sweets Teenage Rampage) and has a ‘hook’ that’s driving me crazy because i’ve heard it elsewhere but just can’t place it…infuriating! Whilst still puzzling over this, next up is a band that is far removed from the whole Glam scene it’s 60’s comedic/cabaret band The Barron Knights no less, well known for their p**s take medleys of famous bands. But lo and behold this track ‘You’re All I Need’ is a straight stab at the genre and sounds very like something The Glitter Band would have released, even down to the lead guitar which sounds remarkably like my old late mate Gerry Shephard (lead guitarist with the GB) it’s actually very credible. The first of the heavy hitters puts in an appearance next it’s the curly tressed demon fairy Marc Bolan with what was probably in hindsight the epitome of T Rex with ‘Metal Guru’. Another unlikely band puts in a look with Vanity Fare familiar to all with their 3 60’s pop hits. Here they make a reasonable but ultimately forgettable foray with a Georgio Moroder song who normally comes up with a hit but not in this case. The compilation’s title pun ups the heavyweight entries once more with another old mate Susie Q with what else but ‘Can The Can’. Chicory Tip, Alvin Stardust, Arrows, Geordie and Barry Blue with ‘Do You Wanna Dance’ are the other well known tracks mixed in with the aforementioned also rans with interesting entries from bands American Jam Band, Cardinal Point & Rock Rebellion to name but 3. Disc2 Begins with that most hard hitting of Glamster bands Slade, with a track from their glorious 1974 album Old New Borrowed And Blue the stomping ‘We’re Really Gonna Raise The Roof’ followed by a band named Lemming and a track ‘Father John’ which is a rather bizarre mixture of the Glitter Band & The Rattles! and speaking of The Rattles, we all remember ‘The Witch’ and when i saw The Casuals listed with ‘The Witch’ i thought what?!! but as it turns out it’s a different song with the same title. But having once compered a concert on Hastings Pier which featured The Casuals and satanic rockers Black Widow on the same bill nothing would have surprised me…I was rather taken with another 2 bands unknown to me Big Boy Blue with ‘Getting Hungry’ and The Washington Flyers and ‘The Comets Are Coming’ both respectable efforts. The more familiar names are scattered throughout with Mud ‘The Cat Crept In’ (a guilty pleasure of mine!), Mungo Jerry, The Glitter Band & The Damned. Disc3 starts with the wonderfully named Micky Moonshine (an alias for Paul Curtis) and a track ‘Baby Blue’ where ‘Micky’ sounds like Alvin imitating dear old Les Gray imitating Elvis! this is fun! it’s a shame some of these also rans never quite made it…this is followed by a band named Catapult where the song title ‘Teeny Bopper Band’ says it all. The first of the name bands arrives next with Blackfoot Sue…no not that song!! but a track entitled ‘You Need Love’ which was their (unsuccessful) 6th single release. Next up is the guys in those ubiquitous White caps The Rubettes with ‘Juke Box Jive’ where the lead singer actually sings the lead vocal unlike on monster hit ‘Sugar Baby Love’ where he lip synced to a more accomplished singer (don’t get me started on that farce….) Moving on….Interesting entries come from bands Go Go Thunder, Fifth Form & Bilbo Baggins. Other big names showing up on this disc are Showaddywaddy, Hello, Barry Ryan, & The Bay City Rollers all with lesser known tracks than the usually compiled, making it more interesting. The final Disc4 starts with the 3rd hit scored by Kenny the No 12 ‘Baby I Love You, OK!. This is followed by another band like the aforementioned Barron Knights you wouldn’t expect to find on a Glam compilation, this time it’s Paper Lace with a decent Mitch Murray/Pete Calendar song ‘So What If I Am’ which is a damn sight more listenable than the excruciating likes of ‘Billy Don’t Be A Hero’…well that’s my opinion…Interesting bands to discover on this disc are Dancer with ‘Hate Generator’ and i was rather taken with a band called Shabby Tiger and their track ‘Devil Rides Tonight’ amongst several other unfamiliar names to me. There are less well known artists putting in apppearances on this last disc in the collection but John Paul Young, Andy Bown, Johnny Wakelin & Slik all get a look in. There is a wealth of interesting information complete with photo’s on each artist in the accompanying 40 page all colour booklet and the whole collection has been remastered for optimum sound quality. If you’re a fan of the genre and you would like to extend your knowledge beyond the obvious Sweet, Bowie, Bolan you will find plenty to discover and savour here. I had the pleasure of working with 2 of the artists (on the same bill) featured on this compilation on Hastings Pier back in the early 70’s…..great days! Enjoy.
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Til next time……….stay safe……Colin

Mick O’Dowd… Looks a really interesting compilation with not just the usual suspects involved.




SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing White Plains: The Collection, 3CD Digipak

THE COLLECTION     White Plains  (3CD SET)

I have looked forward with great pleasure to this release for some time. At last, released this Friday is a comprehensive overview of one of the finest UK vocal harmony bands we ever produced.  Much has been written about White Plains over the years and much of it has been wrong, So let’s finally put the record straight..pun intended! In 1969 a group of session singers, hit songwriters and additional touring musicians were coming to the end of their successful run. This collective was The Flowerpot Men forever immortalised with their big hit of summer 1967 ‘Let’s Go To San Francisco’. Later that year, on 25th November to be exact,. they played a gig on Hastings Pier where i first met them. Their glorious harmonies were as good live as i had hoped, they were a class act. After ‘San Francisco’ they had more modest success with subsequent records and by 1969 with ‘flower power’ now passe the band had reached the end of it’s natural life. At this point the members consisted of man of many voices & hit records Tony Burrows, plus Pete Nelson, Robin Shaw, Ricky Wolff & additional touring musicians lead guitarist Robin Box & drummer Roger Hills. In March they released their final single ‘In A Moment Of Madness’ written by serial hitmakers Roger Cook & Roger Greenaway. Another great piece of work albeit commercially unsuccessful. By Autumn it was clear the band had reached the end of the road and on the 28th of October 1969 they entered the studio for the final time and recorded 3 tracks before finally disbanding. All their material had been released on Decca’s ‘progressive label’ imprint Deram. Head of A & R at Decca was Dick Rowe, the man forever remembered for being the guys who passed on signing The Beatles. However Dick was not slow when it came to spotting the worth of recordings under his nose. Having listened to those final 3 songs recorded by the now defunct Flowerpot Men he spotted hit potential. All 3 songs were Greenaway/Cook compositions and comprised ‘Today I Killed A Man’ ‘You’ve Got You’re Troubles’ (a previous hit for The Fortunes) and ‘My Baby Loves Lovin’. Loathe to sit on this potential hit material, at his instigation ‘My Baby Loves Lovin’ was released in January 1970 under the name of White Plains (named after the district in New York). By February the record was a Top 20 hit in both the UK & the USA.  So what in fact was the last recording made by the Flowerpot Men became the debut hit for White Plains. With a swiftly re-assembled group made up of past Flowerpot Men minus Ricky Wolff who had other commitments they appeared on Top Of The Pops with Roger Greenaway standing in for Ricky, together with Tony Burrows, Robin Shaw & Pete Nelson. Simultaneously Tony Burrows was enjoying hits as lead singer with Brotherhood Of Man & Edison Lighthouse, given this workload after promoting ‘My Baby Loves Lovin’ Tony quit. Ricky Wolff returned and together with Pete Nelson took the lead on all subsequent releases. Phew! I hope i have now made the history clear once and for all! And now to this splendid 3CD box set. Disc1 contains their self titled debut album which naturally includes ‘My Baby Loves Lovin’ and the follow up hit from April 1970 ‘I’ve Got You On My Mind’ nestling alongside some beautifully constructed songs including ‘When Tomorrow Comes Tomorrow; ‘Taffeta Rose’ ‘In A Moment Of Madness’ (incredible harmonies), ‘Sunny Honey Girl’ (a hit for Cliff Richard), the previously mentioned ‘You’ve Got Your Troubles’ & the exquisite ‘Summer Morning’, The disc contains 2 bonus tracks and one of them is what i consider to be one of their finest ever tracks in ‘Gonna Miss Her Mississippi’ which was the bands 7th single release and while it didn’t fare well at the time it still stands up today as an object lesson in how to produce a top rate vocal harmony track, and one that is damn catchy, why it didn’t do well with the record buying public is a mystery to me. Disc2 finally sees a full release on CD for the bands second album ‘When You Are A King’ which of course features the title track that was another hit for the band and a memorable one, a glorious confection in a strange time signature that is still played regularly on the radio. The other big hit contained here is ‘Julie Do You Love Me’ the bands cover version of American Bobby Sherman’s hit in the USA. Other standout tracks are ‘Home Lovin Man’ ( a hit for Andy Williams) ‘Julia Ann’ ‘Carolina’s Coming Home’ & I’ll Go Blind’, The 12 tracks of the album are augmented by 9 bonus tracks, including ‘Step Into A Dream’ familiar as the theme used in a Butlins TV commercial, also notable amongst the bonus tracks are ‘I Cant Stop’ & the poignant ‘Dad You Saved The World’. Disc3 scoops up 11 tracks, 3 making their first apperance on CD. The firsr 4 recorded under the name Crucible for a 1972 film ‘Extremes’. The following 4 are the aforementioned tracks making their debut on CD recorded under the name Zenith. The compilation comes to a close with 3 tracks from a mid 70’s different line-up of White Plains. Although Disc3 is fine and in rarity terms a gift to collectors and an interesting listen it will probably more likely appeal to die hard completists. The First 2CD’s are the real meat and for my money the essential listening. White Plains were an unpretentious pop band who made some of the best harmony pop ever recorded and i’ve long extolled their virtues to anybody that would listen! If you are into the genre and have never had a proper listen now at long last 7T’s Records have given you that opportunity, for which i am truly grateful. The packaging, accompanying booklet and the sound quality of the recordings are all first class as you would expect from this label. Enjoy.

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Til next time….stay safe…..Colin…..

Alan Esdaile… I’m always amazed by the amount of tracks Tony Burrows sang on and lots that he is not credited for.

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell. Reviewing Hello: The Singles Collection 2CD

Following in the footsteps of 60’s footstompers The Dave Clark 5 the 4 lads that formed Hello also came from Tottenham, North London.

They were Bob Bradbury (lead vocalist/guitar), Keith Marshall (lead guitar), Vic Faulkner (bass) & Jeff Allen (drums). All born in 1956 they got together as 12 year olds in 1968 calling themselves ‘The Age’ In 1970 they briefly took on their agents daughter Caroline who became their lead singer and were billed as Caroline Hall & The Age. During that year they performed in front of The Queen at the Albert Hall and made an appearance on popular ITV kids show ‘Magpie’. In early 1971 Caroline left and the 4 lads went it alone attracting the attention of Argent member and songwriter Russ Ballard and also gaining an experienced music business man David Blaylock as their manager.  Their debut single was going to be Ballards ‘Can’t Let You Go’ but they were pipped to the post by Barry Ryan’s recording of the song which became a minor hit for him. Instead they released another Ballard composition ‘You Move Me’ in April 1972, a lightweight uptempo pop song which got them on TV’s ‘Lift Off’ (remember Ayshea?). It failed to trouble the charts but it got their faces into the ‘teenybopper’ mags that were popular then like Record Mirror. Their second single in October 72 was another Ballard song ‘C’Mon’ another straightforward upbeat. lightweight pop ditty, with a touch of ‘Crazy Horses’ guitar work. However this too failed to chart for the 4 new school leavers. In May & June of the following year their profile was greatly increased when they became a regular support act for their labelmate and then king of Glam Rock Gary Glitter. This is when i first remember them from, as myself & Chris Gentry were working with Glitter at that time.  Their next single was going to be Dyna-Mite but this ultimately went to Mud and Glitter’s producer Mike Leander was brought on board to fashion a hit sound for the band. The influence of Leander/Glitter was evidenced on their next release’s ‘Another School Day’ & ‘C’Mon Get Together’, neither of which gave them their breakthrough. The band then fell back on an industry favourite by looking for a previous hit record they could revamp in their style. They chose the catchy ‘Tell Him’ a hit for The Exciters & Billie Davis. The single released in August 1974 proved a slow burner but eventually by November it rose to peak at No 6. At last they had a hit, the follow up continued the Glitter connection with The Glitterband’s lead guitarist Gerry Shephard penned ‘Game’s Up’, this however only ‘bubbled under’ the charts for a few weeks in the UK, but was more successful across Europe, especially in Germany (where the band remained popular for years). In May 1975 the band tried another re-tread of a previous hit. This time they chose the Amen Corner/American Breed song ‘Bend Me Shape Me’, however unlike ‘Tell Him’ this failed to repeat the trick and only became a moderate hit in Germany. It was beginning to look a downward slope when the band were handed what would become their ‘magnum opus’ the Russ Ballard composed ‘New York Groove’. Released in August 1975 it took a while again but rose into the Top 10 in October. It’s now probably the main song/reason the band are remembered for, finding it’s way onto dozens of compilation’s and being successfully covered by Ace Frehley of Kiss fame. Despite valiant attempts the band couldn’t come up with another hit and by 1976 they were becoming (along with many others) an anachronism as Punk arrived sweeping away all that remained of the pop rock/glam bands. The band would limp on til the end of the 70’s changing labels in the process but eventually called it a day. This new 40 track compilation from 7T’s Records brings together all their singles for the first time together with a couple of bonus solo tracks by drummer Jeff Allen. It comes complete with a detailed booklet and some nostalgic record cover images. Unlike other Glam Rock band’s, Sweet being the best example. Hello didn’t really evolve or move away from their lightweight roots, which leaves this release, in my view, with a somewhat limited appeal and as such will probably be best enjoyed by completists and lovers of the Glam Rock years.

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Til next time…….stay safe……Colin

Mick O’Dowd… Crikey! Didn’t realise they had enough tunes to fill 1 CD let alone 2. Couple of good covers and that was it

Colin Bell… Hi Mate, i have to say you are largely right, there is nothing wrong with the other tracks, but they don’t really jump out at you.

Alan Esdaile… I remember interviewing the singer for Melody Maker and all I could think of, was god, I’ve never seen another person as thin as that!