SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell. Reviewing The Hits: Remixed Expanded Amii Stewart and The Original Cast And Friends Tony Burrows/Sue & Sunny/David Martin etc. CD’s.

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I think its fair to say that anyone who knows me also knows ‘disco’ is not my favourite genre…However there are exceptions and Amii is one. Her song ‘Friends’ (sadly not included here) is an all time favourite. Amii memorably shot to number one (in the U.S.) in April 1979 with her thunderous disco version of the old Eddie Floyd classic ‘Knock On Wood’ and followed up with her take on The Doors ‘Light My Fire/137 Disco Heaven. These are no doubt the tracks she is most remembered for by most. However Amii is not just a disco diva, ‘Paradise Bird’ a mid tempo ballad is a lush, gorgeous example of her far ranging vocal talent and is quite stunning. The duet of the classic Motown songs My Girl/My Girl also shows off the softer soulful side to Amii. This new compilation of 12 tracks are all remixes made in 1985 by her long time producer Barry Leng of Hansa Records. The last two tracks being extended remixes of the two big hits aforementioned. As you might expect it does really shout Eighties, and I must admit some of the mixes sound a bit ‘clunky’ to these ears at this distance. However getting ANY material on CD by Amii isn’t cheap or easy, its nice to see an affordable collection to savour, so kudos to Cherry Pop for getting this out there. So out with the leg warmers and turn it up LOUD!

For more information go to

THE ORIGINAL CAST AND FRIENDS Tony Burrows/Sue & Sunny/David Martin etc.
Okay not the catchiest title! But this is a real treasure trove of material recorded throughout the 70’s and pulls together some very good pop singles that didn’t quite make it, but in many cases certainly deserved to. Tony Burrows is of course famous or infamous for appearing on TOTP as the lead singer of three groups in a single show! As the voice of Edison Lighthose, White Plains, Brotherhood of Man, Flowerpot Men, Pipkins, First Class etc, you couldn’t listen to radio in the 70’s without hearing that voice! From time to time he did release songs under his name ‘Have you Had A Little Happiness Lately’ ‘Better Fly Butterfly’ are two examples featured here, both instantly catchy pure put a smile on your face slices of pop. Its inexplicable how he missed out as a solo artist really. However he does remain THE voice of 70’s pop. Sue & Sunny were the ‘go to’ session singers of that era backing everyone from Elton John, Marc Bolan, David Bowie to Mott, Bowie, Donna Summer, the list is endless! You may also remember Sunny had a solo hit with ‘Doctors Orders’ in 1974. The third artist featured, David Martin, was the force behind the AMMO partnership and vocalist on Butterscotch hit ‘Don’t You Know’ and lead singer on Guys and Dolls ‘There’s A Whole Lot Of Loving’ as well as writing for Barry Manilow, David Essex and The Carpenters to name but a few. The Original Cast was a vehicle for all these artists. I can tell you that a lot of the tracks on this new 20 track cd are rare and hard to find and if you enjoy pure pop put together impeccably there is a lot to enjoy, its perfect summer time sunny day listening. And the final track ‘Golden Yearz’ is a little stroke of genius, recorded this year and featuring Tony B, David M and the USA’s ‘equilavent’ of Tony Burrows in the shape of Ron Dante the ‘voice’ behind The Archies ‘Sugar Sugar’, The Cufflinks ‘Tracy’ ‘When Julie Comes Around’ and a host of others. An inspired idea, a hell of a catchy song, and proof (If it was needed) that these guys have lost none of their vocal prowess 4 decades on, love it!

colin-head-111x150-111x150-1For more information go to

Til next time……… Colin


David Mulholland… It’s Tony Burrow on Guys and Dolls whole lotta loving vocals not the other guy

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing He’s Real Gone cd by Overend Watts

HE’S REAL GONE  Overend Watts

On January 22nd this year Peter ‘Overend Watts’ sadly lost his fight with cancer and passed away leaving behind this posthumous release. Overend was of course a founding member and bass guitarist of Mott The Hoople, later just Mott after Ian Hunter and Mick Ralphs departures. Known and loved for his zany character its typical that upon realising this album wouldn’t be released til after he’d passed its original title of ‘She’s Real Gone’ was changed by himself to ‘He’s Real Gone’. Brave and class and so very him. Recorded over a long period and indeed his only solo release Overend sticks to no genre but just gives us a lyrically light hearted, witty and humorous look inside his head, just look at a sample of titles ‘The Dinosaw Market’ ‘Prawn Fire On Uncle Sheep Funnel’ Caribbean Hate Song’ and my personal favourite, so far, ‘Belle Of The Boot’ which just brings a  smile to my face, listen to it we’ve all been there! But this is no comedic album ‘Belle’ has a hook many songwriters would envy. Indeed all thirteen tracks are well crafted and Overend played (or programmed) all the instruments. Its in retrospect a crying shame it took him 40 years to make a solo album because based on this he had so much to offer outside of his fundamental contribution to MTH.

Like labelmates Stackridge I reviewed recently Overend is a one-off defying putting in a ‘box’ quirky, delightful and yes heartwarming. Echo’s of glam. punk, Jilted John tease thru the 60 odd minutes running time but in the end its a unique album from a unique artist who may have physically left us but whose musical legacy will live on to delight his many fans. If I have a down day i’ll be slapping this in the disc drawer without fail.

For more information go to

Til next time…………..Colin

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing The Final Bow Bristol 2015 by Stackridge 2CD Set.

THE FINAL BOW, BRISTOL 2015 (2CD LIVE)  Stackridge

Firstly before we get to Stackridge, I would like to congratulate Angel Air Records on their 20th Birthday. I’m proud to have been reviewing their releases since their inception in February 1997, so Peter and Shirley all credit to you for bringing so many artists back for us all to enjoy, may you continue for the next 20 years!

As the press release accompanying says ‘Stackridge are at the heart of Angel Air and part of the DNA of the label as Stackridge, The Korgis, Andy Davis, James Warren, The Meanies and the Mutter Slater Band have all seen releases over the years.

Stackridge are that rare commodity that have ploughed their own furrow musically since their formation in 1969. The first act (and closing act) at the inaugural Glastonbury festival in 1970 (I was there!), Stackridge defy ‘labelling’ are they prog rock, folk rock, bit psyche, avant garde? Yes all these things but unique, they are as English as a cup of tea and a crumpet, Like The Bonzo’s and Ray Davies they could only have ever originated here. Musically so accomplished, lyrically a bit mad at times! they really are a national treasure.

This new 2CD ‘live set was recorded at Bristol and as the title says was their ‘Final Bow’ after 45 years the band have finally called it a day. I wish them a long and happy ‘retirement’. To those of you who are familiar with their output you will find, probably, a good few favourites here, remember ‘Do The Stanley’? If you are new to the band prepare to enjoy! I found myself repeatedly going back to CD2 tracks 4 -6 and just smiling the tracks in question being ‘No Ones More Important Than The Earthworm’ ‘Lost And Found’ and ‘Boots And Shoes’. ‘Earthworm’ was in fact written by Gordon Haskell (Fleur-dy-lys, Ruperts People) Gordon never became a band member but had many connections , but that’s another story!, its just a delight of a song and a title! those three tracks just sum up the band for me. But then there’s ‘Slark’ and ‘Dora The Female Explorer’ and….well its all just so bloody enjoyable. Its fitting this should also be Angel Airs 500th release, half a grand, but a whole grand time to be had by all. Enjoy!

For more information go to 

Til next time……….Colin

Chris Sambrook… Purple Spaceships over Yatton. I remember Stackridge. I think String Driven Thing supported Stackridge on Hastings Pier. Stackridge also played support to Elton John the Eagles and Rufus at Wembley Stadium around about 1976 ish

Mike Tobin…  (shared to Stackridge Rhubarb Thrashers – For Enthusiasts Facebook Group) Great Review.

Mick O’Dowd… I was at the Wembley Stadium gig before the days of large screens. I was about on the half way line and the stage performers were like ants. Could have been anybody up there. Stackridge were good. Beach Boys blew the place away as it was sunny and they played all the surfin’ hits. Elton lost the crowd as he played the new album “Capt Fantastic” which is a very slow dirgy album. Crowd walked of but as soon as he started to play the hits the place erupted! Bands take note. We go to see the stuff we know! Rufus with Chaka Khan were also excellent. A good day all round.

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell. Reviewing The Honeycombs, The Three Degrees and The Isley Brothers cd’s.

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For those of you of a certain age like myself the album title will be immediately familiar. It is of course the address in North London of the legendary RGM studios home of maverick genius producer Joe Meek. If you haven’t seen ‘Telstar’ the excellent film of his life you really must. The Honeycombs gave Joe his third (and last) No.1 with the thumping ‘Have I The Right’ back in 1964. Founder of the band Martin Murray intended this new album to be released in 2014 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of that achievement, the deadline overran due to this and that but is now here. Martin wanted to utilise the technology now available to re-imagine, rework and re-arrange The Honeycombs songs and keep to the spirit of Holloway Road. The majority of the songs were written by the emerging team of Ken Howard and Alan Blakley who were to have major success and endless hits with notably DD.D.B.M & T, The Herd and even Elvis. Indeed ‘Its so hard’ recorded by DDBMT appears on this album. So do these reworkings work? Yes in the main they do and I get Martins desire to put a new take on things. HITR becomes a slower tempo orchestral country tinged affair as opposed to the Dave Clark style stomper it was back in the day. Opening tracks ‘Leslie Anne’ and ‘Mary Jo’ both uptempo numbers sound fresh and ‘retro’ at the same time and there is no doubting the musical ability on display. Totem Pole 9 (theme from Howards Way) yes. you read that right! manages to come away sounding like a homage to the Tornados ‘Telstar’ Deliberate? don’t know but brought a smile to my face. I have to say the track that didn’t work for me was ‘That’s The Way’ The Honeycombs second hit, here given a reggae style makeover, reminding me of Blondie’s ‘Island of Lost Souls’ (I didn’t care for that either!). But overall as aforementioned Martin has made a refreshing, enjoyable and engaging album.

For more information go to


I have to confess straightaway that back in the 1970’s when the girls were huge with songs like ‘When Will I See You Again’ ‘Year of Decision’ ‘Take Good Care of Yourself’ et al I was to put it nicely… underwhelmed..ive always strived to be honest in 45 years of reviewing. To me those hits were too cabaret, over produced and to my ears dare I say soulless. So having said that I approached this new release with some trepidation. Celebrating 50 years in the business original members Helen Scott and Valerie Hobday along with (relative) newcomer Freddie Pool (she joined in 2011) have released this first new studio album in 25 years. Whether its the injection of Freddie, the superb choice of material, all covers/tributes to the O’Jays, McFadden and Whitehead, Billy Paul, The Trammps, Harold Melvin etc this is a whole different ballgame. This is SOUL, all those negatives I had are swept away. This is Proper with a capital P, the arrangements are stunning, I particularly single out ‘If You Don’t Know Me By Now’ (always a personal favourite song), but there is not one track that doesn’t now ooze with real emotion and a real groove. This is an all new Three Degrees for me. Maybe they now have more freedom to record the way they want to, whatever, the end result is light years on. They may be covering old songs but this album is as relevant as any contemporary soul artist. Listen to the very ‘now’ lyrics in ‘Love Train’. I wasn’t aware until reading the press release that they are in the Guiness World Records as the longest running female vocal group in history. On this showing they’ve earned that status. Superb. And in closing I dedicate this review to SMART member and old friend Andre who worked a lot with the girls back in the day at Kings and probably wholeheartedly disagrees with my opening comments!….


I guess you could see this release as the third coming of the Isleys. The first being the Tamla glory days of Twist and Shout, This Old Heart of Mine, and my favourite Behind A Painted Smile and many more in the 60’s. Then moving into the 70’s with a revamped sound that brought forth hits like That Lady and Summer Breeze. This 2CD set released for the first time and recorded for Warners in 1985 and 1987 features the original three man line up of Ronald, O’Kelly and Rudolph Isley. In relation to the previous 2 decades this is the Isleys in a new direction using other songwriters as opposed to their own material. Covering Phil Collins ‘If Leaving Me Is Easy’ for example and making it a 7 minute exquisite soulful blissed out track. Indeed Masterpiece relies on lush ballads as befitted US R’n’b radio stations at that point in time. Out goes raw and in comes silky and that ubiquitous use of synthesizers and the (for real drummers) the prolific use of sodding drum machines..ahem, anyway despite the fact this has 80’s production stamped all over it you cant drown the sheer quality of vocals of the brothers, lets be clear they could sing the phone book and it would still encapsulate soul. Masterpiece isn’t for dancing (well only upclose and personal!) But to chill to it is right up there. Try ‘Come To Me’ as a prime example. Perfect to relax to and bathe in the warmth of a timeless band. Smooth Sailin, despite its title is a bit more of an upbeat affair Ron Isleys distinctive vocal is more to the fore on tracks like ‘Everything is Alright’ and the funk element is more prominent, as are the synth/drum…Smooth Sailin Tonight and ‘Come My Way’ standout, however I think of the two CD’s in this package Masterpiece just edges it for me. You, quite rightly, will make up your own minds.

For more information go to

Til next time, keep warm, Colin


Dale Griffin from Mott The Hoople R.I.P.

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Photos and Press Release from Angel Air Records…


24th October 1948-17th January 2016

Terence Dale Griffin was an English drummer, record producer and founder member of Mott The Hoople

Born in Ross-on Wye, Herefordshire ,Griffin attended Ross Grammar school and played in a number of local bands with his lifelong friend Overend Watts and it was during this time he gained the nickname “Buffin”. Amongst Dales bands were The Silence, Charles Kingsley Creation and with Watts and Mick Ralphs in The Doc Thomas Group. Changes to that line-up occurred in 1968 and keyboard player Verden Allen joined the band and changed its name to The Shakedown Sound. In 1969 they moved to London and came to the attention of record producer Guy Stevens and Ian Hunter was chosen as their lead singer and Mott The Hoople were formed.

Following the departure of Ian Hunter in 1974, Griffin along with Watts and Morgan Fisher formed MOTT with Ray Majors and Nigel Benjamin. In 1976 following the departure of Benjamin the remaining members regrouped as British Lions with former Medicine Head singer songwriter John Fiddler until their demise in the late 70’s when punk hit with a vengeance.

During the 80’s Griffin and Watts formed a Production Company and produced albums for Hanoi Rocks and The Cult as well as hit singles such as Department S “Is Vic There”. Dale then joined the BBC as a producer and produced numerous BBC Radio 1 John Peel sessions from 1981 to 1994 including Pulp, Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana and Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark. In the early 21st century Dale oversaw the re-release of Mott The Hoople’s entire back catalogue from both Island and CBS period producing remastered versions and excellent informative sleeve notes.

Aged 58 Dale was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease just as he had worked tirelessly over the years to bring about the reformation of his beloved Mott The Hoople and in 2009 the band reformed for a five night sell out Hammersmith Apollo 40th anniversary concerts of the original five founder members. Having been just diagnosed Dale only performed during the band encores with The Pretenders drummer Martin Chambers, also from Herefordshire and a friend playing the set and also covering for Dale on the 2013 Mott The Hoople tour.

Dale is survived by his long term partner Jean Smith

Karen Sweatman Was Blackman… Another one …

Alan Mitchell… It certainly seems to be a very sad time.

Chris Giles… Gosh another one

Jim Breeds… Another formerly Young Dude goes.

Clifford Rose… It’s certainly not the golden age of rock’n’roll.

Alan Esdaile… Sad times R.I.P. Dale Griffin.

Robert Searle… RIP Dale another musician

Nicola Dobson… RIP..too many going too young!

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell. Reviewing Stone The Crows and Steve Ellis

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Stone The Crows (2CD Set)

Great to see these two albums getting a release after many years out of print.
STC career was all to brief (1969-73) but they left behind a great body of work in that short space of time. As the press release remarks, the early 70’s was an era when creativity was flourishing. And critically Record Companies (well some of them) were letting go the reins and encouraging bands to experiment. STC were certainly experimental, not many bands used a Stylophone and a vibrator on the guitar!
The band were fronted by Les Harvey guitar (Alex’s younger brother) and the incomparable Maggie Bell on vocals. And for me and I guess many others its Maggie’s vocal pyrotechnics that linger. I always thought of her as Britains own Janis Joplin as im sure many did. Essentially a blues/rock band I loved, and still do that ‘dirty’ guitar blend with Maggies abrasive vocal which blazes from the kick off on tracks like ‘Big Jim Salter’ ‘Faces’ Dylans ‘Don’t Think Twice’, just three of the highlights of the eleven (2 live) tracks on Teenage Licks originally released in 1971.
The band were then dealt a terrible blow in May 1972 with the tragic death of Les, electrocuted onstage at Swansea. He had already laid down most of the guitar parts for follow up album Ontinuous Performance. Jimmy McCulloch (a lovely guy I knew well at the time) came aboard and finished off the parts and the band elected to carry on. OP is overall a more laid back bluesey album than TL, ‘Penicillin Blues’ being an outstanding example. Maggie said at the time ‘the fire had gone out of us’ which is naturally completely understandable but its not discernable on OP and the whole album showcases what a great band STC were. Maggie has had a long and distinguished career since then working with the best, that’s her on Rod Stewarts ‘Every Picture Tells a Story’ and long may it continue.

BEST OF DAYS Steve Ellis

A few weeks ago I reviewed Love Affairs 3CD anthology and now we have an album from frontman Steve Ellis. Possessed of a much admired voice ‘Best of Days’ had a long gestation, being due for release back in 2004. Released in 2008, and now being given a re-release in 2015. Fourteen tracks commencing with a beautifully reworked unplugged version of ‘Everlasting Love’ its a fine start to a very accomplished album showcasing Steve’s voice and talent for picking and writing great material. No surprise to find Paul Weller (mod champion) featured and Steve’s old friend Roger Daltrey weighing in on ‘Nu Clear Blues’ with a great harmonica part. Its (for me) songs like Steve’s ‘Little One’ and the title track ‘Best Of Days’ that stand out, the latter being genuinely uplifting. Elsewhere minor hit ‘El Doomo’ gets a reworking, again to great effect. Overall a class album that rewards and deserves multiple listens.

For more information go to                                                   colin-head-111x150

Til next time (featuring my all time favourite hard rock band of the 80’s!)……

Alan Esdaile…. Who remembers seeing Maggie Bell? Brilliant voice and performer .

Andy Qunta… Factory supported STC at a gig shortly before Les Harvey passed away. They were fantastic! Also their roadies were very nice and helpful to us, & gave us great advice about how to get better sound. Been a big fan ever since, & keyboard player, Ronnie Leahy, a big influence on me!

Geoff Peckham… I remember it well, Andy. We shared the ‘dressing room’ with them (Maidstone Art College, wasn’t it?) and Les Harvey was playing some nice guitar on a practice amp. Lovely guy, great guitarist, great loss.

Mick O’Dowd… Steve Ellis was highly underated as a singer.

Tony Davis… Saw Maggie Bell about a year ago on one of these 60s/70s packages. She still has an awesome voice. STC were a great band and I have managed to track all their albums down on CD (prior to this re-release). Nice to see El Doomo given a whirl by Steve Ellis as well. I thought that was a great track and so under-rated. I remember that we used to play it quite a lot on Merlins Music Box at the Astral Club and Crypt when it first came out.

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Nearly A Sin by One The Juggler.

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I must confess that for whatever reason until receiving this album OTJ flew completely under my radar back in 1984 when this was first released. Their best known single ‘Passion Killer’ rang a distant bell and that was all. So here for the first time on CD is this release with an additional nine bonus tracks for good measure. So what do we have, well the immediate impression is of a post punk band with glam rock leanings and the odd touch of strings ala ABC. I try to avoid comparisons but I don’t think anyone would argue with the obvious Bowie/Mott/Roxy vibe going on here. Indeed Bowie was a hero to the band and Mick Ronson was lined up for the producers chair on the follow up album. N.A.S. needs, in my view, a good few listens to get the aforementioned influences out of the head and get down to the essence of the band. Clever lyrics and some memorable melodies emerge ‘Djangos Coming’ and ‘Damage Is Done’ are two examples. The interplay between acoustic and electric guitar is neat and the band can certainly rock when they want to. I get the overall feeling that like so many bands OTJ were no doubt a great ‘live’ act who didn’t quite capture their all on disc.
However if you like glam rock with a twist you’ll love this and the quality of the recording is first class. The band has recently reformed and will be playing gigs. I think its quite possible i’ll go along to one!

For more information go to                                                                   Coming soon ‘Stone the Crows’ til then….                                         colin-head-111x150


Janet Crowl…. Did you get to a gig Alan?

Alan Esdaile… No sorry missed them, so did Colin Bell who wrote the review. However keep us updated on any future gigs.


SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell… reviews new cd’s from Sweet, Butterscotch and Robin George

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SWEET ‘New York Groove Plus’

Are you ready Bruce? Pete? Andy? Tony? lets go!! OK, so that’s not quite the same as it once was but Andy Scott has kept the flame burning all these years and let me tell you he’s done a bloody good job. This is a thumpingly good album right from the kick off. Knowing in this market dominated by Cowell clones, airplay for a new Sweet album aint gonna happen he’s astutely ‘Sweetified’ some classics and come up with a gem. ‘New York Groove’, ‘Because The Night’ ‘Join Together’ are just some of the highlights. And yes all the ‘classic’ Sweet ingredients are there, the layered harmonies, sawing guitar riffs and driving drum beats that made them such a great band. In fact listening to the ‘new’ version of ‘New York Connection’ (the original b side of Wig Wam Bam) you are transported back to those heady days of the 70’s. But this is no retro album its Sweet in 2015 doing what they do best rocking hard. I hope this release brings them new fans who will discover what a seminal band they are. I can feel Brian and Mick looking down and nodding their heads and their feet in approval. Rock on Andy and Co, I wish we had a (happy) ballroom to blitz!! And now if this was a radio link I guess i’d be saying from one sweet to another (groan!)……….


BUTTERSCOTCH ‘Don’t You Know Its Butterscotch’

Is it really 45 years almost to the day I received a promo single of ‘Don’t You Know’? yes it is and I don’t know where the time has gone! Released in May 1970 this slice of sunshine pop hit the top twenty and once heard stuck in your head all day. Butterscotch was the brainchild of talented songwriters Arnold, Martin and Morrow (AMMO) who had written for everyone from Elvis to Edison Lighthouse. Much like Edison Lighthouse, White Plains etc Butterscotch were a studio concoction originally. Never released before this CD contains all their recorded material, they never bettered DYK and didn’t trouble the charts again but if you like ‘Sunshine pop, harmony ala Harmony Grass style there is much to enjoy ‘Surprise Surprise’ and ‘Sunday Wont be Sunday Any More’ being two highlights. And as aforementioned you’ll be humming DYK for the rest of the day!


ROBIN GEORGE ‘Dangerous Music ii’

Following on from the album Dangerous Music, comes the never released til now part 2. Robin had a worldwide hit from that first album in 1985 in the shape of ‘Heartline’, a track I have played many many times on my radio shows and a personal favourite. A fan of Little Feat (great band) Robin has a great pedigree playing with amongst others. Phil Lynott, Robert Plant, Roy Wood and Diamond Head. Dangerous Music 11 is clearly an Eighties production, I can imagine some of the tracks playing in scenes from Miami Vice, glossy synth pop overladen with Robins guitar work. Despite some high quality writing there sadly isn’t a track as immediate as ‘Heartline’. Overall its a good listen, best in a convertible heading down a freeway I suspect. And that side of the pond I think is his natural market. However good to see its release after 30 years!

All the above are Angel Air releases. For more information go to

Til next time bye for now and have a great Easter…  Colincolin-head