BELFAST GYPSIES: THEM BELFAST GYPSIES CD
It is a tale, typical in many respects of the 60’s, of dodgy managers, greedy Record Companies and a whole host of ‘shifty’ characters that swim around the shark infested waters of the music industry. It is a very interesting story particularly for those of us on the inside, however to keep things relatively simple….think of this album as a Them album minus Van Morrison containing members of the original band. The use of the ‘THEM’ lettering is a cynical Record Company ploy (then, not now!) to appeal and catch the eye of fans of the original Van Morrison led band. So to sum up the release is called Them Belfast Gypsies all in one sentence. The album was recorded in May & June 1966 in London and Copenhagen after the departure of Van for America. Lead vocals were taken by Pat (aka) John McAuley, a quick snatch of which could be mistaken for Van the Man, but not for long, Pat/John has a more nasally/raucous/frenzied delivery than his ex bandmate. The album kicks off with Gloria’s Dream which is basically a re-tread of hit single ‘Gloria’ but nevertheless a good rollicking slice of r’n’b. Followed by a rather good mid-tempo bluesy track ‘The Crazy World Inside Me’ which leads on to the harmonica driven rocker ‘Midnight Train’. Things then take a peculiar turn with a neo classical piece ‘Aria Of The Fallen Angels’ before returning to familiar territory with a cover of the Dylan standard ‘Its All Over Now Baby Blue’. Then we are off once again into strange realms with the freakbeat/Bo Diddley influenced ‘People Let’s Freak Out’ before once again returning to solid ground with a good version of the much covered John Lee Hooker classic ‘Boom Boom’. More bluesy organ drenched sounds follow on the lyrically strange ‘The Last Will And Testament’ before we are hit with a cover of Donovan’s ‘Hey Gyp’. If you have read this far you are probably, like me, thinking along the lines of this sounds totally schizophrenic as an album. Well, yes and no, after repeated listenings it does seem to strangely hang together in a curious way. In my opinion the mix of discordant tracks can be laid at the feet of Kim Fowley, whenever i hear that name my hackles rise. Fowley was an American Record Producer/singer/songwriter who was active in America and London (amongst other locations) from 1960 through to the 21st century. According to your point of view he was either a maverick genius or a meddling hustler in many a bands career. I met him once at a party in Bayswater given by Dave a sound engineer friend of mine. Fowley was responsible for this album. By the time it was issued in Sweden & The Netherlands only, in 1967, the band had already broken up, disillusioned and broke and indeed ignorant of its release at all! This new release put together by Grapefruit Records has the original 12 tracks plus a bonus 9 all newly remastered and sounding excellent and is without doubt the definitive edition and restores some integrity to the shabby treatment of the band and its place in music history. If earthy early r’n’b & blues is your thing there is much here to enjoy.
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