SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Ain’t Nothing But A House Party – 60s and Early 70s Club Soul Classics, 3CD Set Various Artists

 

AIN’T NOTHING BUT A HOUSEPARTY  60’s & 70’s CLUB SOUL CLASSICS     Various Artists
Calling all Soul, Motown & Northern Soul fans. This brand-new compilation from the excellent Strawberry Records is a must have treat. 3CD’s running to 89 tracks, providing hours of great listening & if you’re so inclined, non-stop dancing around your living room. It struck me that this small (in overall size) package would have enabled me to do a whole DJ gig back in the day when i first started out gigging from club to club, all over the South of England. I could have saved all that energy i spent lugging crates of vinyl up and down the many flights of stairs that always seemed to exist where i was booked! Now of course that can be reduced even further to a small stick inserted into a laptop. But let’s forget all the technology as this compilation returns you to the days of sweaty dancefloors, filled by crowds dancing to the strains of the artists contained here on those 7inch pieces of vinyl. As one might expect from the compilation’s title the whole collection starts off with an irresistible burst of energy from The Showstoppers that gives rise to the compilations title ‘Aint Nothing But A Houseparty’. There surely can’t be many DJs from my era that didn’t hammer that track to death. Its infectious atmosphere was perfect in setting the tone on the dancefloor & opening the way for many great tunes to follow. And that is exactly what is going on here. ‘Shirley Ellis ‘Soul Time’ Marvin Gaye ‘Can I Get A Witness’ Edwin Starr ‘Agent Double O Soul’ The Temptations ‘Girl’ The Contours ‘Just A Little Misunderstanding’ Sam & Dave ‘You Don’t Know Like I Know’ the classics keep on coming on Disc1. Big names abound like the aforementioned, together with more classics from Booker T. Jnr Walker, Martha & the Vandellas, Rufus Thomas, Wilson Pickett & so many more, And i might add often not the usual common compiled tracks, but some real golden nuggets of songs I’ve forgotten over the years but am delighted to get re-acquainted with. It’s great to also see the likes of the lesser-known names, many of whom were picked up by the Northern Soul crowd, represented here by those such as Darrell Banks, Darrow Fletcher. The Astors & Tony Clarke, some real gems.  I’m particularly pleased to see a couple of tracks from artistes that i believe don’t see enough exposure in compilations, Solomon Burke & the wonderful Johnny Otis. CD2 kicks off with perennial favourite ‘Move on Up’ another sure-fire floor filler, from the late Curtis Mayfield, before again like Disc1 bringing on more big guns in the shape of Dobie Grey, The Four Tops, The Velvelettes. Otis Redding, The O’Jays. the glorious Chairmen of the Board & Freda Payne to name but a few. Three of my all-time favourite tracks are to be found on this disc, R Dean Taylor with classic ‘Ghost in my House’ (although it must be noted this is an alternate take) The Drifters ‘One Way Love’ a track that was a big hit for Cliff Bennett & the Rebel Rousers in the mid 60’s but i have always much preferred this version & Robert Knight with ‘Love on a Mountain Top’ whose original recording of ‘Everlasting Love’ gave The Love Affair their enduring hit in 1968. Other notable mentions go to tracks from Homer Banks, Chuck Wood, The Falcons & Bobby Wells. Disc3 differs a little from its predecessors at the start with the inclusion of some unexpected tracks from Little Richard & Madeline Bell with ‘Get Down With It’ & ‘I Really Got Carried Away’ respectively. In my head Little Richard signals Rock & Roll to me rather than Soul, however it does actually slot in to the running order rather well here. Again, i associate Madeline with more pop orientated material in general, however this soul stomper is well chosen. I was amused to see 2 of the greatest live acts of the 60’s nestling side by side on tracks 7 & 8. Jimmy James & the Vagabonds ‘Hi Diddley Dee Dum’ followed by Geno Washington & the Ram Jam Band with ‘I’ve Been Hurt By Love’. I’ve known both guys forever & they have always been fierce competitors for best live soul act with both putting on brilliant shows. I love both dearly & have spent many happy hours in their company. These 2 tracks are followed by the evergreen ‘Beggin’ by Timebox, which despite playing it myself a thousand times at a thousand gigs over the years i still don’t tire of. Other excellent sides come from The Alan Bown Set (such an underrated act) The Foundations, Wynder K Frog & Major Lance. More obscure delights are provided by less familiar names Kenny Bernard (clearly a Northern Soul number), Jason Knight, Lorraine Silver, Sugar Simone & a host of others. Great to also see old friend Carl ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ Douglas getting a look in with the seldom heard ‘Crazy Feeling’ displaying his soul credentials on this early 1966 cut. The whole compilation comes to a close with another old favourite of mine ‘Loving on the Losing Side’ by Tommy Hunt whose long career stretches all the way back to 1959. Tommy is a big favourite with the Northern Soul crowd & I’m delighted to say is still with us as he reaches his 90th year. As ever, space precludes me from mentioning every track but I’m confident you now have a good flavour of what’s in store for you on this excellent new compilation. It comes in a sturdy clamshell box & as always with a well-researched & written accompanying booklet with details on the artists & tracks included. This being the last album review of 2022 it just remains for me to say a few thanks. Firstly, to my friends at Cherry Red Records & all their different stable of labels that have provided all the great material we have listened to this year. Special thanks to Matt for keeping me supplied & for his enthusiasm. Thanks to Alan & SMART for all his hard work transcribing these reviews. And finally, & most importantly, to all you readers who have left feedback & often kind comments through the SMART website & FB page. I thank you all. God willing, as long as my brain & fingers are still working! I’ll see you in 2023 for more great music. Until then take care, stay safe & well…..Colin x

for more information go to https://www.cherryred.co.uk

 

 

Mick O’Dowd… Worked with them in the 80’s at Pebbles Night Club. Great band!An Absolute gem Colin! The tracks of my Mod years and more! In the words of Hot Chocolate, “Everyone’s a Winner!

Alan Esdaile… I never got to see them but great single and always a floor filler.

Jim Breeds… I promise you that non-stop dancing in my living room would be the end of me these days, so, by definition, it would stop!

Merv Kennard… Might have to add this to my collection at some stage.

Neil Cartwright… Great compilation. Reminds me of nights at Wigan Casino.

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Deep In The Woods – Pastoral Psychedelia & Funky Folk 1968-1975, 3CD Set Various Artists

DEEP IN THE WOODS – PASTORAL PSYCHEDELIA & FOLK FUNK 1968-1975

If you go down to the woods today, you’re in for a big……compilation! Sorry guys i tried to resist that opening line but the temptation proved too much! On with the music now. Let’s firstly tackle the rather lengthy title of this new 3CD compilation from Strawberry Records. In a nutshell (no pun intended!) this is a collection of what I personally would refer to as Acid Folk (certainly in the main) a hybrid of traditional folk meeting electric experimental folk mixed in a cauldron of late 60’s early 70’s psychedelia with some sprinklings of jazz/funk. Confused? don’t be, it may all sound a bit bewildering but it’s really just a collection for those music lovers that like esoteric gems from the aforementioned time period. It’s not going to appeal to die-hard folk purists whose enjoyment comes mainly from traditional songs often just handed down orally from generation to generation & to whom electric guitars & various studio effects like phasing and flanging appear, heresey! There is an excellent essay on the whole folk/psyche/jazz movement written by Richard Norris that accompanies this release which goes into all the detail you could wish for and is very well written. I recognise roughly a third of the names in this collection. Cherry Red have certainly delved deep into their vaults to bring you the listener some real treasures. With 3 CD’s each running on average 77 mins each there is an awful lot to enjoy. 54 tracks in total. As space precludes me going track by track i have selected half a dozen examples from each CD to give you an overall flavour. CD1 gets us underway with ‘Leafy Lane’ a gentle slice of pastoral rock, reminiscent of something early Traffic might have produced. This is however by Fat Mattress, the band formed by Noel Redding who swapped his bass in the Jimi Hendrix Experience for some mellow guitar playing here, a good start. Of particular interest to some people i know will be reading this, are tracks 4 & 5 by Mike Hurst & Ray Fenwick respectively. Mike’s track ‘Face From The Past’ with its harpsichord intro is a mid to up-tempo number, rocky with some baroque psyche overtones & is very enjoyable, there’s a familiar riff in there which i recognise, just can’t quite grasp where from! Ray’s track ‘I Wanna Stay Here’ is right up my street with its heavily laden phasing (think Nirvana ‘Rainbow Chaser’) a great slice of laid-back psychedelia taken from his solo album Keep America Beautiful-Get A Haircut. Track 9 The Woods Band ‘Noisey’ take us for a really jaunty instrumental ride, the likes of which immediately reminds me of spending time in an Irish pub, no surprise as the band turn out to be Irish! very pleasing. Track 10 ‘Yorric’ by Welsh singer Meic Stevens is a wonderfully put together work of folk/psyche drenched in all manner of instruments with the sitar having a starring role. Great, absolutely love it. Track 11 is a surprising inclusion by Arrival (yes, the same band that had a hit with ‘Friends’) although the track ‘La Virra’ featured here is a long away from that. A jazzy piece, with organ & bass breaks, apart from a brief faint echo of a vocal its a brisk instrumental. As you can see already this really is a diverse album My last pick from CD1 is a band i have always been a fan of, Dando Shaft. They were signed to Miki Dallons Youngblood Records & i once had the pleasure of having a few bevvies with the guys back in the day when calling in to see Miki. The guys were often compared to Pentangle or The Incredible String Band. You can make up your own minds by listening to their track ‘Cold Wind’ as featured here at the end of this review. CD2 brings another mixed bag of delights featuring many artistes i confess to not being overly familiar with such as Chris Harwood, who opens proceedings with an ethereal piece called ‘Wooden Ships’. The Ghost, Second Hand, Fuschia & Amber again are all new to me with their very varied entries. Amongst the artistes i do know are the more well known acts Heron, Mellow Candle (if you’ve got an original vinyl album you’ve hit the jackpot!) Trader Horne, Trees, Keith Christmas & Bridget St John are all artistes whose work i do know. Sadly, despite John Peel’s many efforts to get me ‘into’ Bridget’s material…in all honesty i couldn’t. John formed his own Dandelion Records to release her work & she is i know highly regarded & is represented here by her track ‘Fly High’ i just personally find her slightly depressing, but as ever it would be a boring old world if we all liked the same thing as the saying goes. There is a great track by Global Village Trucking Company, the splendidly titled ‘The Inevitable Fate of Ms Danya Sox’ which isn’t quite as bizarre as it sounds, it’s got a really great groove. And finally, to CD3 which opens with a definite favourite for me with Sunforest ‘Magician In The Mountain’ a funky number to be sure. You might be wondering what the word ‘funk’ or ‘funky’ is doing appearing anywhere in this review of folk/psyche/rock numbers, well it should be remembered that a lot of the early bands in particular, drew their drummers from a pool of musicians that had started their careers playing jazz & came with experience of playing in a funky style. However, i digress, more familiar names crop up on this final CD in the set, such as Jade Warrior, Curtis Knight & more from Bridget. The wonderfully wacky ‘act’, well an ‘experience’ really! Principal Edwards Magic Theatre weigh in with ‘The Death of Don Quixote’ all 13 minutes of it, if you’ve never been exposed to them, you have a treat in store there! They are followed by 2, to my mind, unlikely inclusions. The first being Yvonne Elliman, who had a big hit with ‘I Don’t Know How To Love Him’ from Jesus Christ Superstar’. Here she is featured with a plaintive rather beautiful mid-tempo ballad named ‘Hawaii’ which conjures up pictures of the subject matter rather well. The compilation is brought to a close by the second of the unlikely inclusions, with Linda Lewis’s ‘Reach For The Truth’ from her 1972 album ‘Lark’ which if memory serves, was also released as a single together with’ Rock-A-Doodle-Doo’. It’s a great track if maybe just a little too ‘funky’ to gel with the other tracks on the compilation. Notwithstanding that it’s always good to hear Linda. She is a member of the SMART group, so Linda if you’re reading this, it’s been a while since we last spoke when i reviewed your album ‘Hampstead Days’. don’t be a stranger, send me a message & let me know what you’re doing! So, there we have it another great compilation to savour for aficionados of all things folk/psyche. The collection comes in a fold out digipack which when opened up book style the 2 facing pages form one of the most beautiful pieces of artwork i believe I’ve ever seen on a CD/Record cover, it’s stunning, capturing the spirit of the collection spot on, i could stare at it for hours and probably will. So, in conclusion to borrow a line from the aforementioned Linda & my favourite version of a particular song, do have a listen to this compilation it may be ‘surprisingly good for you’!. Enjoy.

For more information go to https://www.cherryred.co.uk
Til next time….stay safe & well……Colin

Jim Breeds… Very interesting Colin. Thanks for the review. Sounds right up my street. However, I just invested in ‘Bert Jansch at the BBC’, a 4 LP set that comes with an additional 6 hours of download content, so I have plenty to listen to for a while!

Alan Esdaile… Great cover and interesting tracks.

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Ray Fenwick: Playing Through The Changes – Anthology 1964-2020, 3CD

Playing Through The Changes : The Anthology (1964-2020)     RAY FENWICK
Released this Friday this compilation will be of interest to many, especially some from the local music scene. Where to start with Ray? Well firstly i’ve sadly not had the pleasure of meeting him, which given the amount of bands and projects he’s been involved in is surprising, however i know some of you reading this have, so any innaccuracies that follow are entirely mine and i’ll stand corrected. Ray is one of Rock’s supreme journeymen whose career has spanned over 6 decades and has encompassed a myriad of genres from Ska to Hard Rock. He is not only a gifted guitarist but also a singer, multi-instrumentalist, producer and a noted session player. I strongly recommend that you follow the link to https://www.cherryred.co.uk at the conclusion of this piece for more information as i would need a book to do full justice to his story. In short he began playing guitar at an early age fully encouraged by his parents and by the age of 15 joined his first band Rupert & The Red Devils and though underage trod the established path to playing the seedy clubs of Germany & Holland where in the latter he would later play frequently having met & befriended Jan Akkerman & Focus. Returning to the UK he joined The Excels (formed by another Ex Red Devil) the infamous Don Arden became their booking agent and off they went to the South Of France to play on the more salubrious Riviera, making the acquaintance of Brigitte Bardot along the way (lucky man!). After this sortie he joined The Syndicats replacing the outgoing Steve Howe, then utilising his connections he moved on to Dutch band Tee Set. By 1967 he’d joined The Spencer Davis Group as they entered their second phase after the departure of Steve Winwood. I’m particularly fond of this period that started with ‘Time Seller’ as i really enjoyed the shift to psychedelia the band experimented with. Although Ray wasn’t on ‘Time Seller’ he did play on the excellent ‘Mr Second Class’. After 2 years with The SDG Ray was off again to pastures new with The ian Gillian Band via recording some sessions with Bo Diddley along the way. By 1974 he’d become part of rock band Fancy who had a surprise American hit with a cover of ‘Wild Thing’. Fancy were a group of session musicians put together by Ray’s long term mentor and friend celebrated music arranger Mike Hurst. In the eighties another of Ray’s projects would come together as Forcefield (in 3 incarnations) more of which later. As is plainly obvious Ray has been a very busy and ubiquitous figure in the industry and i’ve only really scratched the surface. This new release compiled with Ray’s full involvement consists of 3 CD’s containing 61 tracks housed in a very sturdy fold out digipack crammed with photo’s and an exhaustive booklet with tells the extensive story of this remarkable career. CD1 is rich with the many facets of Ray’s playing from the opener ‘Mercury High’ Gillan Band track through to Ska represented by The South Coast Ska Stars ‘Range Rider’ the groove laden rock of Fancy & ‘She’s Ridin The Rock Machine’, Spencer Davis, Rupert & The Red Devils, Eddie Hardins ‘Wind In The Willows’ Ray’s sublime take on The Shadow’s ‘Apache’ and joy of joy’s the mod revival sound of old friend Tich Turner’s Escalator ‘Are You Wiv’ are just some of the other delights and highlights. CD2 is more rock and project orientated kicking off with Forcefield’s (Mk1) cover of ‘Smoke On The Water’ (a track we’ll return to at the conclusion). Artists featured include Tee-Set, David Coverdale, Roger Glover (& friends) Eddie Hardin’s Wizard Convention, Forcefield (Mk2), Hardin & York & Graham Bonnet. And if you are someone reading this who thinks  i haven’t been aware of Ray through all these tracks, well maybe, but you will have heard him as a kid growing up if you watched kids TV as he also co-wrote the theme to ‘Magpie’ included here, boy has this guy been prolific. CD3 is another eclectic mix featuring the Ian Gillian Band, Forcefield (Mk3), Eddie Hardin, Mike Hurst, Spencer Davis, Bo Diddley, a wonderful version of Mason Williams ‘Classical Gas’ featuring Cozy Powell and 2 tracks from Ray Fenwicks White Lightning ‘Shine It On Me’ & ‘Mail Box’ both featuring our very own local lad Pete Prescott on lead vocals (there’s a rather endearing photo of the band featured on the inside of the compilation….hair metal rules!). It’s Pete that gets the final word on this marvellous compilation. I rang him as i was somewhat puzzled as to why any band would record a cover version of the iconic ‘Smoke On The Water’ (as referred to earlier kicking off CD2 as Forcefield), doing it as a live number i could understand, i’ve heard a million rock bands do that. But to record it is surely superfluous?. Over to Pete, it came about when he was living and gigging in Switzerland in the mid-80’s where he made the acquaintance of one of the singers from the band The Far Corporation who had a hit in 1985 by covering LZ’s ‘Stairway To Heaven’ (masterminded by Boney M creator and producer Frank Farian). spurred on by this if you can cover an iconic song like that…so Ray, with an eye on the Japanese market (who love their metal) invited Pete, Cozy etc to Catsfield Studio’s where he was working to record SMOTW. So that’s answered that, thanks Pete. I apologise for my lack of Forcefield knowledge! So in conclusion, this is a fascinating collection of work spanning a remarkable career and space has precluded me from all the story but i trust i have whetted your appetite. Ray has been an influence and a helping hand to many a musician local and otherwise and Lemon Records have done a fine job with this package celebrating his many talents. Enjoy.

for more information go to https://www.cherryred.co.uk

Till next time, stay safe…Colin

 

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

THE COMPLETE SINGLES COLLECTION    Hello   (2CD set 7T’s Records)
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.

for more information go to https://www.cherryred.co.uk

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!

 

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell. Reviewing Oh! You Pretty Things: Glam Queens And Street Urchins 1970-76: 3CD Various Artists

Oh! You Pretty Things: Glam Queens & Street Urchins 1970-76 (3CD set)   Various Artists

So here is the latest in Grapefruit Records ever excellent series of themed 3CD box sets. It is very rare that i quote from a Press Release, but on this occasion….’We focus on the twin central strands of Glam Rock: the cerebral and the visceral’ Ok we’ll see about that and also the other claim of examining the link between the ‘seedy’ played out London scene of the early 70’s and it’s comparison with the underbelly of New York of the same period.  CD 1 gets off on a ‘cerebral’ foot with Roxy Music & their follow up to debut hit ‘Virginia Plain’ in the shape of ‘Pyjamarama’ whose delights i must confess to having forgotten but it’s a pleasant reminder of 1973 for this reviewer. Next up is ELO and here i must question what they are doing here?, i really don’t see them as any part of ‘Glam’ and the choice of Ma-Ma-Ma-Belle is jarring being without doubt the ‘heaviest’ rock track the band ever recorded. It is however certainly ‘visceral’.  Anyway a small niggle. Much more suited to the albums theme are the likes of Be Bop Deluxe, Sparks, Heavy Metal Kids, Blackfoot Sue & Mick Ronson who as well as featuring in his own right with the track ‘White Light, White Heat’ Mick is to be found alongside Mott The Hoople’s ex frontman Ian Hunter with ‘Once Bitten Twice Shy’ taken from one of my all time favourite albums 1975’s ‘You’re Never Alone With A Schizophrenic’ (Best album title ever). Dana Gillespie’s ‘Andy Warhol’ & The Hollywood Brats ‘Tumble With Me’ are suitably camp & sleazy respectively. On to CD2 which opens with another well loved track of mine with everybody’s favourite Glam rockers Slade and the anthemic ‘Take Me Bak’Ome’, although Mr Holder has never cared for the ‘Glam’ label. Other big names, albeit with lesser known tracks featured are Curved Air, Bryan Ferry, Iggy & The Stooges’ & Lou Reed with ‘Satellite Of Love’. There are some rare delights to be had with Tim Curry’s ‘ Sweet Transvestite’ & Wayne County’s ‘Queenage Baby’, an artist i have always enjoyed as Wayne or Jayne. Another band i have a lot of time for Third World War also weigh in with ‘Rat Crawl’ and the rather clever inclusion of an unexpected Trogg’s track ‘Strange Movies’ is welcome. The CD closes with Sweet at their best bridging the gap between the pop of Chinnichap & their move to self written material with one of their greatest singles ‘The Sixteens’. CD3 plunges us straight into the New York scene with the primary, and yes again ‘visceral’ New York Dolls and ‘Personality Crisis’. This of all the 3 discs contains the mostly undiscovered gems from some rarely heard bands such as The Winkies, Bullfrog, Hard Stuff & a band i confess i’ve never heard of by the name of Fumble with their very individual take on ‘Not Fade Away’ which is somewhat glorious in a surreal sort of way! Of the bigger and well known names to be found are The Strawbs, Leo Sayer, Mott The Hoople & another crowd pleaser The Sensational Alex Harvey Band with the 7 minute wonder that is ‘The Last Of The Teenage Idols’ which i’ve always thought was a real tour-de-force of a song. At 66 tracks there is plenty to explore in this compilation and if you were around the first time to witness the likes of Bowie and all the androgynous acts that followed in his & The New York Dolls footsteps you will enjoy this latest collection enormously. As ever the 3CD’s come housed in a sturdy clamshell box with an accompanying well written 40 page booklet. Grapefruit Records remain the current masters of the themed compilation market. Enjoy.

For more information go to https://www.cherryred.co.uk

Til next time…..stay safe………Colin

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Marc Almond: The Stars We Are, 2CD/1DVD

THE STARS WE ARE   Marc Almond (2CD/1DVD)

It’s not often i stray into the 80’s in these pages as generally speaking it’s probably my least favourite decade for music. However there are always exceptions of course and one of those is Marc Almond, I’ve always thought he was a strong singer with a very powerful and distinctive vocal. Whether it be in Soft Cell or solo i pretty much love all his work. Originally released in 1988 ‘The Stars We Are’ was Marc’s 4th solo album containing 10 tracks. This excellent new package from SFE Records brings together those original tracks on Disc 1 and expands the content with the cassette only and ‘b’ side tracks. Disc 2 features all the expanded and re-mixes of the tracks known to exist, 11 tracks in all and in conclusion Disc 3 is a very welcome bonus DVD bringing together 6 Promo videos. Kicking off the whole set with the title song on Disc 1 finds Marc in his very best Torch singer (no pun intended!) vein, the song reminds me of something Scott Walker would have recorded with its big brassy background and vocals soaring and it’s a great start. It’s more in the same mode with ‘These My Dreams Are Yours’ on track 2 with another big bold ballad. Things turn more straightforwardly pop with ‘Bitter Sweet’, whilst proceedings get intense with ‘Your Kisses Burn’ featuring Nico, a moody and dramatic piece i’ve always loved which also turned out sadly to be Nico’s last ever recording. Moving on we get to the first of 2 singles that brought Marc firmly back into the limelight. First up is ‘Tears Run Rings’ a straightforward slice of pop that takes you back to the glory days of Soft Cell. However it was Marc’s inspired idea to record ‘Somethings Gotten Hold Of My Heart’ with it’s original singer the late great Gene Pitney that paid off big time becoming a No 1 hit for 4 consecutive weeks in 1989. Whenever i hear this or see them perform it i can never escape the feeling they are both trying to upstage the other but in a good way, it’s a perfect blend of two voices and all credit to Marc whose choice of revitalising old classic songs is always impeccable, i also admired his take on ‘Days Of Pearly Spencer. But back to the album in hand, as i mentioned Disc 2 is a treasure trove of extended and remixed versions featuring 2 mixes of ‘Tears Run Rings’ with both the 12inch and Dance versions. My favourite here though has to be the melodramatic Blue Mosque Mix of the wonderful ‘She Took My Soul In Istanbul’ a gloriously moody. evocative track that conjures up that fascinating East meet West city beautifully. Together with Soft Cells extended version of Say Hello Wave Goodbye’ i think it’s Marc at his finest. As aforementioned Disc 3 gives you the chance to revisit the 80’s and watch the contemporary promotional video’s including 2 versions of ‘Tears Run Rings’, one for the US market and of course that duet with Gene Pitney. The accompanying 36 page booklet is beautifully put together with a wealth of photo’s, song lyrics and essays. Altogether this remains for me probably the best solo album Marc produced and now it’s ‘gone large’ with all the extra’s it’s a real musical feast. I’ll leave you with that No 1. Enjoy.

For more information go to https://www.cherryred.co.uk

Til next time, stay safe and well………Colin

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Belfast Gypsies: Them Belfast Gypsies CD

BELFAST GYPSIES: THEM BELFAST GYPSIES CD

Ok, let’s clear up the title and band of this release before we progress any further. At first glance of the album cover it would be taken for granted this is an early album by Belfast r’n’b band THEM and its entitled ‘Belfast Gypsies’ given their look etc. NO. The whole saga of this release is told in a superb and comprehensive essay over 16 pages by the label boss David Wells to whom i take my (metaphorical) hat off.

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.

for more information go to https://www.cherryred.co.uk

Til next time, stay safe and well everyone………

Colin

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing The Complete Bell Recordings 1966-1969 – James & Bobby Purify 2CD

THE COMPLETE BELL RECORDINGS 1966-1969  James & Bobby Purify

James Lee Purify and his cousin Robert Lee Dickey (died 2012) formed as a duo in 1966, with the latter adopting Purify. Both hailed from Florida and were steeped in soul music. Signed to Bell Records they scored a million seller with their debut single ‘I’m Your Puppet’ written by prolific songwriter Dan Penn (who wrote many hit songs including ‘Cry Like A Baby’  for labelmates The Box Tops). Nominated for a Grammy and an enduring soul hit IYP was in fact completely disliked by the duo. Originally written as a country song it was too lightweight and ‘poppy’ for James & Bobby who were not shy of telling the press at the time. I can see their point of view. This compilation includes the two albums they recorded, singles and bonus/unissued tracks and IYP does sound out of place when compared to the rest of the tracks. Their follow up hit (in the US) ‘Wish You Didn’t have to Go’ is much more representative of their soul credentials and sounds like a Stax/Atlantic/VJ release as indeed does the rest of their output. In fact both IYP and the other tracks were recorded at Fame Studio’s Muscle Shoals, a legendary place to be sure. Their first album features some superb covers of, in particular, Eddie Floyds ‘Knock On Wood’ Otis Redding’s ‘Ive Been Loving You Too Long’ ( a great arrangement) Sam Cooke’s immortal ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ and Sam & Dave’s ‘Blame Me’. Sam & Dave were undoubtedly the pre-eminent soul duo at the time, so its interesting that they actually covered IYP! Their second album contained here ‘The Pure Sound Of The Purifys’ carried on the Sam & Dave link with ‘I Take What I Want’, ‘When Something Is Wrong With My Baby’ and ‘Soothe Me’, in retrospect it seems a bit much to cover 3 songs by what are basically your main rivals, however when you think back nearly all black soul acts were doing it, in particular Tamla and Motown being the most guilty. Anyway be that as it may there are some fine vocal performances ‘Hello There’ (another Dan Penn original), ‘When Something Is Wrong With My Baby’ and ‘Shake A Tail Feather’ with backing vocals by no less than Melba Moore, Doris Troy and Ellie Greenwich, which was recorded with a ‘live’ feel in the style of Geno Washington, who incidentally covered…yes you’ve guessed it..IYP! All in all the 38 tracks gathered here are a real trip back to those heady days in the 60’s when soul MEANT soul, not what purports to be ‘soul’ nowadays. Ok I’m biased and getting on but listening to this its 1967 and im young and full of hope and energy. SoulMusic Records have done a great remastering job coupled with a 16 page booklet and whatever James & Bobby originally thought their music stands the test of time. Enjoy.

For more information go to https://www.cherryred.co.uk

Til next time……………Colin

Stallion – Live At The Lyceum September 1976

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Of the many obscure, trench-coated progressive rock groups that germinated in the garages, sheds and rehearsal studios of England in the early ’70s, Stallion deserve to be recognised as one of the great lost bands of the first progressive era. Hailed critically, and by those lucky enough to see them perform, Stallion appeared on the same stage as many of their more well-known contemporaries including Motörhead, Stackridge, Rare Bird, Stray, The Edgar Broughton Band andTraffic. Despite winning a Melody Maker magazine competition and playing on the main stage at Reading Festival in 1976, and having successfully merged progressive rock moves with punk attitude, major label success eluded Stallion and they broke up in the late ’70s a well-kept secret.This new CD contains their rare single and fragments of “the album that never was”, together with a history of the band and previously unseen photographs.

Sound Engineer… Dave Hinde.

Phil Thornton….Stallion play ‘The Hard Life’ recorded live at the Lyceum Ballroom, London. September 1976 supporting Motorhead.

Paul E Newcomb… Stray were the headliners that night… Motorhead second and  Dirty Tricks (?) third. Stallion had won the MM folfkRock competition that year I believe

Phil Gill… Correct as to line up, but Motörhead might have headlined.

Phil Thornton… Yes I think it was Motörhead headlining – the PA was theirs and they were charging other bands to use it !!

Pete Fisher… I was living in London then, but didn’t come along to the gig…guess I didn’t hear about it…funnily enough the band I joined that year got to the final of the MM Folk/Rock competition the following year in 1977 (after winning the semi-final at the Marquee), but didn’t win…

Dave Nattress… Just wonderful to hear this. Stallion were just so good and this proves it. In Damaris we had the privilege to play support a few times on the pier and we totally loved, respected, revered and admired this band. They were where we wanted to go. 43 years ago. Frightening. Brilliant that there are these recordings and my clear recollection of their tight musicianship and the spectacular whirling dervish performances of John Wilde come right back to me, and visuals aside John was a wonderful vocalist, great tone and delivery. Congrats to all, great memories and sad that not all the guys who took the Stallion road are no longer with us. Got the CD album a few years ago and play it a lot, great that Phil T and the guys were able to get it out

Phil Gill… Damaris were none too shabby as I recall. I remember a song about a “city punk” that always stuck in my head.

Dave Nattress… Thanks Phil, nice one. I have the lyric somewhere, just found it, yes I was big on rhyming and City Punk was followed by the line “Lived on Junk”, a not so obsure double meaning which was also something I liked to put in. We had some out-there tracks and themes and lyrics, tracks about weird stuff like “Star Tiger” which was the call-sign of an aircraft that disappeared over the Bermuda Triangle, “Alien Tomorrows” a space journey influenced piece, eampling part of the planet suite, never can remember if it was Mars or Jupiter – Iain Cobby puts me right. Trawled up a load more lyrics of our songs, “The First Survivor” one man thinking he’s alone on the planet after the proverbial nuclear war, “Rubic’s Cube”, “Jack the Ripper”, another with references to characters from Lord of the Rings – blimey were we up ourselves or what!! Anyway good, good days!! Best wishes Phil.

John Wilde… thank you Dave. It was an awesome time. I very much appreciate your comments.

Phil Thornton… yes I remember enjoying Damaris sets – I’m sure we all went along to support them at a gig in Ore ? ( not sure about venue ) they were I think the only other band around Hastings at that time who were doing original stuff – great times indeed !

SMART SOUNDS By Colin Bell reviewing Black Flower by Nirvana (UK) CD

BLACK FLOWER     Nirvana (UK) CD

Having brought you reviews of Nirvana’s other albums, its with great personal pleasure I bring you this review of their third ‘lost’ album. Their debut album ‘The Story of Simopath’ is now considered the first ‘rock opera’ and the follow up (and most commercially successful album) ‘All of Us’ contained the sublime single hit ‘Rainbow Chaser’, another first with its use of ‘phasing’. The third album release should have been Black Flower. On completion Chris Blackwell boss of their label Island Records rejected it as not right for his label. In a, however, generous gesture gave them the master tapes and released the duo from their contract and bade them good luck to find a home for it.

Eventually a deal was done with Metromedia in the U.S. and Pye International in the U.K. Unfortunately Metromedia was caught up in a huge payola scandal and folded having just pressed up 500 promo copies (now worth £1000!) if you could find one. So Black Flower vanished into obscurity, it didn’t help that the title was also printed wrongly on the copies that were pressed, it became ‘Dedicated to Markos 111’ which was in fact exactly what it read a cover note dedication to a family member who had helped out the duo with financial assistance for re-mixing the masters. Now 50 years on Esoteric Records have got all the elements right and issued the album remastered with bonus tracks. one might say ‘Black Flower’ has finally bloomed. Patrick and Alex’s style of Baroque pop/psyche, odd time signatures and ethereal melodies and lyrics is most likely a ‘marmite’ one, you either get it and love it or not. Their songs are whimsical, sometimes dark but always interesting. Black Flower is a departure in some ways from the aforementioned 1st and 2nd albums, its more orchestral, more diverse, more cinematic. The opening track ‘The World Is Cold Without You’ could have easily been a Bee Gee’s number, with a twist, and I think a beautiful arrangement. The 2nd track ‘Excerpt from the Blind and the Beautiful’ is pure Nirvana at its best psyche/baroque style. Track 3 ‘I Talk To My Room’ is probably one of the best expressed ‘break up’ songs ever committed to vinyl/cd. ‘Christopher Lucifer’ moves more upbeat and poppy. Title track ‘ Black Flower’ is a tour-de-force with a snarling guitar part (Spooky Tooth members I believe). Female vocals were courtesy of Lesley Duncan, arrangements by Mike Vickers (Manfred Mann) and production by Mike Hurst (Cat Stevens, PP Arnold) and Tony Visconti ( T.Rex, Bowie etc). An awful lot of premier talent was involved. As I write this with the rain lashing against the windows Nirvana are able to transport you to sunny days and able to take you to a better place and live up to the definition of nirvana being ‘ A place or state characterized by freedom from or oblivion to pain, worry and the external world’. Can’t better that. Enjoy……….

For more information go to https://www.cherryred.co.uk

Til next time (with some excellent reggae)………Colin