Radio Caroline 70s flashback cd and We Love The Pirates supplied by Mick O’Dowd

Nigel Ford… are these new out? Hoping to catch Tony Blackburn & Johnny Walker’s “pirate” radio 2 programme tomorrow?

Colin Bell… Hi Nigel, no they were both issued 15 – 20 years ago, you can pick up copies on ebay for around £5 – £10 each. Hope this helps

Mick O’Dowd… No sorry Nigel. They have been out a few years. The Caroline one is a 3CD set and is the new Caroline from the Mi Amigo ship. The We Love The Pirates is newer and is probably available on Amazon .

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell. Reviewing The First Class: Beach Baby – The Complete Recordings, 3CD Set

BEACH BABY – THE COMPLETE RECORDINGS       The First Class
Hi everyone. Happy New Year to you all. Welcome to another year of SMART SOUNDS reviewing all the best new compilations & re-releases of classic material from the 60’s & 70’s. There are many exciting albums & artistes on the way. So, lets kick off the year with the release of a long overdue handsome box set compiling all the records credited to The First Class, plus a plethora of unreleased tracks, pseudonymous tracks, jingles & more. When Christmas comes around we all know & expect to hear Slade & ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’ & when Summer rolls around you can guarantee you will hear the one track by First Class everybody knows ‘Beach Baby’. Its long been a disappointment to me that the vast majority of people never get past listening to any other First Class tracks, there is so much to discover & enjoy. At last, those lovely people at Grapefruit Records have compiled this lavish 3CD digipack, complete as usual with a well written set of notes by label boss David Wells. The First Class was the brainchild of a man who has featured in these pages several times, lastly with a compilation dedicated to all his many creations. That man is John Carter. For anyone who isn’t familiar with John, he is the man who started life in a band called the Carter-Lewis Southerners with songwriting partner Ken Lewis (Hawker), gave us The Ivy League, The Flowerpot Men, White Plains & many ‘one off” names over the decades. When it comes to harmony pop John is a titan in the UK music scene & The First Class was arguably the apogee of his achievements. It’s certainly a view i hold myself. Many critics back in 1974 when ‘Beach Baby’ was released referred to it as a UK pastiche of American icons The Beach Boys. It’s true the Beach Boys style was an obvious influence but there it ends. For years John had spent his time in the studio making records (& advertising jingles) & releasing them under different names as aforementioned. Although he would sometimes perform live he had no real interest in doing so, his love was to be in the studio creating. After years of collaborative songwriting with Ken his writing partner, in 1972 John’s wife Gill started writing with John when Ken started experiencing health problems. Gill’s way with lyrics brought a new perspective to the mix when she wrote an early hit in 1972 ‘Dreams Are Ten A Penny’ released under the name Kincade. Although not a hit in the UK it was big across the continent. The following summer in 1973 whilst John was watching the Wimbledon final Gill sat & wrote the lyrics to what became ‘Beach Baby’. Immediately seeing it’s more mature potential John came up with the tune & gathering together members of his usual collaborators & session singers, chiefly Tony Burrows & Chas Mills the trio entered the studio & ‘Beach Baby’ was born. The finished recording was licensed to independent label UK Records, owned & ran by Jonathan King. It was a hit single on both sides of the Atlantic in Summer 1974. My old friend & mentor John Peel, not really noted for his love of ‘pop’ music described it as ‘ 5 minutes of near perfection’, praise indeed. The success of BB led to the demand from King for a follow up single & more importantly an album. Using BB as a template John, Tony & Chas together with other regular contributors including former Shadows drummer Brian Bennett entered the studio & with all the songs written by John & wife Gill came up with the album. They had the clever idea of linking the tracks with a fading in & out radio presenter, as if you the listener, were tuning in your radio, complete with a whooshing & high pitched whine. The album simply self titled forms CD1 of this new box set. I believe it is not just a great pop harmony record, It is one of the finest albums of any genre to emerge from the UK in the 70’s & contains some of the most lovingly crafted, intricate & beautifully constructed songs committed to vinyl in those days. You may think I’m eulogising too much for a ‘pop’ record but trust me I’m very definitely not. I don’t usually struggle to come up with a suitable adjective to describe songs, when it comes to many songs on this album such as ‘What Became Of Me’ ‘Long Time Gone’ ‘Bobby Dazzler’ (the follow up single to BB) & in particular ‘I Was Always A Joker’ the right adjective is i believe ‘majestic’ (you can judge the latter for yourselves with the YT clip accompanying this review). John (who sang lead on ‘Joker’) managed to create an album that evokes the best of the 60’s records that contained a summer ‘vibe’. I love this album, even the inclusion of reworked versions of ‘Dreams Are Ten A Penny’ & early Ivy League hit ‘Funny How Love Can Be’ are not out of place or surperfluous. The original album is bolstered on this release by an additional dozen bonus tracks, many previously un-released. Although not commercially a huge seller King was still enthusiastic enough to release more First Class singles & commission a 2nd album. This was released in 1976 entitled SST (an acronym for Super Sonic Travel) & takes up CD2 of this compilation. As John was not expecting to produce a 2nd album for King SST doesn’t cut it in the way its superb predecessor did. This is not entirely surprising when you realise the songs were compiled together from disparate recording sessions which were not all primarily intended to end up on a First Class album. However, having said that it still has its highlights such as ‘I Was A Star’ another loving Beach Boy-esque pastiche, the plaintive ‘Childs Play’ or the multi layered upbeat ‘Life Is Whatever You Want It To Be’ Rather annoyingly (& it’s my one complaint) it contains the short edited version of a personal favourite in ‘Too Many Golden Oldies’ (the full length version is the final track of the compilation on Disc3). I wish it had been placed where the edit has been. Still a minor niggle. Again, like Disc1, SST contains a wealth of bonus tracks (including some nostalgic jingles that made me smile) & some interesting tracks, new to me I’ve not heard before such as ‘Broken Toy’ & the bands take on the old Brenton Wood track ‘Gimme Little Sign’. Disc3 completes the set with a huge selection of jingles, one off creations & all manner of other John Carter creations which although of interest to die hard fans, may prove to be non essential to fans of First Class & will probably be best appreciated by completists, interested in Johns full remarkable musical history. So, there we have it, the first review of 2023 & for me its been a great start. Once again i congratulate Grapefruit Records on doing a fine job of making this new compilation available, Its worth buying just to own that debut album alone. Enjoy.

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

to catch up on Colin’s previous SMART SOUNDS reviews … https://ninebattles.com/category/colin-bell-smart-sounds/

Mick O’Dowd… Always thought FC were a one-hit wonder, disposable pop etc. Didn’t know about all the other stuff. I knew JK was prolific inventor of bands/singers and I was aware of Tony Burrows. This appears to be a very good compilation I must say

Colin Bell… I’m pretty sure knowing you as well as i do, you’d enjoy it for sure

Alan Esdaile… I was always a joker is a Great track.

 

How to you store your lp’s and other formats? asks Mick Bean

Mick Bean… So did you store your LPs? In “A B C” order, number them, genres, favourites to the left/right or like me a bloody great pile in the corner?

Alan Esdaile… LP’s in A-Z order but so many singles had them in label order.

Judy Atkinson… LPs alphabetical by band, but the compilation ones in a pile on top – and they’re still in the cupboard under the turntable

Matt Thomas… I have OCD so I’ll leave that for you to decide

David Wilkinson… Ask Chris Gentry – I have 400 Motown vinyl albums and 600 other albums. 2 sections, both arranged in alphabetical order. Otherwise I’d never find anything, However CDs are just a mess located all over the house !!! ha ha ha

Mark Randall… Are you saying this young bit of totty suffered with haemorrhoids ?

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Johnny Nash Stir It Up: The Anthology 1965-1979

JOHNNY-NASH

STIR IT UP – THE ANTHOLOGY 1965-1979 Johnny Nash

This is a welcome release, the first decent anthology of the excellent Johnny Nash, 2CD’s 46 tracks in pristine remastered sound. Annoyingly these days if you hear any JN on the radio its 9 out of 10 times going to be ‘I Can See Clearly Now’, I’m sure all the programme controllers are all about 15! Anyway, Houston born Johnnys career goes back to the late 50’s, but as the title of this compilation says we kick off here in 1965 with the opening track ‘Lets Move And Groove Together, a deep soul outing that would sit perfectly on an Otis Redding album showcasing Johnnys soulful vocal prowess. However after visiting Jamaica it was his fusing of soul and reggae that was to bring him to international recognition. 1968’s ‘You Got Soul’ is a personal favourite and a perfect example. As I said earlier radio sticks with ICSCN, but remember ‘Hold Me Tight’ ‘Cupid’ (best cover of a Sam Cooke song), ‘Stir It Up’, ‘There Are More Questions Than Answers’, ‘Tears On My Pillow’ ‘Dream Lover’? all great single hits. Lets not forget that ‘Stir It Up’ these days probably linked indelibly with Bob Marley was first recorded by Johnny and it was Johnny who took the struggling songwriter to London and the rest was history for Bob. Johnnys own songwriting, producing, arranging, playing talents are far ranging, read the excellent sleevenotes that accompany this set quite incredible. As well as the hits already mentioned there are great covers to enjoy ‘Groovin’ (originally Young Rascals) is a stellar example. There are also tracks released for the first time from two later 70’s albums ‘What A Wonderful World’ and ‘Lets Go Dancing’.
Although these days no longer active musically since basically ‘retiring’ in 1988 Johhny is still successful in other activities. I saw him perform live back in the 70’s along with the late Desmond Dekker and I’m so glad I did. His legacy of recorded music and his contribution to the global awareness(along with DD I might add) of Jamaican reggae cannot be overstated. On a sunny day like today as I write these words Johnny just adds to that sunshine. To sum up a great, and in my opinion, essential compilation to grace your collection.

For more information go to https://www.cherryred.co.ukcolin-head-111x150-111x150-1

Happy Easter to all, til next time…..

 

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

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304 HOLLOWAY ROAD REVISITED The Honeycombs

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 http://www.angelair.co.uk

STRATEGY (OUR TRIBUTE TO PHILADELPHIA) The Three Degrees

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!….

MASTERPIECE/SMOOTH SAILIN (2CD SET) The Isley Brothers

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 http://www.cherryred.co.ukcolin-head

Til next time, keep warm, Colin

 

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell. Reviewing Peter Sarstedt England’s Lane CD.

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ENGLAND’S LANE Peter Sarstedt

Say Peter’s name and inevitably most peoples thoughts go immediately to ‘Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)’. No 1 in fourteen countries, multi million seller and all time classic. However that mega hit is just a fraction of the timeless, beautiful haunting songs that have poured out of Peter over 5 decades.
‘England’s Lane’ was originally released in 1997 and is now available remastered on this Angel Air release.
Right from the opening title track the unique vocal could not be mistaken for anybody other than Peter. His phrasing, wit, humour, emotion and ability to paint pictures and take you to places are truly art. Listening to ‘Biarritz’
‘British Museum’ ‘Castles in Spain’ and the glorious ‘Spanish Made Easy’ are virtually cinematic experiences. Ray Davies is the only other singer I can think of that masters that ability (Village Preservation Society being a prime example). Peter’s wistful warm honey coated voice seeps into your conscience, stays there and makes the world a better place for 45 minutes and these days we could all do with that.
Whether tackling his skiffle roots on ‘All Together Now’ (with Albert Lee on guitar) or revisiting Marie-Claire on the closing track ‘The Last Of The Breed’ this remains, for me, one of his finest albums. And as a closing thought get a copy of his debut album which contains the wonderful ‘I Am A Cathedral’ and the FULL version of WDYGTML which they NEVER play on the radio!

Fo more inormation go to http://www.angelair.co.uk

colin-headTil next time, stay warm…

Colin

 

Tony Davis… I’ve always liked Peter’s music and bought this album when it came out in 1997. It was always a regret that I never saw Peter in concert doing a full set rather than just on the Sixties packages. Peter has now retired from the music business because of ill health so any chance has now gone. There is a live DVD recorded in 2004 I think called Live at the Crooked Billet but I’ve never been able to find a copy of that. If anyone has one that they want to part with or provide me with a loan of that would be great. I agree with what Colin says about his first album – a great piece of singer/songwriter pysch.

Colin Bell… Tony D, im not sure if they have it in stock but try http://charlyfilms.com for the DVD you are after. If no luck im in touch with Peter and happy to see if a can get a copy.

Tony Davis… Colin – tried Charly but they don’t seem to have it. If you could get me a copy that would be great thank you.