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.

 

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 Climb Aboard My Roundabout! The British Toytown Sound 1967-1974, 3CD Box Set

CLIMB ABOARD MY ROUNDABOUT The British Toytown Sounds 1967-1974    (3CD set) 

I have been eagerly awaiting this release. For a lifelong lover of psychedelia this is like unwrapping a highly anticipated present on Christmas morning. Grapefruit Records & head honcho David Wells have come up with another 24carat compilation in their ever expanding excellent catalogue. Climb Aboard My Roundabout invites you to get onboard with 87 tracks spread over 3 CD’s, running to over 4 hours, of the sub genre of British psychedelia that over the years has become known as ‘Toytown’. I have to say straight away that that’s not the name I personally have used over the years to describe this collection of examples of wonderful British eccentricity, but I’m happy to run with it, if that is what the aforementioned David Wells assures me is what collectors refer to this wonderful world as. So, for the uninitiated what is ‘Toytown’ sounds? Probably the most famous &  best known example that most people would know is Keith West’s ‘Excerpt from a Teenage Opera’ (or ‘Grocer Jack’) if you prefer, included here closing CD1. A deceptively whimsical tale of an old grocer in a very British town failing to deliver his goods on his round. The record has all the ingredients that make up a ‘Toytown’ track, it conjures up images of childhood, uses children’s voices liberally, contains sweeping orchestration & generally transports you to a wondrous other world full of cosy imagery, but within this world reminiscent of Trumpton, Camberwick Green etc there sometimes lies a darker heart. Let’s not forget that ‘Grocer Jack’ had a fatal heart attack! The whole genre really got off to a start when The Beatles released their double ‘A’ side single ‘Strawberry Fields Forever/Penny lane’ back in February 1967. The two songs both delved back into John & Paul’s collective, if different, memories of childhood & set the template for the 100’s that would follow in their wake. A whole phalanx of writers & artistes turned to the works of the likes of Edward Lear & probably most notably Lewis Caroll whose adventures of Alice in Wonderland has been plundered as the inspiration for many a ‘Toytown’ tune. I had my own flirtation with this world when my close friends in Ruperts People wrote & recorded ‘Prologue to a Magic World’ built around Alice back in 1967. The artistes that make up the majority of the records featured in this compilation will most likely be largely unknown to those not already steeped in late 60’s esoterica. But that’s not to say every artist is obscure. The compilation gets off in fine style with Jeff Lynne’s early band The Idle Race with what was nearly a hit ‘The Skeleton & The Roundabout’ featured here in it’s rarer mono mix which has a different ending with additional vocals. It has an irresistible catchy chorus. childlike bewitching lyrics all set to a mildly lysergic acid influenced musicality. And that description really sums up the basis of ‘Toytown’ songs for me. I unfortunately don’t have the space to give you a blow by blow description of every track, however, if you go to CD 1 track 12 ‘Peter’s Birthday’ by The World of Oz & listen to that followed by the next 3 tracks ‘Ha! Ha! Said the Clown’ in it’s original demo form written & performed by Tony Hazzard (a big hit for Manfred Mann) ‘Sad Simon Lives Again’ Tim Andrews & lastly ‘Uncle Joe The Ice Cream Man’ The Mindbenders. Those 4 songs grouped together encompass & demonstrate perfectly all the best qualities of the genre, the prolific use of whimsical orchestration, nonsensical, yet hugely entertaining lyrics, incredibly ‘hooky’ melodies & just a whole other-worldly atmosphere. Scattered throughout the compilation there are names you will recognise, like the aforementioned Keith West & The Idle Race plus The Herd, Consortium, David Bowie, Jigsaw, Spencer Davis, Nirvana etc but in all likelihood not with the tracks you are probably most familiar with. However, this is where the listener is hugely rewarded with golden nuggets that in a lot of cases have been lost, or indeed never heard, in the mists of time. Some tracks bring back instant memories for me,  for example i remember laughing myself silly when first listening to The Bonzo Dog Do Dah Bands album ‘Gorilla’ all those years ago represented here by one of it’s best tracks the gloriously silly ‘The Equestrian Statue’. In addition there is a plethora of rare and un-released material just waiting to be discovered across the 3 CD’s. I hope this has given you just enough of a flavour of all the candyfloss delights this compilation has to offer any music lover with even just a passing interest in this wonderful 1960’s world of dreams inhabited by fairies, wizards & all manner of fantasies. It’s the aural equivalent of getting out a long discarded Enid Blyton book & reading it accompanied by lashings of ginger beer! & returning to your childhood. Fanciful? yes, but so much to enjoy. Once again i commend Grapefruit Records for their attention to detail, from the sturdy clamshell box to the excellent & as ever, very informative accompanying 48 page fully illustrated booklet. Pull up a mushroom to sit on, make yourself comfortable, settle down with a hookah (herbal naturally) & enjoy!

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

 

Claire Lonsdale… Right up my street, and I think Colin, you and I were discussing the Idle Race a few months ago. I loved Climb Aboard My Roundabout. X

Colin Bell… Claire, I do believe we were, you’d certainly enjoy this compilation i know

Reid McDuffie… These Cherry Red compilations are bloody marvellous

Mick O’Dowd… Wow from what you have written a fantastic compilation. Excert from was the only decent track on the Teenage Opera album but what a track. Always loved Idle Race. Fave Bonzos was probaby Canyons of Your Mind or maybe Jollity Farm or the brilliant Intros and Outros. Great looking album!

Alan Esdaile… Great review Colin. Agree with you Mick on Bonzos Canyons.

Alan Wood… Indeed an early Xmas present for me, grocer jack in my top 15 and saw The Herd on the old Pier

 

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Shape Of The Rain: Riley Riley Wood & Waggett, 3CD Digipak

RILEY RILEY WOOD & WAGGETT    Shape Of The Rain
Who? I hear you cry, well  in this instance I would echo that myself. I like to think after 50 + years in this business that even if I don’t know their work I will at least have heard of them, but I must confess not this time. So let’s investigate, come with me back to the end of the 60’s/start of the 70’s. Many bands had dropped their previous incarnation’s and gone ‘psych’ ‘prog’ ‘freakbeat’ ‘experimental’ etc etc. To cater for these ‘underground’ bands, the major Record Labels all created offshoot labels, EMI had Harvest, Pye Had Dawn, Philips had Vertigo, Decca had Deram and bringing up the rear was RCA with Neon. Now I have this particular quirk that remembers Record Labels (I used to file my mobile disco records by label) so I DO remember Neon but for another long forgotten band in Dando Shaft. In operation for just over a year from 1971 -2 the label only had 11 releases of which SOTR was number 7. Hailing from an area of the country bounded by Sheffield and Chesterfield the band came together originally as a Everly Bros style duo of cousins Keith Riley (lead vocals/guitar),and Brian Wood (guitar vocals before being joined by Keith’s brother Len Riley (bass) and Iain ‘Tag’ Waggett (drums).  The band’s name changed constantly, The Gear (inspired by their covers of Liverpudlian bands and Beatlesque sound) The Reaction was another and it was at this point they recorded a brace of demo’s and a local record shop owner David McPhie took an interest (he also represented Sheffield’s own Joe Cocker) and duly became their manager. With a name change to the more contemporary Shape Of The Rain all was set. This 3CD package covers their 1971 album RRW&W, a host of demo’s, outtakes, alternative versions, the demo’s for the aborted second album, a 50 minute live show from May 1970 and more. Disc 1 contains the original album kicking off with ‘Woman’ which, as noted in the sleevenotes, is a riff heavy pop/rock number sounding in structure very similar to Atomic Rooster’s ‘Devil’s Answer’ (co-incidentally issued on the same day!), this was issued as a single but didn’t trouble the charts at all, But this didn’t bother Neon, singles ‘weren’t cool man’ this was the dawn of the album…much cooler…er..man. After all the man in charge at Neon was Olav Wyper who in his previous life had been at CBS where he had dreamed up the much lauded sampler ‘The Rock Machine Turns You On’. Why am I banging on about labels? because that’s where the problem with the success or rather lack of it for Shape Of The Rain lies. They were a good sounding band, they wrote their own material, and where they didn’t ,had excellent taste performing material by The Byrd’s and Love. Now as any reader of my reviews, column’s etc will know Love is a band really close to my heart. Shape Of The Rain were clearly heavily influenced by the prevailing West Coast Sound, track 7 ‘Dusty Road’ is a prime example as is the following track  ‘Willowing Tree’s. And this is my point about success, had SOTR been on RCA’s main label there would have been more emphasis on promotion and put frankly money spent. To be fair even the band admit they were ‘musically confused’ but being hidden away, on a albeit ‘cool’ underground label served them badly. Their music is hook laden, delicate and contains some stunning arrangement’s, the Press of the time were impressed comparing them favourably to the like’s of Traffic and Alan ‘Fluff’ Freeman took them to his heart as a big fan. So you had a commercially adept band hidden away on an obscure label, it was a no win situation as the fans of the ‘underground labels’ were looking for something more esoteric than SOTR and the main label fans of RCA were being treated to Bowie, Sweet etc i.e. the commercially successful acts of which SOTR could have been one. They have also been compared to Badfinger which I think is a fair comment, good hooky melodic songs and credibility to boot. The songs written for the second unreleased album show a growing confidence ‘The Very First Clown’ and ‘Listen To Your Heart’ being two examples.

The 3rd disc in the set is the previously mentioned ‘live recording’ taped at Manchester University (supporting Manfred Mann’s Earth Band) and given the recording restraints of the time is remarkably good, it captures the band in fine form (love the ‘Hendrix’ licks) mostly made up of new material at the time it did include a great version of ‘Willowing Tree’s from the Riley, Riley, Wood & Waggett album. And what about that album title? hardly jumps off the sleeve does it? I have a horrible suspicion somebody said something along the lines of ‘Crosby, Stills & Nash’ that’s cool man lets do that with this album. enough said! Eventually the band transferred to the main label and carried on til the mid 70’s before going their separate ways. Its a fact that there is more 60’s & 70’s music available to listen too today than there was then, incredible but true, so many albums never saw the light of day for so many reasons and some rightly so but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Shape Of The Rain and plugging a gap in my musical knowledge. Grapefruit Records have done their usual sterling job on the presentation of the set and the 24 page booklet contains many evocative photo’s and pictures of vintage poster’s and sound quality is excellent. Enjoy.

Til next time….please all stay safe and well……Colin

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

Tag Waggett… thanks for your kind words and thanks for an excellent review. Tag Waggett ( drummer) SOTR

Colin Bell… Hi Tag, good to hear from you, i hope i did your album justice, stay safe & well

Bill Griffiths… the first eight live tracks were recorded at Alfreton Hall on 2nd May 1970 on a Tandberg 1541 mono recorder and a Shure microphone . I was fortunately able to find a position at the back of the hall in an elevated position above the audience. the hall itself is not large being the remains of a former stately home of the Morewoods family, now a wedding venue. A couple of tracks were not included on the cd, possibly to leave room for the Manchester set.

Tony Davis… Really interesting piece Colin. As you say many lost bands of the late 60s and early 70s are now coming to light and bringing hidden gems to life.

Colin Bell… Thanks Tony, the review i posted yesterday of the 3CD set of bands covering The Beatles has some great stuff on it, which may well interest you, Cheers.

A.A.Matthews… Excellent notes about this band that until a few days ago were unknown to me. May I draw attention to Cross & Ross , another little known UK outfit from the early 1970’s. They appeared to be influenced by CSNY, the Laurel Canyon sound, and other West Coast outfits. Well worth seeking out

Colin Bell… Thanks for your comments A.A. I’m happy my review led you to discover a very interesting band

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing The Foundations: Am I Groovin’ You – The Pye Anthology, 3CD Set

AM I GROOVIN’ YOU’ : THE PYE ANTHOLOGY    THE FOUNDATIONS
I have been looking forward to sharing this release with you since receiving my copy some weeks back. This spanking new collection is released this Friday (12th) & at last does justice to one of the best loved pop/soul UK bands of the 60’s. Up until this release, getting your hands on a good compilation of The Foundations has been either expensive or elusive. Many have appeared on various labels, but the vast majority have been bad quality re-recordings that have little or no merit. At last the guys at Strawberry Records have put together a beautifully packaged 3 CD set in a handsome fold out digipack complete with a glossy 24 page informative booklet revealing the colourful history behind the band, a must read for any music fan. I was privileged to become friends with original lead singer Clem Curtis way back in 1969 & spent many happy hours in his company on various nights out at gigs or socialising at clubs over the years. Sadly Clem left us 5 years back in 2017 but he lives on through his musical legacy along with his bandmates in The Foundations. This new anthology spans 3 CD’s including all 3 albums & all the hit singles the band released through their hit tenure at Pye Records and also includes tracks from their 1969 ‘budget’ album for Pye’s ‘Marble Arch’ series of albums plus solo recordings from Clem. The whole package kicks off on Disc1 where you might expect with the bands debut single ‘Baby Now That I’ve Found You’ released in August 1967. Initially the record didn’t receive much airplay as the Pirate Radio glory days had come to an end with the Marine Offences Bill closing down all the main stations. It was the newly formed BBC’s Radio 1 launched as their answer to the enormously popular Radio Caroline & Radio London that picked up on BNTIFY & gave it heavy rotation, resulting in the first No 1 hit for a UK muti-raciial band. Disc1 continues with all 11 tracks that comprised the bands debut album 1967’s ‘From The Foundations’ which included numbers the band had been featuring in their live sets like their take on Joe Tex’s ‘Show Me’, a jazzy/lounge instrumental version of ‘Call Me’, later to become a vocal hit for labelmate Petula Clark and several more Tony Macualay compositions (who wrote the majority of their hits) such as ‘Mr Personality Man’ & ‘I Can Take Or Leave Your Loving’. The album tracks are followed by 6 bonus tracks including 3 big single hits with ‘Back On My Feet Again’ (my personal favourite), ‘Any Old Time You’re Lonely Or Sad’ & the worldwide smash No 2 ‘Build Me Up Buttercup’.Disc1 concludes with all the tracks from ‘From The Foundations’ repeated in their stereo versions, for those that like to hear these as a comparison, personally i prefer the original preceding mono versions, but to each their own. Either way Disc1 provides 28 fine tracks to enjoy. Disc2 contains the album ‘Diggin The Foundations’ plus bonus tracks. I’m not sure why Strawberry Records have decided to feature this album which was actually their 3rd album from 1969 on Disc2, but be that as it may, it’s great for me as the memories come flooding back as i listen to the guys. It kicks off with the title track of the compilation ‘Am I Groovin You’, a funky brass laden chug a long dance filler. It struck me that the opening riff sounds very like Steppenwolfs ‘Magic Carpet Ride’ which has only just occurred to me after all these years! This is followed by the guys take on a live favourite Bob & Earl’s ‘Harlem Shuffle’ which i have to be honest is a song i have always heartily disliked no matter who it’s by, but hey that’s just me. I’m soon singing along again to the strains of ‘In The Bad Bad Old Days Before You Loved Me’ however, & wondering not for the first time how The Foundations are one of those bands that lift your spirits & put you in a good mood. Music may not be the universal panacea for all ills but it can certainly improve your day. There is more good feelings to be had with the likes of the bouncy ‘My Little Chickadee’ & ‘That Same Old Feeling’ which would become a big hit for Pickettywitch (also signed to Pye Records). Another familiar song is ‘Let The Heartaches Begin’ taken at a more uptempo pace than the hit Long John Baldry version. Included amongst the bonus 8 tracks are some more personal favourites in ‘Born To Live, Born To Die’ the bands last chart hit (No 46) from 1969, a song that most forget. Also there is the bands theme song to the ‘Swinging London’ film of ‘Take A Girl Like You’, one of the better films of the genre that came out in late 1969. There’s also the chance to compare lead singers with the inclusion of Colin Young’s vocal version of ‘Baby Now That I’ve Found You’. Colin had replaced Clem when after various differences Clem had quit the band in August 1968, Colin had joined in October just in time to record ‘Build Me Up Buttercup’. And finally we have Disc3 which contains 1968’s ‘Rocking The Foundations’ a ‘live’ album showcasing the boys in typical fashion singing and playing their hearts out to an obviously enthusiastic crowd, just like i remember, with a mixture of hits and favourite live numbers like ‘Stop Her On Sight’ which they had learned when supporting Edwin Starr in their early days. Indeed it was Edwin who advised Clem about ‘stage craft’ and how to ‘work’ an audience & i know Clem had great respect for him. There are 12 bonus tracks to savour on top of the 12 album tracks which include a great take on ’96 Tears’ & stereo versions of hit singles ‘Buttercup’, ‘Back On My Feet Again’ & ‘Any Old Time’. Half a dozen solo recordings made by Clem follow, which will probably be unfamiliar to most but I’m very grateful to have, especially a song called ‘Mountain Over The Hill’ i have always loved. The collection is completed by 2 numbers from the Colin Young led later incarnation of The New Foundations. As i said at the start of this review i am very grateful to finally have a great package of a band who brought so much happiness to millions of fans & the chance for me to relive some very precious memories. Enjoy.
For more information go to https://www.cherryred.co.uk
Til next time….stay safe & well……Colin

 

Alan Esdaile… Agree with what you say Colin, that they lift your spirits & put you in a good mood.

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell. Reviewing Bubblerock Is Here To Stay Volume Two, The British Pop Explosion 1970-73, 3CD Set Various Artists

BUBBLEROCK IS HERE TO STAY: VOLUME TWO: THE BRITISH POP EXPLOSION 1970-73    Various Artists
Grapefruit Records gave us Volume 1 of Bubblerock back in 2020 as reviewed here in these pages. Now they return with Volume 2 of a 4 hour wade through that first few years of the 70’s where a proliferation of songwriters turned singers, session artistes, songwriting teams & artistes were all pumping out 3 minute ‘bubblegum’ pop/rock singles at a great rate. Some stuck and became hits and established their singers/writers. Many didn’t & this new 3CD set brings together a dazzling mixture from both camps sitting side by side all waiting to be discovered all over again & indeed many perhaps for the first time. The whole collection kicks off on Disc1 with Barry Green & ‘Shake A Tail Suzy’. I confess i didn’t know before he went ‘Dancing On a Saturday Night’ as Barry Blue, Barry made several records under his own name which is really Green, all unsuccessful, so amazing what a change of colour can do! ‘Shake A Tail Suzy’ is a bizarre record made as a flexi disc (remember them?) give away single to promote Suzuki Motor Bikes, that starts with the sound of a bike revving and then thumps along in a Glitter Band style whilst a young lady sighs & whispers suggestively…yes it has to be heard to be believed! More familiar ground follows with the late Lynsey De Paul & her debut hit ‘Sugar Me’ (co written with the previously mentioned Barry Green/Blue) before Gilbert O’Sulllivan appears with ‘No Matter How I Try’, although i was never much a fan of Gilberts there is no knocking the fact he was & is a gifted songwriter with an original way with lyrics. The wonderfully eccentric Stavely Makepiece band who I’ve always had a soft spot for show up next with ‘Walking Through The Blue Grass’ which makes me want to dig out one of their albums and play it through. Next up is a rather weak version of ‘Sunny Honey Girl’ a Cook/Greenaway song that was a big hit for Cliff Richard but did nothing for Telford band Fluff whose version this is. The familiar strains of Madeline Bell burst out next with the joyful ‘Good Morning Freedom’ a hit for the band ‘Blue Mink she fronted with Roger Cook. Then a whole lot of the usual suspects follow with tracks from Jonathan King, White Plains, The Brotherhood Of Man (with Tony Burrows naturally!) & other less well known acts. Two honourable mentions go here to The Paper Dolls with their version of The Angels old hit ‘My Boyfriends Back’, a much punchier take, that i used many times over the years to fill a dancefloor. And secondly Sweet put in an appearance with what i consider their best single of their lightweight early pop singles, the earworm that is ‘Alexander Graham Bell’. Christie also weigh in with the oft forgotten ‘Iron Horse’. Having now got really into the groove we move on to Disc2 which begins with the grandly named Huddersfield Transit Authority who deliver a version of Del Shannon’s ‘Runaway’. Now as many regular readers know Del was my first musical love & you cover his songs at your peril as far as I’m concerned, so I’ll comment no further on this version and move swiftly on! There is a larger smattering of the bigger names nestling amongst the lesser known on this disc with hits from Slade ‘Coz I Love You’ Middle Of The Road ‘Soley Soley’ Judge Dread ‘Big Six’ Clodagh Rodgers & The Tremeloes. The latter made me laugh out loud as the track featured is’ Right Wheel, Left Hammer Sham’ which i remember well. However just a few years back i was at a gig in my home town where the boys were playing, and talking to Ricky (the lead guitarist) after the gig i mentioned this particular track & was somewhat gobsmacked when he categorically denied they had ever released it! Well Mr Westwood here’s the proof! Amongst the unfamiliar acts on the disc is Dave Newman a singing milkman who won ‘Opportunity Knocks’ with his version of ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ (and i thought i had heard every version of this evergreen hit). It just goes to show what makes these compilations a fascinating listen. Moving on to Disc 3 which gets off on the wrong foot for me with the awful (sorry Roger & Tony) ‘Gimme Dat Ding’. I never was big on novelty songs but this one in particular has always ground my gears. Fortunately things are swiftly back on an even keel with the inclusion of Track 3 which is labelled ‘Rainbow Chaser’ by Pica. Now ‘Rainbow Chaser’ by 60’s duo Nirvana is one of my all time favourite psyche/pop singles. I own everything Nirvana recorded. I was thus very surprised to learn that this version by ‘Pica’ was actually Patrick Campbell-Lyons (the writer & one half of Nirvana) trying his luck with a later pop/jazz take on his own classic. This is just the sort of thing that once again makes these compilations such an interesting listen & full credit to David Wells the boss of Grapefruit Records for turning up these forgotten delights & surprising old DJ’s like myself who thought they’d heard it all. Of all the 3 discs in this new compilation this final one serves up the most unfamiliar artistes and tracks and its been a joy to acquaint myself with names like Bruce Spelman, Rockin’ Horse ‘Julian The Hooligan’ what a great track!, Autumn, Deep Feeling, Boots & Shakane all previously unknown to me. There are a couple of sizeable hits included with Greyhound’s ‘Black & White’ & closing track Lieutenant Pigeon’s ‘Mouldy Old Dough’ which in common with ‘Gimme Dat Ding’ i really can’t stand & i wish the compilation had concluded on a different track. But overall it’s a small niggle in comparision to all the enjoyment i have experienced discovering some gems that I’ve never heard before. As ever there hasn’t been enough space to include every single track, but i trust i have given you a good taste of what’s on offer. Once again David Wells has done a superb job with the 48 page accompanying booklet that contains a wealth of info and photo’s of the artists featured.  I know from my own experience just how much time and love it takes researching all the details. If you have any interest in the early 70’s pop/rock period you will enjoy, as have i, this journey through a land of long forgotten pleasures. Enjoy.

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

Til next time….stay safe & well…..Colin

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell, reviewing Chicken Shack: Crying Won’t Help You Now – The Deram Years 1971-1974, 3CD Box Set

CHICKEN SHACK   CRYING WON’T HELP YOU NOW: THE DERAM YEARS (1971-1974)(3CD)

As someone once said you can be sure of 2 things in life, death & taxes. I’d like to add to that with…and somewhere near you in any given week you’ll find Stan Webb’s Chicken Shack playing a gig! The band have become a British institution, and quite rightly so. Since arriving on the scene in 1965 despite wars, recessions, global warming, pandemics etc etc there has always been throughout a man with a guitar playing the blues at the front of his band, a constant in an ever rapidly changing world. My first introduction to Chicken Shack came in 1969 when they were fronted by Christine Perfect (later McVie) singing their version of blues classic ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’ which was a reasonably sized hit. Since those early days the band has undergone a myriad of changes in personnel and style. Which brings us to this lavishly put together new box set from Esoteric Recordings. Housed in a clamshell box this collection brings together the 3 albums Stan & the band recorded for Decca’s ‘progressive’ label Deram between 1971 & 1974. The 3 albums in question are ‘Imagination Lady’ (1971), ‘Unlucky Boy’ (1973) & ‘Goodbye’ (1974). By 1971 Chicken Shack was paired down to a trio consisting of Stan Webb, John Glascock (bass) & Paul Hancox (drums) this line-up would only last, like many of Chicken Shack’s for a short time. However this was the trio that recorded the first album in this set ‘Imagination Lady’. If you’d never heard Chicken Shack before and had just been told they were a blues band you could be forgiven for thinking you’d been given a rock record by mistake. Kicking off with the title track to the whole compilation ‘Crying Won’t Help You Now’ it’s certainly more rock than blues as Stan unleashes some blistering runs on his axe, with a whole dose of wailing wah-wah pedalling over a frenetic drum pattern. It’s definitely a long way from his early ‘classic’ blues early records. The opener sets the tone for the whole album which shows off Stan’s new harder blues rock direction which gains more momentum with Track 2 ‘Daughter Of The Hillside’ that has become a beloved classic fan favourite over the years and one of my own favourites and a record I’m sure needs no new words from me. Track 3 seems a rather odd choice to me, it being a rock take on Tim Hardin’s classic folk song ‘If I Were A Carpenter’, which again see’s Stan drenching the song with an abundance of fuzz laden guitar set against some Mitch Mitchell style drumming from Paul. I can’t quite make up my mind as to whether It’s a great take or somewhat self indulgent, the jury’s out there. ‘Going Down’ follows which whilst still rocky is much more back in classic blues territory and contains some glorious ‘crying guitar’ short licks from Stan. Skipping on a couple of tracks to the epic ‘Telling Your Fortune’ a track i feel i should know but in all honesty i don’t remember, if you’re a drummer or just into drums it’s quite a tour-de-force from Paul and being a sometime drummer myself i found myself more than a little impressed! He certainly knows his way round a kit. The following track ‘The Loser’ for some unknown reason reminds me of a Beatles track which i can’t quite pin down in my head, it’s a short neat little piece which thankfully is devoid of wah-wah! I have to say that if there is such a thing as suffering from an overdose of wah-wah then I’m suffering! By Bonus track ‘Poor Boy’ I’ve heard enough from the wah-wah pedal to last me for a good long time & want to tell Stan to get his foot off the damn thing…On to the second album in the collection ‘Unlucky Boy’ and with a change of bass player to Bob Daisley, the band turn in to my mind a better balanced album than the previous one, with more light and shade on show as opposed to the formers rather more full on frenetic pace. This is much more in the tradition of a blues album, Track 2 ‘Revelation’ is a warm, relaxed excellent piece with some of the best of Stan’s laid back guitar overlaid with some fine brass backing. Track 4 ‘Too Late To Cry’ is another gem blessed with some really neat picking making it a joy to listen to. This is followed by ‘Stan The Man’ which i hardly think needs much explaining! again replete with some really enjoyable licks and riffs together with some boogie-woogie foot tapping piano. The title track of the album ‘Unlucky Boy’ is a strong piece of work and one of the standout tracks with some glorious brass work melding perfectly with a good vocal performance from Stan. The laid back ‘As Time Goes passing By’ is another of the standout tracks for me, a slow burning piece, filled with mellow guitar and the addition of some sweet string orchestration. And finally we’re on to the 3rd album in the set 1974’s ‘Goodbye’. This catches the band playing live at Brunel University in October 1973, with as you might expect from Stan, yet another set of new musicians in the line-up. This was to be the final album before he disbanded the band to join Savoy Brown at the time. The album is full of fan favourites opening with the classic BB King number ‘Everyday I Have The Blues’ before sliding into what is probably my favourite track ‘Thrill Is Gone’ an impeccable piece of playing from all concerned. I think this album is one of the best vocal performances Stan has put out. He’s an acquired taste i know, but he’s really strong here. Other standout tracks are ‘Going Down’ & ‘Webb’s Boogie’ my piano playing friend Alan i know will really appreciate this when i duly play it to him. There are 9 tracks in all ending with an epic raise the roof version of the evergreen classic ‘Tutti Frutti’ clearly leaving the many fans very happy. Esoteric Recordings have done a fine job with the presentation of this 3CD set. It comes in a very sturdy clamshell box containing each of the 3 albums in separate sleeves reproducing the original vinyl covers, 2 of them being gatefold and a glossy and informative accompanying booklet. If you’re a Stan Webb/Chicken Shack fan or like your blues shot through with some hard rock, this new collection is definitely for you. Enjoy.

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

Alan Esdaile… Love Chicken Shack’s version of ‘Thrill Is Gone’, amazing playing. Great by a lot of different people but my favourite would be Tracy Chapman and BB King… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DdNpuPWspQk

 

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Rose Royce: The Definitive Collection, 3CD Box Set

THE DEFINITIVE COLLECTION   ROSE ROYCE  (3CD)

I have to say straight off, the fact you are reading this review, from this particular reviewer, is in itself something of a minor miracle. Much as I’ve had a lifetime love of music & chose it as my career, there are a few genres & time periods that leave me stone cold, no matter how hard i try. One in particular is the mid to late 70’s disco boom spearheaded by ‘Saturday Night Fever’ at the sound of Barry Gibb breaking into that falsetto on ‘Night Fever’ ‘ Jive Talkin’ etc i run for the hills with my fingers in my ears. But of course there is always going to be the odd exception to my general disregard of that whole time/genre. That exception i present to you here today in the shape of Rose Royce. I don’t recall now when i first became of them, but no doubt it was 1976 and ‘Car Wash’ but it was undoubtedly a year or more later when i heard ‘Wishing On A Star’ that i finally did take some notice. Who was that lead female singer with such an enchanting vocal? Rose Royce’s story began in 1973 when an 8 piece collective from Los Angeles then known as the Total Concept Unlimited toured Europe & the UK as part of Edwin Starr’s soul show. It was Edwin that introduced the band to legendary Motown songwriter/songwriter Norman Whitfield in a move which saw the stars align. After a decade at Motown shaping the careers of Edwin & notably The Temptations, Whitfield was looking for a new challenge and left Motown taking with him The Undisputed Truth and setting up his own label Whitfield Records. His next move was to sign the Total Concept Unlimited as the studio and touring band to back them. By this time the band had changed its name & become Magic Wand. Whilst in Miami a member of The Undisputed Truth heard Gwen Dickey singing in a local band and brought her to Whitfield’s attention who flew her to Los Angeles for an audition. He realised he had found in her the ingredient missing from Magic Wand and installed her as their lead singer, in the process giving her the stage name Rose Norwalt. Whitfield had recently been charged with creating the soundtrack for a new musical comedy movie ‘Car Wash’. Whitfield took the members of Magic Wand to the film set for them to soak up the atmosphere and used the music he created for the movie to launch the band, who with a final name change, he dubbed Rose Royce to reference Rose (Gwen Dickey) and Royce to signify ‘class’ as in Rolls Royce. The band were immediately successful with the single release of the theme ‘Car Wash’ which was a Billboard No 1 and the soundtrack double album from which it was lifted was certified double platinum. ‘Car Wash’ is naturally the opening track on this excellent new 3 CD compilation from Robinsongs. It is called The Definitive Collection and for once it certainly lives up to its title. I have lost track of the albums i have been sent over the years that use the word ‘definitive’ but 9 out of 10 times aren’t. This is usually because the band concerned have recorded for several different labels & they haven’t all been willing parties to participate together with one collection, thus you don’t really get a true ‘definitive’ compilation at all and you end up having to buy several albums to get what you want. That is not the case here. Robinsongs have pulled together the bands work from all labels concerned in the Rose Royce story MCA, Warner (who backed Whitfield Records) and Epic. So,you can literally sit back and enjoy all the classics you would expect. Disc1 as you might expect kicks off with ‘Car Wash’ (the long version) and features other major hits including ‘I Wanna Get Next To You’ ‘I’m Going Down’ ‘Wishing On A Star’& the exquisite ‘Love Don’t Live Here Anymore’ which must surely rank as one of Gwen’s finest vocal performances over her career with the band. Alongside these biggies are some great funk/soul tracks like ‘Do Your Dance’ which are clearly inspired by Whitfield’s work with The Temptations but taken to a new funkier level. The closing track is also a real beauty, a mid paced ballad entitled ‘Help’ which I’ve totally fallen for. Disc2 starts with a fabulous track That’s What’s Wrong With Me’ that displays many of the musical traits of ‘psychedelic soul’ that Whitfield had pioneered at Motown. However it’s track 2 that i can’t get out of my head and have repeatedly replayed just for its wonderful intro. The way it builds with the stabbing synth, the drums, the bass line, the horns, the strings all making their appearances is intoxicating. Although i was obviously aware of it at the time of its release in 1979 i didn’t REALLY listen to it then ‘Is It Love That You’re After’ was and is a truly great track and I’m somewhat ashamed i wrote off late 70’s ‘disco’ as mentioned at the start of this review so completely, when songs as good as this existed, but hey it’s never too late to learn. IILTYA was to be the last hit featuring Gwen before she left to go solo in 1979. Track 3 ‘Bad Mother Funker’ (yes i did spell that right…) is a very cool slice of funk as is the following track ‘Pazazz’, an instrumental which contains some dazzling horns. I’m not going to pretend I’m familiar with all the tracks that make up Disc2, 13 in total, because I’m not, due as aforementioned to my previous disinterest in the genre, but I’m learning and listening avidly and genuinely enjoying what I’m hearing. Disc3 contains 10 tracks and kicks off with the full length 12 minute version of ‘RR Express’, which again being totally honest is the only track on the disc that I am familiar with and that is only because a friend i used to hang with in London loved it, The following 2 tracks ‘Jump Street’ & ‘Illusions’ both gave my speakers a good work out and are deeply funky. There were moments listening to this collection where certain parts or riffs would remind me of Earth Wind & Fire or Sly & The Family Stone, but i honestly think Rose Royce in the final analysis are often cooler & more refined than either. I’m now re-assessing my previously held opinions on late 70’s disco/funk thanks to listening to this compilation. I may not find anything else from that era that i have changed my mind about, however i thank Robinsongs for showing me the error of my ways when it comes to Rose Royce. The collection comes housed in a quality fold out pack with accompanying informative booklet. If i was still using my old 5 star rating system this new compilation would merit all 5 and that’s a statement i never thought I’d make about this genre when i woke up today. Enjoy.

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

Til next time…..stay safe…..Colin

Alan Esdaile… Good review and video but the track I really love is ‘Love Don’t Live Here Anymore’

Mick O’Dowd… Really loved this band. I’m another fan of RR Express. Had 12″ copy (the long version and played it a lot. I also love the other tracks you mention. Thanx for the background info. very interesting. If you see a spare copy floating about can you put my name on it please.

 

 

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing John Carter: My World Fell Down – The John Carter Story, 4CD

JOHN CARTER    ‘My World Fell Down’ – The John Carter Story

If like me you are a big fan of harmony pop, then you will instantly know who John Carter is, if not, but however you grew up as i did in the 60’s you will know him, even if you think otherwise, through a myriad number of names and hit records. John is simply a legend. As a singer, writer, producer, arranger, engineer, he has few equals in pop music history. Over the years various compilations have been released focussing on different phases of his career. At last the excellent Grapefruit Records have managed to put together a pretty much definitive collection spanning John’s illustrious career spread over 4 CD’s boasting over 100 tracks. His story began in the late 50’s when schoolfriends John Shakespeare and Ken Hawker formed a skiffle band in their native Birmingham writing Buddy Holly type songs and gaining experience. In 1960 the duo made the pilgrimage to London and under their pseudonyms of John Carter (born Shakespeare) and Ken Lewis (Born Hawker) made the rounds and gained a management deal. The pair were convinced to form a band to showcase their material and the result was Carter-Lewis & The Southerners. Making a brief stint as their lead guitarist was the ubiquitous Jimmy Page. The band gigged extensively, including locally on Hastings Pier and The Witch Doctor. Although successful as a working band record success eluded them until 1964 when they met an engineer working at a record studio in Denmark Street by the name of Perry Ford. Noting the 3 men’s voices blended well together whilst making demo’s John got them signed to Pye Records and after a few false starts they saw their career take off, firstly when Herman’s Hermits recorded one of John & Ken’s songs ‘Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat’ taking the single all the way to No 2 in the US. It was also a minor hit in the UK for Goldie & The Gingerbreads. In 1965 after providing backing vocals on The Who’s debut hit ‘I Can’t Explain’ John, Ken & Perry now renamed as The Ivy League scored 2 massive hits with ‘Funny How Love Can Be’ & ‘Tossing And Turning’ and the rest as they say is history. And oh what a glorious history it’s been. Never particularly comfortable with performing in 1966 John took a back seat to concentrate on writing and production. His place in The Ivy league being taken by one Tony Burrows. John along with new song writing partner Geoff Stephens wrote the title track of this new Grapefruit compilation ‘My World Fell Down’ for The Ivy League, it’s wonderful complex and intricate harmony arrangement can now be viewed in retrospect as something of a template for what i and others consider his 2 greatest creations, the pop/psychedelic band The Flowerpot Men and Britain’s answer to The Beach Boys in the form of The First Class. Even when John stepped away from creating and was just doing a favour as vocalist for a fellow song writing friend (Geoff), he found himself at No 1 in the USA as the lead vocalist on The New Vaudeville’s Band ‘Winchester Cathedral’. In 1967 John and Ken formed their own production company (Sunny Records). From then on John would go on to create the aforementioned Flowerpot Men, The First Class, Stamford Bridge, Kincade and a plethora of other names the majority of which can be found on these 4 discs. His output has been to say at the very least prodigious. He even entered Eurovision territory writing Mary Hopkins second placed ‘Knock Knock Who’s There?’. As you can clearly see there is so much to John i could write a novel! But returning to this new release, on Disc1 you can follow his progress from the beginning with the early Carter Lewis offerings, The Ivy League. the demo’s for The New Vaudeville Band and ‘Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat’ amongst many others. Disc2 offers up (for me) his finest work with the impeccable Flowerpot Men and in particular ‘Let’s Go To San Francisco’ and happily it’s at last put together as one track instead of Parts 1 & 2 as it originally appeared, as separate A & B sides when first released back in 1967. And contrary to what seems to be popular belief over the years, it was John that sang the lead vocal NOT Tony Burrows! (he was on backing) and Tony performed in the touring band and on TV. This is followed by the equally glorious follow up single ‘Walk In The Sky’ and more less well known FPM cuts .You can also hear demo’s for what ultimately became hits for Herman’s Hermits in the shape of ‘Sunshine Girl’ and ‘My Sentimental Friend’ and a further extensive selection of other demo’s. Disc3 concentrates on more demo’s and various differently named offerings from John including a track for Ohio Express, who you may remember as the American ‘bubblegum’ act that had a huge No 1 with ;Yummy Yummy Yummy’. It also showcases 2 of John’s more longer running pseudonyms The Haystack and Stamford Bridge. Disc4 opens with more tracks from Stamford Bridge, followed by many tracks by yet more of Johns’ creations such as Scarecrow, Stormy Petrel, The London Boys & Sequola. Two tracks appear from Kincade including the big hit ‘Dreams Are Ten A Penny’ before we are treated to what many other reviewers/critics consider his finest work, with the band The First Class. There is no doubt that ‘Beach Baby’ the most well known of First Class tracks is a tour-de-force of writing, production and brilliant vocal work that critics have hailed time and again as being up there with some of Brian Wilson’s best offerings. It’s certainly true that since it’s release all the way back in 1974 it’s been a staple of radio programmers (particularly in summer) and still sounds as fresh as ever. But there was more to First Class than just BB, have a listen to ‘What Became Of Me’ and especially ‘I Was Always The Joker’ (a big personal favourite) both phenomenally good compositions. This comprehensive, marvellously put together, new in depth overview of John’s work actually concludes with a track by First Class I’ve played so many times on my radio shows entitled aptly ‘Too Many Golden Oldies’. Could there ever be such a situation/question?…..with John Carter at the helm?….nah…….definitely not. As ever i have only been able to impart a portion of all the information on John that is available without writing a book, the accompanying booklet to the compilation does an admirable job and i was lucky enough back in the late 60’s early 70’s to be friends with Pete and Robin who were members of The Flowerpot Men and the band they morphed into in the shape of White Plains. So for me this release has been a hugely enjoyable nostalgic trip bringing back some memorable moments. The compilation is released this Friday (18th) the same day as the next SMART meet, see you there! Enjoy.

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

 

Alan Esdaile… Great track.

Robert Searle… Alan, Great track, great production, great vocals.