SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell. Reviewing Alcatrazz Live Sentence cd/dvd deluxe edition and John Miles – Miles High cd.

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‘LIVE SENTENCE’ Alcatrazz (Deluxe Edition CD/DVD) HNE Records

As regular readers of S.S. will know this is my all time favourite metal band of the 80’s. A coupla months back I brought you their debut album ‘No Parole From Rock and Roll’. As mentioned in that review Alcatrazz were a HUGE success in Japan especially. To capitalise on the albums success they took to the road to promote it and Live Sentence is the result. Recorded in January 1984 in Tokyo the set list includes most of the tracks recorded for NPFR&R, minus annoyingly ‘Jet to Jet’, a personal favourite! However that’s a small niggle. Along with ‘Island in the Sun’, ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’ ‘General Hospital’, all classics in my view Graham Bonnet treats us to his solo success with ‘Night Games’ and re-visits his sojourn with Rainbow to deliver ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ and ‘All Night Long’ to the evident delight of the audience.
This release comes as 2 discs, disc one audio and disc two a DVD. At last I can dispense with my er bootleg footage! The audio and video quality of the DVD is surprisingly good for its age and stands up well. Like me you can now marvel at the 20 year old prodigy Yngwie Malmsteen in all his glory. And a glorious thing to watch it is! His neo-classical shredding is jaw dropping!
Not since I first saw Hendrix have I ever been so transfixed by a guitarist.
‘Kree Nakoorie/Coming Bach’ is mesmerising, yes he’s over indulgent at times compared to the studio recordings, but hell’s teeth he’s simply amazing even when he’s being arrogantly OTT! He knows he’s a ‘Rising Force’ and I forgive him, if I had his talent I doubt i’d hide my light under a bushel.
To cap it all off there’s three bonus tracks recorded at the Rock Palace in the USA including ‘Too Young To Die-Too Drunk To Live’. They don’t write them like that anymore, more’s the pity! For all Graham Bonnet/Malmsteen fans this is an essential addition to your library. PLAY IT LOUD!

JOHN MILES_miles high_WEB

‘MILES HIGH’ John Miles  (Lemon Recordings)

This is the first time on CD for what was John’s fifth studio album released originally in 1981, at that time it only reached a rather disappointing 96 chart position. Two singles were released from the album in the shape of ‘Turn Yourself Loose’ and ‘Reggae Man’. John is undoubtedly a fine musician, singer and guitarist and indeed a writer having composed the 10 tracks here. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with the album, for me however nothing really leaps out at you. Its a polished affair and plays like a soundtrack to an American series of the Eighties (Miami Vice springs to mind) its slick AOR and maybe therin lies the problem for these ears its all a little too bland for my taste. John is without doubt a musicians musician and has contributed his skills to the likes of Joe Cocker, Tina Turner and the great Alan Parson’s project. Overall one for completists of his canon of work methinks, or fans of the Eighties slick pop genre.

For more information go to                 colin-head-111x150

Til next time….     Colin


Stephen Carson… Hi Colin. Just to let you know Cherry Red are releasing a box set of John Miles albums 1983 – 1993 which includes Play On on CD for the first time. It comes out on July 19 2024.

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing I’m A Freak Baby – A Journey Through The British Heavy Psych & Hard Rock Underground Scene 1968-1972 – Various Artists including Factory & The Kult and Concrete & Clay The Complete Recordings by Unit 4+2 cd’s.



I’M A FREAK BABY – A JOURNEY THROUGH THE BRITISH HEAVY PSYCH & HARD ROCK UNDERGROUND SCENE 1968-1972 (3CD SET) …featuring FACTORY & THE KULT…!  Snappy title! the ‘featuring’ is my own addition, I think the main title is long enough! So, here we have a glorious trawl through 3 cds (48 tracks) of the some mainstream but mostly lost and obscure bands that flourished briefly but sometimes brilliantly in those heady four years. Most compilations of this period concentrate on the baroque twee ‘psyche’ vibe ‘Elephants in Bubble Gum Trees’ and suchlike whimsical lyrics. I’m A Freak does what it says on the tin and goes with the hard edged rock that was splitting away from ‘pop’. So lets deal with the elephant(s) in the room and two tracks of great interest to Smarties! Disc 1 track 9 sandwiched between The Pink Fairies and The Groundhogs (a good place to be!) is the first official cd debut for our very own Factory and ‘Time Machine’ and sounding fresh as a remastered daisy. Now you who didn’t get one of the 99 vinyl copies originally pressed can add it to your collection! If that wasn’t enough Disc 3 track 14 and hailing from about half a mile from where I’m writing this is Bexhills very own The Kult ‘Occult’ again first time on CD. Brilliant for all of us with long memories! Of the 46 other tracks as aforementioned there are some ‘names’ Deep Purple, Chicken Shack. The Move, Yardbirds, Uriah Heep to name but 5 (and not the usually compiled tracks) but its in the obscure that some real delights spring forth such as Cycle, Stonehouse, Barnabus, Sam Gopal, names that jog dim memories for this reviewer who was always into the more esoteric!
I must also mention two bands who I worked with the excellent, and at the time highly controversial, Third World War with ‘Ascension Day’ and The Gun with ‘Race With The Devil’ a record ahead of its time for 1968, The Gun were Adrian and Paul Gurvitz, two great guys who had relationships with Ruperts People. Like the famed and never bettered ‘Nuggets’ psychedelic 3CD compilation I’m A Freak has set the standard for mining the vaults and putting together an outstanding compilation of proto power trio’s, rock experimental pioneers, the avant garde, and the really out there! I take my hat off to the compiler David Wells, a first class job. The accompanying 36 page fully annotated booklet has good potted biogs and photos of the bands featured, (Tony & Jaffa love the hats!) I’m A Freak is released this Friday (29th July 2016).

CONCRETE & CLAY-THE COMPLETE RECORDINGS – Unit 4+2 (2CD) Also for the first time on CD this collection gathers together the entire recordings from 1964-1969 remastered with detailed sleeve notes. There has been mention recently of U4+2 on the Smart website so this is a timely release! Space negates a full history of the band members (the sleeve notes are admirable). I confess I didn’t know one member morphed into Whistling Jack Smith with the er..dreaded ‘I Was Kaiser’s Bill’s Batman’ anyway that aside..i did know that one of the ‘plus 2’ was Russ Ballard. I guess the band are synonomous with the million selling ‘Concrete & Clay’ and are no doubt remembered chiefly for that which hit the top spot in April 1965 (knocking off The Stones). Many TV appearances followed on the likes of ‘Ready Steady Go!’ and ‘Thank Your Lucky Stars’. They were not just a one hit wonder though, the follow up ‘You’ve Never Been In Love Like This Before’ released a coupla months later made a respectable No. 14. Two minor hits followed You’ve Got To Be Cruel To Be Kind’ and ‘Baby Never Say Goodbye’., which was a re-tread musically of C & C. Chart wise that was it for the band. However they remained a very popular and busy live draw. This 2 CD set is  split between their time with firstly Decca and their subsequent 1967 move to Philips offshoot Fontana. Up to C & C and indeed after til their move to Fontana their material was lightweight pop/harmony, a mix of original material and as was the custom of the times ‘covers’ of songs like ‘La Bamba’ ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin Feelin’ ‘The Girl From New York City’ etc. Their original material fares better if a tad forgettable at times(apart from the aforementioned hits).
However the switch to Fontana and a desire to ‘update’ themselves produced some little gems as they stretched themselves and embraced ‘the summer of love’. ‘Butterfly’ is a good example (I remember Marmalade also recording this Brothers Gibb track). A foray into Dylan ‘You Aint Going Nowhere’ comes off well. Self penned numbers ‘I Was Only Playing Games’ and I’ve Seen The Light’ show a new confidence, even if the latter sounds like they nicked the opening chords from The Troggs’ Give It To Me’ (or maybe that’s just in my head!). The penultimate track ‘The World of Broken Hearts’ (a favourite track of mine in Amen Corner’s version) works well, albeit less gritty. So to sum up, if you favour pop/harmony and a dash of mild psyche you will find much to enjoy here.  Released this Friday (29th July 2016)

For more information, full tracklists etc go to

See you soon with a new Tony Burrows comp and more….
Til then…. Colincolin-head-111x150-111x150


Andy Qunta… Thanks, Colin! I think I might get myself a copy of this! Lotsa good stuff! 😉

Robert Searle… I have a copy of ” I’m a freak baby”

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Barry Ryan: The Albums 1969-1979, 5CD Box Set

I must start off by saying I have been waiting a long time for someone to finally come up with a definitive collection of the work of twins Paul & Barry Ryan. At last thanks to 7T’s Records its finally here & it doesn’t disappoint. The project has been lovingly overseen by Indie band member & journalist Bob Stanley of St. Etienne who is a big fan of the twins work which comes through in his essay on their work in the accompanying booklet. Which is crammed full of fascinating titbits, many of which I’d not been aware of before. So what does this new release comprise of, well the answer is a hell of a lot! There are 95 tracks spanning 5 separate discs each contained in their own cardboard sleeves inside a sturdy clamshell box complete with the aforementioned booklet. As with all Cherry Red releases the packaging quality is of a very high standard that always delights. The discs are broken down as follows: Disc1 Barry Ryan Sings Paul Ryan 11 tracks- Barry Ryan 12 tracks. Disc2 Barry Ryan 3 12 tracks Red Man 12 tracks. Disc3 Sanctus Sanctus Hallelujah 12 tracks Disc4 Barry Ryan Rarities 1968-72 19 tracks & finally Disc5 Barry Ryan Rarities 1975-79 17 tracks. Clearly I can’t give you a track by track critique, this would turn into a book! However here’s some observations & highlights to whet your appetite. When Paul decided he’d had enough of touring live (something he hated) in 1967 he chose to step back & concentrate on writing songs (mainly) for his brother. In 1968 he created what would become, in my view, the greatest Power Ballad of the 60’s (or possibly of all time) when he came up with the international No 1 ‘Eloise’. I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t love the song. I didn’t know until now that Paul wrote it after being inspired (& becoming rather obsessed with Richard Harris’s ‘MacArthur Park) & became determined to write his own epic. He certainly succeeded! And here I’d just like to profusely thank the compiler on this new release who has used the FULL version of ‘Eloise’ which starts & ends with what is best described as ‘maniacal’ laughing by Barry, a small thing you might think, but those few extra seconds just make the song even more perfect! Interestingly those vital seconds were missing on the original single release & on the Italian version on this compilation. The First album in the set as aforementioned concentrates on Barry singing his brothers songs, as indeed does the second album. There are gems galore to be found, obviously ‘Eloise’ but add to that ‘The Colour of My Love’ a hit in a cover version for Jefferson (Geoff Turton of the Rockin Berries) although surprisingly not for Barry in the UK as Polydor chose not to release it here. However he scored with it across Europe. In fact most of his subsequent hits were all in Europe with Germany being a particularly lucrative market for Barry where he remained very much a star for decades after giving up music in the mid 70’s to concentrate on his photography business. Track 6 ‘My Mama’ as the sleevenotes point out was another epic production to rival ‘Eloise’ which the twins mum, successful singer in her own right Marion Ryan must have been flattered by. Its a full blooded tour-de-force. Elsewhere ‘Love Is On The Way’ is an achingly beautiful song, followed by ‘What’s Been Sleeping In My Bed’ a curious song in many respects, but one which had me re-visiting it for its quirky melody. The second album simply titled Barry Ryan kicks off with a personal favourite ‘The Hunt’ yet another epic construction a No 22 hit. Where else in a rock song would your hear somebody crying out ‘Tally Ho’! In impassioned fashion! I don’t want to throw a lot of titles that may mean nothing to you if you are not familiar with the twins work, but other highlights include ‘No Living Without Her Love’ & ‘closing track ‘Where Have You Been’. Moving on to Disc3 & we are treated to a mix of songs from Paul & outside song-writers. It kicks off with the first recording of Cat Stevens classic ‘Wild World’ or as titled here ‘Its A Wild World’. It has a very fetching string arrangement & is an agreeable enough version, it just lacks the passion of Cat’s take. Highlights elsewhere are ‘Stop The Wedding’ ‘What Is Wrong With My Women’ & ‘Who Put The Lights Out’. The second album on Disc3 Red Man, opens with the title track, a hit in faithful Germany & France. Here in the UK it was un-issued in favour of ‘It Is Written’ a religious themed work that did no business at all The best track on the album in my view belongs to ‘All Thoughts Of Time’ a beautiful & tender ballad. The religious theme came to the forefront on Disc5 Sanctus Sanctus Hallelujah with the opening title track. This German only issued album saw Barry team up with band The Verge and move away from what had gone before & stray into heavier rock territory & produced some excellent songs like the fuzz guitar laden ‘Storm Is Brewing’ the single release ‘Cant Let You Go’ & melodic rocker ‘L A Woman’ (nothing to do with The Doors!). It showed Barry was quite at home as a rock & roll singer, not just a purveyor of big ballads. The final 2 discs that make up the compilation consisting of rarities from 1968 – 1979 are peppered with real gems, one of my favourites being ‘Love Is Love’ a song I’ve played a lot on the radio over the years. It was released as a single & reached No 4 in Europe, so I’m surprised it’s in the ‘rarities’ section, however I’m sure 7T’s have their facts straight. Its a magnificent epic song clearly reaching to be another ‘Eloise’ & whilst not quite succeeding is hugely enjoyable complete with Barry’s histronic vocals, it’s a real belter, love it. ‘Lay Down’ ‘Annabelle’ ‘Best Years Of My Love’ ‘Do That’ & ‘Give It All’ are some other personal highlights for me. As i said at the start of this review I’ve waited a long time for a retrospective of Paul & Barry’s work & this new release has repaid the wait. Thank you 7T’s for a great job. For those of you who never got past ‘Eloise’ this is what you missed. Do have a listen if you possible can. Enjoy.

For more information go to

Til next time…..take care & stay safe……Colin

Mick O’Dowd… Very interesting review Colin. I liked P&B because they were light weight and easy on the ear. When you mentioned Eloise the memories came flooding back, What a song and production.

Colin Bell… Mick, Thanks for the thumbs up! There’s some great material on here. I didn’t mention ‘Kitsch’ in my review, just not enough space! another ‘Eloise’ style classic, give that a listen if you’ve not heard it before

Merv Kennard… Eloise my favourite

Alan Esdaile… Wonderful. Love ‘Eloise’

Wendy Weaver… Marion Ryan, the Ryan twins mum, was a huge star in her own right

Colin Bell… She had a great voice, it was her idea the twins take up singing as neither were academic at school & left with no idea of what to do

Michael Grave… Fantastic Artist, and brilliant songwriting from his brother Paul. My favourites are, of course, Eloise, Love is Love, The Hunt, It is Written, and Magical Spiel. Does anyone know if this Box Set Compilation is remastered, and what the sound quality is like?

Colin Bell… Hi Michael, i wrote the review. Yes it has been re-mastered & the sound quality is excellent. They’ve (Cherry Red Records) obviously had access to the master tapes. I should just add I don’t work for them! My response to you comes from 55 years in the music biz. Thanks for your comment ☺ Colin

Jon McCallion… My mum always talked about growing up with Marion

Michael Grave… Thank you for establishing the audio quality is excellent on this compilation, Colin. I’ve now ordered it. I have various CDs of Barry Ryan, and this should hopefully top them all. I love Jimmy Webb’s compositions, and was knocked out when I first heard Richard Harris singing MacArthur Park, and his subsequent work with Jimmy Webb, who was a genius songwriter. I guess it was why I loved Eloise and Love is Love so much. The same high drama production values. Never again would I feel the same surge of adrenalin, until Trevor Horn unleashed his brilliant studio creations in the eighties.

Colin Bell… Hi Michael. No problem, I’m sure you’ll have much enjoyable listening. All the best. Colin




SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Chris Farlowe: Stormy Monday – The Blues Years 1985-2008, 3CD Digipack


I must be honest upfront and say I’m not a die hard blues fan, I am however a die hard Chris Farlowe fan. I’ve been privileged to know him and see him work since the late 60’s. The casual fan will always think of Chris’s best known work he did for Immediate culminating in his immortal No 1 ‘Out of Time’ and his (in my view) definitive version of Mike d’Abo’s ‘Handbags & Gladrags”. Excellent raw pop/soul/r&b records. After those days, fans of jazz rock & prog rock will appreciate his work with Colosseum & Atomic Rooster. However, at heart Chris is a blues man, with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the scene & may well be the finest singer of the genre this country has produced. This new 3CD set release from Strawberry Records brings together some of his greatest blues work, with his backing band The Thunderbirds, solo, & live spanning 2 decades from the 80’s to the noughties. Spanning 3 discs are 55 tracks showcasing that very special voice that remains undimmed by the passage of time. I last saw Chris just pre Covid & he was still sounding as powerful as ever. Nobody else ever sounds like him he is unique & his delivery instantly recognisable. Blues fans in my experience know their subject in minute detail & relish every nuance. As i said at the start I’m not in the die hard camp but having said that I could listen to this new compilation all day happilly. Disc1 provides us with the most traditional blues tracks culled from 1985’s ‘Out Of The Blue’ & ‘1986’s ‘Born Again’ recorded with The Thunderbirds. Produced by Mike Vernon a major figure in the British Blues scene who founded the much loved & respected Blue Horizon label. There are treats galore here from the brace of opening tracks ‘I Ain’t Superstitious’ & ‘Gamblers Blues’ through the wonderful take on Bobby Bland’s ‘Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City’ Howlin Wolf’s ‘I Ain’t Superstitious’ & my favourite BB King song ‘The Thrill Is Gone’. The musicianship on display is excellent, the brass on  ‘Ain’t Got No Money’ is just awesome. The closing 2 tracks on Disc1 constitute 2 of my favourites on the whole 3 CD set with Chris covering soul singer Don Covey’s ‘I Stayed Away Too Long’ & his interpretation of Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac hit ‘Man Of The World’ which I’ve heard him do live & have long admired. Disc2 kicks off in a more blues/rock vein with the storming ‘Rock & Roll Soldier’ & ‘Livin it Up’ 2 brilliant tracks with some great guitar work from the likes of Albert Lee &  Alvin Lee. There’s a choice cover of old Stax favourite ‘Private Number’ originally performed by William Bell & Judy Clay, here Chris partners with Elkie Brook’s to bring the number a fresh feel. This leads on to his storming cover of The Small Faces No 1 ‘All Or Nothing’. Elsewhere standout highlights come from the likes of ‘Gangster Of Love’ ‘Ain’t No Big Deal’ and an inspired cover of John Fogerty’s ‘As Long As I Can See The Light’. The last half dozen tracks on the album are given over to Chris’s collaboration with Van Morrison who share a mutual admiration. I remember seeing the 2 performing live in the 90’s early 2000’s when Chris supported Van on tour. ‘It Should Have Been Me’ & ‘Blues Anthem’ top & tail the 6 tracks & bring Disc2 to a satisfying conclusion. Disc3 gives everyone a chance to hear Chris at his barnstorming best singing live, backed variously by, The Thunderbirds, The Norman Beaker Band & Roy Herrington & The Rhythm ‘N’ Blues Train. Here he serves up some of his best known work with opener ‘I Don’t Want To Sing The Blues No More’ ‘Stormy Monday’ & the aforementioned ‘All Or Nothing’ ‘Handbags & Gladrags’ ‘Out Of Time’ ‘Thrill is Gone’ and a cracking ‘Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City’ before wrapping up with ‘I’ve Been Born Again’. The whole digi-pack package is as ever nicely put together, with photos & with an interesting essay from Mojo writer Lois Wilson. It has been said that Chris’s mid 60’s recording of ‘Stormy Monday Blues’ is the greatest British Blues recording ever. I wouldn’t disagree with that. As I remarked earlier I believe Chris has one of the finest blues voices Britain has ever produced. Jimmy Page wanted him as lead singer for Led Zeppelin when he was putting the band together (the two had often worked together in the 60’s). Chris turned him down. That may not have been the wisest move financially, however creatively i can see why. Chris is a blues man to his very core. Enjoy.

For more information go to
Til next time…..stay safe…take care…Colin

Mick O’Dowd… What a compo! Loved him since I discovered Stormy Monday on a Sue label single and found out it was him!

Alan Esdaile… I did hear Rod Stewart’s version of Handbags and Gladrags on the radio this morning but you are right Colin, you can’t beat Chris Farlowe version. Wonderful.

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell. Reviewing I See You Live On Love Street – Music From Laurel Canyon 1967-1975, 3CD Box Set


I’m delighted to bring you this companion piece from Grapefruit Records to their well received 2022 ‘Heroes & Villains : The Sound of Los Angeles 1965 – 1968 compilation, previously reviewed in these pages. This new compilation boasts 3 CD’s spanning 72 tracks & running to over 4 hours & as ever with Grapefruit its beautifully presented in a sturdy clamshell box with each of the 3 CD’s enclosed in its own cardboard sleeve & sporting individual artwork. The accompanying 48 page booklet by label boss David Wells, is as ever, a fascinating treasure trove of information, annotating the tracks together with contemporary photo’s & I particularly liked the closing double page spread of Posters advertising gigs of the times. With the likes of The Doors, Jefferson Airplane & The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band plus others on the same bill. Wonderful. For those not familiar with the whole Laurel Canyon scene, a brief history. Whereas London & Liverpool here in the UK & New York over the pond had been the epicentres of the music world from the late 50’s onwards, By the ‘summer of love; & the whole hippie psychedelic scene of 1967 centred around San Francisco the music scene in the USA was now concentrated on the warm sunny skies of the West Coast & Los Angeles had become the place to be. A short distance from the famous Sunset Strip up in the hills lay peaceful Laurel Canyon. You may have seen the excellent Sky documentary a couple of years back on the whole scene that sprung up there. It became an incestuous hotbed of cross fertilisation between a host of unlikely bedfellows as the press release points out so aptly. You had The Monkees hanging out with Zappa, The Turtles with Judee Sill, The Doors, Steppenwolf & Warren Zevon collaborated with shady figure (i memorably met him once) Kim Fowley, a record producer amongst other things. Country rock burgeoned with the nearby Troubadour venue hosting the likes of The Byrds, Poco, CS&N, Buffalo Springfield etc. So to the compilation. Disc1 sub headed  ‘Young Girls Are Coming To The Canyon 1967-68’ gets us under way with the breezy vocals of The Association with ‘Come On In’ immediately transporting us to sunny Californian skies. Love appear with ‘The Good Humour Man, He Sees Everything’ from what i consider the best album ever recorded ‘Forever Changes’. A band I’m not familiar  with deliver a cracking slice of psyche with ‘Wildflowers’, I’ll be investigating the band further. Scott McKenzie of ‘San Francisco’ fame brings one of the best tracks on the whole compilation with ‘Twelve Thirty’ One of the best Beatles covers I;ve ever heard comes from The Sunshine Company & ‘I Need You’. Elsewhere you will find The Monkees, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The Stone Poneys, Captain Beefheart, Mamas & Papas, Buffalo Springfield & a host of others. Disc 2 sub headed ‘Going Home To California 1969-72’ starts with a song I love, but I regularly forget about it until like now it pops up, i refer to Stephen Stills & ‘Love The One You’re With’ followed by the brilliant Poco with ‘Pickin’ Up The Pieces’ The dreamy tones of Tim Buckley entrance with’ Buzzin Fly’ & Glen Campbell weighs in with my all time favourite Jim Webb song ‘Where’s The Playground Susie’ & thank you compiler for not chopping the end, as is so often the case! Other tracks to be delighted with come from the likes of Three Dog Night, Rick Nelson, Canned Heat, Steppenwolf, Frank Zappa & a great number from Dave Mason with Cass Elliot on ‘Too Much Truth-Too Much Love’. Disc 3 sub headed ‘Postcards From Hollywood 1971-75’ takes us into more generally upbeat fare opening with J D Souther with ‘Some People Call It Music’ swiftly followed by the underrated excellent Little Feat & ‘Easy To Slip’, Linda Ronstadt & Judee Sill provide soft entries with ‘Birds’ & ‘Crayon Angels’ respectively. Elsewhere there are great contributions from Nilsson, Crazy Horse, Gram Parsons, Leon Russell & a whole host of others. Sadly I don’t have the space to go track by track, however i hope I have given you at least a sample taste of all the sublime music to be had on this new compilation. Over to you. Enjoy.

for more information go to
Til next time……stay safe…..Colin

Pete Prescott… Looks great !

Paul Gray… Excellent review! I have this on order. Can’t go wrong with Grapefruit Box Sets and yes, Forever Changes is the greatest album of all time!

Colin Bell… Hi Paul, thanks for your kind comment. Pleased to meet someone else who also believes ‘Forever Changes’ is the greatest album of all time! Hands down, no arguments!

Leigh Mitchell… The documentary was excellent, this sounds like a brilliant purchase for ‘him in doors’! I saw Warren Zevron when I was living in Washington DC (1982 I think) in a very small venue, he was so good. I have an LP of his somewhere…..! xx

Alan Esdaile… yes it was a great documentary.


SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing David McWilliams: Reaching For The Sun: The Major Minor Anthology 1967-1969, 2CD Digipak


I am going to set my stall out straightaway with this wonderful new release. I have been a music journalist, writing reviews, articles, gig reviews etc for over 50 years now and have always prided myself on being objective when writing about artistes, a lot of whom I know or have worked with over the years, many becoming good friends. Sometimes it’s hard to critique work, especially if it’s a negative word or two given those circumstances. There are a few artistes i confess i find it impossible to be negative about, whatever their musical work, as i love absolutely everything they do and my natural objectivity takes a rare back seat, which may be wrong but is my honest admission. Such is the case with David McWilliams and I make no apologies for waxing lyrical about this entire new compilation of his work for the Major Minor Record label. Sporting 53 tracks spread over 2 CD’s, the compilation covers David’s 3 albums for Major Minor and includes over 12 tracks making their CD debut. What is remarkable (and i can’t think of another artist that has achieved this) is the fact those 3 albums were all recorded and released over a period of just 8 months. This you might think would dilute the quality of the songs, but no that is far from the case. Born in Belfast in July 1945 David Samuel McWilliams starting writing and playing songs as a young teenager and formed his own ‘Showband’ (a popular entity in Ireland of the times), he named it the Coral Showband after the record label of the same name that released songs by his hero Buddy Holly. A demo tape of David singing his songs made it’s way to the desk of Irish music entrepreneur Phil Solomon, then domiciled in London and managing fellow Irish acts The Dubliners, The Bachelors & Them amongst others. A deal was done with CBS and in 1966 David made his debut single appearance with a strong ‘protest’ song ‘God and Country’ which opens this new Grapefruit Records compilation in fine style and given the current state of the world in relation to war is still deeply resonant all these many years later. It didn’t chart. By the end of 1966 Solomon was launching his own Record label in Major Minor. Signing David to this new enterprise in 1967 the label launched David in a blaze of publicity across the music press, on hoardings and London buses etc, not as you might think with a single, but an album entitled David McWilliams Singing Songs by David McWilliams (Vol 1) which sold moderately well in June 1967, However it was to be his second album Vol 2 released just 4 months later that would see David immortalised with the track for which he will always be remembered ‘The Days of Pearly Spencer’. This quirky insistent earworm of a song was a hit across Europe, but NOT as most people remember (wrongly) a hit in the UK. The reason we heard it so much and think it was a hit was down to Pirate stations, particularly Radio Caroline, that has seen it lodged in most peoples memories as a UK hit. It was no co-incidence that Phil Solomon had a financial interest in Caroline which guaranteed his Major Minor releases would be played to death, often to the ire of some of the stations DJ’s. This of course was ‘payola’ which came to light later at the BBC as a scandal but as the Pirates were outside the law they got away with this illegal practice of ‘hyping’ a record into the charts. The success of ‘Pearly Spencer’ saw that the second album again sell well and lead as aforementioned, to his 3rd album release in February 1968. At the time not all the music biz critics were appreciative of David’s output. Major Minor had made such a massive big deal hyping up publicity for this unknown artist, it had the detrimental effect of working against him which would lead to David becoming disillusioned with all the razzamatazz surrounding him in 1967/68 and see him buy a farm and virtually disappear from view for the next 3 years. So to the music contained on these 3 albums. Opening as aforementioned with the strong protest song ‘God and Country’ this is followed by a string of songs covering, social issues, love, repression and all facets of life. The titles tell their own story in many cases, such as ‘Redundancy Blues’ ‘The Silence is Shattered’ ‘Hiroshima’ ‘Time of Trouble’ & ‘In The Early Hours of the Morning’ to name but a few off the debut album. David much like my dear friend the late Peter Sarstedt also had that rare gift that is given to some singer/songwriters of being able to paint cinematic images in your head as you listen and get steadily drawn further into his meaningful lyrics. The 2nd album kicks off with ‘Pearly Spencer’ and it’s interesting to note that many people refer to it as that song using a ‘megaphone’. That famous signature section of the song was in fact not a megaphone but was literally phoned in to the studio from a call box outside to achieve the desired effect! A wonderful slice of music trivia to know. Immediately following ‘Pearly Spencer’ is my all time personal favourite the exquisite ‘Can I Get There By Candlelight’ which may be familiar to some of you as it was also released as a single. ‘For Josephine’ ‘How Can I Be Free’ ‘What’s the Matter With Me’ & ‘Lady Helen of the Laughing Eyes’ are  just some more of the standout tracks to be relished. The 3rd album begins with another wonderful track ‘Three O’Clock Flamingo Street’ followed by ‘Harlem Street’ which was in fact the original Major Minor single release of David’s as the ‘A’ side with ‘Pearly Spencer’ on the ‘B’ side. For reasons best known to Solomon he didn’t spot the more commercial side. Maybe he was influenced by some of the less favourable reviews from some critics. Conversely and Interestingly, several industry luminaries such as my old friend Dave Dee and old bosses Chris Stamp & Kit Lambert at Track Records as well as Roger Daltrey all praised ‘Pearly Spencer’ at the time and Disc & Music Echo singled out David’s work as making you ‘sit up and really take notice’. Of all the 3 albums contained in this compilation I personally think David’s finest work appears on the 3rd album. It contains a wonderful diversity of songs, the romantic, where the songs are often augmented throughout his recording output from his debut album onwards by some lush arrangements by Mike Leander, a guy i got to know well in later years when working with the now disgraced Gary Glitter, Mike was co-writer and arranger of the majority of Glitters hits and worked with a lot of major names over many years. I am also indebted to Alan Esdaile-Johnny Mason the founder of the SMART website where this review appears, for reminding me in a conversation (prior to me writing this piece) of what a dark and wondrous outstanding track ‘The Stranger’ is that appears on this 3rd album. David had the ability to switch from ethereal lightness to dark and brooding without missing a beat. For what is probably the majority of you reading this review throwing all these titles of great songs at you may mean very little, if like the majority, your only experience of David’s catalogue has been ‘Pearly Spencer’. All i can do is urge you to listen to one of the best home grown UK singer/songwriters we ever produced. Don’t take my word for it, no less an icon than David Bowie declared David to be his favourite singer/songwriter. As ever, with a Grapefruit Records release the fold out digipack comes with a insightful essay by label boss David Wells, always an informative and fascinating read. As i said at the beginning i think it’s now apparent my love for David’s work is now thoroughly out there. Sadly David passed away in 2002 at the too early age of 56 at home in his beloved Ireland. After his 60’s success he only made occasional forays back into the industry preferring to live a quiet life, he left us with a musical legacy which is up there with the very best. Enjoy.

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Til next time, take care………..Colin

Stephen Moran… Thank you for posting Colin’s review Alan. Beautifully written and informative as always. I had no idea that David McWilliams was so prolific. To be honest I thought he was a one hit wonder (Days of Pearly Spencer), I’m looking forward to listening to more of his recordings.

Paul Sleet… One of my favourite artists

Colin Bell… You’ll find much to enjoy on this release Paul

Mick O’Dowd… Always loved Pearly and the album that it appeared on because of the incessant plugging by Radio Caroline. I thought Pearly was a hit but probably only on the Caroline Chart. Got the album which I rate highly, but never was able to enthuse about his later work.

Leigh Mitchell… Very interesting! Pearly only came to my attention when Marc Almond covered it, but I then heard the original, which I preferred. I can’t say I have ever heard anything else by him, unless unwittingly during Brian Mathews time presenting Sounds of the 60s! Great read, Colin! xx

Colin Bell… Marc’s cover version was good, i liked it, but yes, the original is best, thanks for the kind words! xx

Alan Esdaile… Wonderful singer and writer. I got the album The Days of David McWilliams which I must have played hundreds of times and still sounds excellent.

Here’s the track ‘The Stranger’ if you haven’t heard it…

Bob Seal… My first favourite singer-songwriter of the 60’s (I have a few now!!). Beautiful melodies, great lyrics and a wonderful expressive voice. Must add – Some masterful orchestration from Mike Leander. This is ’67/’68 on a platter.

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing You Can Walk Across It On The Grass – The Boutique Sounds Of Swinging London, Various Artists 3CD Box Set

YOU CAN WALK ACROSS IT ON THE GRASS     Various Artistes  (3CD set)
Grapefruit Records have issued some really great compilations over the years, many reviewed in these pages. This latest package is right up there with their best ever. First that title. In April 1966 American heavyweight magazine Time ran a front page article with the headline ‘You Can Walk Across It On The Grass’ & went on to say how ‘Swinging London’ was the centre of the world when it came to contemporary pop culture. They were of course bang on there. From 1965 onwards, the music, fashion, art, films, actors, even furniture (remember egg shaped suspended chairs?) all were centred around one of the greatest cities in the world. It was a unique time when everything turned from the greyness of the 50’s into eye popping colour. Carnaby Street, the Kings Road, Mini Skirts, multi coloured Rolls Royce’s & Mini’s, creativity was everywhere. Tv channels started making and showing cool programmes like ‘The Avengers’ Gerry Anderson brought us classics like Thunderbirds, Dr Who appeared with the fearsome Daleks. Boutiques like Biba thrived & a plethora of clubs from the Scotch of St James to The Marquee hosted a multitude of bands every week, some would become stars, others would fall by the wayside. But everywhere there was innovation & optimism & a zest for life. This new compilation spread across 3 CD’s & over 4 hours of listening time seeks to capture the zeitgeist of that very special time. It does so admirably as it combines some great well known hit records alongside many less successful bands, who despite their lack of commercial success were very much part of ‘the scene’. To further the atmosphere of the time it also features zany offerings from icons such as Twiggy & Mandy Rice-Davies & some instrumentals synonymous with the period. This all adds up to a listening experience that transports you back to that heady time when us ‘baby boomers’ were really finding our feet & England & particularly London really was the centre of the universe. The mix of genres contained in this set is a real snapshot of the time, moving from pop, r’n’b, soul, Mod, freakbeat & more, there was room for anyone with something to say back then, when millions of 7inch pieces of vinyl flew out of the new trendy record shops. So to the music. Disc1 sets the mood perfectly with the instrumental ‘A Touch of Velvet – A Sting of Brass’ by The Mood Mosaic used extensively as intro music by DLT on Radio Caroline & later Jimmy Young (it was actually composed by Mark (Grocer Jack) Wirtz. Then its straight into the thumping sound of DD,DBM&T & ‘Hold Tight!’ followed by the excellent version Kiki Dee recorded of ‘Why Don’t I Run Away From You’. Already you can hear & visualise the diversity of ‘Cool Britannia’. The aforementioned Twiggy offers us ‘When I Think Of You’ followed by the wonderful & wacky ‘Kinky Boots’ from Avengers stars Patrick MacNee & Honor Blackman. Marquee favourites such as The Alan Bown Set, The Action & A Band of Angels (featuring local lad Mike d’Abo) make some cool contributions. What is probably one of my favourite up-tempo soul sounds of all time bursts out the speakers with the glorious ‘She Shot A Hole In My Soul’ by Geno Washington. Other artistes making up Disc1 include Dusty Springfield, The Yardbirds, Manfred Mann, Zoot Money & many more. Excellent. And speaking of excellent Disc2 gets off to a great start with a scream from Reg Presley & The Troggs as he proclaims ‘I Cant Control Myself’ followed by a young David Bowie with The Lower Third & ‘Cant Help Thinking About Me’ The Kinks provide one of the anthems of the era with ‘Dedicated Follower of Fashion’ The Fortunes remind us of the pirates with ‘Caroline’. Ron Grainer brings back TV memories with his theme to the series ‘Man In A Suitcase’ & The Who, arch Mod band at the time provide us with my favourite early single of theirs ‘I’m A Boy’. Elsewhere you can find tracks from Hastings Pier stalwarts Episode Six. Graham Bond, Tom Jones, Twinkle, John Mayall, The Merseys & a host of others. And finally to Disc3 which overall contains many of the lesser known acts who contributed to the scene such as The Untamed, The Syn, The Union & my old mate Miki Dallon. Big names are represented with tracks from The Small Faces, The Moody Blues, Georgie Fame, a pre ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ Carl Douglas, Jack Bruce & Johns Children. Reminding us of the pirates is the extremely annoying but fun ‘We Love The Pirates’ by the Roaring 60’s (an early contribution from hitmakers John Carter/Ken Lewis). This new compilation sets out to take us through an aural journey of a special time & succeeds wonderfully as many memories of sight & sound are stirred in my head, As ever Grapefruit Records boss David Wells provides a glossy 48 page booklet crammed with facts & ‘fab’ pictures. Definitely a 5 star release. Enjoy.
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Til next time…..take care….Colin

Mick O’Dowd… What a collection. Real memory jerkers here!


SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Wizzard: The Singles Collection, 2CD

WIZZARD    The Singles Collection (2CD set)

Firstly, a Happy New Year to all SMARTIES & indeed anyone else reading this review. I was hoping to put this in front of you just prior to Christmas, unfortunately with holiday postal delays my review copy arrived too late for that. But hey, like puppies Wizzard led by the wonderful Roy Wood are not just for Christmas! you can enjoy them all year round, especially if you get your hands on this new 2CD set from 7T’s Records. It’s the latest release in their ongoing ‘singles collections’ many of which have been reviewed in these pages. I have always made no secret of the fact I’m a huge fan of Roy Wood & all his work from The Move, Wizzard, collaborations & solo material. Most people i think are aware of the birth of Wizzard which came about in 1972 after Roy quit the fledgling ELO he had created with Jeff Lynne. Contrary to popular belief, however, there was no big bust up/row between Roy & Jeff who remain friends to this day. It was more to do with arguments with management (the infamous Don Arden) & other matters. And so lets get to the music…The new band made their live debut in August 1972 at Wembley as part of The London Rock & Roll Show. I saw them live for the first time some months later when they played Hastings Pier Ballroom on 9th February 1973 & here i must be scrupulously honest, they were a shambles, much to my disappointment. I can’t remember now whether i was the DJ/Compere on that occasion (i did several around then on The Pier, Gary Glitter & Chicken Shack & several others), it matters little as to whether i was there in an official capacity, or just there…but the band were clearly under rehearsed & all over the place, in stark contrast to when Roy appeared there several years earlier leading The Move. I was expecting a great night, including listening to them perform their debut hit ‘Ball Park Incident’, it was not to be. ‘Ball Park Incident’ kicks off Disc1 of this new release. It was to be the first of 6 Top 10 hits the band achieved, all naturally contained on this compilation. It was pretty obvious to all of us that loved The Ronettes, The Crystals etc that Roy’s vision of the sound of Wizzard owed a lot to Phil Spectors famous ‘Wall of Sound’ All the common tropes that made up that sound were to be found on all the big hits. Reaching their apogee in my view on (my personal favourite) ‘Angel Fingers’ (which you can view & hear at the end of this review). This is followed by the strangely named instrumental ‘The Carlsberg Special (Piano’s Demolished Phone 021 373 4472) composed by keyboard player Bill Hunt including his real phone number! Up next is arguably the bands best known and loved No 1 ‘See My Baby Jive’ which brings back fond memories of going to lunch regularly at Divito’s in St Leonards with Paul Casson back in 1973, Paul would always go straight to the juke box & play it…i even remember it was A3 on the selector…some things stay with you forever…the cheeky instrumental ‘B’ side ‘Bend Over Beethoven follows written by cellist Hugh McDowell. Then its on to the aforementioned personal favourite that is ‘Angel Fingers’ with its wonderful over-the-top production throwing in everything but the kitchen sink! ‘You Got The Jump On Me’ a rather strange offering follows written by bassist Rick Price, a rock stomper, its a bit of a mixed bag. Perennial Christmas classic ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday’ is up next & is shortly followed by the other winter release often forgotten now ‘Rock N’Roll Winter’ which features Roy’s then girlfriend the wonderful Lynsey De Paul on backing vocals. Another single that everyone seems to forget ‘This Is The Story Of My Love’ which only reached a lowly No 34 puts in a welcome appearance, its classic Wizzard & deserved to do much better. The first disc moves towards its  conclusion with the gentle instrumental ‘Dream of Unwin’, a piece I’ve often used as a ‘bed’ on my radio programmes. Disc 2 starts with the excellent invitation of ‘Are  You Ready To Rock’ A glorious confection of big band, swing, jazz & best of all some zany bagpipes! love it. It would be the bands last Top 10 hit reaching No 8. ‘Marathon Man’ an unremarkable instrumental, although featuring some fetching guitar, written by drummer Keith Smart follows, before Roy treats us to another homage to more early rock & roll shenanigans with ‘Rattlesnake Roll’. ‘Indiana Rainbow’ & ‘The Stroll’ credited respectively to Roy Wood’s Wizzard & Roy Wood’s Wizzo Band see the band take a more jazz orientated approach, but its apparent they are running out of steam. The penultimate track ‘Dancing At The Rainbows End’ sees Roy retreat to a more commercial production but it was too little too late and with little airplay and a planned tour cancelled the glory days were over. During their heyday in the early to mid 70’s Wizzard provided us with some classic Glam/Retro hits that will no doubt still be playing on the radio long after this presenter has left this earthly building & quite right too. Enjoy

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Til next time….take care…Colin…

Mick O’Dowd… I was at Wembley for their debut but can’t remember much about it. Screaming Lord Sutch had a bevvy of topless beauties and there was a lot of other big name r’n’r acts. Always loved Roy though and I last saw him in RW’s Army at Eastbourne.

Colin Bell… Mick, There were some big names there, i didn’t see it, but i know some others were Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Billy Fury & a certain new bloke in a silver suit we’d work with shortly afterwards………..

Gerry Fortsch… Mick, My Brother was with me at the gig, we paid for good seats but could not see a thing when we sat down so we pushed our way

Carol Anne… Loved Roy Wood & Wizard

Mick O’Dowd… I’ve managed to get a copy of the show on DVD


SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Family – Bandstand – Remastered and expanded edition cd.

I was delighted to receive this new re-issue of one of my favourite bands, Family with ‘Bandstand’, Esoteric Records have done a fine job, & as the title states it’s been remastered & expanded. The remastering from the original master tapes is very good, not always the case with classic albums, that some engineers ‘tweak’ too much. The original 9 track album is doubled in size by the addition of an extra 10 bonus tracks drawn from unreleased studio outtakes & 2 tracks from a BBC session from October 1972. On the latter it’s a treat to hear the warm voice of the late great Brian Matthew doing the introductions. My own introduction to Family came to me via their debut album 1968’s ‘Music In A Doll’s House’ released in July 1968. It was played to me by John Peel at his London home where I was returning some records (a long story). I was immediately hooked by this extraordinary voice that came pouring out  the speakers.I had never heard a voice like it. It of course belonged to lead singer Roger Chapman, who was once referred to as sounding like an ‘electric goat’ a somewhat unkind sounding description, but it has to be said remarkably apposite. I think for the majority of rock fans Family are a ‘marmite’ band, you either love Roger’s unique vocal & the bands mix of psyche/rock/jazz/soul/prog/art house elements or you just don’t get on with it at all, & find them irritating to listen to. I think it’s clear already I am a fan & could happily listen to them all day. ‘Music In A Doll’s House’ contained many great tracks, amongst them ‘Old Songs New Songs’, probably the most commercial song on the album which was released as a single although it didn’t trouble the charts. The band would score their first hit the following year in 1969 with the delightful ‘No Mules Fool’ (still a big personal favourite). The band were prolific when it came to recording & ‘Bandstand’ was their 6th album release in just 4 years. The lead track ‘Burlesque’ a mid tempo rocker that showcases Roger’s voice perfectly was also released as a single & became a Top 20 record following in the wake of their other single successes, with the aforementioned ‘No Mules Fool’ ‘ ‘Strange Band’ & ‘In My Own Time’. The second track from ‘Bandstand’ alters tone considerably to tell the story of ‘Bolero Babe’ a symphonic, psyche tinged song with Rogers voiced dialled back to a softer style. Which leads us into the stately (pun intended) ‘Coronation’, Family’s songs contain wonderful stories & this is no exception with its ‘kitchen sink drama’ which, as the accompanying booklet comments, could easily have come from the pen of Ray Davies. The softer side of the band is again on view with the folksy track 4 ‘Dark Eyes’ before we return to a full on Roger & the rocking track 5 ‘Broken Nose’ another social rant which bears careful listening to & musically contains elements of all the genres I described earlier. Then it’s on to my favourite track of the album ‘My Friend the Sun’ a gorgeous whimsical song on which Roger once again displays his softer almost ethereal vocal which floats gently over your senses. I should mention here that the late Linda Lewis later covered the song admirably for her 1977 album ‘Woman Overboard’ & Linda lends her voice as a backing vocalist on ‘Bandstand’. Track 7 ‘Glove’ is another pretty straight rock ballad, featuring some excellent guitar, that builds nicely from a quiet beginning & reminds me a little of ‘In My Own Time’ This is followed by the rant of ‘Ready To Go’ which adopts a more commercial & straightforward path than the bands usual stance. Indeed overall ‘Bandstand’ is probably the bands most commercial & least esoteric album & the one the casual listener may get on best with. Track 9’s ‘Top of the Hill’ closes what was the original albums second side in fine form. Then we are treated to the 10 extra tracks, the highlight’s of which for me are the live versions of ‘My Friend the Sun’ & ‘Coronation’ both demonstrating to the listener, something I already knew, from seeing them several times at The Marquee, which was that Family were a great live band who never disappointed. So there you have it, Esoteric Records very welcome new package, celebrating a wonderful band & a great album. Enjoy

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


Sue Masters… Such a good album

Peter Fairless… Great track. That Rita and Greta got a lot to answer for

Alan Esdaile… Pete, a lot of drinking and sinking

Pete Prescott…I loved the Weavers Answer, In My Own Time and Burlesque (I used to sing Burlesque in the Reservoir Cats. Sadly I sang it really badly in the Res Cats album. ) One night at the Carlisle two ladies came up and assured us that they were “Rita and Greta !” And knew the band.

Colin Bell… Thanks for sharing Pete, I’ve never heard you sing a Family number, I shall expect a demo at the next SMART meet!

Graham Sherrington… in the car on a very old CD!! my friend the sun.

Nick Bloomfield… I’m a big Family fan! The Weavers Answer which is probably my favourite. Having said that I love Roger’s singing on Shadow on the Wall!


SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing We Can Work It Out – Covers of The Beatles 1962-1966, Various Artists 3CD Box Set

WE CAN WORK IT OUT  Covers Of the Beatles  1962-1966  (3CD Set)    Various Artists
This is the second compilation of Beatles covers I’ve reviewed in these pages. The first back in 2020 was Grapefruit Records ‘Looking Through A Glass Onion’ which covered The Beatles psychedelic songbook from 1966-1972. This new compilation from Strawberry Records takes an extensive look at Beatles covers from what might be termed their ‘beat years’ 1962-1966, before the band became more experimental. The first 2 main thoughts that struck me when i looked at this set were, 1 the sheer number of Beatles tracks that Lennon/McCartney wrote, many of which it’s easy to forget they did, when you’re listening to another artistes cover. And No 2 the vast range of artists that were influenced by the band and put their own spin on many Beatles classics. The diversity of artistes, styles, genres & even languages is quite breathtaking on this new compilation. Boasting 85 tracks across 3 Cd’s there is a huge wealth of talent on display & it must be said some clunkers, that recorded the Fab Fours songs for a quick ‘cash in’.  You can find examples of pop, soul, jazz & even bluegrass sung by artists from all around the world, from France to America & Italy to New Zealand. Such was the influence and the reach of the most influential band in popular music history. Sprinkled throughout the collection are some familiar favourites & well known covers such as Billy J Kramer & The Dakotas ‘Do You Want To Know A Secret’ The Fourmost ‘Hello Little Girl’ Peter & Gordon ‘World Without Love; David & Jonathan ‘Yesterday’ Cilla Black ‘Love of the Loved’ & Petula Clark ‘Rain’ to name but half a dozen. The collection kicks off on Disc1 with a cover of The Beatles debut hit ‘Love Me Do’ delivered by Dick Rivers (a pseudonym for French singer Herve Forneri) who made a name for himself singing covers of Elvis & The Beatles. One of those ‘cash ins’ i alluded to earlier. If i have one small niggle with what is overall a fascinating new compilation i don’t think I’d have chosen to start the listening experience with a cover sang in French. It may be off putting for the casual listener who may then neglect to listen to some real corkers. I’d probably have started with something better known and less esoteric. However, be that as it may, many delights await over the course of Disc1, some highlights being Mary Wells taking a break from the acknowledged Motown sound with her take on ‘Please Please Me’. The Applejacks ‘Like Dreamers Do’ a rather superb jazz big band ‘swing’ instrumental contribution from Count Basie with ‘Hold Me Tight’ Mike Redway (an artist I’d never heard of) who recorded for Embassy Records & ‘I’ll Keep You Satisfied’. And one of my favourite Beatles covers of all time in the shape of the Mamas & Papas ‘I Call Your Name’ (which you can hear at the end of this review. Disc2 starts off gently with a saccharine sweet version  of ‘If I Fell’ performed by an Irish all girl group named The Coterie, another name i confess to never having crossed my radar, but their folk/pop rendition is really quite fetching. Highlights on this disc for yours truly range from Joe Cocker ‘I’ll Cry Instead’ Strawberry Fair ‘Things We Said Today’ Jan & Dean ‘You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away’ (probably my favourite song from ‘Help!’) P J Proby with ‘That Means A Lot’ & the wonderfully named Paraffin Jack Flash Ltd ‘Norwegian Wood’. The prize for the most ‘out there’ track of this whole eclectic collection has to go to Hollywood sex siren Mae West with a frankly barmy version of ‘Day Tripper’ which has to be heard to be believed! Fabulous! Disc3 starts in fine style with one of the best covers of the whole collection with superb and vastly underrated singer Madeline Bell, & her version of ‘You Wont See Me’, which is swiftly followed by kings of pop harmony Tony Rivers & The Castaways & ‘Nowhere Man’, almost better than the original. Elsewhere other highlights for me include Spanky & Our Gang ‘And Your Bird Can Sing’ Jimmy James ‘Good Day Sunshine’ The Cryan Shames ‘If I Needed Someone’ Tempest. a prog rock band unfamiliar to me, with a stonking ‘Paperback Writer’ & Junior Parker with a soulful take on ‘Taxman’ that gives it a whole new vibe. Overall, i think Disc3 contains my favourite collection of the 3 discs & in my opinion is the strongest, but others will have their own favourite. It doesn’t really matter where you land throughout this compilation you are sure to find something interesting, fascinating & sometimes downright wrong! did i mention Mae…..And personally, I could never get into the early 60’s pop ‘crooners like Mark Wynter, but that’s my problem, counselling is available i understand…But seriously, this is a rather wonderful collection that sits nicely next to the psychedelic compilation i mentioned earlier, as a companion piece. As usual the whole package is lovingly put together by Strawberry Records in a hard clamshell box, complete with a full colour, informative booklet covering each track. Enjoy
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Til next time….stay safe & warm……Colin…