SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing The Merseybeats / The Merseys: I stand Accused – The Complete Merseybeats and Merseys Sixties Recordings 2CD Set

I STAND ACCUSED   The Complete Merseybeats/The Merseys 60’s Recordings 2CD Set)

Probably one of the best of the bands that emerged from Liverpool in the early 60’s giving rise to the term Merseybeat. This handsome new digipack 2CD collection contains absolutely everything a fan of the band could wish for. It features every known recording by both incarnations of the band, including demo’s, outtakes, alternate versions and even home recordings. It also includes side projects recorded in the same time frame and rare sides that collectors highly prize.  In a city swamped with bands as Liverpool was with The Beatles & Gerry & The Pacemakers leading the field it must have been hard to stand out in a morass of quite frankly similar sounding bands, The Merseybeats originally started life as The Mavericks in 1960 the founders were two 15 year olds Tony Crane and Bill Kinsley. In 1962 the famous MC and Booker of The Cavern Club Bob Wooler had taken an interest in the band  re-dubbed them The Pacifics which only lasted a week before that changed yet again to The Merseybeats, a name the band initially thought a bit corny but they stuck with it. Like everyone in the local scene they knew Brian Epstein and were hoping he would take them on and guide them as he had done with his other famous acts. He promised them this would be the case but the guys got tired of waiting and then, in what they admit now as a rather silly fit of pique, they went their own way when Epstein refused to buy them suits! ‘He’d bought The Beatles suits but not us’ admitted Bill & it hacked us off. They had made a couple of home demos by now ‘All I Have To Do Is Dream’ &’So How Come’. For the full and fascinating story of these early days the accompanying 24 page booklet to this new set is an excellent and comprehensive read. But in short by 1963 the band had made the pilgrimage to London and signed with Fontana Records. They scored their first hit with ‘It’s Love That Really Counts’ the track that opens CD1 a Burt Bacharach number written originally for The Shirelles it gave the band their first taste of success hitting No 24. However it was their second hit that really defined the bands image. ‘I Think Of You’ was a beautifully crafted ballad written by Peter Lee Stirling, later to have his own success as a singer under the alias Daniel Boone with ‘Beautiful Sunday’. It wasn’t really the direction the band saw themselves going in as basically balladeers, they were more beat orientated but you can’t argue with that sort of success. ‘I Think Of You’ went Top 5 and i think still stands as one of the classiest records to stem from the Liverpool scene. But even as they were riding high founder member Bill quit the band unhappy with their management. He was replaced temporarily by Bob Garner (later of The Creation) & then permanently by Johnny Gustafson of The Big 3.  With Johnny on board the band had 2 more hits with another excellent ballad in ‘Don’t Turn Around’ & ‘Wishin & Hopin’ also a hit for Dusty Springfield. In 1964 Bill returned to the fold but although they continued to issue a steady stream of good records further chart success eluded them. By 1965 the ‘beat boom’ was over and Merseybeat had become passe. It was at this point that into Tony & Bills lives stepped 2 people very well known to myself (as my future bosses) Kit Lambert & Chris Stamp of Track Records & most famous as being behind The Who. Kit had seen the guys playing in a London club and was interested. However Kit & Chris were expending their energies on The Who and it wasn’t until after ‘Anyway Anyhow Anywhere; had provided the band with their second hit that Kit signed The Merseybeats and started producing them. He produced 3 singles ‘Soldier Of Love’ a cover of James Browns ‘I Love You’ Yes I Do’ and ‘I Stand Accused’ all good records but commercial failures. In January 1966 the news came that The Merseybeats had split up. Again the full story behind that makes for some fascinating reading in the booklet referred to earlier. Bill & Tony emerged as a duo with their name shortened to The Merseys. They went on tour supporting The Who and then cut what would become to my mind one of the greatest singles of the 60’s in ‘Sorrow’. Originally a ‘b’ side to The McCoys single ‘Fever’ which flopped, it was taken up by Kit and as well as Bill & Tony the original studio version recorded also featured Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, Jack Bruce & Tornados drummer Clem Cattini. Strangely their label Fontana rejected this first version and it was re-recorded after they had got shot of Page! (that couldn’t have happened too often). ‘Sorrow’ was a Top 5 hit and has become an iconic 60’s record, loved by millions including Bowie who recorded his own cover version for his Pin Ups album. Sadly in terms of commercial success ‘Sorrow’ would prove to be the bands last hit despite some fine follow ups, including ‘So Sad About Us’ Pete Townshend’s composition later to appear on The Who’s ‘A Quick One’ album.  By 1968 and their final single ‘Lovely Loretta’ the band had become unhappy with the way things were and their management. They returned to being The Merseybeats and played the ‘cabaret’ and nostalgia circuits. This didn’t suit Bill who left to work as Liverpool Express in the 70’s. Things came full circle in 1993 when Bill & Tony re-united once again as The Merseybeat’s and continue to play regularly across the UK & Europe. This retrospective is an often fascinating and rewarding look at a band that has now spanned 60 years. As previously mentioned i believe as both The Merseybeats & The Merseys they made some of the classiest records of the 60’s and you will find plenty to enjoy in this 63 track compilation. It’s all housed handsomely in a digipack with a wealth of photo’s and as already mentioned the package contains a well written and absorbing history. Enjoy.

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

Till next time… stay safe… Colin

 

Alan Esdaile… Colin, I agree on ‘I Think Of You’ and love your description ‘classiest record to stem from the Liverpool scene’.

Chicken Shack, Ardon & Colin Bell – Hastings Pier Friday 25th May 1973

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chicken shack

25th may 1973 - chicken shack

supplied by Mick Mepham

Phil Gill… Remember this one well. Had a talk with Stan Webb afterwards. He was a right miserable bugger.

Terry Huggins… I remember going to this one too. Can’t recall much about it as I met a young lady. Didn’t they make the support band play in front of the stage instead of on it, or am I thinking of someone else?

Alan Esdaile… Can’t remember Terry and can’t recall the band ‘Ardon’. I will see if Colin remembers.

Pete Prescott… The second gig I played was supporting chicken shack in Jan 73.i was in a band called village. It was at kemsley town hall. I was 16 and terrified ! Helen tap was there.

Joe Knight… great sound!!!

Eric Cawthraw… Yep, I was at this one. By then it was the ‘Stan Webb show’, the rest of the band didn’t really get much of a look in. Proper old showman guitaring and still a very enjoyable evening.

Pete Fisher… pretty sure I was there…Stan Webb had a specially long guitar lead back then, and used to make a feature of going walkabout into the audience…before the days of wireless systems (pioneered by Angus)…years later (1990) I saw Buddy Guy at the Albert Hall, and when Clapton annonced him, you heard his guitar but he was nowhere to be seen on stage…minutes later he stood up in the middle of the audience, where he’d been hiding, and walked up to the stage, playing via his wireless system…cool trick!

Nigel Ford… I remember seeing Ardon some time on the Pier (didn’t keep a diary until late ’73) and after playing a couple of numbers the frontman said “we’re ARDON….do you get it ?”

Jan Warren… Oh yeah, Chicken Shack.didn’t they do “I’d rather go blind”?! – love that song!! xx

Gerry Fortsch… Stan Webb, brilliant saw him gig with Canned heat great.

Colin Bell… I don’t remember myself ‘freaking out’ doing this gig, but then these days what i had for breakfast escapes me……

Pete Prescott… My 2nd gig was in January 1973 supporting Chicken Shack at Kemsley town hall (near Sittingbourne).I was 16. I had to be pushed on stage.

Samantha’s Club – New Burlington Street. What clubs and venues do you remember in London? Tiffanys Club and Gullivers People chat.

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All images supplied by Colin Bell

Colin Bell… I was looking for something in my archives (I must organise them one day!) and came across this. I was struck by the artwork and how creative it was then. Samantha’s was in a basement off Regent Street and I was introduced to it on a night out with Clem (from the Foundations) and Jimmy James, from memory  it was around late 1969 early 1970. A great place with soul bands appearing and the D.J. ‘booth’ was the body of an E Type Jag (very swinging sixties). Drinks 2/6d! You could get well pissed for a coupla quid! I was lucky enough at that time to have the use of a mate’s flat in Berwick Street Soho, ideally placed to go to all the great clubs. Many hours spent at the Marquee, Whisky-a-go-go, the Flamingo, Middle Earth and Hatchetts in Piccadilly, a great club over 3 floors with a chill out bar level, a restaurant with a glass wall overlooking the ‘disco’ floor. I’d be interested to hear any memories of this period from other Smart members? Great times and great memories…………..

Alan Esdaile… Happy days in Wardour Street at The Marquee. Also the Speakeasy. Also remember auditioning bands at Tiffanys nightclub in Shaftesbury Avenue and a club in Piccadilly with the disco on the top floor, mirrored lift and the club had records stuck to the wall. 100 club, Roxy, Ronnie Scotts etc.

Peter Fairless… Went to some dodgy, some good clubs in London. Some were very dodgy but very good! Can’t remember all the names but most of those listed above.

Steve Gage… My mate Ray was a bouncer at Samanthas where are you now mate??? 🙂

Mick O’Dowd… Went to The Q Club in Paddington after seeing James Brown at The Rainbow in the 70’s I think. JB turned up after we got there and jammed with the band. Awesome!

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Does anyone remember Battersea Fun Fair? asks Colin Bell

photo Stewart Townsend. Cover from the 2020 book. More details… https://joylandbooks.com/books_new/battersea-fun-fair.htm

Colin Bell… After recently watching the film, ‘The Day The Earth Caught Fire’ which featured lots of memories of Battersea Fun Fair, I wondered who else has memories of this fair?

Robert Carey… Worked right on Queenstown Roundabout in 60s and always over there. Great fun.

Paul Crimin… Sure do!

Steve Thorpe… Went there as a kid, I remember the high level walk through the trees and the water splash

Alan Esdaile… I remember going on The Rotor at Battersea funfair and probably about 9/10 years old. Excited to tell my mates at school and explaining it went really fast, then you got stuck to the wall when the floor disappeared. No one believed me!

Phil Little… Used to visit Battersea funfair when I first moved to London in 1972, it was one of the cheapest things to do.

Jane Hartley… I remember going as we had friends in South London, can’t be more specific though!

Colin Bell… The best thing for me was the Schweppes Grotto with its four caves ‘air’ ‘fire’ ‘earth’ and ‘water’ i’ll never forget crossing over the ‘molten lava’ in the fire cave, it was all magical for a 10 year old. The tree walk at night was amazing with its illuminated ‘dragons’ ‘pixies houses’ and animals etc. Then when you had seen all that next to it was the Guinness Clock with all its animations, a version of which came to Hastings seafront opposite the entrance to Robertson Street in the 1950’s. Different world but brings back so many happy memories in this grim time. Stay safe and well everyone x

Rick Pentecost… I went there a few times when I was very young. I loved it! Was there a Guinness Clock,- or did I imagine that?

Nicola Dobson… Yes my dad used to take me there..loved it and the roller coaster

Peter Houghton…My partner comes from Battersea And he used to ride the rides before the fun fair opened. And he used to work on some of the stalls + worked in the cafe there

Janet Horton… I had relatives in Middlesex at the time, it would be 1964 and I was 10. They took me to the fun fair, and I went in the grottos. Magic. It was funny at the time though, because I didn’t know you glowed purple and this woman came walking towards me. I thought she was a ghost, lol. Then she said, look at your own clothes and I was glowing purple. I remember it so well, we all laughed about it for ages.

G Tatton… In reply to Colin Bell, Yes I do 1969, School trip for a week in London.
Last night was spent at Battersea fun fair. My favourite was the motor boats three times on them. There was a governor on them below the accelerator, needless to say I wound mine down on one of them. We were under orders not to use the big dipper, because of our age. I’m watching , “Up The Junction” at the moment with Susan Kendal. The movie is from 1968. All about Battersea.

Dennis Torrance… Used to go there a lot late sixties with mates apart from the Big Dipper remember the gondola ride with mates there holding on tight to boat then seeing the walls go around we all cracked up lol

Charmaine Bourton… Yes I remember Battersea Funfair = a treat for good behaviour! Two of the girls who were injured in the 1972 Big Dipper accident went to my school Ravensboure School for Girls in Bromley. I remember seeing one in hospital on “News at 10” and the other was very seriously injured but survived.

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing The Glitter Band: The Complete Singles Collection, 3CD Digipak

THE COMPLETE SINGLES COLLECTION  The Glitter Band

Memories  of 1973 come flooding back, For a good part of that year yours truly was on tour with these guys and their erstwhile ‘leader’.  Here for the first time in this new 3CD set are all the chart singles, some rare 45’s, the 1989 re-worked ‘Angel Face’ (not available on CD before) and a live performance recorded at The Marquee in 1985. For those who like a bit of history. When ‘Rock & Roll Parts 1 & 2’ was a surprise hit in 1972 for G.G. the records producer Mike Leander needed a touring band for live gigs. He parachuted in an already established bunch of guys who were then working as The Boston Showband. After a few shuffles and being known initially as The Glittermen they settled down to a stable line-up as The Glitter Band. The line-up was John Rossall (trombone & the bands musical director), Gerry Shephard (lead guitar & vocals), John Springate (bass & vocals), Harvey Ellison (saxophone), & keeping thumping tight time at the back the twin drummers Tony Leonard & Pete Phipps. It was the twin drum’s combined with Gerry’s glitter ‘Star’ guitar with its unorthodox multi-octave tuning that became the signature sound of the band. I think most people assumed the band played on the GG hits but they didn’t (other than John & Harvey sometimes contributing to the brass section), they were recorded by Mike Leander (&GG) in the studio doing all the parts. By 1973 the band wanted to write & record their own records. They approached Leander who agreed & signed them to a separate deal with Bell Records, (GG’s) label. They hit the ground running with their first single ‘Angel Face’ a number 4 hit (outselling GG’s latest offering). Over the next 2 years the band stacked up another half a dozen hits ‘Just For You’, ‘Lets Get Together Again’, ‘Goodbye My Love’, ‘The Tears I Cried’, ‘Love In The Sun’ & finally ‘People Like You & People Like Me’. Then in came Punk sweeping away the Glam acts. The band left Bell in 1976 for CBS where their debut single ‘Lay Your Love On Me’ dropped their signature sound & opted for a more pop/harmony approach, A clutch of singles followed but none troubled the charts. From then on the band would shift to smaller labels and the members would split into 2 ‘GlitterBand’s, one led by Gerry & Pete, and the other by John Rossall. The usual split ups, re-unions and legal wrangling over the right to use the Glitter Band name all ensued as the years ticked by. However the loyal fanbase remained and the various incarnations were welcomed with enthusiasm across Europe, Germany as ever being a faithful audience. And it’s that ‘live’ experience that for my money is the real winner in this new release. The 3rd CD in the set catches the band on fine form at The Marquee. Inevitably kicking off with the trademark ‘heys’ & beats of ‘Rock & Roll Part 2’ followed by the bands re-working of The Exciters ‘Tell Him’ (once proposed as a single). However rather than choosing to make it a ‘greatest hits’ set the band opt amongst other numbers to instead cover (& well) 2 Who tracks ‘The Kids Are Alright’ with some blistering guitar work before segueing neatly into ‘Substitute’ with some good solid drums by Pete. There follows a rather strange choice with the old soul classic ‘Stay With Me’ which whilst it could never match the original the band make a pretty fair fist of it with a neat guitar solo. Closing the set with their biggest hit ‘Angel Face’ & the natural final number ‘Goodbye My Love’ there’s no doubt the guys were clearly still greatly enjoying themselves. Sadly Gerry & Harvey are no longer with us. Gerry passed away aged just 51 in 2003 & Harvey in 2017, As i said at the start i have some very fond memories of the guys back at the height of Glitter mania & listening to this new compilation a lot have flooded back. As ever the packaging & accompanying booklet from 7T’s Records is great quality and a worthy addition to their ‘Complete’ series. Enjoy.

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

Mick O’Dowd… Memories of playing footie on the lawn at Alexander Park when the Glitter Over England tour stopped here for the Hastings Carnival night gig. Nice bunch of guys!

Mick Turner… That was when Gary Glitter was the Leader of the band, did it not rain that evening and he kept playing. I know he was prat but his music was good.

Colin Bell… Yes it did rain, i was compering the gig and we were all concerned as we’d built the stage of scaffolding we and him would get electrocuted or struck by the lightning that evening. In the light of later events (none of which any of us were aware of at the time) it might have been a good thing….

Mick O’Dowd… True Colin, me & Chris Gentry slept in an old caravan backstage the night before as security and it had the mother of all storms and kept us awake. It did rain on the day as well and I watched from under the stage!

Daryl Perkins… I loved this band!!!

Pete Prescott… I played one gig with Pete Phipps years ago. Nice guy. I was warned too not mention his old boss. I didn’t.

Tim Phillips… Thanks for posting Alan . Very informative. Many many years ago 1973 some of us from Ryes Boys Club dressed up as the glitter band on the back of a lorry . Always liked there tunes . It’s such a shame cover Bands do not play any GG or glitter bands tunes due to GG unforgivable behaviour.

Derek Johnson… Pete did an album of his own a couple of years ago. Not sure how it did. Really nice guy, always has time to talk, I last saw him in the sports centre a couple of years ago.

Willie Wicking..

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Tony Ham… John Rossall’s Glitter Band played The Con Club in Lewes last year.

Stuart Moir… We the old (Centre Page) supported them on Hastings Pier, I remember Revie Stockdale walked into their dressing room after they came off stage and the Glitter man was sat down on a sofa and looked about ninety.

Factory & Effigy – Clive Vale Annexe. Fri 7th May 1971 & YMCA review 13th August 1971

Supplied by Jon McCallion

Andy Qunta… Ah! Good times!

Phil Gill… I was there, probably with young Carey, Meachen and Shirley, as they labelled us at school. Sarah Harvey might have enjoyed the evening too.

Sarah Harvey…. I did indeed Phil and I had. completely forgotten about Effigy and to be honest cannot remember seeing them at all other than a vague memory that I didn’t think much of them. Factory as ever were THE band of Hastings at the time.

Chris Baker… Hah! Flight of the Rat was one of my “Flashy” solos! Those were the days! We only did a few gigs.

Phil Gill… As I recall Chris, you showed me how to play the pedal note riff from Flight of the Rat, one night at an Effigy rehearsal that Roger Carey and I attended. Was it School Road in Ore? Roger was buying Iain Cobby’s speaker cabinet and we came along to look at it.

Brigitte Lee… Where was Clive Vale Annex?

Chris Baker… Ha! Phil! My arthritic old fingers can’t play it so fast these days! Fun to so though. Still got that analog Park Fuzzbox too and the old Hofner!

Geoff Peckham… I remember we (Factory) were really impressed with Effigy. Didn’t they do a couple of other Deep Purple covers? Speed King, and Child in Time? According to Andy’s diary we played with them twice in 1971. May 7th at Priory Road School. Andy said that school gigs have been “…really great. This was no exception. Bit of trouble from old ladies and police about the noise but never mind. Effigy supported (or did we support them?) – not bad for their first gig.” The second was at the YMCA on August 13th. Andy mentions the awful acoustics and that “Effigy (with Tom) supported.” Could that have been the legendary Tom Jones? (The one from Stoke, not S. Wales!)

Phil Gill… And Steve’s drumming was *never* too loud. End of.

John Wilde…. Tom Jones, any info on his history or where he is now?

Geoff Peckham…. I got to know Tom in ’69 when his dad had an electrical shop in Western Rd, Bexhill. He told me stories about being in a pre-Black Sabbath band called Horny Moon (!) and other tales. He was a great character and raconteur. Like you, he had great stage presence – a great blues singer and harpist. He moved back to Stoke, and around 73-74 turned up at a Factory gig in NE Staffs University. I think he put us up for the night. Haven’t seen him since. Anyone else know anything? Be good to see you again sometime.

Alan Esdaile…yes it was School Road Ore where the rehearsals took place, in the old church hall which was full of antiques and clobber and the band squeezed somehow in the middle. I think their was a giant stuff bear but maybe wrong? Geoff Peckham date is correct as Friday 7th May 1971. Clive Vale Annex was part of Priory Road School and the gig took place at Clive Vale. Jon McCallion sung with Effigy at this gig and glad you remembered Tom Jones. I got a review somewhere which I will post on the YMCA gig shortly.

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

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

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

Till next time, stay safe…Colin

 

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Oberon: A Midsummer’s Night Dream, 2CD Deluxe Edition

A MIDSUMMER’S NIGHT DREAM    Oberon (2CD Deluxe Edition)
The end of the 60’s & early 70’s saw many a release by bands for the first time financing themselves and producing albums that were privately pressed in very limited numbers and given away in the main to family and friends, or in some cases as a sprat to catch a mackerel and interest a major label. Maybe the most well known of these is 1972’s Mellow Candle with their Swaddling Songs album. By the 1990’s record collector’s were laying out extraordinary sums of money for these obscure pieces of vinyl, sometimes running well into 4 figure sums. The early 70’s in particular saw the emergence of a genre that would become known as ‘progressive folk’ or ‘acid progressive folk’ and in a little town just outside of Oxford  at Radley College a bunch of public schoolfriends came together and organised by leading member Henry Gunn they eventually became Oberon. All the members brought their own influences to the party. They had all sat around listening to music separately and together and enjoyed many artistes from The Who to Jethro Tull, King Crimson, Sandy Denny, Pentangle etc. It was to be the acoustic and electrified folk that made the biggest impression on the band. With all the enthusiasm of youth they decided to make an album and started to rehearse in a classroom after term had ended, all of them could play instruments and for some vocal balance and harmonies they also drafted in a young woman friend Jan Scrimgeour from outside the school. The album was duly recorded in the very classroom they rehearsed in. The finished record had 8 tracks, a mix of original and cover songs. The first track opening the album is the ethereal, medieval sounding ‘Nottamun Town’, a traditional American folk song that had appeared on Fairport Conventions 1969 ‘What We Did On Our Holidays’ album. This sets out their stall as a band in the ‘progressive folk’ mould. It’s practically impossible to discern what the lyrics are but you don’t care as it’s the ‘feel’ of the piece that hooks you with it’s melancholy flute and string arrangement and the liturgical style voices that quietly mesmerise you. This is followed by the gentle instrumental ‘Peggy’ which has the feel of a long forgotten madrigal. Next up comes the very adventurous, musically speaking, ‘The Hunt’ a kaleidoscope of musical idea’s and lyrics that twists and turns through it’s pagan/gypsy/electric path, making little sense but again it’s of no matter, it’s just all rather simply glorious in feel over its near enough 9 minute length. The accompanying booklet to this release reproduces the lyrics and ‘The Hunt’ makes for some ‘interesting’ reading. Following on from ‘The Hunt’ is the short instrumental ‘Syrinx’ before the second cover song arrives in the shape of that old standard ‘Summertime’ that in this incarnation wavers from Tull like flourishes to free style jazz and again is a rewarding listen. Track 6 is Time Past, Time Come, another instrumental that is probably the most accomplished and best conceived track on the album, its haunting, beautiful and timeless (no pun intended).  Track 7  ‘Minas Tirith’ named after the city in Tolkeins ‘Lord Of The Rings’ was originally  to be the centrepiece of the album set around Tolkeins words, however copyright issues saw that off and it was re-imagined, leaving just the title. Starting out as a semi-sung/spoken folk tale it morphs into Tull like territory once again with its fine flute flights, however it’s the drum solo which comes in that’s so unexpected that grabs the attention, i wasn’t expecting that! It’s an epic piece. Things comes to a close fittingly with ‘Epitaph’ the eighth and final track a pean to an old schoolfriend who had tragically died at a very young age leaving a profound impact on the band. This being a deluxe package we are also treated to a second disc of Oberon in concert recorded some 3 months before the album which features tracks from the forthcoming album and a cracking opening version of ‘Scarborough Fair’. The quality of the recording is very good and the band sound on top form with an appreciative audience. Until i received this package for review the delights of Oberon were unknown to me. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them. I can imagine the idyllic Oxford countryside in the year 1971 when all of life was spread before them, they may have made just this one excursion into the music industry but Oberon certainly merit their place in history. Thank you to David Wells and Grapefruit Records for the introduction. Enjoy.
for more information go to https://www.cherryred.co.uk  Til next time……..stay safe……Colin

 

Pop All Niter – Black Widow, Casuals, Voodoo Chile, Martyn James Expression and Colin Bell Disco Show. Hastings Pier 20th August 1971

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Mick ODowd… Was that the same Casuals that hit with Jesamine? If so they are a strange addition to a “heavy” bill.

Jan Warren… yes, I remember this track and included on a compilation double album called “Fill your head with Rock” which I used to have!!

Den Bray… Oh dear…

Colin Bell… So, this was what i was doing 39 years ago on this day. I had to glue the night together with one of the strangest line ups. from lightweight pop band The Casuals (Jesamine) to ‘satanic rockers’ Black Widow, who needed a volunteer ‘virgin’ for their ‘sacrifice’ on stage, i politely told them they were asking the wrong person….

Conan Howard… was that not truly awful? what utter rubbish

Gerry Dawson… was roadie for Voodoo Chile, best Hendrix tribute band ever, note for note…..

Alan Esdaile… tickets were available from someone called Carlton in Warrior Square. Maybe the promoter?

 

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Harpers Bizarre: Come To The Sunshine – The Complete Warner Brothers Recordings, 4CD Box Set

COME TO THE SUNSHINE : The Complete Warner Brothers Recordings (4CD)   Harpers Bizarre

This new box set from e’l Records brings together the original 4 albums recorded by Harpers Bizarre between 1967 & 1969, They are ‘Feelin’ Groovy’, ‘Anything Goes’, ‘The Secret Life Of Harpers Bizarre’ & ‘Harpers Bizarre 4′. The band were from California and grew out of an earlier outfit The Tiki’s. In 1967 Warners record executive & producer Lenny Waronker heard Paul Simon’s 59th Bridge Street Song (Feelin’ Groovy) and developed a passion to turn it into a hit single. The main 2 guys from The Tiki’s Ted Templeman & Dick Scoppettone together with major musicians from the famous LA session guys ‘The Wrecking Crew’ went into the studio & fulfilled that mission, emerging with the desired hit with ‘Feelin’ Groovy’. With a name change to Harpers Bizarre (a play on words of the famous fashion mag) they were on their way to major success with their blend of sunshine/baroque pop. I’ve written previously of my love of the genre of baroque pop. If you’re not acquainted with the term it’s basically a form of music that flourished for a brief 2 or 3 years between 1966 & 1969. It’s distinguished by its inclusion of orchestral instruments fused with conventional guitar/drum line-up’s. Added to lyrics that are usually, but not always, about the mystic & ethereal side of life. It can really be traced back to The Beatles & the release of ‘Rubber Soul’ & in particular the track ‘In My Life’ with its use of harpsichord as a main instrument (actually it was a studio engineered piano) but the harpsichord would become a staple & much favoured instrument of the bands that created the new genre, The other influence on Baroque was the multi-layered vocals & harmonies which the Beach Boys & their seminal ‘Pet Sound’s album were the major exponents of. This fusion created classics like the original ‘Walk Away Renee’ by The Left Banke. Harpers Bizarre were however probably the ultimate purveyors of this new genre. The debut album ‘Feelin Groovy’ was perfectly timed to cash in on the single and was a big seller rising to 13 on the Billboard Hot 100. Apart from its catchy title song it featured a wide range of the bright & unexpected from the show tune of Oscar Hammerstein’s ‘Happy Talk’ to a treatment of Prokofiev’s ‘Peter & The Wolf’ to the offbeat compositions of Randy Newman represented here by his ‘Simon Smith & His Amazing Dancing Bear’ (to be honest a track i’ve always loathed) by whoever performs it. More talent surrounds the album with tracks being produced by a young Van Dyke Parks. who had of course been working with Brian Wilson, so the harmonies link is clear. Plus a nascent Leon Russell also getting into his arranging/producing stride. The second album ‘Anything Goes’ again named after the second hit single of the same name build’s on and extends the foundations laid down by ‘Feelin Groovy’, it’s another kaleidoscope of sounds with songs by Cole Porter, original material by the band & another contribution with ‘Snow’ from Randy Newman. The album feels altogether more well thought out and it’s certainly ambitious in its orchestrations and arrangements & is more polished than its predecessor. By the time of the release of the 3rd album ‘The Secret Life Of Harpers Bizarre’ in 1968 the formula was well established. This time though it didn’t yield another big hit single. It managed a minor one with ‘The Battle Of New Orleans’, a song probably better known here in the UK through Lonnie Donegans hit version. This time around the ‘classic’ composers are represented by George & Ira Gershwin with ‘I’ll Build A Stairway To Paradise’, the band’s own compositions really come into their own with numbers like ‘Green Apple Tree’ & ‘Mad’ and there is a rather good sped up version of the Ivy Leagues classic ‘Funny How Love Can Be’. Future Carpenters hit songwriter Paul Williams also weighs in with ‘The Drifter’ a delightful light & airy piece. The 4th & final album in the box set ‘Harpers Bizarre 4’ released in 1969 is maybe the most diverse with treatments of soul classics like ‘Knock On Wood’ & ‘Hard To Handle’ to Lennon/McCartneys ‘Blackbird’ & all climaxing with John Denvers ‘Leaving On A Jet Plane’. It also contains the bands Ted Templemans best original material in my opinion. I did feel however that by the time i reached Disc 4 the stream of beautifully crafted compositions had reached a surfeit, a bit like having too much ice cream or candy floss in one go. I think it would be a better approach to leave a little time between listening to each album to derive the maximum enjoyment.  Overall though i thoroughly enjoyed getting re-acquainted with a favourite genre played & arranged by masters of the art. It would have been nice to have the collection housed in a sturdy clamshell box rather than a slipcase, but that’s a minor niggle, the accompanying booklet is well produced with a wealth of information. If you need to chill (and who doesn’t in these times) this is a splendid way to do it. Enjoy.

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