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

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

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

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

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

 

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

THE DEFINITIVE COLLECTION   ROSE ROYCE  (3CD)

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

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

Til next time…..stay safe…..Colin

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

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

 

 

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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Ez Allen with Colin Bell DJ’s – Vacuum Generators 14th May 1971

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Ez Allen with Colin Bell at the back. Vacuum Generators 14th May 1971 supporting Alamo.

Samuel Freeman…. It was a good night

Colin Bell… Bloody hell! Haven’t seen this before! Where did the years go….

Andy Knight… I just love that pic, where are they now?

Alan Esdaile… Great hair!

Geordie plus Bitch or Moonstone?? and Colin Bell – Hastings Pier 26th October 1973

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poster supplied by Mick Mepham

Pete Prescott….after Brian Johnston left the reformed Geordie to join ac/dc i was briefly in the band that struggled to continue (with a different name – the DUDES ) they tried terry slesser from crawler.i replaced him.i recorded three tracks with them at Luxembourg studios.they wanted me to re locate to newcastle.i couldn’t do that.nice guys.

Yvonne Cleland….Great band, Geordie! Saw them on the pier! it was a good gig!

Pete Fairless….The best Slade record Slade never made!

Pete Prescott….i sang love if you want it another night in the city and the last one escapes me.i think i have the versions of terry slesser singing them as well as mine.brian sang nutbush city limit at the ac/dc audition and got the job instantly.i was told he is a nice guy.

Andy Qunta…..singer of Geordie was Brian Johnson, who later joined AC/DC, and still with them now! After Factory’s gig with them in Torquay, I met him in the motorway services Gent’s (accidentally, not pre-arranged, before your minds start working overtime!). He was very flustered! He had been driving their truck, it was one of those where the cab tipped forward to get to the engine. After checking the oil or something, apparently the cab wasn’t locked properly, so when he got to some traffic lights, the whole cab tipped forward, and he was properly freaked out! Geordie almost lost his liggy!

Peter Howard… I know one of Bitch

Colin Bell… Always handy to know what i was doing 48 years ago tonight! I remember Brian (Johnson) being a really nice guy, sadly i don’t remember Bitch.

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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Ruperts People with Santos Morados – Hastings Pier 14th April 1968

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poster Andre Palfrey-Martin Collection.  autographs supplied by Colin Bell

Mick O’Dowd….Best known for “Whiter Shade of Pale”-like tune Reflections of Charles Brown. Have their CD which is pretty good to.

Wendy Wells… I remember this gig as an almost 16 year old. Had a crush on Steve from Santos Morados. If I remember rightly we exchanged addresses and wrote a couple of times, but never saw each other again. I’m sure I have the bands autographs somewhere and those of Rupert’s People. Happy Days.

Alan Esdaile… Can’t find much about Santos Morados but they did have a single on Island Records.

Andre Martin… well I never that takes me back many years

 

The Magic World of Ruperts People Album & rare video ‘I Can Show You’.

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supplied by Colin Bell

A great write up from Colin, that should interest people from Hastings.

Andy Qunta…. Thanks for the great write-up, Colin, and thanks for posting, Alan

Mick Mepham… Reflections sounds just like Procul Harum ……

Mick O’Dowd… Ditto Mick. That was my fave and I always said it was a poor mans Whiter Shade..

Georgie Fame & Alan Price & compere Colin Bell – White Rock Pavilion 28th October 1973

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supplied by Sarah Harvey

Alan Esdaile… Can you remember who the support was Colin?

Matt Thomas… Probably played one of my favourite tunes ‘Rosetta’ 

Mick O’Dowd… Remember working on this one. I think it may have been Martin-Casson only gig at White Rock.

Colin Bell… I can’t be absolutely certain but I think they were called ‘Highway’, I remember the actual night very well as they were a heavyish rock band and the audience hated them! I should add that it wasn’t because Highway were bad far from it, it was just not what the audience were expecting as a support act, I liked them! The late Paul Casson and I hid in the bar til the second half when F & P did their set. Fortunately the night then ended well! Not the best night to be compere, especially in my home town..lol..Also backstage it was clear F & P didn’t get on, they arrived separately didn’t speak a word to each other and left separately without a word. On stage together chemistry, offstage………Ah the memories!..