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

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

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

to catch up on Colin’s previous SMART SOUNDS reviews …

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

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

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


Mastins and double decker bus

supplied by Colin Bell

and possibly Dawn & Dorset Laundry van behind?

Richard Porter… My Father in law’s roundabout

Ann Scott… Dawn & Dorset van behind the bus

Stuart Moir… Fountain Hastings seafront

Sue Strong… I remember the great Christmas grottos at Mastins

Jane Hartley… Sue, the best ever.

Ralph Town… Lovely Atlantean

Tracy Birrell… I do! I also worked as a Telephonist/Receptionist at The Dawn and Dorset Laundry in the 70’s.

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Ain’t Nothing But A House Party – 60s and Early 70s Club Soul Classics, 3CD Set Various Artists


Calling all Soul, Motown & Northern Soul fans. This brand-new compilation from the excellent Strawberry Records is a must have treat. 3CD’s running to 89 tracks, providing hours of great listening & if you’re so inclined, non-stop dancing around your living room. It struck me that this small (in overall size) package would have enabled me to do a whole DJ gig back in the day when i first started out gigging from club to club, all over the South of England. I could have saved all that energy i spent lugging crates of vinyl up and down the many flights of stairs that always seemed to exist where i was booked! Now of course that can be reduced even further to a small stick inserted into a laptop. But let’s forget all the technology as this compilation returns you to the days of sweaty dancefloors, filled by crowds dancing to the strains of the artists contained here on those 7inch pieces of vinyl. As one might expect from the compilation’s title the whole collection starts off with an irresistible burst of energy from The Showstoppers that gives rise to the compilations title ‘Aint Nothing But A Houseparty’. There surely can’t be many DJs from my era that didn’t hammer that track to death. Its infectious atmosphere was perfect in setting the tone on the dancefloor & opening the way for many great tunes to follow. And that is exactly what is going on here. ‘Shirley Ellis ‘Soul Time’ Marvin Gaye ‘Can I Get A Witness’ Edwin Starr ‘Agent Double O Soul’ The Temptations ‘Girl’ The Contours ‘Just A Little Misunderstanding’ Sam & Dave ‘You Don’t Know Like I Know’ the classics keep on coming on Disc1. Big names abound like the aforementioned, together with more classics from Booker T. Jnr Walker, Martha & the Vandellas, Rufus Thomas, Wilson Pickett & so many more, And i might add often not the usual common compiled tracks, but some real golden nuggets of songs I’ve forgotten over the years but am delighted to get re-acquainted with. It’s great to also see the likes of the lesser-known names, many of whom were picked up by the Northern Soul crowd, represented here by those such as Darrell Banks, Darrow Fletcher. The Astors & Tony Clarke, some real gems.  I’m particularly pleased to see a couple of tracks from artistes that i believe don’t see enough exposure in compilations, Solomon Burke & the wonderful Johnny Otis. CD2 kicks off with perennial favourite ‘Move on Up’ another sure-fire floor filler, from the late Curtis Mayfield, before again like Disc1 bringing on more big guns in the shape of Dobie Grey, The Four Tops, The Velvelettes. Otis Redding, The O’Jays. the glorious Chairmen of the Board & Freda Payne to name but a few. Three of my all-time favourite tracks are to be found on this disc, R Dean Taylor with classic ‘Ghost in my House’ (although it must be noted this is an alternate take) The Drifters ‘One Way Love’ a track that was a big hit for Cliff Bennett & the Rebel Rousers in the mid 60’s but i have always much preferred this version & Robert Knight with ‘Love on a Mountain Top’ whose original recording of ‘Everlasting Love’ gave The Love Affair their enduring hit in 1968. Other notable mentions go to tracks from Homer Banks, Chuck Wood, The Falcons & Bobby Wells. Disc3 differs a little from its predecessors at the start with the inclusion of some unexpected tracks from Little Richard & Madeline Bell with ‘Get Down With It’ & ‘I Really Got Carried Away’ respectively. In my head Little Richard signals Rock & Roll to me rather than Soul, however it does actually slot in to the running order rather well here. Again, i associate Madeline with more pop orientated material in general, however this soul stomper is well chosen. I was amused to see 2 of the greatest live acts of the 60’s nestling side by side on tracks 7 & 8. Jimmy James & the Vagabonds ‘Hi Diddley Dee Dum’ followed by Geno Washington & the Ram Jam Band with ‘I’ve Been Hurt By Love’. I’ve known both guys forever & they have always been fierce competitors for best live soul act with both putting on brilliant shows. I love both dearly & have spent many happy hours in their company. These 2 tracks are followed by the evergreen ‘Beggin’ by Timebox, which despite playing it myself a thousand times at a thousand gigs over the years i still don’t tire of. Other excellent sides come from The Alan Bown Set (such an underrated act) The Foundations, Wynder K Frog & Major Lance. More obscure delights are provided by less familiar names Kenny Bernard (clearly a Northern Soul number), Jason Knight, Lorraine Silver, Sugar Simone & a host of others. Great to also see old friend Carl ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ Douglas getting a look in with the seldom heard ‘Crazy Feeling’ displaying his soul credentials on this early 1966 cut. The whole compilation comes to a close with another old favourite of mine ‘Loving on the Losing Side’ by Tommy Hunt whose long career stretches all the way back to 1959. Tommy is a big favourite with the Northern Soul crowd & I’m delighted to say is still with us as he reaches his 90th year. As ever, space precludes me from mentioning every track but I’m confident you now have a good flavour of what’s in store for you on this excellent new compilation. It comes in a sturdy clamshell box & as always with a well-researched & written accompanying booklet with details on the artists & tracks included. This being the last album review of 2022 it just remains for me to say a few thanks. Firstly, to my friends at Cherry Red Records & all their different stable of labels that have provided all the great material we have listened to this year. Special thanks to Matt for keeping me supplied & for his enthusiasm. Thanks to Alan & SMART for all his hard work transcribing these reviews. And finally, & most importantly, to all you readers who have left feedback & often kind comments through the SMART website & FB page. I thank you all. God willing, as long as my brain & fingers are still working! I’ll see you in 2023 for more great music. Until then take care, stay safe & well…..Colin x

for more information go to



Mick O’Dowd… Worked with them in the 80’s at Pebbles Night Club. Great band!An Absolute gem Colin! The tracks of my Mod years and more! In the words of Hot Chocolate, “Everyone’s a Winner!

Alan Esdaile… I never got to see them but great single and always a floor filler.

Jim Breeds… I promise you that non-stop dancing in my living room would be the end of me these days, so, by definition, it would stop!

Merv Kennard… Might have to add this to my collection at some stage.

Neil Cartwright… Great compilation. Reminds me of nights at Wigan Casino.

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Deep In The Woods – Pastoral Psychedelia & Funky Folk 1968-1975, 3CD Set Various Artists


If you go down to the woods today, you’re in for a big……compilation! Sorry guys i tried to resist that opening line but the temptation proved too much! On with the music now. Let’s firstly tackle the rather lengthy title of this new 3CD compilation from Strawberry Records. In a nutshell (no pun intended!) this is a collection of what I personally would refer to as Acid Folk (certainly in the main) a hybrid of traditional folk meeting electric experimental folk mixed in a cauldron of late 60’s early 70’s psychedelia with some sprinklings of jazz/funk. Confused? don’t be, it may all sound a bit bewildering but it’s really just a collection for those music lovers that like esoteric gems from the aforementioned time period. It’s not going to appeal to die-hard folk purists whose enjoyment comes mainly from traditional songs often just handed down orally from generation to generation & to whom electric guitars & various studio effects like phasing and flanging appear, heresey! There is an excellent essay on the whole folk/psyche/jazz movement written by Richard Norris that accompanies this release which goes into all the detail you could wish for and is very well written. I recognise roughly a third of the names in this collection. Cherry Red have certainly delved deep into their vaults to bring you the listener some real treasures. With 3 CD’s each running on average 77 mins each there is an awful lot to enjoy. 54 tracks in total. As space precludes me going track by track i have selected half a dozen examples from each CD to give you an overall flavour. CD1 gets us underway with ‘Leafy Lane’ a gentle slice of pastoral rock, reminiscent of something early Traffic might have produced. This is however by Fat Mattress, the band formed by Noel Redding who swapped his bass in the Jimi Hendrix Experience for some mellow guitar playing here, a good start. Of particular interest to some people i know will be reading this, are tracks 4 & 5 by Mike Hurst & Ray Fenwick respectively. Mike’s track ‘Face From The Past’ with its harpsichord intro is a mid to up-tempo number, rocky with some baroque psyche overtones & is very enjoyable, there’s a familiar riff in there which i recognise, just can’t quite grasp where from! Ray’s track ‘I Wanna Stay Here’ is right up my street with its heavily laden phasing (think Nirvana ‘Rainbow Chaser’) a great slice of laid-back psychedelia taken from his solo album Keep America Beautiful-Get A Haircut. Track 9 The Woods Band ‘Noisey’ take us for a really jaunty instrumental ride, the likes of which immediately reminds me of spending time in an Irish pub, no surprise as the band turn out to be Irish! very pleasing. Track 10 ‘Yorric’ by Welsh singer Meic Stevens is a wonderfully put together work of folk/psyche drenched in all manner of instruments with the sitar having a starring role. Great, absolutely love it. Track 11 is a surprising inclusion by Arrival (yes, the same band that had a hit with ‘Friends’) although the track ‘La Virra’ featured here is a long away from that. A jazzy piece, with organ & bass breaks, apart from a brief faint echo of a vocal its a brisk instrumental. As you can see already this really is a diverse album My last pick from CD1 is a band i have always been a fan of, Dando Shaft. They were signed to Miki Dallons Youngblood Records & i once had the pleasure of having a few bevvies with the guys back in the day when calling in to see Miki. The guys were often compared to Pentangle or The Incredible String Band. You can make up your own minds by listening to their track ‘Cold Wind’ as featured here at the end of this review. CD2 brings another mixed bag of delights featuring many artistes i confess to not being overly familiar with such as Chris Harwood, who opens proceedings with an ethereal piece called ‘Wooden Ships’. The Ghost, Second Hand, Fuschia & Amber again are all new to me with their very varied entries. Amongst the artistes i do know are the more well known acts Heron, Mellow Candle (if you’ve got an original vinyl album you’ve hit the jackpot!) Trader Horne, Trees, Keith Christmas & Bridget St John are all artistes whose work i do know. Sadly, despite John Peel’s many efforts to get me ‘into’ Bridget’s material…in all honesty i couldn’t. John formed his own Dandelion Records to release her work & she is i know highly regarded & is represented here by her track ‘Fly High’ i just personally find her slightly depressing, but as ever it would be a boring old world if we all liked the same thing as the saying goes. There is a great track by Global Village Trucking Company, the splendidly titled ‘The Inevitable Fate of Ms Danya Sox’ which isn’t quite as bizarre as it sounds, it’s got a really great groove. And finally, to CD3 which opens with a definite favourite for me with Sunforest ‘Magician In The Mountain’ a funky number to be sure. You might be wondering what the word ‘funk’ or ‘funky’ is doing appearing anywhere in this review of folk/psyche/rock numbers, well it should be remembered that a lot of the early bands in particular, drew their drummers from a pool of musicians that had started their careers playing jazz & came with experience of playing in a funky style. However, i digress, more familiar names crop up on this final CD in the set, such as Jade Warrior, Curtis Knight & more from Bridget. The wonderfully wacky ‘act’, well an ‘experience’ really! Principal Edwards Magic Theatre weigh in with ‘The Death of Don Quixote’ all 13 minutes of it, if you’ve never been exposed to them, you have a treat in store there! They are followed by 2, to my mind, unlikely inclusions. The first being Yvonne Elliman, who had a big hit with ‘I Don’t Know How To Love Him’ from Jesus Christ Superstar’. Here she is featured with a plaintive rather beautiful mid-tempo ballad named ‘Hawaii’ which conjures up pictures of the subject matter rather well. The compilation is brought to a close by the second of the unlikely inclusions, with Linda Lewis’s ‘Reach For The Truth’ from her 1972 album ‘Lark’ which if memory serves, was also released as a single together with’ Rock-A-Doodle-Doo’. It’s a great track if maybe just a little too ‘funky’ to gel with the other tracks on the compilation. Notwithstanding that it’s always good to hear Linda. She is a member of the SMART group, so Linda if you’re reading this, it’s been a while since we last spoke when i reviewed your album ‘Hampstead Days’. don’t be a stranger, send me a message & let me know what you’re doing! So, there we have it another great compilation to savour for aficionados of all things folk/psyche. The collection comes in a fold out digipack which when opened up book style the 2 facing pages form one of the most beautiful pieces of artwork i believe I’ve ever seen on a CD/Record cover, it’s stunning, capturing the spirit of the collection spot on, i could stare at it for hours and probably will. So, in conclusion to borrow a line from the aforementioned Linda & my favourite version of a particular song, do have a listen to this compilation it may be ‘surprisingly good for you’!. Enjoy.

For more information go to
Til next time….stay safe & well……Colin

Jim Breeds… Very interesting Colin. Thanks for the review. Sounds right up my street. However, I just invested in ‘Bert Jansch at the BBC’, a 4 LP set that comes with an additional 6 hours of download content, so I have plenty to listen to for a while!

Alan Esdaile… Great cover and interesting tracks.

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Julie Driscoll: 1969, Remastered Edition


1969    Julie Driscoll

I should imagine that the vast majority of people remember Julie for several reasons. Her undoubted beauty that shone even in an era of many beautiful faces. Her 1968 psychedelic No 5 hit ‘This Wheels on Fire’ with Brian Auger & the Trinity. Or you may go back earlier to her participation in Steampacket, the band formed by blues singer Long John Baldry in 1965, that famously included a young Rod Stewart. It also included Hammond maestro Brian Auger with whom Julie would break away with to form the aforementioned Trinity. By 1969 Julie had been touring relentlessly for 4 years & was tired. Tired of the double-edged sword of fame which having a hit like ‘This Wheels on Fire’ brought, but then ground you down relentlessly as you were called upon to endlessly & repeatedly perform it as well as looking a certain way, expected of you by Press & public alike. It was time for a change. A fresh beginning, or to quote the title of the opening track of her solo album ‘A New Awakening’.  After a final series of gigs with the band, Julie left the band for a solo career. For some time she had been writing her own material with the aid of an acoustic guitar. Encouraged by her manager Georgio Gomelsky who had successfully managed The Yardbirds & owned his own label Marmalade Records, Julie set to work on what would become her solo album, named simply after the year it was produced, 1969. Georgio introduced her to Keith Tippett a jazz orientated musician & another of his stable of artistes. It was to be a special coming together. Julie was very taken with the music Keith had written for his own debut album & after seeing him play at The Marquee was rightly convinced they would make a great partnership in shaping her material. They would also become husband and wife remaining so up until Keith sadly passed in 2020. The 2 literally locked themselves away for a night in Gomelsky’s office & worked on the 8 tracks that would form ‘1969’. From the aforementioned opening track ‘A New Awakening’ it’s very clear that here is a woman literally declaring her new future, it’s right there in the lyrics ‘Today I woke up to many things’ ‘My day began in long confusion’ ‘And then we talked, you understood’ ‘I even starting feeling good’. I have picked those lines randomly, but they say it all. Starting with some accomplished strumming from Julie ‘A New Awakening’ is a complex & exciting start to the album with some searing electric guitar work from journeyman guitarist Chris Spedding, punctuated with horns quite reminiscent of something you would hear from the likes of Blood, Sweat & Tears. By the time the track has finished all thought of the ‘albatross’ that was TWOF has disappeared in a seismic shift. Track 2, the haunting & beautiful ‘Those That We Love’ is a gentle, intricate number by contrast, yet still leading us firmly into new territory. Track 3 ‘Leaving It All Behind’ with a wonderful Oboe part is self explanatory in it’s title as we continue on Julie’s new journey of personal & musical discovery. It’s with the arrival of Track 4 ‘Break Out’ that all thoughts of her previous path are now well behind us. It’s a standout track, ‘It’s a long road, when do we reach our goal’ it asks in its opening line before moving into a melodic mid-tempo number which becomes quite mesmeric & dreamy, only to be shattered about 3 minutes in by one of the most striking swooping vocal parts I’ve ever experienced, quite extraordinary, there’s some great guitar work from Jim Cregan also in the mix. Track 5 ‘The Choice’ is again a title that says it all as Julie has a dialogue with herself that we can all relate to in our personal lives. It’s probably my favourite track on the album. Track 6 ‘Lullaby’ is just that, a soft & wistful song with some very appealing acoustic guitar from Julie overlaying a delicately delicious vocal. Track 7 ‘Walk Down’ we are now moving towards the end of our journey as Julie reminds us to ‘stay on the path that leads to our goal’, the musical arrangement by husband Keith is exemplary & i love the imagery & stunning quality of Julie’s vocal performance. Track 8 ‘I Nearly Forgot – But I Went Back’ draws the album to a close in fine fashion as Julie basically sums up what has gone before, with at times some, to my mind, allusions to a past psychedelic world. It’s been a treat & a fascinating listen, & one that i have thoroughly enjoyed, I will always love her previous work with Steampacket & Brian Auger, however if it came to repeated listening i would chose this album. In keeping with her new direction the album cover is plain with no picture of that beautiful face to distract one, a move that was surely deliberate. Esoteric Records have done a fine job with the remastering & the sound is excellent. It’s accompanied by an informative booklet, with a shortish essay & full musical credits & song lyrics. ‘1969’ was supposed to be released as it’s title suggests that same year. However due to the collapse of Marmalade Records didn’t see the light of day until 1971. It may be over 50 years old but it could have been made yesterday, it’s theme is eternal. Enjoy

For more information go to
Til next time….stay safe & well……Colin  

Mick O’Dowd… Unfortu natel never got to hear much of her myself after TWOF! She was an exceptional talent but again was totally overlooked. I believe that our own Tony Bird played with Brian Auger at one time. Correct me if i’m wrong Tony.

Reid McDuffie… She was my first crush…. remember her clearly grooving while Auger soloed manically. 1969 is a great record, I spin it often

Alan Esdaile… Remember hearing This Wheels On Fire for the first time and had to rush out and buy it. Impressed with the label ‘Marmalade’ which came in a purple cover and trippy logo, when most other labels were pretty plain. And then when I saw her on top of the pops, Wow!

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Climb Aboard My Roundabout! The British Toytown Sound 1967-1974, 3CD Box Set

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

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

Fore more information go to
Til next time…..stay safe & well…..Colin


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

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

Reid McDuffie… These Cherry Red compilations are bloody marvellous

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

For more information go to

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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!

Read more

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

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

for more information go to

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