SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Arthur Brown: Dance, Expanded and Remastered CD Edition


As soon as I hear Arthurs name I cannot escape smiling. When I first went to work in London in 1968 I made what would become a lifelong friend who worked at Track Records in Soho. Over the following years I was in and out of the office in Soho on many occasions. Track’s main artistes were The Who and Jimi Hendrix and then there was Arthur….I was privileged to hear the tracks he recorded, before they were released, for what became the album ‘The Crazy World of Artur Brown’ and the unsuccessful single ‘Devils Grip’ which still remains a personal favourite to this day. The album contained the record that is synonymous with Arthur, which is of course ‘Fire’ and will live on as his legacy forever. A large majority of people never looked past that era and this strange apparition who regularly set fire to his hair! For those that stuck with Arthur, many happy and bizarre experiences on vinyl were to come and reward them with some of probably the most eclectic music ever heard. After the implosion of ‘The Crazy World’ in 1969 Arthur worked with a variety of musicians that made up his Kingdom Come band which released 3 albums of wildly experimental music starting with 1971’s ‘Galactic Zoo Disaster’ and ending in 1973 with ‘Journey’. Arthur intended the 3 albums to form an arc starting with the present state of humankind, moving through the human animal itself and exploring body and mind and concluding with  focussing on the cosmic and spiritual matters that affect us. The avant-garde nature of these albums won him many new admirers and an equal number who thought it was, well…rubbish. If you’ve listened to the albums you will have made up your own mind. Musically they were notable for the prominent use of synthesisers, Mellotron & that strange instrument the Theremin. Kingdom Come never officially disbanded they just sort of withered gradually away, dogged by a combination of the ongoing disdain shown towards them by the music press and poor sales making them commercially unviable. After a couple of years had gone by Arthur returned in 1975 with the subject of this review, his solo album ‘Dance’. This new release by Esoteric Records presents the album remastered (very well) and on top of the original 11 tracks they have included an additional 6 bonus tracks recorded for a BBC Radio 1 ‘In Concert’ recorded in April 1975 to promote it’s original release. In typical Arthur style its gestation was, as ever, with him, a bizarre set of circumstances. He decided to make what was basically a ‘World Music’ album, before that even became a term. The idea was to gather dance styles from around the world and commit the results to vinyl. With this idea in his head Arthur approached none other than Stevie Wonder (backstage at a London concert) to produce it. After the 2 guys held hands in silence for several minutes Stevie agreed to produce. Then Arthur trotted off to Steve Winwoods house in search of a keyboard player…as you would naturally! Steve also agreed to appear on the proposed record. Full of enthusiasm Arthur returned to his record label (Gull Records) in high excitement to announce his success. Unfortunately, as was often the case in his career, Arthur had overlooked some pertinent details, such as the fact that Gull Records were a small label with limited resources and the 2 Stevie’s came with rather large price tags!…..Undeterred, the album still went ahead, albeit in a somewhat less grandiose manner with the help of a bunch of musicians including ex members of ‘The Crazy World’ and Kingdom Come. Depending on your point of view the result was 11 disparate tracks that are either together a glorious mess or simply just glorious….I’m in the latter camp for my sins. From the opening track with Arthur covering The Animals ‘Weve Gotta Get Outta This Place’ set to a heavy disco beat! it’s a wild ride through a mix of tracks covering the marvellous dramatic mid tempo ballad that is ‘Helen With The Sun’ where Arthurs extraordinary vocal prowess soars as only he can & which he contrasts with soft spoken tones. And it is that unique voice that towers above whatever genre Arthur chooses to turn to & on Dance that varies from disco to rock, soul, reggae & synth pop. The albums title track ‘Dance’ is i think quite majestic in the way in which it builds. It’s also a reminder of where Bruce Dickinson adopted his vocal style from (by Bruce’s own admission). Following on from ‘Dance’ is Arthur’s cover of The Stones/Chris Farlowe classic track ‘Out Of Time’ which I don’t think works as well as The Animals cover, but is certainly interesting, i love the horns on it and it bears fruit with repeated listens. The original album comes to a close with track 11 ‘Is There Nothing Beyond God’ a strangely hypnotic composition which boils down to really just a 2 & a half minute repetitive chant. The aforementioned bonus tracks follow & demonstrate what I & anyone else that has seen Arthur perform live can attest to, he can really cut it with that God given voice…or should that be the ‘God of Hellfire’ voice!…This new package comes in a digipack complete with an informative and, for me, highly amusing booklet, setting out the story of the album. Now here’s the man himself…Enjoy.

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


Mick O’Dowd… Saw him at The Pilot Field when he was still fairly unknown(to me anyway). Give Him A Flower!

Colin Bell… Remember it well, some girls randomly painted flowers all over my face!

Pete Prescott… Fascinating!

Alan Esdaile… Yes his group Kingdom Come wasn’t to everyone’s taste but I got the compilation album ‘The Lost Ears’ and has some great tracks and also loved his performances on Hastings Pier.

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Frijid Pink: The Deram Recordings 1970-1971, 2CD Remastered Edition

FRIJID PINK       The Deram Recordings 1970-1971  (2CD)

I’ve been looking forward to this 2CD set from Esoteric Records containing the 2 albums they released on Decca’s ‘progressive’ offshoot label Deram back in 1970 & 1971. Both albums have been re-mastered sympathetically I’m pleased to say & sound great. The band from Detroit will always be known for their 1970 psychedelic rock re-working of traditional song ‘House of the Rising Sun’ using the template recorded by The Animals 5 years previously in 1964. By the time Frijid Pink released their version in early 1970 a lot had changed in the intervening years. Psychedelia had come & gone (almost),  R&B had evolved, Rock & Pop were splitting in different directions & Prog Rock was on the rise. In many ways Frijid Pink were late to the party with their blend of psyche rock & blues & in other ways were on trend with the way rock was evolving. Sadly,  they have long been written off as that ‘one hit wonder’ band with the fuzz driven ‘Sun’ single.  Detroit has always been known mainly for Motown, however it also had a thriving rock scene where ‘Pink’ would share the stage with the likes of The MC5 & The Amboy Dukes. Their self-titled debut album released in February 1970 which forms the first disc in this new set was never bettered by them in my opinion. Comprising 9 tracks, plus the addition of 2 bonus tracks for this release. It is a far more cohesive collection of psyche rock/blues than their subsequent albums. It kicks off in fine style with ‘God Gave Me You’ a melodic rocker that was to have been their debut single before being pulled in favour of issuing ‘Sun’ which although more commercial i think ‘GGMY’ would have probably fared well. Track 2 ‘Crying Shame’ heavilu features the fuzz toned overdriven guitar sound the band would become known for & rocks hard with some driving drums. Track 3 ‘I’m On Mt Way’ switches gears to deliver a fast driving blues number which doesn’t seem out of place or jar with the preceding tracks. Followed by Track 4 ‘Drivin’ Blues’ which continues the vibe in the same vein. Track 5 ‘Tell Me Why’ seamlessly switches back to the emphasis on a hard rocking fuzz laden mid tempo rocker which showcases their distinctive sound. Track 6 lands us back in a rock/blues mix, complete with some excellent drum work on ‘End of the Line’ Track 7 needs no introduction it’s their signature song & Top 10 version of ‘House of the Rising Sun’. Track 8 ‘I Want To Be Your Lover’ delivers more uptempo blues/rock with a fine lead vocal from Tom Beaudry (aka Kelly Green) & more fine drum work from Rick Stevers. The final Track 9 ‘Boozin Blues’ is a laid back number which wouldn’t sound out of place in a John Mayall set with some fine little blues licks tinged with a hint of fuzz & some nifty piano & closes the album in fine style. All in all a very satisfying album & thoroughly enjoyable. Then we come to the 2 ‘bonus tracks’. The final one, Track 11 ‘Music For The People’ which was released as a single the following year in March 1971 is really rather good with its Gospel choir backing, Hammond organ & fine central vocal performance on a mid tempo ballad. The problem for me comes with the preceding Track 10, where the band obviously hoping to repeat the success of ‘Sun’ picked another classic song to re-vamp, in this case ‘Heartbreak Hotel’. An unwise move, frankly it’s a mess, with its clunky mix of Jerry Lee Lewis piano, screaming vocal & overwrought guitar. Somebody should have stepped in & said let’s forget this, but that didn’t happen & I’m not the least surprised it sank without trace. I would love to say Disc2 in this new compilation lives up to Disc1 but in my estimation it just doesn’t. Released only 5 months after their debut album, which seems hasty to saythe least, ‘Defrosted’ featured here in this new release with it’s original 8 tracks plus an additional 4 bonus tracks lacks the cohesion that made the debut album a great listen. It kicks off with some promise with opener ‘Black Lace’ a heavy rock number, with a bluesy element that promises much but ultimately becomes, dare i say it, somewhat mundane. Track 2 ‘Sing A Song of Freedom’ , which although it doesn’t say so here, I’m fairly sure got a single release, is better & harks back to their superior material on Disc1. Track3 ‘I’ll Never Be Lonely’ sounds like the composer has been spending his time listening to ‘Whiter Shade of Pale’ on repeat, let’s just say it’s derivative. The remaining 5 tracks are a hotch potch of numbers, none of which really hang together & do nothing to dispel the lack of any defined direction. I really wish i could be more enthusiastic but by the time i reached instrumental ‘Sloony’ I’m sad to say my interest had waned considerably. However, there is one shining moment that redeems Disc2 & that is the inclusion (as one of the bonus tracks) of ‘We’re Gonna Be There’. Now thereby hangs a tale. Back in 1971 when i was writing my ‘Top Sounds’ column for local newspaper the Hastings Observer i raved about this particular track in my column of Saturday July 10th 1971 when it was then titled ‘When Johnny Comes Marchin Home’ (the  famous old Civil War song). The band had taken the song & like ‘Sun’ put their unique spin on it to great effect. And if any of their single releases was ever going to repeat the success of ‘Sun’ this was the one. Years later i was looking for the track to play on a radio show only to find the band had re-christened it ‘We’re Gonna Be There’ a play on the original lyrics of ‘Johnny’. And cheekilly given themselves a writing credit! Not sure how they got away with that, however I’ve always loved it whatever! I’m thinking maybe I’ll record ‘Rule Brittania’ & call it ‘Rule the Waves’ & grab a writing credit….no probably best not!… In conclusion Frijid Pink have always ranked well in my estimation, especially, as discussed above, for that first album & how many bands can say that Led Zepplin opened for them in Detroit? Frijid Pink can! That & the psychedelic ‘Sun’ bestows everlasting immortality on them. Enjoy.

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Til next time….stay well….Colin

Lloyd Johnson… Great record!…

Alan Esdaile… Still sounds great.

Nick Bloomfield… Well, I’m ashamed to say that I’d never heard of this band and I absolutely love this cover!

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

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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 Strawbs – Deadlines (2CD/1DVD) Remastered/Expanded Edition

DEADLINES : Strawbs (2CD/1DVD)  Remastered/Expanded Edition
Firstly the issuer of this release Esoteric Records have done a masterful job (as usual) with the presentation of this set. Housed in a sturdy glossy clamshell box, inside containing 3 discs with individual artwork, a replica Tour flyer/poster and a booklet. Disc 1 contains the original album plus 11 bonus tracks. Disc 2 contains 11 tracks live from their concert at the Golders Green Hippodrome recorded on 18th February 1978 for BBC’s ‘Sight and Sound’ programme. Disc 3 is a DVD (all region) of the aforementioned ‘Sight and Sound’ beautifully remastered in…well..’Sight and Sound’! available here for the first time. The Strawbs originally formed in 1964 by Dave Cousins as a bluegrass band had by the 70’s moved through Folk, Folk/Rock, Prog Rock and had pop/rock hits memorably with ‘Lay Down’ in 1973 (a personal all time favourite’). By the time they recorded ‘Deadlines’ their last album of the 70’s they were all but done. Their previous album ‘Burning For You’ ended with ‘Goodbye Is Not An Easy Word To Say’ intended by Dave as his farewell song to the band. Lets remember that 1977 was the height of Punk and all that came with it, bands like the Strawbs, Yes, Asia, ELP etc etc were considered irrelevant dinosaurs and derided by the Punk movement. However management somehow convinced Dave to carry on. So it was that he took a flight to New York to meet with Clive Davis music mogul and founder of Arista Records. An unlikely label one would think known mainly (at that time) for its pop sensibilities with acts like The Bay City Rollers, David Cassidy, Gary Glitter, Dawn etc. However a deal was done with an enthusiastic Davis and ‘Deadlines’ was the result. As it turned out it would be the only album for Arista. Largely ignored by the Press on release and to a degree the record buying public it became the ‘lost’ Strawbs album. Did it deserve it? an emphatic No! The line up for ‘Deadlines’ consisted of Dave Cousins (acoustic guitar/vocals), Dave Lambert (electric guitar/vocals), Chas Cronk (Bass), Tony Fernandez (Drums) and new arrival Andy Richards (keyboards/moog etc). Recorded in Dublin and Air Studios London all nine tracks written by Cousins, Lambert and Cronk the finished album did in fact have a lick of Arista about it as the band moved at times to almost pop powerballadry. Kicking off with a stormer ‘No Return’ (an ironic title given the closing title of the previous album!) with the lead vocal taken by Dave Lambert as opposed to Cousins, great driving riffs and some electrifying keyboard wizardry by Andy shown to stunning effect on the live DVD (there’s another Andy (Q!) known to us all that would surely rate this) Track 2 ‘Joey and Me’ another uptempo catchy cut also features some impressive keyboards. Track 3 ‘Sealed With a Traitors Kiss’ is a heartfelt ballad and is a beautiful gem. Space precludes a run down on every single track but two other tracks standout ‘The Last Report’ becomes an earworm after one listening and ‘Deadly Nightshade’ is a pure madrigal winner. Disc 2 as mentioned is the live ‘Sight and Sound’ concert audio. Disc 3 is the DVD of said concert with the same tracks in the same running order and for me is the jewel in this package. Mixing old favourites with tracks from ‘Deadlines’ its a great and nostalgic watch and joy of joys blasts off with a spirited ‘Lay Down’ what more could you ask for! If you’re a Strawbs fan I urge you to watch this you won’t be disappointed. An excellent package, more please Esoteric! Enjoy.
Til next time…………Colin


Andy Qunta… Great review, Colin!

Neil Partrick… really interesting article, Colin.