SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Beyond The Pale Horizon – The British Progressive Pop Sounds Of 1972, 3CD Box Set Various Artists

BEYOND THE PALE HORIZON   The British Progressive Pop Sounds of 1972  (3CD Set)

I always look forward to the latest compilation from Grapefruit Records and as ever this one doesn’t disappoint. Focusing on a narrow slice of time in this case just 1 year as the title proclaims could result with scratching around to find enough good material to fill 3 CD’s and over 4 hours of listening. Happilly this is not the case here. There is plenty to enjoy ranging from well known names to the obscure and tracks that haven’t seen the light of day previously. The jumping off point for choosing to feature 1972 is predicated on the compilers belief that was the year that art rock darlings Roxy Music pioneered a new musical movement that finally left the 60’s firmly behind and created the first genuine ‘new’ music. I have some sympathy with that point of view and i can see where the premise holds water. So what and who do we have? Well, Disc1 kicks off with a much beloved underground band, trying to be a bit more commercial in Van Der Graaf Generator with ‘Theme One’ before segueing into the aforementioned art rockers Roxy Music with their debut hit ‘Virginia Plain’, followed by another classic with Argents ‘Hold Your Head Up’ a very good start. Many more delights follow,  the highlights for me being ‘The Very First Clown’ by Shape Of The Rain whose excellent and long neglected album i reviewed last year. The Move weigh in with one of my favourite tracks of theirs in ‘Do Ya’ and great to see Nazareth, a severely underrated band in my view putting in an appearance with ‘Fool About You’. Elsewhere on Disc 1 you can find the sublime Byzantium, college favourites Stackridge, plus Caravan, The Moody Blues, Glam rockers Mott The Hoople with Honaloochie Boogie, a nice change from the over compiled ‘All The Young Dudes’ plus some nuggets from the likes of Pagliaro, Open Road & Eddie Hardin. Other big hitters include Yes, The Strawbs & a slice of Slade. Disc2 gets off in fine style with the album version of ELO’s ‘10538 Overture’ followed by one of my very favourite Free tracks with ‘Little Bit Of Love’, i’ve always loved the vocals & drums hugely. There are many tracks new to me and a joy to discover including offerings by bands, Tuesday, Silverhead, Pluto & Cold Turkey. Mainstream acts are well represented by Family with ‘Burlesque’ (Roger Chapman at his best), The Bonzo’s ‘King Of Scurf’, Uriah Heep ‘Traveller In Time’ (another favourite), Medicine Head & Lindisfarne with the glorious ‘All Fall Down’.  Surprises come in the shape of obscure tracks by the unlikely inclusion of The Troggs & White Plains, the latter was a real surprise to me. Disc3 Again opens with a classic Thin Lizzys ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ swiftly followed by Status Quo having dumped their psychedelic pop for the boogie rock of ‘Paper Plane’. 3 bands turn up on this disc that i have long forgotten but am delighted to be reminded of in the shape of Trapeze, Andromeda & Jade Warrior, i used to listen to the latter a lot back in the day.  There are again new names (to me) to discover such as Atlantis, Hobbit & Hard Stuff & more familar well known names such as Hawkwind, with the inevitable ‘Time Machine’, Roy Wood, Kevin Coyne & Curved Air. Running to 65 tracks this compilation will keep you interested over its 4 hour length as you weave between the comfortably familiar and the ‘what was that’?! As ever the accompanying 40 page booklet is superb, packed with info and images and the whole compilation comes packed in a sturdy clamshell box denoting the quality we have come to expect and receive from Grapefruit Records. All in all it’s reminded me what a good year 1972 was. Mission accomplished. Enjoy.

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

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

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

 

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell. Reviewing Oh! You Pretty Things: Glam Queens And Street Urchins 1970-76: 3CD Various Artists

Oh! You Pretty Things: Glam Queens & Street Urchins 1970-76 (3CD set)   Various Artists

So here is the latest in Grapefruit Records ever excellent series of themed 3CD box sets. It is very rare that i quote from a Press Release, but on this occasion….’We focus on the twin central strands of Glam Rock: the cerebral and the visceral’ Ok we’ll see about that and also the other claim of examining the link between the ‘seedy’ played out London scene of the early 70’s and it’s comparison with the underbelly of New York of the same period.  CD 1 gets off on a ‘cerebral’ foot with Roxy Music & their follow up to debut hit ‘Virginia Plain’ in the shape of ‘Pyjamarama’ whose delights i must confess to having forgotten but it’s a pleasant reminder of 1973 for this reviewer. Next up is ELO and here i must question what they are doing here?, i really don’t see them as any part of ‘Glam’ and the choice of Ma-Ma-Ma-Belle is jarring being without doubt the ‘heaviest’ rock track the band ever recorded. It is however certainly ‘visceral’.  Anyway a small niggle. Much more suited to the albums theme are the likes of Be Bop Deluxe, Sparks, Heavy Metal Kids, Blackfoot Sue & Mick Ronson who as well as featuring in his own right with the track ‘White Light, White Heat’ Mick is to be found alongside Mott The Hoople’s ex frontman Ian Hunter with ‘Once Bitten Twice Shy’ taken from one of my all time favourite albums 1975’s ‘You’re Never Alone With A Schizophrenic’ (Best album title ever). Dana Gillespie’s ‘Andy Warhol’ & The Hollywood Brats ‘Tumble With Me’ are suitably camp & sleazy respectively. On to CD2 which opens with another well loved track of mine with everybody’s favourite Glam rockers Slade and the anthemic ‘Take Me Bak’Ome’, although Mr Holder has never cared for the ‘Glam’ label. Other big names, albeit with lesser known tracks featured are Curved Air, Bryan Ferry, Iggy & The Stooges’ & Lou Reed with ‘Satellite Of Love’. There are some rare delights to be had with Tim Curry’s ‘ Sweet Transvestite’ & Wayne County’s ‘Queenage Baby’, an artist i have always enjoyed as Wayne or Jayne. Another band i have a lot of time for Third World War also weigh in with ‘Rat Crawl’ and the rather clever inclusion of an unexpected Trogg’s track ‘Strange Movies’ is welcome. The CD closes with Sweet at their best bridging the gap between the pop of Chinnichap & their move to self written material with one of their greatest singles ‘The Sixteens’. CD3 plunges us straight into the New York scene with the primary, and yes again ‘visceral’ New York Dolls and ‘Personality Crisis’. This of all the 3 discs contains the mostly undiscovered gems from some rarely heard bands such as The Winkies, Bullfrog, Hard Stuff & a band i confess i’ve never heard of by the name of Fumble with their very individual take on ‘Not Fade Away’ which is somewhat glorious in a surreal sort of way! Of the bigger and well known names to be found are The Strawbs, Leo Sayer, Mott The Hoople & another crowd pleaser The Sensational Alex Harvey Band with the 7 minute wonder that is ‘The Last Of The Teenage Idols’ which i’ve always thought was a real tour-de-force of a song. At 66 tracks there is plenty to explore in this compilation and if you were around the first time to witness the likes of Bowie and all the androgynous acts that followed in his & The New York Dolls footsteps you will enjoy this latest collection enormously. As ever the 3CD’s come housed in a sturdy clamshell box with an accompanying well written 40 page booklet. Grapefruit Records remain the current masters of the themed compilation market. Enjoy.

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

Til next time…..stay safe………Colin

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Sumer Is Icumen In: The Pagan Sound of British & Irish Folk 1966-1975 – Various Artists, 3CD

SUMER IS ICUMEN IN: THE PAGAN SOUND OF BRITISH & IRISH FOLK 1966-1975 Various  (3CD Set)

The latest excellent Grapefruit Records lovingly curated set is a long awaited follow up to their 2015 offering ‘Dust On The Nettles’, which was very warmly received and praised at the time. I have to say that although i enjoy a lot of the music contained here, it is not my area of expertise and i wouldn’t pretend to be knowledgeable about the genre, and therefore for once i will quote heavily from the better informed and of course offer my own opinion. All that said i think the title is self explanatory and you know what you’re in for. A voyage through an era in music history when traditional folk collided with the counter culture sounds of the late 60’s and early 70’s. The ‘Pagan’ aspect came about through a remark from legendary Folk stalwart Martin Carthy of Steeleye Span who said back then ‘the whole scene had a strong pagan feel, dark and elemental’. He was referring to other bands like Comus, Dr Strangely Strange and The Third Ear Band, the last band would perform with the ancient order of Druids, typically at dawn solstice ceremonies at places like Glastonbury Tor. Third Ear Band kick off Disc1 of the set with ‘Lark Rise’ a number i am familiar with however it’s the next track that conjures up a mixture of emotions in me and as soon as i hear it i am transported back to a cinema in 1973 and the terrifying image of The Wicker Man. ‘Corn Riggs’ by Magnet is one of the haunting songs from the film that has always stayed with me. Magnet weren’t actually a ‘real’ band like the others on this compilation they were a bunch of musicians assembled to provide the soundtrack to the film, however they capture the spirit of the ‘Pagan’ sound and vibe perfectly and anybody that’s seen the film that i have spoken to always refers to the music with a sort of hushed reverence. Moving on, other standout tracks on Disc1 number amongst them Traffic with ‘John Barleycorn’ Vulcan’s Hammer ‘The Keys Of Canterbury’, Kevin Coyne ‘White Horse’ & the unknown to me previously Amber with ‘ Swan In The Evening’. Disc2 starts with a ‘classic’ of the genre Fairport Conventions ‘Tam Lim’ a cornerstone of their live performances i have heard many times over the years. Bridget St John who i must confess i had forgotten about over the years joins the party with ‘Lizard Long Tongue Boy’, and again i am also familiar with Comus offering ‘The Bite’.  Dr Strangely Strange, a band much championed by John Peel give us ‘Strings In The Earth & Air’ and an old friend of mines favourite band  Principal Edward’s Magic Theatre weigh in with ‘Autumn Lady Dancing Song’. These are just a few of the highlights. Disc3  is probably the most accessible to those of you yet to be exposed to this genre with the more established Pentangle ‘Cruel Sister’, The Incredible String Band ‘Witches Hat’, Curver Air ‘Elfin Boy’ Mellow Candle ‘The Poet & The Witch’. Mellow Candle were a fabled Irish band who released one album on Deram ‘Swaddling Songs’ from which this track is taken. If you can find an original vinyl copy of that you could probably swop it for a Porche……..The disc concludes with a track from Mr Fox ‘Mendle’ a husband & wife team who along with another husband & wife duo Dave & Toni Arthur were devotees of self styled ‘King Of The Witches’ Alex Sanders, who many local people may know lived here in Hastings back in the day. A man who i once had a rather big falling out with when i rightly called him a charlatan in a local pub…(a whole other story). So in conclusion if you are into folklore, May Day, The Green Man legend, fairies, corn gods and magickal tales this 3CD set with 60 tracks (over 4 hours) and as ever a highly informative 40 page booklet is definitely for you. As i said at the start this may not be my area of expertise or knowledge but it’s been a thoroughly enjoyable experience getting acquainted with. Enjoy.

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

Til next time…….stay safe……..Colin

 

 

Graham Sherrington… personally I like Capercaillie

 

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Bubblerock Is Here To Stay! The British Pop Explosion 1970-73, Various Artists 3CD

BUBBLEROCK IS HERE TO STAY – The British Pop Explosion 1970-73   Various Artists 3CD Set

Well i guess the clue is in the title. Grapefruit Records latest 3CD set delves into the mostly pop candyfloss, i.e. consume and forget, pop records that were ubiquitous in the early 70’s. Pop & Rock had by now gone their separate ways, with serious bands getting…well serious, whilst a legion of pop bands old & new released a slew of what the Americans dubbed ‘Bubblegum’ on their side of the pond. They had The Archies, Cuff Links, Crazy Elephant etc. We hit back with our own home made ‘Bubblerock’. So what earned an entry into this genre? Simple 3 minute melodic lightweight hooky radio friendly songs in the main. Certain labels like RCA, Bell, & Mickie Most’s RAK label specialised in having teams of writers hammering out numbers chiefly aimed at the pocket money generation of 11-14 year olds. Early champions were the nascent Sweet & Mud. This new compilation however digs deeper into the rubble and unearth’s some long forgotten nuggets alongside the more familiar. Disc1 cracks off with the oft compiled ‘Groovin With Mr Bloe’ and serves up more well known names with Pickettywitch, Blue Mink, Marmalade, Lieutenant Pigeon & Hotlegs (10cc) but it’s the unfamiliar and the forgotten that provides the fun, like ‘I Fought The Law’ by Posse, ‘Alexandra Park’ by Fumble & the notorious at the time St. Cecelia ‘Leap Up & Down (Wave Your Knickers in The Air) a record actually loved and championed by the late great DJ Jimmy Young who played it regularly on his Radio 2 show. But when it comes to ‘novelty’ pop the undisputed champion is without doubt Jonathan King and his UK Records label. Whatever we may now think of King on a personal level, he was/is a genius for coming up with ‘studio bands’ with (usually) daft names and scoring massive hits. Amongst the more well known here are The Piglets ‘Johnny Reggae’ kicking off Disc2. A record that surprisingly didn’t get banned (if you study the lyrics), i’ll return to King in a moment, Disc2 also sports big names Sweet, Tremeloes, Mungo Jerry & White Plains. and again a host of also rans in Jungle Jim, Peter Cowap, Tina Harvey with a take on The Stones ‘Have You Seen Your Mother Baby’ and Kim’s younger brother Ricky Wilde. But let’s return to White Plains with their entry of ‘When You Are A King’ a record that is vastly superior to some of those i’ve mentioned. It’s a superbly crafted and indeed complex song, what’s it doing here? Then i had a thought David Wells who is the label boss and compiles these releases could be having an ‘in’ joke with this one. As previously mentioned you will find tracks by Jonathan King scattered throughout under different names and guises. Is David asking us to guess which tracks they are by asking ‘When You Are A King’?! Or is that just a random idea of my own? Well either way i’m not going to name all the tracks in question, that way everybody can play along! Disc3 starts with a rather wonderful version of Elvis’s ‘Suspicion’ by the loony ex Bonzo member Vivian Stanshall and again features name acts in David Essex, Bay City Rollers, Middle Of The Road, Peter Skellern & Kenny. There are some strong runners up in Butterscotch with ‘Don’t You Know’, B J Arnau ‘I Want To Go Back There Again’ (she appeared in the Bond film Live & Let Die as a nightclub singer) & Fickle Pickle ‘California Calling’. I was disappointed with the last choice as Fickle Pickle did an amazing version of McCartneys ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ which would have been good to have on here. As ever the packaging and accompanying booklet are first class and in the case of the booklet very informative and will give you the answers to all those ‘fictitious” bands i mentioned earlier. For those that collect the, lost, obscure, novelty and downright wacky side of 70’s pop this will go down a treat, for others it may be a case of too much candyfloss. Enjoy.

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

Til next time………………stay safe….Colin

 

Louis Wiggett… I have the Kincade album, not bad in places.

Mick O’Dowd… Agghh… Leap Up & Down…. What a classic?

Paul Gray… I’ve ordered this and really looking forward to hearing stuff I haven’t heard for 50 years! Grapefruit Records do some fantastic compilations very lovingly put together.

Colin Bell… Excellent Paul, enjoy!

Mick O’Dowd… I am coming out (We know a song about that don’t we children?) No not what you think. I am publically admitting to liking this sort of music. Novelty songs, Bubblegum (Kassenetz Katz where are you? Crazy Elephant). Have to try and get hold of a copy.

Colin Bell… We’ll share the ridicule of our peers together mate

 

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

RILEY RILEY WOOD & WAGGETT    Shape Of The Rain
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…er..man. 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 https://www.cherryred.co.uk

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.

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Looking Through A Glass Onion – The Beatles Psychedelic Songbook 1966-72, Various Artists, 3CD

LOOKING THROUGH A GLASS ONION (The Beatles Psychedelic Songbook 1966-72)   Various Artists

What a great concept this 3CD set is, congratulations all at Grapefruit Records. Right from the first Beatles album issued other bands rushed to make cover versions of their songs and make a quick buck. Remember ‘Girl’ St Louis Union’ & ‘Michelle’ The Overlanders for instance, But as The Beatles became ever more experimental with ‘Rubber Soul’, ‘Revolver’ & of course ‘St. Pepper an increasing number of bands also experimenting with their own sounds started making all sorts of covers in a myriad of styles. This new collection focuses on the psyche/rock/baroque/ efforts of the established and newcomers alike. Kicking the whole proceedings off on Disc1 is Camel turning ‘Mystery Tour’ into a prog rock 6 minute opus, a great start. But it’s track2 Deep Purple’s version of ‘Help’ that makes cpmplete sense of the compilations title. Deep Purple deliver ‘Help’ very much in Vanilla Fudge style all heavy and ponderous and equally wonderful. So not only do you peel back the layers (like an onion) of a bands take on The Beatles original you are also peeling back the Vanilla Fudge approach by Deep Purple! That makes it sound complicated but its not, its very playful and a source of delight throughout the whole 3CD set. You not only get to hear all the different takes of the original songs, there being some 68 tracks there are some songs covered by more than one artist. Thus you can also have the fun and enjoyment of comparing for instance ‘I Am The Walrus’ by Affinity, Spooky Tooth, Lol Coxhill & Octopus. This all makes for a huge amount of listening pleasure and in a lot of cases a voyage of discovery unearthing bands i’ve never heard of amongst the more familiar names to be found. But never fear you will not be left in the dark about a band that’s completely unfamiliar to you, Accompanying is a superb 40 page booklet with mini-biogs on each track, as someone who writes in a similar fashion i stand in awe of the author’s (David Wells) knowledge and research. I’d love to have the space to write and indeed the time to guide you through every track, but that not being possible here are some personal highlights. Disc1 the aforementioned Deep Purple ‘Hush’ Affinity ‘I Am The Walrus’ Kippington Lodge ‘In My Life’ ‘Sounds Nice ‘Flying’ & Orange Bicycle (a band i’ve worked with several times) ‘You Never Give Me Your Money/Carry That Weight. Alongside these you will find more well known tracks by The Tremeloes, The Hollies & Cliff Bennett & The Rebel Rousers. Disc2 Spooky Tooth ‘I Am The Walrus’ The Frugal Sound ‘Norwegian Wood’ The Majority ‘A Hard Days Night’ Bo Street Runners ‘Drive My Car’ familiar names on this disc include Plastic Penny, Big Jim Sullivan, Don Fardon, Stone The Crows & The Shadows. Disc3 Jason Crest (again a localish band i’ve worked with) ‘Come Together’ Affinity ‘A Day In The Life’ The Eyes ‘Good Day Sunshine’ The Ice ‘Day Tripper’, again more familiar names include Circus, The Sorrows, Hardin & York, Tomorrow & finishing the whole collection off the one and only Dame Vera Lynn! Could the list get more eclectic! Running to nearly 4 hours its incredibly good value for your money too. With things being the way they are at present we are missing out on ‘live’ events and locally we have of course had our treasured Beatles Day in the past, a shared event we all miss. This package gives you the opportunity to have your very own ‘Beatles Day’ in the comfort of your own home savouring all these different bands playing your favourite fab four songs. When i was writing my syndicated newspaper column i used to grade new releases 1 – 5 stars, a practice i eventually dropped. Was i still grading i would, with no hesitation whatsoever give this the full 5 stars. Seldom have i had as much fun stepping through the looking glass and discovering so many gems as i have done here. Stay safe everyone. Enjoy.

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

Til next time…………………Colin

 

Colin Bell… I forgot to mention when i wrote the review there will be a new 2CD collection of local band (Tonbridge) Jason Crest released in the next few weeks, First time ALL their recordings in one package. They played Hastings Pier and other local venues in the late 60’s early 70’s. I’ll review the comp in due course. Take care everyone.

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Belfast Gypsies: Them Belfast Gypsies CD

BELFAST GYPSIES: THEM BELFAST GYPSIES CD

Ok, let’s clear up the title and band of this release before we progress any further. At first glance of the album cover it would be taken for granted this is an early album by Belfast r’n’b band THEM and its entitled ‘Belfast Gypsies’ given their look etc. NO. The whole saga of this release is told in a superb and comprehensive essay over 16 pages by the label boss David Wells to whom i take my (metaphorical) hat off.

It is a tale, typical in many respects of the 60’s, of dodgy managers, greedy Record Companies and a whole host of ‘shifty’ characters that swim around the shark infested waters of the music industry. It is a very interesting story particularly for those of us on the inside, however to keep things relatively simple….think of this album as a Them album minus Van Morrison containing members of the original band. The use of the ‘THEM’ lettering is a cynical Record Company ploy (then, not now!) to appeal and catch the eye of fans of the original Van Morrison led band. So to sum up the release is called Them Belfast Gypsies all in one sentence. The album was recorded in May & June 1966 in London and Copenhagen after the departure of Van for America. Lead vocals were taken by Pat (aka) John McAuley, a quick snatch of which could be mistaken for Van the Man, but not for long, Pat/John has a more nasally/raucous/frenzied delivery than his ex bandmate. The album kicks off with Gloria’s Dream which is basically a re-tread of hit single ‘Gloria’ but nevertheless a good rollicking slice of r’n’b. Followed by a rather good mid-tempo bluesy track ‘The Crazy World Inside Me’ which leads on to the harmonica driven rocker ‘Midnight Train’. Things then take a peculiar turn with a neo classical piece ‘Aria Of The Fallen Angels’ before returning to familiar territory with a cover of the Dylan standard ‘Its All Over Now Baby Blue’. Then we are off once again into strange realms with the freakbeat/Bo Diddley influenced ‘People Let’s Freak Out’ before once again returning to solid ground with a  good version of the much covered John Lee Hooker classic ‘Boom Boom’. More bluesy organ drenched sounds follow on the lyrically strange ‘The Last Will And Testament’ before we are hit with a cover of Donovan’s ‘Hey Gyp’. If you have read this far you are probably, like me, thinking along the lines of this sounds totally schizophrenic as an album. Well, yes and no, after repeated listenings it does seem to strangely hang together in a curious way. In my opinion the mix of discordant tracks can be laid at the feet of Kim Fowley, whenever i hear that name my hackles rise. Fowley was an American Record Producer/singer/songwriter who was active in America and London (amongst other locations) from 1960 through to the 21st century. According to your point of view he was either a maverick genius or a meddling hustler in many a bands career. I met him once at a party in Bayswater given by Dave a sound engineer friend of mine. Fowley was responsible for this album. By the time it was issued in Sweden & The Netherlands only, in 1967, the band had already broken up, disillusioned and broke and indeed ignorant of its release at all! This new release put together by Grapefruit Records has the original 12 tracks plus a bonus 9 all newly remastered and sounding excellent and is without doubt the definitive edition and restores some integrity to the shabby treatment of the band and its place in music history. If earthy early r’n’b & blues is your thing there is much here to enjoy.

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

Til next time, stay safe and well everyone………

Colin

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Try A Little Sunshine -The British Psychedelic Sounds of 1969 Various Artists 3cd set

TRY A LITTLE SUNSHINE-The British Psychedelic Sounds of 1969    Various Artists
This is the latest instalment in the excellent Grapefruit Records series of late 60’s compilations, see other Smart Sounds earlier reviews for the others. As ever the presentation is superb 3 CD’s in cardboard sleeves housed in a strong clamshell box with a 44 page booklet. All the booklets in this series have been informative but I have to say this made me aware of musicians I knew of, but not all the permutations of bands they had moved through, a really interesting read. So to the music, all 72 tracks of it! I think calling this set ‘psychedelic’ is a tad of a misnomer, although psyche sounds do abound, experimental may be a better description but no matter.
Kicking off with the song that gives the collection its title by The Factory (not to be confused with our very own local Factory) ‘Try A Little Sunshine’ is certainly a definite ‘psyche’ number with its snarling guitar which sounds like it could have been recorded by the Electric Prunes in 1967 at the height of psychedelia, a great start. Followed by obscure band SHY LIMBS with a Hammond drenched mid tempo number owing a lot to Procol Harum but very good in its own right. Indeed Procol Harum crop up at track 16 with the epic ‘Salty Dog’ which as I aforementioned is not considered psyche but was certainly  experimental and led the way along with other bands into the transition that became rock music as opposed to pop music. Throughout this collection there is a smattering of big ‘names’ albeit with lesser known tracks ‘The Move’, ‘Spencer Davis Group’ ‘Status Quo’ and ‘Barclay James Harvest’ to name a few. However its the obscure and long forgotten that make this a treasure trove of delights to listen to Wild Silk ‘Vision in a Plaster Sky’ and Consortium’s ‘The Day the Train Never Came’ are two brilliant examples on Disc 1, Consortium did manage to have a minor hit (top thirty) with a personal favourite ‘All the Love in the World’ (not contained here). Disc 2 is also full of delights from the excellent Fleur De Lys ‘Liar’ (the musicians that also played on Ruperts People’s Reflections of Charles Brown) to Dave Davies ‘Creeping Jean’, Ralph McTells ‘Summer Came Along’, the ever excellent Grapefruit with ‘Deep Water’ and personal favourites Nirvana ‘It Happened Two Sundays Ago’ ( a duo I have written extensively about in previous reviews), are just some of the highlights. Disc 3 opens with some personal vivid memories for this reviewer as I supported this band 3 or 4 times, the last being at Staplecross if memory serves, its the wonderful Jason Crest (from Tonbridge) with the occult laden ‘Black Mass’ ( a song that their record company Philips thought ‘distasteful’! immediately making it interesting to us (then) young guns! Certainly brought the era back in all its glory. Following this and by coincidence another band i’d worked with in the shape of Orange Bicycle and  ‘Last Cloud Home’, a band that made some of the best harmony pop songs ever with a distinctive feel. And speaking of harmony pop also on this disc is Tony Rivers in the shape of Harmony Grass ‘What A Groovy Day’ another class act. The Spectrum. The Deviants, The Onyx all deliver some great tracks. And then there’s Status Quo with their ‘pop psyche’ take on the old Everly Brothers ‘The Price of Love’ the single that bridged the gap between their hippy period and their next incarnation with ‘Down The Dustpipe’. So overall a broad ranging compliation, beautifully remastered and full of hidden gems to savour and enjoy. Well done again Grapefruit Records! Enjoy.
For more information go to… https://www.cherryred.co.uk
Til next time……….. Colin

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRv-jAMh5Wg

Dave Nattress… Nice article. Was getting well into Psychedelica by then, but never seen these albums. “All the love in the World” by Consortium, a personal old pop favourite of mine too. Used to have the single but it’s long lost. I saw them play the De La Warr in Bexhill once at a “Beat Rave” – would have been 1969. Th track can be found on the www – you tube etc.