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

BEACH BABY – THE COMPLETE RECORDINGS       The First Class
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 https://www.cherryred.co.uk
Til next time…..stay safe…..Colin

to catch up on Colin’s previous SMART SOUNDS reviews … https://ninebattles.com/category/colin-bell-smart-sounds/

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.

 

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 https://www.cherryred.co.uk
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

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.

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 Bubblerock Is Here To Stay Volume Two, The British Pop Explosion 1970-73, 3CD Set Various Artists

BUBBLEROCK IS HERE TO STAY: VOLUME TWO: THE BRITISH POP EXPLOSION 1970-73    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 https://www.cherryred.co.uk

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

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing John Carter: My World Fell Down – The John Carter Story, 4CD

JOHN CARTER    ‘My World Fell Down’ – The John Carter Story

If like me you are a big fan of harmony pop, then you will instantly know who John Carter is, if not, but however you grew up as i did in the 60’s you will know him, even if you think otherwise, through a myriad number of names and hit records. John is simply a legend. As a singer, writer, producer, arranger, engineer, he has few equals in pop music history. Over the years various compilations have been released focussing on different phases of his career. At last the excellent Grapefruit Records have managed to put together a pretty much definitive collection spanning John’s illustrious career spread over 4 CD’s boasting over 100 tracks. His story began in the late 50’s when schoolfriends John Shakespeare and Ken Hawker formed a skiffle band in their native Birmingham writing Buddy Holly type songs and gaining experience. In 1960 the duo made the pilgrimage to London and under their pseudonyms of John Carter (born Shakespeare) and Ken Lewis (Born Hawker) made the rounds and gained a management deal. The pair were convinced to form a band to showcase their material and the result was Carter-Lewis & The Southerners. Making a brief stint as their lead guitarist was the ubiquitous Jimmy Page. The band gigged extensively, including locally on Hastings Pier and The Witch Doctor. Although successful as a working band record success eluded them until 1964 when they met an engineer working at a record studio in Denmark Street by the name of Perry Ford. Noting the 3 men’s voices blended well together whilst making demo’s John got them signed to Pye Records and after a few false starts they saw their career take off, firstly when Herman’s Hermits recorded one of John & Ken’s songs ‘Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat’ taking the single all the way to No 2 in the US. It was also a minor hit in the UK for Goldie & The Gingerbreads. In 1965 after providing backing vocals on The Who’s debut hit ‘I Can’t Explain’ John, Ken & Perry now renamed as The Ivy League scored 2 massive hits with ‘Funny How Love Can Be’ & ‘Tossing And Turning’ and the rest as they say is history. And oh what a glorious history it’s been. Never particularly comfortable with performing in 1966 John took a back seat to concentrate on writing and production. His place in The Ivy league being taken by one Tony Burrows. John along with new song writing partner Geoff Stephens wrote the title track of this new Grapefruit compilation ‘My World Fell Down’ for The Ivy League, it’s wonderful complex and intricate harmony arrangement can now be viewed in retrospect as something of a template for what i and others consider his 2 greatest creations, the pop/psychedelic band The Flowerpot Men and Britain’s answer to The Beach Boys in the form of The First Class. Even when John stepped away from creating and was just doing a favour as vocalist for a fellow song writing friend (Geoff), he found himself at No 1 in the USA as the lead vocalist on The New Vaudeville’s Band ‘Winchester Cathedral’. In 1967 John and Ken formed their own production company (Sunny Records). From then on John would go on to create the aforementioned Flowerpot Men, The First Class, Stamford Bridge, Kincade and a plethora of other names the majority of which can be found on these 4 discs. His output has been to say at the very least prodigious. He even entered Eurovision territory writing Mary Hopkins second placed ‘Knock Knock Who’s There?’. As you can clearly see there is so much to John i could write a novel! But returning to this new release, on Disc1 you can follow his progress from the beginning with the early Carter Lewis offerings, The Ivy League. the demo’s for The New Vaudeville Band and ‘Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat’ amongst many others. Disc2 offers up (for me) his finest work with the impeccable Flowerpot Men and in particular ‘Let’s Go To San Francisco’ and happily it’s at last put together as one track instead of Parts 1 & 2 as it originally appeared, as separate A & B sides when first released back in 1967. And contrary to what seems to be popular belief over the years, it was John that sang the lead vocal NOT Tony Burrows! (he was on backing) and Tony performed in the touring band and on TV. This is followed by the equally glorious follow up single ‘Walk In The Sky’ and more less well known FPM cuts .You can also hear demo’s for what ultimately became hits for Herman’s Hermits in the shape of ‘Sunshine Girl’ and ‘My Sentimental Friend’ and a further extensive selection of other demo’s. Disc3 concentrates on more demo’s and various differently named offerings from John including a track for Ohio Express, who you may remember as the American ‘bubblegum’ act that had a huge No 1 with ;Yummy Yummy Yummy’. It also showcases 2 of John’s more longer running pseudonyms The Haystack and Stamford Bridge. Disc4 opens with more tracks from Stamford Bridge, followed by many tracks by yet more of Johns’ creations such as Scarecrow, Stormy Petrel, The London Boys & Sequola. Two tracks appear from Kincade including the big hit ‘Dreams Are Ten A Penny’ before we are treated to what many other reviewers/critics consider his finest work, with the band The First Class. There is no doubt that ‘Beach Baby’ the most well known of First Class tracks is a tour-de-force of writing, production and brilliant vocal work that critics have hailed time and again as being up there with some of Brian Wilson’s best offerings. It’s certainly true that since it’s release all the way back in 1974 it’s been a staple of radio programmers (particularly in summer) and still sounds as fresh as ever. But there was more to First Class than just BB, have a listen to ‘What Became Of Me’ and especially ‘I Was Always The Joker’ (a big personal favourite) both phenomenally good compositions. This comprehensive, marvellously put together, new in depth overview of John’s work actually concludes with a track by First Class I’ve played so many times on my radio shows entitled aptly ‘Too Many Golden Oldies’. Could there ever be such a situation/question?…..with John Carter at the helm?….nah…….definitely not. As ever i have only been able to impart a portion of all the information on John that is available without writing a book, the accompanying booklet to the compilation does an admirable job and i was lucky enough back in the late 60’s early 70’s to be friends with Pete and Robin who were members of The Flowerpot Men and the band they morphed into in the shape of White Plains. So for me this release has been a hugely enjoyable nostalgic trip bringing back some memorable moments. The compilation is released this Friday (18th) the same day as the next SMART meet, see you there! Enjoy.

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

 

Alan Esdaile… Great track.

Robert Searle… Alan, Great track, great production, great vocals.

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Once Upon A Time In The West Midlands – The Bostin’ Sounds Of Brumrock 1966-1974, 3CD Box Set Various Artists

ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST MIDLANDS  – THE BOSTIN’ SOUNDS OF BRUM ROCK 1966-1974   (3CD SET)  Various Artists
I’ve been looking forward to this release for some time. Whenever we start talking about the 60’s and the leading bands and artists its inevitable we will start talking about Liverpool, Merseybeat and The Beatles, Gerry & The Pacemakers, Cilla etc, followed by Manchester with The Hollies, The Dakotas, Georgie Fame, Hermans Hermits, Barclay James Harvest etc and of course London at the very heart of things which spawned 100’s if not 1000’s of bands. But as Merseybeat began to wane in the mid 60’s and the ‘beat’ scene in general, another city was on the way up bursting with talent and boasting some musicians destined to be at the forefront of the music scene, some to this present day. That city was Birmingham and this new 3CD box set is devoted as the title says to ‘Brum Rock’.  When you start to list just some of the main acts you can hear on this new compilation you begin to appreciate just how much influence these artists have had on the world. So who do we have in the main league? The 2 most obvious ones are a pair of guys who couldn’t work together eventually, but between them created some of the greatest and much loved music of all time. I speak of course of Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne. Roy as any rock fan knows came to prominence with his band The Move in 1966 which Jeff was to join briefly before the pair of them started the Electric Light Orchestra and then due to musical differences went their separate ways with Roy forming Wizzard and Jeff developing ELO into the monster success it became. When i think of Birmingham its Roy and Jeff that first enter my mind swiftly followed by a man who fronted another huge band from the city. The Moody Blues, with original lead singer (and old friend) of many years Denny Laine. Everybody is familiar with Denny’s lead vocal on ‘Go Now’ (not included here) but when he went solo he made a record that became the inspiration for a 15 year old schoolboy to get in the music business. That 15 year old was me and the record was ‘Say You Don’t Mind’ which is included on this compilation which i am so pleased to see, as the original version has been incredibly hard to find over the years since it was initially released in 1967. It became a bigger hit when Colin Blunstone recorded it a few years later and he did a great job, but Denny’s original is sublime. I could write pages on just Roy, Jeff & Denny but with space limited let’s have a peek disc by disc at some of the great music and artistes to be found. Disc1 contains tracks from the previously mentioned heavy hitter’s such as The Move ‘I Can Hear The Grass Grow’ alongside Jeffy Lynne’s band The Idle Race with the catchy psyche pop ‘Imposters Of Life Magazine’. ‘Life’s Not Life’ from The Moody Blues and Denny’s ‘Say You Don’t Mind’. Other big names abound with The Spencer Davis Group ‘Moonshine’ their spin off band Traffic with one of my all time favourite numbers of theirs ‘No Face, No Name, No Number’. The Rockin Berries follow with the seldom heard ‘Yellow Rainbow’ and Chicken Shack weigh in with ‘When The Train Comes Back’. Notable mentions go to 2 more less familiar bands in the shape of Locomotive with the excellent ‘Mr Armageddon’ and The Uglys with ‘I’ve Seen The Light’. It’s also great to see tracks from The Move’s guitarist Ace Kefford after he left to go solo. Disc2 headliners include The Climax Chicago Blues Band, Medicine Head, Trapeze & Big Bertha who collectively may not have shifted records in the quantities that the main artists on Disc1 did but they all have loyal fans and followers. Scattered throughout the disc are also some previously unissued gems including the delightful ‘Dance In The Smoke’ from Kansas Hook, a band that arose from the ashes of The World of Oz, another favourite band of mine who released the psyche/pop near hit ‘The Muffin Man’, i recently wrote about elsewhere. The World of Oz also feature in their own right on the compilation with ‘Like A Tear’. Other tracks that stand out come from acts Tea And Symphony, The Californians, Bakerloo & Cathedral with the previously unreleased ‘Its A Hard Way’. Disc3 gives us the debut hit from Roy and Jeffs baby, ELO, with what would become the bands signature set closer, ‘Roll Over Beethoven’, nestling alongside this is Roy’s undoubted homage to all things Phil Spector/Wall Of Sound with ‘Ball Park Incident’ which is nice to see, rather than the usually compiled ‘See My Baby Jive’.  Roy also features solo with his wistful rendition ‘Dear Elaine’. Slade crop up with a track i confess i’ve never heard before in ‘One Way Hotel’ which catches them in 1970 on the cusp of breaking through. The ever satisfying Steve Gibbons features with ‘Brown Girl’ & another favourite appears with Jim Capaldi and ‘Eve’. Proto metal rockers Judas Priest join the party with ‘Rocka Rolla’ a quite restrained rocker given their usual fare. The compilation climaxes with the aptly titled ‘Bye Bye Birmingham’ a rocker from Blackfoot Sue, best known for their hit ‘Standing In The Road’ but proving here they were a more than competent good time rock band. All told this 3CD set runs to over 4 hours, containing 69 tracks and i have only featured just some of my personal highlights. As ever, this release from the excellent Grapefruit Records, comes housed in a sturdy clamshell box complete with a 48 page booklet with a wealth of information and artwork. I’m sure the good folk from Birmingham and the West Midlands particularly will love this new package and look back lovingly on their local bands, but those local bands grew in many instances to be known all over the world and are right up there with anything Liverpool, Manchester & London produced. I’ll leave you with the record that started it all for me. Here’s Denny. Enjoy.

For more information contact… https://www.cherryred.co.uk

Til next time……stay safe…..Colin

Leigh Mitchell… as always, very interesting…..xx

Alan Esdaile… Look what I found! Colin and Denny Laine.

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Tintern Abbey: Beeside – The Complete Recordings, 2CD

BEESIDE : THE COMPLETE RECORDINGS  Tintern Abbey  (2CD)

I have been looking forward to this for weeks ever since Grapefruit Records announced its forthcoming release. My lifelong love of Psychedelia is undiminished since i was first exposed to it at its height in 1967. Ask most people to give an example of psychedelic music and 9 out of 10 will answer ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’, particularly if they are of my age group. Nothing wrong with that answer, the landmark Sgt Pepper album is often cited as the epitome of psychedelia, i would only agree in part. After all i don’t think ‘When I’m Sixty Four’ ‘With A Little Help From Mt Friends’ or ‘Fixing A Hole’ really qualify. Different and experimental maybe, psychedelic not. The whole psychedelia movement had its roots in mid 60’s San Francisco, mind expanding drugs like LSD and Mescalin and the musical blending of many genres from rock to folk, with a large dose of ethnic music from India and Arabia. The American psychedelic scene became more orientated towards psychedelic rock with prime bands like The Doors & particularly Love whose ‘Forever Changes’ album released in November 1967 was to my mind the American equivalent of our Sgt Pepper. The British psychedelic scene was a softer more whimsical (in the main) scene. There were bands that jumped on the ‘psychedelic bandwagon’ The Move with ‘I Can Hear The Grass Grow’ or Traffic with ‘Hole In My Shoe’  songs i truly love, but both were rock bands flirting with psychedelia. For true exponents of the art you have to look elsewhere. When psychedelic compilation albums started to get released years later many of the 100’s of bands that pursued the genre and sank without trace at the time began to be featured and be re-appraised. One of the most tantalising of these bands were Tintern Abbey whose track ‘Vacuum Cleaner’ was often to be found on these compilations, usually wrongly credited as the ‘A’ side of the bands 1967 Deram single. The ‘A’ side was infact ‘Beeside’ a band injoke. In over 40 years its only these 2 tracks that have been available to listen to, i certainly have never heard any of their other work. Its taken decades to finally produce this 2CD that gathers together all the bands work for the first time. It has taken much research, restoration and sound engineering to bring this collection to light. At last the curtain can be drawn back on over 2 hours of sublime music recorded between 1967 and 1968. Tintern Abbey were originally 4 guys, David MacTavish, Stuart Mackay, John Dalton & Don Smith. After they had spent a month in Cornwall in 1967 ‘getting it together’ writing songs and causing some concern amongst the locals (hippies in Bodmin!) they would return to their London base with a 5th member named ‘Thor’, a honey buzzard that Dave MacTavish had rescued that would perch on his shoulder at their gigs. Those gigs were the stuff of legend. Typically they would begin with David sitting cross legged on the stage surrounded by burning incense sticks to the sound of clashing cymbals as the other band members would appear one by one before launching into opener the aforementioned ‘Vacuum Cleaner’. Over the short lifespan of the band, the line-up would change, fallings out and all the usual band scenarios would occur. The brilliantly written booklet by David Wells tells the story in great and fascinating detail. Who knew they would turn down a replacement guitarist who didn’t fit in with the bands vibe….some bloke called David Gilmour, wonder what happened to him…..The printed story is wonderful but we’re here for the music and it doesn’t disappoint, Disc1 kicks off with the compilations title track the 1967 single ‘Beeside’ where we are immediately transported into the other realm that Tintern conjure up, its whimsical with a hint of flanging and phasing whilst the vocals float on top giving rise to an ethereal vibe drawing you in to a more surreal world. Prominent drums lead us into Track 2 and the much compiled and most familiar track ‘Vacuum Cleaner’ which contains a memorable snarling guitar solo about 1m30sec in which is reminiscent of something The Electric Prunes might come up with and its heaven for this reviewer. So i’ve now already exhausted the only 2 tracks i’ve ever heard of the band, is it now going to all be downhill? NO. Track3 is called ‘Snowman’ and is a tour-de-force that’s surreal and almost sinister in feel and weaves complex vocal and musical patterns that build into a crescendo complete with some backward tape looping. ‘Tanya’ track 4 follows on with a foot clearly rooted in the folk camp before the heavy bass line leads it in a more mind bending direction. I knew in my bones this was going to be a treat! By Track 5 ‘Black Jack’ i find myself wondering why the hell these guys didn’t make it into the big league with the likes of The Nice, Floyd etc. I am in danger of reviewing every track and space doesn’t allow, but if by the glorious guitar work that drenches Track 6 ‘Bodmin Blow’ (i think we all get the reference!) you are not fully sucked in and smitten then Tintern Abbey and psychedelia is not for you. Disc1 contains another 12 tracks that features acetate mixes of ‘Beeside’ ‘Vacuum Cleaner’ & ‘Snowman’  that i found fascinating and if you’re into mystic blends of multi ethnic music Track 7 ‘My Prayer’ is going to delight you. Disc2 contains a further 18 tracks that beginning with the opener ‘Nightfall’ show the band, dare i say, becoming a bit ‘poppier’ and although the tracks are still satisfying i can’t help feeling the band is seeking a more commercial direction. John Peel was a fan of the guys and he also mused that maybe they were being cajoled towards the more mainstream.  However there is still enough to satisfy the psyche aficionados amongst us. Its not often after 50 years in this business that i still get surprised and delighted by listening to a band that had just a fleeting lifespan and have been represented by just 2 tracks in all that time but Tintern Abbey are just as magical today as they were then. About 15 years back i was driving up to the Forest Of Dean and suddenly the ruins of Tintern Abbey were before me. I stopped, it was the crack of dawn and i had the place to myself as the sun rose and although the band named themselves after the poem written by Wordsworth not the ruins of the abbey, ‘Vacuum Cleaner’ started playing in my head. It was a morning to remember. Enjoy.

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

Tony Davis… Nice review Colin. I agree with your assessment of Sgt Pepper. I think it’s major influence was to encourage bands to experiment. One of my favourite psych era bands are Moby Grape, much appreciated in the USA but barely known here

Colin Bell… Cheers Tony, yes it’s strange about Moby Grape who were right at the centre of the whole movement, The only track that seems to turn up on the endless psyche compilations is usually ‘Hey Grandma’, especially the UK releases.

Pete Prescott… Fascinating.

Ralph Winser… I don’t think I’d even heard of Tintern Abbey before this review.  Colin please May I credit you with once again holding my interest right through this review. And your reviews, musings and writing has always done so where others have lost me after the first couple of sentences. I am always disappointed when a piece you have written comes to an end. As I have to then wait for the next one. My musical knowledge has expanded because of you sir. If and when I get rich I will definitely finance a book for your writings. Love you dude. R

Mick O’Dowd… Fascinating! I know the name Tintern Abbey but not their music. I Agree with Ralph wholeheartedly about the reviews you do.

 

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