SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing The Idle Race: The Birthday Party, 2CD Expanded Digipak Edition

THE BIRTHDAY PARTY  (2CD Expanded Edition) by The Idle Race
From out of the midlands in the mid 60’s came what was to become ‘brumbeat’ Birmingham’s answer to its northerly neighbour ‘merseybeat’.

Birmingham was a very fertile scene with literally hundreds of ‘beat group’s. as we called them in those days, sounds really quaint now. The Idle Race evolved out of one such very popular band ‘Mike Sheridan & The Night Riders’, one member at that time being Roy Wood who left to join The Move. To fill his place guitarist Johnny Mann was recruited from Carl Wayne & the Vikings (Carl also to become a Move member) but after abruptly quitting the band were once again without a lead guitarist. An advertisement was placed in the Birmingham Evening Mail and the successful applicant was an 18 year prodigy in the shape of Jeff Lynne. A single was recorded ‘It’s Only A Dog’ a cover of a Kingsmen song which disappeared without trace. Jeff was then promoted to lead vocalist and songwriter and the band signed to Liberty Records. Roy Wood offered them a new song (Here We Go Round) The Lemon Tree, too good to turn down the band duly recorded it for their debut single in September 1967, but it was shelved when The Move recorded it themselves (as the ‘b’ side to Flowers In The Rain’). So step forward Jeff with what would be their first single ‘Imposters of Life’s Magazine’ a glorious slice of proto psyche complete with varispeed guitar, strange riff’s time signatures and indeed lyrics. In hindsight now it sounds like an outtake from Sgt.Pepper, in fact ive always felt Jeff was, and is, heavily influenced by Beatlesque melodies albeit with his very own genius take. Despite ‘Imposter’s’ being well received, much airplay and heavy support from one Kenny Everett it didn’t trouble the charts. The follow up single in March 1968 whilst again not a hit is the song for which the band is arguably best remembered ‘Skeleton & The Roundabout’ another Lynne composition was insanely catchy, quirky pop psyche and again showed off Jeff’s lyrical talents to the full. Along with Ray Davies and leaving aside Lennon/McCartney, I believe Jeff is a national treasure of ‘Englishness’ in his tales of pastoral and baroque themes.This new expanded album release celebrates his craft to the full, if you love the art pop of 67/68 of artist’s like Nirvana, World of Oz etc this is for you. There are so many strong tracks that you can hear the nascent ELO in there. ‘The Birthday’ and ‘I Like My Toys’ are two prime examples, the latter was played to death by the aforementioned Everett. The original album had 13 tracks, this release has the full 13 track mono album plus 9 bonus tracks on disc 1 whilst disc 2 contains the stereo version of the album (plus 1 bonus track). Amongst those bonus tracks are some gems like the previously mentioned ‘Lemon Tree’ and the ultra commercial ‘Knocking Nails Into My House’ (should have been a hit single). So 40 tracks to enjoy and a splendid 24 page booklet full of period pictures, sleeve covers and articles. Grapefruit Records have again excelled themselves with this release. Enjoy.

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

In closing, i’d just like to send all my best wishes to all my fellow SMART members, stay safe and well and if we all have to stay in at least we can listen to that album we’ve been meaning to get re-connected with!

Til next time……………………….Colin

Mick O’Dowd… Great album and a precursor to ELO. Had the original album on vinyl.

Colin Norton… Totally agree with Mick! This album is an absolute gem! I still have the original vinyl but must admit that its almost worn out. Stay safe guys!

Ray Harper… What a fantastic posting. Thank you.

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Hot Chocolate: Remixes and Rarities, Deluxe 3CD Digipak Edition

REMIXES & RARITIES    Hot Chocolate  (3CD)
Happy new Year to all Smarties and welcome to the first Smart Sounds review of 2020. Ah Hot Chocolate just what we need on a cold January morning! The latest in Cherry Red’s R & R series is a real gem. Few bands can lay claim to the longevity and success, or, the calibre of Hot Chocolate. From their first release in 1969 (Lennon’s Give Peace A Chance) right thru the 70’s, 80’s & 90’s the band had massive success. Charting 29  UK Top 40 singles, a number 1 and 3 US Top 10’s  they were seldom off our TV screens or our radio’s. This comprehensive 3CD set,, as ever housed beautifully in a sturdy fold out digipack with extensive liner booklet, does what it say’s on the tin and brings together 36 tracks of rare,  hard to find remixes, ‘B’ sides and some tracks finding their way onto CD for the first time. The plethora of remixes feature some of HC’s most beloved songs including ‘Everyone 1’s A Winner’ ‘Mindless Boogie’ ‘Heaven Is In The Back Seat Of My Cadillac’ ‘No Doubt About it’ and of course ‘You Sexy Thing’. There are in fact 6 remixes of the latter, some might consider that overkill, but for those completists and collectors out there they will be warmly welcomed. Indeed YST is probably my own personal less favoured track, probably due to its overexposure over the years in films and (extensively) in TV advertising. There are 2 Megamix’s I would have loved to have available all those years ago when I was still doing live DJ shows. you could guarantee that people would get up on their feet to HC. The first of these and in my eyes the best features ‘Emma/So You Win Again/You Sexy Thing/Every 1’s A Winner/So You Win Again/No Doubt About It a sure floor filler.

The last track of the Megamix  ‘No Doubt About It’ is one of my favourite HC tracks and involves a strange and personal connection. In 1978 I lived in London off Finchley Road and coming home from a gig in the early hours I saw what I can only say was a UFO having woken up my flatmate who saw it too and confirmed I wasn’t drunk or dreaming! the sight stayed with me always. Then along in 1980 came ‘No Doubt About It’ co-written by Dave Most (brother of record whiz Mickie) based on the experience of seeing a UFO…which I later found out was seen over…yes you’ve guessed it..Finchley Road! Spooky! Anyway back to earth, this new collection has been remastered from (where possible) the original master tapes and sounds wonderful and has given my speakers a good work out. Hot Chocolate produced some classy and classic material over their peak years and this release adds to that admirably. With new members the band still tours to this day, Errol Brown sadly left us in May 2015 but im sure he’s looking on and busting some moves, no doubt about it. Enjoy.

For more information go tohttps://www.cherryred.co.uk

Til next time……………..Colin

Monica Bane… Loved Hot Chocolate. Have some of their music!

Mick O’Dowd… Great stuff! They were an excellent band with a terrific singer. Worked with them once and saw them on another occasion. Nice blokes. Sad loss of Errol.

Julie Findlay-Jones… Went to see them with your sister Alan, brilliant concert.

Peter O’Donnell… Talented man.

David Edwards… Great band with Errol’s honey laden vocals what’s not to like about them

John Parnell… Saw them in their very early days in September 1968 at the Narracott Grand hotel, Woolacombe, Devon. Excellent band. I particularly remember Errol’s very energetic performance in addition to his great singing.

 

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Roy Wood: Mustard, Remastered and Expanded CD Edition

MUSTARD  (Remastered & Expanded)    Roy Wood
Straightaway I have to say I have a deep soft spot for Roy, he was the first bona fide ‘pop star’ I met when I started backstage on Hastings Pier in 1967, indeed elsewhere on the SMART site is the autographs of Roy and the rest of The Move obtained at the time. I’ve always ranked him in the top ten British songwriters. From The Move to ELO (briefly), Wizzard and solo his work has always trod its own very quirky path verging from pastiche to genius but always so original. ‘Mustard’ was originally released in December 1975 and was Roy’s second solo album following on from the successful ‘Boulders’ that had spawned quirky melodic songs such as the single hit ‘Dear Elaine’. ‘Mustard’ was commercially unsuccessful but arguably his ‘magnum opus’ showcasing his immense talent and creativity at its peak. All eight songs (+ 7 bonus on this release) were all written, sung, engineered and produced by Roy who also played EVERY instrument and even provided the artwork for the cover! His influences, in his own words, ranged from the 1940’s swing/doo wop of the Andrews sisters thru The Beach Boys, the Ronettes/Phil Spector to Led Zeppelin! Now that sounds like a complete mess of a recipe for an album, and in other hands it would be but Roy pulls it off.
The opening title track is a clever concoction that sounds just like a 40’s radio jingle by the aforementioned Andrew’s sisters but the ‘sisters’ is in fact Roy’s sped up vocal over sound effects, following on is classic Wood pop with ‘Any Old Time Will Do’. It’s on the next track ‘The Rain Came Down On Everything’ that shows what Roy’s vision of ELO might have been given the chance with its opening vocal (by Annie Haslam of Renaissance) a sweeping ballad that turns operatic before dissolving at the end into a thunderstorm (sound familiar Jeff Lynne!) Next up is a slice of boogie-woo blues/swing in ‘You Sure Got It Now’. For me the highlight of the album comes with the Brian Wilson/Beach Boys heavily inspired ‘Why Does Such A Pretty Girl Sing Those Sad Songs’ (some say written for Lynsey De Paul, Roy’s girlfriend at the time) whatever its almost a pastiche of God Only Knows meets Sloop John B/Good Vibrations its just wackily brilliant. And speaking of wackily brilliant track 8 and originally the closing track is Roy’s homage to Led Zeppelin in the shape of the rocker ‘Get On Down Home’ complete with a 2 minute drum solo in the mould of John Bonham, again as aforementioned with all the instruments being played by the man himself, in fact drums were the first and only instrument that Roy had any formal lessons in, remarkable, who teaches themselves bagpipes! With this new Esoteric release the album doesn’t end there but adds an extra 7 tracks (some released as singles like ‘Oh What A Shame’) with a couple attributed to ‘Wizzard’.
As I said ‘Mustard’ did not sell well on release mainly due to the record company (Jet Records) run by the infamous Don Arden concentrating on ELO which was an injustice but happily here in 2019 after years of being unavailable we can catch a musical prodigy at his best. Enjoy.
For more information go to https://www.cherryred.co.uk
Til next time…………………………… Colin

Derek Clemans… A friend of mine who I havn’t seen for many years and can’t remember his name I think played base for the Move then played Sax with Wizzard and I get to see him every Christmas on old Top of the Pops Christmas specials. He lived on the Tilekiln estate and when he got married he had his reception at the Tile Kiln community club and Roy Wood turned up to jam with him.

Neil Partrick… Great review Colin. Made me want to check it out

Colin Bell… Cheers Neil, I do my best! Do check it out you won’t be disappointed.

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing The Turning Tide cd by PP Arnold

THE TURNING TIDE   PP ARNOLD  (Kundalini Music)

This year marks the 50th anniversary of PP’s career in the music business and of a remarkable talent. Classic Rock recently remarked ‘is PP Arnold the most overlooked soul singer of all time?’. In a word as far as I’m concerned a huge yes! Everybody remembers the early classics that established PP in the late Sixties ‘The First Cut Is The Deepest’ ‘Angel Of The Morning’ If You Think You’re Groovy’ and my favourite ‘The Time Has Come’. All recorded for Andrew Loog Oldhams Immediate Records. However when Immediate folded in 1969 all went quiet. But PP was far from inactive. The next phase of PP’s career should have been the album that is now finally seeing the light of the day in The Turning Tide. The story is a long and complex one but i’ll condense it as much as possible. Jim Morris assistant to big time impresario and manager of the Bee Gees Robert Stigwood suggested introducing PP to Barry Gibb. PP had already recorded Gibbs ‘To Love Somebody’ on her second album the marvellous ‘Kafunta’. Keen to work together PP and Barry entered the studio and put down 10 tracks, eight of which appear hear. Then owing to the Bee Gee’s heavy commitments the sessions didn’t get completed. Stigwood then arranged for PP to tour and open for Eric Clapton on his tour with Delaney and Bonnie.Eric was so impressed with PP he needed no urging to go into the studio and lay down another 3 tracks (all covers) which added to the previously recorded 8 became The Turning Tide album. All good, no, for inexplicable reasons these tracks then sat on shelves mired in industry and record label politics for the next four decades until now. PP was naturally heartbroken that these recordings never got a hearing and went on a mission to redress this. Of course in the intervening years she continued to work solidly, solo, and with a host of others, notably, Beatmasters, Roger Waters and Ocean Colour Scene. But that ‘lost’ solo album which would have maintained her continuity remained unreleased. In 1998 Steve Cradock (Ocean Colour Scene) produced a great single for PP in ‘A Different Drum’ and it is Steve and wife Sally with additional help that have now, after a great deal of work, sorted out all the legalties and mixed and finally got the album ready for release on October 6th. Now we can finally enjoy that ‘lost’ album in all its glory and glorious it is. The power and soul of PP’s voice captivates from the get go. I mentioned earlier Clapton produced 3 covers and The Turning Tide kicks off with Traffics ‘Medicated Goo’ which PP makes her own in the way Aretha did with Respect. She also pulls it off with Blood Sweat and Tears ‘Spinning Wheel’ and The Stones ‘You Can’t Always Get What you Want’ to great effect. The title track a huge ballad is ‘classic’ PP with emotion oozing from every line, the bluesy/gospel of ‘Children of the Last War’ is another sure fire winner. For me the crowning track has to be the Gibb penned ‘Bury Me Down By The River’ a gospel performance that is simply stunning in its power and range that truly shows PP at her finest, its epic and worth buying the album for that alone. It might have been a long wait but God its worth it.

To coincide with the albums release PP’s autobiography ‘The First Cut Is The Deepest’ is being released by St. James Publishing shortly and she is touring the UK this month and October. She will be appearing at The Ropetackle in Shoreham on October 29th. Don’t miss the chance to be there! And in conclusion next year will see the release of a new album (produced by Steve Cradock) currently being mixed including a new version of ‘I Different Drum’. Much to look forward to for Pat and all her many fans.

For more information go to http://www.pparnold.com

Til next time……..Colin

Linda Lewis Hampstead Days – SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell

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© www.lindalewis.co.uk

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Linda Lewis Acoustic Tour and Album.

Colin Bell… As previously mentioned elsewhere on SMART ive been catching up with some of my favourite guests that appeared on my shows on Hastings Rock FM. I caught up with Linda ahead of her Acoustic Tour of the South of England to celebrate her 40 years in the biz. Linda, a resident of the South Coast, has always had one of the most unique voices with her incredible 5 octave range. I well remember when I first received Rock-A-Doodle-Doo for review back in 1973 and was knocked out. Her album ‘Lark’ is also a personal all time favourite. Going on to have other hits notably with ‘Its in His Kiss’, touring with Cat Stevens, Joan Armatrading, appearing at Glastonbury and having her song ‘Old Smokey’ used by Common on the single Go! (produced by Kanye West) and doing well in the U.S. R&B charts Linda remains busy and in demand. She tells me she is looking forward to her Acoustic Tour and will be opening the Carousel Club in Farnborough this coming Friday (20th). Also she has an album newly released ‘Hampstead Days’, which is comprised of unreleased BBC sessions from the 70’s. Having listened to it, the first thing you notice is the quality of the recordings which is superb. Many favourites are there including ‘Old Smokey’ ‘Its the Frame’ the aforementioned ‘Rock-A-Doodle-Doo’, some enjoyable banter with the audience and all ending with a spirited rendition of ‘Its In His Kiss’. As I said a unique talent and always a pleasure to talk to. For more details of Tour dates go to: lindalewis.co.uk. The album is available from easyaction.co.uk

till next time…. Colin  colin-head

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell. Reviewing Alcatrazz Live Sentence cd/dvd deluxe edition and John Miles – Miles High cd.

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‘LIVE SENTENCE’ Alcatrazz (Deluxe Edition CD/DVD) HNE Records

As regular readers of S.S. will know this is my all time favourite metal band of the 80’s. A coupla months back I brought you their debut album ‘No Parole From Rock and Roll’. As mentioned in that review Alcatrazz were a HUGE success in Japan especially. To capitalise on the albums success they took to the road to promote it and Live Sentence is the result. Recorded in January 1984 in Tokyo the set list includes most of the tracks recorded for NPFR&R, minus annoyingly ‘Jet to Jet’, a personal favourite! However that’s a small niggle. Along with ‘Island in the Sun’, ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’ ‘General Hospital’, all classics in my view Graham Bonnet treats us to his solo success with ‘Night Games’ and re-visits his sojourn with Rainbow to deliver ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ and ‘All Night Long’ to the evident delight of the audience.
This release comes as 2 discs, disc one audio and disc two a DVD. At last I can dispense with my er bootleg footage! The audio and video quality of the DVD is surprisingly good for its age and stands up well. Like me you can now marvel at the 20 year old prodigy Yngwie Malmsteen in all his glory. And a glorious thing to watch it is! His neo-classical shredding is jaw dropping!
Not since I first saw Hendrix have I ever been so transfixed by a guitarist.
‘Kree Nakoorie/Coming Bach’ is mesmerising, yes he’s over indulgent at times compared to the studio recordings, but hell’s teeth he’s simply amazing even when he’s being arrogantly OTT! He knows he’s a ‘Rising Force’ and I forgive him, if I had his talent I doubt i’d hide my light under a bushel.
To cap it all off there’s three bonus tracks recorded at the Rock Palace in the USA including ‘Too Young To Die-Too Drunk To Live’. They don’t write them like that anymore, more’s the pity! For all Graham Bonnet/Malmsteen fans this is an essential addition to your library. PLAY IT LOUD!

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‘MILES HIGH’ John Miles  (Lemon Recordings)

This is the first time on CD for what was John’s fifth studio album released originally in 1981, at that time it only reached a rather disappointing 96 chart position. Two singles were released from the album in the shape of ‘Turn Yourself Loose’ and ‘Reggae Man’. John is undoubtedly a fine musician, singer and guitarist and indeed a writer having composed the 10 tracks here. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with the album, for me however nothing really leaps out at you. Its a polished affair and plays like a soundtrack to an American series of the Eighties (Miami Vice springs to mind) its slick AOR and maybe therin lies the problem for these ears its all a little too bland for my taste. John is without doubt a musicians musician and has contributed his skills to the likes of Joe Cocker, Tina Turner and the great Alan Parson’s project. Overall one for completists of his canon of work methinks, or fans of the Eighties slick pop genre.

For more information go to http://ww.cherryred.co.uk                 colin-head-111x150

Til next time….     Colin