RUNNING FREE : THE JET RECORDINGS 1976-1977 (2CD) Widowmaker
A new remastered release with a previously unreleased track ‘Talk To Me’. The early to mid 70’s saw what was to become named the formation of ‘supergroups’, musicians from broken up name bands getting together, some to better effect than others. Widowmaker boasted a distinguished line-up. Steve Ellis (Love Affair), Ariel Bender (Mott The Hoople), Huw Lloyd-Langton (Hawkwind), Bob Daisley (Chicken Shack) and Paul Nicholls (Lindisfarne). Signing to Jet Records, run by the infamous Don Arden they released their debut album in 1976 ‘Widowmaker’. 10 tracks and a running time of just 40 minutes most of the songs were written by Ellis and Bender (aka Luther Grosvenor). Running loosely from straight rock to blues rock with some odd country-rock flourishes ‘Pin A Rose On Me’ its Steve Ellis’s powerful vocals and Benders guitar work that catch the attention. Ellis sounding at times like his old friend (and mine) Roger Daltrey and Bender getting in some neat, at times, wigged out guitar. The overall impression is a good down to earth rocking band in the same vein as Dr. Feelgood. ‘On The Road’ and ‘Straight Faced Fighter’ being two examples. I saw the band open for The Who at Charlton in 76 and I remember thinking they were pretty dynamic live, and therein for me lies the crux, I don’t think the studio output captures that element and that’s a pity and maybe the reason they didn’t sell more records. By the time they came to record their second album ‘Too Late To Cry’ the following year Ellis had departed amongst a clash of, I suspect ego’s and differences, he was replaced by John Butler a acquaintance of Daisley. Butler brought a more laid back vocal to the party and indeed the whole album is certainly less raw, more refined, but for me lacking the bite of the debut outing, there is still some highs ‘Sky Blues’ notably with its Rod Stewartesque vocal and some excellent guitar work. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened had Ellis stuck around and built on the first album but many ‘supergroups’ met the same fate. All the musicians involved however went on to have long careers. As a time capsule of its time this release does its job and no doubt for fans of the guys involved will be lapped up.
BLACK IS BLACK -THE ANTHOLOGY 1966-69 Los Bravos
2CD’s and 60 tracks that bring together all their A’s and B’s, album and rareties from their beat period. Inevitably and certainly here in the UK they will always be remembered for million seller and No 2 in 1966 ‘Black is Black’, it also made no 4 in the States. From my days of doing disco’s it was always certainly a floor filler, and probably still is at retro nights. Madrid based LB were huge in their native Spain and all over the continent making 2 movies (one sort of Monkees style) Playing at the prestigious San Remo Festival and making many TV appearances. The lead singer Mike Kogel (aka Mike Kennedy) was actually German and could sing in German, Spanish and English! I struggle to sing in English, indeed sing at all! anyway be that as it may I thought I was the only one that thought he sounded remarkably vocally like Gene Pitney but having read the sleeve notes so did many people. Never again achieving the success of BIB their follow up ‘I Don’t Care’ did make a respectable No 16 in the UK charts, and I must confess i’d forgotten it til hearing it again on this compilation. Its fascinating listening to this retrospective and hearing the influences that English beat bands clearly had on them, makes me wonder what other Spanish bands of the Sixties we haven’t heard of that were putting out good stuff. As previously mentioned all their singles and albums are represented here and so you have a mix of songs in English, Spanish and indeed sometimes ‘Spanglish’. Other bands clearly rated them as George Young and Harry Vanda (of Easybeats fame) gave them their original composition ‘Bring A Little Lovin’ prior to recording it themselves. At 60 tracks some may consider it a lot of material to get through for a band famous for one huge seller but there is plenty here to reward listening and its always good to broaden your horizons in my view. If you have an interest in beat bands of the Sixties you will enjoy this I have no doubt. Excellent sound quality and extensive sleeve notes make this latest RPM a definite collectors piece.
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Til next time……. Colin
Dave Nattress… How I remember Black is Black by Los Bravos!! The Summer of 66 and it was one single of 6 I bought on some special deal from a shop in Bexhill, St Leonards Road, I think the shop was called Boyds half way along on the South side. Sold all electrical goods, record players, stereograms. TV’s and radios and one of several stores selling records obviously. They did some deal where you paid so much every week/month and went away with 6 singles. I also had Paint it Black by the Stones, Opus 17 by the Four Seasons, Pretty Flamingo, Manfred Mann, California Dreaming, Mamas and Papas and one more – long forgotten. Now Widowmaker, tagged as a bit of a Supergroup by some? Contained Steve Ellis on vocals – ex. Love Affair, Ariel Bender, Bob Daisley. Huw Lloyd-Langton, and Paul Nichols – Lindisfarne. A mate had the first album on Vinyl – “Widowmaker”. Played it to death. I have a double CD – 2002, with “Widowmaker”, and tracks off “Too Late to Cry” and “Live at Paris Theatre London”. I think the line-up changed a good bit after the first album maybe didn’t trouble too many sales, but the first album is good.