SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Hot Chocolate: The RAK Singles, 4CD Box Set

THE RAK SINGLES     Hot Chocolate   (4CD Box Set)
Here is the latest in Cherry Red’s 7T’s label series ‘Singles’ collections and what a treat it is. Featuring every single A & B side the boys recorded for Mickie Most’s RAK label this is a 5 star release. The statistics around the band are quite amazing, especially nowadays when ‘sales’ are entirely differently counted. For a decade and a half Hot Chocolate had an unbroken run of chart singles, 29 Top 40 hits, 12 Top Tens and the No 1 ‘So You Win Again’. Looking back and listening to this fine collection i am constantly surprised they only ever made the top spot once. The sheer consistency and quality of their writing and musicianship is quite extraordinary.  Altogether if you add it up the band spent 5 years in the charts making them one of the most successful pop acts of all time. It’s easy to forget just how many great songs they produced, as i’m sitting here listening i keep nodding my head and saying to myself ‘what a great record, forgotten about that one’. You may consider 4 CD’s and 72 tracks a lot to digest but trust me its not. Disc’s 1 & 2 are absolutely essential listening and for me personally contain my favourite tracks right from the opener ‘Love Is Life’ which i so clearly remember getting a promo single of back in 1970 through ‘You Could Have Been A Lady’, ‘I Believe In Love’ You’ll Always Be A Friend’ the memories flood back. However it’s 2 tracks in particular that stand out for their experimentation and boldness ‘Brother Louie’ with its biting social comment on interracial relationships, sadly still relevant in some quarters today. Followed by the epic ‘Rumours’ with its stabbing ‘Shaft’ style guitar riff. Both these songs run for between 4 and 5 minutes which defied the perceived wisdom that anything longer than 2m30s would lose listener interest, well Errol & Co certainly blew that argument out of the water.  And for music trivia fans both Brother Louie & Rumours contained one Cozy Powell on drums. This doesn’t surprise me as Cozy was signed to Mickie Most (owner of RAK Records) at the time and he (Mickie) wouldn’t have missed a chance to employ Cozy on the tracks, no doubt for free….The other highlight of Disc 1 for me is definitely ‘Emma’ another beautifully crafted ‘story’ song penned by Brown & Wilson and featuring my old friend and RAK labelmate on backing vocals Suzi Quatro. Disc2 kicks off with the uptempo ‘Cheri Babe’ which is one of those aforementioned tracks i had forgotten about as is the second single ‘Blue Night’ however the ‘B’ side of the latter song was to become more famous, or should that be infamous? it was ‘You Sexy Thing’. More hits follow with ‘Disco Queen’ ‘A Childs Prayer’ before RAK realised the potential of ‘You Sexy Thing’ and released a newly tweaked version as an ‘A’ side. I don’t know about you but YST is probably my least favourite HC song, nothing wrong with it, but i have listener ‘fatigue’ it remains the most played HC track on radio due to the (mostly) unimaginative minds of station programmers, and sadly will probably be the track the band will always be remembered for, when as already demonstrated they had so much more to give. Disc3 contains another bold move with the 6 minute opener ‘Put Your Love In Me’, classics follow rapidly with ‘Every 1’s A Winner’ ‘I’ll Put You Together Again’ (another personal favourite), ‘Mindless Boogie’ ‘Going Through The Motions’ and as the 80’s dawned a song i’m very attached to ‘No Doubt About It’. In the late 70’s i lived in Finchley where coming home in the early hours of the morning one day i swore i saw an UFO in the sky towards Hampstead Heath (i did honestly!) Remarkably i only learnt years later that the writers of ‘No Doubt About It’ which dealt with an alien encounter were inspired by seeing the same ‘UFO’ i did in the same time and place! Yea, vindicated! Right moving on, other tracks on Disc3 include ‘Are You Getting Enough’ ‘Love Me To Sleep’ & ‘Losing You’. The final Disc4 starts to run a little out of steam, but not by much, biggies still abound with the likes of ‘Girl Crazy’ ‘It Started With A Kiss’ ‘What Kinda Boy You Lookin For’ & ‘I Gave You My Heart Didn’t I’. I’m a big fan of these compilations that run chronologically as they give you the chance to hear whoever the band are progressing and evolving and refining their material. In Hot Chocolate you had a band who never dropped their quality level and achieved massive success in countries all over the world. This new compilation housed in a sturdy clamshell box with an excellent and informative booklet is the best compilation of HC’s work i’ve seen, there are other ‘Best Of’s’ etc but many miss off the early tracks. This is THE only collection you will ever need. Enjoy.
for more information go to https://www.cherryred.co.uk
Til next time……..stay safe…….Colin

Mick O’Dowd… What a cracker this release is Colin! Always loved them from when they first appeared as The Hot Chocolate Band on Apple Records with “Give Peace a Chance” (Yes that one). I believe there were 2 versions of Could Have Been A Lady. The original was tweaked to make it more funky sounding. So many hits. So many memories. Always remember Centre Page performing Everyone’s A Winner. Like you, Colin, Emma & No Doubt About It were my faves although it’s so hard picking faves from a track list like this.

Colin Bell… Mick, Hi mate, yes there were 2 versions as you say. They had such a consistently high standard its as you also say so hard to pick a fave! This is one of the most enjoyable compilations i have ever reviewed.

Stephen Singleton… One of the best bands ever ! Incredible songwriters and musicians . Also brilliant in concert . I’ll be ordering this monster

Alan Esdaile… Some really great tracks and always excellent live but never seemed to be given the credit they deserve.

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 The Pioneers: Greetings From The Pioneers 2CD

GREETINGS FROM THE PIONEERS       The Pioneers  (2CD Expanded Edition)

This new 2CD set released by Doctor Bird Records is an important and long awaited one. I was anxious to include it in my reviews as i know there are many lifelong ska/reggae/bluebeat fans out there that absolutely love the music and are very knowledgeable about the whole Jamaican scene. Whilst after 50 odd years in the business i am comfortable in reviewing most music genres there are 2 i am not. Jazz & Reggae. If i’m reading a review of, say a rock band i know well, and the reviewer clearly has no real knowledge of the band or music he’s writing about and is just ‘blagging it’ i will spot it straightaway and most likely be at best a trifle annoyed. So today i am not going to attempt a ‘review’ of a section of music i have no real background in or knowledge of, lets call this piece an alert for the fans & lovers of this musical genre. In the late 60’s early 70’s i was fortunate to work with some of the stars of the day like Dandy Livingstone, Nicky Thomas & Desmond Dekker and i enjoyed their acts, however i now understand they were delivering a more sanitised ‘poppier’ version of real ska/bluebeat/reggae aimed at European audiences. A track that had its roots in Jamaica and was real ‘roots’ ska/reggae/bluebeat would be taken by record companies in the UK & have (usually) strings added and be arranged by somebody like Johnny Arthey into a ‘pop reggae’ format aimed at a wider audience. Think ‘Young Gifted & Black’ or ‘You Can Get It If You Really Want’ etc, nothing wrong with them but they were far removed from the music on this compilation. So here are the main points about this release. The set comprises 2 cd’s. CD1 has 26 tracks. The first 12 tracks are the original (in order) recordings from when the ‘Greetings’ album was initially released in 1968. These 12 tracks are then followed by 13 bonus tracks from The Pioneers which were recorded for the Amalgamated and Blue Cat labels in the same 1967-68 period. The final track on CD1 comes from Ansell Collins. The link between CD1 and CD2 is the producer of the material Joe Gibbs. CD2 contains 28 tracks, some new to cd and a lot of obscure and rare cuts. Some of the artists featured include Errol Dunkley, The Mellotones, Jackie Robinson, The Royals & The Cannon Ball Trio. So in total across the 2 cd’s there is a total of 54 tracks. The often complex story of The Pioneers and indeed the Jamaican music industry is covered in the excellent essay that accompanies the compilation in the glossy booklet written by Tony Rounce, a man who clearly knows his stuff. So those are the facts and for more information you can visit the link given at the end of this piece. As i said i feel i would be doing a disservice to attempt to critique the work on display here from my meagre scraps of knowledge, or indeed lack of it. I didn’t know for example that The Pioneers had a hit (in Jamaica) with ‘Long Shot’ in 1967. I was familiar with the sequel ‘Long Shot Kick The Bucket’ issued by the UK’s Trojan Records which just demonstrates how little i really know about the genre overall. So i trust you will accept that on this occasion i have communicated the details of what i think is an important release to the many loyal and longstanding fans of The Pioneers & the other artists involved. But i will not attempt to ‘blag’ my way through a review of the music. The quality of the recordings is very good overall given the age, I’m not sure how much re-mastering may have gone on, again afficionados will know straightaway on listening. I am sure of one thing, for fans of the genre & The Pioneers this release is going to be very welcome indeed. Enjoy.

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

Mick O’Dowd… Thanks for an honest post Colin. I get annoyed when people, or DJ’s/Presenters rant on about something they clearly don’t know anything about. This looks very interesting. Thanks for posting

 

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Taking Some Time On – Underground Sounds Of 1970: 4CD Clamshell Box Set Various Artists

1970. A new decade and era had dawned. It was farewell to Peace & Love and all the Hippy Drippy trappings and hello to the emergence of ‘progressive’ & ‘heavy’ rock and the so called ‘underground scene’. Now it was the album that was the pre-eminent focus with bands putting their creative juices into creating ‘concepts’ & ‘progressive’ pieces with a new harder sound and an attitude to match. No more giving out flowers and burning joss sticks. Record Companies created subsidiary labels to cater for the new ‘experimental’ bands they fell over themselves to sign. Decca, that most established bastion set up Deram whilst EMI gave birth to the Harvest label & not to be outdone Philips joined the party with their Vertigo imprint. Now Esoteric Records have gathered together the cream of the offerings from 1970 on this new 4CD package showcasing bands many of us being of a certain age grew to love. Championing many of the artists featured on this compilation was my good friend John Peel whose Radio 1 Top Gear Show was essential listening & certainly the conduit that most connected with myself and my contemporaries. Many of the bands featured here became the darlings of the ‘University Circuit’ and i have fond memories of working with quite a few of them at Uni’s & Colleges all over the South Of England. It also changed my DJ work and i would play some ‘underground’ clubs where rather than putting on records to get people on a dancefloor, i would be putting on 20 minute album tracks to an audience sprawled on a College floor (usually with dilated pupils) getting ‘into’ the music. So who does this compilation feature to tantalise us and send us scurrying back down the time tunnel to those far off days. Disc 1 opens with everyone’s darlings of the scene ‘Barclay James Harvest’ with the title song to the compilation ‘Taking Some Time On’ before we move straight on to one of my all time favourite rock bands with Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac with the excellent ‘Green Manalishi’ & we are just getting warmed up. A band i worked with often when i did a regular gig in Canterbury feature next in Caravan with the wonderfully titled ‘If I Could Do It All Again, I’d Do It All Over You’, yes we are now definitely getting into the spirit of 1970! and now here comes Ian Gillan belting out ‘Black Night’ and i’m so back there i can smell it. We’re now cooling down a little with Newcastle’s finest Lindisfarne’s ‘Lady Eleanor’ by way of tracks from Van Der Graaf Generator, Gentle Giant & Al Stewart. Who’s this with the manic smile, balanced on one leg, well of course its Mr Anderson with his Folk/Pagan/Rock masterpiece ‘The Witches Promise’ (another great personal favourite). One of the most underrated bands of all time, in my opinion, are up next with Blodwyn Pig’s ‘See My Way’, Mick Abrahams is such a great guitarist (and a hilarious radio guest) & taking us towards the close of Disc 1 is one of the aforementioned college’s favourite bands the Edgar Broughton Band with ‘Apache Dropout’, so much better than the oft compiled ‘Out Demons Out!’. OK i’m now fully in the mood as we move on to Disc2 where you can find Kevin Ayres, Traffic, Rare Bird, Wishbone Ash & Yes. The perennial ‘party piece’ that Quo used to play at all their gigs is here with ‘Gerdundula’ sitting next to one of my favourite ‘lost’ bands Locomotive with ‘Rain’. Gentle Giant have their ‘Funny Ways’ & the glorious tones of Roger Chapman & Family have ‘A Song For Me’. Only half way through the set! and on to Disc3, 2 tracks from Dave Edmunds Love Sculpture, a hit from East Of Eden with Jig-A-Jig (i had a hand in promoting) and a move into more esoteric territory with tracks from Quatermass, Cressida & Affinity, a wonderful outing from Pete Brown & Piblokto! with ‘Things May Come And Things May Go, But The Art School Dance Goes On Forever’ (was there ever a better song title?). Emerson, Lake & Palmer & Hawkwind provide the heavy hitters. Disc4 and 4 hours in now, a couple of obscurities from bands High Tide & Stray before the more familiar sound of Curved Air with ‘Situations’ and praise be another of my favourite bands from back in the day Gracious ‘& ‘Heaven’ and that my friends is what its been, 5 hours of re-visiting prog heaven and some very vivid memories. There has not been space to detail every last track but i hope i have given you a taste of what to expect when parting with your hard earned…The whole lovingly compiled set comes in a sturdy clamshell box complete with an excellent booklet as is the norm from the ever excellent Esoteric Records. My head is fed and i am now lying down in a dark room. Enjoy.

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

Paul Huggett… Cherry Red records do dig out good stuff

Colin Bell… P.s. I forgot to mention in my review for the benefit of my old friend Mick O’Dowd this compilation also contains one of his ‘favourite’s’ Ten Years After..’Love Like A Man’…..

Mick O’Dowd… Colin, that’s got to make it a must have. A really terrific floor-clearer is I remember!

Alan Esdaile… Edgar Broughton Band always put on a great show and I don’t know if you know Colin but Steve Broughton lives in Hastings.

Colin Bell… Yes i do, i believe its either his wife or Edgar’s ex? who has a shop in George Street who i got into conversation with some years back. Yes always a great show.

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing The Merseybeats / The Merseys: I stand Accused – The Complete Merseybeats and Merseys Sixties Recordings 2CD Set

I STAND ACCUSED   The Complete Merseybeats/The Merseys 60’s Recordings 2CD Set)

Probably one of the best of the bands that emerged from Liverpool in the early 60’s giving rise to the term Merseybeat. This handsome new digipack 2CD collection contains absolutely everything a fan of the band could wish for. It features every known recording by both incarnations of the band, including demo’s, outtakes, alternate versions and even home recordings. It also includes side projects recorded in the same time frame and rare sides that collectors highly prize.  In a city swamped with bands as Liverpool was with The Beatles & Gerry & The Pacemakers leading the field it must have been hard to stand out in a morass of quite frankly similar sounding bands, The Merseybeats originally started life as The Mavericks in 1960 the founders were two 15 year olds Tony Crane and Bill Kinsley. In 1962 the famous MC and Booker of The Cavern Club Bob Wooler had taken an interest in the band  re-dubbed them The Pacifics which only lasted a week before that changed yet again to The Merseybeats, a name the band initially thought a bit corny but they stuck with it. Like everyone in the local scene they knew Brian Epstein and were hoping he would take them on and guide them as he had done with his other famous acts. He promised them this would be the case but the guys got tired of waiting and then, in what they admit now as a rather silly fit of pique, they went their own way when Epstein refused to buy them suits! ‘He’d bought The Beatles suits but not us’ admitted Bill & it hacked us off. They had made a couple of home demos by now ‘All I Have To Do Is Dream’ &’So How Come’. For the full and fascinating story of these early days the accompanying 24 page booklet to this new set is an excellent and comprehensive read. But in short by 1963 the band had made the pilgrimage to London and signed with Fontana Records. They scored their first hit with ‘It’s Love That Really Counts’ the track that opens CD1 a Burt Bacharach number written originally for The Shirelles it gave the band their first taste of success hitting No 24. However it was their second hit that really defined the bands image. ‘I Think Of You’ was a beautifully crafted ballad written by Peter Lee Stirling, later to have his own success as a singer under the alias Daniel Boone with ‘Beautiful Sunday’. It wasn’t really the direction the band saw themselves going in as basically balladeers, they were more beat orientated but you can’t argue with that sort of success. ‘I Think Of You’ went Top 5 and i think still stands as one of the classiest records to stem from the Liverpool scene. But even as they were riding high founder member Bill quit the band unhappy with their management. He was replaced temporarily by Bob Garner (later of The Creation) & then permanently by Johnny Gustafson of The Big 3.  With Johnny on board the band had 2 more hits with another excellent ballad in ‘Don’t Turn Around’ & ‘Wishin & Hopin’ also a hit for Dusty Springfield. In 1964 Bill returned to the fold but although they continued to issue a steady stream of good records further chart success eluded them. By 1965 the ‘beat boom’ was over and Merseybeat had become passe. It was at this point that into Tony & Bills lives stepped 2 people very well known to myself (as my future bosses) Kit Lambert & Chris Stamp of Track Records & most famous as being behind The Who. Kit had seen the guys playing in a London club and was interested. However Kit & Chris were expending their energies on The Who and it wasn’t until after ‘Anyway Anyhow Anywhere; had provided the band with their second hit that Kit signed The Merseybeats and started producing them. He produced 3 singles ‘Soldier Of Love’ a cover of James Browns ‘I Love You’ Yes I Do’ and ‘I Stand Accused’ all good records but commercial failures. In January 1966 the news came that The Merseybeats had split up. Again the full story behind that makes for some fascinating reading in the booklet referred to earlier. Bill & Tony emerged as a duo with their name shortened to The Merseys. They went on tour supporting The Who and then cut what would become to my mind one of the greatest singles of the 60’s in ‘Sorrow’. Originally a ‘b’ side to The McCoys single ‘Fever’ which flopped, it was taken up by Kit and as well as Bill & Tony the original studio version recorded also featured Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, Jack Bruce & Tornados drummer Clem Cattini. Strangely their label Fontana rejected this first version and it was re-recorded after they had got shot of Page! (that couldn’t have happened too often). ‘Sorrow’ was a Top 5 hit and has become an iconic 60’s record, loved by millions including Bowie who recorded his own cover version for his Pin Ups album. Sadly in terms of commercial success ‘Sorrow’ would prove to be the bands last hit despite some fine follow ups, including ‘So Sad About Us’ Pete Townshend’s composition later to appear on The Who’s ‘A Quick One’ album.  By 1968 and their final single ‘Lovely Loretta’ the band had become unhappy with the way things were and their management. They returned to being The Merseybeats and played the ‘cabaret’ and nostalgia circuits. This didn’t suit Bill who left to work as Liverpool Express in the 70’s. Things came full circle in 1993 when Bill & Tony re-united once again as The Merseybeat’s and continue to play regularly across the UK & Europe. This retrospective is an often fascinating and rewarding look at a band that has now spanned 60 years. As previously mentioned i believe as both The Merseybeats & The Merseys they made some of the classiest records of the 60’s and you will find plenty to enjoy in this 63 track compilation. It’s all housed handsomely in a digipack with a wealth of photo’s and as already mentioned the package contains a well written and absorbing history. Enjoy.

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

Till next time… stay safe… Colin

 

Alan Esdaile… Colin, I agree on ‘I Think Of You’ and love your description ‘classiest record to stem from the Liverpool scene’.

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 The Glitter Band: The Complete Singles Collection, 3CD Digipak

THE COMPLETE SINGLES COLLECTION  The Glitter Band

Memories  of 1973 come flooding back, For a good part of that year yours truly was on tour with these guys and their erstwhile ‘leader’.  Here for the first time in this new 3CD set are all the chart singles, some rare 45’s, the 1989 re-worked ‘Angel Face’ (not available on CD before) and a live performance recorded at The Marquee in 1985. For those who like a bit of history. When ‘Rock & Roll Parts 1 & 2’ was a surprise hit in 1972 for G.G. the records producer Mike Leander needed a touring band for live gigs. He parachuted in an already established bunch of guys who were then working as The Boston Showband. After a few shuffles and being known initially as The Glittermen they settled down to a stable line-up as The Glitter Band. The line-up was John Rossall (trombone & the bands musical director), Gerry Shephard (lead guitar & vocals), John Springate (bass & vocals), Harvey Ellison (saxophone), & keeping thumping tight time at the back the twin drummers Tony Leonard & Pete Phipps. It was the twin drum’s combined with Gerry’s glitter ‘Star’ guitar with its unorthodox multi-octave tuning that became the signature sound of the band. I think most people assumed the band played on the GG hits but they didn’t (other than John & Harvey sometimes contributing to the brass section), they were recorded by Mike Leander (&GG) in the studio doing all the parts. By 1973 the band wanted to write & record their own records. They approached Leander who agreed & signed them to a separate deal with Bell Records, (GG’s) label. They hit the ground running with their first single ‘Angel Face’ a number 4 hit (outselling GG’s latest offering). Over the next 2 years the band stacked up another half a dozen hits ‘Just For You’, ‘Lets Get Together Again’, ‘Goodbye My Love’, ‘The Tears I Cried’, ‘Love In The Sun’ & finally ‘People Like You & People Like Me’. Then in came Punk sweeping away the Glam acts. The band left Bell in 1976 for CBS where their debut single ‘Lay Your Love On Me’ dropped their signature sound & opted for a more pop/harmony approach, A clutch of singles followed but none troubled the charts. From then on the band would shift to smaller labels and the members would split into 2 ‘GlitterBand’s, one led by Gerry & Pete, and the other by John Rossall. The usual split ups, re-unions and legal wrangling over the right to use the Glitter Band name all ensued as the years ticked by. However the loyal fanbase remained and the various incarnations were welcomed with enthusiasm across Europe, Germany as ever being a faithful audience. And it’s that ‘live’ experience that for my money is the real winner in this new release. The 3rd CD in the set catches the band on fine form at The Marquee. Inevitably kicking off with the trademark ‘heys’ & beats of ‘Rock & Roll Part 2’ followed by the bands re-working of The Exciters ‘Tell Him’ (once proposed as a single). However rather than choosing to make it a ‘greatest hits’ set the band opt amongst other numbers to instead cover (& well) 2 Who tracks ‘The Kids Are Alright’ with some blistering guitar work before segueing neatly into ‘Substitute’ with some good solid drums by Pete. There follows a rather strange choice with the old soul classic ‘Stay With Me’ which whilst it could never match the original the band make a pretty fair fist of it with a neat guitar solo. Closing the set with their biggest hit ‘Angel Face’ & the natural final number ‘Goodbye My Love’ there’s no doubt the guys were clearly still greatly enjoying themselves. Sadly Gerry & Harvey are no longer with us. Gerry passed away aged just 51 in 2003 & Harvey in 2017, As i said at the start i have some very fond memories of the guys back at the height of Glitter mania & listening to this new compilation a lot have flooded back. As ever the packaging & accompanying booklet from 7T’s Records is great quality and a worthy addition to their ‘Complete’ series. Enjoy.

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

Mick O’Dowd… Memories of playing footie on the lawn at Alexander Park when the Glitter Over England tour stopped here for the Hastings Carnival night gig. Nice bunch of guys!

Mick Turner… That was when Gary Glitter was the Leader of the band, did it not rain that evening and he kept playing. I know he was prat but his music was good.

Colin Bell… Yes it did rain, i was compering the gig and we were all concerned as we’d built the stage of scaffolding we and him would get electrocuted or struck by the lightning that evening. In the light of later events (none of which any of us were aware of at the time) it might have been a good thing….

Mick O’Dowd… True Colin, me & Chris Gentry slept in an old caravan backstage the night before as security and it had the mother of all storms and kept us awake. It did rain on the day as well and I watched from under the stage!

Daryl Perkins… I loved this band!!!

Pete Prescott… I played one gig with Pete Phipps years ago. Nice guy. I was warned too not mention his old boss. I didn’t.

Tim Phillips… Thanks for posting Alan . Very informative. Many many years ago 1973 some of us from Ryes Boys Club dressed up as the glitter band on the back of a lorry . Always liked there tunes . It’s such a shame cover Bands do not play any GG or glitter bands tunes due to GG unforgivable behaviour.

Derek Johnson… Pete did an album of his own a couple of years ago. Not sure how it did. Really nice guy, always has time to talk, I last saw him in the sports centre a couple of years ago.

Willie Wicking..

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Tony Ham… John Rossall’s Glitter Band played The Con Club in Lewes last year.

Stuart Moir… We the old (Centre Page) supported them on Hastings Pier, I remember Revie Stockdale walked into their dressing room after they came off stage and the Glitter man was sat down on a sofa and looked about ninety.

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Ray Fenwick: Playing Through The Changes – Anthology 1964-2020, 3CD

Playing Through The Changes : The Anthology (1964-2020)     RAY FENWICK
Released this Friday this compilation will be of interest to many, especially some from the local music scene. Where to start with Ray? Well firstly i’ve sadly not had the pleasure of meeting him, which given the amount of bands and projects he’s been involved in is surprising, however i know some of you reading this have, so any innaccuracies that follow are entirely mine and i’ll stand corrected. Ray is one of Rock’s supreme journeymen whose career has spanned over 6 decades and has encompassed a myriad of genres from Ska to Hard Rock. He is not only a gifted guitarist but also a singer, multi-instrumentalist, producer and a noted session player. I strongly recommend that you follow the link to https://www.cherryred.co.uk at the conclusion of this piece for more information as i would need a book to do full justice to his story. In short he began playing guitar at an early age fully encouraged by his parents and by the age of 15 joined his first band Rupert & The Red Devils and though underage trod the established path to playing the seedy clubs of Germany & Holland where in the latter he would later play frequently having met & befriended Jan Akkerman & Focus. Returning to the UK he joined The Excels (formed by another Ex Red Devil) the infamous Don Arden became their booking agent and off they went to the South Of France to play on the more salubrious Riviera, making the acquaintance of Brigitte Bardot along the way (lucky man!). After this sortie he joined The Syndicats replacing the outgoing Steve Howe, then utilising his connections he moved on to Dutch band Tee Set. By 1967 he’d joined The Spencer Davis Group as they entered their second phase after the departure of Steve Winwood. I’m particularly fond of this period that started with ‘Time Seller’ as i really enjoyed the shift to psychedelia the band experimented with. Although Ray wasn’t on ‘Time Seller’ he did play on the excellent ‘Mr Second Class’. After 2 years with The SDG Ray was off again to pastures new with The ian Gillian Band via recording some sessions with Bo Diddley along the way. By 1974 he’d become part of rock band Fancy who had a surprise American hit with a cover of ‘Wild Thing’. Fancy were a group of session musicians put together by Ray’s long term mentor and friend celebrated music arranger Mike Hurst. In the eighties another of Ray’s projects would come together as Forcefield (in 3 incarnations) more of which later. As is plainly obvious Ray has been a very busy and ubiquitous figure in the industry and i’ve only really scratched the surface. This new release compiled with Ray’s full involvement consists of 3 CD’s containing 61 tracks housed in a very sturdy fold out digipack crammed with photo’s and an exhaustive booklet with tells the extensive story of this remarkable career. CD1 is rich with the many facets of Ray’s playing from the opener ‘Mercury High’ Gillan Band track through to Ska represented by The South Coast Ska Stars ‘Range Rider’ the groove laden rock of Fancy & ‘She’s Ridin The Rock Machine’, Spencer Davis, Rupert & The Red Devils, Eddie Hardins ‘Wind In The Willows’ Ray’s sublime take on The Shadow’s ‘Apache’ and joy of joy’s the mod revival sound of old friend Tich Turner’s Escalator ‘Are You Wiv’ are just some of the other delights and highlights. CD2 is more rock and project orientated kicking off with Forcefield’s (Mk1) cover of ‘Smoke On The Water’ (a track we’ll return to at the conclusion). Artists featured include Tee-Set, David Coverdale, Roger Glover (& friends) Eddie Hardin’s Wizard Convention, Forcefield (Mk2), Hardin & York & Graham Bonnet. And if you are someone reading this who thinks  i haven’t been aware of Ray through all these tracks, well maybe, but you will have heard him as a kid growing up if you watched kids TV as he also co-wrote the theme to ‘Magpie’ included here, boy has this guy been prolific. CD3 is another eclectic mix featuring the Ian Gillian Band, Forcefield (Mk3), Eddie Hardin, Mike Hurst, Spencer Davis, Bo Diddley, a wonderful version of Mason Williams ‘Classical Gas’ featuring Cozy Powell and 2 tracks from Ray Fenwicks White Lightning ‘Shine It On Me’ & ‘Mail Box’ both featuring our very own local lad Pete Prescott on lead vocals (there’s a rather endearing photo of the band featured on the inside of the compilation….hair metal rules!). It’s Pete that gets the final word on this marvellous compilation. I rang him as i was somewhat puzzled as to why any band would record a cover version of the iconic ‘Smoke On The Water’ (as referred to earlier kicking off CD2 as Forcefield), doing it as a live number i could understand, i’ve heard a million rock bands do that. But to record it is surely superfluous?. Over to Pete, it came about when he was living and gigging in Switzerland in the mid-80’s where he made the acquaintance of one of the singers from the band The Far Corporation who had a hit in 1985 by covering LZ’s ‘Stairway To Heaven’ (masterminded by Boney M creator and producer Frank Farian). spurred on by this if you can cover an iconic song like that…so Ray, with an eye on the Japanese market (who love their metal) invited Pete, Cozy etc to Catsfield Studio’s where he was working to record SMOTW. So that’s answered that, thanks Pete. I apologise for my lack of Forcefield knowledge! So in conclusion, this is a fascinating collection of work spanning a remarkable career and space has precluded me from all the story but i trust i have whetted your appetite. Ray has been an influence and a helping hand to many a musician local and otherwise and Lemon Records have done a fine job with this package celebrating his many talents. Enjoy.

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

Till 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 Harpers Bizarre: Come To The Sunshine – The Complete Warner Brothers Recordings, 4CD Box Set

COME TO THE SUNSHINE : The Complete Warner Brothers Recordings (4CD)   Harpers Bizarre

This new box set from e’l Records brings together the original 4 albums recorded by Harpers Bizarre between 1967 & 1969, They are ‘Feelin’ Groovy’, ‘Anything Goes’, ‘The Secret Life Of Harpers Bizarre’ & ‘Harpers Bizarre 4′. The band were from California and grew out of an earlier outfit The Tiki’s. In 1967 Warners record executive & producer Lenny Waronker heard Paul Simon’s 59th Bridge Street Song (Feelin’ Groovy) and developed a passion to turn it into a hit single. The main 2 guys from The Tiki’s Ted Templeman & Dick Scoppettone together with major musicians from the famous LA session guys ‘The Wrecking Crew’ went into the studio & fulfilled that mission, emerging with the desired hit with ‘Feelin’ Groovy’. With a name change to Harpers Bizarre (a play on words of the famous fashion mag) they were on their way to major success with their blend of sunshine/baroque pop. I’ve written previously of my love of the genre of baroque pop. If you’re not acquainted with the term it’s basically a form of music that flourished for a brief 2 or 3 years between 1966 & 1969. It’s distinguished by its inclusion of orchestral instruments fused with conventional guitar/drum line-up’s. Added to lyrics that are usually, but not always, about the mystic & ethereal side of life. It can really be traced back to The Beatles & the release of ‘Rubber Soul’ & in particular the track ‘In My Life’ with its use of harpsichord as a main instrument (actually it was a studio engineered piano) but the harpsichord would become a staple & much favoured instrument of the bands that created the new genre, The other influence on Baroque was the multi-layered vocals & harmonies which the Beach Boys & their seminal ‘Pet Sound’s album were the major exponents of. This fusion created classics like the original ‘Walk Away Renee’ by The Left Banke. Harpers Bizarre were however probably the ultimate purveyors of this new genre. The debut album ‘Feelin Groovy’ was perfectly timed to cash in on the single and was a big seller rising to 13 on the Billboard Hot 100. Apart from its catchy title song it featured a wide range of the bright & unexpected from the show tune of Oscar Hammerstein’s ‘Happy Talk’ to a treatment of Prokofiev’s ‘Peter & The Wolf’ to the offbeat compositions of Randy Newman represented here by his ‘Simon Smith & His Amazing Dancing Bear’ (to be honest a track i’ve always loathed) by whoever performs it. More talent surrounds the album with tracks being produced by a young Van Dyke Parks. who had of course been working with Brian Wilson, so the harmonies link is clear. Plus a nascent Leon Russell also getting into his arranging/producing stride. The second album ‘Anything Goes’ again named after the second hit single of the same name build’s on and extends the foundations laid down by ‘Feelin Groovy’, it’s another kaleidoscope of sounds with songs by Cole Porter, original material by the band & another contribution with ‘Snow’ from Randy Newman. The album feels altogether more well thought out and it’s certainly ambitious in its orchestrations and arrangements & is more polished than its predecessor. By the time of the release of the 3rd album ‘The Secret Life Of Harpers Bizarre’ in 1968 the formula was well established. This time though it didn’t yield another big hit single. It managed a minor one with ‘The Battle Of New Orleans’, a song probably better known here in the UK through Lonnie Donegans hit version. This time around the ‘classic’ composers are represented by George & Ira Gershwin with ‘I’ll Build A Stairway To Paradise’, the band’s own compositions really come into their own with numbers like ‘Green Apple Tree’ & ‘Mad’ and there is a rather good sped up version of the Ivy Leagues classic ‘Funny How Love Can Be’. Future Carpenters hit songwriter Paul Williams also weighs in with ‘The Drifter’ a delightful light & airy piece. The 4th & final album in the box set ‘Harpers Bizarre 4’ released in 1969 is maybe the most diverse with treatments of soul classics like ‘Knock On Wood’ & ‘Hard To Handle’ to Lennon/McCartneys ‘Blackbird’ & all climaxing with John Denvers ‘Leaving On A Jet Plane’. It also contains the bands Ted Templemans best original material in my opinion. I did feel however that by the time i reached Disc 4 the stream of beautifully crafted compositions had reached a surfeit, a bit like having too much ice cream or candy floss in one go. I think it would be a better approach to leave a little time between listening to each album to derive the maximum enjoyment.  Overall though i thoroughly enjoyed getting re-acquainted with a favourite genre played & arranged by masters of the art. It would have been nice to have the collection housed in a sturdy clamshell box rather than a slipcase, but that’s a minor niggle, the accompanying booklet is well produced with a wealth of information. If you need to chill (and who doesn’t in these times) this is a splendid way to do it. Enjoy.

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