SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell, reviewing Chicken Shack: Crying Won’t Help You Now – The Deram Years 1971-1974, 3CD Box Set

CHICKEN SHACK   CRYING WON’T HELP YOU NOW: THE DERAM YEARS (1971-1974)(3CD)

As someone once said you can be sure of 2 things in life, death & taxes. I’d like to add to that with…and somewhere near you in any given week you’ll find Stan Webb’s Chicken Shack playing a gig! The band have become a British institution, and quite rightly so. Since arriving on the scene in 1965 despite wars, recessions, global warming, pandemics etc etc there has always been throughout a man with a guitar playing the blues at the front of his band, a constant in an ever rapidly changing world. My first introduction to Chicken Shack came in 1969 when they were fronted by Christine Perfect (later McVie) singing their version of blues classic ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’ which was a reasonably sized hit. Since those early days the band has undergone a myriad of changes in personnel and style. Which brings us to this lavishly put together new box set from Esoteric Recordings. Housed in a clamshell box this collection brings together the 3 albums Stan & the band recorded for Decca’s ‘progressive’ label Deram between 1971 & 1974. The 3 albums in question are ‘Imagination Lady’ (1971), ‘Unlucky Boy’ (1973) & ‘Goodbye’ (1974). By 1971 Chicken Shack was paired down to a trio consisting of Stan Webb, John Glascock (bass) & Paul Hancox (drums) this line-up would only last, like many of Chicken Shack’s for a short time. However this was the trio that recorded the first album in this set ‘Imagination Lady’. If you’d never heard Chicken Shack before and had just been told they were a blues band you could be forgiven for thinking you’d been given a rock record by mistake. Kicking off with the title track to the whole compilation ‘Crying Won’t Help You Now’ it’s certainly more rock than blues as Stan unleashes some blistering runs on his axe, with a whole dose of wailing wah-wah pedalling over a frenetic drum pattern. It’s definitely a long way from his early ‘classic’ blues early records. The opener sets the tone for the whole album which shows off Stan’s new harder blues rock direction which gains more momentum with Track 2 ‘Daughter Of The Hillside’ that has become a beloved classic fan favourite over the years and one of my own favourites and a record I’m sure needs no new words from me. Track 3 seems a rather odd choice to me, it being a rock take on Tim Hardin’s classic folk song ‘If I Were A Carpenter’, which again see’s Stan drenching the song with an abundance of fuzz laden guitar set against some Mitch Mitchell style drumming from Paul. I can’t quite make up my mind as to whether It’s a great take or somewhat self indulgent, the jury’s out there. ‘Going Down’ follows which whilst still rocky is much more back in classic blues territory and contains some glorious ‘crying guitar’ short licks from Stan. Skipping on a couple of tracks to the epic ‘Telling Your Fortune’ a track i feel i should know but in all honesty i don’t remember, if you’re a drummer or just into drums it’s quite a tour-de-force from Paul and being a sometime drummer myself i found myself more than a little impressed! He certainly knows his way round a kit. The following track ‘The Loser’ for some unknown reason reminds me of a Beatles track which i can’t quite pin down in my head, it’s a short neat little piece which thankfully is devoid of wah-wah! I have to say that if there is such a thing as suffering from an overdose of wah-wah then I’m suffering! By Bonus track ‘Poor Boy’ I’ve heard enough from the wah-wah pedal to last me for a good long time & want to tell Stan to get his foot off the damn thing…On to the second album in the collection ‘Unlucky Boy’ and with a change of bass player to Bob Daisley, the band turn in to my mind a better balanced album than the previous one, with more light and shade on show as opposed to the formers rather more full on frenetic pace. This is much more in the tradition of a blues album, Track 2 ‘Revelation’ is a warm, relaxed excellent piece with some of the best of Stan’s laid back guitar overlaid with some fine brass backing. Track 4 ‘Too Late To Cry’ is another gem blessed with some really neat picking making it a joy to listen to. This is followed by ‘Stan The Man’ which i hardly think needs much explaining! again replete with some really enjoyable licks and riffs together with some boogie-woogie foot tapping piano. The title track of the album ‘Unlucky Boy’ is a strong piece of work and one of the standout tracks with some glorious brass work melding perfectly with a good vocal performance from Stan. The laid back ‘As Time Goes passing By’ is another of the standout tracks for me, a slow burning piece, filled with mellow guitar and the addition of some sweet string orchestration. And finally we’re on to the 3rd album in the set 1974’s ‘Goodbye’. This catches the band playing live at Brunel University in October 1973, with as you might expect from Stan, yet another set of new musicians in the line-up. This was to be the final album before he disbanded the band to join Savoy Brown at the time. The album is full of fan favourites opening with the classic BB King number ‘Everyday I Have The Blues’ before sliding into what is probably my favourite track ‘Thrill Is Gone’ an impeccable piece of playing from all concerned. I think this album is one of the best vocal performances Stan has put out. He’s an acquired taste i know, but he’s really strong here. Other standout tracks are ‘Going Down’ & ‘Webb’s Boogie’ my piano playing friend Alan i know will really appreciate this when i duly play it to him. There are 9 tracks in all ending with an epic raise the roof version of the evergreen classic ‘Tutti Frutti’ clearly leaving the many fans very happy. Esoteric Recordings have done a fine job with the presentation of this 3CD set. It comes in a very sturdy clamshell box containing each of the 3 albums in separate sleeves reproducing the original vinyl covers, 2 of them being gatefold and a glossy and informative accompanying booklet. If you’re a Stan Webb/Chicken Shack fan or like your blues shot through with some hard rock, this new collection is definitely for you. Enjoy.

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

Alan Esdaile… Love Chicken Shack’s version of ‘Thrill Is Gone’, amazing playing. Great by a lot of different people but my favourite would be Tracy Chapman and BB King… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DdNpuPWspQk

 

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Rose Royce: The Definitive Collection, 3CD Box Set

THE DEFINITIVE COLLECTION   ROSE ROYCE  (3CD)

I have to say straight off, the fact you are reading this review, from this particular reviewer, is in itself something of a minor miracle. Much as I’ve had a lifetime love of music & chose it as my career, there are a few genres & time periods that leave me stone cold, no matter how hard i try. One in particular is the mid to late 70’s disco boom spearheaded by ‘Saturday Night Fever’ at the sound of Barry Gibb breaking into that falsetto on ‘Night Fever’ ‘ Jive Talkin’ etc i run for the hills with my fingers in my ears. But of course there is always going to be the odd exception to my general disregard of that whole time/genre. That exception i present to you here today in the shape of Rose Royce. I don’t recall now when i first became of them, but no doubt it was 1976 and ‘Car Wash’ but it was undoubtedly a year or more later when i heard ‘Wishing On A Star’ that i finally did take some notice. Who was that lead female singer with such an enchanting vocal? Rose Royce’s story began in 1973 when an 8 piece collective from Los Angeles then known as the Total Concept Unlimited toured Europe & the UK as part of Edwin Starr’s soul show. It was Edwin that introduced the band to legendary Motown songwriter/songwriter Norman Whitfield in a move which saw the stars align. After a decade at Motown shaping the careers of Edwin & notably The Temptations, Whitfield was looking for a new challenge and left Motown taking with him The Undisputed Truth and setting up his own label Whitfield Records. His next move was to sign the Total Concept Unlimited as the studio and touring band to back them. By this time the band had changed its name & become Magic Wand. Whilst in Miami a member of The Undisputed Truth heard Gwen Dickey singing in a local band and brought her to Whitfield’s attention who flew her to Los Angeles for an audition. He realised he had found in her the ingredient missing from Magic Wand and installed her as their lead singer, in the process giving her the stage name Rose Norwalt. Whitfield had recently been charged with creating the soundtrack for a new musical comedy movie ‘Car Wash’. Whitfield took the members of Magic Wand to the film set for them to soak up the atmosphere and used the music he created for the movie to launch the band, who with a final name change, he dubbed Rose Royce to reference Rose (Gwen Dickey) and Royce to signify ‘class’ as in Rolls Royce. The band were immediately successful with the single release of the theme ‘Car Wash’ which was a Billboard No 1 and the soundtrack double album from which it was lifted was certified double platinum. ‘Car Wash’ is naturally the opening track on this excellent new 3 CD compilation from Robinsongs. It is called The Definitive Collection and for once it certainly lives up to its title. I have lost track of the albums i have been sent over the years that use the word ‘definitive’ but 9 out of 10 times aren’t. This is usually because the band concerned have recorded for several different labels & they haven’t all been willing parties to participate together with one collection, thus you don’t really get a true ‘definitive’ compilation at all and you end up having to buy several albums to get what you want. That is not the case here. Robinsongs have pulled together the bands work from all labels concerned in the Rose Royce story MCA, Warner (who backed Whitfield Records) and Epic. So,you can literally sit back and enjoy all the classics you would expect. Disc1 as you might expect kicks off with ‘Car Wash’ (the long version) and features other major hits including ‘I Wanna Get Next To You’ ‘I’m Going Down’ ‘Wishing On A Star’& the exquisite ‘Love Don’t Live Here Anymore’ which must surely rank as one of Gwen’s finest vocal performances over her career with the band. Alongside these biggies are some great funk/soul tracks like ‘Do Your Dance’ which are clearly inspired by Whitfield’s work with The Temptations but taken to a new funkier level. The closing track is also a real beauty, a mid paced ballad entitled ‘Help’ which I’ve totally fallen for. Disc2 starts with a fabulous track That’s What’s Wrong With Me’ that displays many of the musical traits of ‘psychedelic soul’ that Whitfield had pioneered at Motown. However it’s track 2 that i can’t get out of my head and have repeatedly replayed just for its wonderful intro. The way it builds with the stabbing synth, the drums, the bass line, the horns, the strings all making their appearances is intoxicating. Although i was obviously aware of it at the time of its release in 1979 i didn’t REALLY listen to it then ‘Is It Love That You’re After’ was and is a truly great track and I’m somewhat ashamed i wrote off late 70’s ‘disco’ as mentioned at the start of this review so completely, when songs as good as this existed, but hey it’s never too late to learn. IILTYA was to be the last hit featuring Gwen before she left to go solo in 1979. Track 3 ‘Bad Mother Funker’ (yes i did spell that right…) is a very cool slice of funk as is the following track ‘Pazazz’, an instrumental which contains some dazzling horns. I’m not going to pretend I’m familiar with all the tracks that make up Disc2, 13 in total, because I’m not, due as aforementioned to my previous disinterest in the genre, but I’m learning and listening avidly and genuinely enjoying what I’m hearing. Disc3 contains 10 tracks and kicks off with the full length 12 minute version of ‘RR Express’, which again being totally honest is the only track on the disc that I am familiar with and that is only because a friend i used to hang with in London loved it, The following 2 tracks ‘Jump Street’ & ‘Illusions’ both gave my speakers a good work out and are deeply funky. There were moments listening to this collection where certain parts or riffs would remind me of Earth Wind & Fire or Sly & The Family Stone, but i honestly think Rose Royce in the final analysis are often cooler & more refined than either. I’m now re-assessing my previously held opinions on late 70’s disco/funk thanks to listening to this compilation. I may not find anything else from that era that i have changed my mind about, however i thank Robinsongs for showing me the error of my ways when it comes to Rose Royce. The collection comes housed in a quality fold out pack with accompanying informative booklet. If i was still using my old 5 star rating system this new compilation would merit all 5 and that’s a statement i never thought I’d make about this genre when i woke up today. Enjoy.

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

Til next time…..stay safe…..Colin

Alan Esdaile… Good review and video but the track I really love is ‘Love Don’t Live Here Anymore’

Mick O’Dowd… Really loved this band. I’m another fan of RR Express. Had 12″ copy (the long version and played it a lot. I also love the other tracks you mention. Thanx for the background info. very interesting. If you see a spare copy floating about can you put my name on it please.

 

 

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 Can The Glam! 4CD Clamshell Box Set Various Artists

CAN THE GLAM!     Various Artists  (4CD Set)
Well no prizes for guessing what this latest offering from Cherry Red’s 7T’s label is all about. Over 2 years in the planning and compiling this retrospective of the early to mid 70’s UK Glam phenomenon is represented here in 80 tracks across 4 CD’s blending the Major acts with the forgotten, also rans and in respect of this reviewer the never heard before! (which after 50+ years in the business is some sort of record in itself). So lets dive in and see a sample of what’s on offer. The whole collection kicks off with the Shepperton Flames and a track called ‘Take Me For What I Am’ which is real proto Glam being recorded as early as 1969, it’s a stomper that stitches on screaming fans (think start of Sweets Teenage Rampage) and has a ‘hook’ that’s driving me crazy because i’ve heard it elsewhere but just can’t place it…infuriating! Whilst still puzzling over this, next up is a band that is far removed from the whole Glam scene it’s 60’s comedic/cabaret band The Barron Knights no less, well known for their p**s take medleys of famous bands. But lo and behold this track ‘You’re All I Need’ is a straight stab at the genre and sounds very like something The Glitter Band would have released, even down to the lead guitar which sounds remarkably like my old late mate Gerry Shephard (lead guitarist with the GB) it’s actually very credible. The first of the heavy hitters puts in an appearance next it’s the curly tressed demon fairy Marc Bolan with what was probably in hindsight the epitome of T Rex with ‘Metal Guru’. Another unlikely band puts in a look with Vanity Fare familiar to all with their 3 60’s pop hits. Here they make a reasonable but ultimately forgettable foray with a Georgio Moroder song who normally comes up with a hit but not in this case. The compilation’s title pun ups the heavyweight entries once more with another old mate Susie Q with what else but ‘Can The Can’. Chicory Tip, Alvin Stardust, Arrows, Geordie and Barry Blue with ‘Do You Wanna Dance’ are the other well known tracks mixed in with the aforementioned also rans with interesting entries from bands American Jam Band, Cardinal Point & Rock Rebellion to name but 3. Disc2 Begins with that most hard hitting of Glamster bands Slade, with a track from their glorious 1974 album Old New Borrowed And Blue the stomping ‘We’re Really Gonna Raise The Roof’ followed by a band named Lemming and a track ‘Father John’ which is a rather bizarre mixture of the Glitter Band & The Rattles! and speaking of The Rattles, we all remember ‘The Witch’ and when i saw The Casuals listed with ‘The Witch’ i thought what?!! but as it turns out it’s a different song with the same title. But having once compered a concert on Hastings Pier which featured The Casuals and satanic rockers Black Widow on the same bill nothing would have surprised me…I was rather taken with another 2 bands unknown to me Big Boy Blue with ‘Getting Hungry’ and The Washington Flyers and ‘The Comets Are Coming’ both respectable efforts. The more familiar names are scattered throughout with Mud ‘The Cat Crept In’ (a guilty pleasure of mine!), Mungo Jerry, The Glitter Band & The Damned. Disc3 starts with the wonderfully named Micky Moonshine (an alias for Paul Curtis) and a track ‘Baby Blue’ where ‘Micky’ sounds like Alvin imitating dear old Les Gray imitating Elvis! this is fun! it’s a shame some of these also rans never quite made it…this is followed by a band named Catapult where the song title ‘Teeny Bopper Band’ says it all. The first of the name bands arrives next with Blackfoot Sue…no not that song!! but a track entitled ‘You Need Love’ which was their (unsuccessful) 6th single release. Next up is the guys in those ubiquitous White caps The Rubettes with ‘Juke Box Jive’ where the lead singer actually sings the lead vocal unlike on monster hit ‘Sugar Baby Love’ where he lip synced to a more accomplished singer (don’t get me started on that farce….) Moving on….Interesting entries come from bands Go Go Thunder, Fifth Form & Bilbo Baggins. Other big names showing up on this disc are Showaddywaddy, Hello, Barry Ryan, & The Bay City Rollers all with lesser known tracks than the usually compiled, making it more interesting. The final Disc4 starts with the 3rd hit scored by Kenny the No 12 ‘Baby I Love You, OK!. This is followed by another band like the aforementioned Barron Knights you wouldn’t expect to find on a Glam compilation, this time it’s Paper Lace with a decent Mitch Murray/Pete Calendar song ‘So What If I Am’ which is a damn sight more listenable than the excruciating likes of ‘Billy Don’t Be A Hero’…well that’s my opinion…Interesting bands to discover on this disc are Dancer with ‘Hate Generator’ and i was rather taken with a band called Shabby Tiger and their track ‘Devil Rides Tonight’ amongst several other unfamiliar names to me. There are less well known artists putting in apppearances on this last disc in the collection but John Paul Young, Andy Bown, Johnny Wakelin & Slik all get a look in. There is a wealth of interesting information complete with photo’s on each artist in the accompanying 40 page all colour booklet and the whole collection has been remastered for optimum sound quality. If you’re a fan of the genre and you would like to extend your knowledge beyond the obvious Sweet, Bowie, Bolan you will find plenty to discover and savour here. I had the pleasure of working with 2 of the artists (on the same bill) featured on this compilation on Hastings Pier back in the early 70’s…..great days! Enjoy.
for more information go to https://www.cherryred.co.uk
Til next time……….stay safe……Colin

Mick O’Dowd… Looks a really interesting compilation with not just the usual suspects involved.

 

 

 

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Arrival: Friends – Complete Recordings 1969-1973, 3CD Set

FRIENDS:  COMPLETE RECORDINGS  (1969-1973)   Arrival   (3CD Set)
Hi Guys and welcome to another year of Smart Sounds reviewing the best new re- releases of the 60’s & 70’s. I’m delighted to start the year with this cracking 3CD set, i have been looking forward to receiving this since i had the Press Release a couple of months back. I still have my well played vinyl single of ‘Friends’ in one of those old carry cases where it’s lived since 1970. This new release is very welcome as it’s been difficult (and expensive) to find any of this superb band’s material on CD (or download). This 3CD set expands on the 2CD set released back in 2012 on the excellent but sadly now defunct RPM label. This compilation brings together their 2 albums, one for Decca and one for CBS on the first 2 CD’s, whilst the bonus 3rd CD captures the band in several BBC sessions performed during their tenure at Decca and never before previously released. Also included is a rare Japanese only released single in Jon (So In Love). A little history….the band had its roots in Liverpool in the early 60’s as a four piece named The Excelles, their name being taken as a conjunction of 2 very popular American band’s of the time, The Exciters & The Shirelles. They, like so many others at the time, played local gigs covering Tamla Motown and Soul material becoming popular and appearing at the city’s premier club The Cavern. Despite early appearances on Radio Luxembourg and trips to the likes of The Star Club in Hamburg (following in The Beatles footsteps) mainstream success was still a way off. As the 60’s progressed there were line-up changes with the most significant of these being a young girl who worked in the Record Department of NEMS (Brian Epstein’s Store) by the name of Dyan Birch, who was to become the main lead vocalist and the possessor of the voice we all associate with the band. Realising if they were going to make it big they would have to make the move to London, in 1969 this they did where they signed up with music entrepreneur Tony Hall who added 3 further musicians to their line-up and duly signed them to Decca Records. It’s worth mentioning here that one of the newly added musicians was keyboard player Tony O’Malley who you may have seen several times locally in Hastings over the years playing on The Stade in the Old Town. In fact Tony was the only musician to remain with the band for their whole existence. Their debut single was released in November 1969. ‘Friends’ was a cover of illustrious musician Terry Reid’s composition from his eponymous album released earlier that year. It wasn’t an immediate hit and the new 7 piece band were somewhat dismayed at Decca’s seemingly lukewarm promotional activity on their behalf. They then discovered it had been banned from airplay by the BBC.As it turned out some idiot at the Beeb (it was full of them then) misheard the line ‘all sitting round taking Port after dinner’ as taking POT after dinner! with that error swiftly rectified by the band, by January 1970 the single had made the Top 10 peaking at number 8. I was blown away when i first heard it way back then, The vocal, lead and harmonies were/are stunning backed up by fine musicianship. Arrival really stood out amongst a sea of disposable pop (albeit some of it great) which was 1970 in general. Their follow up single the equally ambitious and sublime ‘I Will Survive’ (not the Gloria Gaynor one!) was issued in May and climbed to No 16 by mid June. I was and remain a big fan of the band’s work, but a very frustrated one! Why? Because professionally i couldn’t promote them as neither ‘Friend’s or ‘I Will Survive’ were records i could use doing my live DJ gigs. They weren’t ‘dance’ records and neither did they suit a slow end of night ‘smoochy’ slow closer, they were just in a different class. Unfortunately, i was yet to do radio at this point, if i had had a show then, i would have plugged the band as much as possible. However, after a year and a fine album for Decca (DIsc1) the band terminated their connection with Tony Hall and upped sticks to new management and a new album in 1972 with their new label CBS (Disc 2). Now normally i would pick out tracks from both albums and quote their titles, but in this instance i don’t think doing that would mean much to many reading this. Let me assure though that Arrival’s blend of superb vocals and superior musicianship are well represented accurately by the previously mentioned singles, unlike some bands, If you enjoyed them, then these albums will more than satisfy you. The overall fusion of Gospel/Jazz/Blues/Rock all overlaid with those superlative vocal arrangements makes for a great listening experience. But don’t take my word for it. no less an artist than the late great Dusty Springfield was quoted as saying if she ever returned to singing in a group it would be Arrival’s sound they would try to emulate. Overall there are 43 tracks to savour in this new compilation and as previously stated they are laid out logically and chronologically mapping the bands career. Disc2 contains a Jimmy Webb song (Let My Life Be Your Love Song) which was in fact their debut single release for their new label. It’s a wonderful track and probably one of their very finest (i admit to being a huge Jimmy Webb fan) but it didn’t do anything chartwise, indeed no further singles did, and apparently the band, especially Dyan were not overly happy with Jimmy’s song as a single, they would have preferred to have tried a different sound to that which they had become known for. During 1972 they gigged extensively with the likes of Thin Lizzy, Taste etc but In the end result by 1973 whether they had stuck with their established sound or chosen a new direction became irrelevant as interest and gigs began drying up and gradually the band lost heart and just petered out with some members going on to become new band Kokomo, a successful soul band, whilst other ex members formed the Olympic Runners or became session musicians. I’ve thought long and hard about why Arrival were not the hugely successful band they should have been. I believe personally it was all down to timing. 1970 was the year when pop and rock separated and embarked on different paths and Arrival were difficult to ‘pigeonhole’ as the media loves to do. In short they weren’t ‘heavy’ in the rock sense and in my opinion were far classier than any ‘pop’ band. If there’s such a thing as being too classy at the wrong time, then this was Arrival’s fate. Strawberry Records are to be congratulated on making this new release available, as i said at the start it’s a cracker. I have only one small niggle, the accompanying booklet and repro card sleeves for each album are great, it would have been perfect however if they were housed in a clamshell or digipack instead of the rather flimsy cardboard outer cover, but hey, that’s a minor price to pay. But taken overall what a great start to this year’s releases. I’m happy to conclude with the fact that all the band members are still with us, with the exception sadly of Dyan who passed away in late 2020 and to whom this release is quite rightly dedicated. Enjoy.
for more information go to https://www.cherryred.co.uk
Til next time…………..Colin

Mick O’Dowd… Didn’t realise they had so much in their catalogue! I thought they were a one-hit wonder and disappeared!

Peter Houghton… I’ve got there Album

Colin Bell… Pete, A man of taste!, just so you know Peter this release has really good sound quality, not always the case with re-issues, but better than my own original vinyl

Peter Houghton… Colin, here are the front and back pictures of my Arrival Album your’s Pete

Colin Bell… Cheers Pete, hard to find that now on vinyl!

Pete Prescott… I’ll check them out. Great write up !

Alan Esdaile… Friends is a great track. Tony O’Malley always puts on a great show when he appears at The Stade.

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 The Drifters: We Gotta Sing – The Soul Years 1962-1971, 3CD Box Set

WE GOTTA SING! THE SOUL YEARS (1962-1971)    The Drifters (3CD SET)

Does the world need another Drifters compilation you may ask? There are dozens available its true. Most of them are ‘Best Ofs’ or ‘Greatest Hits’ which are fine i have a couple myself.  Well i would say the answer is yes, if like me you are a true fan. This new 3CD set from Strawberry Records boasts 76 tracks, including 5 unissued songs long deleted from available CD’s. Plus 2 tracks ‘I Dig Your Act’ & ‘You And Me Together Forever’ which were thought to be lost making their worldwide debut here on this collection. Over the years i have written thousands of words about the institution that is The Drifters and i have been very fortunate at different times to have worked with Ben E King & Johhny Moore. If for some reason you are new to The Drifters they were formed the year after i was born in 1953 and must now qualify for the world’s longest running band. Originally fronted by Clyde McPhatter they were 50’s R&B Stars. The story of the band is a long and complicated one and one i have told before so let’s confine ourselves to this release. The band really can be thought of in terms like a sandwich divided into 3 parts. The bottom slice being their early R&B years from 1953-1960, the top slice their re-incarnation in 1972 when they relocated to London and had a string of pop/soul hits and the meat in the middle is their glorious years contained here, with a title that does what it says on the tin. What i really like about this new compilation is that the tracks appear in chronological order, something i am always a big fan of when a project like this is put together. It allows the listener to grow with the band and hear them change and mature rather than the aforementioned ‘Best Of’s’ etc that tend to leap about all over the place in time and often make for a jarring listen. Disc1 contains 25 tracks and contains some of my favourite early soul tracks ‘Only In America’ ‘Rat Race’ ‘Vaya Con Dios’ & ‘One Way Love’ (which most people know from the hit version recorded by Cliff Bennett) sit alongside the classics ‘Up On The Roof’ ‘Under The Boardwalk’ mono & stereo mixes, ‘On Broadway’ studio & live recordings & ‘Saturday Night At The Movies’. Lead vocal duties are shared by Rudy Lewis & Johnny Moore. Everyone has their own favourite lead singer when it comes to The Drifters. For me it will always be Johnny Moore, they all have their different distinctive styles. but for me Johnny’s seemingly effortless delivery has always captivated me the most, and having had the privilege to know him i admit to also being swayed by what a really lovely guy he was. Disc2 Kicks off with the gorgeous ‘Spanish Lace’ followed by ‘The Christmas Song’, which to be honest i don’t recall hearing before but features a sublime vocal performance by Johnny, indeed it may be one of his very best ever. Other familiar favourites to me are ‘What Kind Of Fool Am I’ ‘As Long As She needs Me’ & ‘Looking Through The Eyes Of Love’ (probably better known to people through Gene Pitney’s hit version). The 2 absolute ‘classic’ hits on this disc are probably in my all time top 5 of all their hits and are records i have played at my gigs thousands of times they are, ‘Come On Over To My Place’ & ‘At The Club’ (in both mono & stereo mixes). Disc3 begins with my all time favourite single 1965’s ‘I’ll Take You Where The Musics Playing’ its the epitome of Johnny Moore at his effortless finest and has always lifted my spirits every time i’ve ever played it. Track 4 is another track i’ve always loved in ‘Up In The Streets Of Harlem’ others are ‘Memories Are Made Of This’ ‘Aretha’ & ‘Baby What I Mean’. Its here on this disc you can also hear the 2 tracks making their debut i referred to at the start. The enduring success of The Drifters wasn’t just down to their peerless singing. They also benefitted from material written by some of the best songwriters in the world Goffin/King, Ellie Greenwich, Bacharach/David, Pomus/Shuman and one of my own favourite combinations in Mann/Weil (The Crystals/The Ronettes/Righteous Brothers). They have now been making music for an incredible 7 decades. You may be a fan of their early years or of the catchy poppier years in the 1970’s, but it would be a brave person that argued against this compilation representing their finest work. The decade this covers from 1962-71 truly was the soul years and with Rudy & Johnny at the helm was a magical time. The compilation comes in a sturdy box with a very well researched and detailed booklet and the sound quality throughout is excellent, Due to space constraints i have only scratched the surface of all the joy that is waiting to be had, listening to all the wonderful treats contained here. Enjoy.

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

Colin Norton… Great album!

Mick O’Dowd… Love it. Love them!

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing White Plains: The Collection, 3CD Digipak

THE COLLECTION     White Plains  (3CD SET)

I have looked forward with great pleasure to this release for some time. At last, released this Friday is a comprehensive overview of one of the finest UK vocal harmony bands we ever produced.  Much has been written about White Plains over the years and much of it has been wrong, So let’s finally put the record straight..pun intended! In 1969 a group of session singers, hit songwriters and additional touring musicians were coming to the end of their successful run. This collective was The Flowerpot Men forever immortalised with their big hit of summer 1967 ‘Let’s Go To San Francisco’. Later that year, on 25th November to be exact,. they played a gig on Hastings Pier where i first met them. Their glorious harmonies were as good live as i had hoped, they were a class act. After ‘San Francisco’ they had more modest success with subsequent records and by 1969 with ‘flower power’ now passe the band had reached the end of it’s natural life. At this point the members consisted of man of many voices & hit records Tony Burrows, plus Pete Nelson, Robin Shaw, Ricky Wolff & additional touring musicians lead guitarist Robin Box & drummer Roger Hills. In March they released their final single ‘In A Moment Of Madness’ written by serial hitmakers Roger Cook & Roger Greenaway. Another great piece of work albeit commercially unsuccessful. By Autumn it was clear the band had reached the end of the road and on the 28th of October 1969 they entered the studio for the final time and recorded 3 tracks before finally disbanding. All their material had been released on Decca’s ‘progressive label’ imprint Deram. Head of A & R at Decca was Dick Rowe, the man forever remembered for being the guys who passed on signing The Beatles. However Dick was not slow when it came to spotting the worth of recordings under his nose. Having listened to those final 3 songs recorded by the now defunct Flowerpot Men he spotted hit potential. All 3 songs were Greenaway/Cook compositions and comprised ‘Today I Killed A Man’ ‘You’ve Got You’re Troubles’ (a previous hit for The Fortunes) and ‘My Baby Loves Lovin’. Loathe to sit on this potential hit material, at his instigation ‘My Baby Loves Lovin’ was released in January 1970 under the name of White Plains (named after the district in New York). By February the record was a Top 20 hit in both the UK & the USA.  So what in fact was the last recording made by the Flowerpot Men became the debut hit for White Plains. With a swiftly re-assembled group made up of past Flowerpot Men minus Ricky Wolff who had other commitments they appeared on Top Of The Pops with Roger Greenaway standing in for Ricky, together with Tony Burrows, Robin Shaw & Pete Nelson. Simultaneously Tony Burrows was enjoying hits as lead singer with Brotherhood Of Man & Edison Lighthouse, given this workload after promoting ‘My Baby Loves Lovin’ Tony quit. Ricky Wolff returned and together with Pete Nelson took the lead on all subsequent releases. Phew! I hope i have now made the history clear once and for all! And now to this splendid 3CD box set. Disc1 contains their self titled debut album which naturally includes ‘My Baby Loves Lovin’ and the follow up hit from April 1970 ‘I’ve Got You On My Mind’ nestling alongside some beautifully constructed songs including ‘When Tomorrow Comes Tomorrow; ‘Taffeta Rose’ ‘In A Moment Of Madness’ (incredible harmonies), ‘Sunny Honey Girl’ (a hit for Cliff Richard), the previously mentioned ‘You’ve Got Your Troubles’ & the exquisite ‘Summer Morning’, The disc contains 2 bonus tracks and one of them is what i consider to be one of their finest ever tracks in ‘Gonna Miss Her Mississippi’ which was the bands 7th single release and while it didn’t fare well at the time it still stands up today as an object lesson in how to produce a top rate vocal harmony track, and one that is damn catchy, why it didn’t do well with the record buying public is a mystery to me. Disc2 finally sees a full release on CD for the bands second album ‘When You Are A King’ which of course features the title track that was another hit for the band and a memorable one, a glorious confection in a strange time signature that is still played regularly on the radio. The other big hit contained here is ‘Julie Do You Love Me’ the bands cover version of American Bobby Sherman’s hit in the USA. Other standout tracks are ‘Home Lovin Man’ ( a hit for Andy Williams) ‘Julia Ann’ ‘Carolina’s Coming Home’ & I’ll Go Blind’, The 12 tracks of the album are augmented by 9 bonus tracks, including ‘Step Into A Dream’ familiar as the theme used in a Butlins TV commercial, also notable amongst the bonus tracks are ‘I Cant Stop’ & the poignant ‘Dad You Saved The World’. Disc3 scoops up 11 tracks, 3 making their first apperance on CD. The firsr 4 recorded under the name Crucible for a 1972 film ‘Extremes’. The following 4 are the aforementioned tracks making their debut on CD recorded under the name Zenith. The compilation comes to a close with 3 tracks from a mid 70’s different line-up of White Plains. Although Disc3 is fine and in rarity terms a gift to collectors and an interesting listen it will probably more likely appeal to die hard completists. The First 2CD’s are the real meat and for my money the essential listening. White Plains were an unpretentious pop band who made some of the best harmony pop ever recorded and i’ve long extolled their virtues to anybody that would listen! If you are into the genre and have never had a proper listen now at long last 7T’s Records have given you that opportunity, for which i am truly grateful. The packaging, accompanying booklet and the sound quality of the recordings are all first class as you would expect from this label. Enjoy.

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

Alan Esdaile… I’m always amazed by the amount of tracks Tony Burrows sang on and lots that he is not credited for.

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Mike Hurst: In My Time – Recordings, Productions and Songs 1962-1985, 4CD Box Set

IN MY TIME (1962-1985)     Mike Hurst  (4CD Set)

Settle down guys there’s a lot to get through here! If the name Mike Hurst doesn’t immediately ring a bell with you trust me you have heard him or one of his productions. Mike is one of the pioneers of the UK music industry. A singer/songwriter/producer, his body of work is frankly enormous. This excellent new 4CD box set from Strawberry Records covers just 3 decades of his career yet spans 93 tracks! spanning Mike’s solo recordings, those with his early beat band, his tenure in The Springfields, his later ‘singer/songwriter’ phase of the 70’s and his work with internationally renowned artistes as a sought after record producer. Listening to the collection has been in turns, delightful, surprising, baffling, hugely enjoyable and sometimes (sorry Mike) in a few instances dire, but anything but dull. Pushed on stage aged 4 by his mum and meeting the great Buddy Holly at a stage door in London when he was 16 were the catalysts that set Mike on his career path in the music business. And what a career the man has had. I don’t have the space to write a book (he should write his memoirs) let’s take each of the 4 discs in the set in turn and i’ll precis them and give you a taste of what to expect. Disc1 starts with Mike’s early singles from the 60’s which for the first 8 or 9 tracks or so are pleasantly typical offerings of early rock and roll. The sort of fare you would have heard from his contemporaries like Marty Wilde, Vince Eager, etc unremarkable but perfectly listenable. Then comes track 11 ‘I Couldn’t Wait To Tell You’ i sit up as he comes out with a song my great friend Peter Sarstedt might have made, this is more like it. Then the next track ‘Mexican Melody’ is redolent of one of those songs Pat Boone would show up playing in a naff 60’s American ‘beach movies’. Having recovered from that, the next track ‘For Always’ further confuses me as Mike turns in a performance Gene Pitney would be proud of! Now you know what i meant when i said baffling! Mike himself says in the accompanying booklet he enjoyed this phase of his career, especially the cuts he made with his band The Methods who contained who else but the ubiquitous Jimmy Page, sometimes i think Jimmy was the only guitarist in London in the 60’s! Disc1 concludes with 7 bonus tracks which contain 2 gems from Mike’s first big break as we skip backwards to 1962 when he replaced Tim Field and joined Tom and Dusty in The Springfields. ‘Silver Threads & Golden Needles’ & ‘Island Of Dreams’ evoke in me happy golden childhood memories of time spent with mum and dad, lovely. Then i’m jerked out of that by Mike Hurst’s Orchestra playing the theme to ‘Mission Impossible’….Let’s move on, Disc2. This comprises 2 albums Mike made in fairly quick succession for Capitol Records in the 70’s. This is Mike in archetypal ‘singer/songwriter’ territory exploring different themes and encompassing various genres in what might be described as a bit of a scattergun approach. There’s the lushly orchestrated tracks such as ‘To My Daughter’ & ‘Hung Upside Down’ the introspective and rather lovely ‘All I Can Do Is Sing’ before changing tack with the jazzy ‘Photograph Of Love’ and then just to keep me on my toes the next 3 tracks turn in a ‘country’ direction, I leave Disc2 baffled with the question will the real Mike Hurst please stand up?! Disc3 begins and i have landed in familiar territory as we meet Mike the Producer, who after the demise of The Springfields, and his solo and band ventures, set off for pastures new as a Producer at Andrew Loog Oldham’s Immediate Records. There are some wonderful tracks from the likes of Chris Farlowe, Warm Sounds, Barry St John & a demo of Pat Arnolds’s ‘First Cut Is The Deepest’ which in 50 years of knowing Pat i’ve never heard before! Away from the Immediate stable of artistes there are other great productions for Paul & Barry Ryan, The Move, Colin Blunstone, The Spencer Davis Group, The Episode & Marsha Hunt demonstrating how versatile Mike is. I did say earlier i experienced a few ‘dire’ moments. Two of them sneak in amongst all these great tracks in the shape of New Worlds ‘Tom Tom Turnaround’ & Fancy with their truly awful version of ‘Wild Thing’   if there’s 2 songs in this world i loathe….But overall Disc3 is great and probably the most enjoyable in the whole set. That just leaves us with Disc4 which if i said the best term for describing it is ‘eclectic’  i don’ think you’d argue, when you see a tracklist of Mike’s further productions where sitting next to each other are The Bachelors, Shakin Stevens, Showaddywaddy, Cilla Black, Lena Zavaroni and The Four Tops! Not forgetting the original version of  ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’ by Bruce Wooley & The Camera Club..who knew that? I certainly didn’t. However nestling amongst this bizarre range of artists is a name i recognise and is of local interest to Hastings. That name is Sundance with a track ‘Never Going Back’. Sundance were a vehicle for Mary Hopkin, Mike De Alberquerque (ex ELO) and Mike himself, Also present performing on some tracks were our very own, late and much missed, Steve Demetri on drums and Andy Qunta on keys. So i spoke to Andy about his recollections of Mike, he said the following ‘ the track i played on was called  ‘What’s Love’ and featured Ray Fenwick on guitar, Steve on drums and Steve ‘Vince’ Price on bass. Mike was very nice to work with, and it all went very smoothly, i liked the song and still listen to it’. I’m very grateful to Andy for that first hand account of working with Mike Hurst. Another old friend Pete Prescott also worked with Ray Fenwick and Mike too i believe. Mike is clearly a man possessed of a mighty talent and still going strong as he approaches his 8th decade. He can currently be heard hosting a radio show on The Wireless on DAB and the Internet. Strawberry Records have done a fine job with the sturdy fold out packaging on this compilation and i warmly recommend the accompanying booklet which contains some wonderful tales from Mike including a must read one concerning Chris Farlowe, a story i’d heard from Chris years ago and wasn’t sure i believed until now!  Fascinating. Enjoy……

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

Pete Prescott… I’ve got an earlier compilation of Mike’s. There are a few tracks that are, as you say, baffling and bizarre. He’s had such a varied career. He should write a book. Thanks for the info !

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.