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..

.

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

 

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell. Reviewing Hello: The Singles Collection 2CD

THE COMPLETE SINGLES COLLECTION    Hello   (2CD set 7T’s Records)
Following in the footsteps of 60’s footstompers The Dave Clark 5 the 4 lads that formed Hello also came from Tottenham, North London.

They were Bob Bradbury (lead vocalist/guitar), Keith Marshall (lead guitar), Vic Faulkner (bass) & Jeff Allen (drums). All born in 1956 they got together as 12 year olds in 1968 calling themselves ‘The Age’ In 1970 they briefly took on their agents daughter Caroline who became their lead singer and were billed as Caroline Hall & The Age. During that year they performed in front of The Queen at the Albert Hall and made an appearance on popular ITV kids show ‘Magpie’. In early 1971 Caroline left and the 4 lads went it alone attracting the attention of Argent member and songwriter Russ Ballard and also gaining an experienced music business man David Blaylock as their manager.  Their debut single was going to be Ballards ‘Can’t Let You Go’ but they were pipped to the post by Barry Ryan’s recording of the song which became a minor hit for him. Instead they released another Ballard composition ‘You Move Me’ in April 1972, a lightweight uptempo pop song which got them on TV’s ‘Lift Off’ (remember Ayshea?). It failed to trouble the charts but it got their faces into the ‘teenybopper’ mags that were popular then like Record Mirror. Their second single in October 72 was another Ballard song ‘C’Mon’ another straightforward upbeat. lightweight pop ditty, with a touch of ‘Crazy Horses’ guitar work. However this too failed to chart for the 4 new school leavers. In May & June of the following year their profile was greatly increased when they became a regular support act for their labelmate and then king of Glam Rock Gary Glitter. This is when i first remember them from, as myself & Chris Gentry were working with Glitter at that time.  Their next single was going to be Dyna-Mite but this ultimately went to Mud and Glitter’s producer Mike Leander was brought on board to fashion a hit sound for the band. The influence of Leander/Glitter was evidenced on their next release’s ‘Another School Day’ & ‘C’Mon Get Together’, neither of which gave them their breakthrough. The band then fell back on an industry favourite by looking for a previous hit record they could revamp in their style. They chose the catchy ‘Tell Him’ a hit for The Exciters & Billie Davis. The single released in August 1974 proved a slow burner but eventually by November it rose to peak at No 6. At last they had a hit, the follow up continued the Glitter connection with The Glitterband’s lead guitarist Gerry Shephard penned ‘Game’s Up’, this however only ‘bubbled under’ the charts for a few weeks in the UK, but was more successful across Europe, especially in Germany (where the band remained popular for years). In May 1975 the band tried another re-tread of a previous hit. This time they chose the Amen Corner/American Breed song ‘Bend Me Shape Me’, however unlike ‘Tell Him’ this failed to repeat the trick and only became a moderate hit in Germany. It was beginning to look a downward slope when the band were handed what would become their ‘magnum opus’ the Russ Ballard composed ‘New York Groove’. Released in August 1975 it took a while again but rose into the Top 10 in October. It’s now probably the main song/reason the band are remembered for, finding it’s way onto dozens of compilation’s and being successfully covered by Ace Frehley of Kiss fame. Despite valiant attempts the band couldn’t come up with another hit and by 1976 they were becoming (along with many others) an anachronism as Punk arrived sweeping away all that remained of the pop rock/glam bands. The band would limp on til the end of the 70’s changing labels in the process but eventually called it a day. This new 40 track compilation from 7T’s Records brings together all their singles for the first time together with a couple of bonus solo tracks by drummer Jeff Allen. It comes complete with a detailed booklet and some nostalgic record cover images. Unlike other Glam Rock band’s, Sweet being the best example. Hello didn’t really evolve or move away from their lightweight roots, which leaves this release, in my view, with a somewhat limited appeal and as such will probably be best enjoyed by completists and lovers of the Glam Rock years.

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

Til next time…….stay safe……Colin

Mick O’Dowd… Crikey! Didn’t realise they had enough tunes to fill 1 CD let alone 2. Couple of good covers and that was it

Colin Bell… Hi Mate, i have to say you are largely right, there is nothing wrong with the other tracks, but they don’t really jump out at you.

Alan Esdaile… I remember interviewing the singer for Melody Maker and all I could think of, was god, I’ve never seen another person as thin as that!

 

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell. Reviewing Oh! You Pretty Things: Glam Queens And Street Urchins 1970-76: 3CD Various Artists

Oh! You Pretty Things: Glam Queens & Street Urchins 1970-76 (3CD set)   Various Artists

So here is the latest in Grapefruit Records ever excellent series of themed 3CD box sets. It is very rare that i quote from a Press Release, but on this occasion….’We focus on the twin central strands of Glam Rock: the cerebral and the visceral’ Ok we’ll see about that and also the other claim of examining the link between the ‘seedy’ played out London scene of the early 70’s and it’s comparison with the underbelly of New York of the same period.  CD 1 gets off on a ‘cerebral’ foot with Roxy Music & their follow up to debut hit ‘Virginia Plain’ in the shape of ‘Pyjamarama’ whose delights i must confess to having forgotten but it’s a pleasant reminder of 1973 for this reviewer. Next up is ELO and here i must question what they are doing here?, i really don’t see them as any part of ‘Glam’ and the choice of Ma-Ma-Ma-Belle is jarring being without doubt the ‘heaviest’ rock track the band ever recorded. It is however certainly ‘visceral’.  Anyway a small niggle. Much more suited to the albums theme are the likes of Be Bop Deluxe, Sparks, Heavy Metal Kids, Blackfoot Sue & Mick Ronson who as well as featuring in his own right with the track ‘White Light, White Heat’ Mick is to be found alongside Mott The Hoople’s ex frontman Ian Hunter with ‘Once Bitten Twice Shy’ taken from one of my all time favourite albums 1975’s ‘You’re Never Alone With A Schizophrenic’ (Best album title ever). Dana Gillespie’s ‘Andy Warhol’ & The Hollywood Brats ‘Tumble With Me’ are suitably camp & sleazy respectively. On to CD2 which opens with another well loved track of mine with everybody’s favourite Glam rockers Slade and the anthemic ‘Take Me Bak’Ome’, although Mr Holder has never cared for the ‘Glam’ label. Other big names, albeit with lesser known tracks featured are Curved Air, Bryan Ferry, Iggy & The Stooges’ & Lou Reed with ‘Satellite Of Love’. There are some rare delights to be had with Tim Curry’s ‘ Sweet Transvestite’ & Wayne County’s ‘Queenage Baby’, an artist i have always enjoyed as Wayne or Jayne. Another band i have a lot of time for Third World War also weigh in with ‘Rat Crawl’ and the rather clever inclusion of an unexpected Trogg’s track ‘Strange Movies’ is welcome. The CD closes with Sweet at their best bridging the gap between the pop of Chinnichap & their move to self written material with one of their greatest singles ‘The Sixteens’. CD3 plunges us straight into the New York scene with the primary, and yes again ‘visceral’ New York Dolls and ‘Personality Crisis’. This of all the 3 discs contains the mostly undiscovered gems from some rarely heard bands such as The Winkies, Bullfrog, Hard Stuff & a band i confess i’ve never heard of by the name of Fumble with their very individual take on ‘Not Fade Away’ which is somewhat glorious in a surreal sort of way! Of the bigger and well known names to be found are The Strawbs, Leo Sayer, Mott The Hoople & another crowd pleaser The Sensational Alex Harvey Band with the 7 minute wonder that is ‘The Last Of The Teenage Idols’ which i’ve always thought was a real tour-de-force of a song. At 66 tracks there is plenty to explore in this compilation and if you were around the first time to witness the likes of Bowie and all the androgynous acts that followed in his & The New York Dolls footsteps you will enjoy this latest collection enormously. As ever the 3CD’s come housed in a sturdy clamshell box with an accompanying well written 40 page booklet. Grapefruit Records remain the current masters of the themed compilation market. Enjoy.

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

Til next time…..stay safe………Colin

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Marc Almond: The Stars We Are, 2CD/1DVD

THE STARS WE ARE   Marc Almond (2CD/1DVD)

It’s not often i stray into the 80’s in these pages as generally speaking it’s probably my least favourite decade for music. However there are always exceptions of course and one of those is Marc Almond, I’ve always thought he was a strong singer with a very powerful and distinctive vocal. Whether it be in Soft Cell or solo i pretty much love all his work. Originally released in 1988 ‘The Stars We Are’ was Marc’s 4th solo album containing 10 tracks. This excellent new package from SFE Records brings together those original tracks on Disc 1 and expands the content with the cassette only and ‘b’ side tracks. Disc 2 features all the expanded and re-mixes of the tracks known to exist, 11 tracks in all and in conclusion Disc 3 is a very welcome bonus DVD bringing together 6 Promo videos. Kicking off the whole set with the title song on Disc 1 finds Marc in his very best Torch singer (no pun intended!) vein, the song reminds me of something Scott Walker would have recorded with its big brassy background and vocals soaring and it’s a great start. It’s more in the same mode with ‘These My Dreams Are Yours’ on track 2 with another big bold ballad. Things turn more straightforwardly pop with ‘Bitter Sweet’, whilst proceedings get intense with ‘Your Kisses Burn’ featuring Nico, a moody and dramatic piece i’ve always loved which also turned out sadly to be Nico’s last ever recording. Moving on we get to the first of 2 singles that brought Marc firmly back into the limelight. First up is ‘Tears Run Rings’ a straightforward slice of pop that takes you back to the glory days of Soft Cell. However it was Marc’s inspired idea to record ‘Somethings Gotten Hold Of My Heart’ with it’s original singer the late great Gene Pitney that paid off big time becoming a No 1 hit for 4 consecutive weeks in 1989. Whenever i hear this or see them perform it i can never escape the feeling they are both trying to upstage the other but in a good way, it’s a perfect blend of two voices and all credit to Marc whose choice of revitalising old classic songs is always impeccable, i also admired his take on ‘Days Of Pearly Spencer. But back to the album in hand, as i mentioned Disc 2 is a treasure trove of extended and remixed versions featuring 2 mixes of ‘Tears Run Rings’ with both the 12inch and Dance versions. My favourite here though has to be the melodramatic Blue Mosque Mix of the wonderful ‘She Took My Soul In Istanbul’ a gloriously moody. evocative track that conjures up that fascinating East meet West city beautifully. Together with Soft Cells extended version of Say Hello Wave Goodbye’ i think it’s Marc at his finest. As aforementioned Disc 3 gives you the chance to revisit the 80’s and watch the contemporary promotional video’s including 2 versions of ‘Tears Run Rings’, one for the US market and of course that duet with Gene Pitney. The accompanying 36 page booklet is beautifully put together with a wealth of photo’s, song lyrics and essays. Altogether this remains for me probably the best solo album Marc produced and now it’s ‘gone large’ with all the extra’s it’s a real musical feast. I’ll leave you with that No 1. Enjoy.

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

Til next time, stay safe and well………Colin

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Halcyon Days: 60s Mod, R&B, Brit Soul & Freakbeat Nuggets – Various Artists, 3CD Box Set

HALCYON DAYS : 60’s MOD, R&B, BRIT SOUL & FREAKBEAT NUGGETS        Various Artists

This is the debut release of new label Strawberry Records a new member of the Cherry Red Records family. Housed in a sturdy clamshell box containing 3 Cds in individual cardboard sleeves together with a superbly illustrated 48 page booklet this is a lavish introduction to what promises to be a great label. Taking as it’s theme the ‘Mod’ music scene of the 60’s this is a real goldmine of treasures containing as it does some first time cd debuts and previously unissued recordings coupled with early singles from the likes of future superstars such as Rod Stewart and David Bowie with ‘Shake’ & ‘Do Anything You Say’ respectively. 87 tracks to savour there are some well established names sitting alongside the obscure and forgotten. Disc 1 is mainly concerned with the ‘soul’ and r&b aspect of the Mod movement. Cue the likes of Jimmy James, Geno Washington, Zoot Money, kicking off in the best way with an early offering from Chris Farlowe & The Thundebirds in ‘Buzz With The Fuzz’a 1965 single that managed to get itself banned by the BBC (the title being slang for a run in with the Police), it’s usually a good thing to get banned by the Beeb! and this became a Mod favourite although Chris would have to wait longer to taste real commercial. success. The previously mentioned Mr Stewart was busily becoming Rod the Mod and delivers for his third single a lively version of Sam Cooke’s ‘Shake’. Also contained on Disc1 is possibly my favourite early Animals track with ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’, the legendary singer/arranger and SMART member Tony Rivers (with his Castaways) puts in an appearance with ‘I Love The Way You Walk’. A rather tasty slice of ska/r&b is served up by Mickey Finn & The Blue Men with ‘Hush Your Mouth’ followed by some more in the same vein with Rupert & The Red Devils ‘Every Time I Do’ a six piece London band featuring a guy well known to certain local readers in Ray Fenwick. Disc 2 moves more into the beat/freakbeat side opening as it does with one of the leading bands of the time The Creation with the driving ‘Biff Bang Pow’, hot on it’s heels come’s the fuzz laden ‘She’s Got Everything’ by The Kinks, i remember as the ‘b’ side to ‘Days’. It’s then the turn of David Bowie with his second single for Pye Records a beat number ‘Do Anything You Say’ produced by Tony Hatch. One of my favourite. if now largely forgotten bands The Artwoods weigh in with their version of ‘I Take What I Want’ with Ron Woods older brother on vocals and Jon Lord on organ. More driving beat follows with the ever excellent Pretty Things with ‘Buzz The Jerk’. Other highlights of Disc 2 come from The Yardbirds, The Bo Street Runners, The Graham Bond Organization, Dorian Grey & the gloriously psyched out Belfast Gypsies (previously reviewed) with the manic ‘Gloria’s Dream’. Disc 3 kicks off with the compilations title track ‘Halcyon Days’ by top Swedish band The Tages which confused me as i recognised the song as mostly The Herds ‘Our Fairy Tale’ which reading the notes it basically turns out to be! Half the fun of these compilations is finding out all the little nuggets of information and the accompanying booklet is really excellent in that respect. Another hugely popular and well respected band of the time The Action follow on with the freakbeat fest ‘Look At The View’, old friends the Fleur De Lys kick in with ‘One Girl City’. I had never heard the next cut before but The Web (a 60’s experimental band from Bournemouth) deliver a very tasty guitar driven version of Spencer Davis’s ‘I’m A Man’. a band staple number this is an excellent take. There are many highlights on this final disc from Plastic Penny, The Spencer Davis Band, The Alan Bown! Dantalions Chariot, Grapefruit (a personal favourite), local band (recently reviewed) Jason Crest and dear old Arthur Brown with ‘Rest Cure’. I’ve chosen to augment this review with another featured act Paul & Barry Ryan and their 5th hit single ‘Keep It Out Of Sight’ which i must shamefully confess i didn’t know was written by Cat Stevens until now. Well i can’t possibly know everything! but one thing i do know is this is a very good way to kick off a brand new label with a huge wealth of interesting tracks from a plethora of well chosen artistes. Here are the twins from 1965. Enjoy.

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

Til next time……stay safe…….Colin

John Warner… Used to see them in the west end with their dad Fred.

Mick O’Dowd… WOW!!!!

Terry Corder… Different tracks for a change. Brilliant! Keep it out of sight. Superb track. Loved it then and love it now.

Colin Bell… Hi Tel, yes, of the 100’s of compilations i’ve reviewed over the decades i can honestly say this is one of the best. Take care mate.

Will Cornell… Reminds me of the “Nuggets” comps over here. I have probably heard only a handful of these but one first time listen to “Keep It Out Of Sight” has me convinced this will be one heluva compilation. Aside: do they sample audience noise full of screaming Beatlemania era chickies?

Colin Bell… Hi Will, no there are no audience noise samples. But as i remarked to Terry above it is one of the best comps i’ve reviewed in a long time. I have the ‘Nuggets’ comps myself. Cheers Colin.