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

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.

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Tintern Abbey: Beeside – The Complete Recordings, 2CD

BEESIDE : THE COMPLETE RECORDINGS  Tintern Abbey  (2CD)

I have been looking forward to this for weeks ever since Grapefruit Records announced its forthcoming release. My lifelong love of Psychedelia is undiminished since i was first exposed to it at its height in 1967. Ask most people to give an example of psychedelic music and 9 out of 10 will answer ‘Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds’, particularly if they are of my age group. Nothing wrong with that answer, the landmark Sgt Pepper album is often cited as the epitome of psychedelia, i would only agree in part. After all i don’t think ‘When I’m Sixty Four’ ‘With A Little Help From Mt Friends’ or ‘Fixing A Hole’ really qualify. Different and experimental maybe, psychedelic not. The whole psychedelia movement had its roots in mid 60’s San Francisco, mind expanding drugs like LSD and Mescalin and the musical blending of many genres from rock to folk, with a large dose of ethnic music from India and Arabia. The American psychedelic scene became more orientated towards psychedelic rock with prime bands like The Doors & particularly Love whose ‘Forever Changes’ album released in November 1967 was to my mind the American equivalent of our Sgt Pepper. The British psychedelic scene was a softer more whimsical (in the main) scene. There were bands that jumped on the ‘psychedelic bandwagon’ The Move with ‘I Can Hear The Grass Grow’ or Traffic with ‘Hole In My Shoe’  songs i truly love, but both were rock bands flirting with psychedelia. For true exponents of the art you have to look elsewhere. When psychedelic compilation albums started to get released years later many of the 100’s of bands that pursued the genre and sank without trace at the time began to be featured and be re-appraised. One of the most tantalising of these bands were Tintern Abbey whose track ‘Vacuum Cleaner’ was often to be found on these compilations, usually wrongly credited as the ‘A’ side of the bands 1967 Deram single. The ‘A’ side was infact ‘Beeside’ a band injoke. In over 40 years its only these 2 tracks that have been available to listen to, i certainly have never heard any of their other work. Its taken decades to finally produce this 2CD that gathers together all the bands work for the first time. It has taken much research, restoration and sound engineering to bring this collection to light. At last the curtain can be drawn back on over 2 hours of sublime music recorded between 1967 and 1968. Tintern Abbey were originally 4 guys, David MacTavish, Stuart Mackay, John Dalton & Don Smith. After they had spent a month in Cornwall in 1967 ‘getting it together’ writing songs and causing some concern amongst the locals (hippies in Bodmin!) they would return to their London base with a 5th member named ‘Thor’, a honey buzzard that Dave MacTavish had rescued that would perch on his shoulder at their gigs. Those gigs were the stuff of legend. Typically they would begin with David sitting cross legged on the stage surrounded by burning incense sticks to the sound of clashing cymbals as the other band members would appear one by one before launching into opener the aforementioned ‘Vacuum Cleaner’. Over the short lifespan of the band, the line-up would change, fallings out and all the usual band scenarios would occur. The brilliantly written booklet by David Wells tells the story in great and fascinating detail. Who knew they would turn down a replacement guitarist who didn’t fit in with the bands vibe….some bloke called David Gilmour, wonder what happened to him…..The printed story is wonderful but we’re here for the music and it doesn’t disappoint, Disc1 kicks off with the compilations title track the 1967 single ‘Beeside’ where we are immediately transported into the other realm that Tintern conjure up, its whimsical with a hint of flanging and phasing whilst the vocals float on top giving rise to an ethereal vibe drawing you in to a more surreal world. Prominent drums lead us into Track 2 and the much compiled and most familiar track ‘Vacuum Cleaner’ which contains a memorable snarling guitar solo about 1m30sec in which is reminiscent of something The Electric Prunes might come up with and its heaven for this reviewer. So i’ve now already exhausted the only 2 tracks i’ve ever heard of the band, is it now going to all be downhill? NO. Track3 is called ‘Snowman’ and is a tour-de-force that’s surreal and almost sinister in feel and weaves complex vocal and musical patterns that build into a crescendo complete with some backward tape looping. ‘Tanya’ track 4 follows on with a foot clearly rooted in the folk camp before the heavy bass line leads it in a more mind bending direction. I knew in my bones this was going to be a treat! By Track 5 ‘Black Jack’ i find myself wondering why the hell these guys didn’t make it into the big league with the likes of The Nice, Floyd etc. I am in danger of reviewing every track and space doesn’t allow, but if by the glorious guitar work that drenches Track 6 ‘Bodmin Blow’ (i think we all get the reference!) you are not fully sucked in and smitten then Tintern Abbey and psychedelia is not for you. Disc1 contains another 12 tracks that features acetate mixes of ‘Beeside’ ‘Vacuum Cleaner’ & ‘Snowman’  that i found fascinating and if you’re into mystic blends of multi ethnic music Track 7 ‘My Prayer’ is going to delight you. Disc2 contains a further 18 tracks that beginning with the opener ‘Nightfall’ show the band, dare i say, becoming a bit ‘poppier’ and although the tracks are still satisfying i can’t help feeling the band is seeking a more commercial direction. John Peel was a fan of the guys and he also mused that maybe they were being cajoled towards the more mainstream.  However there is still enough to satisfy the psyche aficionados amongst us. Its not often after 50 years in this business that i still get surprised and delighted by listening to a band that had just a fleeting lifespan and have been represented by just 2 tracks in all that time but Tintern Abbey are just as magical today as they were then. About 15 years back i was driving up to the Forest Of Dean and suddenly the ruins of Tintern Abbey were before me. I stopped, it was the crack of dawn and i had the place to myself as the sun rose and although the band named themselves after the poem written by Wordsworth not the ruins of the abbey, ‘Vacuum Cleaner’ started playing in my head. It was a morning to remember. Enjoy.

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

Tony Davis… Nice review Colin. I agree with your assessment of Sgt Pepper. I think it’s major influence was to encourage bands to experiment. One of my favourite psych era bands are Moby Grape, much appreciated in the USA but barely known here

Colin Bell… Cheers Tony, yes it’s strange about Moby Grape who were right at the centre of the whole movement, The only track that seems to turn up on the endless psyche compilations is usually ‘Hey Grandma’, especially the UK releases.

Pete Prescott… Fascinating.

Ralph Winser… I don’t think I’d even heard of Tintern Abbey before this review.  Colin please May I credit you with once again holding my interest right through this review. And your reviews, musings and writing has always done so where others have lost me after the first couple of sentences. I am always disappointed when a piece you have written comes to an end. As I have to then wait for the next one. My musical knowledge has expanded because of you sir. If and when I get rich I will definitely finance a book for your writings. Love you dude. R

Mick O’Dowd… Fascinating! I know the name Tintern Abbey but not their music. I Agree with Ralph wholeheartedly about the reviews you do.

 

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell. Reviewing The Pioneers: Greetings From The Pioneers 2CD

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Paul Huggett… Cherry Red records do dig out good stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Till next time… stay safe… Colin

 

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