SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Shape Of The Rain: Riley Riley Wood & Waggett, 3CD Digipak

RILEY RILEY WOOD & WAGGETT    Shape Of The Rain
Who? I hear you cry, well  in this instance I would echo that myself. I like to think after 50 + years in this business that even if I don’t know their work I will at least have heard of them, but I must confess not this time. So let’s investigate, come with me back to the end of the 60’s/start of the 70’s. Many bands had dropped their previous incarnation’s and gone ‘psych’ ‘prog’ ‘freakbeat’ ‘experimental’ etc etc. To cater for these ‘underground’ bands, the major Record Labels all created offshoot labels, EMI had Harvest, Pye Had Dawn, Philips had Vertigo, Decca had Deram and bringing up the rear was RCA with Neon. Now I have this particular quirk that remembers Record Labels (I used to file my mobile disco records by label) so I DO remember Neon but for another long forgotten band in Dando Shaft. In operation for just over a year from 1971 -2 the label only had 11 releases of which SOTR was number 7. Hailing from an area of the country bounded by Sheffield and Chesterfield the band came together originally as a Everly Bros style duo of cousins Keith Riley (lead vocals/guitar),and Brian Wood (guitar vocals before being joined by Keith’s brother Len Riley (bass) and Iain ‘Tag’ Waggett (drums).  The band’s name changed constantly, The Gear (inspired by their covers of Liverpudlian bands and Beatlesque sound) The Reaction was another and it was at this point they recorded a brace of demo’s and a local record shop owner David McPhie took an interest (he also represented Sheffield’s own Joe Cocker) and duly became their manager. With a name change to the more contemporary Shape Of The Rain all was set. This 3CD package covers their 1971 album RRW&W, a host of demo’s, outtakes, alternative versions, the demo’s for the aborted second album, a 50 minute live show from May 1970 and more. Disc 1 contains the original album kicking off with ‘Woman’ which, as noted in the sleevenotes, is a riff heavy pop/rock number sounding in structure very similar to Atomic Rooster’s ‘Devil’s Answer’ (co-incidentally issued on the same day!), this was issued as a single but didn’t trouble the charts at all, But this didn’t bother Neon, singles ‘weren’t cool man’ this was the dawn of the album…much cooler…er..man. After all the man in charge at Neon was Olav Wyper who in his previous life had been at CBS where he had dreamed up the much lauded sampler ‘The Rock Machine Turns You On’. Why am I banging on about labels? because that’s where the problem with the success or rather lack of it for Shape Of The Rain lies. They were a good sounding band, they wrote their own material, and where they didn’t ,had excellent taste performing material by The Byrd’s and Love. Now as any reader of my reviews, column’s etc will know Love is a band really close to my heart. Shape Of The Rain were clearly heavily influenced by the prevailing West Coast Sound, track 7 ‘Dusty Road’ is a prime example as is the following track  ‘Willowing Tree’s. And this is my point about success, had SOTR been on RCA’s main label there would have been more emphasis on promotion and put frankly money spent. To be fair even the band admit they were ‘musically confused’ but being hidden away, on a albeit ‘cool’ underground label served them badly. Their music is hook laden, delicate and contains some stunning arrangement’s, the Press of the time were impressed comparing them favourably to the like’s of Traffic and Alan ‘Fluff’ Freeman took them to his heart as a big fan. So you had a commercially adept band hidden away on an obscure label, it was a no win situation as the fans of the ‘underground labels’ were looking for something more esoteric than SOTR and the main label fans of RCA were being treated to Bowie, Sweet etc i.e. the commercially successful acts of which SOTR could have been one. They have also been compared to Badfinger which I think is a fair comment, good hooky melodic songs and credibility to boot. The songs written for the second unreleased album show a growing confidence ‘The Very First Clown’ and ‘Listen To Your Heart’ being two examples.

The 3rd disc in the set is the previously mentioned ‘live recording’ taped at Manchester University (supporting Manfred Mann’s Earth Band) and given the recording restraints of the time is remarkably good, it captures the band in fine form (love the ‘Hendrix’ licks) mostly made up of new material at the time it did include a great version of ‘Willowing Tree’s from the Riley, Riley, Wood & Waggett album. And what about that album title? hardly jumps off the sleeve does it? I have a horrible suspicion somebody said something along the lines of ‘Crosby, Stills & Nash’ that’s cool man lets do that with this album. enough said! Eventually the band transferred to the main label and carried on til the mid 70’s before going their separate ways. Its a fact that there is more 60’s & 70’s music available to listen too today than there was then, incredible but true, so many albums never saw the light of day for so many reasons and some rightly so but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Shape Of The Rain and plugging a gap in my musical knowledge. Grapefruit Records have done their usual sterling job on the presentation of the set and the 24 page booklet contains many evocative photo’s and pictures of vintage poster’s and sound quality is excellent. Enjoy.

Til next time….please all stay safe and well……Colin

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

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing The Idle Race: The Birthday Party, 2CD Expanded Digipak Edition

THE BIRTHDAY PARTY  (2CD Expanded Edition) by The Idle Race
From out of the midlands in the mid 60’s came what was to become ‘brumbeat’ Birmingham’s answer to its northerly neighbour ‘merseybeat’.

Birmingham was a very fertile scene with literally hundreds of ‘beat group’s. as we called them in those days, sounds really quaint now. The Idle Race evolved out of one such very popular band ‘Mike Sheridan & The Night Riders’, one member at that time being Roy Wood who left to join The Move. To fill his place guitarist Johnny Mann was recruited from Carl Wayne & the Vikings (Carl also to become a Move member) but after abruptly quitting the band were once again without a lead guitarist. An advertisement was placed in the Birmingham Evening Mail and the successful applicant was an 18 year prodigy in the shape of Jeff Lynne. A single was recorded ‘It’s Only A Dog’ a cover of a Kingsmen song which disappeared without trace. Jeff was then promoted to lead vocalist and songwriter and the band signed to Liberty Records. Roy Wood offered them a new song (Here We Go Round) The Lemon Tree, too good to turn down the band duly recorded it for their debut single in September 1967, but it was shelved when The Move recorded it themselves (as the ‘b’ side to Flowers In The Rain’). So step forward Jeff with what would be their first single ‘Imposters of Life’s Magazine’ a glorious slice of proto psyche complete with varispeed guitar, strange riff’s time signatures and indeed lyrics. In hindsight now it sounds like an outtake from Sgt.Pepper, in fact ive always felt Jeff was, and is, heavily influenced by Beatlesque melodies albeit with his very own genius take. Despite ‘Imposter’s’ being well received, much airplay and heavy support from one Kenny Everett it didn’t trouble the charts. The follow up single in March 1968 whilst again not a hit is the song for which the band is arguably best remembered ‘Skeleton & The Roundabout’ another Lynne composition was insanely catchy, quirky pop psyche and again showed off Jeff’s lyrical talents to the full. Along with Ray Davies and leaving aside Lennon/McCartney, I believe Jeff is a national treasure of ‘Englishness’ in his tales of pastoral and baroque themes.This new expanded album release celebrates his craft to the full, if you love the art pop of 67/68 of artist’s like Nirvana, World of Oz etc this is for you. There are so many strong tracks that you can hear the nascent ELO in there. ‘The Birthday’ and ‘I Like My Toys’ are two prime examples, the latter was played to death by the aforementioned Everett. The original album had 13 tracks, this release has the full 13 track mono album plus 9 bonus tracks on disc 1 whilst disc 2 contains the stereo version of the album (plus 1 bonus track). Amongst those bonus tracks are some gems like the previously mentioned ‘Lemon Tree’ and the ultra commercial ‘Knocking Nails Into My House’ (should have been a hit single). So 40 tracks to enjoy and a splendid 24 page booklet full of period pictures, sleeve covers and articles. Grapefruit Records have again excelled themselves with this release. Enjoy.

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

In closing, i’d just like to send all my best wishes to all my fellow SMART members, stay safe and well and if we all have to stay in at least we can listen to that album we’ve been meaning to get re-connected with!

Til next time……………………….Colin

Mick O’Dowd… Great album and a precursor to ELO. Had the original album on vinyl.

Colin Norton… Totally agree with Mick! This album is an absolute gem! I still have the original vinyl but must admit that its almost worn out. Stay safe guys!

Ray Harper… What a fantastic posting. Thank you.

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Sockin’ It To You by Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels (3CD deluxe digipak)

SOCKIN’ IT TO YOU   Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels  (3CD deluxe digipak)
I am so pleased to receive this and bring it to you! Amongst some of the first promo singles I received in the second half of the 60’s was a single of ‘Jenny Take A Ride/C.C. Rider’ by then unknown to me band Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels. Its impact on me was immediate, the record was just bursting out of the speakers with an energy that crackled and fizzed like nothing i’d heard in a long time I became a fan there and then and played the record tirelessly at my mobile disco gigs, if you didn’t want to get up and dance to it you had no pulse! Now RPM Records have released this collection and what a collection it is. Five albums, single’s, non Lp sides and tracks making their CD debut here. All of this material was recorded between 1966 – 1969 for the Bob Crewe owned Dynovoice and New Voice Recordings labels. Bob Crewe as you may know was a prolific (and hugely successful) producer for amongst many others The Four Seasons, The Toy’s and Lou Christie. Mitch & the Wheels had been together for a few years at this point playing and paying their dues around the college/club circuit in the Detroit area, where they had earned a fine live reputation. Its fair to say when you mention Detroit your mind immediately turns to Motown who were producing so many hit singles and making stars of so many acts but if you were a rock orientated kid MR&TDW were THE band you were listening too. There was some crossover in that the band did cover Motown and James Brown, but in their own inimitable style. The next single that I loved was the mash up of Devil With A Blue Dress On/Good Golly Miss Molly another slice of pure energy. Now that’s twice (without apology) i’ve used the word ‘energy’ because that is the pure essence of the band, seldom have I ever heard that caught on record in the way that Mitch & the boys managed to do, the nearest comparison I can think of, is those early Geno Washington ‘live’ albums. Mitch’s blue eyed soul vocal, wicked guitar licks and bursts of brass get into you on a visceral level, your head starts to nod, your feet to move and you just tend to smile..a lot! There are so many great tracks on this 65 track definitive overview its impossible to have a favourite or pick out the ‘best’ cuts because the standard is just so consistently high, whether its old standards/favourites like ‘Shake A Tail Feather’, ‘Come See About Me’ ‘Bring It On Home To Me’ ‘Walkin The Dog’or Bob Crewe originals like ‘Sock It To Me’ ‘Shakedown’ ‘I’d Rather Go To Jail’ and ‘Wild Child’ all are delivered in such a satisfying fashion. I’ve been fortunate enough to see Bruce Springsteen live on four occasions (arguably the greatest live performer) and on two occasions he’s played, what he likes to call, ‘The Detroit Medley’ his own tribute to MR&TDW who he holds in the highest esteem, I think that’s praise indeed and quite rightly so. For some inexplicable reason the band are not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, when some lesser bands I could mention are, a travesty for sure and one which I hope Springsteen, and other high profile fans like Alice Cooper and Bob Seger apply pressure to put right. I have to add my own tribute in that ‘Little Latin Lupe Lu’ as written by the great Bill Medley and recorded by him and Bobby (Righteous Brothers) is covered and included on this set, and I never thought i’d say this, is bettered by Mitch and the boys, the highest praise I can give from me. Next week on Wednesday (26th) it’ll be Mitch’s birthday, he’ll be 75, and im pleased to say he’s still out there doing what he does best and long may that continue. Thank you RPM for issuing this package, the audio quality and liner notes impeccable as ever. I’ll leave you with this vid from 1966.,,,,,enjoy.

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

Till next time……………………….. Colin

Mick O’Dowd… Highly underated band. Loved ’em!

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Hot Chocolate: Remixes and Rarities, Deluxe 3CD Digipak Edition

REMIXES & RARITIES    Hot Chocolate  (3CD)
Happy new Year to all Smarties and welcome to the first Smart Sounds review of 2020. Ah Hot Chocolate just what we need on a cold January morning! The latest in Cherry Red’s R & R series is a real gem. Few bands can lay claim to the longevity and success, or, the calibre of Hot Chocolate. From their first release in 1969 (Lennon’s Give Peace A Chance) right thru the 70’s, 80’s & 90’s the band had massive success. Charting 29  UK Top 40 singles, a number 1 and 3 US Top 10’s  they were seldom off our TV screens or our radio’s. This comprehensive 3CD set,, as ever housed beautifully in a sturdy fold out digipack with extensive liner booklet, does what it say’s on the tin and brings together 36 tracks of rare,  hard to find remixes, ‘B’ sides and some tracks finding their way onto CD for the first time. The plethora of remixes feature some of HC’s most beloved songs including ‘Everyone 1’s A Winner’ ‘Mindless Boogie’ ‘Heaven Is In The Back Seat Of My Cadillac’ ‘No Doubt About it’ and of course ‘You Sexy Thing’. There are in fact 6 remixes of the latter, some might consider that overkill, but for those completists and collectors out there they will be warmly welcomed. Indeed YST is probably my own personal less favoured track, probably due to its overexposure over the years in films and (extensively) in TV advertising. There are 2 Megamix’s I would have loved to have available all those years ago when I was still doing live DJ shows. you could guarantee that people would get up on their feet to HC. The first of these and in my eyes the best features ‘Emma/So You Win Again/You Sexy Thing/Every 1’s A Winner/So You Win Again/No Doubt About It a sure floor filler.

The last track of the Megamix  ‘No Doubt About It’ is one of my favourite HC tracks and involves a strange and personal connection. In 1978 I lived in London off Finchley Road and coming home from a gig in the early hours I saw what I can only say was a UFO having woken up my flatmate who saw it too and confirmed I wasn’t drunk or dreaming! the sight stayed with me always. Then along in 1980 came ‘No Doubt About It’ co-written by Dave Most (brother of record whiz Mickie) based on the experience of seeing a UFO…which I later found out was seen over…yes you’ve guessed it..Finchley Road! Spooky! Anyway back to earth, this new collection has been remastered from (where possible) the original master tapes and sounds wonderful and has given my speakers a good work out. Hot Chocolate produced some classy and classic material over their peak years and this release adds to that admirably. With new members the band still tours to this day, Errol Brown sadly left us in May 2015 but im sure he’s looking on and busting some moves, no doubt about it. Enjoy.

For more information go tohttps://www.cherryred.co.uk

Til next time……………..Colin

Monica Bane… Loved Hot Chocolate. Have some of their music!

Mick O’Dowd… Great stuff! They were an excellent band with a terrific singer. Worked with them once and saw them on another occasion. Nice blokes. Sad loss of Errol.

Julie Findlay-Jones… Went to see them with your sister Alan, brilliant concert.

Peter O’Donnell… Talented man.

David Edwards… Great band with Errol’s honey laden vocals what’s not to like about them

John Parnell… Saw them in their very early days in September 1968 at the Narracott Grand hotel, Woolacombe, Devon. Excellent band. I particularly remember Errol’s very energetic performance in addition to his great singing.

 

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Roy Wood: Mustard, Remastered and Expanded CD Edition

MUSTARD  (Remastered & Expanded)    Roy Wood
Straightaway I have to say I have a deep soft spot for Roy, he was the first bona fide ‘pop star’ I met when I started backstage on Hastings Pier in 1967, indeed elsewhere on the SMART site is the autographs of Roy and the rest of The Move obtained at the time. I’ve always ranked him in the top ten British songwriters. From The Move to ELO (briefly), Wizzard and solo his work has always trod its own very quirky path verging from pastiche to genius but always so original. ‘Mustard’ was originally released in December 1975 and was Roy’s second solo album following on from the successful ‘Boulders’ that had spawned quirky melodic songs such as the single hit ‘Dear Elaine’. ‘Mustard’ was commercially unsuccessful but arguably his ‘magnum opus’ showcasing his immense talent and creativity at its peak. All eight songs (+ 7 bonus on this release) were all written, sung, engineered and produced by Roy who also played EVERY instrument and even provided the artwork for the cover! His influences, in his own words, ranged from the 1940’s swing/doo wop of the Andrews sisters thru The Beach Boys, the Ronettes/Phil Spector to Led Zeppelin! Now that sounds like a complete mess of a recipe for an album, and in other hands it would be but Roy pulls it off.
The opening title track is a clever concoction that sounds just like a 40’s radio jingle by the aforementioned Andrew’s sisters but the ‘sisters’ is in fact Roy’s sped up vocal over sound effects, following on is classic Wood pop with ‘Any Old Time Will Do’. It’s on the next track ‘The Rain Came Down On Everything’ that shows what Roy’s vision of ELO might have been given the chance with its opening vocal (by Annie Haslam of Renaissance) a sweeping ballad that turns operatic before dissolving at the end into a thunderstorm (sound familiar Jeff Lynne!) Next up is a slice of boogie-woo blues/swing in ‘You Sure Got It Now’. For me the highlight of the album comes with the Brian Wilson/Beach Boys heavily inspired ‘Why Does Such A Pretty Girl Sing Those Sad Songs’ (some say written for Lynsey De Paul, Roy’s girlfriend at the time) whatever its almost a pastiche of God Only Knows meets Sloop John B/Good Vibrations its just wackily brilliant. And speaking of wackily brilliant track 8 and originally the closing track is Roy’s homage to Led Zeppelin in the shape of the rocker ‘Get On Down Home’ complete with a 2 minute drum solo in the mould of John Bonham, again as aforementioned with all the instruments being played by the man himself, in fact drums were the first and only instrument that Roy had any formal lessons in, remarkable, who teaches themselves bagpipes! With this new Esoteric release the album doesn’t end there but adds an extra 7 tracks (some released as singles like ‘Oh What A Shame’) with a couple attributed to ‘Wizzard’.
As I said ‘Mustard’ did not sell well on release mainly due to the record company (Jet Records) run by the infamous Don Arden concentrating on ELO which was an injustice but happily here in 2019 after years of being unavailable we can catch a musical prodigy at his best. Enjoy.
For more information go to https://www.cherryred.co.uk
Til next time…………………………… Colin

Derek Clemans… A friend of mine who I havn’t seen for many years and can’t remember his name I think played base for the Move then played Sax with Wizzard and I get to see him every Christmas on old Top of the Pops Christmas specials. He lived on the Tilekiln estate and when he got married he had his reception at the Tile Kiln community club and Roy Wood turned up to jam with him.

Neil Partrick… Great review Colin. Made me want to check it out

Colin Bell… Cheers Neil, I do my best! Do check it out you won’t be disappointed.

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Across the Great Divide – Getting It Together In The Country 1968-74, Various Artists, 3CD Boxset

ACROSS THE GREAT DIVIDE – Getting It Together In The Country 1968-74  (3CD)    Various Artists
Following on from the other compilations, I’m A Freak, Lets Go Down and Blow our Minds etc (all reviewed on SMART) this is the latest offering from Grapefruit Records headed by the excellent David Wells who never ceases to come up with interesting and forgotten treasures.
As you might surmise from the (somewhat) cumbersome title, sorry David! this takes us back to the heady times of the late 60’s early 70’s when it was ‘fashionable’ to ‘get it together in the country’. Led by Stevie Winwood and Traffic I remember this movement being written about by the likes of NME and MM at the time. Encouraged by their lead a thousand and one bands, some well known and some doomed to obscurity decamped to deepest Berkshire (Traffic), Oxfordshire, Cornwall, Wales etc, well you get the picture. Away from the city and factory style recording studio’s bands attempted to live together commune style in the hope this combined with the rural pastoral pleasures of the countryside would ignite creative outpouring. Well for many it certainly did as they blended, rock, pop, folk and country to create a more laid back vibe. As mentioned Traffic paved the way with tracks like ‘Forty Thousand Headmen’ their entry here. There is a good smattering of the well known and ‘name bands’ spread across this 3CD boxset, Fairport Convention, Mott The Hoople, Rare Bird, Matthews Southern Comfort, Rod Stewart and Marmalade to name a few. But I hasten to add not with the familiar over compiled tracks. Indeed I have never heard ‘Louisiana Man’ by The Hollies (from 1969) a song apparently covered 800 times (some royalties there!) and very good it is too. I mentioned Mott The Hoople which instantly brings to mind ‘All The Young Dudes’ but their entry here from 1971 ‘ Home Is Where I Want To Be’ taken from the album ‘Wildlife’ owes more to Matthews Southern Comfort than Bowie and is just one example of the evolvement of some bands, fascinating. The second rank of bands, for want of a better term, is represented by Mighty Baby, Heron, Cochise, Brinsley Schwarz and Orange Bicycle, (a personal favourite), again to name but a few. Orange Bicycle (a localish band) track ‘Take Me To The PIlot’ (an Elton John cover) has long been a favoured cut with me having seen them perform it live a good few times. But away from the well and lesser known names is a plethora of gems to discover and savour, just some of my picks would be Shape of The Rain ‘Willowing Trees’, Tony Hazzard ‘Abbot Of The Vale’, High Broom ‘A Way To Pass The Time’, Northwind ‘Home For Frozen Roses’, Granny’s Intention’s ‘We Both Need To Know’ and Mason ‘Fading’, this last pick is a trio that includes Ian Amey (Tich) and John Dymond (Beaky) late of DD.D.B.M. & T. I’ve always felt that Ian in particular is a much overlooked and underrated guitarist with a very distinctive style. With 64 tracks and a wonderfully informative 44 page amply illustrated booklet this latest compilation may be the best yet in the series, you can almost smell the patchouli oli and grass, those were the days. I’ll leave you with a clip of one of the few well known tracks to be included by Marmalade as a tribute to lead vocalist Dean Ford who sadly left us at the turn of the year. RIP and thanks for the music. Enjoy.
For more information go to https://www.cherryred.co.uk

Til next time…………………Colin

 

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Billy Ocean: Remixes and Rarities 2CD

REMIXES & RARITIES  Billy Ocean
The latest in Cherry Pop’s excellent series ‘Remixes & Rarities’ (I’ve previously reviewed Flock of Seagulls and Amii Stewart) is this entry by Billy Ocean. If anyone was ripe for the remix treatment Billy is a dead cert. There has been unofficial remixes floating about but now this new 2CD set brings together 23 tracks, a number of which appearing for the first time here, all mastered superbly.Its been over 40 years since I remember getting the first promo single ‘Love Really Hurts Without You’ back in 1976. I remember reviewing that and praising Billy for his voice and the extremely catchy chorus.  The following year he had a further hit with my own personal favourite ‘ Red Light (Spells Danger)’ and I was lucky enough to work with him on two occasions and can certainly attest to what a lovely. modest guy he is. In the years that have followed he’s had UK/USA No.1’s, and been awarded a Grammy, Ivor Novello and MOBO lifetime achievement award. Kicking off this set is the irresistable ‘When the Going Gets Tough (extended version) one of four versions (extended, instrumental, club, and 7th Heaven Club Mix).
If ever a song was going to get you on your feet this is it! This is followed by another biggie in Caribbean Queen (No More Love On The Run) interestedly it’s titled ‘African Queen’ here and  another version also appears titled ‘European Queen’ I didn’t know it had different titles in different territories, I live and learn! Yet again the suggestion was made by the mogul Clive Davis who seems to crop up in every other review I write! ‘Love Really Hurts Without You’ gets two mixes a 1986 Dance Mix and a Dub Mix. Maybe lesser known (here in the UK) are fine versions of ‘American Hearts’, ‘Licence To Chill’ and ‘Loverboy’. Then its definitely all back on the dance floor for a Extended 8.59 min mix of ‘Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car’ another classic floorfiller. Great title, and lets not forget that Billy wrote/co wrote all his major hits, a fact I think often overlooked. This is a great collection if you’re having a summer party/barbeque on a summers evening, though invite the neighbours as this should be enjoyed LOUD to really feel those beats. Billy is currently finishing his eleventh studio album and touring throughout the UK, US and Australia alongside the equally great Beverley Knight and Jess Glynne (who seems to duet with everyone!) Along with the already mentioned excellent mastering the set contains a very informative 16 page colour booklet and is released this coming Friday (23rd). I’ll leave you with the original WTGGT until someone posts the remix (I do rather enjoy the ‘backing vocalists…). Enjoy.
For more information go to https://www.cherryred.co.uk
Til next time…………………………….Colin

 

 

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing The Singles Collection (3CD) by Bay City Rollers

THE SINGLES COLLECTION  (3CD)   Bay City Rollers
In my experience seldom have a band been so loved or so reviled. This new 3CD collection brings together 47 tracks to make it the definitive set. A few facts first, the band had its origins as early as 1964 when Alan Longmuir (died 2018) and his younger brother Derek together with a friend formed a trio in their native Edinburgh, this eventually led to a group called the Saxons. Invited to join as lead singer was Gordon ‘Nobby’ Clark, deciding to change their name to the ‘Rollers’ they decided that wasn’t quite beefy enough so they threw a dart in a map of the U.S.A. which landed near Bay City Michigan, thus was born the Bay City Rollers. More line-up changes followed including David Paton and Billy Lyall (who were later to form Pilot). The band was managed by Edinburgh businessman Tam Paton, who the least said about the better ( a whole other story). Signed to Bell Records their debut single ‘Keep On Dancing’ was a No. 9 hit in 1971, a instantly catchy cover of the American group The Gentry’s 1965 hit. It was at this point I got to know the band, having some connections with the record label and Jonathan King who produced ‘Keep On Dancing’. I mention this because I can vouch for the fact they COULD play their instruments and their live gigs were fine. After KOD it was to be another 2 years of unsuccessful releases before their next hit ‘Remember (Sha La la)’ made it to number 6 in late 73. Unfortunately it was at this point having recorded ‘Remember’ disillusioned with the band Nobby quit just before the record shot up the charts. Thus by early 1974 new lead singer Les McKeown completed what would become the ‘classic’ line up of McKeown, Alan Longmuir, Derek Longmuir, Eric Faulkner and Stuart ‘Woody’ Wood. The rest as they say is history with a re-recorded lead vocal ‘Remember’ was the start of a string of UK hits, by 1975 ‘Rollermania’ swept the country and eventually the world. ‘Shang A Lang’ ‘Summerlove Sensation’ ‘All of Me Loves All of You’  and a cover of the Four Seasons ‘Bye Bye Baby were just some of their huge hits, the latter staying at No.1 for 6 weeks. By 1976 they had also conquered the US guided by the Arista label guru Clive Davis. Tartan trousers, scarves, merchandise the BCR were truly the first mega ‘boyband’. Now as I said at the start they were loved by (in the main) their core audience of young teen girls and hated by ‘serious’ musicians. The venerable Nick Lowe even wrote a micky taking song to get him out of his contract with his label UA, which backfired as when it was released under the name Tartan Horde became a hit!…and he was forced to write a follow up. Personally I think there is a lot of musical snobbery and always has been, did the BCR deserve to be pilloried any more than their labelmates, the Glitter Band, Showaddywaddy, Dawn, etc etc I don’t think so, or was there a hint of jealousy? Lets not forget that the BCR sold over 120 million records. This 3CD set spans their heyday and covers releases from all over the world. A word on the unlucky ‘Nobby’ who missed out on all the success, on CD1 the first 10 tracks from ‘Keep On Dancing’ to ‘Remember’ contain Nobby’s vocals, so you can compare. Personally I think he was the better vocalist, his voice not unlike the great Brian Connely’s at times. However in real terms the whole band missed out on success financially, with legal issues over royalties which as far as I know continue to this day. So overall to sum up what the BCR did in their genre and marketplace they did well. They provided happiness in a series of throwaway pop releases in a decade that saw all sorts of excess in the world of pop. This 7T’s record release comes in a clamshell box with 3 card disc sleeves and a 26 page booklet. Now to quote a line….’If you hate me after what I say’…………….
For more information go to https://www.cherryred.co.uk
Til next time………….,

Colin

Pete Fisher… I won’t be rushing out and buying this, but the band certainly marked the era ’74-’76…my younger sister (who was 15/16/17 at the time) was a huge fan, and had all their records, all the tartan gear, and went to loads of their concerts…must admit they had some catchy tunes, but it was all too teeny candy floss for me…

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing The Complete Bell Recordings 1966-1969 – James & Bobby Purify 2CD

THE COMPLETE BELL RECORDINGS 1966-1969  James & Bobby Purify

James Lee Purify and his cousin Robert Lee Dickey (died 2012) formed as a duo in 1966, with the latter adopting Purify. Both hailed from Florida and were steeped in soul music. Signed to Bell Records they scored a million seller with their debut single ‘I’m Your Puppet’ written by prolific songwriter Dan Penn (who wrote many hit songs including ‘Cry Like A Baby’  for labelmates The Box Tops). Nominated for a Grammy and an enduring soul hit IYP was in fact completely disliked by the duo. Originally written as a country song it was too lightweight and ‘poppy’ for James & Bobby who were not shy of telling the press at the time. I can see their point of view. This compilation includes the two albums they recorded, singles and bonus/unissued tracks and IYP does sound out of place when compared to the rest of the tracks. Their follow up hit (in the US) ‘Wish You Didn’t have to Go’ is much more representative of their soul credentials and sounds like a Stax/Atlantic/VJ release as indeed does the rest of their output. In fact both IYP and the other tracks were recorded at Fame Studio’s Muscle Shoals, a legendary place to be sure. Their first album features some superb covers of, in particular, Eddie Floyds ‘Knock On Wood’ Otis Redding’s ‘Ive Been Loving You Too Long’ ( a great arrangement) Sam Cooke’s immortal ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ and Sam & Dave’s ‘Blame Me’. Sam & Dave were undoubtedly the pre-eminent soul duo at the time, so its interesting that they actually covered IYP! Their second album contained here ‘The Pure Sound Of The Purifys’ carried on the Sam & Dave link with ‘I Take What I Want’, ‘When Something Is Wrong With My Baby’ and ‘Soothe Me’, in retrospect it seems a bit much to cover 3 songs by what are basically your main rivals, however when you think back nearly all black soul acts were doing it, in particular Tamla and Motown being the most guilty. Anyway be that as it may there are some fine vocal performances ‘Hello There’ (another Dan Penn original), ‘When Something Is Wrong With My Baby’ and ‘Shake A Tail Feather’ with backing vocals by no less than Melba Moore, Doris Troy and Ellie Greenwich, which was recorded with a ‘live’ feel in the style of Geno Washington, who incidentally covered…yes you’ve guessed it..IYP! All in all the 38 tracks gathered here are a real trip back to those heady days in the 60’s when soul MEANT soul, not what purports to be ‘soul’ nowadays. Ok I’m biased and getting on but listening to this its 1967 and im young and full of hope and energy. SoulMusic Records have done a great remastering job coupled with a 16 page booklet and whatever James & Bobby originally thought their music stands the test of time. Enjoy.

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Til next time……………Colin

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Strawbs – Deadlines (2CD/1DVD) Remastered/Expanded Edition

DEADLINES : Strawbs (2CD/1DVD)  Remastered/Expanded Edition
Firstly the issuer of this release Esoteric Records have done a masterful job (as usual) with the presentation of this set. Housed in a sturdy glossy clamshell box, inside containing 3 discs with individual artwork, a replica Tour flyer/poster and a booklet. Disc 1 contains the original album plus 11 bonus tracks. Disc 2 contains 11 tracks live from their concert at the Golders Green Hippodrome recorded on 18th February 1978 for BBC’s ‘Sight and Sound’ programme. Disc 3 is a DVD (all region) of the aforementioned ‘Sight and Sound’ beautifully remastered in…well..’Sight and Sound’! available here for the first time. The Strawbs originally formed in 1964 by Dave Cousins as a bluegrass band had by the 70’s moved through Folk, Folk/Rock, Prog Rock and had pop/rock hits memorably with ‘Lay Down’ in 1973 (a personal all time favourite’). By the time they recorded ‘Deadlines’ their last album of the 70’s they were all but done. Their previous album ‘Burning For You’ ended with ‘Goodbye Is Not An Easy Word To Say’ intended by Dave as his farewell song to the band. Lets remember that 1977 was the height of Punk and all that came with it, bands like the Strawbs, Yes, Asia, ELP etc etc were considered irrelevant dinosaurs and derided by the Punk movement. However management somehow convinced Dave to carry on. So it was that he took a flight to New York to meet with Clive Davis music mogul and founder of Arista Records. An unlikely label one would think known mainly (at that time) for its pop sensibilities with acts like The Bay City Rollers, David Cassidy, Gary Glitter, Dawn etc. However a deal was done with an enthusiastic Davis and ‘Deadlines’ was the result. As it turned out it would be the only album for Arista. Largely ignored by the Press on release and to a degree the record buying public it became the ‘lost’ Strawbs album. Did it deserve it? an emphatic No! The line up for ‘Deadlines’ consisted of Dave Cousins (acoustic guitar/vocals), Dave Lambert (electric guitar/vocals), Chas Cronk (Bass), Tony Fernandez (Drums) and new arrival Andy Richards (keyboards/moog etc). Recorded in Dublin and Air Studios London all nine tracks written by Cousins, Lambert and Cronk the finished album did in fact have a lick of Arista about it as the band moved at times to almost pop powerballadry. Kicking off with a stormer ‘No Return’ (an ironic title given the closing title of the previous album!) with the lead vocal taken by Dave Lambert as opposed to Cousins, great driving riffs and some electrifying keyboard wizardry by Andy shown to stunning effect on the live DVD (there’s another Andy (Q!) known to us all that would surely rate this) Track 2 ‘Joey and Me’ another uptempo catchy cut also features some impressive keyboards. Track 3 ‘Sealed With a Traitors Kiss’ is a heartfelt ballad and is a beautiful gem. Space precludes a run down on every single track but two other tracks standout ‘The Last Report’ becomes an earworm after one listening and ‘Deadly Nightshade’ is a pure madrigal winner. Disc 2 as mentioned is the live ‘Sight and Sound’ concert audio. Disc 3 is the DVD of said concert with the same tracks in the same running order and for me is the jewel in this package. Mixing old favourites with tracks from ‘Deadlines’ its a great and nostalgic watch and joy of joys blasts off with a spirited ‘Lay Down’ what more could you ask for! If you’re a Strawbs fan I urge you to watch this you won’t be disappointed. An excellent package, more please Esoteric! Enjoy.
Til next time…………Colin

 

Andy Qunta… Great review, Colin!

Neil Partrick… really interesting article, Colin.