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

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

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

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

Til next time…..stay safe………Colin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Til next time……stay safe…….Colin

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

Mick O’Dowd… WOW!!!!

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

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

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

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

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Sumer Is Icumen In: The Pagan Sound of British & Irish Folk 1966-1975 – Various Artists, 3CD

SUMER IS ICUMEN IN: THE PAGAN SOUND OF BRITISH & IRISH FOLK 1966-1975 Various  (3CD Set)

The latest excellent Grapefruit Records lovingly curated set is a long awaited follow up to their 2015 offering ‘Dust On The Nettles’, which was very warmly received and praised at the time. I have to say that although i enjoy a lot of the music contained here, it is not my area of expertise and i wouldn’t pretend to be knowledgeable about the genre, and therefore for once i will quote heavily from the better informed and of course offer my own opinion. All that said i think the title is self explanatory and you know what you’re in for. A voyage through an era in music history when traditional folk collided with the counter culture sounds of the late 60’s and early 70’s. The ‘Pagan’ aspect came about through a remark from legendary Folk stalwart Martin Carthy of Steeleye Span who said back then ‘the whole scene had a strong pagan feel, dark and elemental’. He was referring to other bands like Comus, Dr Strangely Strange and The Third Ear Band, the last band would perform with the ancient order of Druids, typically at dawn solstice ceremonies at places like Glastonbury Tor. Third Ear Band kick off Disc1 of the set with ‘Lark Rise’ a number i am familiar with however it’s the next track that conjures up a mixture of emotions in me and as soon as i hear it i am transported back to a cinema in 1973 and the terrifying image of The Wicker Man. ‘Corn Riggs’ by Magnet is one of the haunting songs from the film that has always stayed with me. Magnet weren’t actually a ‘real’ band like the others on this compilation they were a bunch of musicians assembled to provide the soundtrack to the film, however they capture the spirit of the ‘Pagan’ sound and vibe perfectly and anybody that’s seen the film that i have spoken to always refers to the music with a sort of hushed reverence. Moving on, other standout tracks on Disc1 number amongst them Traffic with ‘John Barleycorn’ Vulcan’s Hammer ‘The Keys Of Canterbury’, Kevin Coyne ‘White Horse’ & the unknown to me previously Amber with ‘ Swan In The Evening’. Disc2 starts with a ‘classic’ of the genre Fairport Conventions ‘Tam Lim’ a cornerstone of their live performances i have heard many times over the years. Bridget St John who i must confess i had forgotten about over the years joins the party with ‘Lizard Long Tongue Boy’, and again i am also familiar with Comus offering ‘The Bite’.  Dr Strangely Strange, a band much championed by John Peel give us ‘Strings In The Earth & Air’ and an old friend of mines favourite band  Principal Edward’s Magic Theatre weigh in with ‘Autumn Lady Dancing Song’. These are just a few of the highlights. Disc3  is probably the most accessible to those of you yet to be exposed to this genre with the more established Pentangle ‘Cruel Sister’, The Incredible String Band ‘Witches Hat’, Curver Air ‘Elfin Boy’ Mellow Candle ‘The Poet & The Witch’. Mellow Candle were a fabled Irish band who released one album on Deram ‘Swaddling Songs’ from which this track is taken. If you can find an original vinyl copy of that you could probably swop it for a Porche……..The disc concludes with a track from Mr Fox ‘Mendle’ a husband & wife team who along with another husband & wife duo Dave & Toni Arthur were devotees of self styled ‘King Of The Witches’ Alex Sanders, who many local people may know lived here in Hastings back in the day. A man who i once had a rather big falling out with when i rightly called him a charlatan in a local pub…(a whole other story). So in conclusion if you are into folklore, May Day, The Green Man legend, fairies, corn gods and magickal tales this 3CD set with 60 tracks (over 4 hours) and as ever a highly informative 40 page booklet is definitely for you. As i said at the start this may not be my area of expertise or knowledge but it’s been a thoroughly enjoyable experience getting acquainted with. Enjoy.

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

Til next time…….stay safe……..Colin

 

 

Graham Sherrington… personally I like Capercaillie

 

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Bubblerock Is Here To Stay! The British Pop Explosion 1970-73, Various Artists 3CD

BUBBLEROCK IS HERE TO STAY – The British Pop Explosion 1970-73   Various Artists 3CD Set

Well i guess the clue is in the title. Grapefruit Records latest 3CD set delves into the mostly pop candyfloss, i.e. consume and forget, pop records that were ubiquitous in the early 70’s. Pop & Rock had by now gone their separate ways, with serious bands getting…well serious, whilst a legion of pop bands old & new released a slew of what the Americans dubbed ‘Bubblegum’ on their side of the pond. They had The Archies, Cuff Links, Crazy Elephant etc. We hit back with our own home made ‘Bubblerock’. So what earned an entry into this genre? Simple 3 minute melodic lightweight hooky radio friendly songs in the main. Certain labels like RCA, Bell, & Mickie Most’s RAK label specialised in having teams of writers hammering out numbers chiefly aimed at the pocket money generation of 11-14 year olds. Early champions were the nascent Sweet & Mud. This new compilation however digs deeper into the rubble and unearth’s some long forgotten nuggets alongside the more familiar. Disc1 cracks off with the oft compiled ‘Groovin With Mr Bloe’ and serves up more well known names with Pickettywitch, Blue Mink, Marmalade, Lieutenant Pigeon & Hotlegs (10cc) but it’s the unfamiliar and the forgotten that provides the fun, like ‘I Fought The Law’ by Posse, ‘Alexandra Park’ by Fumble & the notorious at the time St. Cecelia ‘Leap Up & Down (Wave Your Knickers in The Air) a record actually loved and championed by the late great DJ Jimmy Young who played it regularly on his Radio 2 show. But when it comes to ‘novelty’ pop the undisputed champion is without doubt Jonathan King and his UK Records label. Whatever we may now think of King on a personal level, he was/is a genius for coming up with ‘studio bands’ with (usually) daft names and scoring massive hits. Amongst the more well known here are The Piglets ‘Johnny Reggae’ kicking off Disc2. A record that surprisingly didn’t get banned (if you study the lyrics), i’ll return to King in a moment, Disc2 also sports big names Sweet, Tremeloes, Mungo Jerry & White Plains. and again a host of also rans in Jungle Jim, Peter Cowap, Tina Harvey with a take on The Stones ‘Have You Seen Your Mother Baby’ and Kim’s younger brother Ricky Wilde. But let’s return to White Plains with their entry of ‘When You Are A King’ a record that is vastly superior to some of those i’ve mentioned. It’s a superbly crafted and indeed complex song, what’s it doing here? Then i had a thought David Wells who is the label boss and compiles these releases could be having an ‘in’ joke with this one. As previously mentioned you will find tracks by Jonathan King scattered throughout under different names and guises. Is David asking us to guess which tracks they are by asking ‘When You Are A King’?! Or is that just a random idea of my own? Well either way i’m not going to name all the tracks in question, that way everybody can play along! Disc3 starts with a rather wonderful version of Elvis’s ‘Suspicion’ by the loony ex Bonzo member Vivian Stanshall and again features name acts in David Essex, Bay City Rollers, Middle Of The Road, Peter Skellern & Kenny. There are some strong runners up in Butterscotch with ‘Don’t You Know’, B J Arnau ‘I Want To Go Back There Again’ (she appeared in the Bond film Live & Let Die as a nightclub singer) & Fickle Pickle ‘California Calling’. I was disappointed with the last choice as Fickle Pickle did an amazing version of McCartneys ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’ which would have been good to have on here. As ever the packaging and accompanying booklet are first class and in the case of the booklet very informative and will give you the answers to all those ‘fictitious” bands i mentioned earlier. For those that collect the, lost, obscure, novelty and downright wacky side of 70’s pop this will go down a treat, for others it may be a case of too much candyfloss. Enjoy.

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

Til next time………………stay safe….Colin

 

Louis Wiggett… I have the Kincade album, not bad in places.

Mick O’Dowd… Agghh… Leap Up & Down…. What a classic?

Paul Gray… I’ve ordered this and really looking forward to hearing stuff I haven’t heard for 50 years! Grapefruit Records do some fantastic compilations very lovingly put together.

Colin Bell… Excellent Paul, enjoy!

Mick O’Dowd… I am coming out (We know a song about that don’t we children?) No not what you think. I am publically admitting to liking this sort of music. Novelty songs, Bubblegum (Kassenetz Katz where are you? Crazy Elephant). Have to try and get hold of a copy.

Colin Bell… We’ll share the ridicule of our peers together mate

 

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing A Place In The Sun The Complete Jason Crest – 2CD

A PLACE IN THE SUN -The Complete  Jason Crest       JASON CREST
I’ve been looking forward to this for some time. Back in the late 60’s i supported Jason Crest on several occasions all around Sussex & Kent. I remember a particularly good gig at Staplehurst Village Hall, which in hindsight was a very low level venue for such an accomplished band. Unfortunately this is part of the overall lack of support the band received. Formed In Tonbridge by drummer Terry Clark he recruited another Terry (Dobson) from a venue i also played at Tonbridge Teen & Twenty Club. Terry No 2 played guitar, they were joined by Ron Fowler on bass & Dave Tiffin on rhythm guitar. The band christened themselves The Spurlyweeves and set about gigging and making a name for themselves. They entered a band competition where they spotted another young gifted guitarist called Derek Smallcombe who shortly replaced Dave Tiffin. Terry Dobson swapped guitar for Hammond Organ duties and then in one more poaching act in came on drums Roger Siggery whilst leader Terry Clark switched to concentrating on lead vocals. By 1966 the five piece knew they needed to make changes to distinguish them from all the other ‘beat bands’ mainly playing covers. So embracing the new wave of budding psychedelia the band changed their name to The Good Thing Brigade (not a memorable name!) However local papers ran articles on this local ‘flower power’ pop band and got them some attention. By 1967 EMI offered them a deal but the band chose to go with rival Philips Records (a fateful decision). Now writing their own material and firmly embracing psychedelic rock they released their first single the glorious ‘Turquoise Tandem Cycle’ a full on psyche mini epic with a distinctive Hammond played through a wah-wah. This track kicks off this newly released 2CD set. Newly launched Radio 1 loved it and got behind it, but to be fair it wasn’t a ‘commercially sounding’ record. And this was really the start of the bands problems. Philips were used to promoting 3 minute ‘pop’ songs The Walker Brothers, Dusty etc. they kept looking to the band for ‘pop’ commercial songs whilst the band were cutting new ground with some of the best psychedelic records released in the 60’s. ‘Teagarden Lane’ a dreamy swirly acid dripped trip,  ‘My House Is Burning’ the epic ‘Black Mass’ a tour-de-force all complete with backward loops & phases. ‘The Charge Of The Light Brigade’ a radio friendly opus sounding rather ‘Move’ Like. Indeed with several other bands of the time the guys covered The Moves ‘Here We Go Round The Lemon Tree’ and actually produced an almost better version than the original and i say that as a great Move fan. This was fine with Philips whose lack of imagination ran to, well lets release a cover of a successful song, that always works…..but it didn’t. although it did lead to the band straying from their original material and covering ‘Paint It Black’, Spirit’s ‘Fresh Garbage’ and even ‘California Dreaming’ which to be fair did show off the bands great harmonies. But the strangest moment came for me when they covered ‘Hold On’ the ‘b’ side of ‘Reflections Of Charles Brown’ by Ruperts People who i was closely linked to and made for an interesting backstage chat at one gig! Its Disc2 of this collection is where you will find the majority of these covers, along with those already mentioned you will also find Paul Simon, Beatles & Spooky Tooth being given a work over. It’s interesting and frustrating comparing the two CD’s inasmuch as i want to travel back in time and grab the A & R guy at Philips and tell him to nurture this fresh, innovative, excellent psyche band and support and encourage the original material and basically leave the ‘covers’ as maybe live gig material. Well obviously that can’t happen and anyway eventually Philips ever dwindling interest in the band saw them call it a day. By 1970 they had changed their name to High Broom (a suburb of Tunbridge Wells) and founder member Terry Clark had departed frustrated. High Broom had a turntable hit with ‘Dancing In The Moonlight’ but within a year they also imploded. In 1971 Clark, Siggery & Smallcombe settled their differences and formed a new band which would eventually become prog rock outfit Holy Mackerel. As i said at the start of this review i worked with Jason Crest several times and they have a special place in my heart as a lover of psyche rock they represented one of the best UK acts in that field and comparable to anything in similar vein emanating from the West Coast. For anyone who has a similar interest in this genre i warmly recommend this package to you to savour. Of interest to local readers is the booklet accompanying this release where you can find references to our beloved Hastings Pier, The Cobweb and a montage of gig posters featuring local venues like Battle Memorial Hall. I thank as ever David Wells & Grapefruit Records for this excellent complete collection and for bringing back some very warm memories for yours truly. enjoy.
For more information go to https://www.cherryred.co.uk

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

Graham Matthews… Fantastic band, they played Staplecross Village Hall many times and at 12 years old I got to know them fairly well. In front of the stage there was a triangular section down from the apex of the roof which Nobby Clarke (the singer and main writer of their own songs) told me acted as a sound baffle and what you heard on stage while playing was not what the paying public heard. He went to the far end of the hall when setting up and got the sound balance right and I have seen so many bands play that venue including a lot that went on to great success, Nobby was the only one I saw do this and they always sounded great. IN THE 80’s several of us would book bands to raise money for the village as we still lived there and one guy booked a band called Cats Eyes, I arrived as they were setting up and walked in to see a guy with his back to me just inside the door singing and getting the band balanced. I said You have to be Nobby ! and sure enough it was 20 yrs later, remembering the hall from the 60’s.

Colin Bell… That’s brought back a few memories Graham, it’s highly likely we would have met, as i said in my review i supported them with a disco several times & did Staplecross Village Hall as a disco gig several times, cheers! Colin

 

 

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

Tag Waggett… thanks for your kind words and thanks for an excellent review. Tag Waggett ( drummer) SOTR

Colin Bell… Hi Tag, good to hear from you, i hope i did your album justice, stay safe & well

Bill Griffiths… the first eight live tracks were recorded at Alfreton Hall on 2nd May 1970 on a Tandberg 1541 mono recorder and a Shure microphone . I was fortunately able to find a position at the back of the hall in an elevated position above the audience. the hall itself is not large being the remains of a former stately home of the Morewoods family, now a wedding venue. A couple of tracks were not included on the cd, possibly to leave room for the Manchester set.

Tony Davis… Really interesting piece Colin. As you say many lost bands of the late 60s and early 70s are now coming to light and bringing hidden gems to life.

Colin Bell… Thanks Tony, the review i posted yesterday of the 3CD set of bands covering The Beatles has some great stuff on it, which may well interest you, Cheers.

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Looking Through A Glass Onion – The Beatles Psychedelic Songbook 1966-72, Various Artists, 3CD

LOOKING THROUGH A GLASS ONION (The Beatles Psychedelic Songbook 1966-72)   Various Artists

What a great concept this 3CD set is, congratulations all at Grapefruit Records. Right from the first Beatles album issued other bands rushed to make cover versions of their songs and make a quick buck. Remember ‘Girl’ St Louis Union’ & ‘Michelle’ The Overlanders for instance, But as The Beatles became ever more experimental with ‘Rubber Soul’, ‘Revolver’ & of course ‘St. Pepper an increasing number of bands also experimenting with their own sounds started making all sorts of covers in a myriad of styles. This new collection focuses on the psyche/rock/baroque/ efforts of the established and newcomers alike. Kicking the whole proceedings off on Disc1 is Camel turning ‘Mystery Tour’ into a prog rock 6 minute opus, a great start. But it’s track2 Deep Purple’s version of ‘Help’ that makes cpmplete sense of the compilations title. Deep Purple deliver ‘Help’ very much in Vanilla Fudge style all heavy and ponderous and equally wonderful. So not only do you peel back the layers (like an onion) of a bands take on The Beatles original you are also peeling back the Vanilla Fudge approach by Deep Purple! That makes it sound complicated but its not, its very playful and a source of delight throughout the whole 3CD set. You not only get to hear all the different takes of the original songs, there being some 68 tracks there are some songs covered by more than one artist. Thus you can also have the fun and enjoyment of comparing for instance ‘I Am The Walrus’ by Affinity, Spooky Tooth, Lol Coxhill & Octopus. This all makes for a huge amount of listening pleasure and in a lot of cases a voyage of discovery unearthing bands i’ve never heard of amongst the more familiar names to be found. But never fear you will not be left in the dark about a band that’s completely unfamiliar to you, Accompanying is a superb 40 page booklet with mini-biogs on each track, as someone who writes in a similar fashion i stand in awe of the author’s (David Wells) knowledge and research. I’d love to have the space to write and indeed the time to guide you through every track, but that not being possible here are some personal highlights. Disc1 the aforementioned Deep Purple ‘Hush’ Affinity ‘I Am The Walrus’ Kippington Lodge ‘In My Life’ ‘Sounds Nice ‘Flying’ & Orange Bicycle (a band i’ve worked with several times) ‘You Never Give Me Your Money/Carry That Weight. Alongside these you will find more well known tracks by The Tremeloes, The Hollies & Cliff Bennett & The Rebel Rousers. Disc2 Spooky Tooth ‘I Am The Walrus’ The Frugal Sound ‘Norwegian Wood’ The Majority ‘A Hard Days Night’ Bo Street Runners ‘Drive My Car’ familiar names on this disc include Plastic Penny, Big Jim Sullivan, Don Fardon, Stone The Crows & The Shadows. Disc3 Jason Crest (again a localish band i’ve worked with) ‘Come Together’ Affinity ‘A Day In The Life’ The Eyes ‘Good Day Sunshine’ The Ice ‘Day Tripper’, again more familiar names include Circus, The Sorrows, Hardin & York, Tomorrow & finishing the whole collection off the one and only Dame Vera Lynn! Could the list get more eclectic! Running to nearly 4 hours its incredibly good value for your money too. With things being the way they are at present we are missing out on ‘live’ events and locally we have of course had our treasured Beatles Day in the past, a shared event we all miss. This package gives you the opportunity to have your very own ‘Beatles Day’ in the comfort of your own home savouring all these different bands playing your favourite fab four songs. When i was writing my syndicated newspaper column i used to grade new releases 1 – 5 stars, a practice i eventually dropped. Was i still grading i would, with no hesitation whatsoever give this the full 5 stars. Seldom have i had as much fun stepping through the looking glass and discovering so many gems as i have done here. Stay safe everyone. Enjoy.

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

Til next time…………………Colin

 

Colin Bell… I forgot to mention when i wrote the review there will be a new 2CD collection of local band (Tonbridge) Jason Crest released in the next few weeks, First time ALL their recordings in one package. They played Hastings Pier and other local venues in the late 60’s early 70’s. I’ll review the comp in due course. Take care everyone.

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Belfast Gypsies: Them Belfast Gypsies CD

BELFAST GYPSIES: THEM BELFAST GYPSIES CD

Ok, let’s clear up the title and band of this release before we progress any further. At first glance of the album cover it would be taken for granted this is an early album by Belfast r’n’b band THEM and its entitled ‘Belfast Gypsies’ given their look etc. NO. The whole saga of this release is told in a superb and comprehensive essay over 16 pages by the label boss David Wells to whom i take my (metaphorical) hat off.

It is a tale, typical in many respects of the 60’s, of dodgy managers, greedy Record Companies and a whole host of ‘shifty’ characters that swim around the shark infested waters of the music industry. It is a very interesting story particularly for those of us on the inside, however to keep things relatively simple….think of this album as a Them album minus Van Morrison containing members of the original band. The use of the ‘THEM’ lettering is a cynical Record Company ploy (then, not now!) to appeal and catch the eye of fans of the original Van Morrison led band. So to sum up the release is called Them Belfast Gypsies all in one sentence. The album was recorded in May & June 1966 in London and Copenhagen after the departure of Van for America. Lead vocals were taken by Pat (aka) John McAuley, a quick snatch of which could be mistaken for Van the Man, but not for long, Pat/John has a more nasally/raucous/frenzied delivery than his ex bandmate. The album kicks off with Gloria’s Dream which is basically a re-tread of hit single ‘Gloria’ but nevertheless a good rollicking slice of r’n’b. Followed by a rather good mid-tempo bluesy track ‘The Crazy World Inside Me’ which leads on to the harmonica driven rocker ‘Midnight Train’. Things then take a peculiar turn with a neo classical piece ‘Aria Of The Fallen Angels’ before returning to familiar territory with a cover of the Dylan standard ‘Its All Over Now Baby Blue’. Then we are off once again into strange realms with the freakbeat/Bo Diddley influenced ‘People Let’s Freak Out’ before once again returning to solid ground with a  good version of the much covered John Lee Hooker classic ‘Boom Boom’. More bluesy organ drenched sounds follow on the lyrically strange ‘The Last Will And Testament’ before we are hit with a cover of Donovan’s ‘Hey Gyp’. If you have read this far you are probably, like me, thinking along the lines of this sounds totally schizophrenic as an album. Well, yes and no, after repeated listenings it does seem to strangely hang together in a curious way. In my opinion the mix of discordant tracks can be laid at the feet of Kim Fowley, whenever i hear that name my hackles rise. Fowley was an American Record Producer/singer/songwriter who was active in America and London (amongst other locations) from 1960 through to the 21st century. According to your point of view he was either a maverick genius or a meddling hustler in many a bands career. I met him once at a party in Bayswater given by Dave a sound engineer friend of mine. Fowley was responsible for this album. By the time it was issued in Sweden & The Netherlands only, in 1967, the band had already broken up, disillusioned and broke and indeed ignorant of its release at all! This new release put together by Grapefruit Records has the original 12 tracks plus a bonus 9 all newly remastered and sounding excellent and is without doubt the definitive edition and restores some integrity to the shabby treatment of the band and its place in music history. If earthy early r’n’b & blues is your thing there is much here to enjoy.

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

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

Colin

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.