SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Try A Little Sunshine -The British Psychedelic Sounds of 1969 Various Artists 3cd set

TRY A LITTLE SUNSHINE-The British Psychedelic Sounds of 1969    Various Artists
This is the latest instalment in the excellent Grapefruit Records series of late 60’s compilations, see other Smart Sounds earlier reviews for the others. As ever the presentation is superb 3 CD’s in cardboard sleeves housed in a strong clamshell box with a 44 page booklet. All the booklets in this series have been informative but I have to say this made me aware of musicians I knew of, but not all the permutations of bands they had moved through, a really interesting read. So to the music, all 72 tracks of it! I think calling this set ‘psychedelic’ is a tad of a misnomer, although psyche sounds do abound, experimental may be a better description but no matter.
Kicking off with the song that gives the collection its title by The Factory (not to be confused with our very own local Factory) ‘Try A Little Sunshine’ is certainly a definite ‘psyche’ number with its snarling guitar which sounds like it could have been recorded by the Electric Prunes in 1967 at the height of psychedelia, a great start. Followed by obscure band SHY LIMBS with a Hammond drenched mid tempo number owing a lot to Procol Harum but very good in its own right. Indeed Procol Harum crop up at track 16 with the epic ‘Salty Dog’ which as I aforementioned is not considered psyche but was certainly  experimental and led the way along with other bands into the transition that became rock music as opposed to pop music. Throughout this collection there is a smattering of big ‘names’ albeit with lesser known tracks ‘The Move’, ‘Spencer Davis Group’ ‘Status Quo’ and ‘Barclay James Harvest’ to name a few. However its the obscure and long forgotten that make this a treasure trove of delights to listen to Wild Silk ‘Vision in a Plaster Sky’ and Consortium’s ‘The Day the Train Never Came’ are two brilliant examples on Disc 1, Consortium did manage to have a minor hit (top thirty) with a personal favourite ‘All the Love in the World’ (not contained here). Disc 2 is also full of delights from the excellent Fleur De Lys ‘Liar’ (the musicians that also played on Ruperts People’s Reflections of Charles Brown) to Dave Davies ‘Creeping Jean’, Ralph McTells ‘Summer Came Along’, the ever excellent Grapefruit with ‘Deep Water’ and personal favourites Nirvana ‘It Happened Two Sundays Ago’ ( a duo I have written extensively about in previous reviews), are just some of the highlights. Disc 3 opens with some personal vivid memories for this reviewer as I supported this band 3 or 4 times, the last being at Staplecross if memory serves, its the wonderful Jason Crest (from Tonbridge) with the occult laden ‘Black Mass’ ( a song that their record company Philips thought ‘distasteful’! immediately making it interesting to us (then) young guns! Certainly brought the era back in all its glory. Following this and by coincidence another band i’d worked with in the shape of Orange Bicycle and  ‘Last Cloud Home’, a band that made some of the best harmony pop songs ever with a distinctive feel. And speaking of harmony pop also on this disc is Tony Rivers in the shape of Harmony Grass ‘What A Groovy Day’ another class act. The Spectrum. The Deviants, The Onyx all deliver some great tracks. And then there’s Status Quo with their ‘pop psyche’ take on the old Everly Brothers ‘The Price of Love’ the single that bridged the gap between their hippy period and their next incarnation with ‘Down The Dustpipe’. So overall a broad ranging compliation, beautifully remastered and full of hidden gems to savour and enjoy. Well done again Grapefruit Records! Enjoy.
For more information go to… https://www.cherryred.co.uk
Til next time……….. Colin

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRv-jAMh5Wg

Dave Nattress… Nice article. Was getting well into Psychedelica by then, but never seen these albums. “All the love in the World” by Consortium, a personal old pop favourite of mine too. Used to have the single but it’s long lost. I saw them play the De La Warr in Bexhill once at a “Beat Rave” – would have been 1969. Th track can be found on the www – you tube etc.

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Cilla Black Original Album Series CD’s

SURROUND YOURSELF WITH CILLA/IT MAKES ME FEEL GOOD (2CD) & CILLA MIXED UP/BEGINNINGS REVISITED (2CD)   Cilla Black
In a few days time (August 1st) it will be the third anniversary of the premature passing of ‘our Cilla’. These two new 2CD packages kick off a programme of releases lovingly curated and produced by Cilla’s son (and manager) Robert Willis. All remastered (and sounding brilliant) there is a wealth of new to CD, Remixes, Alternate Takes material that will keep any Cilla fan more than happy. Personally the first CD ‘Surround Yourself With Cilla’ still remains my favourite. Originally issued in 1969 it of course scored a huge hit with the lead track SYWS, an irresistible catchy pop single with the ‘morse code’ intro, one of Martin/Coulters best compositions. As was the way at the time ‘covers’ made up most of the bulk of the album ‘Aquarius’ from Cilla’s favourite musical ‘Hair’, ‘Words’ (Bee Gees), ‘You’ll Never Get To Heaven’ (Dionne Warwick) and ‘Without Him’ (Nilsson) to name a few. It also contains a much loved and performed fan favourite in ‘Liverpool Lullaby’. Added to the original 12 tracks there is a bonus 10. Skipping to the the 2nd CD ‘It Makes Me Feel Good’ released in 1976 and recorded in LA, the first and only time for Cilla. The publicity for it dubbed it Cilla’s soft rock phase, im not sure i’d categorise it that way, but the LA session musicians certainly give it a different feel. a little country/rock vibe. Kicking off with a spirited rendition of Holland/Dozier/Hollands ‘Something About You (Baby I Like) and followed by the US only single ‘ I’ll Take A Tango’, a Billboard hit. Other highlights are Albert Hammonds ‘Lay The Music Down’, Norman Petty’s ‘Heartbeat’ and Phil Spectors old Teddy Bears hit ‘To Know Him Is To Love Him’ Again other than the 12 original tracks there are a further 7 bonus tracks to enjoy. Its certainly a different take/style from Cilla and bears repeated listenings.

The second release ‘Cilla Mixed Up’ was originally a 2009 digital only release to celebrate Cilla’s 45th anniversary. ‘Mixed Up’ takes Cilla classics and does what it says on the tin and gives up dance/club remixes from top club DJ’s and doesn’t use any new vocal overdubs or recordings. Cilla was delighted to find herself played on the dancefloor ‘Im in the clubs! ‘Step Inside Love’ and ‘Something Tells Me’ come off remarkably well and certainly give these old tracks a completely new lease of life and who would imagine you could make a thumping club mix out of ‘I Don’t Know How To Love Him’! well here’s the proof! ‘Kiss You All Over’ and ‘Anyone Who Had A Heart’, especially the latter really get you moving. Its a testament to the young guns love for Cilla on these productions as they weren’t born when the originals appeared!

Finally, ‘Beginnings : Revisited, was Cilla’s final album release in 2009 and combined new recordings with classics from her back catalogue again all remixed and given new treatments ‘Imagine’ (with old friend Cliff Richard), ‘Photograph’ ‘If You Could Read My Mind’, ‘Step Inside Love’, are just some of the tracks featured, my personal favourite has to go to ‘This Kiss’ (Faith Hill) always loved the lyrics to that. A lot of these tracks make it on to CD for the first time here. Both sets contain lavish 32 page booklets with a mine of information and some glorious photo’s (ladies you’ll love the Mary Quant clothes!). All in all 2 sets of CD’s celebrating a national treasure. As Cilla would say ‘good on you chuck’.

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

Til next time, stay cool!…………………Colin

 

Andy Qunta… Great review, Colin!

Neil Partrick… Great review, and appreciated by someone who’s always had a soft spot for “our Cill’ “. One tiny gripe: no mention (even in passing) of Alfie? Surely it’s one of her most emotional and powerful performances (and a wonderful song)….. and no competition from Dionne on this one!

Colin Bell… Hi Neil…thanks for your comments, I didn’t mention ‘Alfie’ as its not on either of these releases, but agree its one of her best, cheers Colin

Neil Partrick… Whoops! Sorry Colin. I should check my facts first! Sad omission though – probably due to legal/copyright/ issues?

David Edwards… Not an enthusiast of Cilla Black I’m definitely in the Dionne Warwick camp and for me the difference between Man City and Hastings Utd. and here comes the but, Cilla’s Alfie was wonderful.

SMART SOUNDS By Colin Bell reviewing Black Flower by Nirvana (UK) CD

BLACK FLOWER     Nirvana (UK) CD

Having brought you reviews of Nirvana’s other albums, its with great personal pleasure I bring you this review of their third ‘lost’ album. Their debut album ‘The Story of Simopath’ is now considered the first ‘rock opera’ and the follow up (and most commercially successful album) ‘All of Us’ contained the sublime single hit ‘Rainbow Chaser’, another first with its use of ‘phasing’. The third album release should have been Black Flower. On completion Chris Blackwell boss of their label Island Records rejected it as not right for his label. In a, however, generous gesture gave them the master tapes and released the duo from their contract and bade them good luck to find a home for it.

Eventually a deal was done with Metromedia in the U.S. and Pye International in the U.K. Unfortunately Metromedia was caught up in a huge payola scandal and folded having just pressed up 500 promo copies (now worth £1000!) if you could find one. So Black Flower vanished into obscurity, it didn’t help that the title was also printed wrongly on the copies that were pressed, it became ‘Dedicated to Markos 111’ which was in fact exactly what it read a cover note dedication to a family member who had helped out the duo with financial assistance for re-mixing the masters. Now 50 years on Esoteric Records have got all the elements right and issued the album remastered with bonus tracks. one might say ‘Black Flower’ has finally bloomed. Patrick and Alex’s style of Baroque pop/psyche, odd time signatures and ethereal melodies and lyrics is most likely a ‘marmite’ one, you either get it and love it or not. Their songs are whimsical, sometimes dark but always interesting. Black Flower is a departure in some ways from the aforementioned 1st and 2nd albums, its more orchestral, more diverse, more cinematic. The opening track ‘The World Is Cold Without You’ could have easily been a Bee Gee’s number, with a twist, and I think a beautiful arrangement. The 2nd track ‘Excerpt from the Blind and the Beautiful’ is pure Nirvana at its best psyche/baroque style. Track 3 ‘I Talk To My Room’ is probably one of the best expressed ‘break up’ songs ever committed to vinyl/cd. ‘Christopher Lucifer’ moves more upbeat and poppy. Title track ‘ Black Flower’ is a tour-de-force with a snarling guitar part (Spooky Tooth members I believe). Female vocals were courtesy of Lesley Duncan, arrangements by Mike Vickers (Manfred Mann) and production by Mike Hurst (Cat Stevens, PP Arnold) and Tony Visconti ( T.Rex, Bowie etc). An awful lot of premier talent was involved. As I write this with the rain lashing against the windows Nirvana are able to transport you to sunny days and able to take you to a better place and live up to the definition of nirvana being ‘ A place or state characterized by freedom from or oblivion to pain, worry and the external world’. Can’t better that. Enjoy……….

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

Til next time (with some excellent reggae)………Colin

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Something Here In My Heart (The Complete Recordings 1968-1970) The Paper Dolls cd

SOMETHING HERE IN MY HEART (THE COMPLETE RECORDINGS 1968-1970) The Paper Dolls

Firstly, Happy New Year to all friends and fellow Smarties I hope its a good one for you.

Okay for the first review of 2018 lets hit the time travel button and return to 1968. Thirty years before the advent of the Spice Girls and their (marketing ploy) nicknames Scary, Baby, Posh etc, there were three girls who also had nicknames namely Susie Mathis (Tiger), Pauline Bennett (Spyder) and Sue Marshall (Copper) and they could really sing! Unlike the aforementioned manufactured ‘group’ The Paper Dolls were a working band hailing from the Midlands doing the clubs, ballrooms etc etc. After being spotted they were invited to Pye Records in London to meet Tony Macauley hot producer and songwriter for The Foundations and Long John Baldry amongst many others. Driven to London by one Peter Stringfellow (yes that one) they were so poor he even had to stop to buy them new tights to wear! All then went well at the audition and with a name change from the Dolly Set to the Paper Dolls by May 1st they were at number 11 in the charts with the insanely catchy ‘Something Here In My Heart’. Many TV appearances followed, the girls were the epitome of what was then dubbed ‘ Dolly Birds’ by the contemporary press of the day. An album was hastily put together (contained in its entirety on this release) and it must have been very quick as the tracks were mainly cover versions of songs that were in the charts at the same time as SHIMH! thus there are good takes of ‘Captain Of Your Ship, ‘Darlin’, ‘Simon Says’ ‘Aint Nothing but A Houseparty’ and ‘Any Old Time You’re Lonely or Sad’ a hit for The Foundations, written as previously mentioned by Tony Macauley. After the success of their debut hit the second single release would be all important. It is at this point that history dealt the girls a cruel blow. The follow up was to have been ‘Build Me Up Buttercup’ however due to a mix up the girls didn’t turn up for the recording session (not their error) and of course it was recorded instead by The Foundations and became a monster worldwide hit. Sadly therefore The Dolls were doomed to that ‘one hit wonder’ niche in the history of pop. They carried on busily working live up to 1970 before disbanding. This new 29 track compilation as the title suggests contains all their recordings and later solo singles by lead singer Susie ‘Tiger’ Mathis. The original album Paper Dolls House has in the meantime become a rare and expensive rarerity so its great to have it here at a price that all can enjoy. I must also mention that there is a really punchy take here on the much covered Angels ‘My Boyfriends Back’, indeed probably the best version ive heard (Chris Gentry take note!). Its a shame The Paper Dolls didn’t have the longtime chart career I feel they deserved, however they did leave a perfect pop footprint with SHIMH its impossible to not feel a smile coming on for a more innocent era, so on that note i’ll leave you with a glorious video from 50 years ago! Enjoy…….

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

Til next time……………………………….

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Am I Dreaming? 80 Brit Girl Sounds Of The 60s. 3CD Set

AM I DREAMING?  80 BRIT GIRL SOUNDS OF THE 60’s    Various Artists 3CD Set

I’ve been looking forward to this release, definitely an early Christmas pressie for me. Solo and girl groups of the 60’s is one of my favourite genres. I guess most people’s minds would leap automatically to the sounds from over the pond from the Brill Building, Carole King, Shangri-La’s etc and Spectors Wall of Sound productions for The Ronettes, Crystals etc all timeless classics of course. But here in the UK we had an equally thriving ‘scene’ with many going on to be big names and some sadly disappearing without trace. This beautifully presented 3CD set from RPM is a finale to their very successful ‘Dream Babes’ series of compilations that ran from 1994 to 2007. If you already own any of these CD’s fear not none of the tracks are duplicated in this set which contains many rarities and some previously unissued material. The accompanying booklet by Ian Chapman and Bob Stanley tells the story in fine form along with some great photos. Just some of the ‘big’ names starting out on their careers are here in the shape of Petula Clark, Dusty Springfield (The Springfields), Kathy Kirby (a huge favourite of my dear old dad), Cilla Black, Jackie Trent, Elkie Brooks, Kiki Dee and Cloda (without the gh) Rodgers to name but a few. Fascinating to hear their evolution from their early recordings contained here. Away from these well known artists are the lesser remembered but in some cases equally great singers who had some success but didn’t make the leap to the big league but nevertheless left us some great singles, my personal choice being Billie Davis, Samantha Jones and Beryl Marsden who could belt out a great tune and should have had greater success but such is the fickleness of the record buying public then and now. A lot of the girls (and groups) were viewed as a bit of novelty fare at the time, and to be fair some were. However listening to the Vernon Girls of We Love The Beatles fame/infamy sing ‘Only You Can Do It’ on Disc One you realise they weren’t a million miles away from those aforementioned Brill Building girls when they had decent material. At 80 tracks there is so much to unearth and enjoy, it may not all be in the premier league but for anyone like me who loves this genre and time period its hard to fault. The breadth and scope on display is actually summed up wonderfully by the accompanying press release and for once I can’t better it in my own words ‘ beat girls, folk girls, hippy girls, mod girls,……………….Not forgetting Schoolgirls, secretaries, convent girls, actresses, daughters of diplomats and god daughters of royalty’!! Wonderful. You can have the fun of working out who is who!

I’ll leave it there with a YouTube clip of our late beloved Cilla getting Motown, and the back of the two heads watching the performance in the first 10 seconds belong to a coupla geezers called Paul and John….wonder what happened to them……….

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

This being the last SMART Sounds of this year, may I wish an early happy Christmas to all fellow Smarties and friends, see you in the New Year,

Til then………………….

Colin

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Truth – The Columbia Recordings 1969-1970 by The Flock cd

TRUTH – THE COLUMBIA RECORDINGS 1969-1970   The Flock

I’m guessing that most readers first heard The Flock on the famous CBS ‘sampler’ album ‘Fill Your Head With Rock’ in 1970 (an album that’s been discussed on SMART elsewhere), its where I first picked up on them with their electrifying cover version of The Kinks ‘Tired Of Waiting For You’. Indeed the front cover of FYHWR shows Jerry Goodman of The Flock hair streaming playing like the devil on his electric violin. The Flock hailed from Chicago and had been around since 1966 (as The Exclusives) releasing several singles before recording their eponymous album in 1969 and the following years ‘Dinosaur Swamps’. Both these albums are contained on this new release plus rare and unreleased tracks new to CD. Signed to CBS this hugely musically talented band were part of the jazz/rock scene along with labelmates Chicago (or Chicago Transit Authority as they were then) and Blood, Sweat & Tears. Now both those bands went on to have illustrious careers as we all know. The mystery is why TF didn’t and by 1971 had all but broken up. They don’t know and neither do I. John Mayall saw them play in America in 1969 and told the press ‘The Flock are the best band ive heard in America’ coming from one of the founding fathers of the British music scene this was high praise indeed. Their debut album is so musically innovative its unique fusions of jazz/rock/blues and quality of musicianship is awesome just listen to ‘Introduction’ ‘Clown’ ‘I Am The Tall Tree’ and the aforementioned ‘Tired of Waiting’ and its clear these are guys at the top of their game.  I suppose because they weren’t ‘commercial’ or necessarily airplay friendly in the way of their contemporaries therein lies a large part of why they lost out on the big time. I think they are a musicians band lauded by their peers if not the record buying public. If that first album wasn’t great enough the follow up ‘Dinosaur Swamps’ was if anything even more accomplished ‘Big Bird’ should have been released and promoted as a single it certainly knocks spots off Chicago in my book, ‘Lighthouse’ and ‘Crabfoot’ are just two more highlights of creativity. Jerry Goodman’s violin and Fred Glicksteins vocals and lead guitar work together so perfectly. After the break up Goodman went off to the Mahavishnu Orchestra and the others went their separate ways. About 10 years ago their was a limited release of some Flock material and I managed to get in touch with Fred Glickstein and had a very interesting chat about the whole Chicago scene, I brought up another favourite of mine The Ides Of March, only for him to say they were good friends of his and they had shared the same bill often! He sent me some photo’s which hang on my wall. Great guy, great musician. This 2CD release has been remastered from the original masters and sonically sounds amazing and is certainly a definitive package with new liner notes by Fred. Anyone who has any interest in jazz/rock and hasn’t got into The Flock you are missing a rare treat. Well done Esoteric Records for a fine and much welcome package. Enjoy.

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

Til next time…….Colin

 

Terry Pack… Great piece, Colin

Peter Howard… My mate John at djtees does a fill your head with rock album cover tee. Pretty cool and it attracts only interesting strangers, who instantly recognize it .

Pete Fisher… remember listening to Fill Your Head With Rock back in 1970 with Bernard Jeffrey at his place.

Steve Reents… I had this album. Interesting fusion of jazz and rock.

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Beggars’ Gate Where Once Giants Trod cd

WHERE ONCE GIANTS TROD     Beggars’ Gate

Firstly thank you to Cliff Wootton for providing me with this album for review at last Fridays SMART meet.

Beggars’ Gate are Pete Cornford (vocals/guitar), John Farebrother (guitar/guitar vibesware/Ebow/ambient sound), Steve Harland (keyboards, synth, vocals), Cliff Wootton (bass guitars) and Jules Blake (sound engineer) and the band are based around Tunbridge Wells. I’m sure some of you will know these guys, for those of you who don’t then I urge you to make their acquaintance through this album. I have no wish to try and place the music they make into any particular genre, they have been described as prog/folk/rock, which is I suppose fair, however there are so many other elements at work here, classical, tribal, celtic, ambient are just some of the additional adjectives I would choose to use. The 10 tracks take you on a journey where all the aforementioned elements appear and samples and Gregorian chants also make well placed appearances. The liner notes written by Pete (who I assume wrote all the lyrics) start thus ‘At risk of sounding old fashioned, this recording was always going to be a concept album’. Which sounds slightly apologetic, well let me say there’s nothing wrong with a ‘concept album’ in my book whether it be from the early 70’s or the uneasy world of 2017 we all inhabit. Clearly this is a deeply personal and heartfelt expression for us to take a look at our past and where we might be heading. The crashing waves, chants and tribal drumbeats that kick off the opening title track immediately evoke a feel of ancestry and transport you to a Tolkienesque world of open wild landscapes and create a cinematic image in your head, well they did in this head, then sliding perfectly into the gentler ‘Orkney Stone’ a paen to ancient stones, with some excellent guitar (surely some Floyd influences here) and some damn fine piano. The first of two ‘instrumental’ tracks follow ‘Insolitude’ with a simple haunting piano over natural birdsounds works beautifully as a lead in to the celtic vibe of ‘Banks of Lindisfarne’. ‘Now The Road Is Calling’ has some, for me, of the best lyrics on the whole album and a fine vocal. However lyrically ‘The Walls Of Separation’ essentially a anti war protest song takes first place. ‘Protest’ songs can often come across as shallow and trite (not intentionally), this is far from the case here where the words ring chillingly true and certainly hit their mark and had me returning to this track more than once, a very fine song indeed. The magnum opus of the album I think goes to the final track ‘Sanctuary Gates’ which closes the album in epic form building as it does to a crescendo that fully delivers, and I suspect the band themselves know that.

As I spend the vast majority of my time reviewing national and international artists its a pleasure to have something ‘local’. I wish Beggars’ Gate all the luck with this release  and getting it out there to the widest possible audience to enjoy.

Til next time………..Colin

Alan Esdaile… Sounds GREAT. I’m playing it at the moment and also heard Sarah Harvey play it on her show last night.

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing He’s Real Gone cd by Overend Watts

HE’S REAL GONE  Overend Watts

On January 22nd this year Peter ‘Overend Watts’ sadly lost his fight with cancer and passed away leaving behind this posthumous release. Overend was of course a founding member and bass guitarist of Mott The Hoople, later just Mott after Ian Hunter and Mick Ralphs departures. Known and loved for his zany character its typical that upon realising this album wouldn’t be released til after he’d passed its original title of ‘She’s Real Gone’ was changed by himself to ‘He’s Real Gone’. Brave and class and so very him. Recorded over a long period and indeed his only solo release Overend sticks to no genre but just gives us a lyrically light hearted, witty and humorous look inside his head, just look at a sample of titles ‘The Dinosaw Market’ ‘Prawn Fire On Uncle Sheep Funnel’ Caribbean Hate Song’ and my personal favourite, so far, ‘Belle Of The Boot’ which just brings a  smile to my face, listen to it we’ve all been there! But this is no comedic album ‘Belle’ has a hook many songwriters would envy. Indeed all thirteen tracks are well crafted and Overend played (or programmed) all the instruments. Its in retrospect a crying shame it took him 40 years to make a solo album because based on this he had so much to offer outside of his fundamental contribution to MTH.

Like labelmates Stackridge I reviewed recently Overend is a one-off defying putting in a ‘box’ quirky, delightful and yes heartwarming. Echo’s of glam. punk, Jilted John tease thru the 60 odd minutes running time but in the end its a unique album from a unique artist who may have physically left us but whose musical legacy will live on to delight his many fans. If I have a down day i’ll be slapping this in the disc drawer without fail.

For more information go to http://www.angelair.co.uk

Til next time…………..Colin

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Running Free :The Jet Recordings 1976-1977 (2cd) by Widowmaker and Black Is Black -the Anthology 1966-69 (2cd) by Los Bravos

RUNNING FREE : THE JET RECORDINGS 1976-1977 (2CD)    Widowmaker
A new remastered release with a previously unreleased track ‘Talk To Me’. The early to mid 70’s saw what was to become named the formation of ‘supergroups’, musicians from broken up name bands getting together, some to better effect than others. Widowmaker boasted a distinguished line-up. Steve Ellis (Love Affair), Ariel Bender (Mott The Hoople), Huw Lloyd-Langton (Hawkwind), Bob Daisley (Chicken Shack) and Paul Nicholls (Lindisfarne). Signing to Jet Records, run by the infamous Don Arden they released their debut album in 1976 ‘Widowmaker’. 10 tracks and a running time of just 40 minutes most of the songs were written by Ellis and Bender (aka Luther Grosvenor). Running loosely from straight rock to blues rock with some odd country-rock flourishes ‘Pin A Rose On Me’ its Steve Ellis’s powerful vocals and Benders guitar work that catch the attention. Ellis sounding at times like his old friend (and mine) Roger Daltrey and Bender getting in some neat, at times, wigged out guitar.  The overall impression is a good down to earth rocking band in the same vein as Dr. Feelgood. ‘On The Road’ and ‘Straight Faced Fighter’ being two examples. I saw the band open for The Who at Charlton in 76 and I remember thinking they were pretty dynamic live, and therein for me lies the crux, I don’t think the studio output captures that element and that’s a pity and maybe the reason they didn’t sell more records. By the time they came to record their second album ‘Too Late To Cry’ the following year Ellis had departed amongst a clash of, I suspect ego’s and differences, he was replaced by John Butler a acquaintance of Daisley. Butler brought a more laid back vocal to the party and indeed the whole album is certainly less raw, more refined, but for me lacking the bite of the debut outing, there is still some highs ‘Sky Blues’ notably with its Rod Stewartesque vocal and some excellent guitar work. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened had Ellis stuck around and built on the first album but many ‘supergroups’ met the same fate. All the musicians involved however went on to have long careers. As a time capsule of its time this release does its job and no doubt for fans of the guys involved will be lapped up.

BLACK IS BLACK -THE ANTHOLOGY 1966-69    Los Bravos
2CD’s and 60 tracks that bring together all their A’s and B’s, album and rareties from their beat period. Inevitably and certainly here in the UK they will always be remembered for million seller and No 2 in 1966 ‘Black is Black’, it also made no 4 in the States. From my days of doing disco’s it was always certainly a floor filler, and probably still is at retro nights. Madrid based LB were huge in their native Spain and all over the continent making 2 movies (one sort of Monkees style) Playing at the prestigious San Remo Festival and making many TV appearances. The lead singer Mike Kogel (aka Mike Kennedy) was actually German and could sing in German, Spanish and English! I struggle to sing in English, indeed sing at all! anyway be that as it may I thought I was the only one that thought he sounded remarkably vocally like Gene Pitney but having read the sleeve notes so did many people. Never again achieving the success of BIB their follow up ‘I Don’t Care’ did make a respectable No 16 in the UK charts, and I must confess i’d forgotten it til hearing it again on this compilation. Its fascinating listening to this retrospective and hearing the influences that English beat bands clearly had on them, makes me wonder what other Spanish bands of the Sixties we haven’t heard of that were putting out good stuff. As previously mentioned all their singles and albums are represented here and so you have a mix of songs in English, Spanish and indeed sometimes ‘Spanglish’. Other bands clearly rated them as George Young and Harry Vanda (of Easybeats fame) gave them their original composition ‘Bring A Little Lovin’ prior to recording it themselves. At 60 tracks some may consider it a lot of material to get through for a band famous for one huge seller but there is plenty here to reward listening and its always good to broaden your horizons in my view. If you have an interest in beat bands of the Sixties you will enjoy this I have no doubt. Excellent sound quality and extensive sleeve notes make this latest RPM a definite collectors piece.

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

Til next time……. Colin

Dave Nattress… How I remember Black is Black by Los Bravos!! The Summer of 66 and it was one single of 6 I bought on some special deal from a shop in Bexhill, St Leonards Road, I think the shop was called Boyds half way along on the South side. Sold all electrical goods, record players, stereograms. TV’s and radios and one of several stores selling records obviously. They did some deal where you paid so much every week/month and went away with 6 singles. I also had Paint it Black by the Stones, Opus 17 by the Four Seasons, Pretty Flamingo, Manfred Mann, California Dreaming, Mamas and Papas and one more – long forgotten. Now Widowmaker, tagged as a bit of a Supergroup by some? Contained Steve Ellis on vocals – ex. Love Affair, Ariel Bender, Bob Daisley. Huw Lloyd-Langton, and Paul Nichols – Lindisfarne. A mate had the first album on Vinyl – “Widowmaker”. Played it to death. I have a double CD – 2002, with “Widowmaker”, and tracks off “Too Late to Cry” and “Live at Paris Theatre London”. I think the line-up changed a good bit after the first album maybe didn’t trouble too many sales, but the first album is good.

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing The Final Bow Bristol 2015 by Stackridge 2CD Set.

THE FINAL BOW, BRISTOL 2015 (2CD LIVE)  Stackridge

Firstly before we get to Stackridge, I would like to congratulate Angel Air Records on their 20th Birthday. I’m proud to have been reviewing their releases since their inception in February 1997, so Peter and Shirley all credit to you for bringing so many artists back for us all to enjoy, may you continue for the next 20 years!

As the press release accompanying says ‘Stackridge are at the heart of Angel Air and part of the DNA of the label as Stackridge, The Korgis, Andy Davis, James Warren, The Meanies and the Mutter Slater Band have all seen releases over the years.

Stackridge are that rare commodity that have ploughed their own furrow musically since their formation in 1969. The first act (and closing act) at the inaugural Glastonbury festival in 1970 (I was there!), Stackridge defy ‘labelling’ are they prog rock, folk rock, bit psyche, avant garde? Yes all these things but unique, they are as English as a cup of tea and a crumpet, Like The Bonzo’s and Ray Davies they could only have ever originated here. Musically so accomplished, lyrically a bit mad at times! they really are a national treasure.

This new 2CD ‘live set was recorded at Bristol and as the title says was their ‘Final Bow’ after 45 years the band have finally called it a day. I wish them a long and happy ‘retirement’. To those of you who are familiar with their output you will find, probably, a good few favourites here, remember ‘Do The Stanley’? If you are new to the band prepare to enjoy! I found myself repeatedly going back to CD2 tracks 4 -6 and just smiling the tracks in question being ‘No Ones More Important Than The Earthworm’ ‘Lost And Found’ and ‘Boots And Shoes’. ‘Earthworm’ was in fact written by Gordon Haskell (Fleur-dy-lys, Ruperts People) Gordon never became a band member but had many connections , but that’s another story!, its just a delight of a song and a title! those three tracks just sum up the band for me. But then there’s ‘Slark’ and ‘Dora The Female Explorer’ and….well its all just so bloody enjoyable. Its fitting this should also be Angel Airs 500th release, half a grand, but a whole grand time to be had by all. Enjoy!

For more information go to http://angelair.co.uk 

Til next time……….Colin

Chris Sambrook… Purple Spaceships over Yatton. I remember Stackridge. I think String Driven Thing supported Stackridge on Hastings Pier. Stackridge also played support to Elton John the Eagles and Rufus at Wembley Stadium around about 1976 ish

Mike Tobin…  (shared to Stackridge Rhubarb Thrashers – For Enthusiasts Facebook Group) Great Review.

Mick O’Dowd… I was at the Wembley Stadium gig before the days of large screens. I was about on the half way line and the stage performers were like ants. Could have been anybody up there. Stackridge were good. Beach Boys blew the place away as it was sunny and they played all the surfin’ hits. Elton lost the crowd as he played the new album “Capt Fantastic” which is a very slow dirgy album. Crowd walked of but as soon as he started to play the hits the place erupted! Bands take note. We go to see the stuff we know! Rufus with Chaka Khan were also excellent. A good day all round.