SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Mike Hurst: In My Time – Recordings, Productions and Songs 1962-1985, 4CD Box Set

IN MY TIME (1962-1985)     Mike Hurst  (4CD Set)

Settle down guys there’s a lot to get through here! If the name Mike Hurst doesn’t immediately ring a bell with you trust me you have heard him or one of his productions. Mike is one of the pioneers of the UK music industry. A singer/songwriter/producer, his body of work is frankly enormous. This excellent new 4CD box set from Strawberry Records covers just 3 decades of his career yet spans 93 tracks! spanning Mike’s solo recordings, those with his early beat band, his tenure in The Springfields, his later ‘singer/songwriter’ phase of the 70’s and his work with internationally renowned artistes as a sought after record producer. Listening to the collection has been in turns, delightful, surprising, baffling, hugely enjoyable and sometimes (sorry Mike) in a few instances dire, but anything but dull. Pushed on stage aged 4 by his mum and meeting the great Buddy Holly at a stage door in London when he was 16 were the catalysts that set Mike on his career path in the music business. And what a career the man has had. I don’t have the space to write a book (he should write his memoirs) let’s take each of the 4 discs in the set in turn and i’ll precis them and give you a taste of what to expect. Disc1 starts with Mike’s early singles from the 60’s which for the first 8 or 9 tracks or so are pleasantly typical offerings of early rock and roll. The sort of fare you would have heard from his contemporaries like Marty Wilde, Vince Eager, etc unremarkable but perfectly listenable. Then comes track 11 ‘I Couldn’t Wait To Tell You’ i sit up as he comes out with a song my great friend Peter Sarstedt might have made, this is more like it. Then the next track ‘Mexican Melody’ is redolent of one of those songs Pat Boone would show up playing in a naff 60’s American ‘beach movies’. Having recovered from that, the next track ‘For Always’ further confuses me as Mike turns in a performance Gene Pitney would be proud of! Now you know what i meant when i said baffling! Mike himself says in the accompanying booklet he enjoyed this phase of his career, especially the cuts he made with his band The Methods who contained who else but the ubiquitous Jimmy Page, sometimes i think Jimmy was the only guitarist in London in the 60’s! Disc1 concludes with 7 bonus tracks which contain 2 gems from Mike’s first big break as we skip backwards to 1962 when he replaced Tim Field and joined Tom and Dusty in The Springfields. ‘Silver Threads & Golden Needles’ & ‘Island Of Dreams’ evoke in me happy golden childhood memories of time spent with mum and dad, lovely. Then i’m jerked out of that by Mike Hurst’s Orchestra playing the theme to ‘Mission Impossible’….Let’s move on, Disc2. This comprises 2 albums Mike made in fairly quick succession for Capitol Records in the 70’s. This is Mike in archetypal ‘singer/songwriter’ territory exploring different themes and encompassing various genres in what might be described as a bit of a scattergun approach. There’s the lushly orchestrated tracks such as ‘To My Daughter’ & ‘Hung Upside Down’ the introspective and rather lovely ‘All I Can Do Is Sing’ before changing tack with the jazzy ‘Photograph Of Love’ and then just to keep me on my toes the next 3 tracks turn in a ‘country’ direction, I leave Disc2 baffled with the question will the real Mike Hurst please stand up?! Disc3 begins and i have landed in familiar territory as we meet Mike the Producer, who after the demise of The Springfields, and his solo and band ventures, set off for pastures new as a Producer at Andrew Loog Oldham’s Immediate Records. There are some wonderful tracks from the likes of Chris Farlowe, Warm Sounds, Barry St John & a demo of Pat Arnolds’s ‘First Cut Is The Deepest’ which in 50 years of knowing Pat i’ve never heard before! Away from the Immediate stable of artistes there are other great productions for Paul & Barry Ryan, The Move, Colin Blunstone, The Spencer Davis Group, The Episode & Marsha Hunt demonstrating how versatile Mike is. I did say earlier i experienced a few ‘dire’ moments. Two of them sneak in amongst all these great tracks in the shape of New Worlds ‘Tom Tom Turnaround’ & Fancy with their truly awful version of ‘Wild Thing’   if there’s 2 songs in this world i loathe….But overall Disc3 is great and probably the most enjoyable in the whole set. That just leaves us with Disc4 which if i said the best term for describing it is ‘eclectic’  i don’ think you’d argue, when you see a tracklist of Mike’s further productions where sitting next to each other are The Bachelors, Shakin Stevens, Showaddywaddy, Cilla Black, Lena Zavaroni and The Four Tops! Not forgetting the original version of  ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’ by Bruce Wooley & The Camera Club..who knew that? I certainly didn’t. However nestling amongst this bizarre range of artists is a name i recognise and is of local interest to Hastings. That name is Sundance with a track ‘Never Going Back’. Sundance were a vehicle for Mary Hopkin, Mike De Alberquerque (ex ELO) and Mike himself, Also present performing on some tracks were our very own, late and much missed, Steve Demetri on drums and Andy Qunta on keys. So i spoke to Andy about his recollections of Mike, he said the following ‘ the track i played on was called  ‘What’s Love’ and featured Ray Fenwick on guitar, Steve on drums and Steve ‘Vince’ Price on bass. Mike was very nice to work with, and it all went very smoothly, i liked the song and still listen to it’. I’m very grateful to Andy for that first hand account of working with Mike Hurst. Another old friend Pete Prescott also worked with Ray Fenwick and Mike too i believe. Mike is clearly a man possessed of a mighty talent and still going strong as he approaches his 8th decade. He can currently be heard hosting a radio show on The Wireless on DAB and the Internet. Strawberry Records have done a fine job with the sturdy fold out packaging on this compilation and i warmly recommend the accompanying booklet which contains some wonderful tales from Mike including a must read one concerning Chris Farlowe, a story i’d heard from Chris years ago and wasn’t sure i believed until now!  Fascinating. Enjoy……

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

Pete Prescott… I’ve got an earlier compilation of Mike’s. There are a few tracks that are, as you say, baffling and bizarre. He’s had such a varied career. He should write a book. Thanks for the info !

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing 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.