SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Let’s Stomp! Merseybeat And Beyond 1962-1969, 3CD Box Set Various Artists

LET’S STOMP!  Merseybeat & Beyond 1962-1969   (3CD set)

It’s not often these days that i write a review of music, that largely in this particular case, predates my own all consuming interest in the subject. This fine new compilation from Strawberry Records, as the title says, spans the 1960’s from 62 to 69 with a lot of the tracks springing from the earliest of those first years. In 1962 i was 10 & to be fair more interested in my Hornby train set at that stage, however 2 years later in 1964 I would fall firmly in love with music and the trains would gather dust. This 3 CD compilation turns the spotlight on Merseybeat & all those 1000’s of band’s that formed in the wake of The Beatles & indeed some that even pre-date The Beatles such as the Vernon Girls, Remo Four etc. As you might expect, you will not find any Beatles tracks on this compilation due to licensing terms, but that doesn’t mean other big names don’t feature. I liken it to a flotilla setting out to sea headed by battleship The Beatles which has disappeared over the horizon, but in its wake has left us listening to heavyweight cruisers like The Searchers, Gerry & the Pacemakers, The Swinging Blue Jeans, Cilla Black, The Fourmost, The Merseybeats etc plus a whole lot of support vessels in the shape of bands that made some great records but were destined to be confined to long forgotten history. Due to the brevity of most singles back then, there are 83 tracks spread over the 3 CD set. There are importantly a number of firsts for those who are just that bit more senior than me. & will more fully appreciate the earlier material, including 5 newly re-mastered tracks from the Joe Meek ‘Tea Chest’ tapes discovered some years back, including 2 excellent cuts from The Cryin’ Shames with ‘Please Stay’ & The Maracas with ‘A Different Drummer’. Elsewhere rarities abound, including a number from the vaults of legendary American producer Shel Talmy who would later produce The Who & The Kinks, here represented by Birkenhead band The Pathfinders with the previously unreleased ‘Lonely Room’. Samantha Jones, ex member of the previously mentioned Vernon Girls puts in an appearance with a newly discovered acetate of a soulful number ‘This Is The Real Thing’. It happens i remember Samantha who i met some years later when she was recording for Penny Farthing Records, a charming lady. Somebody else i worked with in the 70’s also crops up in the shape of Eddy Arnoo then of the hit band The Real Thing, but here singing back in 1963 with The Chants & ‘Come Go With Me’. Of all the many recorded versions of ‘Do You Love Me?’, I’ve always been partial to Brian Poole’s version, however after hearing Faron’s Flamingos take included here, i think i have a new favourite version. It can’t be underestimated how hugely influential Merseybeat was as a musical movement, certainly here in the UK & for spearheading what became known as the ‘British Invasion’ in the USA. As i have already mentioned the early tracks don’t connect with me personally as much as those that followed later. But I can fully appreciate how exciting it was for those a few years older than me back then in ’62/63 listening to the likes of The Big Three taking on Ray Charles ‘What I’d Say’ live at the famous Liverpool Cavern club (hear the YT clip at the end of this review) the atmosphere is palpable. The first 2 CD’s in the compilation sum up that early period with a good selection of familiar big hits from The Searchers, Billy J Kramer, The Mojo’s etc combined with a plethora of names i honestly confess to not knowing. As is usual with any Cherry Red release the fully annotated booklet that accompanies the compilation does provide an excellent source of information. The 3rd CD in the set was i confess much more to my taste as it explores what happened post Merseybeat to some of its stars and also rans. kicking off with ex Searcher Tony Jackson with his band The Vibrations & a slice of freakbeat ‘Fortune Seller’, a blinding track from Wimple Winch, a band i usually associate more with psyche leanings & their ‘Rumble On Mersey Square South’. One of my all time favourite singles of any genre in the shape of The Merseys ‘Sorrow’ puts in an appearance in an alternate mix. It was produced by my old boss Kit Lambert co-founder of Track Records. What came as a genuine surprise to me was a further track from the band Kit produced, namely ‘So Sad About Us’. Who fans will recognise it as an album track from their ‘A Quick One’album. I can’t understand why I’ve never heard it before?! especially after a lifetime being around The Who, Kit etc but everyday is a school day! The compilation is brought to a close with Liverpool’s national treasure the late Cilla & ‘Step Inside Love’. Which is an apt invitation to anyone who lived through the exciting birth of Merseybeat to lend an ear to this collection. It comes as previously mentioned with an informative booklet & is housed in a sturdy clamshell box containing the 3 CD’s in separate cardboard sleeves. Enjoy.

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Til next time…..stay safe & well…..Colin…



Bob Searle… Great Colin. Still have my Big Three EP fantastic

Mick O’Dowd… What a compo Colin. Cryin’ Shames (not to be confused with The Cryan Shames) was an all-time faves along with the Big Three. I always treasured the EP live at the Cavern where this track was culled. The Undertakers were another fave along with The Chants. So many memories! Great stuff!!!!

Danny… The Maracas. Brings back great memories of the era. Great band!!

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Matt Monro: The Complete EMI Recordings 1971-1984, 4CD

MATT MONRO   The Complete EMI Recordings 1971-1984  (4CD SET)
It’s going to be impossible for me to get through this review without experiencing a great deal of remembered early emotions. I could have sung ‘Portrait of My Love’ or ‘Softly As I Leave You’ to you when i was aged 8 or 9. I wouldn’t have been able to tell you who recorded the songs. They came to me through my Dad an inveterate whistler & singer at work and around the house, i would listen to him and sing along, he loved Matt and all these years later so do I. This new 4 CD set from Strawberry Records is several hours of blissful recordings from what could be said to be the ‘second coming’ of Matt. As the title says this is his complete output for EMI spanning 1971-1984, which takes the listener up to shortly before Matt’s untimely death in February 1985 aged just 54. There are 4 separate albums, 15 singles, out-takes, rarities, previously unreleased live recordings and alternate mixes. Whenever i see the words ‘new mix’ attached to songs i know from any artist, it often fills me with dread as to what some engineer has done. Here however there is not cause for alarm but indeed for rejoicing as what we have are the finished mixes taken from the original masters as opposed to the ‘rough’ mixes that have been previously issued. Such as with Matt’s second album released on EMI’s Columbia imprint ‘The Other Side of the Stars’ which had sat on a shelf for 2 years before given an inferior release. On that release and other albums like ‘For the Present’ even vinyl dubs had been used previously. Now with this exhaustive new issue the full extent and power of the recordings can be heard as they should be. Matt had originally started his recording career at Decca & Fontana in the mid to late 50’s with little success. It really started for him when he was paired with the great Sir George Martin at EMI in 1959 and they would go on together to produce Matt’s biggest hits like the ones i referred to above. After a highly successful period of record success, international tours and worldwide acclaim, collecting accolades from the likes of Frank Sinatra who described him as ‘the best singer in the world’ in 1966 EMI transferred Matt from their Parlophone label to Capitol Records which necessitated a move to the USA, given that he was by then an international star it would seem a logical move. However the next 4 years up until 1970 were largely filled with frustration for Matt who became increasingly disenchanted, if not angry at his treatment by Capitol, who it has to be said were more concerned with the bottom line rather than allowing him the time he had previously enjoyed to make quality recordings as he had done back in the UK with Sir George. I was astonished to read in the accompanying booklet to this set, how Capitol would send Matt across town to record at another studio whilst they ‘re-mixed’ or ‘overdubbed’ recordings he had made without any regard for how Matt felt. It seemed like a deliberate act to keep him out of the way.. The situation couldn’t go on and by June 1970 Matt had had enough, recorded his last work for Capitol and returned to the UK and back into the arms of EMI & Sir George where he remained for the rest of his career. In 1971 he returned to the studio with Sir George at the helm, however by then Martin was increasingly busier with the independent and highly successful Air Studio’s he had created in Oxford Street & ultimately producing duties would pass to Martin’s close friend and partner in Air Studio’s, John Burgess, a guy i had the pleasure of meeting around 1973 who showed me around the studios. It was at Air in 1972 that a charming occasion took place whilst Matt was recording a cover of The Beatles ‘Michelle’. Normally whilst at work Matt did not encourage family to be in the studio. However, on this occasion his daughter Michele was invited to her puzzlement to be in the control room. Matt was finishing up recording his take on The Bee Gee’s ‘First of May’ (see YT clip at the end of review). With Sir George conducting the orchestra Matt beckoned Michele into the studio and with Sir George counting in the orchestra sang his version of ‘Michelle’ to her live whilst holding her hand. That must have been a wonderful moment. Like many artists songs Matt covered, he could take them and with that unique way of phrasing he had make them his own, as he did with ‘Michelle’ & the aforementioned ‘First of May’ which i actually prefer to the original. Throughout the 90 + tracks spread across the 4 CD’s there are some other cracking covers such as ‘What A Wonderful World’ ‘Over The Rainbow’ ‘I Can’t Stop Lovin You’ to name but 3, sitting amongst a wealth of original songs, and how nostalgic to hear Matt singing ‘let the train take the strain’ reminding you of much loved commercials from years past. For those seeking a full tracklist go over to Strawberry Records page on Cherry Red Records website. I simply don’t have the space to list them all here. But i can say without hesitation there is not a duff track in sight. I admit i could live without the inclusion of foreign language versions of a few songs, but that applies to any artist I’m listening to, it’s not just confined to Matt. When it comes right down to it, every superlative adjective in the dictionary has been used when discussing his wonderful voice over the years. I have no new ones to add. Was he the best ‘crooner’ this country ever produced? As far as this writer is concerned the answer is a resounding yes. One listen to this handsome new compilation will I’ve no doubt convince you of the same. The compilation itself, is beautifully presented as a fold out 5 piece, complete with some excellent colour photos and a very interesting booklet featuring reproductions of album sleeves along with a full account of the period covered. Congratulations Strawberry Records on a truly splendid release. Enjoy.
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Til next time…..stay safe…..Colin


Alan Esdaile… What a Voice! Wonderful.

Pete Prescott… One of the very best for me. After Beatles Day I would spend time listening to Matt Monro albums. Wonderful singer. His pronouncement of the name “Michelle” was the only thing he ever did that annoyed me. That’s just me. A “singers singer!”

Sue Skilling… He had a wonderful voice

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Ain’t Nothing But A House Party – 60s and Early 70s Club Soul Classics, 3CD Set Various Artists


Calling all Soul, Motown & Northern Soul fans. This brand-new compilation from the excellent Strawberry Records is a must have treat. 3CD’s running to 89 tracks, providing hours of great listening & if you’re so inclined, non-stop dancing around your living room. It struck me that this small (in overall size) package would have enabled me to do a whole DJ gig back in the day when i first started out gigging from club to club, all over the South of England. I could have saved all that energy i spent lugging crates of vinyl up and down the many flights of stairs that always seemed to exist where i was booked! Now of course that can be reduced even further to a small stick inserted into a laptop. But let’s forget all the technology as this compilation returns you to the days of sweaty dancefloors, filled by crowds dancing to the strains of the artists contained here on those 7inch pieces of vinyl. As one might expect from the compilation’s title the whole collection starts off with an irresistible burst of energy from The Showstoppers that gives rise to the compilations title ‘Aint Nothing But A Houseparty’. There surely can’t be many DJs from my era that didn’t hammer that track to death. Its infectious atmosphere was perfect in setting the tone on the dancefloor & opening the way for many great tunes to follow. And that is exactly what is going on here. ‘Shirley Ellis ‘Soul Time’ Marvin Gaye ‘Can I Get A Witness’ Edwin Starr ‘Agent Double O Soul’ The Temptations ‘Girl’ The Contours ‘Just A Little Misunderstanding’ Sam & Dave ‘You Don’t Know Like I Know’ the classics keep on coming on Disc1. Big names abound like the aforementioned, together with more classics from Booker T. Jnr Walker, Martha & the Vandellas, Rufus Thomas, Wilson Pickett & so many more, And i might add often not the usual common compiled tracks, but some real golden nuggets of songs I’ve forgotten over the years but am delighted to get re-acquainted with. It’s great to also see the likes of the lesser-known names, many of whom were picked up by the Northern Soul crowd, represented here by those such as Darrell Banks, Darrow Fletcher. The Astors & Tony Clarke, some real gems.  I’m particularly pleased to see a couple of tracks from artistes that i believe don’t see enough exposure in compilations, Solomon Burke & the wonderful Johnny Otis. CD2 kicks off with perennial favourite ‘Move on Up’ another sure-fire floor filler, from the late Curtis Mayfield, before again like Disc1 bringing on more big guns in the shape of Dobie Grey, The Four Tops, The Velvelettes. Otis Redding, The O’Jays. the glorious Chairmen of the Board & Freda Payne to name but a few. Three of my all-time favourite tracks are to be found on this disc, R Dean Taylor with classic ‘Ghost in my House’ (although it must be noted this is an alternate take) The Drifters ‘One Way Love’ a track that was a big hit for Cliff Bennett & the Rebel Rousers in the mid 60’s but i have always much preferred this version & Robert Knight with ‘Love on a Mountain Top’ whose original recording of ‘Everlasting Love’ gave The Love Affair their enduring hit in 1968. Other notable mentions go to tracks from Homer Banks, Chuck Wood, The Falcons & Bobby Wells. Disc3 differs a little from its predecessors at the start with the inclusion of some unexpected tracks from Little Richard & Madeline Bell with ‘Get Down With It’ & ‘I Really Got Carried Away’ respectively. In my head Little Richard signals Rock & Roll to me rather than Soul, however it does actually slot in to the running order rather well here. Again, i associate Madeline with more pop orientated material in general, however this soul stomper is well chosen. I was amused to see 2 of the greatest live acts of the 60’s nestling side by side on tracks 7 & 8. Jimmy James & the Vagabonds ‘Hi Diddley Dee Dum’ followed by Geno Washington & the Ram Jam Band with ‘I’ve Been Hurt By Love’. I’ve known both guys forever & they have always been fierce competitors for best live soul act with both putting on brilliant shows. I love both dearly & have spent many happy hours in their company. These 2 tracks are followed by the evergreen ‘Beggin’ by Timebox, which despite playing it myself a thousand times at a thousand gigs over the years i still don’t tire of. Other excellent sides come from The Alan Bown Set (such an underrated act) The Foundations, Wynder K Frog & Major Lance. More obscure delights are provided by less familiar names Kenny Bernard (clearly a Northern Soul number), Jason Knight, Lorraine Silver, Sugar Simone & a host of others. Great to also see old friend Carl ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ Douglas getting a look in with the seldom heard ‘Crazy Feeling’ displaying his soul credentials on this early 1966 cut. The whole compilation comes to a close with another old favourite of mine ‘Loving on the Losing Side’ by Tommy Hunt whose long career stretches all the way back to 1959. Tommy is a big favourite with the Northern Soul crowd & I’m delighted to say is still with us as he reaches his 90th year. As ever, space precludes me from mentioning every track but I’m confident you now have a good flavour of what’s in store for you on this excellent new compilation. It comes in a sturdy clamshell box & as always with a well-researched & written accompanying booklet with details on the artists & tracks included. This being the last album review of 2022 it just remains for me to say a few thanks. Firstly, to my friends at Cherry Red Records & all their different stable of labels that have provided all the great material we have listened to this year. Special thanks to Matt for keeping me supplied & for his enthusiasm. Thanks to Alan & SMART for all his hard work transcribing these reviews. And finally, & most importantly, to all you readers who have left feedback & often kind comments through the SMART website & FB page. I thank you all. God willing, as long as my brain & fingers are still working! I’ll see you in 2023 for more great music. Until then take care, stay safe & well…..Colin x

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Mick O’Dowd… Worked with them in the 80’s at Pebbles Night Club. Great band!An Absolute gem Colin! The tracks of my Mod years and more! In the words of Hot Chocolate, “Everyone’s a Winner!

Alan Esdaile… I never got to see them but great single and always a floor filler.

Jim Breeds… I promise you that non-stop dancing in my living room would be the end of me these days, so, by definition, it would stop!

Merv Kennard… Might have to add this to my collection at some stage.

Neil Cartwright… Great compilation. Reminds me of nights at Wigan Casino.

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing Deep In The Woods – Pastoral Psychedelia & Funky Folk 1968-1975, 3CD Set Various Artists


If you go down to the woods today, you’re in for a big……compilation! Sorry guys i tried to resist that opening line but the temptation proved too much! On with the music now. Let’s firstly tackle the rather lengthy title of this new 3CD compilation from Strawberry Records. In a nutshell (no pun intended!) this is a collection of what I personally would refer to as Acid Folk (certainly in the main) a hybrid of traditional folk meeting electric experimental folk mixed in a cauldron of late 60’s early 70’s psychedelia with some sprinklings of jazz/funk. Confused? don’t be, it may all sound a bit bewildering but it’s really just a collection for those music lovers that like esoteric gems from the aforementioned time period. It’s not going to appeal to die-hard folk purists whose enjoyment comes mainly from traditional songs often just handed down orally from generation to generation & to whom electric guitars & various studio effects like phasing and flanging appear, heresey! There is an excellent essay on the whole folk/psyche/jazz movement written by Richard Norris that accompanies this release which goes into all the detail you could wish for and is very well written. I recognise roughly a third of the names in this collection. Cherry Red have certainly delved deep into their vaults to bring you the listener some real treasures. With 3 CD’s each running on average 77 mins each there is an awful lot to enjoy. 54 tracks in total. As space precludes me going track by track i have selected half a dozen examples from each CD to give you an overall flavour. CD1 gets us underway with ‘Leafy Lane’ a gentle slice of pastoral rock, reminiscent of something early Traffic might have produced. This is however by Fat Mattress, the band formed by Noel Redding who swapped his bass in the Jimi Hendrix Experience for some mellow guitar playing here, a good start. Of particular interest to some people i know will be reading this, are tracks 4 & 5 by Mike Hurst & Ray Fenwick respectively. Mike’s track ‘Face From The Past’ with its harpsichord intro is a mid to up-tempo number, rocky with some baroque psyche overtones & is very enjoyable, there’s a familiar riff in there which i recognise, just can’t quite grasp where from! Ray’s track ‘I Wanna Stay Here’ is right up my street with its heavily laden phasing (think Nirvana ‘Rainbow Chaser’) a great slice of laid-back psychedelia taken from his solo album Keep America Beautiful-Get A Haircut. Track 9 The Woods Band ‘Noisey’ take us for a really jaunty instrumental ride, the likes of which immediately reminds me of spending time in an Irish pub, no surprise as the band turn out to be Irish! very pleasing. Track 10 ‘Yorric’ by Welsh singer Meic Stevens is a wonderfully put together work of folk/psyche drenched in all manner of instruments with the sitar having a starring role. Great, absolutely love it. Track 11 is a surprising inclusion by Arrival (yes, the same band that had a hit with ‘Friends’) although the track ‘La Virra’ featured here is a long away from that. A jazzy piece, with organ & bass breaks, apart from a brief faint echo of a vocal its a brisk instrumental. As you can see already this really is a diverse album My last pick from CD1 is a band i have always been a fan of, Dando Shaft. They were signed to Miki Dallons Youngblood Records & i once had the pleasure of having a few bevvies with the guys back in the day when calling in to see Miki. The guys were often compared to Pentangle or The Incredible String Band. You can make up your own minds by listening to their track ‘Cold Wind’ as featured here at the end of this review. CD2 brings another mixed bag of delights featuring many artistes i confess to not being overly familiar with such as Chris Harwood, who opens proceedings with an ethereal piece called ‘Wooden Ships’. The Ghost, Second Hand, Fuschia & Amber again are all new to me with their very varied entries. Amongst the artistes i do know are the more well known acts Heron, Mellow Candle (if you’ve got an original vinyl album you’ve hit the jackpot!) Trader Horne, Trees, Keith Christmas & Bridget St John are all artistes whose work i do know. Sadly, despite John Peel’s many efforts to get me ‘into’ Bridget’s material…in all honesty i couldn’t. John formed his own Dandelion Records to release her work & she is i know highly regarded & is represented here by her track ‘Fly High’ i just personally find her slightly depressing, but as ever it would be a boring old world if we all liked the same thing as the saying goes. There is a great track by Global Village Trucking Company, the splendidly titled ‘The Inevitable Fate of Ms Danya Sox’ which isn’t quite as bizarre as it sounds, it’s got a really great groove. And finally, to CD3 which opens with a definite favourite for me with Sunforest ‘Magician In The Mountain’ a funky number to be sure. You might be wondering what the word ‘funk’ or ‘funky’ is doing appearing anywhere in this review of folk/psyche/rock numbers, well it should be remembered that a lot of the early bands in particular, drew their drummers from a pool of musicians that had started their careers playing jazz & came with experience of playing in a funky style. However, i digress, more familiar names crop up on this final CD in the set, such as Jade Warrior, Curtis Knight & more from Bridget. The wonderfully wacky ‘act’, well an ‘experience’ really! Principal Edwards Magic Theatre weigh in with ‘The Death of Don Quixote’ all 13 minutes of it, if you’ve never been exposed to them, you have a treat in store there! They are followed by 2, to my mind, unlikely inclusions. The first being Yvonne Elliman, who had a big hit with ‘I Don’t Know How To Love Him’ from Jesus Christ Superstar’. Here she is featured with a plaintive rather beautiful mid-tempo ballad named ‘Hawaii’ which conjures up pictures of the subject matter rather well. The compilation is brought to a close by the second of the unlikely inclusions, with Linda Lewis’s ‘Reach For The Truth’ from her 1972 album ‘Lark’ which if memory serves, was also released as a single together with’ Rock-A-Doodle-Doo’. It’s a great track if maybe just a little too ‘funky’ to gel with the other tracks on the compilation. Notwithstanding that it’s always good to hear Linda. She is a member of the SMART group, so Linda if you’re reading this, it’s been a while since we last spoke when i reviewed your album ‘Hampstead Days’. don’t be a stranger, send me a message & let me know what you’re doing! So, there we have it another great compilation to savour for aficionados of all things folk/psyche. The collection comes in a fold out digipack which when opened up book style the 2 facing pages form one of the most beautiful pieces of artwork i believe I’ve ever seen on a CD/Record cover, it’s stunning, capturing the spirit of the collection spot on, i could stare at it for hours and probably will. So, in conclusion to borrow a line from the aforementioned Linda & my favourite version of a particular song, do have a listen to this compilation it may be ‘surprisingly good for you’!. Enjoy.

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Til next time….stay safe & well……Colin

Jim Breeds… Very interesting Colin. Thanks for the review. Sounds right up my street. However, I just invested in ‘Bert Jansch at the BBC’, a 4 LP set that comes with an additional 6 hours of download content, so I have plenty to listen to for a while!

Alan Esdaile… Great cover and interesting tracks.

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing The Foundations: Am I Groovin’ You – The Pye Anthology, 3CD Set

I have been looking forward to sharing this release with you since receiving my copy some weeks back. This spanking new collection is released this Friday (12th) & at last does justice to one of the best loved pop/soul UK bands of the 60’s. Up until this release, getting your hands on a good compilation of The Foundations has been either expensive or elusive. Many have appeared on various labels, but the vast majority have been bad quality re-recordings that have little or no merit. At last the guys at Strawberry Records have put together a beautifully packaged 3 CD set in a handsome fold out digipack complete with a glossy 24 page informative booklet revealing the colourful history behind the band, a must read for any music fan. I was privileged to become friends with original lead singer Clem Curtis way back in 1969 & spent many happy hours in his company on various nights out at gigs or socialising at clubs over the years. Sadly Clem left us 5 years back in 2017 but he lives on through his musical legacy along with his bandmates in The Foundations. This new anthology spans 3 CD’s including all 3 albums & all the hit singles the band released through their hit tenure at Pye Records and also includes tracks from their 1969 ‘budget’ album for Pye’s ‘Marble Arch’ series of albums plus solo recordings from Clem. The whole package kicks off on Disc1 where you might expect with the bands debut single ‘Baby Now That I’ve Found You’ released in August 1967. Initially the record didn’t receive much airplay as the Pirate Radio glory days had come to an end with the Marine Offences Bill closing down all the main stations. It was the newly formed BBC’s Radio 1 launched as their answer to the enormously popular Radio Caroline & Radio London that picked up on BNTIFY & gave it heavy rotation, resulting in the first No 1 hit for a UK muti-raciial band. Disc1 continues with all 11 tracks that comprised the bands debut album 1967’s ‘From The Foundations’ which included numbers the band had been featuring in their live sets like their take on Joe Tex’s ‘Show Me’, a jazzy/lounge instrumental version of ‘Call Me’, later to become a vocal hit for labelmate Petula Clark and several more Tony Macualay compositions (who wrote the majority of their hits) such as ‘Mr Personality Man’ & ‘I Can Take Or Leave Your Loving’. The album tracks are followed by 6 bonus tracks including 3 big single hits with ‘Back On My Feet Again’ (my personal favourite), ‘Any Old Time You’re Lonely Or Sad’ & the worldwide smash No 2 ‘Build Me Up Buttercup’.Disc1 concludes with all the tracks from ‘From The Foundations’ repeated in their stereo versions, for those that like to hear these as a comparison, personally i prefer the original preceding mono versions, but to each their own. Either way Disc1 provides 28 fine tracks to enjoy. Disc2 contains the album ‘Diggin The Foundations’ plus bonus tracks. I’m not sure why Strawberry Records have decided to feature this album which was actually their 3rd album from 1969 on Disc2, but be that as it may, it’s great for me as the memories come flooding back as i listen to the guys. It kicks off with the title track of the compilation ‘Am I Groovin You’, a funky brass laden chug a long dance filler. It struck me that the opening riff sounds very like Steppenwolfs ‘Magic Carpet Ride’ which has only just occurred to me after all these years! This is followed by the guys take on a live favourite Bob & Earl’s ‘Harlem Shuffle’ which i have to be honest is a song i have always heartily disliked no matter who it’s by, but hey that’s just me. I’m soon singing along again to the strains of ‘In The Bad Bad Old Days Before You Loved Me’ however, & wondering not for the first time how The Foundations are one of those bands that lift your spirits & put you in a good mood. Music may not be the universal panacea for all ills but it can certainly improve your day. There is more good feelings to be had with the likes of the bouncy ‘My Little Chickadee’ & ‘That Same Old Feeling’ which would become a big hit for Pickettywitch (also signed to Pye Records). Another familiar song is ‘Let The Heartaches Begin’ taken at a more uptempo pace than the hit Long John Baldry version. Included amongst the bonus 8 tracks are some more personal favourites in ‘Born To Live, Born To Die’ the bands last chart hit (No 46) from 1969, a song that most forget. Also there is the bands theme song to the ‘Swinging London’ film of ‘Take A Girl Like You’, one of the better films of the genre that came out in late 1969. There’s also the chance to compare lead singers with the inclusion of Colin Young’s vocal version of ‘Baby Now That I’ve Found You’. Colin had replaced Clem when after various differences Clem had quit the band in August 1968, Colin had joined in October just in time to record ‘Build Me Up Buttercup’. And finally we have Disc3 which contains 1968’s ‘Rocking The Foundations’ a ‘live’ album showcasing the boys in typical fashion singing and playing their hearts out to an obviously enthusiastic crowd, just like i remember, with a mixture of hits and favourite live numbers like ‘Stop Her On Sight’ which they had learned when supporting Edwin Starr in their early days. Indeed it was Edwin who advised Clem about ‘stage craft’ and how to ‘work’ an audience & i know Clem had great respect for him. There are 12 bonus tracks to savour on top of the 12 album tracks which include a great take on ’96 Tears’ & stereo versions of hit singles ‘Buttercup’, ‘Back On My Feet Again’ & ‘Any Old Time’. Half a dozen solo recordings made by Clem follow, which will probably be unfamiliar to most but I’m very grateful to have, especially a song called ‘Mountain Over The Hill’ i have always loved. The collection is completed by 2 numbers from the Colin Young led later incarnation of The New Foundations. As i said at the start of this review i am very grateful to finally have a great package of a band who brought so much happiness to millions of fans & the chance for me to relive some very precious memories. Enjoy.
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Til next time….stay safe & well……Colin


Alan Esdaile… Agree with what you say Colin, that they lift your spirits & put you in a good mood.

SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing The Drifters: We Gotta Sing – The Soul Years 1962-1971, 3CD Box Set

WE GOTTA SING! THE SOUL YEARS (1962-1971)    The Drifters (3CD SET)

Does the world need another Drifters compilation you may ask? There are dozens available its true. Most of them are ‘Best Ofs’ or ‘Greatest Hits’ which are fine i have a couple myself.  Well i would say the answer is yes, if like me you are a true fan. This new 3CD set from Strawberry Records boasts 76 tracks, including 5 unissued songs long deleted from available CD’s. Plus 2 tracks ‘I Dig Your Act’ & ‘You And Me Together Forever’ which were thought to be lost making their worldwide debut here on this collection. Over the years i have written thousands of words about the institution that is The Drifters and i have been very fortunate at different times to have worked with Ben E King & Johhny Moore. If for some reason you are new to The Drifters they were formed the year after i was born in 1953 and must now qualify for the world’s longest running band. Originally fronted by Clyde McPhatter they were 50’s R&B Stars. The story of the band is a long and complicated one and one i have told before so let’s confine ourselves to this release. The band really can be thought of in terms like a sandwich divided into 3 parts. The bottom slice being their early R&B years from 1953-1960, the top slice their re-incarnation in 1972 when they relocated to London and had a string of pop/soul hits and the meat in the middle is their glorious years contained here, with a title that does what it says on the tin. What i really like about this new compilation is that the tracks appear in chronological order, something i am always a big fan of when a project like this is put together. It allows the listener to grow with the band and hear them change and mature rather than the aforementioned ‘Best Of’s’ etc that tend to leap about all over the place in time and often make for a jarring listen. Disc1 contains 25 tracks and contains some of my favourite early soul tracks ‘Only In America’ ‘Rat Race’ ‘Vaya Con Dios’ & ‘One Way Love’ (which most people know from the hit version recorded by Cliff Bennett) sit alongside the classics ‘Up On The Roof’ ‘Under The Boardwalk’ mono & stereo mixes, ‘On Broadway’ studio & live recordings & ‘Saturday Night At The Movies’. Lead vocal duties are shared by Rudy Lewis & Johnny Moore. Everyone has their own favourite lead singer when it comes to The Drifters. For me it will always be Johnny Moore, they all have their different distinctive styles. but for me Johnny’s seemingly effortless delivery has always captivated me the most, and having had the privilege to know him i admit to also being swayed by what a really lovely guy he was. Disc2 Kicks off with the gorgeous ‘Spanish Lace’ followed by ‘The Christmas Song’, which to be honest i don’t recall hearing before but features a sublime vocal performance by Johnny, indeed it may be one of his very best ever. Other familiar favourites to me are ‘What Kind Of Fool Am I’ ‘As Long As She needs Me’ & ‘Looking Through The Eyes Of Love’ (probably better known to people through Gene Pitney’s hit version). The 2 absolute ‘classic’ hits on this disc are probably in my all time top 5 of all their hits and are records i have played at my gigs thousands of times they are, ‘Come On Over To My Place’ & ‘At The Club’ (in both mono & stereo mixes). Disc3 begins with my all time favourite single 1965’s ‘I’ll Take You Where The Musics Playing’ its the epitome of Johnny Moore at his effortless finest and has always lifted my spirits every time i’ve ever played it. Track 4 is another track i’ve always loved in ‘Up In The Streets Of Harlem’ others are ‘Memories Are Made Of This’ ‘Aretha’ & ‘Baby What I Mean’. Its here on this disc you can also hear the 2 tracks making their debut i referred to at the start. The enduring success of The Drifters wasn’t just down to their peerless singing. They also benefitted from material written by some of the best songwriters in the world Goffin/King, Ellie Greenwich, Bacharach/David, Pomus/Shuman and one of my own favourite combinations in Mann/Weil (The Crystals/The Ronettes/Righteous Brothers). They have now been making music for an incredible 7 decades. You may be a fan of their early years or of the catchy poppier years in the 1970’s, but it would be a brave person that argued against this compilation representing their finest work. The decade this covers from 1962-71 truly was the soul years and with Rudy & Johnny at the helm was a magical time. The compilation comes in a sturdy box with a very well researched and detailed booklet and the sound quality throughout is excellent, Due to space constraints i have only scratched the surface of all the joy that is waiting to be had, listening to all the wonderful treats contained here. Enjoy.

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Til next time…..stay safe….Colin

Colin Norton… Great album!

Mick O’Dowd… Love it. Love them!

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……

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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


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.

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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.