I have looked forward with great pleasure to this release for some time. At last, released this Friday is a comprehensive overview of one of the finest UK vocal harmony bands we ever produced. Much has been written about White Plains over the years and much of it has been wrong, So let’s finally put the record straight..pun intended! In 1969 a group of session singers, hit songwriters and additional touring musicians were coming to the end of their successful run. This collective was The Flowerpot Men forever immortalised with their big hit of summer 1967 ‘Let’s Go To San Francisco’. Later that year, on 25th November to be exact,. they played a gig on Hastings Pier where i first met them. Their glorious harmonies were as good live as i had hoped, they were a class act. After ‘San Francisco’ they had more modest success with subsequent records and by 1969 with ‘flower power’ now passe the band had reached the end of it’s natural life. At this point the members consisted of man of many voices & hit records Tony Burrows, plus Pete Nelson, Robin Shaw, Ricky Wolff & additional touring musicians lead guitarist Robin Box & drummer Roger Hills. In March they released their final single ‘In A Moment Of Madness’ written by serial hitmakers Roger Cook & Roger Greenaway. Another great piece of work albeit commercially unsuccessful. By Autumn it was clear the band had reached the end of the road and on the 28th of October 1969 they entered the studio for the final time and recorded 3 tracks before finally disbanding. All their material had been released on Decca’s ‘progressive label’ imprint Deram. Head of A & R at Decca was Dick Rowe, the man forever remembered for being the guys who passed on signing The Beatles. However Dick was not slow when it came to spotting the worth of recordings under his nose. Having listened to those final 3 songs recorded by the now defunct Flowerpot Men he spotted hit potential. All 3 songs were Greenaway/Cook compositions and comprised ‘Today I Killed A Man’ ‘You’ve Got You’re Troubles’ (a previous hit for The Fortunes) and ‘My Baby Loves Lovin’. Loathe to sit on this potential hit material, at his instigation ‘My Baby Loves Lovin’ was released in January 1970 under the name of White Plains (named after the district in New York). By February the record was a Top 20 hit in both the UK & the USA. So what in fact was the last recording made by the Flowerpot Men became the debut hit for White Plains. With a swiftly re-assembled group made up of past Flowerpot Men minus Ricky Wolff who had other commitments they appeared on Top Of The Pops with Roger Greenaway standing in for Ricky, together with Tony Burrows, Robin Shaw & Pete Nelson. Simultaneously Tony Burrows was enjoying hits as lead singer with Brotherhood Of Man & Edison Lighthouse, given this workload after promoting ‘My Baby Loves Lovin’ Tony quit. Ricky Wolff returned and together with Pete Nelson took the lead on all subsequent releases. Phew! I hope i have now made the history clear once and for all! And now to this splendid 3CD box set. Disc1 contains their self titled debut album which naturally includes ‘My Baby Loves Lovin’ and the follow up hit from April 1970 ‘I’ve Got You On My Mind’ nestling alongside some beautifully constructed songs including ‘When Tomorrow Comes Tomorrow; ‘Taffeta Rose’ ‘In A Moment Of Madness’ (incredible harmonies), ‘Sunny Honey Girl’ (a hit for Cliff Richard), the previously mentioned ‘You’ve Got Your Troubles’ & the exquisite ‘Summer Morning’, The disc contains 2 bonus tracks and one of them is what i consider to be one of their finest ever tracks in ‘Gonna Miss Her Mississippi’ which was the bands 7th single release and while it didn’t fare well at the time it still stands up today as an object lesson in how to produce a top rate vocal harmony track, and one that is damn catchy, why it didn’t do well with the record buying public is a mystery to me. Disc2 finally sees a full release on CD for the bands second album ‘When You Are A King’ which of course features the title track that was another hit for the band and a memorable one, a glorious confection in a strange time signature that is still played regularly on the radio. The other big hit contained here is ‘Julie Do You Love Me’ the bands cover version of American Bobby Sherman’s hit in the USA. Other standout tracks are ‘Home Lovin Man’ ( a hit for Andy Williams) ‘Julia Ann’ ‘Carolina’s Coming Home’ & I’ll Go Blind’, The 12 tracks of the album are augmented by 9 bonus tracks, including ‘Step Into A Dream’ familiar as the theme used in a Butlins TV commercial, also notable amongst the bonus tracks are ‘I Cant Stop’ & the poignant ‘Dad You Saved The World’. Disc3 scoops up 11 tracks, 3 making their first apperance on CD. The firsr 4 recorded under the name Crucible for a 1972 film ‘Extremes’. The following 4 are the aforementioned tracks making their debut on CD recorded under the name Zenith. The compilation comes to a close with 3 tracks from a mid 70’s different line-up of White Plains. Although Disc3 is fine and in rarity terms a gift to collectors and an interesting listen it will probably more likely appeal to die hard completists. The First 2CD’s are the real meat and for my money the essential listening. White Plains were an unpretentious pop band who made some of the best harmony pop ever recorded and i’ve long extolled their virtues to anybody that would listen! If you are into the genre and have never had a proper listen now at long last 7T’s Records have given you that opportunity, for which i am truly grateful. The packaging, accompanying booklet and the sound quality of the recordings are all first class as you would expect from this label. Enjoy.
Alan Esdaile… I’m always amazed by the amount of tracks Tony Burrows sang on and lots that he is not credited for.