Thursday, May 6, 2021

Songs That Rubble Taught Us: (The) Jackpots

 

JACKPOTS-Jack In The Box/ Henbane's Sacrifice US Sire SI 4113 1969




















My first introduction to Sweden's Jackpots was via Bam Caruso's 1991 "Rubble" compilation LP "5000 Seconds Over Toyland" (Rubble 15) that contained their 1969 tune "Jack In The Box". It was quite some time before I learned anything about them, in fact I think for a great portion of time I assumed that they were British!

The Jackpots were a five piece harmony act from Sweden with a career stretching all the way back to 1964. Their 45 releases were pretty much always covers ranging from the well known, ie The Four Seasons ("Walk Like A Man"), The Ivy League ("Tossing And Turning") to the obscure: Nirvana ("Tiny Goddess") and The Tokens/Episode Six ("I Hear Trumpets Blow"). Today's subject was their only American release. It was the 15th single on Seymour Stein's up and coming Sire label. Curiously enough it was only found a various artists 7" E.P. in their home country (Juke Box JSEP-5591 September 1969) while simultaneously issued here and in the U.K. (as Sonnet SON 2006). 

"Jack In The Box", a group original, had previously appeared on their 1968 debut LP 
of the same name (Sweden Sonet SLP-68) alongside cover versions of tracks by The Action (check out their tasty reading of "Shadows And Reflections"), The Beach Boys and Simon & Garfunkel etc.  The first time I heard it I honestly thought it was an Idle Race side project as the high pitch of the lead vocals and the production truly sound like Jeff Lynne and Co.! In retrospect there is also something rather Bee Gee's like in those falsettos as well. Musically it's a jaunty little pop sike ditto with some peculiar little backwards bits that come out of nowhere and again Idle Race comparisions cannot be overlooked. 

Things get even freakier on the flip with the strangely named "Henbanes Sacrifice". It has a dirge like quality with some quintessential musical backing that reminds me some of the songs on the Tages LP "Studio" and strange varying effects on the vocals  that seem to change in pitch as the sing goes on!

























Both tracks are available on a host of compilations, but most notably on a CD collection titled "Jack In The Box: The Best Of..." which collects all of their 60's recordings (see photo above). "Jack In The Box", as mentioned earlier was on "Rubble Volume 15" and the flip was on the obscure comp LP "Psychedelia 1: Oil Emulsion Slyde". 

Hear "Jack In The Box":


Hear "Henbane's Sacrifice":

Thursday, April 29, 2021

10 Cool 60's UK 45's

 Here's ten interesting U.K. 60's 45's for your listening pleasure!  All scans are courtesy of 45cat.com.














1. ROY CASTLE-"Voodoo Girl" UK CBS 201736 1965

Tucked away on the flip of the title cut from the 1965 Chritopher Lee vehicle  "Dr. Terror's Castle Of Horrors" is this jazzy little number. The vocals recall Mark Murphy and the kitschy musical backing (led by the revered British reed player Tubbby Hayes) is quite swinging. Going for insane $$ these days.

https://youtu.be/iy0s_esRmKE













2. THE NEW JUMP BAND-"The Only Kind Of Girl" UK Domain D1 1968

Starting off with a moddy organ/horns intro playing a "Can't Explain" type riff "The Only Kind Of Girl" becomes a poppy number reminiscent of The Tremeloes or The Love Affair. The organ solo is almost freaky at times sounding like a Mellotron!

https://youtu.be/pXpQwmgMbn4













3. DIANA LANDOR-"Empty Little Shadows" UK Pama PM 726 1968

Cabaret singer Diana Landor cut a curious reading of Oscar Brown Jr.'s "Afro Blue" for the predominantly reggae outlet Pama with this jazzy little flute led number "Empty Little Shadows" on the flip. It's poppy but subtly cool with some marimbas, the earlier mentioned flute and cheery sounding backing vocals. Produced by Harry Palmer also responsible for twiddling the knobs on The Mohawks 45's for the label . 

https://youtu.be/eKO36h6ZEpA














4. TED HEATH AND HIS ORCHESTRA-"Sidewinder" UK Decca F12133 1965

Famed British bandleader Ted Heath cut this interesting version of Lee Morgan's epic "Sidewinder" in 1965 that garnered nary a notice. It's stuffy as you would expect from Ted Heath but it's not without it's charm either and was apparently used as the theme for the TV program "Jukebox Jury".

https://youtu.be/SeoGFVms9_0













5. SYMON AND PI-"Sha La La La Lee" UK Parlophone R 5662 1968

File under freaky, this number made famous by the Small Faces was revamped by British based German producer Mark Wirtz for the duo Symon and Pi. It's over the top orchestration sounds like something from a musical like "Jesus Christ Superstar" or "Godspell". The musical backing is the key to this though, the swinging strings and the phlanged drums make it worth a listen (and not at all unlike Wirtz's famous "Excerpts From A Teenage Opera"). 

https://youtu.be/Ev2iyBInlPw













6. THE NEWS-"The Entertainer" UK Decca F12356 1966

Here's an interesting version of Tony Clarke's famous U.S. Chess soul classic "The Entertainer". It's not terribly soulful but interesting nonetheless reminding me more of soul covers by The Fourmost as opposed to soul/r&b aficionados like The Action (who probably would have been better suited to cover it).

https://youtu.be/BCMJWy_lmjk













7. JOHN CAMERON QUARTET-"Troublemaker" UK Deram DM 256 1969

U.K. multi instrumentalist John Cameron released this sole Deram 45 of tracks from his ultra expensive "Off Centre" long player in 1968. It's a jazzy yet funky instrumental that could easily pass for something from a late 60's U.S. film soundtrack by Lalo Schfrin or Herbie Hancock. Produced by Mr. Deram, A&R supremo Wayne Bickerton it's worth a listen if jazzy easy listening is your bag. 

https://youtu.be/bH2yF8cxCdE













8. THE DECISION-"In The Shade Of Your Love" UK MCA MU 1027 1968

This is a one off pop/psych pop 45 by The Decision that features some amazing vocal harmonies, subtle brass and churchy organ coming across like a British answer to sunshine pop Californian merchants The Association. Lovingly unearthed by Particles on Volume 13 of their hit or miss British 45 rpm pop psych series "Piccadilly Sunshine". 

https://youtu.be/ToWQ8mzTElw













9. JEFF ELROY AND BOYS BLUE-"Honey Machine" UK Phillips BF 1533 1966

This tune first came to my attention via a Jackie Lomax acetate version on one of the Strange Things Are Happening CD comps back in the early 90's. This version is not as freaky and far more soulful thanks to the brass but has a curious campy "supper club soul" feel to it. 

https://youtu.be/rf9I8xYIGzY













10. BARRY ST. JOHN-"Come Away Melinda" UK Columbia DB 7783 1965

Barry St. John cut a host of semi mundane girl group sound 45's (of mostly U.S. cover versions) on Decca before moving to EMI's Columbia imprint for this Mickie Most production of this anti-war ballad "Come Away Melinda".  The creepy factor is upped by her singing verses in a little girl lost voice in certain parts of it earning it a minor chart placing in the U.K. hit parade.

https://youtu.be/_v8eh_jqE1U


Thursday, April 22, 2021

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: Yardbird Keith Goes Solo!

 

KEITH RELF-Mr. Zero/Knowing U.S. Epic 5-10044 1966




















Yardbird Keith Relf surprised the music world when he issued his debut solo 45, "Mr. Zero" in May 1966 in the U.K. (Columbia DB 9720). It was issued a month later here in the United States where the band were steadily gaining ground as their career in the U.K. was slipping. When a band's lead singer issues a solo 45 it's usually a recipe for disaster for the group (something I like to call "The Keith West Syndrome"). Luckily it had no effect on the Yardbirds career as they carried on making records for another two years after this.

"Mr. Zero" is a Bob Lind track culled from his debut LP "Don't Be Concerned" (which contained his smash hit "The Elusive Butterfly"). Yardbird's bassist and budding producer/A&R man Paul Samwell-Smith came upon the number and thought it would suit Relf's voice, Yardbirds guitarist Jeff Beck apparently thought otherwise so it was decided by Smith and Yardbirds manager Simon Napier-Bell that the record would be better suited as a solo release by Relf. All of this made little difference as the record sank without a trace on both sides of the Atlantic (and was issued in Italy, Germany and France as well).

"Mr. Zero" is, on the whole, an unremarkable track. There's something about it that reminds me of Scott Walker doing a Jacques Brel tune, perhaps it's the waltz like melody and the subtle orchestration. It's a wonderful production but for me the song is just rather pedestrian. The arrangement differs little from Lind's original save for some of the orchestral embellishments.

German picture sleeve c/o 45cat.com





















The real gem is the flip, a Keith Relf original called "Knowing", which might not have seemed all that out of place on the Yardbird's untitled second LP (aka "Roger The Engineer") if it were a bit more stripped down. It's a melancholy, light weight tune that actually sounds like it could have been on a Bob Lind LP! It's gentle acoustic guitar and woodwinds lend an almost pastoral feel to the track that also brings to mind early Harry Nilsson. 

Undeterred by the lack of chart success of "Mr. Zero" eight months later Columbia/Epic would release another Relf solo effort "Shapes In My Mind"/"Blue Sands"  with Napier-Bell at the controls, but that, as they say, is another story for another day. 

Both tracks have been collected on a host of Yardbirds compilations, most notably as a bonus track on a recent reissue of "Roger The Engineer".

Hear "Mr. Zero":


Hear "Knowing":

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Songs that Rubble Taught Us: Gordon Waller's Solo Debut

 




















GORDON WALLER-Rosecrans Boulevard/Red Cream And Velvet U.K. Columbia DB 8337 1968

Everyone knows the story of U.K. duo Peter & Gordon and everyone knows that Peter Asher went on to become an A&R man for the Beatle's Apple label (rejecting lot's of submissions, David Bowie among them). But what of his band mate Gordon Waller? Gordon launched his solo career with this release in January 1968 with today's subject (interestingly the duo made more records together for Columbia issuing three more singles following this release). "Rosecrans Boulevard" first came to my ears via a 1986 Bam Caruso "Rubble" compilation LP "Pop Sike Dreams" (Rubble 2), truth be told I frequently skipped the track and spent a better part of a decade (or two and a half) half ignoring it!

"Rosecrans Boulevard", a homage to love lost and a Los Angeles by-way, was penned by Oklahoman wunderkid songwriter Jim Webb and first recorded by The 5th Dimension and released in April 1967 on the flip of their "Another Day, Another Heartache" (Soul City 755) and covered by Johnny Rivers on his 1967 LP "Rewind". Waller's subsequent recording is vastly different from the original. It has far more orchestration that adds an almost Walker Brothers/Scott Walker feel to it and the vocals are delivered faster during the bridge adding an almost edginess to it. And with Waller's somber moodiness in it's vocal delivery and the lush musical backing Scott Walker comparisons cannot be ignored.

























"Red Cream And Velvet", a Waller original, brings up the flip side. To my ears it's a sub par Lee Hazlewood pastiche with it's pseudo C&W lilt and orchestration. Next! Unfortunately for Gordon the single sank without a trace (and was released in Denmark and the Netherlands, both in picture sleeves). He issued two more singles for Columbia before moving on to Bell, but none, in my opinion, shone as bright as "Rosecrans Boulevard". 

"Rosecrans Boulevard" has been reissued on a variety of variations of the various artists comp "Pop Sike Dreams" (Rubble Two). The flipside, thankfully has not. 

Hear "Rosecrans Boulevard":


Hear "Red Cream And Velvet":

Thursday, April 8, 2021

The Spencer Davis Group "Keep On Running"

 





















THE SPENCER DAVIS GROUP-Keep On Running/High Time Baby U.S. Atco 45-6400 1966

Unlike most British 60's bands America was slow to pick up on the Spencer Davis Group. Their first American single ("I Can't Stand It") slid out on Fontana in late 1964 and wouldn't be until January of '66 before their second U.S. 45, today's subject hit the streets. "Keep On Running" had been their fifth U.K. single issued in November 1965 where it sky rocketed tom the coveted #1 spot. It failed to do so here with zero chart action.

"Keep On Running" was penned by Jamaican singer Wilfred "Jackie" Edwards (he also penned the band's next U.K. smash "Somebody Help Me") who had been brought to the U.K. by Island records head Chris Blackwell. With it's distinct throbbing bass and fuzz guitar intro "Keep on Running" is easily recognizable. Propelled by Steve Winwood's soulful vocals (then all of just 17 years old!) and a pulsating groove accented by hand claps, bluesy guitar and a driving beat it remains one of the band's most popular and strongest tunes. It is of course also famous for taking away the #1 slot in Britain from The Beatles ("We Can Work It Out"). 
















The B-side, "High Time Baby" is a group original penned by Winwood, his older brother Muff and Spencer Davis. Utilizing a similar fuzz tone guitar sound it's almost as powerful as the A-side, almost. Again it's a showcase for the strong pipes that teenage "Little Stevie" Winwood possessed and and features a rollicking little piano solo.

Both sides are available on the indispensable "Eight Gigs A Week: The Steve Winwood Years" CD collection of material the band recorded '64-'66.    

Hear "Keep On Running":


Hear "High Time Baby":


Thursday, April 1, 2021

Humble Pie's Debut

 

HUMBLE PIE-Natural Born Bugie/Wrist Job U.K. Immediate IM 082 1969




















With the dissolution of Immediate records cash cow the Small Faces in the Spring of 1969 Steve Marriott launched his new band Humble Pie in August of 1969 with this release.  He was joined by ex-Herd front man Peter Frampton (who Marriott had wanted to join the Small Faces, to the objection of his then band mates) , former Spooky Tooth bassist Greg Ridley and drummer Jerry Shirley, formerly of Immediate records artists Apostolic Intervention.

"Natural Born Bugie" (retitled "Natural Born Woman" in the U.S.) is not at all what one would expect from either Marriott or Frampton based on their previous bands. It has a groove not unlike a laid back "Get Back". What's most interesting is that three of the members each get to sing a verse, starting with Ridley, then Frampton followed by Marriott. 

"Mod? Never 'eard of it..."


























The flip, "Wrist Job" is actually a Small Faces backing track (titled at the time of it's recording "The Pig Trotters") that was cut with the intention of being included on their never finished LP "1862". It's heavy and soulful thanks to Marriott's brilliant voice (perfectly restrained and not too over the top) but what really carries the track for me is Ian McLagan's swirling churchy Hammond organ trills and electric piano that really push this number. Backing vocals by P.P. Arnold add to it's brilliance.

U.S. Pressing





















Humble Pie's Immediate catalog has been horribly over-reissued so these cuts are easily found on any one of the literally hundreds of compilations floating around out there. It would also be the band's sole Immediate 45 release.

Hear "Natural Born Bugie":


Hear "Wrist Job":

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Ten Island Records Greats From The WIP Series

 In 1967 Island records jumped from their WI (West Indies) catalog number series to the WIP series which unlike the WI, was predominantly rock and roll. Here's ten from the WIP series for your listening pleasure:













1. RAY CAMERON-"Doing My Time" WIP  6003 1967

I know absolutely zilch about this record but discovered it via Nick Rossi many years ago. It's got a feel not unlike the sort of brassy sophisticated pop/r&b that Georgie Fame and Zoot Money were leaning towards in late '66/early '67 when they were easing off the soulful r&b. Penned by Cameron and organ whiz Alan Hawkshaw it reminds me of Fame's hit "Getaway" or Zoot Money's "Nick Knack". Lyrically it concerns a prisoner (complete with lots of sound affects) and was released on the heels of a host of high profile HM Prison escapes. 

https://youtu.be/N7KA1Hy0mg0













2. TRAFFIC-"Coloured Rain" WIP 6025 1967

The flip of Traffic's third single "Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush", "Coloured Rain" rates as one of their most powerful tracks in my estimation and might have made a better topside. Winwood has never sounded more soulful and the mix of organ and percussion give at hint of what his previous band, The Spencer Davis Group, might have sounded like had he not packed it in and gotten a little more "freaky". 

https://youtu.be/GXHDGjp1Lxs













3. JIMMY CLIFF-"I Got A Feeling (And I Just Can't Stop)" WIP 6011 1967

Jamaica born Jimmy Cliff had a Jekyll and Hyde music career on Island. On one hand he was a reggae artist and on the other he made slightly poppy soul records, a split that must have confused fans and chart compilers alike. "I Got A Feeling" is in the latter category. It reminds me of SDG's "Can't Get Enough Of It" but with uptempo horns and soulful backing vocals not unlike his French E.P. only tune "Let's Dance" (a vocal version of Wyncder K. Frog's "Dancing Frog"). 

https://youtu.be/JsCNm3Ynya0













4. THE V.I.P.'s-"Straight Down To The Bottom" WIP 6005 1967

One of Island's strongest 45's for me will always be the second single for the label by soul/r&b quintet The V.I.P's (it would also be their last using the V.I.P's moniker). Propelled by powerful/soulful call and response vocals/backing vocals it's infectious groove is carried along by almost wonky sounding stride piano and some funky percussion (I swear there's congas buried in there).  Mike Harrison's vocals sound marvelous and the backing vocals shore it all up. Magic! Two months later the band would re-emerge on the label as Art (see below).

https://youtu.be/YUpdq4zMnNE













5. THE SMOKE-"It Could Be Wonderful" WIP 6023 1967

Freakbeat legends The Smoke switched to Island after two singles with Columbia and launched this 45 in November '67. "It Could Be Wonderful" is driven by a mid tempo beat with bursts of raw power chords and a Motown influenced bass line. In the middle bit it gets freaky with a banjo before crashing backing into their trademark power pop gusto adding a Morse code guitar lick reminiscent of "You Keep Me Hanging On" and the bass line doubling as it fades out.

https://youtu.be/aKXlCzoOGYE













6. WYNDER K. FROG-"I'm A Man" WIP 6014 1967

Hammond organ driven r&b legends Wynder K. Frog issued two singles on the label in their distinct red and white WI series before moving to a taste of pink with the WIP series. Their over the top instro reading of the SDG's "I'm A Man" is a full on party committed to vinyl with hand claps, crowd shouts , a raucous football terrace drunken yell of the main chorus and of course wailing Hammond organ. The music press at the time reported that this was recorded live in Paris at Bridgette Bardot's birthday party, keyboardist Mick Weaver subsequently owned up that it was pure fantasy concocted by the band's management. 

https://youtu.be/WiAl3nyIr9Y













7. ART-"What's That Sound (For What It's Worth)" WIP 6019 1967

Two months after the above mentioned V.I.P's 45 "Straight Down To The Bottom" the band changed their name to Art and cut this interesting cover of The Buffalo Springfield's 1966 hit. It adds a heavy riff (that I swear was nicked by Hot Chocolate for their hit "You Sexy Thing") to it that totally revamps the number. Six months later they would add a new member and become Spooky Tooth (see below).

https://youtu.be/1muqnajccgI













8. JOYCE BOND-"Do The Teasy" WIP 6010 1967

West Indian vocalist Joyce Bond had previously cut on single for the label's WI series before this release. Punctuated by a rocksteady rhythm and some very British r&b sounding horns that could easily be from a '67 Georgie Fame 45. "Do The Teasy" is an inoffensive little commercial sounding reggae tune punctuated with the obligatory shouts of "Hey!". It was produced by the famous Harry Palmer, the man behind the decks on The Mohawks Pama 45's.  Never one to miss an opportunity to plagiarize Prince Buster re-cut it as "Take It Easy" the following year.

https://youtu.be/cjGdLbcnPjI













9. NIRVANA-"The Girl In The Park" WIP 6038 1968

Pop psych duo Nirvana released this, their fourth 45 rpm offering on the label in August of 1968. Wrapped in a wonderful production by Muff Winwood and orchestrated by Syd Dale it's a magnificent number with lush strings, harpsichord, angelic sunshine pop choral bliss and brass that would give any Decca/Deram release in the pop-sike genre a run for it's money. My favorite bit as at 2:13 in when the brief "ba ba ba's" come in and carry the number out.

https://youtu.be/uAL4WvE7bUA













10. SPOOKY TOOTH-"Sunshine Help Me" WIP 6022 1968

The ink was barely dry on the label's of Art's Buffalo Springfield cover as WIP 6019 before the band added keyboard player and NJ native Gary Wright and became Spooky Tooth, their third moniker revamp in a year's time. "Sunshine Help Me" is a powerful mix of Small Faces '68 style rocking and soulful shades of the band's previous incarnations. Led by the dual vocals of Wright and the ever soulful Mike Harrison it's mix of churchy Hammond, harpsichord, tabla and blistering guitar that easily make it the most powerful thing they ever did.

https://youtu.be/t6h3dOeZlFs

45 scans of The Smoke and Spooky Tooth courtesy of 45cat.com