Monday, May 30, 2016

May's Picks


1. GIUDA-"Number 10"
I have sort of a love/hate relationship with Giuda.  I like some of their stuff, while other material seems watered down like Big Boss Man covering Iron Virgin.  This track from 6 years back is still my fave, a nice blend of punky bootboy stomp with some more power pop influenced glam, still it beats 90% of the shit out there at the moment.

2. GUN-"Take Off"
Gun were always a bit too heavy for me but I dig the hell out of this tune because it reminds me so much of the "S.F. Sorrow" era Pretty Things, even if at 11 minutes and change its a bit too long.

While searching YouTube for a late 60's Aussie tune by these guys called "Madge's Charity Badges" I came across this 1967 track by them that was issued on the flip of a cover of "Over Under Sideways Down". If you've never heard anything from the 60's by John Vincent you're in for a treat as I am always amused by his Australian colloquial vernacular .

4. JOSEFUS-"Crazy Man"
I heard this one on the Netflix original series "Narcos" (along with a host of other cool tunes) and It blew me away. I know these guys are pretty heavy and not really my thing but this one hits me between the eyes and reminds me a lot of Gun (see above).

5. THE PYRAMIDS-"All Change On The Bakerloo Line"
Written and produced by Eddie Grant (and that's him on backing vocals too) this track, like quite a few other Pyramids tunes sounds a lot like The Equals with more of a rocksteady leaning and horns, which in my book is a winning combination.

6. THE PINK FLOYD-"Remember A Day"
Reputedly cut during the "Piper At The Gates Of Dawn" session (it wasn't, it was recorded in October 1967 at the same time as work was started on "Vegetable Man" and "Jugband Blues), "Remember A Day" showcases some brilliant Zippo slide guitar and a separate track of ominous, chaotic feed backing slashing from Syd Barrett while Rick Wright sings wistfully (he wrote the track as well). It's worth noting it's one of three tracks to feature Syd Barrett on the band's second LP "A Saucerful Of Secrets".

7. THE WHO ORCHESTRA-"Waltz For A Pig"
A brilliant instrumental dirge of Hammond and horns issued on the flip of "Substitute", "The Who Orchestra" were of course the Graham Bond Organization helping The 'Oo out due to a bit of contractual difficulties that preventing them from issuing any more recordings . Written by drummer Ginger Baker (credited as "Butcher") the royalties enabled him to buy a brand new Rover 3000.

8. THE FRAYS-"Keep Me Covered"
This 1965 Decca B-side is one of the most frantic examples of mid 60's British r&b that you are ever likely to hear.  Wailing harp competes with bluesy guitar and the most incredible driving/zooming bassline at a 100 mph amphetamine pace while the lead singer brags "you're just one of many females and I like to take my time..".

9. THE HOLIDAYS-"Watch Out Girl"

From the flip side of their Golden World debut 45 "No Greater Love" (GW-47 February 1966) this mid tempo groover from this Detroit combo is a nice mix of sax, vibes and guitar with a distinctly Motown (no doubt perhaps containing some moonlighting Funk Brothers?) flavor to it.

10. THE PRISONERS-"The Last Thing On Your Mind"
I went through a bit of a Prisoners phase after re-reading "The Kids Are All Square" and really cottoned to this tune which I'd previously not really had an opinion on.  With it's phlanged piano opening lifted straight off the Small Faces "Ogden's Nut Gone Flake" and underlying dark, foreboding undercurrent it's a brilliant track easily carried by Graham Day's soulful but gravely vocals and guitar hero genuis. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

10 Even More Cool U.K. Mid 60's Songs That You Possibly Haven't Heard

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1. TEN FEET-"Shoot On Sight" CBS 3045 1967
This November '67 45 by Ten Feet is a perfect mix of hard mid 60's U.K. "mod" stuff crossed with some Beach Boys inspired vocals.  It's propelled along by a catchy guitar lick and some tongue in cheek lyrics about a cat gunning down a guy for going off with his gal (though it's hard to ever picture Brian Wilson singing "he'd better watch out I've got a gun, see me comin' he knows what he's done").

2. THE LOOT-"She's A Winner" Page One POF 095 1968
This snarling dirge could easily be mistaken for the Troggs with it's slow, leering vocals and primitive sound.  It's hard to believe it's from 1968 and not 1966! It was also released in the U.S. where we discussed it at length here.

3. SANDY-"Solitary Man" Columbia DB 7938 1966
One half of the duo Rick & Sandy, Sandy Roberton struck out on his own and cut this Neil Diamond cover in May of 1966. It's a tad lighter than the original but features some very cool archetype UK session backing (directed by Arthur Greenslade) especially in the horn department.

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4.THE PANDAMONIUM-"The Sun Shines From His Eyes" U.K. CBS 2664 1967
On the flip of the legendary Hollies on LSD inspired "No Presents For Me" comes this jaunty little groover that reminds me of the Kinks in their '66-'67 period. There's an interesting backwards guitar solo in the middle while the band cheers on like a pub knees up.

5. THE FENMEN-"I've Got Everything You Need Babe" Decca F 12269 1965
Backed by some strong brass The Fenmen give it their all on this Kooper/Levine composition with their trademark strong harmonies.  Then out of nowhere comes a Jimmy Page style guitar solo lick (is it Pagey? Certainly sounds like his style) and the groovy horns and the bands booming harmonies that make the hairs on your neck stand on end.

6. JUSTIN & KARLSSON-"Somewhere They Can't Find Me" Piccadilly 7N 35295 1966
Here's another American cover, this time Simon & Garfunkel get the U.K. version treatment by duo Justin & Karlsson.  Their version of course is devoid of Hugh Masekela's trumpet playing but  the horns on this aren't half bad and it's an interesting choice of covers and they leave out Simon's "Anji" plagiarism riff.

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7.  EDWICK RUMBOLD-"Come Back" CBS 202393 1966
On the flip of the somewhat pedestrian "Specially When" by the band Edwick Rumbold comes this killer slice of mod '66.  From it's pulsating organ, slashing guitar and frenzied vocals it's got all the trappings of a 1966 freakbeat opus and rocks out quite solid. Compare with the soulful version also cut by Ossie Lane on the R&B label (MRB 5006) the same year.

8.  THE GIBSONS-"City Life" Major Minor MM 524 1967
Kicked off by Big Ben chiming away and street noise sound affects this catchy little ditty celebrates London beneath lots of poppy "la la la's" and catchy harmony hooks while the singer enthusiastically croons about life in the smoke (and more bells which I swear are the same used on The Kinks "Big Black Smoke").

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9. MICHAEL LESLIE-"Make Up Or Break Up" Piccadilly 7N 15959 1965
This Pete Dello composition was originally cut by The Applejacks in August of 1965 on the flip of their Ray Davies cover "I Go To Sleep" (Decca F 12216).  Michael Leslie's far superior version was issued in October of that year.  For those who have never heard it it's a glorious cacophony of distorted/fuzz guitar, sax, high backing vocals and a fierceness only matched by The Kinks in the period this was issued. This track is so raw it demands listening.

10.  ADAM, MIKE & TIM-"Little Pictures" Decca F 12221 1965
This track was a mystery to Small Faces fans for decades after it erroneously popped up on at least two US Small Faces LP compilations as "What's The Matter Baby". In reality of course it was "Little Pictures" by  a folky trio called Adam,Mike and Tim who cut several singles in the mid 60's.  "Little Pictures" reminds me a lot of the Immediate duo Twice As Much with it's orchestration and mournful, jangly pop tones.

Monday, May 23, 2016

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: The Les Reed Orchestra

THE LES REED ORCHESTRA-Don't Linger With Your Finger On The Trigger/Big Drum US Deram 45-7525 1969

We discussed a previous American Les Reed 45 (released under the auspices of "The British Lion Orchestra") in an earlier entry that you can view here. Today's subject was issued in America April 1969 (issued in the U.K. as Deram DM 244 in March).

"Don't Linger With Your Finger On The Trigger" is a dreadful piece of dogshit cod country that's actually sung by Reed himself.  Awful stuff.

"Big Drum" is an all together different kettle of fish. It's a piece of uptempo kitsch with a Joe Meek sounding intro that kicks into a glorious cacophony of brass, reeds, twangy guitar (that smacks of Big Jim Sullivan) and everything but the kitchen sink thrown in for good measure. It's surprising it hasn't turned up on on of the Psychic Circle/Past & Present instrumental compilation CD's.

Hear "Big Drum":

Friday, May 20, 2016

10 Jazz/R&B Tunes You Must Hear

All tracks US releases unless otherwise noted...

1. SASCHA BURLAND-"Hole In My Soul" Columbia 4-42009 1961
I was turned onto this track back in the 80's by Peter Frampton's pre-Herd group The Preachers who cut it as the A-side to their lone 45.  Fast forward to a few years back and I decided to investigate it further. It's more of a comedy record but it's jazzy swing and Burland's detached hipster "vocal" is highly entertaining and worth a listen.

2. JIMMIE McGRIFF-"Jungle Cat" Jell 502 196?
This is a somewhat rare Jimmy McGriff 45 credited to "Jimmie" on the small Newark, New Jersey based label Jell. Full of gritty Hammond goodness and accented by some groovy bongos (credited on the label to one Hank McGriff), "Jungle Cat" is a nifty little instrumental that provides a direct link to what The Brian Auger Trinity were getting at.

3. REDD FOXX-"Real Pretty Momma" Dooto  416 1957
Everyone and their brother knows Redd Foxx for his comedy and most importantly as crotchety old Fred Sanford on "Sanford And Son". But do any of you know him as an r&b/ blues belter? I didn't until many years ago when I stumbled on this song on a cheap Redd Foxx comedy album. Both sides of this 45 (the A-side is "It's Fun To Be Living In The Crazy House") owe a strong influence to the vocal and musical style of Big Joe Turner which Redd pulls off admirably!

4. BOBBY BLAND-"Good Time Charlie" Duke 402 1966
With so many Bobby "Blue" Bland 45's to chose from it's hard to pick one but my fave will always be "Good Time Charlie". It infuses his blues shouter style with a funky uptown soul feel accented by some tight horns and has some cool, boastful lyrics.

5.  BABY FACE WILLETTE-"Roll 'Em Pete"Argo 5503 1965
Jazz Hammond maestro Roosevelt "Baby Face" Willette's career and discography were sadly short and slim. With just two albums on Blue Note and two on Argo before passing away in 1971 his legacy is all too brief. This take on "Roll 'Em Pete" was issued on his final LP "Behind The 8 Ball" and on the flip of "Amen" (his final 45) and is fully representative of his cool, not too flashy, subtle organ style and accented by some guitar work by Ben White.

6. FREDDY KING-"Monkey Donkey" Federal 45-12509 1963
One could easily write an entire post of Freddie King's top 10 (hmmmm that's the ticket) so picking one tune was no easy feat.  My money has always been on this track that accents his laid back vocal style and twangy string bending with a cool, danceable mid tempo groove.

7.  OSCAR BROWN JR.-"Living Double (In A World Of Trouble)" Fontana F-1506 1965
Oscar Brown Jr is was and everymore shall be my favorite jazz vocalist. This cut was culled from his dynamic 1965 live album "Mr. Oscar Brown Jr. Goes To Washington" and captures him at his wittiest musing about the dangers of juggling multiple women ("a woman and a wife, a solid situation that can cost somebody's life...") with some bluesy guitar (c/o Phil Upchurch) bass, drums and piano behind him.

8. WILLIE MABON-"I'm The Fixer" USA 741 1963
Willie Mabon will always be my favorite bluesy r&b singer due to his distinct unique style. "I'm The Fixer" (composed by Mabon with Willie Dixon) is a down home bluesy piece full of braggadocio with some sleazy piano and Mabon's understated cool vocal delivery.

9. SONNY BOY WILLIAMSON-"The Goat" Checker 943 1960
Sonny Boy Williamson's unmistakable voice and unique harp blowing style are both perfectly accentuated on this 1960 45 that strangely escaped being covered (to my knowledge) by the Sonny Boy worshiping British blues aficionados in the 60's, making it a perfect obscurity.

10. THE MERCED BLUE NOTES-"Mama Rufus" Galaxy 744 1966
Here's a 45 and band I know absolutely zip about.  I was turned onto this by one of the "Mod Jazz" CD comps a few years back. It's a catchy little twangy guitar/groovy Hammond instrumental that's jazzy enough to sound cool but doesn't get too lost in itself.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: Double Feature

DOUBLE FEATURE-Baby Get Your Head Screwed On/Come On Baby US Deram 45-DEM-85004 1967

Double Feature were a U.K. 60's Birmingham duo Brian Lake and Billy Hall who had a slim output of just two 45's on Deram (both of which were released in the US). Today's subject was their debut which was released here in the US in April 1967 (it's U.K. issue as Deram DM 115 came out the previous month).

"Baby Get Your Head Screwed On" was a Cat Steven's composition which first aired in March '67 on his debut LP "Matthew & Son". The Double Feature's version is far more "rocking".  It's blue eyed soul lead vocals are complimented by some distorted guitars, congas, brass, vibes, Hammond and strings . It's a perfect encapsulation of what you would expect from a 1967 Deram single (Deram were famed for big productions of no name artists) . Interestingly both versions shared the same producer (Mike Hurst, who signed Cat Stevens to Deram) and arranger/musical director (Alan Tew), but it's the Double Feature version that I always dig most as it's far more tougher and has a fuller sound than the original.

The B-side "Come On Baby" has a soulful lilt to it with it's Motown tempo and vibes and organ and some subtle horns. It's not as punchy as the A-side but is still a halfway decent track thanks to the horns and Hammond and the tandem lead vocals.

The A-side was revived ages ago on an excellent See For Miles CD compilation of Deram tracks called "Psychedalia" (that came with free flower seeds in the CD spine) in 1997. The B-side has yet to be comped.  Both are long overdue for an airing, though a bootleg 45 was issued a few years back with the typical large hole.  Original copies are rather expensive interestingly.

Hear "Baby Get Your Head Screwed On":

Hear "Come On Baby":

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

10 Groovy Donovan Covers You Should Hear

Donovan is taking it on the road here in the States this autumn and in honor of his 70th birthday today I thought it might be interesting to dig up ten interesting covers of tracks by him for you consumption:

1. GABOR SZABO-"Three Kingfishers" U.S. LP track "Bacchanal" Skye SK-3 1968
There is no one better suited to interpret Donovan than the Hungarian born jazz/raga guitarist Gabor Szabo. His version of "Three Kingfishers" is delivered in his trademark hypnotic jazzy/gypsy/raga guitar style and totally suited with an "International flavor" that Donovan would no doubt approve of (he also covered "Sunshine Superman" on the same LP).

2. WYNDER K. FROG-"Sunshine Superman" U.K. 45 Island WI 3011 1966
Lead by Hammond organist supreme Mick Weaver Wynder K Frog made a career doing Hammond n horns instrumentals of other people's material. Their second single for Island (and last in the red and white WI series) in the Summer of '66 was this funky Booker T & The MG's style workout of "Sunshine Superman" with some nice horns backing it all up. It was also the lead off track from their first LP was incidentally titled "Sunshine Super Frog".

3. KAREN VERROS-"You Just Gotta Know My Mind" US Dot 45-16780 1965
This is a track Donovan never released himself and it's the first known airing of the tune (later covered in '66 Sweden by Steampacket and '68 in the UK by Dana Gillespie). It's by far my favorite of the three, in fact the Dana Gillespie version owes it's arrangement entirely to this, though this one is a lot more raw and a perfect slice of gritty mid 60's American rock n' roll.

4. TOM NORTHCOTT-"Sunny Goodge Street" US 45 Warner Brothers 7051 1967
Larry Grogan over at Iron Leg turned me onto this version by Canadian singer/songwriter Tom Northcott (composer of many tracks like this one).  It loses the jazzy/mellow feel of the original and turns it into a fairground dirge reminiscent of late 60's Del Shannon and early Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Northcott opts to change the original lines "a violent hash smoker" to "fearless believer" and "smashing into neon streets in their stoned-ness" to "smashing into neon lights in their stillness". It reached #20 on the Canadian charts.

5. GEORGIE FAME-"Mellow Yellow" UK LP track "Third Face Of Fame" CBS S 63293 1968
Georgie Fame's CBS period has been rightfully assailed by many as dreadful.  This is somewhat correct but his reading of "Mellow Yellow" from his abysmal "Third Face Of Fame" LP actually works in it's diluted jazz/MOR/light entertainment feel.  Luckily Fame always had the cream of the crop playing with him and the precise horns carry this number rescuing it from the mire that drags most of this album down the drain.

6. JULIE DRISCOLL, BRIAN AUGER & THE TRINITY-"Season Of The Witch" French 45 Marmalade 421 194 1968
This 1968 French only 45 couples the halved versions of "Season Of the Witch" (originally cut on their 1967 LP "Open" at 7 minutes and 58 seconds).  It really works thanks to Jools soulful vocals and interesting phrasings and of course Auger's ultra spooky organ trills where he plays all over the place without ever once becoming indulgent or "way out". The best part is about 5 and a half minutes in after Brian's Doorsy organ solo that seems to anticipate The Strangler's "Walk On By" when the backing vocals get real witchy and Jools comes back in.

7. JULIE FELIX-"Mad John's Escape" UK LP track "The World Goes Round And Round" Fontana TL 5473 1968
Julie Felix cut loads of Donovan tracks (a single of "Young Girl Blues" released as "Saturday Night", an unreleased track called "To Try For The Sun" on her LP "The Third Album" etc) but this one is the most interesting.  I'm not a big fan of Julie Felix but I dig the musical backing on there one: big beat brass, jazzy drums, organ, congas etc. But I think it really makes the track work.

8. THE SUGAR SHOPPE-"Skip-A-Long Sam" US 45 Capitol 2233 1968
This Canadian quartet (two gals, two guys) took this one and added some xylophone, angelic female backing vocals (hands down the best part of this track), brass band horns and woodwinds that turned this into a brilliant slice of sunshine pop that almost betters the original.

9. BIG JIM SULLIVAN- "Trans Love Airways (Fat Angel)" US LP track "Sitar Beat" Mercury  SR-61137 1967
Big Jim's trippy kitsch tour de force version of "Trans Love Airways (Fat Angel)" is easily the best Donovan cover I have ever heard. It's beyond lysergic with it's fuzz bass, strings sawing away with an almost Middle Eastern feel that evokes 1001 Arabian Nights on acid and flute, sitar and mindbending fuzz guitar vying for space in your hearing and comprehension.

10. THE BLUES PROJECT-"Catch The Wind" US Verve Folkways KF 5013 1966
Tucked away on the flip of their second single (a version of Chuck Berry's "I Wanna Be Your Driver") is this dreamy, atmospheric take on "Catch The Wind" sweetened by some cool Farfisa on top of some jazzy guitar noodling

Monday, May 9, 2016

10 Cool U.K. 60's Pop Psych Songs That You Possibly Haven't Heard

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1. SLEEPY-"Loves Immortal Fire" U.K. CBS 3592 1968
Beneath a trippy mix of mellow flute and subtle organ comes this monster track sung by a lead singer who's either a.) bored b.) massively stoned c.) impeccably cool or d.) all of the above. It sounds like it belongs in some mid/late 60's British Swinging London film scene where all the pseudo intellectuals are laying around in some posh flat in Belgravia stoned out of the minds talking crap.  Like nothing else I've heard so there's nothing to compare it to.

2. THE MARIANNE-"You Know My Name" U.K. Columbia DB 8420 1968
Imagine a psyched out British answer to The Fifth Dimension and that would be The Marianne. This Mike Vickers produced number is more sunshine/harmony pop than psych but there are enough hooks to this to make it psychedelic in my book (dig that mournful cello at the very end). Sadly it's been considered "Northern" by some wags so it's now impossible to find.

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3. FREEDOM-"Where Will You Be Tonight" U.K. Mercury MF 1033 1968
Freedom were formed by ex-Procol Harum members Ray Royer and Bobby Harrison in early 1968. Following the formula laid out by their previous band  (at least on this, their debut 45) Freedom weave a slow pop tune interspersed with classical piano, swatches of Mellotron and bluesy guitar licks beneath of laid back lead vocal.

4. WAYNE FONTANA-"Waiting For A Break In The Clouds" U.K. Fontana TF 976 1968
Poor Wayne Fontana.  He ditched The Mindbenders (who went on to make some amazing music) and suffered a career with one huge hit and a load of mediocre tracks. There were one or two exceptions though and this was one of them, the flipside of "Never An Everyday Thing". Orchestrated by Mike Vickers it's got loads of hooks, from Fonatana's soulful vocals, the muted/sped up trumpets, Hammond, slashing guitars and lots of poppy "doo de doo's".

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5. LEGAY-"The Fantastic Story Of The Steam Driven Banana" U.K. Fontana TF 904 1968
On the flip of the somber "No One" comes this storming pop psych ditty about a, well, steam driven banana by Legay, who as legend had it were victims of a mishap at the pressing plant that resulted in their 45 being titled Legay (which has since been disproved). The lyrics are pretty kinky if you pay attention and it's delivered in a rapid fire in a bit of up tempo pop with some funky almost Northern soul sounding piano chords.

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6. MUD-"Flower Power" U.K. CBS 203002 1967
The debut 45 by dreaded bubble gum glammers Mud was this 1967 sunshine pop psych anthem of sorts. The message is of course total jump on the peace and love band wagon/love your brother bullshit but it's put forth in such a great way it's easy to ignore the trite message though eventfully the lyrics are cynical ("all the time you love your neighbor to keep with the trend").  Musically it has great West Coast style harmonies with some hooks that remind me of The Move.  And the chorus is pretty infectious.

7. ONE IN A MILLION-"Double Sight" U.K. MGM 1370 1967
One In A Million made just two singles, both of which are brilliant.  This was their last, the flip of the stunningly lysergic "Fredereek Hernando". "Double Sight" would've been a mod/freakbeat track with it's angst ("I hate my eyes for lookin' at ya..."), soulful '66 discotheque feel and cowbell if the guitars weren't phased and flanged (and the vocals too) but then it all goes down the rabbit hole with some crazy backwards guitars indicating you can never go back to the Flamingo again...

8. JON-"Is It Love?" U.K. Columbia DB 8249 1967
A mild and mellow track featuring a few of Lulu's ex-Luuvers this number is driven by short bursts of high harmonies in tandem with a meaty riff with glockenspiel and tack piano giving it a dreamy/childlike feel. There's some cool effects on the lead vocals halfway through if you pay close attention.

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9. RIFKIN-"Continental Hesitation" U.K. Page One POF 071 1968
One of my faves (and also one of the most expensive of this lot), "Continental Hesitation" takes a great piss on the whole meditation/Eastern philosophy fad.  The lyrics are all about finding "religion's answer to the Charles Atlas muscle course" by mailing in clipped box tops of Indian tea and 9 pounds 7/3 to a fly by night guru who will provide the secret to eternal happiness delivered behind a tough mod/freakbeat backing.

Winner of the longest band name ever known, as Mike Stax once mused way back in "Ugly Things" maybe they were known to punters as The Wallys? Hats off to the late Greg Shaw for bringing this to the well deserved attention of the world via one of his "Electric Sugarcube Flashback" LP's.  "Sorry Mr. Green" is a great social commentary starring the lecherous Mr. Green who gropes his way through the temp agency secretarial pool until Mrs. Green gets a job with them.....all delivered with a musical backing akin to the first two Pink Floyd singles.