Thursday, April 28, 2022

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: The V.I.P's

 

THE VIPPS-Mercy Mercy/That's My Woman US Phillips 40387 1966






















The V.I.P's were a five piece British r&b band who by the release of this single in July 1966 comprised of Mike Harrison (lead vocals), Jimmy Henshaw (guitar), Luther Grosvenor (guitar), Greg Ridley (bass), and Mike Kellie (drums). The band's first release was 1964's "Don't Keep Shouting at Me" (UK RCA Victor 1427) but they curiously had far more releases outside of the U.K. in France with 4 E.P's and a single. There were also solitary 45 releases in Germany, the Netherlands and the U.S.

Today's specimen was only released in the U.S. and was credited to "The Vipps" (a name used on their January '66 British single "Wintertime", CBS 202031). The A-side was a cover of Don Covay's 1964 single (best known by the Rolling Stones who covered it on their 1965 LP "Out Of Our Heads"). The flip, "That's My Woman" was later covered by The Nashville Teens in early '67.

"Mercy Mercy" is a fairly tame note for note cover and not remotely as rocking as the Stone's version and it's held up purely on the soulful voice of lead singer Mike Harrison. It's a decent version but just doesn't offer much to my ears outside of the vocals.







































The flip side "That's My Woman" is where it's at for me. Kicked off my some ultra raw fuzz guitar it's a gritty little groover again showcasing the stellar piper of Mike Harrison and has a raving 1966 mod/r&b sound to it. The later Nashville Teens version pretty much follows this as a template, though it's not remotely as rocking.

Both sides were collected for Repertoire's comprehensive double CD "The Complete V.I.P's". 

The band mutated into Art who in 1967 released a 45 featuring a cover of Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth" and an "Supernatural Fairytales" before adding Gary Wright and becoming Spooky Tooth. 

Hear "Mercy, Mercy":


Hear "That's My Woman":

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: Nirvana (U.K. Sort)

 




















NIRVANA-Girl In The Park/You Are Just The One US Bell 730 1968

U.K. pop psych due Nirvana (not to be confused with those filthy hippie grunge bastards from the 90's) comprised of Patrick Campbell Lyons and Alex Spyropoluos, were behind a slew of baroque pop psych classics back home on Chris Blackwell's Island label. "Girl In The Park" was the band's fourth U.K. single (Island WIP 6038 August 1968). It was simultaneously released here in the U.S. where it was their second single (their first being "Pentecost Hotel").

"Girl In The Park" benefits from the deft hand of arranger Syd Dale who slathered it all the prerequisite trappings of a U.K. 60's pop psych single: harpsichord, regal trumpets, somber strings etc that make it sound akin to one of it's contemporary cousins on Decca or Deram. On top of this the band shine through with harmonies that make them sound like Britain's answer to The Turtles and the sunshine pop kicks in during the fade out with the band singing infectious "ba ba ba ba's" providing the listener with an ear worm they are not likely to forget! Production was handled by Steve Winwood's older brother Muff.





















The U.S. pressing has a different B-side than it's U.K. counterpart. The British pressing features a tune called "C Side In Ocho Rios" credited to "The Nirvana Orchestra" (it's a funky organ based easy listening piece). Here in the States we got "You Are Just The One" (previously issued on their debut LP "The Story Of Simon Simopath).  "You Are Just The One" is fairly pedestrian, reminding me of a less than stellar Cat Stevens Deram LP track, it's not horrible just a mundane exercise in sunshine pop grooves filler. Unlike the A-side Chris Blackwell twiddled the knobs on this one.

Both tracks are available on a 2018 double CD "Rainbow Chaser: The 60's Recordings (The Island Years)". 

Hear "Girl In The Park":


Hear "You Are Just The One":

Monday, March 14, 2022

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: Life N' Soul

 

LIFE N' SOUL-Here Comes Yesterday Again/Dear Paul US Mainstream 705 1968
























My introduction to the British band Life N' Soul came in 1987 when I purchased the Bam Caruso compilation LP "The Clouds Have Groovy Faces" (Rubble Volume 6) and it included a track of theirs called "Peacefully Asleep", which I all but ignored for decades, literally. It wasn't until my music tastes grew more wide ranging and I came to appreciate poppy late 60's British sounds that I became interested in the track. To my ears it reminded me a lot of the brand of late 60's pop-psych (heavier on the pop, lighter on the psych) that was being cut on the Decca/Deram labels (quite often with help from Tony Waddington, Wayne Bickerton or Mike Vickers). I eventually discovered that the band's second British single (their first was an ill advised cover of "Ode To Billy Joe" with "Peacefully Asleep" on the flip, Decca F 12659 September 1967) "Here Comes Yesterday Again" (U/K/ Decca F 12851 November 1968) was issued here in the U.S. on an obscure label called Mainstream in April 1969 (also home the the U.S. Amboy Dukes and Big Brother and the Holding Company). Curiously it was issued by Mainstream twice , once with a Double A side and again with a different flip (both bearing the same catalog number).





















"Here Comes Yesterday" is an archetype late 60's British pop psych opus with horns and strings akin to the likes of Toby Twirl or The World Of Oz. The vocals have a hint of soulfulness to them backed by sweeping strings and heavily produced horns that mesh perfectly with the orchestra. 

"Dear Paul" has a similar formula but the impassioned style on the vocals remind me a lot of the Bee Gees (especially "I've Got To Get A Message To You" especially the phrasing on the verses). Nothing to shout about, but not unlistenable either.

Unfortunately subsequent pop psych comps over the years have chosen to ignore both sides of this record, which in the case of side a is an injustice. 

Hear "Here Comes Yesterday Again":


Hear "Dear Paul":

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

February's U.S. Soul/R&B/Jazz/Blues 45's.....













1. BOBBY JONES AND THE PARA-MONTS-"Beware A Stranger" U.S. U.S.A. 864 1967

Kicking off with some horns borrowed from "Dancing In The Street" this uptempo groover is backed by female backing vocals and a frantic music backing. As expected it's another impossible one to snag owing to it's popularity among pensioners across the ocean...

https://youtu.be/CU8vMf5OZmw














2. THE CHECK MATES-"Hey Mrs. Jones" U.S. Arvee A 5030 1961

Made famous by Jimmy Witherspoon, this tale of adulterous behavior was covered shortly after by The Check Mates. It has a Latin back beat and double tracked male/female lead vocals that give it an interesting feel considering the lyrics. The arrangement with congas, bongos and brass give it an excellent Latin meets uptown soul feel.

https://youtu.be/iS0DpqlxkFI














3. OBIE PLENTY-"Beef Stew" US Verve VK 10516 1967

This groovy little organ driven go-go groover is punctuated by the annoying high pitched voice of "Ma" (reminding me of Flip Wilson's "Geraldine") and a lead singer doing a hip speak/rap about having beef stew for breakfast, lunch and dinner 24/7. Regardless it's quite a funky little tune with a solid groove to it.

https://youtu.be/5rIa-Ek7G_U














4. LEE MOSES-"Reach Out, I'll Be There" U.S. Musicor  MU 1227 1967

Speaking of instrumentals, this ragged instrumental take on the Four Tops hit is a pure gas! Gritty guitar, vibes, combo organ and a drummer intent on beating the living shit out of his kit propel this one forward and make it sound like a bargain basement/frat rock Booker T and The MG's, but don't let the lo-fi production fool you, these cats are cookin'. 

https://youtu.be/P1CRm8Z02H0














5. SYLVIA ROBBINS-"Don't Let Your Eyes Get Bigger Than Your Heart" U.S. Sue 805 1964

This brilliant Sue 45 is backed by organ and has a great "girl group" sound that's not as soulful as one would expect for Sue, but the wailing organ solo and nifty brass backing make it worth checking out even if the vocals aren't the track's strong suit!

https://youtu.be/Yr_a0EF8Ifk














6. THE VIBRATIONS-"Gonna Get Along Without You Now" U.S. Okeh 47-7249 1966

The Vibrations cut a host of amazing 45's when they switched to Okeh from Checker. This was their eighth single for the label, delivered at 100 mph with brass and vibes it's an uptempo stormer, and of course huge in that genre we hate naming....

https://youtu.be/3Is1UA94rlA














7. NINA SIMONE-"Do I Move You?" U.S. RCA Victor 47-9120 1967 

This smoking bluesy number is found on the flip of Nina's "Day And Night" 45. She smoothly belts it out over a dirty, dirgy blues beat with subtle harp blowing and boisterous male backing vocals and barroom piano, bass, drums and twangy guitar giving it an almost "live" feel. 

https://youtu.be/31bD7QCiV1Q














8. JIMMY BAILEY-"Keep On Running" U.S. Columbia 4-43530 1966

I could do an entire post of version's of this Jackie Edwards penned tune (made famous by the Spencer Davis Group) but this one is one of the handful of U.S. soul covers of the track (along with Billy Prince's which followed this a month later). This take is more uptempo than most that you'll hear but it's interesting because it's primary musical backing is a piano with added horns and the obligatory fuzz guitar. 

https://youtu.be/dzVI4CdQJP8














9. PRINCE AND PRINCESS-"Stick Together" U.S. Bell 637 1966

Any one have any clue who this duo were? Both sides of this 45 were written and produced by Larry Fallon and Jimmy Miller and it was originally released in the U.K. the previous year (on the primarily ska/reggae imprint Aladdin as WI 609) leading me to suspect that maybe they're British?! Either way it's an uptempo male/female soul duet with some hand claps and it's a 101 mph octane dance party (which explains why there's a copy on Discogs right now for $271)!1

https://youtu.be/DdkN8ln8rz8













10. JIMMY LIPSCOMB-"Pow Pow Pow (Mas Que Mada)" U.S. Monique 150 1966

Here's a funky little elevator jazz reading of "Mas Que Nada" with a vocalist giving it the full on Mel Torme meets Sinatra feel. Musically it's a cross between full on supper club and more commercial jazz. I've no idea who Jimmy Lipscomb, any takers?

https://youtu.be/7kiF3dn8APA

All scans courtesy of the amazing website https://www.45cat.com/

Monday, February 28, 2022

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: The Alan Bown

 

THE ALAN BOWN-Story Book/Little Lesley US Music Factory MU 406 1968




















The Alan Bown Set were a seven piece British soul/r&b group who cut five singles in that vein for the Pye label in the U.K. before switching labels (moving to MGM), names ("The Alan Bown") and genres (pop/psychedelia), in that order. Their debut of these three was in October of 1967 when MGM in the U.K. issued "Toyland" (MGM 1355). It's follow up, "Story Book" (MGM 1387) was issued in March 1968 and simultaneously released here in the U.S.

"Story Book" differs slightly from the version released on the band's LP "The Alan Bown" (US Music Factory MSF 12,000). The single starts with a demented laugh (with trippy affects) that is phased into the intro of horns that resembles The Graham Bond Organization meets Near Eastern sounds. There's Hammond, Mellotron, high harmony backing vocals, guitar with vibrato/echo and lead singer Jess Roden's soulful voice singing about nursery rhymes, whimsy and true "Pop psych"/"toy town psych" lyrics. The whole thing works because somehow the r&b horns and the voice of a fine blue eyed soul vocalist lend themselves quite well to the psychedelic nursery rhyme whimsy and Arabian nights put to music!

Trade advert c/o 45cat.com

























The flip side, "Little Lesley" stays firmly in the "Toy town" pop psych genre with regal sounding horns and a jaunty feel to it that sounds indistinguishable from any number of less than stellar pop-psych tracks on Deram or Decca in '68. Unfortunately for me it falls flat, like an unmemorable Manfred Mann from the same era that isn't unlistenable but doesn't merit further replays either.

Both sides appear on the earlier mentioned 1968 long player "The Alan Bown" (issued as "Outward Bown" in the U.K. ).


Hear "Story Book":


Hear "Little Lesley":

Monday, February 21, 2022

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: Sounds Incorporated

 

SOUNDS, INCORPORATED-In The Hall Of The Mountain King/Time For You US Liberty 55789 1965




















U.K. instrumental band Sounds Incorporated are relatively obscure to  Americans, most will know them for their brass work on The Beatle's "Good Morning,Good Morning" on the "Sgt. Pepper.." LP or perhaps from the fact that they opened for The Beatles at Shea Stadium in August of '65. 

 Those trivia bits aside, Sounds Incorporated (or Sounds Inc. as they were sometimes known) were a six piece British instrumental combo who had been recording records since 1961. They were also known for being musos in that they backed several visiting American performers (their debut British single was actually backing Gene Vincent) and were frequently called upon to back British musicians as well. They were also recognized for having an extremely tight horn section and featured the drumming talents of future in demand session man Tony Newman. 

Today's subject was their third American single (and their eighth in Britain excluding the earlier mentioned Gene Vincent 45, issued there as Columbia DB 7545 in April 1965). It was simultaneously released on both sides of the Atlantic. It was issued with "Time For You" as the A-side but I have chosen to "flip" it here because I prefer the B-side, "In The Hall Of The Mountain King". 

"In The Hall Of The Mountain King" of course dates from the 1800's when it was written by Edvard Grieg for the play "Peer Gynt". Sounds Incorporated use their full horn sound of tenor/baritone sax to an amazing effect weaving an insane path through the twists and turns and increasing speed of the number as it progresses to an almost break neck speed. 















"Time For You" is a slow instrumental number that could have been another mundane Shadows tune if it wasn't for the waltzy sax solo and the almost trippy jangling 12 string guitar licks that resemble The Byrds (guitarist John St. John played a one of a kind Gretsch "George Harrison model" 12 string gifted to him by the man himself).  Add that 12 string action meshing it with some mildly disguised flute and you have a pretty trippy sound for 1965! Interestingly it reminds me at time's of The Graham Bond Organization when the saxes come in, totally mesmerizing stuff!

John St. John's "George Harrison" model
Gretsch 12 string guitar.


























Hear "Hall Of the Mountain King":


Hear "Time For You":

Monday, February 14, 2022

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: Lionel Bart Goes Pop-Sike

 




















LIONEL BART-May A Man Be Merry?/Isn't This Where We Came In? US Deram 45-85046 1969

American's will always associate British performer Lionel Bart with his highly successful musical "Oliver". Though I knew he dabbled in a music career it was not until I stumbled upon this track on one of the "Piccadilly Sunshine" psych-pop compilations that I realized he recorded things outside the "showbiz" realm.

"May A Man Be Merry?" is a kitschy track that would not sound at all out of place on a Mike D'Abo era Manfred's record. It's heavy on the brass (arranged by the amazing John Cameron) which perfectly punctuates things with a nice full sound as some intricate ivory tinkling joins in and gives it a jaunty feel bringing to mind label mate Cat Steven's "good time" Deram tunes.

Lionel does the town with Julie Driscoll, 1967
















"Isn't This Where We Came In?" is a trippy little baroque pop piece with strings, interesting key changes and weird effects that seem to anticipate Matt Berry! The heavy Cockney accent brings to mind first LP Bowie and the orchestration screams Scott Walker, what a truly strange kettle of fish!

Both tracks are available on Bart's 1969 Deram LP "Isn't This Where We Came In?"  which was released here in the States. These two tracks are probably the most formed "songs" on the album. I say that because the LP is a weird mix of singing, music, spoken words etc that isn't exactly terribly listenable to my ears.


Hear "May A Man Be Merry?":


Hear "Isn't This Where We Came In?":