Monday, December 7, 2009

Big In Japan:Gary Walker & The Rain

GARY WALKER & THE RAIN-Album No.1 (Phillips SFX-7133 Japan LP) 1968
Magazine Woman
The Sun Shines
Doctor Doctor
I Can't Stand To Lose You
Market Tavern
Take A Look

The View
If You Don't Come Back
Thoughts Of An Old Man
I Promise To Love You
Whatever Happened To Happy

Okay let's just assume you've been on Mars for the past 50 years and were unaware of an American U.K. based mid 60's pop sensation trio called The Walker Brothers. The Walkers rode high on the hit parade led by Scott Walker's (real surname Engel) moody baritone backed up by John Walker's similar tones (real last name Maus) and then there was Gary Walker (nee Leeds) on drums. There were claims that he didn't drum on their records because of American contractual obligations, in fact I can barely tell if he sang on their records either. Gary, was however, the first Walker to be afforded "solo" records (long before the "Solo Scott/Solo John" EP, see January 11, 2009 entry): "You Don't Love Me"/"Get It Right" U.K. CBS 202036 in February 1966 and "Twinkle Lee"/"She Makes Me Feel Better" U.K. CBS 202081 in May 1966. But by 1967 the rot had set in and despite a brief Japanese reunion tour the Walkers were dead. Gary wasted little time putting a group together: Gary Walker and The Rain with Gary on lead vocals and drums, ex- Masterminds guitarist Joey Molland on lead guitar, Paul Crane (formerly of The Cryin' Shames) on rhythm guitar and ex-Universals member John Lawson on bass. Nasty legal proceedings by former management scuttled any chance of their February 1968 debut "Spooky"/"I Can't Stand To Lose You" (U.K. Polydor 56237) gaining any radio/TV exposure so the band turned to the land of the Rising Sun where The Walkers were, behind The Beatles and The Monkees, the hottest act in that far off land. This enabled them to issue two singles and an E.P. on Phillip's Japanese imprint :"Spooky"/"I Can't Stand To Lose You" Phillips SFL-1150, "The View"/"Thoughts Of An Old Man" Phillips SFL-1174 and an E.P. "Magazine Woman"/"Take A Look"/"The View"/"Spooky" Phillips SFL-3243. Soon an LP was deemed necessary. The forthcoming Japanese only "Album No.1" is one of the most expensive U.K. 60's vinyl LP's of all time. Copies fetch anywhere in the $2-3,000.00 mark with their lavish color sleeves. It was bootlegged on LP and then CD by some dodgy person who had the audacity to initially charge heavy prices for the bootleg LP. Fortunately it was reissued on CD in pristine from the masters glory in the U.K. this year.

The LP was basically a collection of some previously released tracks from their Japanese 7" discography with production handled by the late ex-Four Pennies member Fritz Fryer (also responsible for producing freakbeat/psych legends The Open Mind and Jason Crest). Rather than go track by track I've opted to highlight my favorite tracks. Kicking off with the spooky "Taxman" bass line driven "Magazine Woman" the album is a freakbeat/psych masterpiece. "Magazine Woman" has a lysergic presence in it's repetitive "Taxman" bass loop and some electronically distorted guitars that are mind bending. "The Market Tavern" is a piano backed quintessential trip to the England of village greens, brown ale and darts and wouldn't be at all out of place on a Kink's LP from '67-'69 with it's English social observations ("Johnny comes from Scotland where the haggis can be found, he wears a suit on Sunday and he'll never let you down, he's related to Robert The Bruce, he came to London and he drank all the juice.."). The band's version of The Classic's VI hit "Spooky " (which pipped Dusty Springfield's version on the B-side of "How Can I Be Sure" by a whole two years) though ill advised is not terrible, then there isn't much you can do to ruin this groovy little number. "Take A Look" is pure rock n' roll with high falsetto backing vocals that recall the Fab Four before they grew moustaches and weird and like all the band's numbers feature some solid deep basslines. "The View" is probably one of the band's more way out numbers starting with some jazzy arpeggios and a nice mesh of phlanged bass and piano driving the band's Beatlesque harmonies along as they croon "what is the few like from the thirteenth floor?". At about 2:09 listen for Lawson's flubbed bass line as he comes back into the verse in the wrong key. A blistering six minute and 45 second version of The Drifter's "If You Don't Come Back" is next up. Molland plays some insane distorted solos and at one point sounds like he's doing a Nigel Tuffnell and has set his guitar down against a bank of amps to let it feed back while things are thrown at it. The number does go on a bit but the impassioned lead vocals and the Fab Four influenced backing vocals give it some "go"! "Thoughts Of An Old Man" is another distinctly British psych-pop number with phlanged piano, chirpy "ba ba ba ba" backing vocals and lovely melody and lyrics concerning a lonely, retired senior citizen. There's a break where a backing vocalist sings and is answered through a megaphone by the lead singer and some sky-ing backing vocals (ala The Association) wrap around your head. "Francis" follows the same blistering Molland guitar pyrotechnics of ""If You Don't Come Back", bu here they're brief, controlled and evocative of British psych pop before headbands and 20 minute blues jams killed it all. It was also tucked away on the flip of the band's U.K. only cover of The Easybeat's "Come In You'll Get Pneumonia (Phillips BF 1740 in January 1969).

No comments: