Saturday, March 3, 2012

Looking At Looking Back

Unlike Acid Jazz's  weak "E.P. Choice" CD RPM's 3 CD 80 track "Looking Back: 80 Mod Freakbeat & Swinging London Nuggets" ain't half bad.  My obvious complaint is that a fair bit of it came from existing RPM CD comps so it's almost like an RPM 60's CD sampler.  That being said, the upside is there are quite a few unreleased or newly unearthed and never before reissued tracks spread over it that made it worthwhile (including several unreleased gems from the Planet records archives and loads of others from foreign film soundtracks).  I won't go track by track as that'll bore you tears so I'll hit on the highlights and skip the tunes we know and love and possibly have on two or three others CD's (Untamed, Rocking Vickers, John's Children, In Crowd, Spencer Davis Group etc).

The Arthur Brown Set's '66 mod/Hammond r&b of "Don't Tell Me" from the soundtrack LP a Jane Fonda flick "La Curee" (aka "The Game Is Over") is a brilliant tune balanced by sax and fuzz guitar ala The St. Louis Union, killer!  Current "Anorak Thing" darlings The Lloyd Alexander Real Estate offer the Chuck Willis number "Whatcha Gonna Do". It's cool Hammond tinged mod stuff, but there's better coming from them below. The Otherside, a raw Swedish based garage band sounding act are represented with their well sought after B-side "Out Of My Life", an odd inclusion here. Mark Wirtz's studio concoction The Mood Mosaic serve up the Big Jim Sullivan/Vic Flick vehicle "Bond Street P.M., a flip side to their "A Touch Of Velvet-A Sting Of Brass" 45, moody almost jazzy stuff (an old fave of mine in my DJ days that was perfect for the end of the night and clearing the floor). Laurel Aitken's r&b-ish "Bongo Jerk", a 1966 Blue Beat 45 is next, a bit pedestrian and not the least bit ska, but still amusing. Aussie's Ray Hoff and The Offbeats offer a "Green Onions" with wailing harp style instrumental called "My Good Friend Mary Jane" from '66. The Alleykatz, from Belfast, offer a firmly tongue and cheek r&b number that would've worked perfectly for The Downilers Sect called "The Friendly Undertaker" (bearing the great line "just remember my slogan-I'll be the last to put you down") . Shel Talmy productions The Thought's (of "All Night Stand" fame) offer an unreleased Planet records session "Call Me Girl", a neat mix of "Help" era Fab Four meets a vocal Shadows '66 number meets "Concrete and Clay".

J.J. Jackson's demo for "Come See Me" is served up, though it's incorrectly stated that this is the U.K. 45 version on Strike. I know better as I own both the Strike and U.S. Loma singles and they are identical and NOT this version. Arthur Brown is back with another film soundtrack number, "Baby You Know What You're Doing", a brassy number, not nearly as cool as the earlier track but still not half bad either.  Next we come to "Gonna Live Again" a 1967 Eddie Grant produced track by the Lloyd Alexander Real Estate.  Truth be told I heard this number on YouTube and it's what brought me to the decision to buy this CD!  I've raved about it already in "February's Picks" so I'll just say it's the best British 60's r&b tune I've heard in 20 years! Laurel Aitken & The Soulmen supply a fairly normal cover of "Last Night" from the obscure Rainbow (U.K.) label.  It makes me wonder if RPM did a CD comp of his stuff recently? The Knave's unreleased acetate groover "Ace Of Clubs" has long been touted by anoraks everywhere, and with good reason: it's pure Small Faces '66 British Hammond instrumental grooviness, right up there with The Quik's "Bert's Apple Crumble", Julien Covay's "Sweet Bacon" and Stone's Masonry's "Flapjacks". What puzzles me is this, is my memory failing me when I recall the track title and the band name (I can't seem to recall which "Record Collector" article I read about it in) OR is it just the 90's New Untouchables faves The Knave (ex-Clique) and the folks who compiled this set are having us on?!?  The number does sound quite crisp and well produced for an unreleased acetate. Planet records heroes A Wild Uncertainty provide a pedestrian version of The Who's "La La La Lies", an unreleased number from '66 produced by Shel Talmy, connect the dots. The Mike Stuart Span, in their pre-heavy guitar psych phase have an unreleased number from their mod r&b era called "Workout", not nearly as storming as their reading of  Mike D'Abo's "(Accept My) Invitation" but still quite cool.  Oh and they actually not only played mod/soul/r&b they were from Brighton too. Maynell Wilson cut a cool ska meets r&b 45 with the Wes Minster Five for the Carnival label ("Hey Hey Johnny" CV 7014) in '64 so I was excited to see a track by her here.  Sadly "Motown Feeling", an Ember 45 by her from '67 lacks both Motown and feeling. I've often heard great things about Ram John Holder, but his "Yes I Do" comes off like a boring Jackie Edwards crooner, pass. Future AC/DC leader Bon Scott's 60's Oz act The Valentine's inclusion here is their 1968 Clarion 45 (culled from RPM's "The Clarion Call" CD as are all the other Australian tracks on this set), a cover of The Soft Machine's debut '67 single "Love Makes Sweet Music".  The Valentine's amp it up a bit and actually make it their own and I love it to death. For a good decade and a half till this was the only version I'd known!  The Sorrows contribute a rare Italian film soundtrack tune called "Ypotron" a good mod/r&b groover in the vein of The Remo Four's Srat Club output.

"Hush" by Kris Iris was unearthed many years back by Rob Bailey and though lacking the heaviness of the Deep Purple version is still totally groovable, but still not a patch on Billy Joe Royal's in my book (despite being imminently danceable with it's bongos, Hammond, throbby bass and kitschy female backing vocals). Watson T. Browne and the Explosive's "Crying All Night", a 1968 President single reminds me of a cross between Bluesology meets The Equals, decent stuff! The Mojo's 1968 Liberty 45 "Until My Baby Comes Home" has been a fave since Keith Patterson taped it for me back in 1989 and it's about time it's been comped.  Falling somewhere between a '66 Zombies being fronted by Steve Marriott with Peter Green on guitar, it's still one of my all time fave U.K. late 60's 45's. Katch 22 's "Baby Love" is another fave from an old cassette tape, this time c/o Ivy Vale, don't let the 1969 year tag scare you it's a brilliant U.K. 60's power pop track! Ex-Spencer Davis Group duo Hardin and York deliver a nice churchy Hammond driven "Little Miss Blue", an unreleased track. The Picadilly Line's brassy take of The Everly's "Gone Gone Gone" sounds like The Five Americans being backed by Cliff Bennett's Rebel Rousers, surprisingly cool! The studio only act, The Salon Band, a brainchild of Hammond virtuoso/genius Alan Hawkshaw are included with the funky yet melodic Hammond goodness of "Sweet Motion" from the soundtrack of the 1970 film "Groupie Girl", my fave of the set behind "Gonna Live Again". There are then at least half a dozen singles from the late singles by British female singers/groups that leave me cold.  They're not terribly but they have that plastic soul/Top of The Pops feel that doesn't move me, the exception being Barbara Ruskin's kitschy '68 President 45 "Pawnbroker, Pawnbroker". The She Trinity's "Climb That Tree" from 1970 is the epitome of what I believe to be the bane of the so called "mod" scene these days (on both sides of the Atlantic from what I gather).  Heavy=boring. The Expolsive President 1969 45 "Step Out Of Line" (sans lead singer Watson T. Browne) seems to anticipate Gary Glitter's "vocals up front" sound, too bad it's dead boring. Ray Singer's 1966 "What's Done Has Been Done" starts off with a great build up and moody/soulful vocals like The Sons Of Fred before sadly degenerating into a mediocre pop number like Andrew Loog Oldham was producing to satisfy his Phil Spector fantasy on the chorus.  The stellar musical backing is provided by the Fenman and it was written by singer and future Nirvana member Alex Spiropoulos.

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