Wednesday, July 29, 2015

July's Picks

1. THE ACTION-"The Place"
One of my fave Action numbers is this unreleased gem recorded in 1966.  It's propelled by twin Rickenbackers, George Martin's harpsichord, Pete and Bam's groovy "oooo's" and of Reggie King's soulfully commanding voice. I'll have to say I prefer it to almost all of the equally cool soul covers from their brief recording career!

2. TOBY TWIRL-"Movin' In"
Toby Twirl's final 45 (January 1969 Decca F12867) is a pop psych opus in my estimation.  Produced by Wayne Bickerton and arranged by Mike Vickers it has some amazing horns and strings not unlike a Flirtations record with soulful lead vocals and periodic bursts of fuzz guitar to keep it freaky whilst firmly encapsulating the Deram/Decca "pop psych with soul" genre.

3. DONNIE ELBERT-"This Old Heart Of Mine"
Maybe I'm bored with the Isley's version but this one blows me away at the moment. I think what cinches it for me is the incredible instrumental backing (harpsichord, handclaps, congas,et al) which according to Acid Jazz's liner notes of their "Graham Dee's Hitsville London" E.P. are none other than The Fleur De Ly's plus some session brass!! KILLER stuff!

4. ERIC MONTY MORRIS-"Blackman Ska"
"The black man works so hard but the white man gets the money..." I don't know when this slightly controversial Eric "Monty" Morris 45 comes from.  The only release I can find is this slightly dubious bootleg on "Kentone/Dub Store" (Kentone was an original 60's ska label from Jamaica) which I have and it's not turning up in any discographies.  Regardless it's an amazing mid 60's ska track with a backing that easily could be The Skatalites.

5. BILLY MACK-"I Can't Sleep"
My pal Johhny B generously passed this 45 onto me recently on the groovily named Miss Betty label.  It's a bluesy slow burner of a soul number with some subtle organ and horns and incredible strong female backing vocals.  I've got no idea when it's from, any info would be greatly appreciated!

6. THE EQUALS-"Give Love A Try"
The Equals throw some Hendrix style hoodoo on this one not at all dissimilar to "The Wind Cries Mary".  The Equals President release (PT 158 October '67) credits Eddie Grant as the songwriter but Prince Buster's version the same year on Fab (FAB 25) gives credits to "C. Campbell" (Buster's real name). So who wrote it? Regardless it's cool to compare versions but I think I dig The Equals thanks to Eddie Grant's funky guitar, Derv Gordon's powerful vocals and some ethereal backing vocals.

7. JOHN LEE HOOKER-"The Motor City Is Burning"
Easily the most powerful tune ever cut by Mr. Hooker and released on the Bluesway label two years before the MC5 covered it. A powerful bluesy narrative for the civil unrest in Detroit (for further reference dig "Detroit '67" and while you're at it check out Monkeypicks review if you need any more reason to own it) with lyrics that pretty much put you there and delivered in a way that only the great J.L.H. can do.

8. BILL MARTIN & PHIL COULTER-"Mods And Rockers"
With a title like that you'd expect this tune to be from 1964 (post Whitsun of course) but it's actually from a 1967 KPM LP "The Sounds Of Pop" .  It's a funky bit of jazzy organ dueling with some over the top fuzz guitar that crashes into a crazy Animals/Yardbirds style rave up in the middle!

9. THE FOUR PENNIES-"Square Peg"
Forget their awful U.K. sap/sop hit "Juliet" this 1966 B-side of "Keep The Freeway Open" (a decent song in itself) is a stormer. With it's jangly folk rock guitars, cool backing harmonies and down trodden lyrics that have the protagonist behind bars ( "One dark night seven years ago I had to shoot a man. He tried to rob me of my last dime that's how it all began...") it's worth a listen.

10. IAN WHITCOMB-"This Sporting Life"
I had always favored Mickey Finn & The Blue Men's version of this and recently in the latest issue of "Ugly Things" their Mickey Finn piece revealed that they nicked it from Ian Whitcomb's version.  I duly went back and re-investigated and though I still prefer the M.F. version this one is not without it's charm with it's "cheeky chappie/Hollywood Yank" vocals and decent musical backing!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Moody Blues Mark One: In America Part Five

THE MOODY BLUES-Ev'ry Day/You Don't U.S. London 45 LON 9799 1965

"Ev'ry Day " ("Everyday" in the U.K. as Decca F12266) was the second U.S. Moodies 45 to feature original band compositions on both sides (the previous was written about here). It was their fourth U.S. release.

"Ev'ry Day" is a brilliant little pop tune from the pen of Denny Laine and Mike Pinder. It starts out with a great acoustic classical guitar bit that continues throughout the song and features the band's usual amazing harmonies (especially in the call and response chorus parts). There's so much going on in it and just as you get into it bang at 1:48 it's over!

U.K. issue

"You Don't" on side B ( titled "You Don't (All The Time)" in the U.K.) is another Laine/Pinder tour de force accented by some flute by Ray Thomas, the bands trademark vocal abilities and some atmospheric phlange on the piano. Both sides benefit from the masterful production of Denny Cordell who makes the most of the bands stellar vocal abilities and muso musicianship. Sadly the number only reached #44 in the U.K. (their last chart placing in Britain before their revamped '67 line up) and an even more dismal #98 in the States. Their next U.S. single (which was not issued in the U.K.) can be found by going here.

Both sides can be found on the London/Deram deluxe edition CD of their debut LP "The Magnificent Moodies" as well as the more recent and highly recommended deluxe two CD edition (which contains a live BBC version of  both tracks as well).

Hear "Ev'ry Day":

Hear "You Don't":

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Jam Live on "Fridays" aka 35 Years Ago My Mind Was Blown

On Friday July 11, 1980 I switched on ABC-TV's "Fridays" at 11:30 P.M. to watch The Jam.  I had previously only seen cool photos of them.  I was not prepared for what I saw and heard.  The Jam were on their A-game, tight as hell like a well oiled machine fed on aggression, nervous energy and relative commercial obscurity as they ploughed through "Start" and "Private Hell" (ending with an amazing thrash up of feedback that concludes perfectly with Weller sitting down bored on the drum riser) . I went out and bought "Setting Sons" immediately the next day at the local mall with literally every cent I had. And so it began....

Luckily you can still see what I saw thanks to YouTube:

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Great Obscure U.K. 60's R&B Sides: Felder's Orioles

FELDERS ORIOLES-Sweet Tasting Wine/Turn On Your Lovelight Pye 7N 35269 1965

This was the second of four single's from a U.K. r&b quintet known as Felder's Orioles that was released in October 1965 (their previous/debut single "Down Home Girl" b/w "Misty" was released in October of that year as Pye 7N 35247). I will have to admit that I was rarely impressed with much of the Felder's Orioles stuff that I had heard.  That was until I came across the magical jazzy/r&b swing of "Sweet Tasting Wine".  It's got it all, groovy combo organ, solid brass that swings, soulful lead vocals and precise backing vocals. It's a phenomenal cross between "Them Again" era Them meets Georgie Fame & The Blues Flames and The Animals.  Brilliant. AND to top it off it came from the pen of our fave tunesmiths Tony Colton and Ray Smith!!

The flip "Turn On Your Lovelight" is somewhat pedestrian.  Sure the band can wail and they're tight but the vocals sound a bit strained and let's face it no one's really going to do anything monumental with this number.

Criminally "Sweet Tasting Wine" never made it onto any of Sequel/Castle records "Doin' The Mod" CD compilations which is a damn shame since "Turn On Your Lovelight" was on their first volume "The Go Go Train"!!

Hear "Sweet Tasting Wine":

Hear "Turn On Your Lovelight":

Monday, July 13, 2015

Cool Foreign Pictures Sleeves Part 51: Aretha Franklin

ARETHA FRANKLIN-The House that Jack Built/I Say A Little Prayer/See Saw/Night Time Is The Right Time
Portugal Atlantic EP-02-34 1968

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Brenda Lee In Blighty

BRENDA LEE-Is It True/What'd I Say U.K. Brunswick 05915 1964

One of the coolest, least known bits of 60's minutia occurred in 1964 when Brenda Lee went over to the U.K. to make a record. This happened after meeting producer Mickie Most while on tour in Britain and plans were hatched to have her return to record a session.  Most selected a number by the songwriting team of John Carter and Ken Lewis (2/3's of The Ivy League) "Is It True" for the topside and hired a host of top guns in the session world to provide musical backing. It was released in the U.K. on August 28, 1964.

"Is It True" is immediately characterized by Jimmy Page's trademark mid 60's session volume pedal guitar technique throughout the number.  It would be hard to say that it doesn't make the song and saying this serves to pay a great disservice to Brenda Lee's brilliant vocal job but one listen and it's pretty obvious whats driving the tune! The production is nailed tight with some great backing vocals and equally top notch instrumental backing.

"What'd I Say" is equally rocking thanks to Jimmy Page and Company (including session drummer extraordinaire Bobby Graham on both sides) and of course Brenda Lee's incredible delivery. Her version is every bit as wild as The Big Three's live version and could have easily been the A-side.

Brenda (left) with fellow "Ready Steady Go'ers" Millie Small, Helen Shapiro,
Lulu and Wayne Gibson & The Dynamic Sounds

"What'd I Say" was a U.K. only flip, the U.S. version paired it with "Just Behind The Rainbow" (Decca 31690).  The number reached #17 on both sides of the Atlantic and warranted an appearance on "Ready Steady Go" on August 21, 1964 to plug it.

"Is It True" was comped on Rhino's 60's "One Kiss Can Lead To Another: Girl Group Sounds Lost & Found" box set.

Hear "Is It True":

Hear "What'd I Say":

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Cool Foreign Picture Sleeves Part 50: The Kinks

THE KINKS-Mister Pleasant/This Is Where I Belong/Two Sisters/Village Green France Pye PNV.24191 1967

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: The Syn

THE SYN-Created By Clive/Grounded U.S. Deram DEM 7510 1967

The passing of Chris Squire this week, bassist for The Syn sent me back to listening to their limited (but brilliant output): two singles total. This was their debut U.K. single (Deram DM 130) which was released in June of 1967.  It's U.S. release came the following month.  Deram U.S.A would not issue it's follow up ("Flowerman"/"14 Hour Technicolour Dream" Deram DM 145).

The Syn at this juncture were: Steve Nardelli (lead vocals), Peter Banks (guitar), Andrew Jackman (keyboards), Chris Squire (bass) and Gunnar Hakonarson (drums). The band had been treading the boards at various London clubs (with no less 36 than Marquee appearances) since 1965 in various incarnations. Taking inspiration from their heroes and fellow Marquee regulars The Action, The Syn were predominately a soul covers band with occasional group originals interspersed (among them was was Steve Nardelli's "Grounded" which appeared in their repertoire in late '65).  Signed by the up and coming Decca records offshoot Deram (the band by this time were headlining at the Marquee on a regular Saturday night residency) they were sent to the studio by producer Kenny Bell (who secured them their record deal) and unhappily saddled with this single's "A" side "Created By Clive". The band refused to play the track live and fought tooth and nail to have "Grounded" topside but it was not to be. Oddly The Attack released a version on Decca on the VERY SAME DAY (June 23, 1967).  You can read about that less than brilliant idea here.

Lead singer Steve Nardelli 1967

Regardless of the band's opinion of  "Created By Clive" ("Created By Idiots" was how it was referred to by one member in an interview)  it's an archetype mid 60's Swinging London curio that tells the tale of a boy who loses his normal girl when she's swept off to become a high end model and fashion plate. The band's Action influences are clear in the jangly guitar and high backing vocals and Nardelli's posh piss take vocal detachment is excellent for someone who had little enthusiasm for the track.

Peter Banks with flower power Rickenbacker  1967

On the flip side, "Grounded" is of course their best track in my estimation.  From it's dejected/snide and equally soulful vocals, it's groovy Farfisa organ, thundering drums, high Action style vocals cooing the infectious "oo oo ooooo" chorus and almost jazzy Rickenbacker licks (with mod/pop art flourishes with some toggle switch action after the first chorus) it's nothing short of a masterpiece. It's no wonder it's appeared on no less than half a dozen compilation LP and CD's these past 3 decades. My first taste came via Line records indispensable "Broken Dreams" LP series on "Volume 1" 30 years ago!

The Syn

In addition to an American release the single was also issued in the Netherlands and New Zealand on Deram as well. The band would go on to cut one more 45 for Deram four months later which you can read about here.

Both sides were issued on the (slim) "Original Syn" box set. "Grounded" as been released in a multitude of places Deram/Decca's "The Freakbeat Scene" and Bam Caruso's "Rubble 14: The Magic Rocking Horse" among them.

Hear "Created By Clive":

Hear "Grounded":