Monday, June 19, 2017

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: Neil MacArthur aka Colin Blunstone

NEIL MaCARTHUR-She's Not There/World Of Glass US Deram 45-7524 1969


















For those not in the know Neil MacArthur was none other than Colin Blunstone, formerly lead singer with The Zombies who had spent the last year out of the music business working in an insurance office following the 1968 break up of The Zombies.

Conceived by producer Mike Hurst the "Neil MacArthur" venture lasted just shy of a year and resulted in three singles for Deram, all of which were released in the U.S. as well as the U.K. "She's Not There" was the first, issued in January 1969 on both sides of the Atlantic.  It was a curious choice given that it was the debut track by The Zombies. It reached #34 in the U.K. charts, but did not chart in the U.S.

Banish any thoughts of the jazzy electric piano led British beat group sound of the Zombies original 1964 single and clear your mind. Starting with an ominous symphonic beginning reminiscent of David Axelrod , Blunstone's vocals sound similar to the way he sings in the original version.  But over the top of quirky little guitar licks and sweeping, easy listening (as in the freaky soundtrack sort) orchestration,vibes and the jazzy flute solo make it sound "way out". Ditto for the way the number abruptly stops with the strings spiraling down like the tape was stopped.  It's really the phlanging strings that make it sound over the top (in a good way!).
















"World Of Glass" is a different bad entirely.  With it's tabla, harmonium and steel guitar it's like a trippy version of Ronnie Lane's Slim Chance (musically) or Donovan or Nick Drake on a good day. Sadly it's vocally not my thing as it sort of reeks of the early 70's "singer sing writer" feel and Blunstone's muezzin style chanting does nothing to endear it to me.

Oddly neither tracks have seemed to see any sort of reissue outside of "She's Not There" being on a the 1987 LP compilation "Deram Days"!

Hear "She's Not There":

https://youtu.be/6abJ9muSoVw

Hear "World Of Glass" :

https://youtu.be/EMNq3DprCw0

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Class Of '67: 10 Great U.K. Long Players From 1967


1. THE ROLLING STONES-"Between The Buttons" UK Decca SKL 4852 / US London PS 499
Often slammed by critics, and in some cases The Stones themselves, "Between The Buttons" has been unfairly maligned as a collection of throwaways and B grade tracks (which it did contain like "Please Go Home" and the mundane "Miss Amanda Jones"). I beg to differ on the rest and to me if "Aftermath" was the band's "Rubber Soul" then this was surely their "Revolver".  As a fan of the so called "Brian Jones mystique" it's dotted with examples of his musical diversity and flavor . There's vibes on "Yesterday's Papers" and "Backstreet Girl" (both augmented by Jack Nitzsche on harpsichord), recorder on "All Sold Out" (and on his masterpiece only found on the U.S. issue: "Ruby Tuesday") saxophone on "Something Happened To Me Yesterday" and a host of minor bits and bobs on nearly every track.  Like "Aftermath" it was entirely comprised of Jagger-Richards originals and contained the prerequisite amount of chauvinistic put downs ("Yesterday's Papers", "Complicated" and the lushly orchestrated but utterly crass "Back Street Girl"). It's also interesting also because the band are sort of unsure of where they're going direction wise be it the Dylanesque "Who's Been Sleeping Here" or the '67 Kinks meet New Vaudeville Band acid trip documentation of "Something Happened To Me Yesterday". As mentioned previously there's "Please Go Home", a mundane Bo Diddley rhythm swamped in weird effects (left off the US issue with "Back Street Girl" in favor of "Ruby Tuesday" and "Let's Spend The Night Together") and "Miss Amanda Jones" which sounds like it was quite literally made up on the spot.  Fortunately these tracks are the exceptions to the rule and obliterated by the likes of Keith Richard's catchy and rollicking "Connection" (with great lines explaining the current life of The Stones like "My bags they get a very close inspection, I wonder why it is that they suspect.." ) and the somber but wonderful "She Smiled Sweetly" that contains only keyboards, bass and drums.


2. DAVID BOWIE-"David Bowie" UK Deram SML 1007 /US Deram DES 18003
Often it's started that the Dame's debut LP was released the very same day as "Sgt. Pepper". It wasn't, "Sgt Pepper" was issued on May 26th (in the UK anyway), "David Bowie" was launched on June 1st (the day after "Pepper.." was released in America) on Decca's new Deram offshoot (it's US release was not until August).  It has often been dogged by comparisons to Anthony Newley, though not entirely off the mark in some spots its unfounded for the bulk of its material. It opens with the woodwind backed paean to an aging momma's boy ("Uncle Arthur") and moves into a variety of delightful orchestrated tunes, many of which are brilliant social observations with lush musical backing (put together by Bowie and bassist Dek Fearnley, whose brother Gerald took the iconic cover shot). "There Is A Happy Land" plumbs the youthful nostalgia of childhood (also explored on "Come And Buy My Toys") , both with subtle acoustic guitar from Pentangle guitarist John Renbourn while "We Are Hungry Men" portrays a post apocalyptic society where cannibalism prevails (it was left off the US release for precisely that reason). Bowie's songs on this album are almost like little one act plays or short stories. There's a troubled war veteran with a soft spot for children whose kindness is mistaken for being pedophile and run out of town in "The Little Bombardier" and "Join The Gang" pokes fun at Swinging London and its "in" crowd (complete with sitar plonking and strains of "Gimme Some Lovin") while "Maid Of Bond Street" snappily chronicles the woes of a dolly bird model with jazzy guitar and accordion and the classic line "gleaming teeth sip aperitifs".  "She's Got Medals" is a rapid fire rewrite of "Hey Joe" (musically anyway) about a war hero who's really a woman who enlisted as a man and now a cause celebre at the local pub. The original version of "Love You Till Tuesday" (later re-cut as his 2nd Deram 45) gets it first airing whilst his Deram debut single "Rubber Band" is rerecorded with subtle differences (telling the story of a man who goes off to war and his girl falls for the leader of the band they would watch in the park on Sundays). The album ends on a macabre note with  "Please Mr Gravedigger", a spoken word soliloquy by a child murder who makes a graveside confession to a grave digger whom he then kills, beneath stormy sound effects.


3. THE PRETTY THINGS-"Emotions" UK Fontana TL 5425
Much like "Between The Buttons", The Pretties third long player "Emotions" is sometimes met with a howl of derision when mentioned from the band and fans alike. The augmentation of brass and strings with the band on several tracks is usually disowned by hardcore Pretty Things fans as "commercial" or "unnecessary" but without them most of the tracks seem utterly bare bones and lacking to my ears. There are a few duff cuts, the kazoo driven "Children", the Bee Gees pastiche of "Growing In My Mind" or the protagonist from the Kinks "Shangri-La" or Rupert's People's "Reflections Of Charles Brown" cast here on "House Of Ten". That said they are overshadowed by the utter brilliance of  the catchy/brassy "Photographer" (documenting a day in the life of David Bailey or David Hemmings in "Blow Up" perhaps?), more catchy social observation about the death of Guinness heir Tara Browne in "Death Of A Socialite" (one of many here that's hard to imagine sans the brass) and hypnotic 12 string guitar led "My Time" where The Hollies meet sharp brass backing of say...The Les Reed Orchestra. "One Long Glance" benefits from some subtle fuzz guitar and brilliant harmonies (thanks to new members John Povey and Wally Allen , late of The Fenmen). "Bright Lights Of The City" merge the uptown brass of a Tom Jones record with some tough soulful bass lines and "Out In The Night" would probably sound at home on a final Johnny Kidd '66 session with it's precise horns and strings. "Tripping" is an interesting track with some bluesy steel guitar and no orchestra or brass and of course the subject matter...well the Pretties never shied away from controversy right? By the time of it's release lead singer Phil May and lead guitarist Dick Taylor were the only original members left standing and the band defected to EMI where they began work on singles and later an LP that would give The Pink Floyd pause for concern.

4. THE HOLLIES-"Evolution" U.K. Parlophone PMC 7022/ US Epic BN 26315
The Hollies managed to commercially survive the transition from beat group to psychedelia, a feat managed only by themselves and The Beatles. Produced at EMI's Abbey Road under the guiding hand of Ron Richards "Evolution" (in it's psychedelic cover courtesy of Dutch art troupe The Fool) is layered in the band's trademark harmonies and pure orchestrated pop. The tracks were arranged and conducted by Mike Vickers and features the work of session drummer Clem Cattani and  Mitch Mitchell (Hollies stickman supremeo Bobby Elliott was recuperating from appendix surgery during the recording). Opening with "Then The Heartaches Begin" (which reverberates in shimmering psychedelic effects, fuzz guitars and the lot) it's clear that the days of beat ballads were dead. "Stop Right There", sung by Graham Nash has an almost gypsy feel to it with it's violin solo while the double entendre of "Water On The Brain" is probably the only pop track with a tuba solo! "Rain On The Window" is a bleak painting of a one night stand while "Have You Ever Loved Somebody" (previously covered by The Everly Brothers, The Searchers AND Paul & Barry Ryan) sounds like the '66 Hollies (albeit with heavily distorted guitar!). The album still veers away from being all out psychedelic, "Leave Me" is almost soulful with it's subtle combo organ while "The Games We Play"  and "When Your Lights Turned On" are boy lusts after girl pop tracks with heavy orchestration and great melodies. "Heading For A Fall" has echoes of 1966's "Hard Hard Year" but with tack piano and brass and "You Need Love" sounds like the jangly Hollies of '66. As expected the bands three part harmonies excel and prove a winning combination with Vickers arrangements and orchestration.

5. KALEIDOSCOPE-"Tangerine Dream" UK Fontana TL 5448
Written not with L.S.D. or pot as it's inspiration but copious amounts of cheap Spanish red wine in a suburban bedroom by two 21 year old members Peter Daltrey (guitar) and Eddie Pumer (guitar), "Tangerine Dream" is in many ways equally as trippy as anything else the more lysergically minded members of the Class of '67 could offer. The album has several psychedelic ditty's like "(Further Reflections) In The Room Of Percussion" (the dissolution of a relationship seen through psychedelic imagery) to perhaps the only song ever written about an accidental murder, the chilling "The Murder Of Lewis Tollani". There's the wistful beach scenes of "Holidaymaker" (with muted brass and seaside sound affects), lives thrown together in a plane crash on "Flight From Ashiya" and the story of the under appreciated watch repair shop keeper of "Mr. Small The Watch Repairer Man" (which would not sound out of place on the Kinks LP below and is orchestrated by Reg Tilsley, responsible scoring The Pretty Things LP listed above!) . "Dear Nellie Goodrich" is a love letter put to music with tack piano and acoustic guitar that's quite reminiscent of Pink Floyd's "Paintbox" and "The most way out track is "Dive Into Yesterday" which sings of  "battalions in baby blue are bursting beige balloons" and "oh swing and say the petals say.." on top of discordant, shimmering guitars and high harmonies. The album concludes with the jangly, folk rock with sharp harmonies feel of ""The Sky Children" which though amazing goes on a bit too long at seven minutes plus.


6. GEORGIE FAME-"Two Faces Of Fame" U.K. CBS 63018
Georgie Fame began 1967 with a fresh start. Having left EMI and at his management's urging cut the Blue Flames loose he began a lucrative career with a new label, CBS.  They launched their new charge under a publicity blitz featuring a logo with his profile and the slogan "More Fame in '67" on his subsequent releases on the label. His debut album for the label came in the form of "Two Faces Of Fame", with one side live and one side in the studio. Musically it was not terribly to far removed from the jazzy side of the Blue Flames and any hint of his semi M.O.R. approach on the label is not yet discernible but r&b/soul is firmly dead and buried. The live side features a virtual who's who of British jazz and r&b. Fame's band includes Blue Flames alumni Eddie "Tan Tan" Thorton on trumpet, former Manfred Mann associate Lynn Dobson on tenor sax, future Brian Auger Trinity bassist Rick Brown and former John Mayall's Bluebreakers drummer Hughie Flint, among others. Side A (recorded live at The Royal Festival Hall on March 18, 1967) opens with "Greenback Dollar Bill" where Fame belts it out in front of a big band. His jazz cred shines through brightly on "Things Ain't What They Used To Be", "River's Invitation" and the tongue twisting "Bluesology" (the later two sees him backed by the Harry South Big Band with the cream of British jazz including Tubby Hayes, Ronnie Scott , Gordon Beck etc in the ranks). The live side closes with Jon Hendrick's tongue and cheek  "Keep Your Big Mouth Shut" where Fame interjects names of friends like Zoot Money, and troubled but legendary British jazz drummer Phil Seaman (where he is also backed by The Harry South Big Band). Side two's studio side is a lesser affair without so many big names and sounds sparse with a jazz quartet formula of just bass, drums, sax and piano. Highlights include a faithful reading of Mongo Santamaria's "El Pussycat" , the somber "C'est La Vie" and "Do It The Hard Way". Not his best long player of the 60's, but it certainly wasn't his worst either.

7. THE KINKS-"Something Else" U.K. Pye NSPL 18193 / US Reprise RS 6279
The Kinks fifth studio LP, "Something Else" was released in September as the Summer of Love drew to a close.  The Kinks were never one to follow trends and there is nary an ounce of psychedelia or whiff of Flower Power on it (though "Lazy Old Sun", the closest the Kinks ever came to psychedelia, is on board with it's discordant brass, Ray's stoned vocals and plenty of angelic backing vocals). "Something Else" is full of classic quintessential Ray Davies vignettes, opening with the well known "David Watts", the tale of the boy at school everyone wants to be (based on a Rutland promoter of the same name who was terribly smitten with Ray's brother Dave), meddling mother in law's ("Situation Vacant"), the everyman in the office ("Tin Soldier Man"), the married mother who resents her swinging sister (actually written by Ray Davies about he and raver brother Dave) in "Two Sisters", a posh toff lamenting Summer's passing ("End Of the Season") and closes with the beautiful "Waterloo Sunset", possibly one of the finest pieces Ray has ever written. "Something Else" is also interesting because Dave Davies sings on quite a few numbers. There's his "solo" hit "Death Of A Clown" which is included as well as  "Funny Face" (written about Dave's first child, fathered when he was merely 15!!) and his tour de force "Love Me Till The Sun Shines" with tasty organ by Nicky Hopkins.


8. THE CREATION-"We Are The Paintermen" German Hit-Ton Schallplaten HTSLP 340037
The Creation were far more popular in Der Fatherland than back home in the U.K. so when their first two German singles, "Making Time" (July 1966) and "Painter Man" (March 1967) were sizable hits over there an album was deemed necessary. By this point the band had changed members with bassist Bob Garner replacing recently departed lead singer Kenny Pickett and ex-Birds member Kim Gardener coming in on bass. The album was a compilation of sorts as it consisted of both sides of the first two singles as well as their newest German 45 "Tom Tom" /"Nightmares" and their third British A-side "If I Stay Too Long" (that was coupled there with "Tom Tom") . There was little material actually ready made for the album with the exceptions being their covers from the current stage set including a tepid version of "Hey Joe", an equally uninteresting stab at The Capitol's "Cool Jerk" and a halfway decent version of "Like A Rolling Stone" fattened up with some tasty melodic riffs from lead guitarist Eddie Phillips and some high backing vocals. Also among the non 45 cuts was the powerful "Can I Join Your Band" (that was previously cut with Kenny Pickett) and saw Phillips return to his "violin bow on guitar" technique and some tongue in cheek lyrics ("can I join your band and go off to play with my new guitar and coat of suede, can I join your band I'm a hippie guy always stoned and eight miles high.."). The LP is rounded out by the powerful "Through My Eyes", featuring a distinctly Jimi Hendrix inspired guitar solo and the band's trademark high backing vocals.


9. SMALL FACES-"Small Faces" (Immediate) UK Immediate IMLP 008
The Small Faces 2nd LP (which like their Decca debut was untitled) will always be a sort of anachronism because according to Ian "Mac" McLagan in conversation several years ago, the tracks recorded for it were never played live and all but forgotten once it they were completed. It's a perfect illustration of the bands chrysalis from pill popping/dope smoking mod R&B band to worldly hallucinogenic psychedelic pop stars. It's also interesting because 5 of the albums 14 tracks are sung by Ronnie Lane and 1 by Mac (who also wrote the track, "Up The Wooden Hills To Bedfordshire", a child like tale of bedtime that's actually about drifting off in a hash induced haze). Two of the tracks, "All Of Our Yesterdays" and "Eddie's Dreaming" feature the horn section of Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames, whose trumpet player, Eddie "Tan Tan" Thorton, is the subject of the later.  There's a certain whiff of neo-psychedelic whimsy in the album with the subtle Mellotron (also heard on "Become Like You") and "turned on" lyrics of the LP's storming opening track "(Tell Me) Have You Ever Seen Me" and the trippy "Green Circles" (which got an even more way out remix for their U.S. LP "There Are But For Small Faces"). Lane's earlier mentioned Vaudeville "All Of Our Yesterdays" is fattened up by some jazzy horns where a Cockney East End knees up meets jazz time swing. The band's penchant for quick organ driven instrumental throwaways is fulfilled via the snappy "Happy Boys, Happy" and Ronnie's sublime "Something I Want To Tell You" ( originally considered for a single) is equally heavy on the organ with some great melodic trills by McLagan at the Hammond. Marriott shines on "Talk To You" and "My Way Of Giving", the last of the band's blue eyed soul belter/call and response backing vocals numbers. Lane fronts the band on the sublime "Something I Want To Tell You" (driven in no small part by Mac's piano/Hammond playing) and the delightful Mellotron/harpsichord mix on "Feeling Lonely" fills things out nicely.

10. THE REMO FOUR-"Smile" German Star Club 158034 STY
Liverpool's Remo Four made a modest career basing themselves in Germany and performing U.S r&b tunes before eventually shifting towards more jazzy r&b and soul. By the time their German label Star Club called for an LP in late 1966 they were a well oiled machine (and had been the house band for the German music TV program "Beat Club" for it's live seasons before it went to an all lip sync format in 1967). Known for selecting more obscure tracks to cover (as their choices on their one and only long player would show) they were soon rendered obsolete by the changing times . Despite it's 1967 release date the only thing "1967" about "Smile" is the cover logo. It opens with an uptempo version of Gloria Jone's "Heartbeat" complete with some jazzy guitar licks and nifty organ and smoothly glides into a funky reading of Dean Parrish's "The Skate" (complete with some groovy organ/twangy guitar interplay). A campy version of Chuck Berry's "No Money Down" plods along at an almost lethargic, but interesting pace with lead singer/organist Tony Ashton hamming it up. Their organ/jazz interests are covered in readings of Mose Allison's "7th Son", Jack McDuff's "Rock Candy" and Cannonball Adderley's "Jive Samba", all of which showcase the understated guitar talents of Colin Manley (check YouTube for some of their live cuts on "Beat Club" to see him in action).  The crown jewel of the album for me is their reading of Oscar Brown Jr's "Brother Where Are You" (the band had previously performed his "But I Was Cool" live on "Beat Club" ) which totally reworks Brown's arrangement and turns it into a smoky, yet hard hitting reading. The album closes out with an uptempo, amped up cover of The Miracle's "Nothing's Too Good For My Baby" that sounds extra funky thanks to Ashton's electric piano.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

More U.K. Tracks On U.S. Labels: Peter Sellers & The Hollies

PETER SELLERS AND THE HOLLIES-After The Fox/The Fox Trot (Instrumental) US United Artists UA 50079 1966


















Possibly one of the most ludicrous pop pairings of the 60's was The Hollies and Peter Sellers on a track cut for the 1966 film "After The Fox". Written by David Bacharach and Hal David it's a pretty innocuous track with Alan Clarke singing and Peter Sellers interjecting with spoken word bits in his varying voices in response. It's also notable as it featured Graham Bond Organization bassist Jack Bruce (Hollies bassist Eric Haydock was on his way out of the band at the time) and was recorded (May 10th, 1966) during his short time with Manfred Mann.

"The Fox Trot" instrumental though credited to "Peter Sellers And The Hollies", is presumably neither and sounds more like incidental film music. It strangely sounds a lot like klezmer music to my ears!

"After The Fox" appears on EMI's comprehensive Hollies 6 CD collection "The Hollies-The Clarke, Hicks & Nash Years" .

Thursday, June 1, 2017

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: The Flowerpot Men

THE FLOWER POTS-Lets Go To San Francisco (Part 1)/Let's Go To San Francisco (Part 2) US Deram 45-DEM-7513 1967


















The Flowerpot Men were a 1967 studio only concoction created by U.K. song writers and session vocalists John Carter and Ken Lewis (best known as two thirds of the vocal trio The Ivy League). The Flower Pot Men's vocal department was led by vocalist Tony Burrows along with other singers Neil Landon, Robin Shaw and Peter Nelson. Burrows would later simultaneously find fame with other studio only acts such as The First Class ("Beach Baby"), The Brotherhood Of Man ("United We Stand"), Edison Lighthouse ("Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes"), White Plains ("My Baby Loves Lovin'") and The Pipkins ("Gimme Dat Ding").

Created to cash in on "flower power" , The Flower Pot Men (possibly named after a 1950's British TV children's program) issued just 4 singles on Deram in the UK (five if you count the trippy "Mythological Sunday" released under the moniker of "Friends"). Their touring backing band at one point included future Deep Purple members Nicky Simper on bass (formerly of the last line up of Johnny Kidd & The Pirates) and Jon Lord (formerly of The Artwoods) on keyboards. The band's August 1967 U.K. smash (#4) was simultaneously issued in the States but credited to The Flower Pots (this was corrected for the second and final U.S. release, "In A Moment Of Madness", Deram 45-85051 1969).

Pic by David Wedgbury






















"Let's All Go To San Francisco" lyrically is about as equally deplorable as Scott McKenzie's hit reading of the John Phillips composition "San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Some Flowers In Your Hair)". Both tracks of course sing of something that simply did not exist (or one would be led to believe, I was a year old at the time...) . Reality aside, "Lets All Go To San Francisco (Part 1)" is a full on U.S. West Coast Brian Wilson  harmony pastiche meets British psych pop ( with heavy use of Mellotron and regal trumpets). It's not a bad track regardless of it's intentions or hackneyed lyrics ("lets all go to San Francisco where the flowers grow oh so very high..") thanks to it's production and delivery. In fact one wonders how pissed off John Phillips must have been because the lyrics though not directly similar convey the exact same gist as his May 1967 hit!

"Lets All Go To San Francisco (Part 2)" is at first almost a different track, it has similar lyrics but it's slowed down and more "dreamy" before the Mellotron and Brian Wilson inspired harmonies burst forth to the chorus from the A-side and it becomes merely an extended version of the A-side.

Hear "Let's All Go To San Francisco (Part 1)":

https://youtu.be/4iJTrgYhfL4

Hear  "Lets All Go To San Francisco (Part 2)":

https://youtu.be/gvd6Yj32vI0