Friday, February 22, 2019

Jackie Shane R.I.P.

Word has just come through that transgender soul legend Jackie Shane has passed away at the age of 78.

I can think of no better way to pay tribute to her than listening to this.

The British James Brown Appreciation Society

James Brown was probably one the the most oft covered 60's soul artists in the U.K. I mean think about it, Motown was huge in the UK but can you narrow it down by artist when it comes to who was covered the most?  Nah, J.B. nails it every time, I had six different versions of "I'll Go Crazy" to choose from for Pete's sake!  With that in mind I thought it would be neat to dig up 10 U.K. 60's J.B. covers and give you a bit about each of them, in no particular order.

1. GEORGE FAME AND THE BLUE FLAMES-"The Night Train" UK E.P. track "Rhythm And Blues At The Flamingo" Columbia SEG 8382 1964
Kicking off both the live E.P. and live LP of the same title starting with an introduction by manager Rik Gunnell, Georgie Fame and Co.'s storming version of "Night Train" oozes mid 60's mod/r&b Soho cool. Punctuated by enthusiastic yelps by U.S. servicemen in the crowd (who were, for a time, Flamingo regulars) this version has an almost jazzy swing to it thanks the The Blue Flames stellar horn section and Fame's Hammond even if it sounds like the microphones were in the tube station down the street.

2. THE UNDERTAKERS-"Think" UK 45 Pye 7N 15690 1964
Issued on the flip of their 4th and final UK 45, a version of The Drifters "If You Don't Come Back", Jackie Lomax and his merry band of Scousers  turn "Think" into a totally British r&b affair removing any misconceptions that The Undertakers were just another beat group. This is thanks in no small part to sax player Brian Jone's (not the Rolling Stones guy) wailing and the band's snappy presentation that easily fits alongside any hip "mod" London r&b band.

3. THE UNTAMED-"I'll Go Crazy" UK 45 Stateside SS 431 1965
UK 60's r&b act the Untamed made six singles on four different labels in Britain with more line up changes than Spinal Tap had drummers.  Lead by constant lead singer/guitarist Lindsay Muir they were produced by their faithful patron Shel Talmy. Their version of "I'll Go Crazy" came out the same month as the Moody Blues version on their debut LP (see below) and is interesting in that it's probably one of the more poppy versions of a J.B. tune on this list.  Muir's voice is not suited for James Brown aping so he's restrained and the faint combo organ and the gritty/bluesy guitar solo gives it a feel like something the '64-'65 Alan Price era Animals would have done or my fave obscure beat group The Zephyrs.

4. THE WHO-"Shout And Shimmy" UK 45 B-side Brunswick 05944 1965
No one in the British Isles were bigger proponents of the music of James Brown than The Who. Their first J.B. cover was this reading of "Shout And Shimmy" issued on the flip side of their third UK 45 "My Generation". They would later include versions of his "Please Please Please" and "I Don't Mind" on their debut LP "My Generation" and cover "Just You And Me Darling" on a 1965 BBC session. "Shout And Shimmy" has an almost frat rock feel to it from it's sophomoric party atmosphere thanks to Pete Townshend and John Entwistle's white boy falsetto backing vocals, not to mention Keith Moon's slapdash drumming.  Roger Daltrey's lead vocals are incredibly soulful and he's clearly the one carrying the water on this tune.

5. THE BO STREET RUNNERS-"And I Do Just What I Want" UK 45 Columbia DB 7488 1964
The Bo Street Runners were such J.B. fans that they cut "Tell Me What You're Gonna Do" backed by this stab at "And I Do Just What I Want" on the B-side. From the gritty volume pedal guitar licks, swatches of sax and groovy combo organ and John Dominic's punky lead vocals it's a worthy addition to our list here. R&b with attitude!

6. THE BLUE ACES-"Tell Me What You're Gonna Do" UK 45 Columbia DB 7755 1966
Reputedly a showband originally, The Blue Aces are known for their soulful 1966 mod freakout "That's All Right". They cut this J.B. tune on the flip of their previous single "All I Want". The lead vocalist has a jazzy style that reminds me of The Peddlers singer Roy Phillips while the horn work sticks to the original as does most of the arrangement but it's still halfway decent, though no where near as good as The Bo Street Runners version.

7. THEM-"Out Of Sight" UK LP track "Them Again" Decca LK  4751 1966
Though technically from Northern Ireland Them WERE based and recorded in the U.K. so....
"Out Of Sight" is a fish out of water on the mixed bag that is "Them Again", their second and final long player cobbled together with material cut from no less than at least four different line ups!! Its also interestingly one of the few Them cuts with horns, but it works even though at times it sounds somewhat ham fisted and Van Morrison isn't exactly the world's greatest soul singer.

8. GEORGIE FAME-"Papa's Got A Brand New Bag" UK LP track "Sound Venture" Columbia SX 6076 1966
Cut for Georgie's predominantly jazz LP (and final album of his Columbia period) with The Harry South Big Band "Sound Venture", the inclusion of "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag" on the long player is quite a square peg in a round hole and allegedly Georgie had to lobby hard for it's inclusion.  The horns add an interesting big band feel which actually really works making it an interesting interpretation.

9. THE MOODY BLUES-"I Don't Mind" UK LP track "The Magnificent Moodies" Decca LK 4711 1965
"I Don't Mind" was covered by The Who on their debut LP but The Moodies beat them to it on theirs by five scant months. Theirs is a somber affair with lead vocals not by lead singer Denny Laine but by keyboardist Mike Pinder and it's his jazzy ivory tinkling and Laine's twangy guitar that make the number different from The Who's and the mediocre version by The In Crowd.

10. ALEXIS KORNER'S BLUES INCORPORATED-"Please Please Please" UK 45 B-side Parlophone R 5206 1964
One of the more interesting James Brown reading's is this flip side by the grandaddy of British r&b Alexis Korner. The brilliant jazzy horns/guitar interplay give it a slightly blues feel to it that totally takes it into new territory as far as James Brown covers are concerned. Stellar!

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Only In America U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: The Mindbenders

THE MINDBENDERS-It's Getting Harder All The Time/Off And Running US Fontana F-1595 1967

One of the Mindbenders best single releases in my estimation was today's subject from the 1967 film "To Sir With Love". Both tracks are featured in the film, the A-side "It's Getting Harder All The Time" is mimed by the band in one of the ending scenes where they are appearing at a school dance and the flip "Off And Running" is heard playing on a transistor radio in an earlier scene. Curiously the single was only released in the United States.  Both tracks also appeared on the soundtrack LP (which was issued in over half a dozen countries).

"It's Getting Harder All The Time" ranks for me as one of my favorite Mindbenders tracks (have a peek at my 10 faves by them here). From it's driving beat accented by some choppy guitar with an almost ska rhythm on the offbeat to it's precise backing harmonies topped off by a blistering neo-raga full on freakbeat guitar solo it's a killer track.  Eric Stewart's double tracked lead vocal is equally strong.  The fact that it was not issued as a single anywhere else but the US is both perplexing and a crime. The band can be glimpsed lip syncing it in the school dance scene towards the end of "To Sir With Love" where Sidney Poitier grooves with pupil Judy Geeson.

Lip syncing the A-side in "To Sir With Love"

It's flip "Off And Running" was previously issued as a flop A-side by Lesley Gore the preceding year  in May 1966 (Mercury 72580). It was penned by Toni Wine and Carole Bayer Sager who provided The Mindbenders with their first hit "A Groovy Kind Of Love" as well as their third UK single "Ashes To Ashes". The Mindbenders version of "Off And Running" is a frantic beat track that clocks in at just over two minutes, with a brief but tasty solo by Eric Stewart.  It's far more punchy than the Lesley Gore version.

Of interest in 1982 SCTV did a "To Sir With Love" spoof called "Teacher's Pet" (complete with Andrea Martin doing the Lulu meets Brenda Lee title track) where "Off And Running" can be heard playing. Musical guests "The Boomtown Rats" (looking much like UK Groovy Cellar heroes The Mood Six) perform "Elephants Graveyard".

Both tracks can be found on a UK CD compilation "A Groovy Kind Of Love: The Complete LP & Singles 1966-1968".

Hear "It's Getting Harder All The Time":

Hear "Off And Running":

Monday, February 11, 2019

Euro 60's Obscurities On U.S. Labels: Ola & The Janglers (Again)

OLA & THE JANGLERS-What A Way To Die/Let's Dance US GNP Crescendo GNP-427 1969

Sweden's Ola & The Janglers previously released their debut American 45 "I Can Wait" on London in November 1967. It would be two more years until a release was to surface by them again in the US. In March 1969 the GNP Crescendo label issued a double sided promo of a cover of Chris Montez "Let's Dance" (GNP-423). There would be two more releases bearing the same catalog number.  The next was the following month with a tune called "Strolling Along" as the flip to "Let's Dance" while also in April another single was issued featuring "Let's Dance" on the flip and "What A Way To Die" as the A-side!! "Let's Dance" was originally issued in Sweden in September 1968 as Gazell  C-220 (where it bizarrely came out in well over a dozen different sleeve variations!). It was also issued in at least 8 different countries!  "What A Way To Die" had previously seen a release back in Sweden in February 1968 as Gazell C-212.  One is left to scratch their head in contemplation as to why GNP Crescendo issued so many variants of "Let's Dance" (they also released a US LP titled "Let's Dance/What A Way To Die" GNPS 2050 in 1969, featuring a bizarre mix of awful soul covers, a version of "Little Green Apples" and a host of other equally cringe worthy tunes).

"What A Way To Die" however is a brilliant track and in my estimation is their final decent track. It owes more than a bit to "A Whiter Shade Of Pale" (and Rupert's People's "Reflections Of Charles Brown" too) with it's classical/Bach chords.  It's nothing short of a pop psych masterpiece with it's strings, regal trumpets (ala "Penny Lane"), churchy organ and impassioned vocals. It was produced by Gus Dudgeon which leads me to suspect it was recorded in the UK? Anyone have any information on it?

And then there's the flip.....a dreadful, unnecessary bludgeoning of Chris Montez "Let's Dance".  The funky organ on it isn't too bad but the vocals (double tracked with extra echo added) are absolutely lifeless and tepid!!

Both tracks are available on a Swedish two CD reissue of a 1980's Ola & The Janglers double LP collection titled "1964-1971!" (issued in a series with similar LP's by The Shanes, The Tages, The Hep Stars and The Mascots).

Dig this Swedish TV video for "What A Way To Die":

Hear "Let's Dance" (if you dare):

Friday, February 1, 2019

January's Picks

If you've heard Manfred Mann's version of "My Little Red Book" and dig it then you'll appreciate this version just as much if not more. Tony Middleton is of course known by one and all for his $$$ "To The Ends Of The Earth" and "Paris Blues", his vocals on this combined with Bacharach's instrumental backing is nothing short of amazing (though the female backing vocals are a bit too high in the mix).

2.  JOHN WALKER-"So Goes Love"
After reading the excellent Walker Brothers book "The Impossible Dream" I began checking out some of John Walker's post Walker Brother's solo material.  Not a lot if it jumped out at me but I was blown away by his reading of this Goffin/King number from his debut 1967 LP "If You Go Away".  His voice is instantly recognizable from Walker's tracks and the Ladybirds style backing vocals and wiggy fuzz guitar and woodwinds make it work.

A brilliant mix of r&b and ska this 1966 single is amazingly infectious, especially the hypnotic "whatta bam bam" chorus and the layers of vocals/instrumentation with some great toasting/ad libbing vocals.

4. THE MASQUERADERS-"I Don't Want Nobody To Lead Me On"
Garden State Soul Club DJ Scott Boyko turned me on to the funky little soul nugget on Thanksgiving Eve, having previously only known the slightly reggae cover by The Exotics.  Released on the Wand label in 1967.

This early Creation records single (their second 7" 45 release actually) is one of the most psychedelic things I've ever heard from the 80's.  It's a perfect bridge between the '81 Groovy Cellar psychedelic scene and proto Brit pop (and the trippy early sounds of My Bloody Valentine).

6. SANDIE SHAW-"Lay Lady Lay"
From her in demand 1969 LP "Reviewing The Situation" this Bob Dyal cover eschews the pedal steel of the original and has Hammond, thundering drums and flute that sound straight off the soundtrack of "Vampyros Lesbos" film.  Her vocals are almost too fey at times but thanks to the atmospheric musical backing it's incredible.

7. THE SEARCHERS-"Crazy Dreams"
Long after their hits dried up the Searchers were floundering in the twilight nether world of the UK cabaret and university circuit and occasional European tours. Somehow Pye records still had faith in them. In 1967 they issued their last single on the label, "Secondhand Dealer" and on the flip was this groovy number with a tough backing and lyrics like "I don't care cos I'm high...". One wonders if they would have made more like this is Pye kept them.

From 1958's "Down To Earth (Music From The Soil)" LP comes this groovy reading of the traditional number "John Henry". It's driven by it's subtle delivery and Eldee Young's groovy stand up bass and Red Holt's drums with Ramsey's ivory tinkling falling in on top.

9. DEPARTMENT S-"Is Vic There?"
Every now and then I forget about a song from the old says and I rediscover it and I'm blown away all over again. Case in point is this eerie little groover from 1981.

10. BLOSSOM DEARIE-"Long Daddy Green"
According to the Walker Brothers book I just read "The Impossible Dream", Blossom wrote this funky little piece about Scott Walker!  She also included tracks called "Sweet Georgie Fame" and "Dusty Springfield" (the former is great but the latter is cringe worthy) along with "Long Daddy Green" on her in demand 1970 UK Fontana LP "That's Just The Way I Want It To Be"!