Monday, February 27, 2012

February's Picks

Lord John tripping the light fantastic at the Mind's Eye with the Captain Whizzo lightshow, Tramps, NYC, NY Spring 1988
1. LORD JOHN-"My World Dies Screaming"
With a song title taken from a quote from a 70's Marvel comics issue ("The Hulk" I think) you can't go wrong.  Lord John were a mid 80's New Jersey psych band who started out more Echo & The Bunnymen than The Pink Floyd but they were amazing, both live and on their sole output, an untitled LP on Voxx's Bomp imprint, where this trippy yet hard rocking tune came from.  The band imploded, playing their final gig in November 1989. Had they stuck it out surely they'd have been embraced by the indie shoegazer crowd and the more lysergically inclined Brit pop types of the early 90's (in fact when I first heard Blur's "She's So High" I immediately thought it sounded a bit like Lord John).

2. THE PRETTY THINGS-"Death Of A Socialite"
I first heard this when I snagged Bam Caruso's 1986 Pretty Thing's comp LP "Closed Restaurant Blues" and like most of the other "Emotions" era tracks on the LP it did not move me.  Fast forward to the early 90's when I copped the "Emotions" CD and it became my fave Pretties LP, and still is.  Brilliant layers of horns, painting a kitschy angle of Swinging London fueled by Dick Taylor's mild acoustic strumming and Phil May's uninterested sounding vocals.

Just when I thought I'd heard it all in the British 60's mod/r&b genre our pal over at Monkey Picks wrote about these guys in his January picks and a search of them on YouTube revealed this killer track, a perfect slice of mod '66 British sounds if ever there was one with cool brass, ska rhythm sounds (ala  "Al Capone") and this funky riff slightly resembling "I'll Be Doggone"!  Brilliant!!  And it's on the new RPM CD compilation "Looking Back" with it's flip side.

4. MAC RYBELL-"The Lantern"
Possibly the coolest 60's Stones cover ever!  This is by this mondo obscure Brazilian band from '68, in fact I daresay it rivals the original because it's pulled off without the trippy studio effects like the original (which is in itself, a masterpiece). Lovingly reissued on the trippy CD "Brazilian Guitar Fuzz Bananas".

5. THE TIMES-"I Helped Patrick McGoohan Escape" ("Splash Of Colour" version)
There's a zillion versions of this track by Ed Ball and his group called The Times from the 80's, this one being my fave as it's fuller sounding than the tinny D.I.Y. 45 version and it's got some jangly guitar thrown in too.  From a rare as hell LP of neo-60's/psychedelic-pop British 80's groups called "A Splash Of Colour" which I literally borrowed (along with a double EMI LP called "Merseybeat") from Insomniac Dave Woj every time I went over his house in the 80's!

6. DAVID AXELROD-"Holy Thursday"
Over the top trippy, film musick, jazzy, orchestral bit of brilliance from Axelrod's stellar LP "Song Of Innocence".  From the unreleased '68 cinematic feature shot in Technicolor starring me partying with Herbie Hancock, wearing a three tone double breasted tonic suit, driving an XKE Jag, shagging lots of birds, shooting lots of people with a Walther P38, tripping the light fantastic to Coltrane and getting shot on Golden Gate Bridge at sunset and falling to my death while peaking on orange sunshine. Yeah.

7. THE UNIVERSALS-"Green Veined Orchids"
A brilliant track by another obscure U.K. 60's mod/r&b band who embraced freakbeat.  This was one of their two 45's on the Page One label, thankfully unearthed on the "Sweet Floral Albion" CD compilation. It's got that brass Brit r&b feel and soulful vocals but also leans towards The Lovin' Spoonful.

8. BLUE RIVERS & THE MAROONS-"Witchcraft Man"
Back in the 80's when I was buying up all the 60's U.K. r&b/beat group records See For Miles was putting out they put out an LP by this band, a ska/reggae/soul band.  I never heard it till I saw it in the used bin at the local record shop for a price I could not pass up.  This soulful ska number was a single on the short lived (U.K.) Blue Beat/Columbia imprint in '67 and is the best of the lot on their See For Miles CD.

I'm assuming this was American.  It was first unearthed for me on the essential "Sound Gallery Volume Two" CD compilation and I've later discovered there was an entire wiggy LP cut on Capitol in the States titled "Tartaglian Theorem".  This track is absolutely trippy: sitars, swirling near Eastern sounding strings, fuzzed out wah wah guitars etc.  True sounds of the apocalypse, or a late 60's orgy..........

10. DONOVAN-"Atlantis"
I don't recall too much music from the 60's, "Time Of The Season", "In The Year 2525", a few country music numbers and this one.  Any rock n' roll number that can string a line like "my Antediluvian babyee" is alright by me.  Alas poor Billy Batts I knew him well.....

Friday, February 24, 2012

Cool Foreign E.P. Sleeves Part 43 :The Merseybeats

THE MERSEYBEATS-Wishin' And Hopin'/Hello Young Lovers/Milkman/Jumping Jonah U.K. E.P. Fontana  TE 17423 1964

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Stray Ray's: 10 Great 60's Ray Davies Covers

It's incredibly hard to pick just 10 60's Ray Davie's compositions.  He was such a prolific songwriter in the 60's that there are a host of numbers he provided to willing artists and of course his own band, The Kinks.  I tried very hard to balance my choices with tracks that The Kinks never recorded with versions by other artists of tunes that The Kinks also did and also tried very hard to choose more obscure numbers (omitting more well known numbers like "Dandy" or The Thought's brilliant but often discussed "All Night Stand"). I also restricted my selections to tracks that were on YouTube, as many of them have never been reissued or complied anywhere I thought it both prudent and fair to link them to YouTube in the hopes of turning some of you onto some new music without adopting the stereotypical haughty attitude of record collectors unwillingness the share with those not "in the know".  Enjoy.

1. FIVE'S COMPANY-"Session Man"  U.K. Pye 7N 17199 1966
One of the crown jewels of The Kink's "Face To Face" LP is this little ode to the session musician.  With most Kinks tracks from this period it's hard to decide whether it was meant as an observation or a dry tongue in cheek swipe at the likes of Jimmy Page and the "5th Kink" Nicky Hopkins, I'd like to think the former!  This cover was released in November 1966, one month after the Kinks version appeared on the LP. This version differs from the original thanks for a faster pace and a more enthusiastic sounding backing (complete with harpsichord, no doubt played by a session man).

2. MICK & MALCOLM-"Big Black Smoke" U.K. Piccadilly 7N.35372 1967
This March '67 45 was previously released by The Kinks as the flip side to "Dead End Street" in November 1966.  I've no idea who Mick & Malcolm were, but the accent on the lead vocalist sounds Irish.  This version has a more upbeat feel too it, something at odds with the track's gritty subject matter, accented by strings, organ and what sounds like a banjo being plucked for the main riff. It's not nearly as good as the original but gets marks for making a decent job of it.

3. THE CASCADES-"I Bet You Won't Stay" U.K. Liberty LIB 55822 1965/ U.S. Liberty 55822 1965
Rarity time here kids.  This track, to my knowledge, was never released by any other artists than one hit wonders The Cascades ("Rhythm Of The Rain").  By the time this track had rolled around (August 1965) the band had been through a number of line up changes and obviously a genre change too.  The harmonies are pure Beach Boys influence behind a layer of some solid Hal Blaine style drumming and harpsichord with a decidedly "folk rock" feel too it.  Believe it or not it all works and is easily one of my fave Ray tracks that went unrecorded by The Kinks.

 4. LEAPY LEE-"King Of The Whole Wide World" U.K. Decca F 12369 1966
Leapy Lee, scourge of the used 45 bin with his boring M.O.R. near U.S. hit "Little Arrows" on the Decca label, bah! The Kinks actually backed Mr. Lee for this, his second 45 and it was produced Mr. Ray Davies himself!  the number is somber but accented by a rousing chorus (perhaps it's Rasa Davies supplying the backing vocals on it) punctuated by some nice clanging guitars (ala "The World Keeps Going Round" or "Where Have All The Good Times Gone"). Released in March of 1966 it sank without a trace.

Scan c/o

5. LOS CINCOS-"Most Exclusive Residence For Sale" U.K. Phillips BF 1525 1966
Yet another "Face to Face" LP cut also released in November '66 after the album.  It has been stated that this record featured a young Albert Hammond but I've yet to confirm that.  I was under the impression that Los Cincos, were part of the brief Iberian invasion of the U.K. in '66-'67 (with Los Bravos, Los Iberos, Los Brincos etc), but perhaps I'm wrong.  The number is unique thanks to some cheezy but cool brass bits that replace the originals "ba ba ba.." parts that accent each line that have an almost "South of the border" feel to them.

Scan c/o

6. BOBBY RYDELL-"When I See That Girl Of Mine" U.S. Capitol 5513 1965/U.K. Capitol CL 15424 1965
Simultaneously released in both the U.K. and the U.S. in November 1965 this single by Philadelphia's one time teen idol actually beat The Kink's version (on their third LP "Kontroversy") to a release by a matter of days.  By then Rydell's career was all but finished as far as the hit parade was concerned, one of many casualties from the British Invasion.  This is a VERY rocking version and to Rydell's credit it works, no doubt aided in some part by the stellar musical production (dig the blistering guitar work at the very end).  I'll admit The Kinks original is at times, tepid, for me and this cover punches it up a notch with more energy and a no expenses spared arrangement.

7. MO & STEVE-"Oh What A Day It's Gonna Be" U.K. Pye 7N 17175 1966
This somber September 1966 track leans in a decidedly M.O.R direction and sounds like it would've been better suited for more the likes of David & Jonathan .  It's lush orchestration (c/o Johnny Harris) adds to it all, not most folks cup of tea but I dig it because it's a perfect bookend to other down trodden '66 R.D. tracks like "Rainy Day In June" and "Too Much On My Mind"

8. BARRY FANTONI-"Little Man In A Little Box" U.K. Fontana TF 707 1966
Barry was a friend of Ray's in the 60's. He wrote for "Private Eye" magazine, hosted the brief but brilliant U.K. 60's pop music TV program "A Whole Scene Going" and starred in the Michael York/Susan George Swinging London drama "Strange Affair". In between all that his pal furnished him with a track that no one else has ever recorded. Released in may of '66 it's a cracking little tune with it's dirge like quality and cynical lyrics about a guy who is treated like a wind up toy. Fantoni's vocals are almost flat, sort of Sonny Bono-esque (in fact he looked at bit like Sonny too!), but it works on this track. Listen for Ray's voice in the bridge!

Scan c/o

 9. THE MAJORITY-"A Little Bit Of Sunlight" U.K. Decca F12271 1965
This October 1965 offering was the second of eight singles issued on the Decca label by this U.K. 5 piece who did records that were of a more harmony pop vein (and famous for their scathing B-side "One Third").  Once again we have a track here that Ray wrote that no one else tackled.  It's bright, sunny disposition works well for the group given their penchant for sunshiney pop numbers, what better than a cheery tune about sun light!  It's also an interesting slice of Ray's cheery side, something that would vanish by the year's end as things got darker and more (perhaps) personally introspective.

10. THE BEAT KINGS-"Waterloo Sunset" German Tempo 4287 1967
Here's an interesting German cover from an E.P. of cover versions of UK and US tracks. It's fairly uninteresting at first as its pretty much a note for note cover but it's done so well and the distorted guitar that creeps in halfway through is an uplifting surprise and hey you don't hear many 60's German covers of Ray Davies tunes!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Acid Jazz's E.P. Choice: Acid Re-flux!

Acid Jazz has done a series on vinyl 7" E.P.'s of U.K. 60's artists ranging from cool (The Richard Kent Style), passable (Steve Marriott & The Moments, The Muleskinners) to normally cool artists who have a heap of garbage unearthed and slung out in a cool sleeve with crappy tunes (Sharon Tandy, The Clique, The Fleur De Ly's). 

I find it odd that with a plethora of music available by a variety of artists Acid Jazz would pad out a CD of it's previous E.P. releases whilst mixing it with pure bullshit like the near contemporary sounding/pseudo disco by the likes of Maxine, The Fantastics or even Donnie Elbert's backing track for his out of key cover of "This Old Heart Of Mine". B-O-R-I-N-G. Only our "Anorak Thing" heroes The Richard Kent Style shine through with their contributions (all available from the label on iTunes and on their groovy 7" E.P. on the label): "I'm Out" and "Marching Off To War" (both sides of their third single, 1967's Columbia DB 8182) and the previously unreleased "You Can't Keep A Man Without Love".  The Muleskinners (featuring our hero Ian McLagan) provide their four tracks previously issued on the Acid Jazz E.P., nothing earth shaking I'm sad to say.  Sadly kids it all just goes downhill from there.  We get 4 scratchy, mediocre tracks from The Clique, who with two stellar mid 60's British r&b classic 45's under their belt, are certainly not aided by the release by any of these tracks.  Ditto for the three Fleur De Ly's tracks, only the rough "original" version of their take on The Who's "Circles" is remotely amusing for a play or two and a load of dead boring Sharon Tandy leftovers (including a pointlessly lifeless demo of her blistering track with The Fleur De Ly's "Daughter Of The Sun").  Steve Marriott and The Moments serve up their U.S. only 45, a bland cover of The Kinks "You Really Got Me" and the Chuck Berry aping "You'll Never Get Away From Me". For completists only!  Buyer beware!

Manfred Mann Mk.II Live 1966 Footage Unearthed!

Manfred Mann Mk.II live on Dutch TV 10/07/66:

Friday, February 10, 2012

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: The Richard Kent Style

THE RICHARD KENT STYLE-No Matter What You Do/Go Go Children U.S. Coral 625204 1966

The Richard Kent Style are, in my estimation, mod 60's legends. All 5 of their 45's command hefty sums of money on Ebay whenever they crop up.  They first came to my attention in the mid 90's on a cassette tape a friend made of an assortment of obscure U.K./Euro 60's "mod" bands with the stellar "Go Go Children", a raw bit of r&b dashed with freakbeat. Hailing from Manchester, this six piece played high energy r&b .  I'm not going to attempt to give you their history BUT you can read about them here:

This was their first single, which was released in the U.K. on Columbia as DB 7964 in July of 1966. God knows what inspired the good folks at Coral to issue the 45 in the States (it came in both the stock black with rainbow label and promos in yellow like today's specimen). "No Matter What You Do" is actually the A-side.  It starts with a blast of horns meshed with some nice fuzz guitar and then the vocals come in and the whole thing goes sadly, "poppy" in a tepid weak Paul & Barry Ryan at their worst style.  Sad really because the intro leads you to expect something better!  But flip it over....ahhh!  "Go Go Children" is a classic.  From it's infectious riff to it's catchy "go go childer-uhn" chorus it's a kick.  The horns are punchy and have this sinister vibe to them like "Hall Of The Mountain King" or some Satanic scene from a Hammer horror film and groove along with while the vocals are soulful but have an almost cynical sounding inflection that implies "I don't give a *uck".

Sadly these tracks have not been officially reissued, "Go Go Children" cropped on an excellent bootleg LP/CD called "Echoes From The Wilderness" and all of their 45 tracks popped  on a bootleg LP called "Mod Meeting Volume One" (with The St. Louis Union on the other side of the LP).  What the world really needs is a legit Richard Kent Style compilation CD with all of their singles!

TRIVIA NOTE: Once whilst in NYC in the late 1990's I was in a British pub wearing a black suit with a checkered tie with my hair immuculately backcombed and I was stopped by an older English gent who imformed me "I had hair like that when I was a lad".  We got to chatting and it transpired he'd been a member of The Richard Kent Style!  When I rattled off a few of their song titles he loudly bellowed "*uck me!" several times in disbelief that anyone in the States was familar with his music.  I can't recall his name, and by the way, no he didn't have any spare copies of any 45's to give or sell me! When I returned to my table I discovered he'd sent me over a pint of Old Speckled Hen which was waiting, I looked back and he gave me the thumbs up and went on his way. That's rock n' roll.

Hear "No Matter What You Do":

Hear "Go Go Children" (and see a load of pics I took in the 80's):

************45 label scan c/o Reynaldo Moldonando******************

Monday, February 6, 2012

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: The First Gear

THE FIRST GEAR-A Certain Girl/Leave My Kitten Alone U.S. Mar Mar 315 1965

One of the fave topics of conversation among us U.S. anoraks is oddball U.K./Euro 45's that garnered an obscure release over here in the States like the Richard Kent Style and Buzz 45's on Coral (more on both of those soon I promise), The Motions single on Congress and a host of others.

Today's topic was released in the U.K. originally as Pye 7N15703 in October 1964 (it would be the first of two 45's by The First Gear).  For some oddball reason it came out here in the States on the Mar Mar label (the label also issued a 45 of "Night Train", Mar Mar 313, by session drummer and Beatle stand in Jimmy Nicol). The record was produced by Shel Talmy and his favorite session guitar player Jimmy Page contributed guitar, his distinct volume pedal style can easily be discerned both sides of the record. "A Certain Girl", written by Allen Toussaint, was first recorded by Big Easy favorite son Ernie K. Doe as the A-side to his 1961 Minit 45 634 (and in the U.K. as the 1962 B-side to "I Cried My Last Tear", London  HLP 9487).  The Paramounts and the Yardbirds had both previously released the number as a B-side track.  In the U.K. it first backed The Paramounts version of "Little Bitty Pretty One" in February 1964 on Parlophone R 5107 and was found on the flip of the Yardbirds debut, "I Wish You Would" on Columbia DB 7283 in May of 1964.  The First Gear's version is fairly decent, with some nice zooming/driving bass and beat group style backing vocals culminating with a nice classic mid 60's J.P. session man solo.  The flip. "Leave My Kitten Alone", originally cut by Little Willie John back in 1959 on the amazing King label (45-5219) is unique because The First Gear were the first band in the U.K. to commit it to vinyl. The Fab Four had played it in their Cavern days and included it in a '64 BBC session and even recorded a  version during the recording of what ultimately would be their "Beatles For Sale" LP (the number was never issued).  The First Gear's version is by far the most way out of them all with it's amphetamine driven pace, Page's blistering licks (dig the way out solo) ad the manic delivery.  It was also a highlight of the legendary "Pebbles Vol. 6: The Roots of Mod" British 60's r&b compilation album.

"A Certain Girl" was reissued on Sequel's "Doin' The Mod Volume Three: Maximum R&B" CD and along with "Leave My Little Kitten Alone" turned up on Castle's Jimmy Page sessions compilation "Hip Young Guitar Slinger".

Hear "A Certain Girl":

Hear "Leave My Little Kitten Alone":

******45 label scan courtesy of Haim Kenig **********

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Cool Foreign E.P's Part 42: The Zombies

THE ZOMBIES-What More Can I Do/Tell Her No/She's Coming Home/I Must Move E.P. France Decca  457.075 M 1965

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Kinks-"Sunny Afternoon" on "Top of the Pops" 1966

FOUND!  A reader was kind enough to hip us to the long thought gone clip of The Kinks on "Top Of The Pops" plugging "Sunny Afternoon" with "new boy" John Dalton: