Monday, September 24, 2012

September's Picks

1. The Four Tops-"Walk Away Rene"
The Four Tops pulled off quite a few covers of "contemporary" tracks like no one else could thanks to the power of Levi Stubb's.  Shit he could sing the ingredients from the side of a cornflakes box and make it sound good, but their "pop" covers period is no better exemplified by any other track than this!

2. Dexy's Midnight Runners-"Tell Me When My Light Turns Green"
We here at "Anorak Thing" will always hold a torch for pre-"Come On Eileen" Dexy's perfectly illustrated by this soulful number full of their trademark ballsy horn section.

3. The Pretty Things-"Defecting Grey"
The Pretties managed a few brilliant seven inch moments between their much maligned but fucking amazing "Emotions" LP and the somewhat overrated "S.F. Sorrow" epic.  This was one of them, quite lysergic and convincingly at that, aided in no small part due to the production of Norman Smith, also responsible for similar miracles with the very first Pink Floyd album.

4. Andy Lewis-"Mr. Camera"
"Don't wanna be a teacher, don't wanna be a preacher don't want to be a painterman, don't wanna be a pilot in the Royal Air Forece dropping bombs on the Taliban.....but I quite like spending my money on second hand clothes and LP's...". Amen.

5. The Babyshambles-"Delivery"
My pal Dave Woj from The Insomniacs shared a bunch of CD's by these guys a bit back.  I'd been skeptical but dove into them with an open mind and was suitably impressed, especially by this punchy "Kinks updated" style track, a formula Dave's band perfected long before Pete Doherty smoked his first ciggie.

6. Manfred Mann-"Trouble And Tea"
One of the beautiful things about living near a groovy used record store is you never know what you'll score there.  Well I stumbled upon a $9.99 Japanese CD of  the Manfred's first Mike D'Abo era LP "As Is" (with both stereo and mono mixes) and couldn't pass it up as it'd been on my Amazon wish list for eons.  And wow, this mono mix of this tune contains an entire flute track I'd never heard before and additional un-heard guitar/organ licks that make the number even better than it was in stereo!

7. XTC-"In Another Life"
Cheers to my pal Matt for hipping me to XTC's "Wasp Star" CD, which after a few serious listens becomes their first long player (bar their two Dukes of Stratosphear LP's) I've enjoyed since 1982's "English Settlement".  This track indeed has the kitchen sink drama and jauntiness that would've been right at home on the previously mentioned platter. And of course it's 12 years old there's no danger in me liking something "contemporary".

8. The Prisoners-"Melanie"
The Prisoners are one of those rare bands from the 80's that stood the test of time because they were never "too mod", never "too garage" (their Englishness obviously making them impenetrable to all the comic book 80's American garage scene stereotypes) and above all were masters of their instruments.  Yeah they nicked a few tunes here and there but they rocked as this video clip from 1983 proves!

9. Booker T & The M.G.'s-"Something"
It's own up time kids.  I'll admit here and now I've long avoided "McLemore Avenue" because, well I pretty much disdain any post '67 stuff the Fab's did bar a track or two here and there so why would I enjoy the Memphis foursome doing the whole "Abbey Road"?  Well that still holds true but I must say I do dig their treatment of this number, which in it's original form is the template for my dislike of all things Fab Four post psychedelia.

10. Barbara Streisand-"Our Corner Of the Night"
Stumbled on this reading the set sale list on this cool site run by the cat behind this VERY cool blog.
Who'd have thought Babs had it in her?  This 1968 A-side sounds like Reparta and The Delrons cutting a disc with Sandie Shaw!  Wowee!
Babs and her "natural look" in the 60's.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Cool Foreign E.P.'s Part 46: Wet Seats In The Front Row!

THE MERSEYBEATS-"Merseybeats On Stage" Long Tall Sally/I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Cry/Shame/You Can't Judge A Book By The Cover U.K. Fontana TE 17422 1964

Monday, September 10, 2012

Geno! Geno! Geno! Geno!

GENO WASHINGTON AND THE RAM JAM BAND-Water/Understanding/HI! Hi! Hazel/Beach Bash PYE France PNV 24178 1966 

Geno Washington. 60's American "legend" on the British 60's night life club circuit.  Darling to soul happy British mods (often deprived of the "real thing").  Subject of Dexy's Midnight Runner's 1980 45 anthem/tribute "Geno" (and first brought to my attention in a 1980 music magazine article on Dexy's).  You don't meet a lot of Geno Washington fans.  To many (myself included) he was a product of a fearful British record label that knew they didn't have a ghost of a chance of matching American soul/r&b hits and in a sometimes shoddy manner decided they would issue their own "homegrown" version, unfortunately more times then often this involved inferior versions of American stormers.  In a way I felt bad for the British mod/soul 60's fanatics.  Here in the States we had Motown/Stax/Chess acts live galore.  They got a couple of Motown and Stax package tours and Geno butchering "She Shot A Hole In My Soul".

Unlike fellow American ex-pat ex servicemen working the U.K. circuit like Herbie Goins, Geno didn't really have the pipes.  I often wonder if John Schroeder and the people at Piccadilly were like "He's black and he's an American, that'll do, find him a tight backing band and we'll run with it". A lot of his material was often third rate covers of American soul tracks "You Got Me Hummin'" for example (or the above mentioned painful Clifford Curry track).  Live his backing band were the shit as they say: tight, wailing, but again for all his enthusiasm Geno wasn't much of a front man in the lead vocal department.  His vinyl studio sessions expose the flaws in his even more.

Today's copy was his first French E.P. (actually once owned by the DJ Emperor Rosko! See scan below) that compiled his first two Piccadilly U.K. 45's : "Water"/"Understanding" (Piccadilly 7N 35312, April 1966) and "Hi Hi Hazel"/"Beach Bash" (Piccadilly 7N 35329, July 1966) .

"Water" has a solid backing and Geno's voice isn't bad.  Geno himself swore that his recorded live gigs were always better than the studio sessions but I beg to differ.  Without John Schroeder's guiding hand in the studio (he produced virtually all of their 60's studio sessions for Piccadilly/Pye) things were toned down and his voice was kept in check, live he could go beyond his already modest limitations.  "Understanding", not to be confused with The S.F's gem of the same name is my fave on the E.P.  With a nice organ/sax groove backing it on top of a pumping bass line it's easily danceable and well within Geno's ability.  "Hi Hi Hazel" is possibly one of the worst songs ever written. no matter who's doing it's an abomination: Gary & The Hornets, The Troggs, Geno and the boys included....  "Beach Bash" is better known to everyone as "Bush Bash" by The Markeys .  My assumption is that in the spirit of the 60's with Geno having a sizable mod contingent following in light of of the Brighton/Clacton/Margate punch up's it would be clever to rename the number "Beach Bash".  Whereas the original relies on a soulful organ beginning lapsing into a jazzy sax bit then Steve Cropper's twangy Telecaster string pulling The Ram Jam Band pump it up a bit (dexy's?) and leave out the organ solo making it a showcase for the bands twin saxophone attack that resembles a '79 ska record and the guitarist giving it a little Link Wray action before, interestingly swinging the whole band into a ska rhythm!
Geno Washington & Co. rocking out at their home base, The Marquee 1966

All four of the E.P.'s tracks can be found on a variety of CD's. I have them on a double CD "My Bombers My Dexy's My Highs:The Sixties Studio Sessions", which though two discs is a bit much Geno for anyone, can be found on the cheap quite easily.

Witness the mediocrity that is "Hi Hi Hazel":


"Beach Bash":

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Autumn Of Love: The Troggs

THE TROGGS-Love Is All Around/When Will The Rain Come U.S. Fontana F-1607 1967

I usually get a lot of stick for liking certain tunes that have been played too many times. One of them is The Troggs "Love Is All Around". Sadly it's all too often lumped in with all of that "Summer of Love" headbands and hippy shit. But for four lads from Andover they were having none of it.  In "Mojo" the man himself Reg Presley mused

"I got back from America, I smelt the Sunday lunch cooking, phawwww, after about 25 years on burgers, I kissed my wife, my little daughter, four years old. We went into the lounge and those Salvation Army girls, The Joystrings, were on television banging their tambourines and signing something like "love,love, love".  I went over to turn it off, knelt down and got a bass line in my head and I got it."

Regardless of how dreadful it's become thanks to a version by some crap 90's band that somehow became a staple of every equally crap wedding (Had it played at your wedding?  You're a knob!) the number still resonates with me. I remember the first time I bought a 45 of it (see above) the first thing that got me were the strings.  Amazing.  The melody, the bass line and those damned chilling strings get me every time and I'm back watching the sun set in that rinky dink little room on the second floor with Continential soldier wall paper and fold up stereo watching the sun set through a drafty old window.  And the band made a wiggy little promo film that summed it all up; weird, sunny, leering, foil coated spirit of '67 (no one had Hendrix perms luckily!).

Love is all around for Pete Staples, Reg Presley steals a kiss....

Flip it over and you've got a powerful number which despite my owning this 45 since the mid/late 70's I did not get my head around until at least ten years ago! "When Will The Rain Come" marks Ronnie Bond's vocal 7" debut.  He also penned the number.  Delivered beneath a hypnotic almost raga scale style guitar and deep near Gregorian chant vocals it's unlike anything you've ever heard those fellas do, I think, to a degree that's where it's charm lies.

Both sides are available in a variety of places, I suggest the CD reissue of their LP "Cellophane" (issued in tandem with the following LP "Mixed Bag"). We here at "Anorak Thing" would like to wish lead singer Reg godspeed in his battle against lung cancer and hope he's in remission and out there belting them ouit once again!

U.K. issue
Hear "When Will The Rain Come":