Sunday, January 26, 2014

January's Picks

1. OCTOPUS-"Council Plans"
A wonderful bit of Badfinger/Macca-esque pop-sike from Octopus rare 1970 LP.  It has all the perfect bits from the genre: minor chords, wonderful Beatle-esque harmonies, lyrics about a flower loving little old lady who's about to be evicted by the council and who's only concern is her garden.  Powerful and poignant.

2. THE TAGES-"What's The Time"
Brilliant brassy orchestrated sunshine pop by Sweden's Tages from their 1967 LP "Studio" recorded at EMI's Studio 3 at Abbey Road, often overlooked and dismissed by 60's Euro fans as too polished or candy floss but it suits me just fine!!

3. ELTON JOHN-"Regimental Sgt. Zippo"
Go ahead laugh away, Elton John!  But have a listen friends, Reg was a few years ahead of the Dukes of Stratosphear while working away at Dick James music hammering out a song an hour (kidding), but this one's a full one psychedelic keeper!

Great bit of soulful frat rock/garage from 1966 on the Golden World label, know nothing about them as I only recently tripped over it (and it's decent B-side "Everything's Gone Wrong") on an odd "Northern soul" comp (they'll tag anything "Northern" these days...). To me it's Bob Seeger and the outsiders (U.S. types) bastard love-child.  Magic.

5. THE ARTWOODS-"Work, Work, Work"
For the past ten years I've been on this "born again mod crusade" against The Artwoods because, well back then I'd gotten to the point where I'd heard and/or owned every original version of all the tunes they covered and bla bla bla.  Well I recant and repent.  True some of their versions of stuff are a tad lackluster but overall they do some powerful things with Stax/Atlantic, Motown, blues, r&b AND jazz tunes.  This Lee Dorsey cover is killer, the backing vocals, the searing lead guitar, the build up and the amazing bass line beneath it all.  How could I turn my back on this I ask?

6. JOE BROWN & THE BRUVVERS-"I'm Henry The Eight I Am"
How fucking pissed off must Joe Brown have been when he'd heard Herman's Hermits topped the U.S. charts in January 1965 with an arrangement of a number he'd released in the U.K. years earlier.  Joe's is pretty cheeky, campy but a total laugh.  As a ten year old I was infatuated by the Herman's Hermits 45, 37 years later I'm put right on where it came from!

7. MAJOR LANCE-"Rhythm"
Somewhere between The Impressions and The Radiants comes this monster mid tempo groover with a bit of Latin percussion and some sharp horns. An August 1964 single on the Okeh label (4-7203) and easily my fave Major Lance tune!

8. THE MAD LADS-"Tear Maker"
Most of the Mad Lads Stax sides are too ballad/syrupy for me, but tucked away on the flip side of their 45 "Don't Have To Shop Around" is this rocking number that's a full on party with Steve Cropper adding some extra sting with his twanging Fender Telecaster!  Ouch!

9. MUD-"Up The Airy Mountain"
Regal trumpets, stellar harmonies and a most Anglicized posh accent are the key ingredients to this infectious little easily sing-along "harmony pop"/psych ditty courtesy of future glam boys Mud. Their 2nd 45 from 1968. Akin to Toby Twirl.

Image courtesy of

A YouTube comment on this number dubbed it "The Association on crystal meth", to me it's somewhere between a hybrid of Gerry Anderson TV themes meets Joe Meek and maybe The End's "Introspection" LP crossed with a British Deram/Decca psych-pop/harmony band like The Cherry Smash or The Californians.  Regardless it's some pretty cool stuff on the top side with the monstrously trippy "Armageddon" on the bottom. On President records 1969. Both sides are on the recommended President CD comp "Sometimes I Wonder".

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Moody Blues Mark One: In America Part One

THE MOODY BLUES-From The Bottom Of My Heart (I Love You)/And My Baby's Gone U.S. London 9764 1965

The Moody Blues U.S 45 rpm releases stayed pretty much consistent with their British cousins starting with the release of today's subject.  It was their third American 45 (the British issue on Decca F 12166 was released simultaneously) launched in May 1965.  It was their first 45 under London's new blue three tone swirl label as well.  The record failed to dent the charts as "Go Now" (their American debut) did upon it's re-release in early 1965 reaching #10.  The Moodies would not reenter the U.S. charts again until "Nights In White Satin" placed at # 2 in early 1968.  "From The Bottom Of My Heart" marks the first time a Moody Blues original was released on either side of the Atlantic.  Penned by members Mike Pinder and Denny Laine.

"From The Bottom Of My Heart (I Love You)" is not among my most favorite Moodies tracks, it features some trademark 60's Moody Blues high backing vocals by Mike Pinder and Ray Thomas but it's at odds with the r&b sounds the band had previously embraced. Things don't really pick up until the last 30 seconds of the songs where the vocals reach this crescendo fading out much in the same manner of "Go Now".  The flip side, "And My Baby's Gone" fares much. It chugs along with some cool call and response vocals, hand claps and some mild volume pedal guitar sounds care of Denny Laine (and a solo not unlike Jimmy Page's on several Herman's Hermits sides).  Like the A-side it is a Pinder/Laine original.

Both sides have been collected on the CD reissue of their British debut LP "The Magnificent Moodies" and on the far superior  U.K. CD issue that compiles all of their British Decca and American London Denny Laine era tracks.

Hear "From The Bottom Of My Heart (I Love You)":

Hear "And My Baby's Gone":

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Obscure European U.S. Releases: The Shanes

THE SHANES-Chris Craft No. 9/Time U.S. Capitol 5963 1967

The Shanes from were Sweden. Though they don't rate high in my book with other acts from their native country like The Tages, The Mascots or Ola & the Janglers they did produce the occasional cool track.  Today's subject was oddly released in the U.S. in July 1967 (it's Swedish counterpart was previously issued in February of that year as Columbia DS 2339). It was their 13th release in Sweden and to my knowledge their first and only U.S. 45. It's also my favorite Shanes track, and no doubt everyone elses.

Barracks life: The Shanes pose in their Swedish army dwelling

"Chris Craft No. 9" was recorded in England in late 1966.  The Shanes were one of the first Swedish beat groups to record in England, preceding The Tages and the Lee Kings in doing so. "Chris Craft No.9" is an ode to a boating vessel (Chris Craft was and still is a manufacturer of boats of all shapes and sizes) that melodically owes a bit to "A Must To Avoid", a Sloan/Barry hit for Herman's Hermits in 1965. That minor "coincidence" aside it's a stunning record for it's time, not sounding a bit '67 but more a '65-'66 beat record with some great hooks and stellar harmonies (and covered way back by our local heroes The Insomniacs) and a driving beat with an ear worm of a chorus ("Chris Craft number nine, you're welcome aboard.."). "Time" it's B-side is dreadful.  It's a below pedestrian ballad that was excruciating to listen through one full time, just dead boring and awful.

Sadly things did not bode well for the band after this single hit the streets as four members were called up to serve in the Swedish army and the remaining fifth member enlisted as a sign of solidarity which kept them off the music scene for almost a year. Sweden's military at the time (like that of Denmark and Holland) were quite liberal in the sense that they did not require recruits to cut their hair allowed the band's locks to remain unshorn (see photo above).

"Chris Craft No.9" appeared on a CD comp of Capitol records sides titled "Book A Trip: The Psych Pop Sounds of Capitol Records" put out a few years back and recently is available on the excellent new Shanes 22 track CD retrospective  "Let Them Show You: 1964-1967" on RPM.

The Shanes in action, 1967

For a Shanes discography head over to:

Hear "Chris Craft No.9":

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Phil Everly: Gone, Gone, Gone

Phil Everly R.I.P.  The legacy of the brothers Everly is too long and too well known to waste time feebly attempting to it chronicle here.  Instead I've sat myself down on this fucking miserable cold, grey day and hammered out ten of my fave's by the boys:

1. "Wake Up Little Susie"
1957's "overslept at the drive-in" teenage angst opera summed up nicely in 2:05. My sister and I played our mother's beat to crap copy to death (which sadly, like all of my mother's 45's had been piled , sleeveless, onto some horrible metal rack where they were slotted in between rungs and wrre technically, already near death).  This was my introduction to the brothers Everly and possibly my first rock n roll song with a story to it.

2. "Love Is Strange"
From the "Beat & Soul" LP (which also contained #10 below) the boys tear the machinery out of the Mickey & Sylvia original thanks to some jangly/crunchy in the red guitar folk rock guitar beneath some Floyd Cramer style ivory tinkling.  The guitars amp it up a notch even more towards the end. And dig Don and Phil's laid back country spoken bit "Hey Don..Yeah Phil.".  Rocking.

3. "Somebody Help Me"
An over the top version with some heavy fuzz/distortion of the Jackie Edwards/Spencer Davis Group number that was a single a few months (August 1966) after the SDG's release but in my humble opinion takes the cake against all comers.  It's also on their essential "Two Yanks in England" LP (more on that below). The vocals are brilliant and the tough guitar is riveting. Brought to my attention thanks to Edsel records 1989 reissue of the LP.

4. "Finding It Rough"
More interesting cover versions, this time the pre-Nirvana band Hat & Tie's 1967 freakbeat/pop sike obscurity penned by Patrick Cambell Lyons and Chris Thomas.  The Everly's scooped it up and cut it on their '67 LP "The Everly Brothers Sing The Everly Brothers". The fuzzed out guitar from the original is still there but the brothers rack up the pop sike quota further by adding some flute and some "la la la's" and intricate harmonies.  Again a superior take.

5. "Leave My Girl Alone"
Another jangly folk rock number from their 1966  "In Our Image" LP (that came in between 1966's "Beat & Soul" and "Two Yanks In England", a pretty prolific year for Phil & Don). The vocals are stellar and the arrangement has a distinctly Byrdsy feel.  I can easily imagine Gene Clark singing this!

6. "Hard Hard Year"
Phil and Don hit England in '66 and gather up The Hollies, Jimmy Page (allegedly), John Paul Jones and according to Graham Nash one Reg Dwight (aka Elton John) and take to the studio to cut the 12 track LP later to become "Two Yanks in England". 8 of the numbers are "L. Ransford" (Clarke/Nash/Hicks) compositions , three of which were at the time not yet record by the Hollies. This is my fave of the Hollies covers on the album.  It lends itself well to the boys voices behind some faint organ and tambourine before the searing guitar solo from Jimmy Page (faithful reader Keith Patterson pointed out it was not Tony Hicks and utilizes Page's style) blows it all to smithereens.

7. "Bowling Green"
Despite the quaint English name (and the poppy/pysch arrangement not unlike The Association) Bowling Green, is as the song says, in Kentucky. The vocals airy, soaring feel propel this 1967 single firmly into Everly's legendary ability to use bits of genres without sounding like they were trying to be trendy or contemporary.  It was sadly the last time they ever saw the U.S Top 100 or the Top 40 (the song croaked at #40). Criminal.

8. "The Air that I Breathe"
A solo single from Phil released in 1973, a whole year before The Hollies hit version and easily better (arranged by Warren Zevon) thanks to the simplistic vocal arrangement and subtle cello, not the over the top Hollies job. Dig the choral backing vocals spine tingling bits instead of that blistering guitar lick that The Hollies used.

9. "Let It Be Me"
Hands down the definitive version of this track in my estimation is by the Everly's , the A-side of their 1959 Cadence 45 (with "Since You Broke My Heart" on the flip). Easily the best possible example of the vocal magic that was the pairing of these guys.

10. "Man With Money"
My introduction to the Everly's began with my mom's beat to shit Cadence 45's, my interest in them began after hearing this original by them that was a fave among mid 60's mod types like The Eyes (who ineptly covered it), A Wild Uncertainty and The who (my fave version of the three) back in the late 80's. It drives along with some baroque swatches of harpsichord and Phil and Don's precision soulful vocals. Hands down my fave Everly's tune of all time.