Tuesday, February 25, 2014

February's Picks

1. JOHN"S CHILDREN-"Come And Play With Me In The Garden"
It's been 30 years since I first heard John's Children on a bargain bin Polydor comp LP called "Medium Rare" ("Sarah Crazy Child") and here I am shelling out $$$ once again for possibly the fourth John's Children CD compilation I've owned, "A Strange Affair:The Sixties Recordings" (see picture above). But this will be the last and "Come And Play..." is one of their wiggiest tunes and still sounds magic to these ears.


2. THE ASSOCIATION-"Looking Glass (mono version)"
I recently was hipped to the Mono mix of my fave Association elpee "Renaissance" and this completely revamped version of "Looking Glass" with a totally different vocal trick is an aural trip (my pal Mike Sin informed me that the vocal track was re-recorded in an attempt to capitalize on the success of "Cherish").


This is a bashing good cover of Charles Mingus powerful Civil Rights anthem cut by the pre-Procol Harum Southend-On-The Sea r&b connoisseurs, previously unissued and unearthed for their LP/CD comp on Edsel "Whiter Shades Of R&B".


4. THE SMALL FACES-"Mystery"
One of the gems of the new Small Faces Immediate box (we'll get around to reviewing that soon I swear) is this incredible alternate version of "Something I Want To Tell You" on a mock up acetate 7".  Ronnie Lane's voice is extra high up in the mix and I daresay I prefer this mix to the LP one!

My pal Chaz from Huddersfield put this amazing take on the Burt Bacharach number on a CD mix for me back in 2007 and it's my fave version.  Maybe it's the musical backing that reminds of a Dusty Springfield track, but Helen's voice is pretty darned impressive!!


6. THE IGUANA-"Imagine This"
A brilliant spot of Downunder sunshine pop in the vein of The Association from 1967 brought to us by Big Beat's excellent 60's Aussie CD compilation "Peculiar Hole In The Sky" who's liner notes claim the vocal track on this tune was cut in one take.  Have a listen and see if your mind isn't suitably blown.


7. THE SLENDER PLENTY-"I've Lost A Friend And Found A Lover"
On the flip of a great lost David Bowie tune "Silver Tree Top School For Boys" is this tune I recently discovered courtesy of the "Piccadilly Sunshine" series (Volume 10). It's simplistic but fantastically catchy all the same!


8. DUSTY SPRINGFIELD-"Don't Forget About Me"
One of my fave Dusty numbers and alongside the powerhouse "Breakfast In Bed" is number from "Dusty In Memphis".  Possibly one of her most soulful tracks ever, especially during the chorus.  It was recently brought back into my life by all things, a Starbucks/Rhino records Dusty CD compilation (that rather foolishly and boastfully proclaims her "The Queen Of The Mods", blasphemy!!!).


9. THE HI-FI's-"Tread Softly For The Sleepers"
A German only 45 by this mid 60's U.K. band from 1967 is a perfect slice of soulful, melodic pop with an infectious groove and some great Who/Pretty Thing's '66 power chord thrashing! First brought to my attention in the 90's on the "Hens Teeth: Psychedelia" LP comps it wasn't till I re-listened to it on the "Love, Poetry & Revolution" set.


10. THE PRISONERS-"Thinking Of You (Broken Pieces)"
No doubt THE most miserable song about the dissolution of a relationship ever written yet it's incredibly poetic and brilliant.  From their 3rd LP "The Last Fourfathers" (and incidentally my favorite!)


Friday, February 21, 2014

Here Come The Nice: The Small Faces Immediate box digested and dissected

The whole shebang on my dining room table (London underground coaster and wicker place mats not included)
The Small Faces "Here Come the Nice" box set has been in the works for some time now.  It wasn't and isn't cheap and like The Action book from last year the decision to purchase it did not come without some seriously hard contemplation. But being a Small Faces fan for over 32 years I decided it would be the last huge purchase of their stuff and didn't think twice about suspending visits to the pub for a month or so to come up with the bread to cover it.

A lot of folks (myself included) were a bit dismayed that there would still be stuff to put out seeing as their four "proper" (ie released while they were still a functioning band) U.K. LP's had been reissued in Deluxe double CD form.  The question remained: how much COULD there be left?!  What Charly has done is take all the band's Immediate era recordings (done between 1967 and 1969) in mono/stereo, demo and sometimes backing track form and splash them over 4 CD's.  All from original master tapes (the story of how many of them were tracked down is almost a "Raiders of the Lost Ark" epic of sorts and is chronicled in the book that comes with the set). There is a great deal of overkill if like me you enthusiastically previously purchased the recent deluxe versions of their Immediate era LP's. Disc one(Worldwide A's B's and EP's") is entirely mono mixes said  tracks, nothing new here, move along.  Disc two ("The Small Faces In The Studio:Olympic, IBC and Trident Sessions") is best described as a "Beatles Anthology" style collection of fans only minutia: backing tracks, false starts, studio chatter, alternate mixes of unfinished tracks all in stereo or mono. A cursory glance of unheard of titles like "Wit Art Yer", "Doolally", "Shades Of Green", "Anything" and "Saide Mamoon" had me hoping for new and unheard of tunes but these are merely original working titles of tracks we all have heard before. Disc three ("The Small Faces In The Studio:Olympic, IBC and Trident Sessions-Part 2") features more of the same with new titles like "This Feeling Of Spring", "Jack" "Fred", "Kolomodelomo" and "Jenny's Song" to "old" songs, in similar forms as described as above.  However we are treated to one new to our ears number: "Mind The Doors Please". Sadly it's a meandering 5 minute 4 second jam between Ronnie and Kenny that's as equally ponderous and disposable as Syd Barrett's famed 20 minute 14 second jam "Rhamadan". Disc four ("Out-Take And In-Concert") offers alternate mixes of finished tracks and the 5 song live set from a November 18, 1968 gig at Newcastle City Hall. The later is remastered at it's correct speed and has the dubbed on in the studio screams removed (though the gig's actual screams and fuzzy instrumentation/vocal's low in the mix quality is still present).  That said I enjoyed disc two and three because it's damned fascinating to hear songs like (for example) "Green Circles", "I Can't Make It" or "Donkey Rides A Penny A Glass" in almost stillborn form on their way to becoming the tunes we now know and love, warts and all (example Steve stopping the recording and telling Kenny how the drums should come in on "Things Are Going To Get Better" or Steve instructing Mac to go up an octave on what would become "Tin Soldier" and shouting to tape op George Chkiantz in an Irish accent). Granted these may seem mundane to someone who owns a Small Faces album or two but for those of us who  would be classified as "the serious fan" it's something of a second coming.  But there's loads of other goodies that justify the $154.00 Amazon.com charged me (WAY cheaper from my original UK pre-order from Charly for well past $200, which I luckily cancelled thanks to my good pal Johnny Bluesman who's eagle eye spotted this more affordable pre-order from Amazon.com)

The box.
Enclosed in a large 12" X 12" box are a hardbound book with loads of color and black and white photographs telling not only the band's story on Immediate (and as mentioned above how the master tapes were located) but a blow by blow description of the music contained on the four CD's housed within it's flaps (virtually everything the band recorded while with Immediate), an essay on their photographs by Gered Mankowitz and several pages of tribute quotes by a host of rock n' rollers on their favorite band (from members of Kiss to Pink Floyd to local boys The Smithereen's drummer Dennis Diken). There are two facsimile 8 x 10 promo photos, a mock up of an Immediate press kit for the band, two posters (one replicating the "Tin Soldier" picture sleeve the other for a gig at Newcastle City Hall with PP Arnold, The Nice, Gary Walker & The Rain etc), a book of the lyrics for all of their Immediate era songs with photos and five postcards (1 band pic and an individual one of each member) and most interestingly of all a numbered certificate of authenticity actually signed by Kenny Jones and Ian McLagan. But it does not end there kids.  There are but four 7" records within as well: a mock up one sided acetate of "Mystery" (an interesting alternate mix of "Something I Want To Tell You" from a projected but scraped 45 idea), a repro of their Album Sampler (a one sided 7" of various tracks from their untitled 1st Immediate LP strung together by a voiceover DJ Tommy Vance on red vinyl), a repro of their French "Here Come the Nice" E.P. (white vinyl) and a repro of their French "Itchycoo Park" E.P. (on blue vinyl). All of which sound amazing!

There are but four 7 inches...
Like me by now you've no doubt soured on shelling out any more dough on The Small Faces catalog but if you're a fan like me then you've more than likely got this already. Sadly it appears as though it's already in the process of vanishing as Amazon has it listed as only available "New and used from these sellers" starting at $250.00. He who hesitates....

Ronnie and Steve performing "Itchycoo Park" on TV Autumn '67 not yet shedding their mod togs.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: The Fortunes

THE FORTUNES-The Idol/His Smile Was Just A Lie U.S. United Artists UA 50211 1967

The Fortunes, a U.K. 5 piece best known for their tight harmonies, were at the time of this 45's September 1967 release (their 5th in the States) one hit wonders. They had previously hit pay dirt with "You've Got Your Troubles" which had clocked in at #7 in the U.S. top 10 in August 1965. They were far bigger in the U.K. where they were, for a time, frequent visitors to the charts, though by 1967 those days were on the wane.

"The Idol" was their 11th single in the U.K. and their first on United Artists after leaving Decca. Released in the U.K. in August 1967 (United Artists UP 1188) it was also their first 45 on United Artists (after a a 4 single run of Decca material on the Press label). Produced by Glyn Johns it marked a decidedly different approach, sure their trademark harmony vocals were still there but the musical backing was suddenly "contemporary".  There are faint slices of Mellotron, a swooping Macca '66/'67 style baseline, some fuzz guitar and best of all some cynical lyrics about the pop star game:

"Mine is the story of the record star.  The world at my feet but I've come too far. Thanks to the riches that have come my way I can walk up into cupboards I can swim down at my pool, I can throw expensive parties, yes afford to be a fool. There are girls round every corner but they only want to be just a partner for a short time to the idol that is me..."

It's sadly underrated and definitely overlooked with some great hooks. As the number winds down there's a hint of psychedelia as it slows down to just some deep "ahhh"'s and Melloton bits beneath some slow acoustic guitar almost akin to The Pink Floyd's "Scarecrow".

"His Smile Was Just A Lie" is a jaunty cheeky mid 60's pop number with some thoroughly Moody Blues influenced high backing vocals with more Mellotron (even more prevalent than the A-side) further cementing the Moodie's comparisons.

Groovy Italian P.S. c/o 45cat.com

Sadly the single made zero impact on either side of the Atlantic which is more the pity as it's an incredible little record.  United Artists in the U.S. next Fortunes release was a U.S. only stab at The Move's "Fire Brigade" (UA 50280) in February 1968 (more on that soon kids), which like it's predecessor, did nothing. You can catch a gander of that over at my pal Larry Grogan's blog "Iron Leg". By a fluke they would materialize in the U.S. charts again in April 1971 with "Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again" (at #15) (Capitol 3086).

"The Idol" has cropped up on a number of U.K. Fortunes "Best Of.." CD's, though I haven't seen the flipside on anything else.

I'd hoped to include the great clip of the band performing "The Idol" (or lip syncing anyway) on "Beat Club" but alas it's been hauled down.

Hear "The Idol":


Hear "His Smile Was Just A Lie":


Monday, February 3, 2014

Shoe-less In America Part One: Sandie Shaw

SANDIE SHAW-(There's) Always Something There To Remind Me/Don't You Know U.S. Reprise 0320 1964

Dangenham, Eseex's most famous Ford factory worker Sandie Shaw (real name Sandra Goodrich) was launched on America in November 1964 with her second British single, "There's Always Something There To Remind Me" (U.K. release Pye 7N 15704 two months earlier) a good two decades before it was bludgeoned to death with synths by Naked Eyes on America radio every five seconds in the 80's. It's nothing on the Lou Johnson version which this pretty much attempts to replicate right down to the tandem horns and backing female vocals (a fact I was not aware of this until the mid 90's when I read an interview in a fanzine with an original 60's British mod who slagged off his girlfriend back then for liking this and topping her up by playing her the Lou Johnson 45) .

Sandie Shaw will always be a double edged sword for me.  There are times where her voice catches me in the wrong way and sounds like she's shrieking and others where I'm more interested in the arrangements/production . Regardless I will always have a place in my heart for this song, it was the first track I'd ever heard by her on this ultra dodgy PRT records double LP in the mid 80's called "Purple Hearts From Pastures Gone" when I was pretty much into anything made in the U.K. in the mid 60's and okay though as indicated earlier it's not a patch on the Lou Johnson version it's still enjoyable. The B-side "Don't You Know" has all the production trappings of a mid 60's Dionne Warwick/Burt Bacharach record, but it does absolutely zip for me as it's utterly unmemorable.

For foot fetishists only.  One of my fave Sandie Shaw pics.

Sandie's 60's material is pretty much everywhere as Castle communications throws her catalog (along with that of The Kinks, Searchers, Foundations and Bowie's three Pye 45's) at anything in the hopes that it will stick to it. I've been long served by the two CD compilation "The '64-'67 Complete Sandie Shaw" for the better part of two decades now.


 Hear "Don't You Know":


Eye candy from a 60's Dutch teen magazine, anorexia!