Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Great Obscure U.K. 60's R&B Sides: Chris Farlowe is Little Joe Cook

LITTLE JOE COOK-Stormy Monday Blues Part One/Stormy Monday Blues Part Two U.K. Sue WI385 1965

One of my fave U.K. mid 60's r&b singles is this U.K. only 45 of Billy Eckstine's famous "Stormy Monday" (edited to span both sides of a 45) by Chris Farlowe and Thunderbirds and released under the pseudonym of "Little Joe Cook" as C.F. and the boys were signed to Columbia and this 45 was recorded for Island and issued on U.K. mod/r&b D.J. supremo Guy Steven's (U.K.) Sue label. How he got away with it and wasn't dropped by Columbia is beyond me, BUT within three month's of this singles release (August 1965) he was on Immediate records so who knows as he'd already landed himself in hot water with his last Columbia single June 1965's "Buzz With The Fuzz" (Columbia DB 7614), but that, as they say, is a story for another day!

In my estimation it's one of Chris Farlowe's greatest vocal efforts.  I dig Chris Farlowe a lot but I will admit that there are a great deal of times (especially on his Immediate records stuff) where he sings material that's not really in his vocal range. This is NOT one of those times. His voice is perfect and Albert Lee's bluesy (and jazzy as there's a Wes Montgomery feel to it as well) solo rates in my estimation as one of the finest put down on any 60's British r&b 45! The whole track is jut perfect, it's somber without being morose and perfectly atmospheric like a rainy but beautiful day.

Chris Farlowe & The Thunderbirds 1964

Around 10 years ago when P.B.S. aired Martin Scorsese's documentary series "The Blues" there was a segment devoted to Blues in Britain called "Red White & Blue". Among the many delights it featured Chris Farlowe and guitarist Albert Lee discussing the tune and luckily it's on YouTube and it beats anything else I can tell you about it :

 RPM's Chris Farlowe and the Thunderbirds CD from their '62-'65 period "Dig The Buzz" collected both sides of this single while the CD soundtrack to the above "Martin  Scorsese Presents Red White And Blues" features a full length version which is quite nice to have (though you can hear where it's been spliced together when he sings "Sunday is my day of rest rest...")!

Hear "Stormy Monday" in it's entirety:

Sunday, April 27, 2014

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: Locomotive

THE LOCOMOTIVE-Mr. Armageddan/There's Got To Be A Way U.S. Bell 778 1969

We discussed Locomotives's previous 45 ska/rocksteady favored "Rudi's In Love" in an earlier entry. Today's topic was their third U.K. 45 (January 1969 Parlophone R 5758) but only their second U.S. 45  with Bell records electing not to issue their debut U.K. 45, a coupling of "Broken Heart" b/w a cover of Dandy Livingstone's ska/rocksteady classic "Rudy-A Message To You" (Direction 58-3114 December 1967). It was issued on these shores in April 1969 with little or no fanfare where it promptly sank without a trace.

By the time of this single the ska/rocksteady sounds gave way to a heavier proto-prog sound with some interesting results. The interestingly spelled "Mr. Armageddan" was written by band leader Norman Haines and was the cornerstone of their sole LP "We Are Everything You See". It's an organ driven over the top number starting off with some shimmering strings before degenerating into a phased organ orgy of sound with some near maniacal wailing from Haines (he was also the band's keyboardist) behind a steady melodic bass line.  The number changes tempo multiple times bringing an interesting cacophony of horns playing a bombastic melody amid descending lines and layers of thundering drums and some very Caravan meets Deep Purple style organ.

"There's Got To Be A Way" is less freaky, driven by a less chaotic melodic horn section with some soulful, more restrained lead vocals. The horn work shows the band's soul/jazz experience and ads to the versatility in my book. It's at odds with the A-side but maybe that's a good thing?

Both sides are available on the deluxe CD reissue of  their 1970 LP "We Are Everything You See" (including a Mono mix of the A-side).

Hear "Mr. Armageddan":

Thursday, April 24, 2014

April's Picks

1. WILLIE MABON-"I'm The Fixer"
I've always dug Willie Mabon ever since a friend turned me onto him many years back.  This is my fave, it's bluesy but almost jazzy in his laid back vocal style.'

2. THE DIRECT HITS-"I Start Counting"
There's a Direct Hits CD retrospective out now ("Here There Or Anywhere: 23 Mod Pop Classics 1982-1986") that made me think of their 1986 (or was it 1985?) LP "House Of Secrets" and I dusted it off and this cheeky, poppy number with a 60's slant still had the same impact all these years later!
"Every time I meet a girl it doesn't take long before she's trying to change me and you're no different from the rest as you try to re-arrange me.."

3. THE HEARD-"Stop It Baby"
Somewhere between The Kinks and The Pretty Things take of J.J. Jackson's "Come See Me" comes this snotty, quintessential 1966 U.S. garage punk gem unearthed on "Pebbles Vol.7".

4. THE MOODY BLUES-"King And Queen"
It's hard to believe this '68 Moodies number sat on ice till issued on an LP "Caught Live + 5" in 1977.  It's got everything you'd expect '68 Moody Blues stuff to have: symphonic Mellotron, high backing vocals and a dreamy, almost trippy stillness to it.

5. JIGSAW-"No Questions Asked"
As always I've posted a YouTube link so you can have a listen to this U.K. band's 1971 B-side and tell me it doesn't sound '67-'68! Power-pop meets freakbeat genuis!! Cheers to my pal Mike Sin for hipping me to this via the CD comp "Mr. Toytown Presents...Volume 3".

6. ALAN HAWKSHAW-"Blue Note"
This cool Hammond B-3 groover from 1973 has a bit a muzak edge to it (and damned if the melody doesn't sound like the godawful Spandau Ballet number "True" at one point) but it's a cheezy little bit of easy that finally grew on me after having the "Mo' Hawk" CD comp for eons.

7. MAKIN' TIME-"No Wind No Rain"
From Makin' Time's 2nd and final ballsy LP "No Lumps Of Fat Or Gristle Guaranteed" this number owes a great deal to The Prisoners (who in turn seemed to be sounding more like Makin' Time on their final album "In From The Cold") and is a powerful bit of adrenaline.

8. THE RICH KIDS-"Ghosts Of Prince In Towers"
Pre-Ultravox Midge Ure joins ex-Pistol Glen Matlock in the short lived but brilliant band the Rich Kids, okay maybe they were as groundbreaking as The Sex Pistols but they still had power and originality in my book. And as this clip from Peter cook's "Revolver" TV shows they could play too....

Probably one of my fave Jackie Edwards tunes, this soulful ballad is in no small part aided by some stellar horn work that sounds straight off a Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames record.

10. JOE JONES-"California Sun"
The original version of the Riveria's hit was originally cut by Mr. Joe Jones (best known for his hit "You Talk To Much").  The Riveria's retained the stomping beat but eschewed Jone's boogie woogie meets r&b groove, their loss.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Moody Blues Mark One: In America Part Two

THE MOODY BLUES-Stop/Bye Bye Bird U.S. London 9810 1966

The Moody Blues "Stop" was their fourth U.S. 45 released in January 1966.  It was not issued in the U.K., though a version of "Stop", the A-side (a Denny Laine/Mike Pinder original) was decently covered in the U.K. by Julie Grant as her final Pye U.K. 45 (Pye 7N 15937 in September 1965).

"Stop" is a perfect illustration of how the band segued from r&b into poppier records that were still r&b oriented. Laine's vocals are soulful and the intricate/descending riff's are catchy with some precision guided backing vocals from Ray Thomas and Mike Pinder . It's one of my fave Moody Blues mark one era 45's.  It's written from the point of a guy who's been overtaken by another man of higher stature ("so you talk better than me and you know you know it and you want to get her from me and you know you know it...").  Sonny Boy Williamson's "Bye Bye Bird" brings up the B-side.  I've never been a fan of the tune and this effort is no exception unfortunately.  There's nothing wrong with the execution of the track it's just not a favorite.

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 "Stop":

"Bye Bye Bird" filmed live in London 1966 for German TV's "Beat Club" featuring short lived bassist Rod Clark who filled in for Clint Warwick. Denny Laine would split shortly as well.


More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: The Spencer Davis Group Mk. II

THE SPENCER DAVIS GROUP-Looking Back/After Tea U.S. United Artists UA 250286 1968

It took me quite a long time to get my head around The Spencer Davis Group MK.II.  I call them "MK.II" as original line up member Stevie Windwood packed up and started Traffic and his brother Muff moved into A&R with Island records.  Their replacements were former A Wild Uncertainty organist Eddie Hardin and one time Fleur De Ly's guitarist Phil Sawyer. I'd always found them a bit musically schizophrenic, one minute they'd be r&b the next they were dabbling in kaftan and beads psychedelia.  I'm still not sure which of these genres I prefer by them but I like them both, just quite distinctly played separate of each other!!

Today's 45 in question firmly divides both camp.  It was their 2nd U.S. 45 as the new and improved S.D.G. (the first was "Time Seller" b/w "Don't Want You No More" United Artists UA 50202 August 1967). Side A is a cover of Johnny "Guitar" Watson's "Looking Back" (oddly credited to band members Davis and Sawyer!) with the quirky pop-sike of "After Tea" on the flip. It was not issued in the U.K. in this form, "Looking Back" was issued on an promo only one sided 45 shared with Traffic who did "Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush" to promote the film of the same name and with snippets of introductions by D.J. Tony Blackburn back in the U.K. (United Artists  PSRS 314 1968). It was however the A-side in a few European countries.   "After Tea" was a British A-side (United Artists UP 2213 April 1968). The U.S. issue with "Looking Back" on the topside was issued in April 1968 but failed to chart.

"Looking Back" is driven by Eddie Hardin's swirling Hammond B-3 and Pete York's cowbell.  I'm not too swell on the lead vocals but the organ is so groovy it negates any reservations I may have about them!! There was, as I recall, lots of interest in this one in the late 90's at DJ nights with quite a few of my friends spinning it, I was always a bigger fan of the flip. 

"After Tea" is a full on 60's pop-sike number that first came to my attention via Bam Caruso's Rubble Vol. 2 (appropriately named) "Pop Sike Dreams".  The lyrics are ludicrously twee: "I'll take you to a place with mountains edged with lace, a place where we will find jelly beans and wine...", but the backing is incredible.  It's a delightful cacophony of piano, sitars (Dave Mason I presume), flutes and a Kinks-like sing along chorus.

Both sides were collected on a very comprehensive SDG Mk. II collection  called "Taking Time Out: Complete Recordings 1967-1969". 

Hear "Looking Back:

Hear "After Tea":

Monday, April 14, 2014

The V.I.P.'s

THE V.I.P.'s-Straight Down To The Bottom/Back Into My Life Again/Every Girl I See/ In A Dream France Fontana 460.996 ME 1967

The V.I.P.'s have been covered in an older post here. Today's item of interest is in my estimation one of the coolest French 60's E.P.'s ever issued because it's chock full of killer tunes and has this bad ass picture sleeve. "Straight Down To The Bottom" is one of their most sought after singles of all time (jack ass here had a one sided demo copy of it , guess where that went?). It was written by their new producer Jimmy Miller (previous 45's were produced by their label boss Chris Blackwell), who later went on to do some fantastic stuff with The Stones. "Back In To My Life Again" was composed by Miller with Jamaican singer/songwriter Jackie Edwards . It was also recorded by the Spencer Davis Group who recorded a slew of Edwards tunes like "Keep On Running" and "Somebody Help Me"(and Love Affair cut a smoking version as well during their brief period in '67 where they were signed to Decca that went unreleased until a few years ago that I came across on iTunes). "In A Dream" is a Jackie Edwards composition and was the B-side to the U.K. issue of "Straight Down To The Bottom" (Island  WIP 6005). "Every Girl I See" was composed by Willie Dixon and M.P. Murphy and recorded by Buddy Guy though I'm not sure who else did it.

"Straight Down To The Bottom" is my fave V.I.P's track hands down.  My demo copy and other versions I've heard always sounded warbly, especially the piano, like the tapes were under water. Most version's I've heard sounded the same way.  Anyone with an original 45 that sounds any better?  Regardless it's a non-stop gas, soulful lead vocals  over the top of a soulful bass groove with great call and response vocals and is easily one of the most infectious numbers British r&b has ever produced for the dance floor.  The backing vocals that repetitively chant "I can't sleep and I can't eat" over and over again stay in my brain on most days, highly infectious stuff. Their version of "Back Into My Life Again" easily dispenses the Spencer Davis Group version in my book owing to it's harder hitting edge and cool little guitar lick that comes in after the main chorus and has a great "party" atmosphere to it like The Quik's "Bert's Apple Crumble" or Island label mates Wynder K. Frog's reading of "I'm A Man".

"Every Girl I See" is proto-trippy with it's slashing cymbal and the almost raga feel to the lead vocals as they come wafting into your ears with some period congas and and some Steve Cropper style guitar licks bringing it on. It certainly deviates from the bluesy feel of Buddy Guy's version which is cool in my book as there's certainly enough carbon copy covers by U.K. bands in this era, and this ain't one of them! "In A Dream" is a slow number with a sort of waltz/swing to it but it's lead singer Mike Harrison's soulful vocals that really move this one along while some barroom style piano tinkles in the background, 12 string guitar and with some crashing drums that give it some guts.

All four tracks can be found on Repertoire Record's highly recommended 28 track CD compilation "The Complete V.I.P's" which if you're a fan of U.K. mid 60's soulful r&b like I am you need to get post haste.  Luckily it is still available through Amazon.

Hear "Straight Down To The Bottom":

Hear "Back Into My Life Again":

Hear "In A Dream":

Sunday, April 13, 2014

"The Dave Clark Five And Beyond" reviewed.

PBS TV is running a Dave Clark Five documentary as part of their "Great Performances" series called "The Dave Clark Five And Beyond", correction they're running a Dave Clark documentary because after watching it you will realize if you did not already know that there is no Dave Clark Five. The entire affair was produced and released by Dave Clark enterprises, nothing like masterminding your own documentary.  Sound horribly smug and full of self love?  Just a little, maybe a full truck load.  It begins with 20 minutes of celebrity accolades from all and sundry ranging from the odd to the unexpected/bizarre: Stevie Wonder, Sir Ian McKellan, Elton John, Dionne Warwick, Twiggy, Bruce Springsteen, Steve Van Zandt, Max Weinberg, Whoopi Goldberg, Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne, and even Sir Paul McCartney, who though popping up frequently amusingly never once really has anything to say about Dave Clark or The DC 5 musically.  My favorite is Gene Simmons from Kiss in full stage regalia, or as my wife put it: "Hold on I've gotta put on my make up and spiked breast plate to do this interview".  And of course there's Tom Hanks induction of the DC 5 into the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame which plods on at Oscar acceptance speech length. We're then treated to a dozen or so "original DC 5" fans who go on about them like their line up had Mingus, Lennon, Presley, Beethoven and Lead Belly all in one group. In the end you're wondering if anyone participating signed on for a check.

The whole documentary is the biggest piece of self promotion since Monty Burns had Senor Spielbergo make a film about his life for the Springfield Film Festival . We're told (by Clark) that he walked into EMI and came away with an independent producer's contract and the right's to all his own material.  No mean feat in the days when Sir Joseph Lockwood ruled with an inflexible hand, though we're not told how.  Lead singer/organist Mike Smith is on board for a bit and after watching this like me you'll no doubt reckon that the band should have been called The Mike Smith Five instead as it's his gravely/powerful voice we hear on all their hits. For ages rock cognoscenti have maintained that Clark did not drum on his records and that session man extraordinaire Bobbie Graham was indeed the man behind the "Tottenham sound". There's one cringing scene in color from '65 or '66 of Clark in the studio playing a drum solo that never once actually shows him hit the skins or cymbals other than some odd shots of someone's arms doing it, but never a full body shot. There's a long segment from the 60's of Clark wandering around his native Tottenham that culminates with him standing in the middle of the pitch at White Hart Lane while an almost psychedelic wash of Hotspur's fans chanting "Glad All Over" from the terraces blares forth for what seems like ages.  There's then the most awful version of "Glad All Over" you'll ever hear in a horrible slowed down contemporary fashion style with musical backing straight off a Whitney Houston record that looks like it was filmed for the Tottenham Council's tourist board (is there such a thing?).

There are some great moments though. There's the mod '66 brilliance of "Try Too Hard" from their answer to "Magical Mystery Tour"; 1967's U.K. TV special "Hold On" (proving that once again bassist Rick Huxley invented the Weller helmet hairdo) for instance (along with other killer tunes from the film like "I Need Love" and the "I Am The Walrus" knock off "Inside And Out" with Clark acting like he's in charge of the production). There's a raw version of "Nineteen Days" from a Royal Command Performance with sax player Dennis Payton on fuzz 12 string (oddly there are two clips meshed together, in which leads me to ask which was was the audio connected to?!). The band's 8mm home movies from NYC are cool to see of vintage '64-'65 New York complete with Broadway marquees and girls who magically appear on every corner in packs to chase their car for a block or so till the next gang takes over.

There's overkill of all their early "thumping" hits with every one in complete running length with Clark doing his wind up monkey pretend drum technique where he keeps his arms crossed in his lap never raises them to hit anything. Oddly Max Weinberg is on hand to rave about what a great drummer he was.  Whaaaaaat?! There's a zillion Ed Sullivan show "appearances" (my fave being "You Got What It Takes") and then Dean Martin being his usual douche bag self on "Hollywood Palace" again with his Rat Assed/Rat Pack long hair jokes and the DC 5 come on in their shop coats and fake "Catch Us If You Can".

There's a big fanfare about the above mentioned "Hold On!" and Clark's screen kiss with guest star (leading lady?) Lulu and Richard Chamberlain in a "Blow Up" spoof which tries too hard to disguise his sexuality.

After the first hour you can basically turn it off as it becomes a bit tedious with a bit too much time spent on Clark's "acting career" and his stage musical "Time". There's also loads of cringe worthy footage of Dave's rapidly arching eyebrows (Botox?). There is however some good "Ready Steady Go" footage, which Clark now owns after purchasing what remained and was not wiped in the 1970's.

You can watch it all on the PBS website for a limited time by going here.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Plugs For The Competition!

I read a lot of blogs and one of my faves has always been Monkey Picks from over across the pond run by Mark Raison. Mark and I were pen pals back in the mid 90's when we were two young Action enthusiasts doing D.I.Y fanzines.  Luckily Mark is still at it with his wonderful blog and last weekend he happened to be in Muswell Hill where who should he happen to interview but their favorite son Dave Davies at the Davie's brothers neighborhood pub, The Clissold Arms, which is still there.  You can catch the amazing conversation that ensued here.  And while you're at it have a peek at our gallery of Dave Davies Euro picture sleeves that some fool used to own and sold to pay off his massive debts from buying records and clothes.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Zoot Money's Last 60's R&B 45

ZOOT MONEY-Nick Knack/I Really Learnt How To Cry U.K. Columbia DB 8172 1967

This was arch ligger/looner and London Hammond n' horns legend Zoot Money's 9th U.K. 45 and his final one as Zoot Money's Big Roll Band (stock copies on show the label credits as "Zoot Money and The Big Roll Band" but my Demo copy just credits "Zoot Money") before they morphed into the psychedelic outfit Dantalian's Chariot (whom we profiled here).

"Nick Knack" was penned by the legendary song writing team of Tony Colton and Ray Smith (responsible for many compositions among them The Shotgun Express debut 45 and the flip of above mentioned Dantalian's Chariot single). The tune itself is a play on the "This Old Man" nursery rhyme. The  lyrics, about a man who drinks all night, never goes home and got "rolled and rolled and stoned", are perfectly suited to Zoot Money who's late night drinking antics were quite legendary in the 60's (he was name checked on it in Georgie Fame's live version of "Keep Your Big Mouth Shut" on the "Two Faces Of Fame" album and Brian Auger lionized him in "George Bruno Money" on his "Definitely What!" LP). The musical backing is standard '66 Big Roll Band with strong horns and bluesy guitar c/o a young Andy Somers (later Andy Summers of the Police) and is a pretty raucous, but entertaining affair.

Zoot Money in action late 1966

The flip "I Really Learnt How To Cry" (a Zoot Money/Andy Somers original) shows the band breaking new ground by deviating from their usual r&b based sound. Opening with an acoustic guitar and some subtle organ with the horns sliding in slickly during the chorus it sort of anticipates his 1968 solo LP "Transition". Strangely his voice starts to break towards the end and as the number the number fades out his voice suddenly feeds through a weird oscillating effect!

Both sides on on Repertoire's highly recommended and fully comprehensive CD compilation "Singles A's & B's".

Hear "I Really Learnt How To Cry":