Friday, April 28, 2017

April's Picks

1. THE JIVE FIVE featuring Eugene Pitt-"What Time Is It"
One of my all time favorite doo-wop/vocal r&b tracks is this 1962 single by this Brooklyn quartet. It's an obscure single as it did not make the r&b charts and died at a miserable #67 in the pop charts but its harmonies are incredible and the lyrics perfectly encapsulate teenage nerves!

2. PAUL & BARRY RYAN-"Madrigal"
The final Ryan brothers single of the 60's was "Pictures OF Today". It's flip was "Madrigal", which brings to mind the toy town psych period Hollies mixed with all of the usual trappings of a late 60's British pop record.

3. KEITH MOON-"Do Me Good"
Recorded for the shit storm that was Moon the Loon's one and only LP "Two Sides Of Moon", "Do Me Good" is actually a good piece of mid 70's pop which doesn't explain why it was inexplicably left off the LP!! Below in the YouTube link is a bit shot for Tony Palmer's "All You Need Is Love" series of Keith still looking youthful and cheeky recording the track.

4. THE BEE GEES-"Deeply, Deeply Me"
A leftover from the sessions for their 1968 album "Horizontal" , "Deeply Deeply Me" is probably the most way out thing the Gibb Brothers ever did.  With it's muezzin like vocals, freaky guitars (that at moments sound rather like Robbie Krieger's licks on "The End") and general weirdness it's a bit over the top at times but still interesting when rubbing shoulders with "Massachusetts".

5. JON HENDRICKS-"Watermelon Man (Live)"
Jon Hendrick's vocal take on the Herbie Hancock penned instrumental from his 1965 album "Recorded In Person At The Trident" is probably my favorite version of the track due in no small part to his exuberance , have a listen and prove me wrong.

6. DAVID AXELROD-"Merlin's Prophecy"

I dropped the ball on paying tribute to the great David Axelrod, so this track from his monster 1968 long player "Song Of Innocence" will have to suffice. The excellent fusing of harpsichord and strings with jazzy drums might sound like confusion in my description but it's pure magic like the rest of the album.

7. EDDIE HOLLAND-"Candy To Me"
Eddie Holland of course is known to all and sundry for his Motown records monster "Leaving Here" . "Candy To Me" was his tenth and final side for for the label and though not as powerful as "Leaving Here" it has a marvin Gaye-like quality in it's delivery that makes it worth seeking out.

8. JACQUES DUTRONC-"Le Rois De La Reforme"
You can't go wrong with a bit of Jacques Dutronc, especially this moody slow burner from  his untitled second LP issued in 1968.

9. THE KOOBAS-"Mr. Claire"
I'd long overlooked this track from Liverpool's Kooba's 1969 untitled long player until recently. I'd always brushed it off and only now just released how amazing it is with jazzy little flourishes interspersed with driving bass, swatches of Mellotron  and lead singer Stu Leathwood's almost campy vocals as he sings about an office romance separated by a Far East transfer.

10. PETE TOWNSHEND-"Stardom In Acton"
I'm not sure how but upon it's release I got Pete's 1982 LP "All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes" and really dug it, more so than any Who record around since the 60's.  "Stardom In Acton" is an angst fueled ditty full of witticism and cynicism delightfully wrapped up in 100 mph delivery and Townshend's sartorial eloquence.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

More U.K. Tracks On U.S. Labels: The Swinging Blue Jeans 2

THE SWINGING BLUE JEANS-Don't Make Me Over/What Can I Do Today US Imperial 66154 1966

This Swinging Blue Jeans January 1966 single was their very last U.K. chart placing , reaching #31 (His Masters Voice POP 1501). It was issued in the United States a month later but failed to chart.

"Don't Make Me Over", a Burt Bacharach/Hal David composition, was Dionne Warwick's first U.S. hit (#21 in 1962, it did not chart in the U.K.). The Blue Jeans interpretation utilizes a beat/ballad delivery with some subtle strings (orchestration by Harry Robinson). It's mildly appealing, but nothing that warrants repeated plays.

The real gem is the flip side, "What Can I Do Today".  Starting with some 12 string guitar playing a lick that's extremely reminiscent of The Animal's reading of "It's My Life", it's one of the band's strongest tracks with some great harmonies and a jangly "folk rock" feel to it.

Incidentally guitarist Ralph Ellis left after the single's release and was replaced by ex-Escort and future Hollie Terry Sylvester.

Both sides have been compiled on several Swinging Blue Jeans compilations, the best being the British "At Abbey Road" CD and the American "Hippy Hippy Shake: Definitive Collection" disc.

Hear "Don't Make Me Over":

Hear "What Can I Do Today":

Monday, April 10, 2017

Cream's Debut!

CREAM-Wrapping Paper/Cat's Squirrel UK Reaction 591007 1966

Cream have been touted as the first "power trio" (not true) and the first "supergroup" (possibly true). Cream was formed when former Graham Bond Organization drummer extraordinaire Ginger Baker approached blues aficionado/ guitar hero Eric Clapton who was then playing with John Mayall's Bluebreakers. Clapton agreed but on the condition that they add Baker's former Graham Bond Organization band mate, bassist Jack Bruce who was at that time playing in Manfred Mann. The move was interesting because Baker had sacked Bruce from the G.B.O. and as legend has it threatened him at knife point when he failed to get the message.

Seeing as there was an intense blues/r&b pedigree within all three members musical preference and CV it was rather astonishing that their debut 45 (issued in October 1966 on Robert Stigwood's new Reaction label) was not even remotely bluesy.

British TV debut "Ready Steady Go!" November 4, 1966

"Wrapping Paper", penned by Jack Bruce and Pete Brown, would have been better suited for the M.O.R. pop filed of The Merseys or the Mike D'Abo Manfred's not Britain's first power blues trio!  That said it's not a terrible number, just not remotely what the music scene expected.  To me it's always a perfect book end to Manfred Mann's reading of Randy Newman's "So Long Dad" or The Alan Price Set's "The House That Jack Built".

 The "real" Cream comes through on the B-side, "Cat's Squirrel", a traditional blues jam where each member gets to show their chops with Bruce blowing some wild harp while Clapton does his "God" thing on his Les Paul and Baker's driving drums bring it all down. Strangely the version on this U.K. 45 is an entirely different take than the album version and is far superior in my book.

"Wrapping Paper" was been issued on the deluxe version of their debut album "Fresh Cream", but the version of "Cat's Squirrel" has yet to surface anywhere to my knowledge.

Hear "Cat's Squirrel":

Thursday, April 6, 2017

More U.K. Tracks On U.S. Labels: The Swinging Blue Jeans

THE SWINGING BLUE JEANS-Tremblin'/Something's Coming Along US Imperial 66255 1967

The Swinging Blue Jeans American label, Imperial, continued to plug the band despite them only having one hit in the States ("Hippy Hippy Shake" which reached #24 in 1964). Though they did not issue all of the bands British 45's here by 1967 they had issued seven 45's and one LP.  Today's specimen was their 8th and final U.S. release (compare with 12 U.K. 45's, 2 E.P.'s and one LP!). It was issued in the U.S. in September 1967 and was previously issued in June of '67 in the U.K. (His Master's Voice POP 1596).

I've chosen to flip the 45 because I prefer the B-side "Something's Coming Along" to the top side "Tremblin". "Something's Coming Along" is a perfect pop smash full of sunshiney vocals, subtle brass, minor key piano hammering away and all the trappings of a cheery little innocuous ditty. It's technically a "solo" 45 by lead singer Ray Ennis as none of the band play on it.  Backing vocals are provided by the crack team behind many Dusty Springfield sessions: Lesley Duncan, Kiki Dee and Madeline Bell.

"Tremblin'", written by the American song writing team of Arthur Resnik, Joey Levine and Kris Resnik follows the same production technique of "Something's Coming Along" but the song itself is schlock garbage no matter how much fairy dust you sprinkle on it. It was previously cut by Gene Pitney, which explains why its an indistinguishable piece of trite pop trash.

Both sides have been compiled on sevderal Swinging Blue Jeans compilations, the best being the British "At Abbey Road" CD and the American "Hippt Hippy Shake: Definitive Collection".

Hear "Something's Coming Along":

Hear "Tremblin'":

Monday, April 3, 2017

More U.K. Tracks On U.S. Labels: The Scaffold

THE SCAFFOLD-Thank U Very Much/Id B The First US Bell 701 1968

The Scaffold will always best best known as the band that featured Paul McCartney's younger brother Mike (under the alias of "Mike McGear").  They also featured poet Roger McGough OBE and John Gorman.   "Thank You Very Much" was the band's debut American release (issued in January 1968, it was previously issued in the U.K. in November of '67 as Parlophone R 5643 where it reached #4 in the charts). It was also the favorite of the Queen Mum!

"Thank You Very Much" is a catchy, cheeky chappie type number penned by Mike McCartney.  It's all round jollity and sing along style is not too far from "Yellow Submarine" or the Small Faces "Lazy Sunday". That said it's English to it's very core and there's something incredibly addictive to it's main chorus.

Messrs McGough, McGear and Gorman: The Scaffold

"Ide B The First" follows it's A side's whimsical nature with it's delivery but there's some very Bonzo Dog Ban-esque bits about it too with it's satirical lyrics and general musical tomfoolery backed by some regal brass. Not their strongest track by a mile, but still worth a listen.

"Thank U Very Much" failed to replicate it's U.K. chart success in the States but that didn't deter Bell records from issuing an LP in 1968 titled after the non-hit (Bell 6018).

Strangely though "Thank U Very Much" appears on two now out of print Scaffold CD compilations ("Scaffold At Abbey Road 1966-1971" and "Thank U Very Much: The Very Best Of Scaffold") "Id B The First" does not seem to have been compiled anywhere on CD.

Hear "Thank U Very Much":

Hear "Id B The First":

Saturday, April 1, 2017

March's Picks

1. THE CAVEDOGS-"Tayter Country"
I missed Boston's Rickenbacker slinging power trio The Cavedogs when they blew through the area in 1990/1991 due to my participation in Operation Desert Shield/Storm but by all accounts they were pretty powerful.  This opening track from their sole LP "Joy Rides For Shut Ins" reminds me musically of the Jam but the detached sounding vocals are pure early 90's.

2. GENERATION X-"Ready Steady Go"
Billy Idol and Co.'s 1978 paen to the cutting edge 60's British TV series must have raised some eyebrows among the year zero punk rock cosignetti but it's a gas regardless of the topic from it's "My Generation" stutter ("I'm not in love with Tttttwiggy" ) to citing it's heroes (The Beatles, The Stones The Who etc) it's a far cry from The Clash's assertion of "no Elvis, Beatles or the Rolling Stones" in "1977".

3. GEORGE BENSON-"Ain't That Peculiar"
From his 1964 album "It's Uptown (aka "The Most Exciting New Jazz Guitarist On The Scene Today"), former Brother Jack McDuff sideman cuts an uptown, funky instrumental version of Marvin Gaye's "Ain't That Peculiar" aided in no small part by Lonnie Smith on organ and his own virtuoso guitar licks.

One of my favorite tracks from their second album "Winter Harvest" is this merry little number that was also released as a single in their native Netherlands. It has some great pop hooks, soulful vocals and a wiggy little organ solo.

5. THE YARDBIRDS-"Respectable"
From their legendary debut album "Five Live Yardbirds" recorded live at the Marquee club in March 1964, the band turn the Isley's "Respectable" into an all out party that cheekily uses a ska rhythm to burst into Eric "Monty" Morris "Humpty Dumpty" mid rave. Listen for lead singer Keith Relf's nonsensical improv when he doesn't know the words for the same verse not once but twice.

6. DESMOND DEKKER-"This Woman"
This uptempo Island ska 45 from 1965 bears a slight resemblance to Alton Ellis "Dance Crasher" but with some call and response vocals thrown in and the pace quickened it's a still a killer!

7.LOWELL FULSOM-"The Letter"
Though it dates from 1968 don't let the release date fool you, this uptempo blusey stormer about a lovesick G.I. away in Vietnam is a kick ass little burner worth checking out.

8. THE LARKS-"Mickey's East Coast Jerk"
Borrowing more than a little from The Ad-Lib's "Boy From New York City" and "High Heel Sneakers" this kick ass 45 on the small Money label is a solid piece of dance floor action and probably my favorite track by The Larks.  The flip "Soul Jerk", is equally cool.

9. THE UNLUV'D-"Ain't Gonna Do You No Harm"
For the past three decades I've wondered who the hell this band were and I'm still no closer to knowing anything about them.  It's a great soul track with some super horns and organ and a catchy guitar lick.

10. THE JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE-"The Burning of The Midnight Lamp"
The fourth single by the J.H.E. took a slight detour from the usual "heavy" guitar sounds and was propelled by some murky wah-wah and a very baroque harpsichord that turn it into a sort of wonderful psychedelic dirge.