Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Shadows And Reflections with Tandyn Almer and Larry Marks

Tandyn Almer
Tandyn Almer and Larry Mark's composition "Shadows And Reflections" is best known to most of our reader's for The Action's version which was released as their final single in June of 1967. What some people don't realize is that the track was cut by a small host of other acts with interesting differences.

It all begins with Twin Cities born wunderkid Tandyn Almer who at the age of 23 became instantly successful and wealthy when his tribute to cannabis indica "Along Comes Mary" by The Association shot to #7 in the US singles charts. Almer also co-wrote "The Message Of Our Love" with the band's producer Curt Boettcher on their debut LP "And Then...Along Comes The Association".  You would have expected him to become a frequent visitor to the hit parade after such a smash but alas he was never, unfortunately, to revisit the Top 40 again. Though denied further commercial success tracks by him appeared continuously on both sides of the Atlantic throughout 1966-1967. His next double entendre, "Alice Designs" (LSD get it?), came out in first in October '66 across the pond by a British act called The Sugarbeats on Polydor 56120 (it was later covered in the States the following year by Mr Lucky And The Gamblers as Panorama 52). At nearly the same time a US group called The Purple Gang (not to be confused with the UK act of "Granny Takes A Trip" fame) released a composition of his called "Bring Your On Self Down" (MGM K 13607) and a track of his called "Poor Old Organ Grinder" was issued by Billy Elder (Patheway 101) in '67. Californian ensemble The Garden Club which featured Mike Brewer and Tom Shipley (later to find fame as Brewer & Shipley) and the composer of The Association's blockbuster "Windy", Ruthann Friedman issued a composition Almer co-wrote with  John Walsh called "Little Girl Lost And Found" as A&M 848 in April 1967 (a British version was cut by Peter And The Wolves on MGM 1352 around the same time). Larry Marks was less prolific during this period with no tracks written by him being released until 1968!

In June 1967 two different versions of a track written by Almer and Marks called "Shadows And Reflections" appeared on both sides of the Atlantic by two different acts. The US release was by The Lownly Crowde on MGM, the UK version by The Action on Parlophone. There would be further versions of the track as well.......

THE LOWNLY CROWDE-"Shadows And Reflections" US MGM K 13740 1967
Though there is some debate on whether The Action heard this version before recording their interpretation. The timing is tight as both recordings were issued in June of 1967 (The Action's reading being issued on the 23rd, The Lownly Crowde version's released date is unknown). Regardless The Lownly Crowde reading is extremely similar in tempo and arrangement to The Action's.  What makes it very different is there are strings  and horns throughout the track and the vocals are shared by a chorus of male and female voices adding more of an M.O.R.  feel to it.  There's also a groovy flute that pops in at one point and a cello solo.  The flip side was an instrumental version of the track minus the vocals with horns pushed up further in the mix.

Vocal version:

Instrumental version:

THE ACTION-"Shadows And Reflections" UK Parlophone R 5610 1967
British mod/soul interpreters The Action were well into their path away from soul/r&b and veering towards American West Coast sounds when they issued this, which would sadly be their very last official release. Leading off with George Martin's baroque harpsichord this version is, in my estimation, the definitive one.  Lead singer Reg King's vocals carry the water on this one as do the band's backing vocalists and though the musical backing is rather sparse when compared with The Lownly Crowde (just guitar bass, drums and harpsichord here) it works in no small part due to their delivery. There's a horn solo where the backing vocals are showcased before drummer Roger Powell thunders in to announce the return of the lead vocals.

EDDIE HODGES-"Shadows And Reflexions" US Sunburst 773 1967
The third version of "Shadows..." was cut by former child actor turned musician Eddie Hodges. Curiously this arrangement seems to contain elements of both The Lownly Crowde AND Action readings.  Propelled by piano, soaring Beach Boys style backing vocals, and subtle brass and vibes it has a perfect California '67 sunshine pop feel to it. The solo is a mild keyboard with a spooky chorale intertwined. Hodges would later co author two tracks in 1968 with Tandyn Almer  for a single by The Paper Fortress "Butterfly High"/"Sleepy Hollow People" (VMC V719 March 1968).

Ignore the Byzantine Empire photo in the video, this is the Eddie Hodges version:

Scan courtesy of

THE BYZANTINE EMPIRE-"Shadows And Reflections" US Amy A-11,046 1968
University of Michigan act The Byzantine Empire cut three 45's for the Amy label, their final "You" issued as "Byzantine Empire" saw "Shadows.." released on the B-side. It's arrangement is far different than any of the previous versions. It starts with some woodwinds and is far harder hitting than any of the others having a pace that calls to mind The Kink's "Dead End Street".  The harmony vocals clearly are indebted to the vocal style of The Association (whom one could easily envision doing the track) and there's a groovy Farfisa playing the main riff throughout the track while the solo is handled by a flute.

THE JACKPOTS-"Shadows And reflections" Sweden LP track "Jack In The Box" Sonet SLP-68 1968
The Jackpots could best be described as Sweden's cross between The Four Seasons and The Association. Their version of "Shadows..." is probably the most heavily produced version of all of today's selections. The band utilize their excellent harmonies to great effect and the vocals going through a Leslie speaker on the chorus is a very cool touch!

MARC ALMOND-"Shadows And Reflections" UK LP track "Shadows And Reflections" BMG 538310851 2017
Former Soft Cell front man Marc Almond not only chose to cover our track but also made it the title of his 2017 LP/CD (where it nestles amog covers of tracks by Julie Driscoll, The Herd, Dusty Springfield etc). I stumbled upon it on Spotify recently and was pleasantly blown away! Musically it reminds me of something off of one of Andy Lewis' Acid Jazz albums and rather than try to recapture Reg King's soul Marc sings it in his own way and it really works because his delivery is slow, precise and very "English".

Sadly Almer's battles with ADHD and bipolar disorder kept him from writing a lot of the time and though he continued to do so on occasion, his spark never burned as bright as it did in '66-'67 when so many pop records bore the songwriting credit of "T. Almer".

Saturday, December 8, 2018

10 More Groovy (Or Not So Groovy) Small Faces Covers

Scan c/o

1. THE BIRDS (Australia)-"Rene" Australia 45 Clarion MCK-3474 1970
Two former member's of a late era line up of Ron Wood's band The Birds (and were also allegedly members of The Clockwork Oranges) relocated to Australia where through guile or outright chicanery they started a band there called The Birds who cut three singles for the Clarion label (all of which were covers). Their second 45 was a limp version of Marmalade's "I See The Rain" backed with this reading of "Rene" from "Ogden's Nut Gone Flake". It's not very interesting because it sounds like a drunken sing-along, in every sense of the word complete with someone playing spoons, kazoo (or is it a comb and paper), jars and vocals that sounds like one of those records a footie team made in the 60's. Sadly there's no version of YouTube so you'll have to take my word for it (I heard it on a CD EP of the bands three Clarion singles).

2. TONY JACKSON GROUP-"Understanding" Portugal E.P. Estudio EEP 50 013 1967
Ex-Searcher Tony Jackson cut this raw version of "Understanding" for a rare as hell 1967 Portuguese E.P. on the primarily fado label Estudio. I daresay there hasn't been such an amazing Small Faces cover out there as this one! Interestingly the band's Dennis Thompson had played with Steve Marriott in his first band The Frantics.

Scan c/o

3. RONNIE BIRD-"Hey Girl" French E.P. track Phillips 437.239 BE 1966
Gallic singer Ronnie Bird's weak French language version of the band's fourth single is fairly uninspired save the musical backing which at one point kicks into a Who inspired barrage of slashing guitar, thrashing drums and some Nicky Hopkin's style piano. Not the best but worth a listen.

4. TEDDY ROBIN & THE PLAYBOYS-"All Or Nothing" LP track Hong Kong "Not All Lies" Diamond SLP-1030 1967
Hong Kong's Teddy Robin & The Playboys included this competent note for note cover of the band's first #1 as a track on their debut LP. It's not at all un-listenable and reminds me of a lo-fi American garage pop reading.

5. TWICE AS MUCH-"Green Circles" UK LP track "That's All" Immediate IMCP 013 1968
Immediate record duo and in house songwriters David Skinner and Andrew Rose tackled the trippy 2nd LP Faces tune on their 2nd and final appropriately titled LP "That's All". Wrapped in beautiful orchestration it distances itself from the psychedelic whimsy of the original and transforms itself into a pop-psych masterpiece.

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6. PUSSYCAT-"Ce N'est Pas Une Vie (Sha La La La Lee)" French E.P track  RCA Victor 86.161 1966
Gallic ye-ye groover Pussy Cat cut this French language version of the band's third single on her first E.P. in 1966 alongside covers of tunes by The Moody Blues and The Swinging Blue Jeans. Not too shabby and certainly above Ronnie Bird's piece of merde cover of "Hey Girl".

7. THE BARRON KNIGHTS-"An Olympic Record (Track 1)" UK 45 Columbia DB 8485 1968
The U.K.'s comedy beat group The Barron Knight's took their usual knack for re-writing tracks for laughs by changing the lyrics to "Lazy Sunday" to a tune about the Olympics. It's only about a quarter of the song itself as their numbers are usually just medley's of a variety of pop standards of the day given new words, and this ones no different.

8. THE LITTER-"Whatcha Gonna Do About It" US LP track "Distortions" Warick 671 1967
Also cut by Florida's The Evil the same year (on Living Legend 108 and a few months later as Capitol 2038) Twin Cities, Minnesota garage legends The Litter included this raw reading of the SF's debut 45 on their album "Distortions".

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9. THE STILLROVEN-"Have You Ever Seen Me" US 45 August 102 1968
Minnesota's Stillroven were some of the United States most devoted Anglophiles and followed their 7 inch of a mondo obscure Simon Dupree and The Big Sound cover "Little Picture Playhouse" (August 101 in November 1967) with this track found on the SF's debut US LP "There Are But Four Small Faces". Vocally it's a bit weak as it's out of the lead singer's key but the backing is tight and the enthusiasm is 110%.

10. GEORGE MARTIN-"Itchycoo Park" UK LP track "British Maid" United Artists SULP 1196 1968
Alongside covers of tunes by The Beatles, Traffic and Procol Harum Sir George and his "orchestra" cut a cover of the Small Faces hit for his UK LP "British Maid" (titled "London By George" in the US). It's slightly muzaky but the surprising organ and regal woodwinds among the strings and horns add a "Swinging London" feel to the groovy kitsch going's on here. Unfortunately there's no video on YouTube.

Friday, November 30, 2018

November's Picks

1. DION & THE BELMONTS-"Berimbau"
A few issues back "Shindig" had a massive Action article in which band associate and music journalist Nick Jones mentioned this 45 as an inspiration to the band's first original A-side "Never Ever". I tracked it down and to my delight he was spot on!

2. FARON'S FLAMINGOS-"Let's Stomp"
Few songs describe "Merseybeat" to me in two minutes like this Liverpudlian tear down of Bobby Comstock's "Let's Stomp". To my ears not only does it surpass the original but it also shows the template for The Milkshakes twenty years later and Edinburgh's The Kaisers another decade after that.

3. THE THOUGHT-"Every Single Day"
Despite it's decidedly 80's production (and those awful drums!) this 1984 track by Holland's The Thought still has it's charm in a corner of my nostalgia, especially the ethereal backing vocals mid section.

First brought to my attention via a cover by UK 60's r&b'ers The Paramounts over three decades ago, this sedate '61 smoker from the King label  jumped out at me a few weeks back on a Johnny "Guitar" Watson LP comp on the legendary Charly R&B label, now to find the single!

5.  JOHNNY & LILY-"Suffering City"
This Huey P. Meaux produced cut from 1970 easily sounds like something from three or four years earlier, almost like an Ike & Tina number to my ears, regardless of what it sounds like it grew on me.

6. THE SPECIALS-"Rat Race"
Though the Jam and XTC seemed to rule the roost for social commentary on the British music scene in the late 70's/early 80's The Specials proved they were just as capable and it's best exemplified by this seething/scathing dig at the social pecking order.

7. THE ASSOCIATION-"You Hear Me Call Your Name"
100 mph drumming (probably Hal Blaine!?), buzzing twangy guitars and above all the celestial, soaring harmonies make this track from The Association's second album "Renaissance" one of the long player's strongest in my humble opinion and probably their grittiest before record company demands softened their sound.

8. THE WHO-"It's Not True"
For eons I always viewed this track from "My Generation" as filler of sorts, but the older I've grown I have come to accept it as proof positive that Pete Townshend was one of the most idiosyncratic composers of the beat boom. From it's offbeat lyrics to it's pop art Rickenbacker power chordings neatly nailed down by Nicky Hopkin's piano and Keith Moon's slapdash drumming it's become one of my favorites from the LP.

9. LAUREL AITKEN & UNITONE_"Rudi Got Married"
Imagine this, it's 1980 and Laurel Aitken, the godfather of ska cuts a 45 with The Ruts backing him (as The Unitone) on Secret Affair's label I-Spy! True story (though I can't be 100% about the Ruts/Unitone thing..), this 45 could easily have been an obscure 2-Tone 45 and it totally fits in the '79/'80 U.K. ska genre.

This 1964 Booker T cover owes a great deal to Georgie Fame and The Blue Flame's interpretation. Despite Byron Lee cutting a host of ska and calypso tunes this track owes nothing to either genre and is nothing short of moody, moddy funky r&b.

Monday, November 26, 2018


The Hollies songwriting team of Allan Clarke, Graham Nash and Tony Hicks (also known as "L. Ransford" on early release credits) began in earnest writing the odd LP and E.P. track and even an A-side once or twice  early in the career but it was not until 1966 that other artists began covering their material more frequently.  With a wealth of covers of their material it was difficult to pick just 10 so here goes..... Enjoy!

1. THE EVERLY BROTHERS-"Hard Hard Year" US LP track "Two Yanks In England" Warner Brothers WS 1646 1966
The Everly's reached out to the Hollies in 1966 for assistance in recording an LP that ultimately would feature 8 Hollies compositions among it's 12 tracks. All of them are stellar interpretations but this version is my fave of the lot with Phil and Don's beautiful vocals pierced by a screaming guitar solo.

2. WHAT FOR?-"So Lonely" US Rampage RR-1701 1966
Hollies covers in the US in the 60's are pretty far and few between so this one is definitely a curiosity. This December '66 version of "So Lonely" turns the somber, down trodden mood of the original into an upbeat/uptempo beat number that's actually enjoyable.

Scan c/o

3. THE LEE KINGS-"Coming From The Ground" Sweden RCA FAS 796 1967
Sweden's Lee Kings had a host of decent 45's (and an LP) behind them before going to England (like The Tages would later do) to cut a record.  "Coming From The Ground" was written and produced by Clarke and Nash (and their distinct backing vocals are clearly audible on the chorus).  It's an incredible track with a gritty solo, brilliant harmonies and above all was never recorded by the Hollies themselves.

4. MARY McCARTHY-"You Know He Did" UK CBS 2832 1967
A big thumbs up to Rob Bailey and N.U.T's gang for unearthing this powerful reading of one of the Hollie's earliest original compositions (which first saw light as a B-side in '65) and placing it on the first (and best in my opinion "Le Beat Bespoke" CD compilation). This version was a B-side of her debut 45 backed by a cool brass n' guitars mesh and a chirpy girl group sound with great harmonies!

5. THE TWILIGHTS-"What's Wrong With The Way I Live" Australia Columbia DO-4764 1967
Australia's Twilights included future Little River Band vocalist Glenn Shorrock and Tina Turner songwriter Terry Britten ("What's Love Got To Do With It" and "We Don't Need Another Hero").  But in the 60's they were tandem vocalists in a shit hot r&b/beat/mod group who took this note for note cover of a "For Certain Because" LP track into the Aussie charts in 1967. It's been stated that the Hollies wrote it for them but in an interview by an acquaintance with Graham Nash in the 90's Graham stated he'd never heard of The Twilights!

Scan c/o

6. NICKY JAMES-"Would You Believe" UK Philips BF 1635 1968
Nicky James was a Brummie associate of the Moody Blues who made a slew of beat and pop psych 45's in the 60's on various labels before singing to the Moodie's Threshold label in the 70's. This cut from the Hollie's LP "Butterfly" was an over the top affair with horns and strings owning more to Gene Pitney than pop psychedelia but still worth a listen.

7. THE YOUNG IDEA-"Peculiar Situation" UK Columbia DB 8132 1967
U.K. pop duo The Young Idea were akin to fellow British acts Twice As Much or Paul and Barry Ryan.  Their stab at this track from the Hollie's "For Certain Because" album did little to deviate from the original save adding strings (care of Arthur Greenslade) and female backing vocals to this ode to the joys of a platonic relationship.

8. PAUL & BARRY RYAN-"Fifi The Flea" UK LP track "Two Of A Kind" Decca LK 4878 1967
Twin brothers Paul & Barry had a go at Graham Nash's poignant ballad "Fifi The Flea" on their incredible debut album "Two Of A Kind" (that saw it sit among covers of tracks by The Yardbirds and The Pretty Things). It works thanks to the addition of somber harpsichord (that sounds both regal and baroque) in place of the original's bare bones acoustic guitar.

Scan c/o

9. DANA GILLESPIE-"Pay You Back With Interest" UK Pye 7N 17280 1967
Buxom U.K. female belter Dana Gillispie tackled this track from "For Certain Because" (and a single in the US for The Hollies!) as her third and final single for the Pye label. It works thanks to its slow burner build up and her phrasing. Compare with other U.K. versions by Paul & Barry Ryan (who did a hefty number of Hollies covers) and The Corsairs.

10. THE SEARCHERS-"Have You Ever Loved Somebody" UK Pye 7N 17170 1966
Along with Paul & Barry Ryan and The Everly's Liverpool's Searchers had a crack at this before The Hollie's version was to surface on the legendary dip into psychedelia "Evolution". Though not as raw as the Hollie's take it's still half decent, thanks in no small part to their vocals and the rough little guitar lick throughout and some kick ass drumming by Chris Curtis recent replacement, the Keith Moon influenced John Blunt.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Lynne Randell "That's A Hoe Down"

LYNNE RANDELL-That's A Hoe Down/I Need You Boy US Epic 5-10197 1967

British born, Australian raised Lynne Randell is best known for her  monster "Stranger In Your Arms", a track that was later hugely successful on the Northern soul scene. "Stranger..." was her American debut and today's subject was it's follow up issued in August 1967 (a cover by the Fleur De Ly's under the moniker of Shyster followed in the U.K. a month later on Polydor).

Written by Albert Hammond, "That's A Hoe Down" incorporates licks from several Monkees tunes  ("The Last Train To Clarksville" and "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You" along with "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'") at each of the breaks as she had recently accompanied them on a US tour that briefly also featured The Jimi Hendrix Experience. It's a complete 100% up tempo killer with lyrics describing an all night party/rave up.

The flip, "I Need You Boy", is dreadful pop pap crap from the pen of Artie and Kris Resnick. I've only ever listened to it once straight through.

A pensive Lynne with Peter Tork, 1967

Both tracks were collected by Raven records for their 1986 Lynne Randell anthology album "Ciao Baby". "That's A Hoe Down" appeared more recently on the 2015 RPM CD ludicrously titled collection "Come See Me....Dream Babes And Rock Chicks From Downunder".

Hear "That's A Hoe Down":

Hear "I Need You Boy":

Friday, November 9, 2018

Great Obscure U.K. 60's Sides: The Robb Storme Group

THE ROBB STORME GROUP-Here Today/But Cry UK Columbia DB 7993 1966

British vocalist Rob Storme recorded a host of singles in the UK starting way back in 1960 and sadly I can't tell you much about him.  Today's subject was only released under the moniker of "The Robb Storme Group" (previous issues were either solo billing or with backing by The Whispers).  This was also apparently his last.  I've little idea who he was or what became of him.

The A-side is a Beach Boys cover released at a time when Britain was in the throes of Beach Boys mania with a host of other Beach Boys tunes being issued at an astonishing rate in 1966 Britain (especially from "Pet Sounds" where this number originally appeared).  Brit harmony act The Factotum's issued their own reading a month prior (Piccadilly 7N 35333). The Rob Storme version is a tad faster than the original and is wrapped in powerful harmonies (eschewing the orchestration of the original and relying on more harmonies and an organ brought up in the mix). I was never really a fan of the track no matter who is doing it to be honest.

For me the money has always been the B-side, "But Cry". It's a poppy tune but there's a hard edge to it that when meshed with the superb harmonies and subtle keyboards in a wonderful mix. It was written by producer/arranger Will Malone later of The Orange Bicycle (who arranged both sides of the 45 actually).

The 45 was issued in an astounding number of countries including Canada, Germany, Sweden and the USA!

Swedish 45 c/o

"But Cry" was recently unearthed for the "Beatfreak 6" CD collection and both sides were also reissued on a slightly non-legit Japanese 45 reissue in 2002 replicating a German pressing.

Hear "Here Today":

Hear "But Cry":

Thursday, November 1, 2018

October's Picks

1. ED HARDEN-"The Game Of Love"
Ed Hardin (as he was known) must have been real pissed when Wayne Fontana and The Mindbenders did a note for note version of his interpretation of this Clint Ballard smash. The drum/bass intro on the original floors me every time! Unfortunately I can't find a clip on YouTube!

2. THE HOUSE OF NIMROD-"Slightly Delic"
New Zealand is not known for it's trippy 60's sounds but this 1967 single is an exception to the rule and worthy of any contemporary Anglo stuff from the genre.

Back when Billy Childish still rated and wasn't flogging his music to death he was capable of some brilliant stuff. This track from the Caesars "John Lennon's Corpse Revisited" LP sees Billy bemoaning the woman who's been screwing around behind his back to a rough and ready Troggs meet Sonics beat.

4. LEW COURTNEY-"The Man With The Cigar"
Made famous by Herman's Hermits on the flip of "A Must To Avoid", this is the original version cut by Lew Courtney (who became "Lou" on his next release) two years prior with a bombastic, orchestral backing worthy of a Walker Brothers record!

From the 1970 Skye/Buddha LP "Watch What Happens", this pairing between the grand dame of jazz and the most way out jazz guitarist surprisingly produces some stellar results. Most of the tunes on the album are Beatles covers, and this one is smoky and sultry.

6. THE CLIQUE-"Tortoise"
The Clique were a welcome breath to the mid 90's mod scene, in a world awash with Brit pop and manufactured "mod" boy bands The Clique flew their freak(beat) flag on the mast of a skillfully piloted ship careening straight for the rocks, but it was a ,lovely voyage wasn't it?!

7. GEORGE BRAITH-"Cantaloupe Woman"
This brilliant reading of "Cantaloupe Woman", originally a flip side of a 1966 Prestige 45 was unearthed on "The Further Adventures Of Mod Jazz" with an incredible mix of funky organ, wailing sax and gritty guitar licks.

8. PAUL WELLER-"Bitterness Rising"
I have a love/hate relationship with Weller.  Well hate is a wrong word, and it's not Weller I hate. What I hate is the lemming like blind adulation that seems to attach itself to him and everything he does. That said it makes it difficult to enjoy his music when everyone and their brother are claiming that the new album is the best one ever. For me I have always dug his solo debut. "Bitterness Rising" is one of it's hidden gems that falls somewhere between the music of Thunderclap Newman and the soulful voice of early 70's Marvin Gaye.

9. ERIC BURDON & THE ANIMALS-"Mama Told Me Not To Come"
Eons before Three Dog Night charted with this Randy Newman track Eric Burdon and the newly revamped Animals cut it in 1966 where it was originally intended as their Decca debut backing "Help Me Girl" but was inexplicably withdrawn at the 11th hour with "See See Rider" taking it's place. Pity because it really works, thanks in no small part to a horn section.

10. MEL TORME-"Games People Play"
In '69 the Velvet Fog took a crack at Joe South's social observation smash with some cool results. It's in essence one half schmaltz-supper club Vegas and one half jazz. Regardless it's amazing all down to Mel's subtle but cool vocal style.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Vapors Live In NYC 10/21/18

The Vapors at the Mercury Lounge, NYC photo c/o Michelle Lyons Buckner

Band reunions are always a dodgy affair, especially ones from the 80's. There's two versions of the Beat out there (depending on which continent you're on) each fronted by one original member and a host of young faces in the line up with no other originals in the line up. Then there's that farce called Big Country sans deceased original lead singer Stuart Adamson (ditto for a Jez Bird-less Lambrettas) a Members without Nicky Tesco, a Stranglers with two original members (one of them is NOT Hugh Cornwell) and don't even get me started on From The Jam and what are there like two original members left in The Specials these days?!

So with all that said I was cautiously skeptical when it was announced on Instagram that The Vapors would be coming to NYC. But the photos looked promising with lead singer/rhythm guitarist David Fenton on board with lead guitarist Ed Bazalgette and bassist Howard Smith with "new guy" Michael Bowes occupying the drum seat.  But like me the rest of the East Coast jumped at the chance to see them so much that three nights in a row at NYC's Mercury Lounge were sold out almost immediately as they went on sale.  I had not been to the Mercury in almost two decades and the trek in to the Big Apple was long, but it would be worth it.

Opening act The Split Squad's line up read like a Who's Who of power pop with Plimsoul Eddie Munoz on guitar, Fleshtone Keith Streng on guitar, Blondie's legendary Clem Burke on skins,  Josh Kantor, an organist from the Boston Red Sox on keyboards and a gent named Michael Giblin on lead vocals and bass. They were a tough act to follow playing a raucously delightful set of some heavy duty power pop (with a cool cover of The Small Face's "Sorry She's Mine" in there) and kept it short and very sweet.

The Vapors at the Mercury Lounge, NYC photo c/o Michelle Lyons Buckner
And so it was following such a heavy opener that the Vapors bounded onstage to a thunderous applause from the largest gathering of 50-somethings I'd seen since my last Paul Weller show 3 or 4 years ago.  Clearly by the looks of the young guitar player they were down to two original members (lead singer David Fenton later mentioned mid set "you may have noticed that Ed Bazalgette isn't with us, he couldn't come so this is my son Dan").  Despite a bit of O.T.T. onstage swagger Dan didn't miss a note and complimented the band perfectly in the music department. They launched into their first number, "Bunkers" like a well oiled machine and all around I noticed wide eyed, jaws agape punters who like me were in the process of being blown away. Throughout the gig I realized how intricate and melodic their material always was, clearly The Vapors were NEVER four chord wonders! Their 18 track set included just two new numbers as they played a host of tunes from their two LP's "New Clear Days" and "Magnets" and some B-sides as well (yes I'm a bit of a Homer Simpson when it comes to that: "play the old crap!") !  Highlights were a brilliant "Silver Machines" with it's complex melodies, the moody and bleak "Magnets" and my favorite "Waiting For The Weekend". They played "Trains", "News At 10",  "Jimmie Jones" and even their only US hit "Turning Japanese" (something of a stereotype and a bad punch line for idiots who slagged them off back then). They all sounded amazingly fresh. The whole set was brilliant and executed with precision and flawlessly performed and best of all David Fenton's voice sounded the same as it did 38 years ago. The band were clearly bowled over by their reception and their playing certainly showed it! Let's hope they're back again soon because in another 38 years...

Mercury Lounge 10/21/18 Setlist:
Live At The Marquee
Silver Machines
King L
One Of My Dreams
Spring Collection
Jimmie Jones
Waiting For The Weekend
Letter From Hiro
Turning Japanese
News At Ten

Here Comes The Judge

Monday, October 29, 2018

The Action Is Here! The Action's "Shadows And Reflections" new box set reviewed!

Apart from Monkeypicks  I don't think there's a bigger Action fan in the world like me so when it was announced that there was going to be a four CD set of their entire catalog I freaked. Not since their excellent tome "In The Lap Of The Mods" Action book have I been so excited to see a package arrive at my door!

Rather than give you a blow by blow account of all 86 tracks on this four CD set I figured I would give you some highlights. In 1990 when Edsel issued the very first Action CD all of their EMI recordings the tracks were remixed for some inexplicable reason (their ground breaking 1980 vinyl "Ultimate Action" comp  album on Edsel was taken direct from the masters) . Over the past three decades subsequent CD reissues of the band's EMI catalog (and tracks on various artists CD compilations of the bands EMI recordings) have used the same atrocious mixes.  Grapefruit/Cherry Red's new box set has atoned for that with compiler Alec Palao gaining direct access to EMI's master tapes giving The Action their very first "direct from the original masters" CD compilation ever. Sadly there are no unreleased songs in the EMI archives that we haven't already heard, but that said there are several alternate versions, backing tracks, rehearsal takes and previously unheard Stereo mixes of all of their EMI recordings. Also included are the band's 1967-1968 recordings (previously issued as "Brain/Rolled Gold") including full length versions of "Brain" and a previously unedited version of "Really Doesn't Matter Anymore", all the BBC tracks compiled for Circle's 2004 collection "Uptight And Outtasite", the 5 cuts recorded in '68 after lead singer Reg King's departure and a few months before they became Mighty Baby and issued in 1985 as the "Speak Louder Than" mini LP, both sides of their 1964 single as The Boys and the four tracks issued on 2014's E.P. on Top Sounds. Curiously the dreadful Edsel mixes are consigned, unnecessarily, to disc four.

Looking baked at the Speakeasy, early 1967
The real treat for me were the backing tracks, rehearsal takes and alternate mixes. The backing track take of "Shadows And Reflections" sans lead vocals bears an eerie almost Pink Floyd sounding Farfisa playing scales alongside George Martin's harpsichord that's unnoticeable on the standard 45 version. Action members are notoriously dismissive of the band's sound once lead guitarist/backing vocalist Pete Watson left at the end of 1966 and claimed they sounded "thin" without his guitar and backing vocals.  To this I say balderdash and so shall you when you have a gander at the Association like backing vocals weaving their magic on "Shadows.."!! A rehearsal of "Shadows" flip "Something Has Hit Me" sounds positively amazing with Alan "Bam" King's chiming Rickenbacker noticeable with the backing vocals absent and lead singer Reg King's soulful tones are perfectly accented in an alternate take of the Righteous Brother's "Just Once In My Life" that strips away all the backing vocals . A backing track of "The Place" (written by US r&b singer Jack Hammer best known for "Down In The Subway" who was apparently on hand for the session) highlights Watson's chiming 12 string Rickenbacker meshing with King's 6 string Rick minus George Martin's harpsichord as does the backing track for "Come On Come With Me", which stripped of it's vocals shows how Motown-esque the chord/key changes were. A rehearsal take of band original and the first post Pete Watson single "Never Ever" (minus horns and backing vocals) is a beautiful glimpse of the rhythm section of bassist Mike Evans and drummer Roger Powell, especially the later who is on fire on the cut.  And of final note is the rehearsal take of "Something Has Hit Me" with Alan "Bam" King's chiming electric almost Byrdsy guitar making the track far more ballsy than the finished product which instead utilized an acoustic guitar.

There are never before heard Stereo mixes of 15 of the band's 17 EMI recordings that offer a clearer investigation into the vocals (especially the backing vocals which sound higher in the mix to my ears than the mono versions) in addition to the original mixes of all 17 tracks cut with George Martin for EMI.

Ready! Steady! Go! 1966
There's a nice booklet included with liner notes by David Wells, an intro by our favorite "Mojo" scribe Lois Wilson and an annotated run down by Alec Palao of all the recording information for all 86 tracks in chronological order. Palao has also compiled a a vinyl LP titled "New Action" 12 tracks of the band's '65-'67 EMI material direct from the master tapes.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: The Roulettes US Debut

THE ROULETTES-Soon You'll Be Leaving Me/Can You Go US United Artists UA 718 1964

Britain's beat quartet The Roulettes are little known in the United States and if they are its only as a minor footnote in backing singer Adam Faith on his sole U.S. "hit" "It's Alright" (Amy 913 October 1964) which reached #31. The band, comprised of Russ Ballad (vocals/guitar), Peter Thorp (lead guitar), John "Mod" Rogan (bass) and Bob Henrit (drums) had previously backed Faith on an early US release ("We Are In Love" Amy 899 February 1964) and today's subject. "Soon You'll Be Leaving Me" was the band's first US release sans Adam Faith. It was issued in May of 1964 (previously issued in the UK in November 1963 on Parlophone R 5072). Interestingly the UK issue featured "Tell Tale Tit" on the flip while the American issue featured "Can You Go" (pinched from the flip of their March 1964 UK 45 "Bad Time", Parlophone R 5110).

"Soon You'll Be Leaving Me" is a storming beat group number starting with a cracking drum intro and some Beatle-esque chord changes and excellent harmonies. The Roulettes always brought their A-game when it came to powerful vocals and tight musicianship and this 45 is no exception.

"Can You Go" is not as good as the top side with some hokey lyrics but its still spirited and has a rousing delivery in standard up tempo beat group abandon.  Both sides were penned by songwriter/singer Chris Andrews

The Roulettes would have one more US 45 on their own which you can read about here.

Both sides are available on a now out of print BGO CD reissue of their LP "Stakes And Chips" (which is one of the rarest British 60's albums with copies fetching an excess of $1,000!).

Hear "Soon You'll Be Leaving Me":

Hear "Can You Go":

Monday, October 15, 2018

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: Sounds Incorporated

SOUNDS INC.-I Am Comin' Thru/On The Brink US Liberty 55844 1965

Multi-instrumentalist's Sounds Incorporated were a 6 piece British combo who had been around since the early 60's. There first singles were on the Decca label (where they cut a one 45 with the legendary Joe Meek) before moving to Columbia.  Best known to American's as the band behind the brass on The Fab Four's "Good Morning Good Morning", they also opened for the Beatles in a 1965 US tour with an entire set filmed during their opening slot at the legendary Shea Stadium gig in August. In an effort to capitalize on their fame from that tour Liberty records issued the band's latest 45 in both the UK and the US at the same time in October 1965. Issued in the UK as Columbia DB 7737 it remains one of their most sought after 45's.

"I Am Comin' Thru" was previously written and issued by Billy Preston on his legendary 1964 album "The Most Exciting Organ Ever".  I'm rarely one to claim covers are better than the originals but in this instance I am firm in my conviction that the Sounds Inc version easily trumps the Billy Preston version.  It's faster, ballsier and heavier thanks to the bands powerful horn section. Where the original is a soulful slow burner this version is a 100 mph organ/horns party tune, full on.

The B-side, "On The Brink", was the debut 45 by Mike Vickers after leaving Manfred Mann and had already been issued by him in the UK in August (on the same label as Sounds Inc nonetheless!). Though lacking the kitschy/frenetic feel of the original this version is still amazing thanks to the bands strong sax playing, hard hitting drumming (care of future session man extraordinaire Tony Newman) and solid instrumental precision.

"I Am Comin' Thru" has been compiled on an untitled See For Miles collection  but "On The Brink" has yet to grace any collections, unfortunately.

Hear "I Am Comin' Thru":

Hear "On The Brink":

Monday, October 8, 2018

The Genius Of Scott Walker

Before his slapping frozen meat for percussion and making questionable and unlistenable recordings for the past four decades Ohio's favorite melodramatic singer/songwriter U.K. transplant cut some of the most brilliant, wonderfully orchestrated pop melodramas of the 60's (and 70's). I decided to chronicle my favorites. Enjoy! All releases are UK pressings unless otherwise noted.

1. "The Plague" B-side Phillips BF 1628 1967
The flip of Scott's solo debut 45, a reading of Jacques Brel's "Jackie" was this dark, original composition (no doubt influenced by the Camus novel of the same name). With it's Ladybird's type "la la la" backing vocals it would've been just another late 60's pop record but with it's almost way out  screeching guitars, doom ladden strings and Scott's trippy lyrics it's the closest he ever came to psychedelia.

2. "Montague Terrace (In Blue)" LP track "Scott" Phillips SBL 7816 1967
The strongest cut from Scott's untitled debut album (cheekily titled "Aloner" in the US!) is yet another of his archetype voyeuristic/people watching song-essay that sees him crooning in observation of his neighbors and their comings and goings while Wally Stott's beautiful orchestration wraps it up as the perfect melancholy parcel it is.

3. "The Rope And the Colt" French single Phillips B 370.780 F 1969
By far one of the most unique Scott solo tracks was this tune composed for a spaghetti Western flick of the same name (released in English speaking countries as "Cemetery Without Crosses"). Scott croons (not unlike Jack Jones!) about all things cowboy and blazing guns and riding trails that end in death while backing vocalists reminiscent of The Jordanaires croon over some very tight musical orchestration. And there's a simple Spanish guitar solo to add to the Morricone feel of it all.

4. "The Amorous Humphrey Plugg" LP track "Scott 2" UK Phillips SBL 7840 1968
One of the most powerful solo Scott tracks for my money is this cut from his second album "Scott 2" (yes his first 4 solo long players were all numbered). Once again in his favorite musical mode of social observation Scott chronicles the day of the everyman dad as he daydreams his evenings away imagining that he is a dashing ladies man, a Walter Mitty Casanova as Reg Guest's brilliant musical backing creates a lush texture for it to lay on.

5. "Mrs. Murphy" E.P. track "Solo Scott/Solo John" Phillips BE 12597 1966
Scott spent most of 1966 swatting away rumors, conjecture and suggestions that he should ditch Gary and John and go solo. The pages of British music weeklies in 1966 were full of them making one wonder did "NME", "Disc & Music Echo" and "Record Mirror" cause the Walker Brothers break up? The fuel was already there and this E.P. was the match that lit the Walker Brothers funeral pyre. Part of what I like to call Scott's "tenement trilogy" (along with The Walker's reading of "I Don't Want To Hear It Anymore" and Scott's later "Montague Terrace") , "Mrs, Murphy" is a brilliant study (again) on human relations and follows all the gossip of an apartment building as told via a conversation between Mrs. Murphy and Mr. Wilson ("I hear that the Johnsons had a baby Mrs Murphy is that true? Why yes, but it's rumored that the little tot's real daddy, lives in 22...") . Neatly tied up with beautiful orchestration again by arranger Reg Guest.

6."Thanks For Chicago Mr. James" LP track "'Til The Band Comes In" UK LP Phillips 6308 035 1970
For me "Til The Band Comes In" was always the weakest of Scott's early solo long players and his last album I paid any attention to (I always call it "Scott 5"). Track for track it seems to lack the requisite number of heavy hitters of his first 4 solo albums, at least in my estimation.  There are exceptions though, "Thanks For Chicago Mr James" is among them. Scott's vocals are great but it's Wally Stott's brilliant arrangements and the lovely chorus of backing vocals that give it a campy variety show feel that thanks to Walker's oblique delivery actually works.

7."Orpheus" LP track The Walker Brothers "Images" Phillips BL 7770 1967
The template for Scott's solo career began with "Mrs. Murphy" (see above) and continued with this tune on what would be the final Walker Brother's album of the 60's, "Images". "Orpheus" would not have been at all out of place on any of Scott's first 3 solo albums with it's verdant orchestration and dark lyrics. "Orpheus" is without a doubt one of the bleakest things he ever wrote, and it's quite hard to effectively portray a narcissistic Lothario any better than this, from his own point of view nonetheless.

8. "30th Century Man" LP track "Scott 3" Phillips SBL 7882 1969
Possibly the shortest track of Scott's 60's career and certainly it's his most musically sparse one (it's only musical accompaniment is an acoustic guitar and a wind up music box at the end) "30th Century Man" is an interesting jab at consumerism ("Play it cool and Saran Wrap all you can...") and no doubt futuristic with talk of being frozen ("I'll save my bread and take it with me.."). The lyrics make very little sense but that's what I like about it. It was fittingly chosen as the title for the highly recommended 2006 Scott documentary.

9. "On Your Own Again" LP track "Scott 4" Phillips SBL 7913 1969
Bordering on an almost Gordon Lightfoot feel, "On Your Own Again" is one of the finest tacks on "Scott 4" (which died a death upon release). It's magic lies in the simplicity that sees Scott singing through the first half backed only by an acoustic guitar before the shimmering string arrangements sweep in. Lyrically one is tempted to see some autobiographical slant to it all.

10. "The Old Man's Back Again (Dedicated The The Neo-Stalinist Regime)" single Japan Phillips SFL-1248 1970
Culled from his 1969 "Scott 4" album in Japan, where all things Scott AND Walker Brothers were hugely successful, Phillips saw fit to release this as a single track on the flip of it's LP companion "The Seventh Seal". On top of a funky, fluid beat Walker sings from varying perspectives of citizens in the Soviet Union: the woman who's husband was taken away (presumably by the secret police), people queuing in breadlines, and a young soldier standing guard in the rain while backing vocals that sound like a disembodied Soviet Men's Airborne Chorus dart in and out of the film soundtrack strings and Scott even scats towards the fade-out.