Tuesday, February 27, 2018

February's Picks

1. "BABY FACE" WILLETTE-"Swing'n At Sugar Ray's"
Taken from his 1961 debut album on Blue Note "Face To Face", this cut by the youthful B-3 prodigy was shortened slightly for a 45 release. It swings in no small part due to Grant Green's guitar licks as well as Willette's Hammond.


2. SCRUGG-"I Wish I Was Five"
Led by South African ex-pat John Kongos, Scrugg were a psych pop quartet who cut 3 singles in the UK in the late 60's on Pye.  This nostalgic ode childhood (loss of childhood was a popular theme in UK 60's psych pop) is wrapped on lush orchestration and was featured on the flip of the band's debut 45 "Everyone Can See".


3. THE WHO-"I'm A Boy" (re-recorded version)
For ages because of the "Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy" inclusion I had no idea that this version was re-recorded and was a full minute longer than the 1966 single version.  I have to say I prefer this version, it's tougher and harmonies are tighter and Entwistle's nifty little horn bits mesh perfectly with Townshend's almost classical music guitar bits.


Marianne's reading of Donovan's "Hampstead Incident" (re-titled here as "In The Night Time") works really well with it's somber strings and regal tack piano and seems to paint an excellent mental picture of a bleak London, the other side of the coin of the "Swinging City of '66", from her final Decca LP, 1967's  "Love in A Mist".


5. THE PYRAMIDS-"Telstar"
What I would have given to see some young, close cropped, suited and booted skinheads bopping to this funky organ skinhead reggae treatment of the Tornados/Joe Meek instrumental smash "Telstar" in a youth club. It's a 1970 single for the Trojan label and fairly hard to come by.


6. WAYNE FONTANA-"Waiting For A Break In The Clouds"
Probably the coolest thing Wayne ever did was this Mike Vickers produced/orchestrated pop psych ditty with loads of sunshine pop "do do doo's" and the usual everything but the kitchen sink production found on the flip of his utterly forgettable "Never An Every Day Thing".


7. STRANGEWAYS-"Wastin' Time"
Back in 1984 I happened upon a shop on a side street off of Carnaby Street selling boxes of '79/'80 "mod revival" 45's for 75p each.  Among them was this 45, I bought it because it had a photo of a bunch of mods on scooters on the back cover.  Owing more to early XTC than The Purple Hearts or Secret Affair (right down to the "wah-uh-oh-oh" chorus) it turns out it was produced Tommy Ramone! Strangeways is also the name of a British prison. Some lucky Japanese soul now owns my copy when I divested myself of all things mod revival on E-bay in the late 90's.....


8 THE ROLLING STONES-"Cops And Robbers (Live BBC)"
I've always preferred The Downliner's Sect version of this Bo Diddley classic.  I think it's because I prefer Don Craine's vocals over Micks, but you can't beat Brian's wailing harp and the rest of the Stones playing that make this thoroughly enjoyable.  This is available on the long awaited CD of various Stones BBC sessions from '63-'65 "On Air" (curiously like the Fab Four The Stones ceased playing live on the Beeb in '65).


9. THE TIMES-"Whatever Happened To Thamesbeat"
From their classic 1982 long player "This Is London", The Times mourn the loss of power pop with usual poppy hooks, Merseybeat-ish charm and clever lyrics from in house wordsmith/genius/lead singer Ed Ball.
"Another teenage fashion made to measure by displeasure, disillusioned with hate and anger, safety pins and studded black leather..."


10. FRED HUGHES-"Oo Wee, Baby I Love You"
Fred Hughes debut single was this 1965 Vee Jay release that is deeply indebted to Motown in it's backing vocals, brass, hand claps and production. It's slow to build momentum but it's a killer nonetheless.


Monday, February 26, 2018

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: Brian Auger Covers The Fab Four

BRIAN AUGER & THE TRINITY-A Day In The Life/Bumpin' On Sunset US Atco 45-6656 1969

In addition to a parallel career of backing vocalist Julie Driscoll ace UK Hammond wizard Brian Auger maintained a separate career with his band The Trinity (also featuring bassist Dave Ambrose and drummer Clive Thacker, known as "Lobs" and "Toli" respectively).

Culled from his 1968 LP "Definitely What" the two tracks on this 45 were released in March of 1969 and not issued anywhere else (the flip did get released in the UK and Spain as the B side to "What You Gonna Do" however).

Auger's reading of "A Day In The Life" owes some of it's arrangements to that of the jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery's cover from his 1967 LP of the same title.  Auger's version utilizes strings similar to Montgomery's reading, though not as avant garde as his.  What's cool about it is Auger plays Montgomery's guitar licks on the B-3 and the string/brass arrangements have a more easy listening feel to them reminding me of a film score by Ron Grainer and the track is decidedly more upbeat.

Speaking of Wes Montgomery....the flip side, "Bumpin' On Sunset" is a cover of a track he wrote and recorded on his 1966 Verve LP "Tequila" (it was also a single split on two halves as Verve VK-10442). The original has a mellow "smooth jazz" feel (and I am hesitant to use that description due to negative connotations......) with a laid back feel with subtle strings and Ray Baretto adding congas. Auger's version eschews all of that and with it's somber strings and well placed organ licks again has the feel of a kitschy late 60's film score making it entirely palatable but in a different way.

Both tracks are available on the reissue of the 1968 "Definitely What" LP, which if you have not heard I cannot recommend strongly enough.

Hear "A Day In The Life":


Hear "Bumpin' On Sunset":


Monday, February 19, 2018

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: The Ivy League Part One

THE IVY LEAGUE-Funny How Love Can Be/Lonely Room US Cameo 356 1965

Britain's Ivy League released a host of singles back home on the Piccadilly label from 1964-1967.  They were comprised of songwriters/vocalists John Carter and Ken Lewis (who had previously made records as Carter-Lewis and The Southerners) and singer Perry Ford (who cut several solo singles and one as Perry Ford and The Sapphires in 1962 featuring one of the earliest recordings of Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames as his backing band).

Carter/Lewis's "Funny How Love Can Be" was the band's second UK 45 (Piccadilly 7N 35222 January 1965, the same time as The Who's debut 45 featuring them on backing vocals!) and was their American debut when launched in March of '65.  Starting with a melodic guitar with an almost folk rock jangle, "Funny How Love Can Be" showcases the band's famous three part harmony sound that brings to mind The Four Seasons minus Frankie Valli's high vocal histrionics.

"Lonely Room" (penned by all three members) starts with some acapella vocals. It's not a horrible track but comes across as mundane at first until the wiggy guitar solo (Jimmy Page or Big Jim Sullivan?) and Beach Boys style descending harmonies punctuated by some hand claps move it along.  It was later cut by another UK Beach Boys/harmony influenced act, The Factotums (Immediate IM 009 October 1965).

Both sides are available on a variety of Ivy League compilation CD's. As their material is owned by Castle Communications they've been licensed to death and finding CD's of them is easy peasy.

Here "Funny How Love Can Be":


Hear "Lonely Room" :


Sunday, February 11, 2018

Chris Farlowe's English #1 Sinks In America

CHRIS FARLOWE-Out Of Time/Baby Make It Soon US MGM K 13567 1966

Chris Farlowe unfortunately was not able to transfer his U.K. #1 smash reading of the Stone's "Out Of Time" when it was released here in the States in August of '66 (three months after it's U.K. issue as Immediate IM 035). This was curiously not his first US 45, that honor belongs to his previous US 7", a mega rare issue of "Just A Dream"/"What You Gonna Do" which he cut with The Thunderbirds on the obscure Philly label General American way back in January 1965.

Fans of The Rolling Stones will recognize the backing track on Farlowe's reading of "Out Of Time" from the version on their "Metamorphosis" collection as it's the exact same version Mick Jagger sings over.  One would surmise this was done as a guide vocal for Farlowe although you never know. Regardless of which came first it brought Farlowe a U.K. #1 (and was at that position when England won the World Cup!). It was his first hit in his home country and sadly subsequent releases failed to reach the same heights or even remotely close to that coveted chart spot. Led by Art Greenslade's heavy duty string scoring it's not one of my favorite tracks by him (I've long preferred his pre-Immediate records stuff with The Thunderbirds). I also prefer The Stones more simplistic reading rather than this bombastic reading.  I think my chief complaint is that Farlowe always seemed to be singing out of his range on a lot of Immediate material and this one is no exception.

The flip, "Baby Make It Soon", was penned by Eric Woollfson (later of the Alan Parsons Project) and Andrew Loog Oldham. It's a halfway decent soulful ballad but nothing terribly impressive in  my estimation.

Both sides have appeared in a variety of places as Farlowe's Immediate material has been licensed (legitimately or on the never never) to everybody and their brother so there's no shortage of places to hear them (with orchestration by Art Greenslade and production by Mick Jagger again). They're both available on two in print UK Chris Farlowe CD collections "Handbags & Gladrags: The Immediate Collection" and "Out Of Time" available for purchase on CD or download from Amazon.

Hear "Out Of Time":


Hear "Baby Make It Soon":


Monday, February 5, 2018

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: The Ferris Wheel

THE FERRIS WHEEL-I Can't Break The Habit/Number One Guy US Phillips 40512 1968

Britain's Ferris Wheel were a multi racial 6 piece who made their debut in October 1967 with the John Schroeder produced "I Can't Break The Habit" (UK Pye 7N 17387). The band was comprised of ex-Checkmates brothers Dave (saxophone) and George Sweetman (bass) and Barry Reeves (drums), ex-West Five organist/vocalist Mike Liston (also know as Mike Snow!),  guitarist Keith Anthony and vocalist Diane Ferraz, formerly one half of the Simon Napier Bell produced multiracial duo Diane and Nicky.

Discovered by producer Schroeder during a set at the hip London night spot the Bag O' Nails club where they gigged as part of the many r&b acts under the famous Gunnell agency, he wasted no time securing them a deal with Pye and getting them into the studio. The result was this, their debut 45. It was released in the US in January 1968 (it would be their sole US 45, though a later line up would release an LP here on UNI).

"I Can't Break The Habit" is a perfect 1967 melding of British club r&b with slightly trippy, almost psychedelic overtones with hypnotic combo organ trills layered with blistering guitar licks and flute meshed with strong horns that almost sound like fuzz guitars!  The highlight of course is Diane Ferraz vocals and the chorus that sounds like a mantra!

The flip, "Number One Guy", is firmly devoid of anything psychedelic and is a total uptempo brass backed, Motown influenced soul groover and after a resurgence on the dreaded Northern Soul scene found it's place (rightfully so) on multiple British 60's soul/Northern soul compilations over the past 30 plus years!

Both sides can be found on Sequel's now out of print anthology of the band's Pye material "Can't Break The Habit". On the compilation side of things "Can't Break The Habit" was comped by Psychic Circle for their "We Can Fly" CD while "Number One Guy" recently appeared on several Northern soul collections, among them "Keeping the Faith: 30 Stomping Northern Soul Classics" and "Northern Soul (Backdrops, Highkicks And Handclaps)".

Hear "I Can't Break The Habit":


Hear "Number One Guy":