Monday, April 2, 2018

10 British 60's R&B/SKA 45's

We have frequently touched upon various individual ska 45's recorded in Britain by English r&b bands but I decided it was time to compile a list of ten recommendations for your listening pleasure....all tracks are UK singles unless otherwise noted.

1. THE BLUE FLAMES-"J.A. Blues" R&B JB 114 1963
The Blue Flames (led by former Larry Parnes discovery Georgie Fame) cut two instrumental 45's for the predominately ska label R&B (named for the labels owners Rita and Benny). Sandwiched in between releases by Don Drummond and The Charmers was this 1963 instrumental, the band's first of two 45's here. It's a mild horns/organ instrumental with a ska beat that's nondescript and mildly banal, but worth a listen. Fame's manager Rik Gunnell forbid him from making an "vocal" records at this time whilst shopping for a major label deal, hence both R&B 45's are instrumentals. 

2. MAYNELL WILSON & THE WES MINSTER FIVE-"Baby" Carnival CV 7014 1964
A few years before her in demand Ember 45 "Motown Feeling" black vocalist Maynell Wilson cut her teeth on this 45 on the predominantly ska label Carnival, which like fellow UK imprints R&B and Blue Beat was not averse to the odd British r&b release. She's backed her by a UK r&b band The Wes Minster Five who cut 3 distinctly jazzy r&b 45's for the label. "Baby", the flip of "Hey Hey Johnny" steals the tune and melody from Millie Small's smash "My Boy Lollipop" lock stock and barrel but Maynell's voice is a zillion times better than Millie's dreadful screechy voice and there's a great sax solo that would not at all be out of place on a Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames tracks.

3. MICKEY FINN & THE BLUE MEN-"Tom Hark" Blue Beat BB 203 1964
Profiled in one of our earliest posts here, as mentioned prior this 45 was NOT the work of UK r&b/freakbeat legends Mickey Finn & The Blue Men but sessions musicians including Mohawks/KPM organist supremo Alan Hawkshaw. Regardless of who played on it this ska reading of a one off 1958 hit by South African's Elias And His Zig-Zag Jive Flutes is infectious and brilliant.  It's a perfect marriage of organ/sax Brit r&b mixed with a traditional ska rhythm.

Scan c/o

4. THE WILD ONES-"Purple Pill Eater" Fontana TF 468 1964
Tucked away on the flip of the r&b rave up "Bowie Man" comes this cod-ska social commentary on the purple heart amphetamine crisis. It's delivered in a semi offensive West Indian accent while the band churn out a semi competent ska beat while the lyrics warn "don't eat the purple pills my boy, the purple pills just make you ill".

5. SYKO & THE CARIBS-"Jenny" Blue Beat BB 213 1964
Tucked on the flip of a rollicking boogie woogie reading of "Do The Dog", "Jenny" follows that early Blue Beat blue print of the slow r&b shuffle with a ska back beat.  It works because it's uncomplicated and fits perfectly along with similar Jamaican releases on the label at the time by Owen Gray and Prince Buster.

Scan c/o

6. GEORGIE FAME & THE BLUE FLAMES-"Madness" E.P. cut "Rhythm & Blue-Beat" EP Columbia SEG 8334 1964
Clive Powell's ska pedigree is first and foremost among white British r&b artists. He released two 45's on the UK ska label R&B (see above), played organ on Prince Buster's "Wash Wash", covered Eric "Monty" Morris ska hit "Humpty Dumpty" on his debut LP "R&B At The Flamingo" and his debut UK EP "Rhythm And Blue-Beat" was filled with four ska tracks, including this ace interpretation of Prince Buster's smash among them making him the first white artist to cover Prince Buster!

7. THE EXOTICS-"Cross My Heart" Decca F 11850 1964
The jury is out on who The Exotics were but its a pretty safe bet the guess they were Brit based West Indians. "Cross My Heart" would not be at all out of place on the Blue Beat label with it's innocuous ska/ blues shuffle driven by a harmonica, though it's production is a bit too slick for anything they ever put out.

8. THE BEAZERS (CHRIS FARLOWE)-"Blue Beat" Decca F 11827 1964
Brit 60's r&b legend Chris Farlowe was signed to EMI's Columbia output so this 45 was cut surreptitiously on the sly and credited to the fictitious "Beazers". The brainchild of arranger/producer Cyril Stapleton (who interestingly became head of A&R at Pye the year after this 45!), "Blue Beat" is yet another melding of ska rhythm's with a staid but solid British musical backing (including ex-Blue Flame Tex Makins on bass, future Blue Flame and Ringo stand in Jimmy Nicol on drums and the man behind the famous lick on "Shakin' All Over", Joe Moretti on guitar). Regardless of it's genuine "ska credibility" it's a decent track and extremely in demand.

9. THE LLOYD ALEXANDER REAL ESTATE-"I'm Gonna Live Again" President PT 157 1967
Starting off with some brilliant "chicka-chick" vocal toasting straight of of "Guns Of Navarone" and a funky riff that's sounds a bit like "I'll Be Doggone", "I'm Gonna Live Again" remained under the mod/soul/ska scenes radar for ages until both sides of this 45 were unearthed by RPM in 2011 for their various artists three CD set "Looking Back".  This UK 7 piece band issued this monster melding of ska with soulful r&b on the flip side of their sole 45, a cover of "Whatcha Gonna Do".

10. MICKEY FINN & THE BLUE MEN-"Pills" Oriole CB 1927 1964
Unlike the Blue Beat 45 above this 45 featured the actual Mickey Finn & The Blue Men members playing on the record. Taking the Bo Diddley classic and putting a ska beat to it is sort of ingenious idea because it actually works! the flip was a similar ska treatment of Jimmy Reed's "Hush Your Mouth".

The Yardbirds broke into the ska version of the nursery rhyme "Humpty Dumpty" in the middle of their version of "Respectable" on their debut LP "Five Live Yardbirds", The Beatles used a ska rhythm in the middle eight of "I Call Your Name", fellow Liverpudlian's Tommy Quickly and the Remo Four did a live version of the ska treatment of "Humpty Dumpty" as their last UK 45 and The Hollies did the same in their first recording of "A Taste Of Honey"......

No comments: