Thursday, May 31, 2018

May's Picks

1. CHARLIE EARLAND-"Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head"
One of the interesting and sometimes disparaging things about jazz can be the readings of current pop standards, it's a double edged sword it can cut either way. Philly's champion of the Hammond B-3 Charlie Earland cut this Bacharach/David tune as a single in 1970 and believe it or not it swings in the most marvelous way.

2. KING CURTIS-"Hot Rod"
In Mojo magazine's latest issue they actually had a CD that not only didn't get binned outright or become a coaster (not that I actually would do that) but that I played several times. Among the gems on "15 Floor Fillers" was this groovy but gritty King Curtis B-side from 1961 full of twangy guitar/bass and a solid beat next to some jazzy horn work.

3. SPLIT ENZ-"What's The Matter With You (Live)"
Found on the flip of 1981's "History Never Repeats" is this supercharged and raw version of "What's The Matter With You" culled from a 1980 gig at the Hammersmith Odeon (with The Bodysnatchers, that would've been some gig to see!). It's twice as fast as the studio version and as more of an edge, especially during the guitar/keyboard solo.

4. J.J. JACKSON'S DILEMMA-"Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is"
Last month's Monkey Picks mentioned this Chicago cover from soul singer J.J Jackson's 1971 LP "J.J. Jackson's Dilemma" and I dug it so much I purchased a copy on Discogs. Retaining the original horn arrangements from the Chicago version with a slightly jazzier swing the real meat of the track is J.J.'s solid vocals, which sounds at times like a fish out of water but still incredibly powerful.

5. THE TRUTH-"The Beat Generation"
Nostalgia for 80's stuff from my past is often few and far between especially from these guys who in retrospect, had a lot of material that came off like Bruce Springsteen meets The Style Council.  The Truth were also victims of the industry, the press and to a smaller degree young mods. All three were looking for the "new Jam" which ensured the Truth were stillborn on arrival. But this little ditty from a 1983 E.P./45 still works for me showing there was still some redeemable  material in their back pages. And hey Dennis Greaves is holding a Burns 12 string on the cover!

6. THE IN-KEEPERS-"It Was Just His Thing"
Someone I follow on Instagram posted a clip of this way out 45 from 1969 and I immediately sought it out. It's full of fuzz guitar, soaring Moody Blues style vocals and kitschy almost apocalyptic voice overs with trippy string arrangements and dig's about Jesus. "Many men have told the tale of how it tried to get the world to sing, he lived and died by the hammer and nail, I guess that was just his thing". Alas the world was not ready for Christian rock yet.

From their 2nd LP, 1968's "Sailor", "Dear Mary" veers away from the tedious "white boy plays the blues" route some early SMB stuff takes and the result is a beautiful, melodic Beatles meets Brain Wilson ditty sweetened with some regal trumpets and rain sound affects that will have you looking out the window.

8. EVIE SANDS-"Any Way That You Want Me"
From the pen of Chip Taylor comes a track made famous by The Troggs interpretation in 1966. Songstress Evie Sands cut this soulful and powerful version in 1969 and though it's a tad different than the Trogg's reading it's still worth checking out despite her sudden favor with the latest hipster record dorks who bored with Ronnie Spector, Mary Weiss and Jackie DeShannon have made her their new queen.......

This track from the final Walker's 60's LP "Images" is a perfect taste of the dark, bleak but lushly orchestrated scenarios that Scott Walker's solo career would bring. "Orpheus" sees Scott at his most narcissistic and dark of all characters, the real life Lothario that "The Amorous Humphrey Plugg" wished he could be but full of loathing, contempt and over confidence.
"Remember me, I've already forgotten you and make your beds for me for things we ought not to us all, round the bend"

10. THE GIFT'S-"You Can't Keep Love In A Broken Heart"
I ordered a Dusty Springfield 45 from a dealer on E-bay who threw this in as a freebie. I knew nothing about it until I spun it and it's not a bad bit of mid-tempo soul from 1966 on the Ballad label with a strong horn section and a groove not unlike The Radiants. Anyone know anything about them?

Monday, May 28, 2018

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

THE BONZO DOG DOO-DAH BAND-I'm The Urban Spaceman/Canyons Of Your Mind US Imperial 66345 1968

The infamous Bonzo Dog (Doo-Dah) Band's debut American 45 was a release of their smash UK hit (#5!) "I'm The Urban Spaceman" (UK Liberty LBF15144, October 1968) . It was issued here in December of 1968.  Produced by Paul McCartney famously using the pseudonym of "Apollo C. Vermouth" and written by band member Neil Innes (better known to Americans as Ron Nasty in "The Rutles") it failed to trouble the US charts, which didn't stop Imperial from issuing an LP titled "Urban Spaceman" (essentially their "The Doughnut In Granny's Greenhouse" LP give or take a few tracks)! The band's connection with the Beatles went back to McCartney's brother Mike recommending them for the Fab's "Magical Mystery Tour" (in which they can be seen vamping "Death Cab For Cutie" in a strip club).

For those not acquainted with "I'm The Urban Spaceman", the Bonzo's most famous tune, it's a light hearted little number that's not readily comparable to anything else. Led by some pan flute, tuba and ukulele it's probably one of the more bizarre pop songs of the 60's. My fave is the solo featuring a "Doo Dah Horn" (a horn mouthpiece placed on a garden house with a funnel on the end and recorded while oscillating). It's also sung by Neil Innes (most of the band's tracks were usually handled by Vivian Stanshall) which makes it sound quite different from the usual Bonzos fare.

The flip, "Canyons Of Your Mind" is a Vivian Stanshall tour de force. The band had previously already explored tongue and cheek doo-wop type numbers before ("Death Cab For Cutie" in "Magical Mystery Tour" for instance) and it continues here but with typically bizarre lyrics with Stanshall camping it up in an over exaggerated Elvis type voice and an intentionally bad, flubbed guitar solo by Innes.

Both sides can be found in a variety of places. There's an excellent 3 CD collection on Amazon that collects nearly all their material called "Original Album Series" or if you're in line for something slimmer there's a domestic CD featuring both called, simply, "Urban Spaceman".

Here's a clip of the band on British TV's excellent "Colour Me Pop" doing "Canyons Of Your Mind":

Sunday, May 20, 2018

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: The Ivy League "My World Fell Down"

THE IVY LEAGUE-My World Fell Down/When You're Young US Cameo 449 1966

My introduction to Britain's squeaky clean harmony trio The Ivy League came not via one of their many UK hits but from this semi obscure 45 that they cut in 1966 which was included on Bam Caruso's Rubble series on 1988's "Volume 7: Pictures In The Sky". It would be their last US release, issued in December 1966 (the UK version on Piccadilly 7N 35348 was previously issued in October). "My World Fell Down" was also covered by the US group Sagittarius and released as a single in the US in May 1967 (Columbia 4-44163) and the UK in August 1967 (CBS 2867) featured on the famous 1972 US 60's garage compilation "Nuggets".

"My World Fell Down" is easily the best cut The Ivy League ever came up with.  Written by John Carter with fellow tune smith Geoff Stephens it's aided in no small part due to the somber strings care of producer Terry Kennedy.  The orchestration and the band's brilliant harmonies weaving in and out of the sawing strings are nothing short of brilliant! It has a certain bleakness to it only matched by, say, The Move with "Blackberry Way".

The flip side, "When You're Young" is dreadful because of the children's backing vocals (the British release credits read  "accomp. by The Children's Choir Dr. Barnardo's Barkingside" (Dr. Barnardo's is a charity organization in Britain charged with the aid and care of orphans and foster children. David Bowie's father, Haywood Jones was a PR man for Dr. Barnardo's interestingly). They're like fingernails on a chalk board and not at all groovy like the kids of Keith West's "Excerpts From A Teenage Opera".

As mentioned frequently in our other Ivy League posts 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.

Hear "My World Fell Down":

Hear "When You're Young":

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: Spooky Tooth's Debut

SPOOKY TOOTH-Sunshine Help Me/Weird US Mala 587 1967

In 1967, UK psychedelic band Art (formerly mod/r&b connoisseurs The V.I.P's ) were going nowhere.  Their debut 45 a cover of the Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth" sank without a trace as did their Guy Steven's produced LP "Supernatural Fairy Tales" (both were released on Island records). Island's boss Chris Blackwell met a New Jersey born keyboardist named Gary Wright (later to find fame in the US in 1975 with the hit "Dreamweaver") who was in London and hooked him up with Art.  The result was a name change and Spooky Tooth was born.

Their debut 45, the Gary Wright penned "Sunshine Help Me" was produced by Jimmy Miller and released in the UK on Island ( WI-6022) in December 1967 and simultaneously launched in the USA on the Bell records subsidiary Mala (curiously the band's debut US LP would be on Bell).

"Sunshine Help Me" is driven by some great harmonies, tabla and organ/ harpsichord and Mike Harrison and Gary Wright's vocals (though Wright's screeching can be a bit much, somehow sounding suspiciously like Mick Jagger's histrionics on "Sympathy For The Devil" though predating it obviously).  I always dug Harrison's strong voice on the V.I.P's and Art stuff so it's definitely an asset.  There's an almost chunky, Hendrix style groove to the guitars and something about it also reminds me of late era Small Faces Immediate era stuff.

The B-side "Weird" was previously cut by Art as "I Think I'm Going Weird" on their LP. Re-recorded by Spooky Tooth its slowed down a bit and the organ is heavier in the mix and Gary Wright's vocals have a Steve Windwood-like quality to them, but I have always preferred Mike Harrison's soulful vocals so the Art version wins out for me.

Both cuts are available on a Spooky Tooth CD collection "Lost In My Dream:An Anthology 1968-1974". Mike Harrison sadly passed away on March 25th.

Hear "Sunshine Help Me":

Hear "Weird":

Sunday, May 6, 2018

David Bowie Is

In 2013 when "Mojo" magazine announced a David Bowie exhibition at the V&A in London I was peeved as usual that Britons always get to see cool things we Americans don't. Ten cities later the exhibit is at it's final destination in Brooklyn, New York at the Brooklyn Museum as "David Bowie Is" which runs until July 15th of this year. The exhibit became sort of a traveling memorial with Bowie's untimely passing and will probably be the last time anyone gets to see so many of his things up close.

Unlike the Rolling Stone's "Exhibitionism"  I avoided reading articles on "David Bowie Is" and since cameras were not permitted I didn't have to worry about too many friends posting pics on social media.  I wanted to be completely unaware of what the exhibit had to offer even though I had a few ideas before I made my trip to Brooklyn (which literally felt like driving to Minnesota) .

Photo courtesy of
The exhibit starts with a small bedroom with a bed flanked by blow up photos of David in his first band The Konrads and The King Bees and adorned with his original plastic Grafton saxophone (as seen in shots of his first band the Konrads and later resurrected for the back cover shots of "Pin Ups") and his Ziggy era Harptone 12 string (not, sadly the Framus 12 string that features in pics from '65-'66).  Admittedly there is not a lot of my beloved 60's period on display (even the vinyl from the 60's on display are repressings or in the case of one of the Pye singles, a mock up!). There's loads of photos, sheet music for Davie Jones & The King Bees "Liza Jane" and the holy grail of the exhibit for me, the charts for "The London Boys" that Bowie and bassist Dek Fearnley wrote out for session musicians to play in the 1966 session for probably one of my favorite Bowie tracks (complete with corrections by the classically trained session men!). Quite literally almost every article of clothing you've seen Bowie perform in or photographed in from the Ziggy era to his final tour are on display. From the Ziggy kimono to the insane corrugated metal dress he wore on "Saturday Night Live" (complete with the appearance on a TV screen below the item, my first time watching it in over 40 years since S.N.L. vigorously removes content posted to YouTube), to his tuxedo and hat from the 1975 Grammy awards to his white shirt and black vest and trousers from "The Thin White Duke" period to the Freddie Burretti designed suit from Mick Rock's "Life On Mars"promo film (it's actually light blue not green as the video leads you to believe!) to Natasha Korniloff's Pierrot clown suit from the "Ashes To Ashes" video, David Bowie apparently not only never threw anything out but took meticulous care of everything. It's quite astonishing when considering his life of rock n' roll excess through a sizable chunk of the 1970's that he managed to hang onto nearly everything!

But beyond the clothing there are loads of other interesting and unusual items. There's a small alcove where the walls are lined with 7 inch picture sleeves of every UK David Bowie 45, there's a whole wall dedicated to Bowie's 2nd LP "David Bowie" (issued in the US as "Man Of Words Man Of Music") complete with sketches and the final painting by George Underwood that adorned the back cover and a print of a geometric design painting by artist Victor Vasarely which had David's head superimposed on as the front cover.  There's a host of other odd Bowie ephemera such as the keys to his Berlin flat, his map of the Berlin subway system, the test pressing his manager Ken Pitt gave him of the first Velvet Underground album in 1966 , his coke spoon (yes I'm not kidding), loads of sketches, diary entries and even a telegram from label mate Elvis Presley wishing him luck on his 1976 US tour. There is an array of videos playing throughout and the headset provided is activated when you pass certain parts of the exhibit.

At an astonishingly affordable price of $20 its certainly worth seeing. Geographical considerations made it impossible for me to get there on a weekday so my Saturday afternoon visit was mobbed to the point that I'm considering going back on a weekday so that I can take in everything I missed! Tickets are still available  through the link above.

All the old dudes carry the news...

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

April's Picks

1. GORDON WALLER-"Rosecrans Blvd"
Before breaking off from song partner Peter Asher in 1969 Gordon Waller made the bold step of cutting Jimmy Webb's opus "Rosecrans Blvd" in early 1968 as a 45 for Columbia (it was previously interpreted by The 5th Dimension and Johnny Rivers) full of bombastic key changes, brass and full blown strings. It works incredibly well, but it wasn't a hit. Peter Asher became an A&R man for Apple turning down David Bowie  and Gordon sank into obscurity.

2. BERT JANSCH-"Do You Hear Me Now"
From Bert's debut 1965 LP on Transatlantic comes this powerful number covered by Donovan later in the year.  I've never been a huge fan of Jansch solo stuff but I'm coming around, slowly.

3. ALBERT HAMMOND-"The Air That A Breathe"
The beauty of my Anroak Thing Instagram account is I have met loads of like minded, groovy souls who are constantly giving me a musical education and consistently sending me scurrying to investigate things I haven't heard before, like this Albert Hammond tune made hugely famously by The Hollies. The devil is in the detail here with the simple strings and Beatle-esque feel and the insane part where you think it's going to end and it comes back harder and stomping like Slade doing a "Hey Jude"/"I Am The Walrus" medley. I doff my hat to Twig The Wonder Kid for leading me to the water on this.

4. THE CROOKS-"Waiting For You"
These oft derided former pub rock '79 mod bandwagon jumpers had a lot going for them. For starters they could actually play their instruments and second they weren't aping the Jam. "Waiting For You" is what Squeeze would have sounded like had they dabbled in plastic reggae drum beats and guitar licks ala The Police. Musos to a man, the deadpan double tracked vocal delivery is pure Difford/Tillbrook and works on top of the cod ska rhythm that plays hide and seek with the reggae roto toms . From their sole LP "Just Released".

Cut in August 1965 for an Immediate records session overseen by Jimmy Page that also produced "I'm Your Witchdoctor", "On Top Of The World" languished in the Immediate vaults after being passed over as single material until a 1968 Immediate blues compilation brought it to light. Taped shortly before Eric Clapton jumped ship for a brief pre-"Bluesbreakers featuring Eric Clapton" Greek expedition, "On Top Of The World" is a fascinating glimpse of Mayall's attempt at toning down the blues and cutting a "pop" record.

6. JOHNNY RIVERS-"Summer Rain"
River's 1967 single later appeared on his highly underrated 1968 LP "Realization", which like Del Shannon, The Four Seasons, Rick Nelson and a host of others left high and dry by the British Invasion and psychedelia has its moments. It's probably the first song to name check "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band" (complete with a snippet of rocking out ala title cut of the Fab's '67 masterpiece). The LP version is a little longer (hear below) and ends with a tuning up and crowd noise fade out nicked from the Fab's "Sgt. Pepper..." LP intro.

7. ROBYN HITCHCOCK-"Trams Of Old London"
"In the Blitz they never closed though the blew up half the roads, oh it really hurts to see 'em goin' dead in a museum...". Ray Davies had steam trains, Robyn had trams. Two examples of English wit and nostalgia for an England that was long gone.

8.  BEVERLEY-"Picking Up The Sunshine"
Bev's solo discography was short, just two 45's on Deram before adding a last name, a husband and a new musical direction. Luckily there were a few tracks in the Deram archives from her brief time there. This unreleased 1967 adaptation of Donovan's "House Of Jansch" was among them. It's one of the highlights of her 2018 RSD LP release "Where The Good Times Are", backed by the likes of Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, Mike Lease, Alan White etc and easily bests the original thanks to her husky delivery and the stellar musical backing that turns it into a ragtime swinging London '67 swing meets "Sunny Afternoon" thing.

9. POET AND THE ONE MAN BAND-"The Coffee Song"
This brilliantly sublime Tony Colton/Ray Smith ditty was cut by Cream in their first recording session (and not issued until much later), used by Zoot Money on his brilliant 1968 LP "Transition", Dave Berry on his 1968 LP "'68" and by The Shevelles as a mediocre 1968 45. I can't find out much about this version but it features Colton and Smith and along with the Zoot's reading is one of my fave versions of one the number which incidentally is one of my favorite tunes. It's about an aging note card left at a table in a railway cafe by one half of a couple who met by chance years before and are desperately seeking to reconnect.

10. DAVID BOWIE-"Suffragette City"
There's a wealth of great tracks on the "Ziggy Stardust" album, but this one always grabs me. It's so well put together with Ronno's slashing guitar, synth hiding in the mix, the "hey man" response, Bowie's cheeky lyrics ("I gotta straighten my face this mellow thighed chick just put my spine outta place", "Hey droogie don't crash here there's only room for one and here she comes here she comes...", "awww wham bam thank you mam") and thumping Stonesy piano. To me it's timeless and nothing short of infectious.