Saturday, February 29, 2020

The Best Of Sue Records (U.K.) Part Two

We profiled ten of our favorite UK Sue 45's in an earlier post here, so we came up with ten more for your perusal:

1. SCREAMIN' JAY HAWKINS-"I Hear Voices" WI 379 1965
Screamin' Jay Hawkins U.K. 7" discography is quite slim. This was his second UK 45 and his only one on Sue. "I Hear Voices" is an odd number that is more of a musical essay on paranoia than a song with it's dirge like feel akin to the amphetamine fueled confusion of John's Children's "Smashed Blocked". Hawkin's heavily echoed "vocals" and constant chanting of the word "moan" add to the weirdness, but it's so odd it's enjoyable! It was originally released in the US in 1962 on Enrica (1010).

2. ERNESTINE ANDERSON-"Keep An Eye On Love" WI 309 1964
This smooth and sophisticated quasi bossa nova swinger was one of the UK Sue releases that actually had a US Sue release (September 1963 as Sue 993) it's also incredibly in demand with US pressings reaching $100 and the UK Sue issue near twice that!! Regardless of it's cost "Keep An Eye On Love" is totally infectious, "from Brazil to Sugar Hill...".

3. THE SANTELLS-"So Fine" WI 4020 1966
I don't know much about this group but their reading of Johnny Otis "So Fine" uses an uptempo formula not unlike something by The Newbeats crossed with girl group sensibility of say, The Shangri-La's that really works.  Originally released in the US in 1964 on the Courier label (CR 115) it's UK release came a full two years later.

4. DEREK MARTIN-"Daddy Rolling Stone" Sue WI 308 1964
Mods in the furthest corners of the world will all probably tell you it was the Who's cover version that appeared on the flip of "Anyway Anyhow Anywhere" that served as their intro to this song. The Who no doubt learned it from this storming February '64 release (the US version appeared on Crackerjack as 4013 in June 1963). It was Martin's debut solo release having spent time in the Front Notes before bursting out with this killer punctuated by Ikettes style call and response backing vocals, hand claps and a sleazy sax solo.

5. HOMESICK JAMES-"Set A Date" WI 330 1964
American bluesman Homesick James had a slim discography 45 wise but Sue issued two of his singles in the UK.  This was his final release in Britain that saw the label reverse sides of his debut US 45 release (on the Colt label, 632 in 1962). "Set A Date" is a blues shuffle borrowing quite a bit from "Dust My Broom" with some wailing vocals on top of the bluesy guitar, bass, piano and drums set up. One can't help but wonder if it was this that inspired The Yardbird's rewrite "The Nazz Are Blue" or the Elmore James original.

6. HAROLD BETTERS-"Do Anything You Wanna Do" WI 378 1965
Veteran jazz trombonist Harold Better's sole UK 7" release was this 1965 issue of his August 1964 US single (Gateway 45-747). It's a mid tempo jazz number backed by subtle organ/piano, bass and drums with his slide trombone on top kicking it in as a perfect party record.

7. OTIS REDDING-"Shout Bamalama" WI 362 1965
Like most performers once they find fame, previously issued early recordings are immediately dredged up and dashed out again and Otis Redding was no exception as U.K. Sue wasted no time resuscitating his second ever 45, 1962's "Shout Bamalama" (first issued in the States on Orbit 135). It's a far cry from the Stax soul smoothness of Otis and with it's wonky sax, party atmosphere and hysterical lyrics it sounds more like something Bunker Hill would have issued!

8. EFFIE SMITH-"Dial That Telephone" WI 4010 1966
One of the most bizarre UK Sue releases was the re-release of this 1959 spoken word novelty record first issued on Spot (45-103). Over the top of minimal backing Effie sings/talks through one side of an imaginary phone call of a woman with a wayward husband named Henry who stumbles in after a rough night on the tiles.

9. INEZ FOXX-"Hurt By Love" WI 323 1964
Inez (and uncredited brother Charlie) Foxx's third U.K. Sue 45 was this single, originally issued in the U.S. as Symbol 45-20-001. My introduction to this number came via heacoated Brit r&b specialists The Downliner's Sect who included a version on their debut LP "The Sect" (UK Columbia 33SX 1658).  Delivered with a rhythm not too dissimilar to "High Heeel Sneakers", "Hurt By Love" is a great call and response shuffle with powerful vocals and an imminently danceable groove. 

10. JERRY BUTLER-"I Don't Want To Hear It Anymore" WI 4003 1966
Sue's first UK Jerry Butler 45 took his 1964 (Vee Jay VJ 598) release of "I Stand Accused"/"I Don't Want To Hear It Anymore"and relaunched it. For me the gold was always on the flip, Randy Newman's "I Don't Want To Hear It Anymore". From Butler's powerful voice to the stellar arrangement and in no small part Newman's clever lyrics its a powerful tune as the Iceman croons about the apartment building gossip . The Walker Brothers took note and covered it note for note and lead singer Scott no doubt took notice when writing about a similar scenario in his own "Mrs. Murphy".

Saturday, February 22, 2020

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: The Pretty Things On Laurie

THE PRETTY THINGS-Talkin' About The Good Times/Walking Through My Dreams US Laurie 3458 1968

The Pretty Things had a small run of US singles, six of their nine UK Fontana singles were issued here on the US imprint of the label. Their last was June 1966's "Come See Me" (Fontana F-1550) followed by a two year dry spell before the release of today's subject in July of 1968. It was previously issued in the UK as Columbia DB 8353 in February of 1968 and would only be a one off release for the US Laurie label (home of lots of other off the wall UK releases like Adam Faith's "Cowman Milk Your Cow") before a brief move to Motown's rock n roll Rare Earth spin off for one single and then semi stardom on Led Zep's Swan Song label.

Most 60's British r&b bands fell like Dracula to garlic and a sharpened stake to psychedelia. But like The Stones The Pretty Things weathered the storm easing from r&b into psych (via what I like to call their "mod" period in '65-'66) before getting freaky (much like The Stones and The Yardbirds). To me some of The Stones attempts at psychedelia were sometimes embarrassing with poor track selection (half of "Their Satanic Majesties Request" for instance) and awful production and the Yardbirds to my ears were just bluesmen on acid while Pagey was ripping off Davy Graham and Bert Jansch. But the Pretty Things had a great track selection of originals in their psychedelic period and a great producer in Norman Smith (also responsible for the first Pink Floyd album and two of their three Syd Barrett era 45's and their two post Syd ones) that made them rise to the top of the lot and it all magically happened in just one year.

The coupling of "Talkin' About The Good Times" b/w "Walking through My Dreams" picks up where November '67's "Defecting Grey"/ "Mr. Evasion" 45 (U.K. Columbia DB 8300) left off as far as psychedelia is concerned. The credit for shaping the Pretties psychedelic sound to my ears is owed in no small part to former Fenmen members Jon Povey (keyboards) and Wally Waller (bass) and their backing vocals (and their writing assistance to lead singer Phil May and guitarist Dick Taylor). The Pretties also get high marks for this period for using the Mellotron and much like The Zombie's "Oddysey And Oracle" it's used sparingly and tastefully. 

"Talkin' About The Good Times" is in my estimation the most psychedelic record The Pretties ever cut. I'd prefer to skip any Pink Floyd comparisons that are often thrown about by people on this era that I think is purely based on sharing the same producer/label. It's clockwork guitar/balalaika/sitar intro reminds me of something off of the Tomorrow LP and it's immediately meshed with loads of Mellotron and the band's layers of harmonies (dig the Beach Boys style a capella bit towards the end) and then it fades out with a hypnotic riff from Dick Taylor (and more Mellotron).

"Waking Through My Dreams" is less trippy with subtle organ/piano beneath the bands incredible harmonies, with guitars playing descending licks and crashing drums from Skip Allen (who would depart soon after to be replaced by former Tomorrow drummer John "Twink" Alder). The fade out once again showcases the perfect meshing of their vocal abilities and hypnotic riffs beneath a layered tapestry of sound.

Both cuts are featured on several Pretty Things collections, the most current being "Come Seee:The Very Best of The Pretty Things". "Talkin' About The Good Times" cropped up on Bam Caruso's "Rubble 3: Nightmares In Wonderland" collection while "Walking Through My Dreams" was issued on the "Nuggets II" box set, "Psychedelia At Abbey Road" and  the "Rubble 2: Pop Sike Dreams" compilations.

Hear "Talkin' About The Good Times":

Hear "Walking Through My Dreams":

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Great Obscure U.K. 60's Sides: Adam Faith Channels The Bee Gees

ADAM FAITH-Cowman MilkYour Cow/Daddy What'll Happen To Me UK Parlophone R 5635 1967
When the Bee Gees broke in the U.K. in 1967 manager Robert Stigwood wasted no time hustling their material which resulted in an interesting deluge of cover versions and compositions not officially released by the Brothers Gibb.  Many it seemed, were by artists whose ships has sailed with the advent of psychedelia like Gerry Mardsen ("Gilbert Green"), Billy J. Kramer ("The Town Of Tuxley Toymaker") and today's subject, Adam Faith.

Hits had dried up for Adam. He cut an amazing version of Bob Lind's "Cheryl's Going Home" in October of 1966 . September of the following year saw the release of a Bee Gee's composition "Cowman Milk Your Cow" (issued in the US on Laurie as LR 3455 the following year with the sides reversed). It was never released by the Bee Gees and their vocal presence on the track indicates that they were either in on the session or, as in the case of other Gibb brother's covers, the track was cut over the top of their demo.  There seems to be some contention on who plays on the track with the suggestion that Fleetwood Mac founder Peter Green plays guitar, there are also suggestions that Faith's stalwart backing band, The Roulettes are responsible for the musical backing (the later are mentioned in the liner notes of an EMI Adam Faith compilation CD which I would expect to be believable). Regardless of who is on it the track is magical. Beginning with a pastoral jangling guitar, looping Macca-esque bass lines and raga licks that dart in and out it's amazing from start to finish. The lyrics are off beat ("cowman milk your cow, keep away from the dark side...") and reflective ("how many years will it take till the moment when we all descend and that could be a million years and that's a long long time"). Barry and Robin Gibb's voices can be heard in tandem with Adam's on alternating verses. The ending fades out in a semi trippy way with the backing vocals repeating "long long long time" over and over like a mantra. Unfortunately the Midas touch of the Brothers Gibb failed to apply and the track was not a hit.

New Musical Express September 23, 1967

The B-side "Daddy What'll Happen To Me" is an anti-war protest number. It starts out with a trumpet playing taps on top of some acoustic guitar. The chorus almost sounds like a C&W tune but the regal trumpets and Vernon's Girls styles backing vocals give it a distinctly British feel. Lyrically it's an incredibly powerful number written from the point of a terrified young soldier in the front lines that requires a few spins before becoming interesting.

Both sides were collected on the exhaustive CD "Complete Faith: HMV, Top Rank& Parlophone Recordings 1958-1968".

Hear "Cowman Milk Your Cow":

Hear "Daddy What'll Happen To Me":

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Great UK 60's Singles: Them "Baby Please Don't Go"

THEM-Baby Please Don't Go/Gloria UK Decca F12018 1964

One of my greatest TV memories was Xmas of 1984 and getting a VCR and my dad and I going to the nearby supermarket (which was open!) and rented a "Ready! Steady! Go!" VHS tape and seeing Them perform "Baby Please Don't Go" on it. I don't know if I had known anything about them prior to this but my mind was suitably blown by what I was hearing.

Without resorting to their entire band history, Them were an r&b quartet from Belfast led by one Ivan "Van" Morrison a blues/jazz/r&b aficionado. Signed to Decca, the band's debut single "Don't Start Crying Now" (Decca F 11973, September 1964) failed to garner much attention, but it's follow up "Baby Please Don't Go" (November 1964) rose to #10. I'm not going to wade into the ongoing debate of who played the distinctive riff (Jimmy Page or band guitarist Billy Harrison) on the track but I will debate Them's inspiration for the track. It's been stated that John Lee Hooker's version is the basis of their version but I'm inclined to believe that Mose Allison's interpretation also played a part.  Regardless  Them's version with it's driving riff with tremolo arm action and the zooming bass line backed with Van Morrison's wailing harp and distinct blues shouting makes it instantly recognizable. There has never been a version like this and there probably will never be.

Plugging "Baby Please Don't Go" on "Ready Steady Go!" November 20, 1964

The flip side is the stuff of legends. Van Morrison's "Gloria" could have been an A-side (it reached #71 in the US where d.j's obviously preferred it to "Baby Please Don't Go"). It's monotonous and simplistic three chord pattern is the perfect stuff of garage band mythology (covered by Americans The Shadows Of Knight it went to #10 in the States in 1966) and Van Morrison's lewd leer about "Gloria" is perfect as the band chugs on half frat rock, half r&b. Iconic.

Both tracks are available in a host of place but my favorite recommendation is the essential 3 CD set from 2016 "The Complete Them 1964-1967" (which alternate versions of both sides and a demo of "Gloria" as well as a live B.B.C. take).

Hear "Baby Please Don't Go":

Hear "Gloria":

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Stop Me If You've Heard These Before....10 More For Your Ears

Here's ten more US 60's 45's from the archives for your listening pleasure! Maybe some new ones..

1. LESLIE UGGAMS-"Who Killed Teddy Bear" US Atlantic 45-2313 1965
From the film of the same name Leslie croons this killer track that would not have sounded at all out of place in "Little" Anthony and The Imperials repertoire! Made nearly impossible to find due to it's Clint Ballard penned flip "Don't You Even Care" (also covered by The Hollies), a massive Northern favorite, "Who Killed Teddy Bear" is a moody orchestrated stormer worth checking out as is the flick starring Sal Mineo as a creepy Times Square cruiser with serious sexual hangups and Juliet Prose as a mod looking club DJ he's stalking.

2. YIDDISH SOUL BROTHER AMNON-"In New York City" US Chess  1990 1967
This curiously named artist is responsible for one of the most collectible and expensive Chess 45's you're ever likely to encounter. Backed by some jazzy/snazzy uptown horn sounds and some groovy ivory tinkling this one oozes sophistication that betrays it's 1967 release date.

3. CHUCK BERRY-"Club Nitty Gritty" US Mercury 72643 1966
By 1966 you'd have thought Chuck was all out of tricks but this funky 1966 single shows the old dog still had new tricks.  Moved along by some jazzy electric piano and Chuck's requisite licks it's a rocking tune and a pricey one at that!

4. BOBBY PETERSON QUINTET-"Mamma Get Your Hammer" US V-Tone 221 1961
This sax driven screamer sounds like a cross between Richard Berry and early Robert Parker with the most insane chorus you'll ever find in an r&b number: "mama get your hammer a fly's on the baby's head..".

5. THE FIVE Du-Tones-"The Gouster" US One-derful 4818 1963
From the excellent One-derful label comes this nifty little number by The Du-Tones about a brief and little known American urban subculture known as "gousters".  A gouster (which depending on which interpretation you read) was allegedly a dandified street hoodlum in gangster style apparel. "The Gouster" is a frantic, boisterous and perfect melding of greasy/gritty r&b and street corner doo-wop from the band who had previously gave us "Shake A Tail Feather". David Bowie took note of the Gouster trend which you can read about here.

6. JOE THOMAS AND BILL ELLIOTT-"Speak Your Piece" US Symbol 45-200 1964
Flutist Joe Thomas and drummer Bill Elliott's mega obscure 45 for the Symbol label "Speak Your Piece" is an essay in "mod jazz" coolness. From it's groovy flute, honking sax and soulful vocal delivery (via Elliott) you're hooked, instantly, the first time you hear it.  The US 45 is topped by an even pricier French E.P. containing the track, but there's always their US 1964 Sue LP which is a bit more affordable.

7. SHAWN ELLIOTT-"The Joker" US Roulette R-4643 1965
American vocalist Shawn Elliott's take on the Anthony Newley/Leslie Bricusse number "The Joker" has unfortunately been roped into the dreadful Northern soul category, which is a shame because it's more of a jazzy pop song to my ears. It starts out slow but then the fuzz guitar and upbeat tempo increases with some jazzy flute and strings.  Pure magic!

8. ANTHONY & THE IMPERIALS-"You Only Live Twice" US Veep V-1269 1967
Forget the Nancy Sinatra version kids the real money is on this take by Anthony & The Imperials (formerly Little, I guess he was grown by '67).  This version followed Nancy's a month later and it's amazing, from the storming arrangement by Teddy Randazzo with shimmering strings (that could be off of something on Scott Walker's first solo LP!), horns and organ to the Anthony's excellent delivery it's a pity no one paid attention to it. 

9. TERRY AND THE CHAIN REACTION-"Keep Your Cool" US United Artists UA50199 1967
Produced by Rick Hall (who co-wrote it as well) this laid back number has a feel and tempo that reminds me of Jimmy Hughe's "It Ain't What You Got" (also a Hall production). This band is a mystery to me as I know absolutely nothing about them.  Regardless it's a subtle almost spoken word number with advice to how to "keep cool" laid down on top of a menacing little soulful groove. 

Northern soul anoraks will of course be familiar with Mr Middleton's "To The Ends Of The Earth". Far less expensive but still not had cheaply had is this version he did with Burt Bacharach singing "My Little Red Book" from the film "What's New Pussycat". Middleton's phrasing at times sounds restrained but it's a killer track with the musical backing providing a template for the Sounds Incorporated version.