Friday, March 27, 2020

More U.K. Tracks On U.S. Labels: The Swinging Blues Jeans US Debut

THE SWINGING BLUE JEANS-Hippy Hippy Shake/Now I Must Go US Imperial 66021 1964
With the onslaught of Beatlemania in the United States there was eventually further interest in all things British, including bands from Liverpool (though mostly only hit makers, at first). The Swinging Blue Jeans had a respectable venture into the UK hit parade starting with their third single,  December 1963's release of a version of Chan Romero's "Hippy Hippy Shake" (His Masters Voice POP 1242) which rose to #2 on the British charts. It was the band's debut US release being launched in February 1964 where it became the band's sole Top 40 placing (#2) and subsequently the title of their only US long player (Imperial LP 9621).

"Hippy Hippy Shake" was first released in July of 1959 by Chan Romero on the Del-Fi label (interestingly it was simultaneously issued in the UK on Columbia as DB 4341). The track was covered by a host of other UK artists (the Beatles covered it in a BBC session long before the Swinging Blue Jeans version was recorded) but The Blue Jeans version remains the most well known.  It does not differ much from the original except that it's a little more frantic and sped up and does not have the gritty and greasy feel of the original. Of interest is that the Blue Jeans sing "the hippy hippy shakes" during the verses whereas the original version merely sings "hippy hippy shake".

The flip side (the same as it's UK release) was an original "Now I Must Go" penned by lead vocalist Ray Ennis. Though it's not awful by any means, it's a fairly inoffensive and pedestrian mid tempo beat ballad.

Both sides have been compiled on several Swinging Blue Jeans compilations, the best place to hear it being the British EMI "At Abbey Road" CD and the American "Hippy Hippy Shake: Definitive Collection" collection.

Hear "Hippy Hippy Shake":

Hear "Now I Must Go":

Friday, March 20, 2020

Island Records Ska Picks Part One

Whilst here on self imposed quarantine due to the Coronavirus I have been going through my various singles and decided to come up with ten ska sides on the Island label for your pleasure!

1. DERRICK MORGAN-"Forward March" WI 011 1962
Released in honor of Jamaica's independence In August of 1962 "Forward March" is a spirited track that begins with a rallying trumpet and a military march cum mid tempo  ska rhythm. It was Morgan's third release on Island after a staggering 22 singles for Emil Shallit's Blue Beat label.

2. JIMMY CLIFF-"Dearest Beverely" WI 012 1962
Jimmy's second UK release after a single on Blue Beat and his debut on Island was this neo doo wop ballad that was a far cry from ska but worth a listen for the historical importance. Fortunately Jimmy went on to cut several far more "ska" sides for the label that were far more interesting.

3. CLANCY ECCLES-"Judgement" WI 044 1963
Clancy Eccles holds the distinction of being on practically ever major U.K. 60's ska label: Blue Beat, Ska Beat, Pama, Doctor Bird and of course Island where he cut two singles, "Judgement" being the first. Delivered at mid tempo with a chugging ska-boggie rhythm it's backed the unusual accompaniment of harmonica and horns.

4. DESMOND DECKER (sic) and BEVERELEY'S ALL STARS-"Honour Your Mother And Father" WI 054 1963
The late great Desmond Dekker's (misspelled here) made his debut on Island (and everywhere else) with this track in 1963. Licensed from Bevereley records in Jamaica it's a curious P.S.A overlaid on a slow boogie woogie rhythm with a ska back beat.

5. TOP GRANT-"Riverbank Coberley" WI 072 1963
The curiously named Top Grant's fourth release for the label was this mid tempo groover backed by some tasty sax and a totally infectious groove that is a welcome breath of air for the periods usual "ska boogie shuffle" sounds.

6. THE VIKINGS-"Six And Seven Books Of Moses" WI 075 1963
The Vikings were an moniker used by The Maytals on their early Island releases. Some of their records have been dubbed "gospel ska" because of their penchant for biblical influenced tracks like this one. Despite my lack of religious interest this one works because of their stellar vocal harmonizing, but only just.

7. BABA BROOKS-"Bank To Bank" WI 096 1963
One time Skatalite and ska trumpet player extraordinaire, Baba Brooks cut a host of sides for Island in between other releases for Black Swan and Ska Beat. "Bank To Bank" is a fairly pedestrian instrumental that's offset by some jazzy solos and a drum beat that threatens to derail the whole number at times!

8. LORD BRISCOE-"Praise For I" WI 131 1964
Licensed through Beverley's records in Jamaica this was Lord Briscoe's debut on the label and like many of his subsequent releases it has a biblical slant. This one carries an unusual mix of horns and harmonica which gives it an interesting feel

9. THE CHARMS-"Carry Go Bring Come" WI 154 1964
The Charms were Justin Hinds and The Dominoes delivering one the most skank-tastic Island ska sides. With amazing double tracked vocals and a solid brass section it doesn't get much better than this to my ears. Even with my two left feet this tune always makes me want to dance!

10. THE SKATALITES-"Guns Of Navarone" WI 168 1965
Possibly one of the most famous ska instrumentals of all time is this number from the short lived but legendary instrumental combo The Skatalites who contained a virtual who's who of 60's Jamaican music. Kicking off with the brilliant vocal percussion "chicka chicka chick" rhythm and the immediately identifiable powerful horns this reading of the film theme tune is eternal.

Friday, March 13, 2020

More U.K. Tracks On U.S. Labels: Cat Stevens Debut!

CAT STEVENS-I Love My Dog/Portobello Road US Deram 45 DEM 7501 1966

An 18 year old Londoner of Greek Cypriot/Swedish heritage named Steven Georgiou was rechristened Cat Stevens and became one of Decca records new signings for their brand new off shoot label Deram. His debut 45 "I Love My Dog" b/w "Portobello Road" was launched in the UK by the company for their second single as Deram DM 102 in September of 1966. It was issued here in the US in November.

"I Love My Dog" begins with what would become a template for Cat's first few Deram releases utilizing the formula of a mid tempo pop song with gentle acoustic guitar accompanied by lavish orchestration (care of Alan Tew). It was produced by former Springfield's member Mike Hurst, who conned Decca's Dick Rowe into free studio time (as related here) to cut the track and gain it's release. It reached #28 in the British singles chart, and did nothing in the US where Stevens would have to wait until a label change and the next decade before he scored a hit but paved the way for further successful U.K. hits on the label.

Will Cat Stevens real dog please yelp?

The flip "Portobello Road" was penned by Stevens with help from visiting American Kim Fowley. It's a sparse track with acoustic guitar with the lyrics describing the sights or London's famous street of used items and bric a brac.

Both sides are available as bonus cuts on the current CD issue of his debut LP on Deram "Matthew & Son".

Hear "I Love My Dog":

Hear "Portobello Road":

Friday, March 6, 2020

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: The Paramounts

THE PARAMOUNTS-Poison Ivy/ I Feel Good All Over US The Liverpool Sound LS 903 1964

We talked about the U.K. r&b quartet the Paramount's U.K. debut single way back when over here. Interestingly it received an obscure U.S. release on the short lived The Liverpool Sound label (it was the label's final release behind records by other non-Liverpool artists John Leyton and Mike Sheridan and the Nightriders). I would love to know the story behind this short lived, oddly titled British invasion cash in label! As most of you may know The Paramounts were the nucleus of what later became Procul  Harum. The band's members were: Gray Broker-Vocals/keyboards, Robin Trower-guitar, Diz Derrick-bass and B.J. Wilson-drums

Their version of The Coaster's "Poison Ivy" isn't bad (it beat The Stones out on covering it by a month), Gary Brooker's vocals are great as always, it's just that there isn't much else to it to hold one's attention or warrant repeated plays. Interestingly the Stones made favorable remarks about the band in the music press back in the day!

The "B" side, a cover of The Drifters "I Feel Good All Over" benefits from (once again) Brooker's smooth voice and a nice piano shuffle feel to it (a strong point of the band who were neither the gritty Pretty Things/Stones style r&B nor the mod/jazz of Graham Bond or Georgie Fame).  It's cheery and chirpy and one of my fave Paramounts tracks and like all of their numbers you can actually suss some sort of sense of "passion" for what they're doing.

Both sides are available on the highly recommended Edsel LP/CD "Whiter Shades Of R&B" which compiles all of their 45 and E.P. tracks as well as some unreleased numbers and a rare French E.P. only cut.

Hear "Poison Ivy":

Hear "I Feel Good All Over":