Friday, June 26, 2020

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

1. WARREN COVINGTON AND HIS ORCHESTRA-"Watermelon Man" Decca 25710 1964
I could easily do a post with ten versions of "Watermelon Man" but this is an interesting interpretation that essentially stick's to Herbie Hancocks arrangement but replaces the horn section with double tracked flute which gives it a laid back, breezy, Summer feel.

2. TRADE MARTIN-"Moanin" RCA Victor 47-9112 1967
Like "Watermelon Man" I could do a whole post with ten versions of "Moanin'". This version eschews the usual jazz arrangements and turns it into a handclappin', uptempo "mod" dancer with powerful horns and a blistering vocal performance. Brilliant.

3. JOHN LEE HOOKER-"I'm Going Upstairs" Vee Jay VJ 379 1961
Found on the flip of his classic "I'm Mad Again", just add your usual John Lee beat with groveling/ growling vocals and an infectious groove that's almost hypnotic and you have "I'm Going Upstairs". Clearly everyone else thinks so too because it's one of his more pricey seven inches to acquire!

4. SWEET WILLIAM AND THE STEREOS-"I Can Hear My Baby" JED International 0011 1966
On top of a musical rip off of Roy Head's "Treat Her Right" this obscure slice of white boy r&b backed by sax and and some funky organ musically sounds like a sophomore Graham Bond Organization with frat rock vocals! Wailing! Not to be outdone there's an ending "borrowed" from The Isley's "Shout!".

5. YAPHET KOTTO-"Have You Ever Seen The Blues" Chisa CH 006 1967
I don't know about you but I had no idea that Yaphet Kotto had a singing career! Though I would hesitate to categorize him as a singer he cut this hip, spoken word jazzy number on the Chisa label (also home to Peter Fonda's similar "musical career") that's a brilliant peace of socially conscious/street observation hip speak worth checking out.

6. EARL HARRISON-"Humphrey Stomp" Garrison GAR 3001 1966
This one is an uptempo soulful number exhorting everyone to try a new dance called the Humphrey Stomp. Not dissimilar to something by Bob & Earl, it's sometimes repetitive but a decent tune nonetheless.

7. SLIM HARPO-"Folsom Prison Blues" Excello EX-2306 1969
I'm on the fence about this because it's got a backing that's distinctly a hackneyed attempt to "update" the blues but it's worth it for Slim's voice and to hear him cover a Johnny Cash number, despite the "white boys discovering the blues and then making it heavy" musical backing.

8. TEDDY AND DARREL-"Wild Thing" Mira 235 1967
This one is a total "Golden Throats" candidate for sure! The vocals are campy and clearly intended to push some same sex boundaries that sounds like duet between Paul Lynde and Emo Phillips with a monotonous, cheezy fuzz guitar lick repeating itself, annoyingly.

9. KING CURTIS-"Do The Monkey" Capitol 4998 1963
King Curtis for me is a double edged blade, sometimes he cooks up amazing r&b wailers, other times he comes across like a combination of the "Saturday Night Live" house band meets soul elevator music (is there such a thing?).  "Do The Monkey" lies somewhere between the two with some wailing sax but these saccharine backing vocals that sound like they were on loan from the Ray Conniff Singers.

10. LAVERN BAKER-"Batman To The Rescue" Brunswick 55297 1966
Essentially a reworking of her 1956 hit "Jim Dandy" with new lyrics and some wailing Billy Preston style organ (and an intro starting with the "Batman Theme") this number works thanks to LaVern's brilliant vocal ad libbing and the 1966 "house-party a go-go" feel. Impossibly expensive!

All label scans courtesy of Here all ten songs here.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Aussies On US Labels: The Executives

THE EXECUTIVES-"My Aim Is To Please You"/"Bad Reputation" US United Artists UA 50201 1967

Australian sextet The Executives can best be described as Down Under's answer to Britain's Episode Six on a good recording or a watered down Spanky & Our Gang on some of their less interesting material. Owing to their harmony/sunshine pop sound, the number of band personnel and the fact that one of them was a female vocalist Episode Six comparisons are somewhat warranted.

Our subject here was their only U.S. release issued in August of 1967. Back home in Australia it was their second single (issued as Festival FK-1776 in May of 1967).

The A-side "My Aim Is To Please You" is a mundane slice of Mamas and Papas meets The Seekers style pop pastiche. It's a cover of an earlier track (1966) by an American artist called Kenny Young oddly issued on United Artists as well.

Interestingly the flip, "Bad Reputation" is also a U.S. cover from the United Artists label, originally released by The James Boys in 1966 (United Artists 4-43488). The Executives version is pretty much a note for note cover but it's quite an improvement on the original, which isn't sure if it wants to be The Righteous Brothers or soul music. The Executives however refine it's rough edges and turn it into a harmony pop masterpiece with some Mamas and Papas style harmonies and a groovy cheezy Farfisa.  The band went on to cut nine more singles, two E.P.'s and two LP's in Australia but further releases in the United States were not forthcoming.

Both sides have yet to surface on any legitimate compilations.

Hear "My Aim Is To Please You":

Hear "Bad Reputation":

Monday, June 15, 2020

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: Unit 4+2

UNIT FOUR PLUS TWO-You've Never Been In Love Like This Before/Tell Somebody You Know US London 45 LON 9761 1965

Unit Four Plus Two will best be remembered by American's for their catchy one off hit "Concrete And Clay" (a minor hit in April 1965 which rose to #28) and the track's use in the Wes Anderson film "Rushmore". The band's second release came in July in the shape of "You've Never Been In Love Like This Before", a composition by band members Tommy Moeller and Brian Parker (also the author's of "Concrete And Clay"). The track was previously issued in the UK in May as Decca F 12144.

"You've Never Been In Love Like This Before" is an interesting track. It's a beat ballad of sorts but the chord changes have a slight Motown feel to them and it accents the band's harmonies perfectly and best of all it skips the pitfalls of so many mid 60's beat records by not sounding like it's predecessor!

The flip "Tell Somebody You Know" is a pedestrian slice of beat balladry, nothing remotely interesting to these ears I'm afraid!

Both sides are available on a RPM CD collection "Concrete And Clay: The Complete Recordings".

Watch a UK Pathe film of "You've Never Been In Love Like This Before":


 Hear "Tell Somebody You Know":

Saturday, June 6, 2020

More Obscure U.K. 45's On U.S. Labels: The Tornados

THE TORNADOS-Stingray/Aqua Marina US Tower 171 1965

Legendary British producer Joe Meek's Tornados were a U.K. instrumental quintet best known for their worldwide smash "Telstar" (a U.S. #1 in 1962). But a lot had changed for them since their hit, namely The Beatles.  The changing face of pop music in general and Meek's production techniques  which often sounded all too similar made the band redundant by October 1965 when this single was released. It would be their seventh US single, their second on the Tower label after a five single, one LP stint with London (in the U.K. the band followed a similar track going from Decca to Columbia). In addition to this Tower would issue a host of Meek productions including four by ex-Torandos bassist/Meek protege Heinz and three Tom Jones singles (including one not released in the UK).

"Stingray" b/w "Aqua Marina" was issued in Britain a month earlier as Columbia DB 7687.  Both sides were written by Barry Gray, the man responsible for the theme music for nearly all of TV producer/director Gerry Anderson's shows which featured marionettes. "Stingray" was the theme to yet another Anderson sci-fi TV show and a version of the theme had been issued in the UK in October '64 (Pye 7N 15698) with "Aqua Marina" on the A-side by Gary Miller. Undeterred Meek had the Tornados cut both sides with a newly revamped line up that by this point included none of the members who played on "Telstar". The Tornado's version of "Stingray" is in my opinion one of their wildest tracks and most over the top releases to date. Eschewing his usual organ/Clavioline technique Meek amped up the weirdness on this one with the sounds of bubbling water, shrieking electronic noise bursts, echoed vocals chanting "Stingray"accented by a catchy surf guitar lick in conjunction with an organ while the band sing some spooky "oooo's" on top.

"Aqua Marina" is more of Meek's usual stuff. Slower, echoed guitars, sci-fi organ, reverbed guitars, a chorus of wordless singing, like The Shadows under water meets the Ray Coniff Singers.

Their next single (and incidentally their final U.S. release) was previously profiled here in an earlier post.

Both sides are available on a host of compilations, my recommendation is the "Ridin' The Wind" collection which compiles pretty much everything the band ever recorded.

Hear "Stingray":

Hear "Aqua Marina":

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

R.I.P. Phil May

                          Phil May November 9, 1944 - May 15, 2020

Phil May, Maxwell's, Hoboken, NJ September 17, 1999
"This pen doesn't work" Maxwell's, Hoboken, NJ September 17, 1999

Word came through that Phil May had passed away. Its taken me awhile to sit down and write about it because time has been short and I really wanted to put my soul into writing this.

My introduction to The Pretty Things came at a very early age. I was probably 11 or 12 and at the onset of my British Invasion fascination with all things Sixties and British in a "Time Life" World Library book in my school library on Britain there was a picture of them playing live in b&w. But they were never on oldies radio and there was no Internet to search for them on. In 1983 I bought David Bowie's "Pin Ups" where he covered the Prettie's "Rosalyn" and "Don't Bring Me Down". I honestly did not hear them until 1985 when a girl I was friends with taped me selections of tracks theirs. Around the same time another friend put "Can't Stand The Pain" on a compilation tape. Finally in 1986 I acquired my first Pretty Things record, the Bam Caruso compilation LP "Closed Restaurant Blues" from Venus Records and so began the acquisition of their Sixties catalog.

Fast forward to September 17, 1999 and the entire 1967 line up of the band kicked off their U.S. Tour at Maxwell's in Hoboken (I was fortunate to catch this gig as drummer Skip Allen bailed a few gigs later).  What I remember most about their set was they performed five tracks from "S.F. Sorrow" which sounded god like (no doubt owing, in some small part,  to the several pints of Double Diamond coursing through my veins).  After the gig I found Phil May standing at the bar on his own nursing a glass of white wine. We had a brief chat and he signed several E.P.'s for me (despite a malfunctioning pen) and came across as a lovely, polite chap.  I sadly never got to see them again.  Rest in peace Sir.

"David Bowie's just doing what Phil May of the Pretty Things used to do. He's just wearing different clothes"  -Van Morrison 1973