Friday, November 27, 2020

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: Traffic


TRAFFIC-Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush/Coloured Rain US United Artists UA 50232 1968

Traffic's third American single was the title track of the 1968 Swinging England Clive Donner romp about a young man's quest to lose his virginity. The single was issued in February of 1968 (in the U.K. it was also their third single but was previously released in November of '67 as Island WIP 6025). Like Traffic's two previous 45 releases in America it made absolutely no impact on the charts whatsoever.

Written by the entire band, "Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush" is a departure for Traffic and their pop psych whimsy and almost sounds like it would be better suited for the likes of Island records label mates Nirvana. It starts out with a bit of pop psych whimsy thanks to the regal feel of the organ but the vocals have an air of "sing along" to them that for some reason puts me off.

Bringing up the B-side we have "Coloured Rain". In my humble opinion it's one of the most powerful things the band ever cut. From Winwood's soulful opening lines to the way it all neatly falls together the track is nothing short of amazing. It has a swirling Hammond combining B-3 jazz and church, near eastern feeling woodwinds, Latin percussion, Roland Kirk style freak out sax and an almost ominous heavy lick that sees the track off whilst dueling with some gorgeous Hammond. Magic!  It easily would have made a better A-side.

"Hear We Go Round The Mulberry Bush" can be found on the CD release of the film soundtrack and as a bonus track on the CD reissue of their second LP "Traffic", while "Coloured Rain" is available as a bonus track on the CD reissue of their debut LP "Dear Mr Fantasy". 

Hear "We Here Go Round The Mulberry Bush":

Hear "Coloured Rain":

Thursday, November 19, 2020

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: The Moody Blues Mk.II US Debut


THE MOODY BLUES-Fly Me High/I Really Haven't Got The Time US London 45-LON-20030 1967

By 1967 our intrepid British r&b disciples The Moody Blues had undergone a major metamorphosis. In 1966 bass player Clint Warwick was replaced by Rod Clark, formerly of a beat group called The Monotones. The band had also began a slight shift away from r&b and playing jangly, poppy tracks as indicated on their later singles (and a host of brilliant unreleased '66 tracks issued in the deluxe version of their debut LP "The Magnificent Moodies"). Later in the year lead singer Denny Laine would be gone too with a short lived but brilliant career on Deram to follow. The Moodie's seemed finished but by 1967 like a phoenix rising from the ashes they returned fronted by Justin Hayward on lead vocals and guitar (formerly of Marty Wilde's backing group) and John Lodge on bass. Decca wasted no time racing the band into the studio in March of 1967 to begin what would become the new line up's vinyl debut. The new mark Moodies made their 45 debut in the U.K. in May of 1967 with this release as Decca F 12607. It was issued here in the States in July. 

"Fly Me High", a Hayward original is nothing short of ethereal brilliance. It's a mellow tune with just acoustic guitar, bass, drums and piano but it's the amazing harmonies (that would become this new line up's trademark) that carry the number. Hayward admitted in the Moodie's documentary "Legend Of A Band" that the track was "about pot". There's a catchy piano lick in it as well that has a hit of edge to it with a slight reverb/phlange on it (check out the new line up besuitted Moddies doing this crazy earlier live version cut for French TV in '66 with combo organ instead of piano).

The flip, "I Really Haven't Got The Time" was penned by keyboardist Mike Pinder. An earlier unreleased until version was cut in '66 with Denny Laine and Rod Clark and this line up performed it on several European TV shows (Germany's "Beat Club" among them). This version was unearthed for the deluxe edition CD reissue of "The Magnificent Moodies". The re-recorded version here is a bit different but not by much. It's jaunty and the piano has a bar-room ivory tinkling to it and a catchy happy go lucky feel to it. The high backing vocals are a bit more restrained (Clarke's backing vocals on the first recording always grated on me). It's not unlistenable but not something I would want to play again and again.

The single did nothing chart wise on either side of the Atlantic and it would be the band's last US single on London before moving to Deram as London opted to not release the band's next (and final) UK Decca single, the powerful "Leave This Man Alone" . Curiously several European pressings of "Fly Me High" featured picture sleeves of the old Lane/Warwick line up and it would take awhile for their art departments to step up their game.

Both cuts were issued on a strange 1968 catch all Moodie's comp LP (obviously not catch all enough as none of the unreleased tracks from the above mentioned deluxe edition of "Magnificent..." are on it) along with a host of later era Laine tracks. Both sides are also on a budget CD of all the band's Decca/Deram A and B sides titled "The Singles" and an even earlier CD release called "Prelude". 

Hear "Fly Me High":

Hear "I Really Haven't Got The Time":

Thursday, November 12, 2020

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: Billy J. Kramer Does Harry Nilsson


Billy J. Kramer-1941/His Love Is Just A Lie US Epic F-10331 1968

By 1968 Billy J. Kramer's days in the hit parade had long since vanished, he briefly was the co-host of a short lived music show "Discotheque" and was stuck in the unexciting cabaret circuit. His recording career in '68 was inaugurated with today's release.  In a much earlier post we had discussed his previous 45, a freaky 1967 one off for Robert Stigwood's short lived Reaction label. Kramer had been one of the few Liverpool acts (along with Cilla Black and of course The Beatles) who Brian Epstein retained in his stable of artists. When Robert Stigwood was brought into Epstein's NEMS company he was given Kramer which ultimately resulted in the previously mentioned 45 after Kramer's contract with EMI expired.  After Epstein's passing his brother Clive, along with Stigwood launched a record label in Britain called NEMS. Stigwood was eventually replaced in the organization by Vic Lewis and the label's debut release came in March 1968 with Billy J. Kramer's release of a Harry Nilsson composition "1941" (Nems 56-3396). NEMS did not issue any American releases so Kramer's new 45 was launched two months later in the U.S. by Epic.

American singer/songwriter Harry Nilsson was, like Randy Newman, slowly taking Britain by storm with a host of covers of his tunes thanks in no small part due to the patronage of The Fab Four who loved his debut 1967 LP "Pandemonium Shadow Show". Kramer was the first artist to cover "1941" though The Alan Price Set played it in a live BBC session. His version differs little from the original, in fact it took me a few listens to both versions back to back to make sure it wasn't the same backing track! The musical accompaniment on this version is slightly more martial and regal, with some subtle differences in the horns. Kramer's vocals have more of a bite in parts and regardless of it's lack of originality the whole thing really works for me!

Mrs & Mr. Kramer at home, 1968.

The flip "His Love Was Just A Lie" is a pedestrian orchestrated pop track. It sounds like one of those nameless tracks used as filler on one of the volumes of the "Piccadilly Sunshine" CD comp pop series right down to it's vibraphone and cello.

To my knowledge neither side has been comped anywhere, which is unfortunate in the case of The A-side!

Hear "1941":

Hear "His Love Was Just A Lie":

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Only In America! 10 U.S. Only Pressings Of U.K. 60's 45's Part Three

1. THE SUMMER SET-"Cos It's Over"  Roulette R-4766 1967
The Summer Set were a tight British West Coast styled harmony group who forever seemed to be on every bill at the Marquee Club in '66. Their sole American single was an October 1967 U.S. only cover version of The Flower Pot Men's U.K. hit "Let's Go To San Francisco" (issued here by Deram in August). It's pedestrian, but the guts are on the B-side, "Cos It's Over" a strong rocker powered by some great harmonies and a full on "Fleur De Ly's style" freakbeat backing. The coupling was also issued in Italy and Germany.

2. THE HILL-"Sylvie" Immediate ZS7-5016 1968
The Hill were former late era members of Chris Farlowe's backing band The Thunderbirds (they later cut an LP with Farlowe in 1970). They cut this one off 45 that was only issued in the U.S. and Canada for some reason. "Sylvie" is a slice of pop sike perfection with sweeping harmonies, orchestration and is pure pop perfection not too dissimilar to label mate Duncan Browne.

3. THE MONOTONES-"When Will I Be Loved" Hickory 45-1306 1965
U.K. beat act The Monotones cut four singles back home for the Pye label during '64-'65, and three in the U.S., two of which were not issued in Britain. The first of these was this rocked up treatment of the Everly's "When Will I Be Loved" with some Jimmy Page style volume pedal effects on the guitar, combo organ and an almost C&W feel to the vocals. Bassist Rod Clark was briefly a Moody Blues member when he replaced Clint Warwick in 1966.

4. THE KONRADS-"I Didn't Know How Much" Decca 32060 1966
The Konrads would have been just another no name/no hope British beat combo had their sax player not gone on to become David Bowie. By the time the band were signed in 1965 their former sax player was already on his third band and third record, but that didn't stop the rumor mill and unscrupulous record dealers from insisting he was on this U.S. only release in the early 2000's when "Mojo" attempted to claim some possible D.B. involvement. All hype and conjecture aside their U.S. only release "I Didn't Know How Much" is not unlistenable, but it's not something I would play repeatedly. It kicks off with some powerful fuzz guitar and shows promise with interesting use of vibes but sadly turns into a weak Gary Lewis and The Playboys affair.

5. IAN & THE ZODIACS-"Why Can't It Be Me" Phillips 40343 1965
Liverpool's Ian & The Zodiacs were far bigger in Germany than at home and as a result they had far more releases over there (releasing five singles and three LP's in Der Fatherland). They also had five singles released in the U.S., among them was their fourth 45 "Why Can't It Be Me", a tough beat group rocker with a catchy riff that sounds not dissimilar to that of Roy Orbison's hit "Pretty Woman". Check out the clip of them performing it live on German TV's "Beat Club" here

6. TONY RITCHIE-"Coming On Strong" GNP Crescendo GNP-406 1968
Singer Tony Ritchie, like former Sorrows front man Don Fardon was a protege of singer/producer Miki Dallon. This powerful fuzz guitar driven go-go mover by him was not released in the U.K. or Europe and remains a U.S. only issue and is quite in demand as a result of both of those factors. Curiously Don Fardon cut a version using the same backing track, but with the fuzz mixed down considerably hence lacking the bite and power of this record.

7. BEST OF THE BEATLES (PETER BEST)-"The Way I Feel About You" Happening HA 1117 1966
Like a previous entry's post on The Undertakers U.S. only 45 "I Fell In Love (For The Very First Time)" this 45 was recorded in New York City at the Talentmasters Studio (later the site of the Who's 1967 recording of tracks for "The Who Sell Out" LP) under the guidance of Bob Gallo who brought both bands over to capitalize on the Beatles craze. "The Way I Feel About You" sounds like a 60's U.S. garage track with it's cheezy combo organ and slightly out of tune guitars. The vocals are not by Pete Best but by Wayne Bickerton, later to become a producer and A&R man with band mate Tony Waddington for Deram/Decca in the U.K. where they were responsible for a host of pop-sike masterpieces as well as The Flirtations entire Deram output. 

8. THE LIVERBIRDS-"Why Do You Hang Around Me" Phillips 40288 1965
Like Ian & The Zodiacs, The Liverbirds were a Liverpool group who prospered more in Germany, in fact they had no records ever released in the U.K! "Why Do You Hang Around" me is a perfect moody, beat/ballad that's everything The Delmonas/ Headcoatees wish they were. Downtrodden lyrics, morose backing vocals and a powerful yet subtle delivery proving that The Zombies were not the only masters of young love angst! It also was the simultaneous B-side to their U.S. single "Peanut Butter" which shared the same catalog number as this release (this copy was the A-side with a version of "Diddley Daddy" on the flip).

9. THE SOUND OF JIMMY NICOL-"Roaring Blue" Parrot 45-9752 1965
Drummer Jimmy Nicol's lucky day came while drumming for Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames and the call came to deputize for Ringo Starr (who was having his tonsils out) on a series of European and Australian live dates. Three singles were released after his short Beatles tenure in the U.K. and two were issued in the U.S. The last "Sweet Clementine" was released in both countries, but with different B-sides. The U.S. flip "Roaring Blue" bears more than a striking resemblance to Sounds Incorporated and Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames. It's an instrumental with brass and some wild organ that at times sounds like "One Mint Julep".

10. ONE-"Enter Into My World" Columbia 4-44256 1967
Former Undertakers lead singer/bassist Jackie Lomax released this U.S. only 45 as "One" after returning to Britain at Brian Epstein's suggestion after being adrift in NYC following The Undertakers split. The band were known as The Lomax Alliance and recorded almost an LP's worth of material which is where these tracks came from and had a U.K. single a few months prior, why it was released here as "One" is anybody's guess (They had been called The Lost Souls while gigging in NYC). The band' evaporated with the death of their sponsor a week after this record was released. "Enter Into My World" is an incredibly brief tune, but amazing with it's rugged guitar riff, catchy melody and cheery disposition.