Thursday, March 25, 2021

Ten Island Records Greats From The WIP Series

 In 1967 Island records jumped from their WI (West Indies) catalog number series to the WIP series which unlike the WI, was predominantly rock and roll. Here's ten from the WIP series for your listening pleasure:

1. RAY CAMERON-"Doing My Time" WIP  6003 1967

I know absolutely zilch about this record but discovered it via Nick Rossi many years ago. It's got a feel not unlike the sort of brassy sophisticated pop/r&b that Georgie Fame and Zoot Money were leaning towards in late '66/early '67 when they were easing off the soulful r&b. Penned by Cameron and organ whiz Alan Hawkshaw it reminds me of Fame's hit "Getaway" or Zoot Money's "Nick Knack". Lyrically it concerns a prisoner (complete with lots of sound affects) and was released on the heels of a host of high profile HM Prison escapes.

2. TRAFFIC-"Coloured Rain" WIP 6025 1967

The flip of Traffic's third single "Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush", "Coloured Rain" rates as one of their most powerful tracks in my estimation and might have made a better topside. Winwood has never sounded more soulful and the mix of organ and percussion give at hint of what his previous band, The Spencer Davis Group, might have sounded like had he not packed it in and gotten a little more "freaky".

3. JIMMY CLIFF-"I Got A Feeling (And I Just Can't Stop)" WIP 6011 1967

Jamaica born Jimmy Cliff had a Jekyll and Hyde music career on Island. On one hand he was a reggae artist and on the other he made slightly poppy soul records, a split that must have confused fans and chart compilers alike. "I Got A Feeling" is in the latter category. It reminds me of SDG's "Can't Get Enough Of It" but with uptempo horns and soulful backing vocals not unlike his French E.P. only tune "Let's Dance" (a vocal version of Wyncder K. Frog's "Dancing Frog").

4. THE V.I.P.'s-"Straight Down To The Bottom" WIP 6005 1967

One of Island's strongest 45's for me will always be the second single for the label by soul/r&b quintet The V.I.P's (it would also be their last using the V.I.P's moniker). Propelled by powerful/soulful call and response vocals/backing vocals it's infectious groove is carried along by almost wonky sounding stride piano and some funky percussion (I swear there's congas buried in there).  Mike Harrison's vocals sound marvelous and the backing vocals shore it all up. Magic! Two months later the band would re-emerge on the label as Art (see below).

5. THE SMOKE-"It Could Be Wonderful" WIP 6023 1967

Freakbeat legends The Smoke switched to Island after two singles with Columbia and launched this 45 in November '67. "It Could Be Wonderful" is driven by a mid tempo beat with bursts of raw power chords and a Motown influenced bass line. In the middle bit it gets freaky with a banjo before crashing backing into their trademark power pop gusto adding a Morse code guitar lick reminiscent of "You Keep Me Hanging On" and the bass line doubling as it fades out.

6. WYNDER K. FROG-"I'm A Man" WIP 6014 1967

Hammond organ driven r&b legends Wynder K. Frog issued two singles on the label in their distinct red and white WI series before moving to a taste of pink with the WIP series. Their over the top instro reading of the SDG's "I'm A Man" is a full on party committed to vinyl with hand claps, crowd shouts , a raucous football terrace drunken yell of the main chorus and of course wailing Hammond organ. The music press at the time reported that this was recorded live in Paris at Bridgette Bardot's birthday party, keyboardist Mick Weaver subsequently owned up that it was pure fantasy concocted by the band's management.

7. ART-"What's That Sound (For What It's Worth)" WIP 6019 1967

Two months after the above mentioned V.I.P's 45 "Straight Down To The Bottom" the band changed their name to Art and cut this interesting cover of The Buffalo Springfield's 1966 hit. It adds a heavy riff (that I swear was nicked by Hot Chocolate for their hit "You Sexy Thing") to it that totally revamps the number. Six months later they would add a new member and become Spooky Tooth (see below).

8. JOYCE BOND-"Do The Teasy" WIP 6010 1967

West Indian vocalist Joyce Bond had previously cut on single for the label's WI series before this release. Punctuated by a rocksteady rhythm and some very British r&b sounding horns that could easily be from a '67 Georgie Fame 45. "Do The Teasy" is an inoffensive little commercial sounding reggae tune punctuated with the obligatory shouts of "Hey!". It was produced by the famous Harry Palmer, the man behind the decks on The Mohawks Pama 45's.  Never one to miss an opportunity to plagiarize Prince Buster re-cut it as "Take It Easy" the following year.

9. NIRVANA-"The Girl In The Park" WIP 6038 1968

Pop psych duo Nirvana released this, their fourth 45 rpm offering on the label in August of 1968. Wrapped in a wonderful production by Muff Winwood and orchestrated by Syd Dale it's a magnificent number with lush strings, harpsichord, angelic sunshine pop choral bliss and brass that would give any Decca/Deram release in the pop-sike genre a run for it's money. My favorite bit as at 2:13 in when the brief "ba ba ba's" come in and carry the number out.

10. SPOOKY TOOTH-"Sunshine Help Me" WIP 6022 1968

The ink was barely dry on the label's of Art's Buffalo Springfield cover as WIP 6019 before the band added keyboard player and NJ native Gary Wright and became Spooky Tooth, their third moniker revamp in a year's time. "Sunshine Help Me" is a powerful mix of Small Faces '68 style rocking and soulful shades of the band's previous incarnations. Led by the dual vocals of Wright and the ever soulful Mike Harrison it's mix of churchy Hammond, harpsichord, tabla and blistering guitar that easily make it the most powerful thing they ever did.

45 scans of The Smoke and Spooky Tooth courtesy of

No comments: