Friday, June 23, 2023

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


 THE MONTANAS-Top Hat/Take My Hand U.S. Independence IND-79 1967

The Montanas were one of those British bands who never came remotely close to having a hit in the United States but U.S. labels doggedly continued to release their 45's (often differing from British releases). With three singles issued on Warner Brothers and five on the Independence label and one on Decca one could say they were almost excessive. For me the Montanas straddle the aisle between saccharine overproduced pop and freaky pop psych. 

Today's subject was their third U.S. 45 and their first for the obscure Independence label (along with label mates Bonnie Bramlett and Marlene Dietrich). It was their fourth single in the U.K. launched on Pye (7N 17338) in June of 1967, this release came later in September. "Take My Hand" (written by the Addrissi brothers who gave them their brilliant '65 single "That's When Happiness Began") is a fairly innocuous pop tune with harmonies and a full on Tony Hatch production (he handled most of their records). It's not awful but it's nothing I want to play repeatedly coming off like The Hollies in their post Nash cabaret period (I can actually imagine Allan Clarke singing this). For me the money is on the flip, an unreleased Bee Gee's track called "Top Hat" penned by Barry Gibb (it was also covered by Aussie singer Ronnie Burns on his debut LP along with four other Brothers Gibb gems). It's a kitschy/cheeky little number that's bouncy with some great hooks, tight harmonies and is punchy enough, musically to sound like The Move. Lyrically it's a clever number about a man seeking a change in his mundane existence who believes that purchasing a new top hat will change his perspective.  

Both sides were comped on the comprehensive CD collection of their output "You've Got To Be Loved: Singles A's & B's".

Hear "Take My Hand":

Hear "Top Hat":

Saturday, June 3, 2023

U.S. Soul/R&B/Jazz/Blues 45's For June

1. BOBBY DAY-"Spicks And Specks" U.S. Sure-Shot 5036 1967

This is possibly the first Bee Gees cover to ever get a release in the US! By 1967 the hits for Bobby Day had long dried up and someone had the foresight to have him record this. It kicks off with a martial beat that persists throughout the number adding some regal brass beneath Day's impassioned vocals.

2. JACKIE ROSS-"Everything But Love" U.S. Chess 1903  1964

Jackie Ross of course will always be remembered for her previous release "Selfish One" . This number is more uptempo and features a distinctly Motown feel, from the musical backing, the backing vocals and even Jackie's vocal delivery. Quite possibly her best.

3. ARTHUR ALEXANDER-"Detroit City" U.S. Dot 45-16737 1965

Arthur cut this Bobby Bare hit as his last single for the Dot label. It's slow and soulful and still retains edges of the song's country music backing but has something very Ben E. King to it in both the vocals and the production.

4. PAT LUNDY-"Soul Ain't Nothin' But The Blues" U.S. Columbia 4-44312 1967

Don't let the title deceive you, I expected this to be a greasy r&b number and instead it's a 100 mph high octane soul workout. It sounds almost "saccharine" in it's production and execution but it's infectious and soulful enough to work, but just barely.

5. EL CHICANO-"Coming Home Baby" U.S. Kapp K-2099 1970

This funky little cover of the Mel Torme classic is an incredibly kitschy Hammond organ driven Latin boogaloo jazz stormer. It's not too busy, it's not too funky and it has just the right amount of soul.

6. THE TRAITS-"Harlem Shuffle" U.S. SCE 12169 1966

The Traits were known as Roy Head's backing band but they also had a few singles credited to themselves after backing Head, including this rapid fire interpretation that takes the Bob & Earl original up a few notches in the pulse department. It was released in the States on three different labels!

7. CHAMPION JACK DUPREE-"Shim Sham Shimmy" U.S. Robin 130-X45 1954

My favorite Champion Jack Dupree is this rollicking blues shouter that's one part juke joint blues holler and one part rock n' roll. The guitarist is rumored to be Brownie McGhee, but whoever it is their electric blues style adds to this 45 rpm party.

8. JO ANNE & TROY-"Who Do You Love" U.S. Atlantic 45-2256 1964

Here's an interesting version of Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love" that's slick in production and slightly sanitized in the female vocals but the tempo and and hand claps make it perfect dance floor material.

9. DELLA REESE-"Ninety Nine And 1/2 Won't Do" U.S. RCA Victor 47-7996 1962

Here's one that took me by surprise! Della Reese manages to take this track to new heights long before Wilson Pickett and a host of others did it. There's some incredible call and response vocals and a distinctly soulful feel to it all. Simply magnificent!

10. ALVIN ROBINSON-"Fever" U.S. Red Bird RB 10-010 1964

Alvin Robinson is one of those artists who basically didn't cut any filler, and this smoldering reading of "Fever" is high up on my list of his achievements. The horns have a smokey, jazz club feel and haunt the background providing an excellent marriage of convenience between jazz and soulful r&b.

All scans c/o