Sunday, November 26, 2023

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: The Merseybeats "Don't Turn Around"


THE MERSEYBEATS-Don't Turn Around/Really Mystified U.S. Fontana S-1905 1964 

The Merseybeats were one of the slew of Liverpool bands signed in 1963 when A&R men descended on the city in the wake of "Merseybeat" and signed anyone with a guitar who could carry a tune, fortunately The Merseybeats were incredibly talented. Though they flirted with the U.K. charts (seven of their eight singles were in U.K. top forty, only one in the top ten) their popularity was never enough to overcome The Searchers or any of Brian Epstein's acts chart wise. They had a selection of their eight U.K. singles released in America (five) and this was their second U.S. release in June of 1964 ( in the U.K. it was their third issued as Fontana TF 459 in April, 1964 where it rose to #13, their second highest scoring British single). 

"Don't Turn Around" marked the debut recording with their new bass player/vocalist Johnny Gus (Gustafson),  recently of Liverpool's The Big Three, replacing the outgoing Billy Kinsley. Johnny Gus who was also a very competent vocalist and shared lead vocals with front man Tony Crane as well as lead vocals on many tracks. Like many of the Merseybeat's selections "Don't Turn Around" epitomizes the genre of the "beat ballad". Lead vocalist Tony Crane and Johnny Gus confidently croon over a gentle backing of bass, drums, acoustic guitar and some very Rachmainoff piano trills, the acoustic guitar lick is quite catchy and to me the number really works. Side A is "the ballad"...

On Side B we have "the beat"... "Really Mystified" was penned by Crane and Gustafson and in my estimation it is one of their best tracks. It's an upbeat catchy little beat ditty that almost sounds at times like it's a cover of an American r&b number that's sped up (the hand claps and melody especially).  As with the A side the vocals are a duet between Crane and Gustafson. It's easily their most rocking track of the Crane/Gustafson era.

Both tracks were part of Edsel records essential 1982 compilation LP "Beat & Ballads" as well as the more recent and thoroughly comprehensive 2021 Grapefruit two CD collection "I Stand Accused" which collected everything the band and it's members recorded in the 60's. 

Hear "Don't Turn Around":

See and hear the band do "Don't Turn Around" live at the 1964 NME Pollwinners Concert:

Hear "Really Mystified":

Friday, November 17, 2023

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: Jeff Beck's Debut With The Fitz & Startz


THE FITZ & STARTZ-I'm Not Running Away/So Sweet U.S. Capitol 5356 1965

This one off 45 by the obscure Manchester U.K. beat quartet The Fitz & Startz goes down in the annals of history as being the earliest known commercial recording of Jeff Beck, who though not a band member, contributed lead guitar on the A-side as a 20 year old session guitarist. Originally released in the U.K. as Parlophone R 5216 in December 1964 it was issued the following month in the United States. It made nary a ripple on either side of the Atlantic.  

"I'm Not Running Away" is catchy in no small part due to Beck's hypnotic, melodic guitar licks (with an interesting effect that sounds similar to something Joe Meek would have concocted) and the distinct high backing vocals that stick in your brain . Those same high backing vocals remind me of The Honeycombs and the lead vocalist brings to mind The Applejacks.

Photo c/o

"So Sweet" is a mid tempo disposable beat ballad. It has a slight country/Everly's feel to the double tracked lead harmony vocals and sounds like your typical '64 beat ballad (not unlike an Escorts or Merseybeats flip side). 

"I'm Not Running Away" featured on a 2003 Jeff Beck CD collection "Shapes Of Things: 60's Groups And Sessions", the flip side has not been reissued to my recollection.  

Hear both  "I'm Not Running Away" and "So Sweet":

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

More U.K. Obscurities On U.S. Labels: Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band


GENO WASHINGTON & THE RAM JAM BAND-Water/Understanding US Congress CG-269 1966

Swinging London soul legend Geno Washington was originally from Evansville, Indiana but curiously despite a massive career in England only saw two U.S. releases. Today's specimen was his first of just three. 

 Back in the U.K. today's release was his second U.K. single issued in April 1966 as Piccadilly 7N 35312, it was released here the following month. 

 "Water" was composed by the songwriters Miller and  McCoy. As far as I can tell Geno Washington was the first artist to record the track. It's a very brass heavy number which for Geno's studio recordings was always a strong suit because his voice was not always up to par (to my ears anyway). The track has a great swing thanks to the Ram Jam Band and their razor sharp playing, but again it's Geno's voice that's not exactly a plus.

"Understanding" was originally penned and recorded by Johnny Nash, again the musical backing is straight on solid but again the vocals are a tad weak. Both sides have been collected on a lot of compilations, the most recent being Castle's "Foot Stompin' Soul" and is also available to hear on Spotify. 
Hear "Water": 

 Hear "Understanding": 

Thursday, November 2, 2023

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

1. FRANCES FAYE-"Comin' Home Baby" Audio Fidelity 45-125 1966

I never tire of hearing version's of Mel Torme's "Comin' Home Baby". This up tempo version has punchy brass and a strong female vocal with some very heavy hitting in the musical backing (I particularly enjoy the piano trills and drummer who is absolutely bashing the shit out of their kit).

2. AL GREENE & THE SOUL MATES-"Don't Leave Me" Hot Line Music Journal 15,000 1967

Yes this is THE Al Green years before stardom. This was the second pressing of what was his first single. It's incredible!! The violins and falsetto backing remind me of Dexy's Midnight Runners!! There's literally so much going on in this with vibes, strings, organ and powerful backing vocals. The riff being played by the violins is hypnotic! Oh and then there's Al's voice, which needs no review....

3. THE WOODEN TRUMPET-"Theme From N.Y.P.D" Amy 11000 1967

I was first introduced to this number via the Johnny Hammond Smith version. It appears this preceded it by one month. Whereas the Johnny Hammond Smith version is led by the organ this is an amazing combination of horns that are positively astounding in a moody sort of way and the descending brass lines remind me a lot of the "Batman" theme.

4. LEE ANDREWS AND THE HEARTS-"Quiet As It's Kept" RCA Victor 47-8929 1966

Backed by a slight Latin beat and horns that play a "Louie Louie" style riff this number is a nice combination of a ballad with a danceable mid tempo beat that's quite infectious! Apparently it's in demand with pensioners on a certain soul scene across the pond.

5. LOWELL FULSON-"Blues Rhumba" Checker 854 1957

This early side from the legendary Lowell Fulsom (titled Fulson here) is a funky little honky tonk instrumental that has a really eccelctic mix of stride blues piano and conga drums creating a really interesting mix that ends quite abruptly!

6. MICKEY MURRAY-"Shout Bamalama" SSS International SSS 175 1967

This cover of an early Otis Redding recording is almost unrecognizable until the vocals start because it's delivered at literally five times the pace of the original! There's Memphis style horns, looping bass and a spiritual backing vocals chorus of "we shall be free" all creating an interesting groove.

7. J.J. BARNES-"Baby Please Come Back Home" Groovesville GV 1006 1967

Detroit's J.J. Barnes cut this 45 after a slew of amazing singles for the local Ric-Tic label. This track is a moody mix of strings, congas and falsetto backing vocals that give an absolute Temptations meets Four Tops '67 feel (the backing vocals weave a melody that is dangerously close to "Get Ready"). Smooth as silk this number would not have been remotely out of place on any of the Motown imprints!

8. THE PAC-KEYS-"Greasy Pumpkin" Hollywood 1118 1967

The Pac-Keys were a side project led by Packy Axton (a founding member of The Mar-Keys and other side projects like The Packers, L.H. & The Memphis Sounds and The Martinis). Curiously this number is one of his more restrained instrumentals despite a song title that would lead you to expect something funky, but it's not coming off like a cross between "Groovin' With Mr. Bloe" meets "Soulful Strut"! Mind you it's not a bad thing, just far more restrained when compared with previous works.

9. JACKIE AND THE STARLITES-'I'm Coming Home" Fury 1057 1961

This interesting mish mash of The Coasters meets James Brown (the beat and tempo owe a bit to "Shout And Shimmy", which curiously it precedes by a year!) is a non stop 100 mph raw stormer by this New York vocal group (also known as The Starlites) that's far more funky than anything I have ever heard by them.

10. MARGRET ANN WILLIAMS-"Ten Commandments Of Soul"  Sue 45-134 1965

Our final selection is a reading of The Moonglows "Ten Commandments Of Love" with a deep male bass voice speaking out the commandants while Williams, in an almost shrills voice ad libs over the top while lush strings and a basic bass/piano/drums lay down the groove.

All scans c/o