20 November 2019

Mojo Hannah - Six Days On The Road (LP) (including St. Jeremy)

Ex-Sweet man Mick Stewart's stomping Southern bar-room boogie boys 

Label: Kingdom
Year of Release: 1973

Mojo Hannah first came to my attention when a few months back, somebody wised me up to their hypnotic and delightful 1973 single "St. Jeremy". Sounding for all the world like a probable hit, "St. Jeremy" contains earthy early seventies rock grit in its fingernails but also the flamboyant sounds of a Cockney Rebel-esque fiddle and a pounding, repetitive and very vaguely artrock structure. It sounds like something you'd expect from some artschool glam rockers.

Hold that thought for a second, because Mojo Hannah were actually formed by ex-Sweet boy Mick Stewart, who was with that group for a mere year between 1969-70. On the other hand, don't don a pair of silver platform boots and put away all the breakables just yet. Far from being a stomping record filled with rockers about teenage rebellion and ballrooms being somehow "blitzed", or even a stylistic follow-on from The Sweet's earliest bubblegum days, the Hannahs largely produce a solid approximation of Southern country-rock across both sides of this LP.

"Six Days On The Road" is largely straight-ahead bar-room country rock, with plenty of squeaking cattle gut and songs about living one's life as a somewhat raucous individual. For fans of that genre, especially those who like it raw, unpolished and untroubled by slick production, there's lots to love here - the group sound as if they're on stage in front of you pounding their way through a series of songs which will probably mention Louisiana or the Mississippi Delta any second.

For my tastes, they're at their most interesting when they get into a stoned, hypnotic groove, and "St. Jeremy" is the absolute ace in the pack from that point of view - I was originally going to buy the single, until realising that I could obtain a copy of the whole album cheaper - and "Cajun Girl" isn't half bad either, with a gorgeous electric piano line combining with a repetitive beat and some beautiful close vocal harmonies from the boys. Excerpts from both tracks can be found behind the link, but don't necessarily treat them as entirely representative of the rest of the album.

17 November 2019

Reupload - The London Boys - Eyes of Kazan/ All My Life

Excellent McCartney-esque popsike song by John Carter, strangely unreleased in the UK

Label: BASF
Year of Release: 1971

There are, to the best of my knowledge, two bands with the "London Boys" moniker. One seemed to be a project of the jobbing songwriter (and Flowerpot Men member) John Carter. The other was an eighties Eurodisco act with flashy dance moves who somehow ended up doing backing vocals to charged political pop on Microdisney records (apparently angrily suggesting to Cathal Coughlan that he was sick in the head before they sang backing vocals to lines such as "There's nothing wrong with the young would-be rich/ that a headful of lead would not cure"). It shouldn't be too tricky to work out which one this is.

"Eyes of Kazan" is an odd release for two reasons. Firstly, it's a slice of psychedelic pop which was issued in 1971, long after most record buyers had shown any signs of caring about this kind of thing. It was also released in Germany only, failing to reach the shops in any other European markets (including the UK). I can only speculate as to why this was - it's possible that it was an old John Carter composition which had been gathering dust which BASF were persuaded to issue, but the (slightly cack-handed) stereo mix suggests to me that it's more likely to be a seventies recording.

It's actually pretty good as well. There's a copped Beach Boys bass riff (from "You're So Good To Me") and a thumping, stoned McCartneyesque feel to the whole thing, and while it lacks the necessary hooks to truly sound like a hit, it's neatly persuasive and proof positive that when digging the record racks for psychedelic pop, one needn't stop at 1969. There are other gems to be found beyond that end-date.

14 November 2019

Mike Wade - On The Make

Completely unreleased song by Scott Walker-esque crooner

Label: [acetate]
Year of Release: [n/a]

Acetates, particularly ones of unreleased songs, spark huge excitement in me. It doesn't necessarily matter if the song isn't a lost gem - I've been getting my knees dirty digging in plastic crates for long enough now to know that's a very rare occurrence - it's just interesting to get hold of a polished recording which never made it past the private studio pressing stage. If a record that only sold fifty copies is scarce, then an acetate which was only shared among a handful of people is always going to feel a bit like a "precious thing" to a record collector.

The trouble is, acetates usually aren't very cheap either, and if I'm being honest, they tend not to overly enthuse "Left and to the Back" readers, who perhaps sense that if it wasn't good enough to make it into record shops, it's probably not worth clicking to investigate further. If I'm being fair, that's not usually an unreasonable assumption. "So what have we here?" you may well ask while stroking your chins, and let me tell you...

Mike Wade was one of many theatrical, big-voiced male solo singers in the sixties, who issued one 45 on Beacon ("Lovers", backed with the danceable "Two Three Four") and two on Polydor ("Happiness" and "Lovin' You Lovin' Me"). With a singing style which does seem rather reminiscent of Scott Walker at times, he nonetheless failed to take the kind of creative risks our dearly departed friend did - there were to be no songs about death or Stalin, nor meat punched for its percussive qualities round at Mike's house.

As Scott became ever more introspective and experimental, perhaps record label bosses saw Mike Wade as being somebody who could be wheeled into his place. That really wasn't to be, though - all his singles sold poorly, and it's very tricky to track down any of them now. Scott's, on the other hand, have been reissued time and time over.

13 November 2019

Our Shop Is Still Online

You may remember me saying a few months back that "Left and to the Back" now had a shop selling all manner of rare, sought-after and unusual 45s.

Well, it's still there, and I'm trying to add records to it every weekend, though the more in-demand ones tend to sell quickly, so it's best to log on and check regularly. Postage is secure and cheap, my feedback has been good (so far) and there's a strong chance you might find something for sale that tickles your fancy.

Log in, and keep revisiting, and don't be afraid to ask if you've got any questions.

[The next blog update will be taking place tomorrow morning, by the way].

10 November 2019

The Squeal Band - Pour on Stardust/ Trailer Park Heaven

Call Jeremy Clarkson and the Top Gear boys! They'll lap up this driving prog.

Label: President
Year of Release: 1977

I admit I bought this single at a fairly low price because I saw the year of release, the group's name and the rather glammish A-side song title and assumed I might be getting some late period tinsel rock here. As commonly occurs when these kinds of assumptions are made, that wasn't what I heard when the needle hit the groove - both sides here are the work of skilled musicians showing off their chops very flamboyantly. Part Steely Dan, part Allman Brothers in their "Jessica" prime, it's hooky pop with lots of twiddly bits attached.

The A-side "Pour On Stardust" focuses on the hard knock life of a group attempting to impress management and record labels, who are urging them to "pour on stardust". It sounds very much like a satirical snipe at glam rock and plastic music industry mechanisations rather than the full-on stomp-a-thon I was hoping for, but there's no denying that the chirpy chorus with its painted-on smile is pretty poppy for a group of this nature.

The flip is more satisfying. "Trailer Park Heaven" is a cascade of warbling analogue keyboards and frantic fretboard activity, and it's concise prog rock at its fidgety best. If Yes or ELP had managed to create songs this detailed and kept them at a punchy three-and-a-half minutes, I might have had more interest in them.