14 September 2019

King Koss - Spinning Wheel/ Louisiana



Sweaty pub soul take on the much-covered Blood Sweat and Tears tune - gritty and good

Label: Polydor
Year of Release: 1969

I've lost count of how many covers of "Spinning Wheel" there have been now. Blood Sweat and Tears may have written it and birthed it, but it was subsequently taken on by artists as diverse as Peggy Lee, Sammy Davis Jr, James Brown and Nancy Wilson and, perhaps most notoriously, was butchered by reggae duo Mel and Dave so badly that Kenny Everett gave it a placing on his "World's Worst Records" compilation. Beyond that, it's appearance in adverts and samples has also been apparent.

Chalk one more up on the list, then, because this single by the mysterious King Koss also aims its eyes on the spinning wheel prize. It's actually pretty damn good, managing to transplant the feel of a sweaty, swinging basement dwelling blue-eyed soul group to vinyl without losing any of the rawness.  I haven't DJ'ed in a couple of years now, but if I was asked I might take a chance on this at the right moment - the song is familiar enough to get people on the floor, but the pounding urgency of this version would also probably keep most of them there.

This was King Koss's only single, and we must file him next to numerous strange and (these days) faceless one-off Polydor releases which were licensed from independent companies. Had it been a hit, no doubt he would have been drilled into doing the necessary broadcasting and press publicity to make more of a name for himself, but this clearly didn't sell enough copies to get him beyond passing mentions. If you know who he was, drop us a line.

11 September 2019

U.S.A.U.K. - Illinois/ Heads You Win



Mysterious 70s pop-rock outfit with presumably Transatlantic membership

Label: MAM
Year of Release: 1977

God help me, it's one of those dastardly cases of a band name I can't find in any reference book which is also more or less impossible to Google. Not only does "U.S.A.U.K." mainly call up examples of trade deals and companies with Transatlantic headquarters on everyone's favourite search engine, the group made the A-sides of their only two singles about popular areas of the US. The follow-up to "Illinois" was "California Bound", causing the group to get further hidden among business websites.

You can't kick a group for not predicting the future well enough, though, and I'm forced to conclude that this band's debut single is a pretty good slice of pop-rock boogie. It's not impossible to imagine it being produced in a pub rock style by Nick "Basher" Lowe, but instead the group went for a slicker production and ended up with this - a halfway house between Camden boozers and West Coast snazz.

The B-side "Heads You Win" is even more polished, owing a minor debt to Steely Dan. It would probably have caused a toothy grin to slide all over Whispering Bob Harris' visage at the time. 

8 September 2019

Reupload - J.A. Freedman - Love Got A Mind Of Its Own/ When You Walked Out Of My Life



Obscure 60s singer-songwriter with hugely under-appreciated release

Label: Decca
Year of Release: 1969

A more recent enthusiastic addition to the list of records known only as "popsike", "Love Got A Mind Of Its Own" is a peculiar yet lovely piece of singer-songcraft to be filed alongside Bill Fay or Nick Garrie. Thudding but minimal basslines connect with a meandering and loping ballad and some powerful vocals, and the effect of the whole is actually pretty marvellous. 

However, it's the A-side that really got all the publicity at the time - naturally. "When You Walked Out Of My Life" was the winning entry representing Great Britain at the International Grand Prix RTL Music Competition in 1969, organised by Radio Luxembourg. It's not a patch on its flip, unfortunately, being pretty standard run-of-the-mill balladry, but its not without its fans online.

J.A. Freedman, aka Jules Freedman, issued an album through Decca in the same year entitled "My Name is J.A. Freedman… I Also Sing" which is now often cited as one of the scarcest sixties LPs in that label's catalogue. Featuring top session workers Herbie Flowers, Kenny Clare and Don Lusher, it's apparently hit-and-miss but the hits - such as "Love Got A Mind…" - are strong enough for it to finally see some belated acclaim falling its way and the asking price rising drastically.

4 September 2019

Chamber Pop Ensemble - Walk Away Renee/ 59th Street Bridge Song



Two obscure and prim, buttoned-up takes on American sixties pop

Label: Decca
Year of Release: 1968

Back in 1968, the producer Irving Martin had the brainwave of gathering a collection of current tunes noted for their "strong melodic content" and arranging them for a small chamber orchestra. Among the sounds he singled out for attention were the likes of "Reach Out I'll Be There", "Up Up And Away" and "You've Lost That Loving Feeling", all of which seem like good choices. Also selected were "Satisfaction" and "I Was Kasier Bill's Batman" which, for different reasons, beg a few questions.

The LP slipped out that year without much press or public attention, presumably attracting neither the pop kids nor their easy listening Mums and Dads when I suspect it was meant to pull in both. More unexpected still was the solitary single launched from the platter, this sweet and subdued take on "Walk Away Renee" - a song so choicely and gently arranged in the first place you have to wonder if it ever needed this treatment.

2 September 2019

Man In A Shop - records now for sale on Discogs

Readers, when my wife isn't barking her catchphrase "Where do you get this shit from?!" when I'm playing records by castrato clowns and suchlike, her other favourite utterance is "Can you please just get RID of some of these records?"

She's got a point, to be fair. We live in a very small house and I have duplicates in my collection, plus records I liked once but could live without owning on vinyl, and records I bought for the purpose of DJ'ing only to discover that they weren't going to get the dancefloor moving... and on the list goes. As soon as you find yourself close to becoming one of those hoarders you were warned about, it's time to take action.

Therefore, I've taken the step of opening up a Discogs shop which will be gradually added to over time. You can take a look at it here.

While most of it is currently the kind of fare you'd expect to find on this blog, there's no reason it will necessarily stay that way - a clear-out is a clear-out. There's already a lovely UK London promo copy of "Little Bit O' Soul" up for grabs (which I have duplicate copies of at home) and there's no reason why there won't be more of that sort of thing. So keep checking weekly to see what I've added.