20 October 2019

Reupload - The Pickwicks - Little By Little/ I Took My Baby Home



Period costume wearing beat group with two spiky, garagey efforts

Label: Warner Bros
Year of Release: 1965

Consisting of Alan Gee on guitar, Malcolm Jenkins on drums, Tony Martin on bass and Johnny Miles on lead guitar and vocals, Coventry's The Pickwicks were one of many sixties beat groups who utilised costumes on stage to strike an eccentric presence. Donning top hats, period costumes and pulling pompous faces, their inventive use of clobber got them noticed, but ultimately didn't score them a hit. Two Decca singles, "Apple Blossom Time" and "You're Old Enough To Be In Love" didn't chart, and this, their final hurrah on Warner Brothers, was equally luckless.

The A-side "Little by Little" is an incredibly minimal, almost garagey effort which isn't so spiky as to be uncommercial, but certainly isn't populist enough to break through. Nonetheless, its insistent keyboard riff and simmering attitude is enticing.

Of far more interest to most readers, I suspect, will be the flip, the Ray Davies composition "I Took My Baby Home". Clattering and crashing into the tune with aplomb, it's a lovely and uplifting two minutes. 

16 October 2019

Candy Choir - Those Bootleggin' Prohibition Days/ Love Me Princess



Last gasp for Kent harmony pop stalwarts

Label: MAM
Year of Release: 1971

When "I'm A Hog For You" by Erkey Grant and The Eerwigs re-emerged on the Rubble compilation series, there was some confusion about who the oddly named combo were. Well, The Eerwigs were this Kent combo under an early name, and after that wiggy R&B number failed to tickle the public's fancy, they morphed into Candy Choir (after a brief spell as Plus Four - God, this business is confusing sometimes). 

Their sixties bread and butter mainly stemmed from acting as Crispian St. Peter's backing group, but their ambitions clearly lay in striking out as a popular force in their own right. Ostensibly a pop group despite their promising sounding popsike styled name, their debut 45 for CBS "Children and Flowers" showcased their tight vocal harmonies and intricate arrangements, but didn't sell well. Nor did their second outing for that label, "Alexander's Rag Time Band", and by 1970 they had been dropped on to Polydor for two further singles, "Why Do You Cry My Love" and "Magical Spiel" (with Barry Ryan) neither of which improved their standing.

This one-off 45 on MAM was their last hurrah, and as ever showcases their marvellous harmony sound but wastes it somewhat on a novelty A-side. "Those Bootleggin' Prohibition Days" is somewhat in keeping with the ironic period pastiches which began to drip out of the early seventies, but is charming without being particularly memorable. For a better track which is much more in keeping with the group's style, the flipside "Love Me Princess" is more worthy of a spin - romantic and mushy but so beautifully performed you'll forgive them any cliches.

13 October 2019

F.R. David - Symphonie (EP)
























F.R. David explodes all over the blog for you

Label: Polydor
Year of Release: 1967

Outside of France, the singer F.R. David - born Robert Fitoussi - is mainly remembered for one thing; his global hit "Words". Its ringing, chiming and despairing melodies about his emotional constipation seemed to appeal to all the women of the world who liked to think that beneath their man's stony exterior lay hidden affections and depths. Perhaps along the way, it attracted the men that applied to as well. On first release, I must admit I found it somewhat wet and irritating, but in my old age I've developed a sneaking affection for "Words".

The problem with having one large hit is inevitably it overshadows the rest of your career - how many times have we heard that before? - and in F.R. David's case, that's particularly unfortunate. He's a much more interesting performer and songwriter than he's been given credit for in the UK, having somewhat credible sixties origins. He began his career in 1965 as a member of the garage band Les Trefles who changed their name to Les Boots after one EP. Success was not forthcoming, so he split to go solo and initially issued this, which was pretty wigged out by the usual standards of French pop.

Track one "Symphonie" is the tune to pay attention to. Riddled with meandering orchestral arrangements, David's falsetto trilling and accompanied with a somewhat psychedelic promotional video which seemingly references Synesthesia, it's French chanson pop with a microdose of LSD. Like many French releases of the period, you can tell the production and arrangements are hemming in the potential wildness of the track - the stench of freshly laundered recording studio lab coats and conductor's bow ties never feels far away - but it's a fascinating piece of work from an unlikely source.

Track two is a cover version of "Strawberry Fields Forever" which reduces the grandness of The Beatles original vision to a melancholy, reflective ballad. It's not the worst version of the song I've heard, but it lacks a real point. The cover version of "Knight In Rusty Armour" and the likeable "Rien De Plus" on the flipside are more interesting.

9 October 2019

Phil Brady & The Ranchers - Exeter By-Pass/ Papa



Scouse country stalwart's solitary Pye release

Label: Pye
Year of Release: 1970

Imagine, just as the Merseybeat scene really began to get swinging, having the sheer misfortune but pure artistic honesty to be fronting a country group in Liverpool. More unscrupulous folk would have dropped the cowboy hat in a jiffy in favour of a Beatle haircut and some copped Motown rhythms, but Phil Brady carried on as he started in 1962 - performing and releasing a series of anglicised country songs, indifferent to the trends around him.

In spite of - or perhaps because of - this singular vision, he began to build a strong live following in the North West of England, which caused the Cavern Club to offer him the chance to release the novelty track "An American Sailor at the Cavern" on their own record label. Sadly, the Cavern's financial demise occurred at almost exactly the same time this record was pressed up, and as a result very few copies made it into the shops. If you spot a copy, snap it up - it's one of the rarest singles of the period, and certainly one of the most unusual Cavern souvenirs.

His other releases are more commonly chanced upon, especially his LPs which were at one point a fairly regular sight in the record sections of department stores in particular. This release for Pye, however, marks his last release on 45, and is a charming, warm and mellow lovelorn contemplation of the Exeter By-pass of all things. You won't hear that in Nashville. In this instance, Brady clearly had the courage to drop distinctly English images into a country track, and it pays off in a way it simply wouldn't if he'd copied from the same rulebook as numerous plastic anglo-cowboys and played the broken hearted, troubled but rugged man from a place he'd yet to visit. "Exeter By-Pass" is equal parts English rain and Southern Comfort (though what an appalling drink that would make in reality).

6 October 2019

Reupload - Hackensack - Moving On/ River Boat



Seering, high-paced and relentless rocker from 70s circuit faves

Label: Island
Year of Release: 1972

In the late sixties and early seventies, music began to be appraised by certain selective punters not just by how melodic or innovative it was, but how loud and heavy, especially in the live environment. Bands began to obtain huge amplifiers and stacks affordably, and thus acts such as Blue Cheer described themselves as being capable of turning the air to cheese with their sheer racket. Presumably nobody asked for a refund when the venue around them didn't transform miraculously into rich Brie.

Hackensack were renowned for being one of Britain's heaviest blues rock bands in the early seventies, and became quite a draw on the live circuit, chalking up 270 gigs - but naturally, their high voltage and volume attacks failed to cross over into record shop sales. 1974's Polydor released album "Up The Hard Way" was cultishly successful, but not enough to convince anyone that they had a reasonable commercial proposition on their hands, though it has since become a highly collectible item. Thus Hackensack were kicked back on to the small venue circuit before giving it all up, an unissued live album apparently languishing in the Pye vaults.

This is their solitary single, and consists of two quite different halves. The A-side "Moving On" chugs along and swings merrily, and actually has an almost glam rock chorus which sounds like it might have been borrowed from Iron Virgin or one of the many flop tinseltowners of the day. It's perfectly good, but it's the B-side that really shows what Hackensack were capable of. "River Boat" is an absolute dumb-ass assault, riddled with a primal, almost garage rock riff which needles away throughout. Vocals scream, cymbals crash, and the whole thing is a fine example of how the 60s punk tradition naturally morphed into Serious Rock in the early seventies. So downright distorted and compressed is the track that I had to have three goes of ripping it from vinyl before getting the right volume control - it sends all the needles flying into the red even at low recording volumes. I still can't decide if I over or under did it.