25 September 2022

Ilford Subway - The 3rd Prophecy/ A New Song

Folky psychedelia from future Thin Lizzy and Supertramp members

Label: Equinox
Year of Release: 1967

As someone who was born in the East London suburb of Ilford and still currently lives there (though not for much longer) of course I wasn't going to walk past this record. The group's name is mysterious - the only significant subway I'm aware of in Ilford is the one for Gants Hill underground station, which was designed by the architect Chris Holden in a manner closely apeing the Moscow Metro. 

It's not entirely impossible that some members of the American group The Ilford Subway had visited and been wowed enough by the experience to name their hairy hippy combo after it, but let's chalk it up as unlikely. If anything, it's probably just another example of a fairly random garage group name with no major or specific meaning attached (and chances are if there was one, even the band members can't remember it these days).

The A-side "The 3rd Prophecy" is, despite its way-out title, a weird concoction of hey nonny-nonny folk melodies, early sixties pizzicato plucked guitar strings and a distinct paisley hue. A mish-mash of trad folk, pre-beat stylings and post-beat psych, its like the past and the future rolled into one rush of flavours. That makes it sound more overwhelming than it is in reality, though - there's nothing alienating or harsh about this and it acts as a neat, smoky bundle of fireside melodies.

The slightly more freaky sounds are on the flip, though, where the distorted guitars, squeaks and squawls live. 

21 September 2022

Steve Voice - UFO/ Radio Blue

Sci-fi rock of the Electric Light Orchestra kind

Label: EMI/ Red Bus
Year of Release: 1979

I'm a sucker for science fiction and Arthur C Clarke-esque ideas on 45, which makes it a pity there's so damn few of them. Given that the seventies were riddled with speculation about UFOs and ghosts with the occult even having its own section in most municipal libraries, one would have thought that more artists out there would have wanted to profit from the fascination. You can only conclude that perhaps they didn't want to be dismissed as a bit silly, and ultimately only Jeff Lynne really took the brave step of regularly setting that weird world to music(*).

Perhaps not unexpectedly, the influence of Lynne is all over the A-side "UFO" here which enters your ears via a series of bloops and bleeps, dramatic thrusting cello lines, and mystical vocals. Generally when I state a record's influences I inwardly cringe, as it's normally a failing on my part rather than the artist's - if all you can think of to say is "sounds a bit like Gene Pitney crossed with some garage rockers" (for example) it's usually because you've been too damn lazy or unimaginative to use any other descriptions. In this case, though, "UFO" could easily be the work of the Electric Light Orchestra Part II in 1992. That doesn't mean it's a bad record - in fact, the creeping atmosphere really grows on you across subsequent listens - but it does mean that Steve Voice was undoubtedly inspired by the bearded Brummie wonder in this instance.

Before you inwardly dismiss him as a coat-tails grabbing chancer, though, it's important to remember that Voice was no Johnny-come-lately. He had been in a duo with Peter Yellowstone (this disc's producer and co-author) in 1972 and they issued a brace of singles and two LPs throughout the decade, some of which were hits in other countries - "Well Hello", for example, reached the Australian Top 20 in 1973. Bouncy, almost folkish tracks like that are a far cry from the laser-fired melodrama on offer here. 

18 September 2022

So Feww - Get Inside/ I'm Not Automatic


More self-released North West New Wave

Label: All For One
Year of Release: 1982

Almost exactly a year ago now we covered the mysterious North West England combo So Feww on this blog, and drew very few conclusions about their identities from their disc "Spirits High". I've often had cause to ponder the fact that the people who did vanity pressings in the seventies and eighties would have been brilliant on the Internet in the 21st Century - having multiple social media accounts, a well-organised Soundcloud site and a slick website. Getting your shit together to do this kind of thing in 1982 was so much harder than it is now and only the truly organised and savvy did it well.

But... we are where we are, and still all I actually know about the group is that the enigmatic Nick Rome was the driving force. While this was technically their third single, it's actually a re-release of their first effort on Pennine Records with the sides flipped. This time round, the subtler "Get Inside" is the main attraction over the more anthemic "I'm Not Automatic", which is an interesting way of doing things.

Sound-wise the group set out their stall in exactly the same way. This is melodic and slightly pub-rock tinted New Wave which shows an interesting range of ideas despite its lo-fi production. They clearly had a following and money to burn on their own record pressings, but neither this nor "Spirits High" pushed them into the so-called big time. 

As ever, if you know more than the sketchy outline information provided above, please get in touch.

14 September 2022

Reupload - The Atlantics - Don't Say No/ Send Him To Me

Super obscure slice of 60s girl pop

Label: Windsor
Year of Release: 1964

Another puzzling record which poses as many questions as answers, I'm sorry to say. According to the Manchester Beat website, The Atlantics on this record formed in 1962 and hailed from Blackpool, consisting of Chris Riley on rhythm guitar, Michael Stephens on bass, Frank Blackburn on lead guitar, and Ronnie "Lee" Brambles on drums. Ordinarily I would have absolutely no reason to doubt the information of a well-run site, but there's one snag. There are clearly at least two women singing on this record, one of whom is taking the lead. Either this is not the same group after all, or they underwent a temporary and short-lived line-up change at the record label's behest, or for other unknown reasons.

Whatever the facts, this is actually a rather nice chunk of sixties girl group action, a little rough and ready in places - something which surely isn't helped by the mere "VG" quality of the copy I own - but swinging, beaty and punchy. It's also notable for the production involvement of Peter Stirling, later known as Daniel Boone, a member of the beat group The Bruisers and regular "Left and to the Back" guest.

11 September 2022

The In-Keepers - Daily News/ Everytime


Psychedelic tinged pop bemoaning news broadcast bummers

Label: RCA
Year of Release: 1969

The In-Keepers are a tiny bit of an enigma. What we know for certain is that ex-Swingin' Six member Stephen Ramsey Burnett was a pivotal part of the group, penning and singing on all their releases - what's less clear is who accompanied him on his mission.

More baffling still, their second single "That Was Just His Thing" is an unusual slice of what appears to be Christian psychedelia, although none of their other tracks show any particular religious leanings and it's not clear how sincere they were (in that sense it occupies a similar territory to The Blinkers "Original Sin").

What I can seemingly ascertain with a fair degree of accuracy is that they were from the New England area and aside from this debut single and the aforementioned follow-up, there was to be no further recorded material. That's a pity, because both records are fascinating in different ways. This one is a faintly folkish maudlin jaunt around one man's despair at the grave nature of daily news broadcasts. "I don't wanna know... for today everything's going so wrong" the group wail, their close vocal harmonies putting a sugary coating on a very sour world outlook. Still, it's not as if things have got any cheerier in the interim, so you can only sympathise with them.