2 August 2015

The Colours - The Dance/ Sinking

Label: Loco
Year of Release: 1983

While the early eighties are generally remembered as being a time of enormous musical progress - be that through groundbreaking developments in synthesised sound, increased glossy production values, or the more interesting ideas in prog getting absorbed into the more commercial strain of New Pop - it was also a time of enormous revivalism or adaptions of pre-existing sounds. And certainly, out there in indie-land, it was considerably easier for a band with basic, stripped back ideas to get the sound they wanted out into the shops than for an act with aspirations towards the big, expensive Trevor Horn sound. Away from the Woolworths racks, the basic guitar pop sound often reigned. 

The Colours, then, hailed from Newport and were one of many, many bands during the period to clearly be inspired by the sharp, snappy immediacy of the mod revival sounds going on around them. "The Dance" is actually a very smart example, too, having a kicking edge to it that all the best examples of that period did as well as a highly memorable chorus. Their restricted studio budget may even have actually helped keep a necessary roughness to this. There's a firm Dexys edge here, as well as a confident, aggressive swagger. 

This was their only single, and it's very tricky to find any details about their full line-up. However, apparently the Parfitt in the "Parfitt-Rose" songwriting credit is Richard Parfitt who went on to join the moderately successful The Truth, leading to The Colours demise. Perhaps more notably, he was also a founding member of cult nineties indie band 60ft Dolls, and once they split became a session musician and songwriter, both performing for and penning numerous tracks for fellow Welsh popstar Duffy. In fact, Duffy credits Parfitt with discovering her and "changing her life". 

This really isn't the usual "Left and to the Back" sob story, then, and if this record hasn't really been re-released anywhere since it's possibly because one of its main writers has bigger fish to fry. Still though, I like it a great deal and I think it deserves more attention than it's had. Somewhere amidst the brass and bounce you can actually hear a slight 60ft Dolls element as well, I swear. No bad thing. 

29 July 2015

Reupload - John Bryant - A Million Miles Away/ It's Dark

Label: Fontana
Year of Release: 1967

This, seemingly, is one of the rarest records in my collection. We've had these discussions before, of course - rare does not necessarily equal "valuable" or even collectible, so this in itself isn't a terribly impressive statement. On many occasions I have placed this single in the pile to go to the charity shop only to remove it and return it to the box from whence it came, purely because it's the only copy of it I've ever seen and to just brutally discard it in an unsentimental fashion runs against every instinct I have, however downright daft those instincts may be.

I have other sentimental reasons besides. This record was originally a joke gift to my father from a friend of his. Given that my Dad's name is John Bryant, he thought it would be highly amusing to ask why he'd hidden his talents for so long. The single became a family joke for a long time after that, with my Dad winding me up as a gullible five-year old by declaring to me, with apparent sincerity, that it was him singing. This felt astonishing to me. I loved records as much then as I do now, and the "fact" that my Dad had once released one made him almost superhuman in my eyes and I spun it on our chunky old record player (complete with sliding cabinet doors) on many occasions. Later being informed that I was, in fact, the victim of a cruel hoax was probably the first lesson in the long chain of life lessons we have to endure to eventually realise that our parents are not Godlike creatures after all - neither faultless nor all-knowing nor flop Fontana recording artists. Maybe the seeds of this blog were actually born the very day I was told the truth. Only a shrink could confirm that one.

Nonetheless, I rescued this record from a box of unwanted vinyl my parents were going to give to a charity shop in the nineties, and it's stayed in my collection ever since... and then I was slightly shocked to learn that a copy of it sold on ebay recently for £162. Apparently collectors of the Fontana label have huge trouble tracking this one down, and it's a sought-after release for that reason alone.

As for what it's actually like, back in September 2008 when I originally uploaded this record, I wrote the following:

"Even though I don't actually think this single is a masterpiece, it's the only release that's ever caused my entire family (rather than just me) to collectively puzzle and ponder about the whereabouts of the artist, and wonder if he possibly might be a distant relative. A quick google search and scour around some sixties sites reveals that John Bryant had three singles out on Fontana in the sixties, and one on MCA entitled "I Bring the Sun" which the "Happening 45" online store says is "Psychedelic pop manna from heaven, with mellotron, wah wah and tripped out daydream lyrics."

"A Million Miles Away", on the other hand, is most definitely not psychedelic. John Bryant sounds rather like one of the many folk singer-songwriters of the period who got rushed into major label studios to have an orchestra bunged behind their compositions, and I'll be frank, this really isn't anything much to flip your wig about. It's a perfectly pleasant three minutes, with his rich, deep voice musing upon the pleasures of solitude on the harbour, but anyone expecting a find on a par with Bill Fay is going to be sorely disappointed. The flip side "It's Dark" is rather more bouncy and perhaps more interesting, but there's not much in the contest."

John Bryant - now largely known as John D Bryant - came forward from the shadows and pointed me in the direction of his website, where more songs can be found as well as his other media projects. He seems to be something of an entertainment industry mover and shaker these days.

Anyone wanting to buy "A Million Miles Away" from me - and it is slightly scuffed due to my enthusiasm as a small child, as you can hear - you might have to wait. I'm not that interested in selling it yet, but I am about to embark on a very expensive house move, so who knows how I'll feel in the next few months…

26 July 2015

Dave Travis - Angela Jones/ Alberta

Label: Spark
Year of Release: 1975

Yes, I know. We all want this to be a cover version of "Angela Jones" performed by ex-Radio One DJ Dave Lee Travis. You do, I do… everyone wants to get stuck in to the absurdity of that particular scenario. Sadly, though, that's not who this record is by. Rather, Dave Travis was (is?) a versatile British guitarist and singer who has sessioned for a wide variety of rockabilly artists including Charlie Feathers and Buddy Knox. 

Despite the lack of novelty factor, this version of "Angela Jones" is OK, taking a lot of its cues from the Joe Meek produced minor sixties hit for Michael Cox and adding little new apart from Travis's much more confident, deeper and more rounded vocal. Why it was seen as a cover version which might be ripe for the mid-seventies market is anyone's guess, but clearly it wasn't as it totally failed to chart despite the forest of naffness that surrounded it in the British music scene at that time. 

Dave Travis released a few other singles on Spark and continued to gig and play and release albums until well into the late eighties. A popular live draw on the rockabilly revival circuit at that time, unfortunately his present whereabouts aren't clear to me - but it wouldn't surprise me at all to be informed that he's still going strong. 

22 July 2015

Panic - She's Not There/ Ticket To The Tropics

Label: PRT
Year of Release: 1982

I recently went on an experimental binge-buy of obscure eighties synth-pop singles. There are some good reasons behind this - firstly, when the genre hit its highs, it really produced some absolutely corking singles (some readers of this blog may not agree with that sentiment, but I grew up at just the right time to find it truly other-worldly. These days, of course, it just sounds like fantastic pop when done correctly). Secondly, I'm in the process of trying to buy a house and it's probably one of the cheapest vintage genres to buy for the cash-strapped record collector, occupying the same kind of budget slot that obscure glam rock records held in the nineties. You can pick all sorts of interesting tracks up for a mere 99p.

Take this version of The Zombies "She's Not There" for example. Synth-pop versions of classic sixties records were none too unusual - we've already had "Summer In The City" and "Day Tripper" on this blog - but this one takes the original and utterly remodels it, noting the extreme eeriness of the sixties version and turning into an icy futuristic blast. Some people will consider it to be sacrilege, but it's definitely an interesting piece of work, and certainly not a lazy cover. The Dub Version on the B-side in particular takes matters forward and creates a spacey, atmospheric and largely instrumental piece of work which moves so far from the beat blueprint that you'd almost struggle to identify it.

(Entry continues beneath the sound files).

Label: PRT
Year of Release: 1983

Panic's follow-up single "Ticket To The Tropics" was an original group composition, and is a fatter, fuller piece of work, dropping the cold minimalism and padding itself out into sophisticated eighties pop. Again, though, the remix on the flip side takes the track into more interesting directions, adding echo, and a doomy atmosphere. Panic really seemed to excel at mysterious soundscapes if these two singles are anything to go by.

Unfortunately, anyone wondering who they were isn't going to find any answers from me. I have no bloody clue. 45cat didn't even have these singles listed on their usually ridiculously comprehensive website (I've remedied that) and the rest of the Internet isn't helping me out much either. The fact that Panic is a horrible name for the purposes of Google is also hindering me. If you know more, please do drop me a line.

19 July 2015

Nite People - P.M./ Season of The Rain

Label: Page One
Year of Release: 1969

There's a tendency among many music journalists to try to claim that the progression of sounds in rock and pop follow very straight and simple lines. You've heard these ideas many times before - the notion that punk killed progressive rock, for instance, when progressive rock sales had declined by '76 anyway. Genres seldom kill other genres, it's more that rock music progresses, sometimes in the blink of an eye, sometimes at a snail's pace. Punk did not "destroy" progressive rock with one revolutionary slap, punk simply represented a progression (or, you could argue, regression) of some of the ideas found in both glam rock and more anarchic late sixties/ early seventies acts like The Deviants or The Pink Fairies. And indeed garage rock.

So bands that exist between the cultural rifts of movements, offering the best parts of each, are often fascinating. Southampton's Nite People existed by the late sixties with their feet on either side of mod and progressive rock, and that makes them quite unique and also a really interesting (and, on occasion, quite thrilling) listen. At their best, they specialised in taking the kinds of ideas normally found on soul records and adding an incredibly fussy but somehow very forceful kind of rockism to them, and that's probably most apparent on the much-compiled and bloody good "P.M." The organ licks have that doomy, prog air to them and the guitar solo is dramatic, but it's undercut with a floor-friendly beat and the lyrical concerns of a pilled-up mod raver. Nite People weren't alone in this area - Shy Limbs (with Greg Lake) trod similar paths - but they're referenced less frequently due to the fact that they're missing a star connection. Both artists also bear vague similarities to The Charlatans, though I doubt they were direct inspirations…

"P.M." is widely available on all your usual download sites, and also on Youtube. The fact that it's commercially available puts it outside the remit of this site. However, the flip side "Season of the Rain" is an Elton John and Bernie Taupin composition which isn't available anywhere in this version, and is a genuine curiosity. They're surprisingly true to the Elton John style and vision throughout, though the thunderously heavy organ pounds away faithfully as usual, adding an extra slab of drama.

Nite People consisted of Patrick Bell on sax, Martin Clark on bass, Barry Curtis on keyboards, Christopher Ferguson and Francis Gordon on guitar, and Jimmy Warwick on vocals. This was their final single and their present whereabouts is not clear to me.