3 November 2010

The Frugal Sound - Norwegian Wood

The Frugal Sound - Norwegian Wood

Label: Pye
Year of Release: 1966

It wasn't completely unheard of for English folk artists to cover The Beatles - The Overlanders did just that with "Michelle" and took it all the way to the top spot in the British charts.  In fact, by the time the sixties were up, The Beatles had been covered by all and sundry from soul singers to reggae artists to easy listening superstars, so the existence of some gentle acoustic pondering of their finer moments from musicians of a more traditional style should be no real surprise.

"Norwegian Wood" always did have enough of a vaguely mysterious, pastoral feel to it to be a relatively easy fit for any self-respecting folkie, and so it proves - this version is gentle, whimsical and decidedly Autumnal sounding single (enough for it to end up on the "Autumn Almanac" compilation put out by Sanctuary Records a few years ago).  It doesn't tear the original to pieces, but the vocals are less nasal and slightly warmer, the close harmonies sounding well suited to the song.  It's a record to play whilst lounging around the fireside with a glass of something intoxicating, or perhaps whilst sitting around the three bar fire if you're really stuck.  

The flip "Cruel To Be Kind" gives a better impression of what The Frugal Sound could create when away from the Lennon-McCartney songbook, being a heartfelt ballad with a female vocal lead from Rosalind Rankin which knows exactly where to draw the line.

Sadly, nobody seems to have much information on what happened to the Frugal Sound.  We know that they hailed from Hampstead in North London, and that they had two singles out on Pye of which this was just one (the other, "Just Outside Your Door", failed in a similar manner), followed by three on RCA, but that appears to have been that.  Apparently their other releases showcase a similar stripped down rootsy approach, and at no point do they seem to have gone in a beat or psychedelic direction in search of mainstream sales.  Given the nature of the folk scene and its decidedly non-ageist outlook, it's not at all impossible that the performers responsible are still out there on the circuit somewhere as solo artists.  However, we'll only find out if somebody tells us - I can find no trace of them.


18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Rosalind Rankin, now Ros Evans is alive and well and teaching music in Blandford Forum, Dorset.

23 Daves said...

Thanks for the information - I'm really glad to hear that she's still actively involved in music.

Anonymous said...

Brian Stein who owns a lot of Covent Garden eating places and PJs and is a polo fanatic, was the second Frugal. It is mentioned in his Debretts entry. His son is a well known hot DJ. The third was Mke Brown and with a name like that he will probably not be found!!!! Nice to know what happened to Ros, she is lovely person.

Anonymous said...

Bought the Norwegian Wood single in Australia I am sure it was on the Astor label, this was in the sixties, loved cruel to be kind and sure it would do great in the charts if re-vamped a touch.
It has taken all this time to find out a little about the band, love to know more.
Terry

Anonymous said...

i saw them live in the BBC studio about 1968/69 they were great and rushed away before I could get heir autographs. Very cool, rich folk and rock mix. My best to them.

Anonymous said...

There is a Single from 1966 - Back Street Girl - flipside '' Reason to Believe - RCA VICTOR 1588.

Anonymous said...

There is a Single from 1966 RCA VICTOR - Back Street Girl/Reason to Believe.

Anonymous said...

There is a Sinle from 1966 RCA VICTOR - Back Street Girl / Reason to Believe .

Anonymous said...

There is a sinle from 1966 RCA VICTOR - Back Street Girl/Reason to Believe.

Anonymous said...

Mike Brown or Mike Douglas-Brown to use his full name is my dad. I'm pleased to let you all know that he is alive and well, living with his wife Susan.

23 Daves said...

Thanks for letting me know - please do pass on the blog's regards.

Anonymous said...

Delighted to know that Mike Brown aka Mike Douglas Brown is around and had a wife and child. We knew the band at the time. It is great news to pass on. Always wondered what happened to him.

Anonymous said...

And lovely to know where Ros is. They were a lovely band. Hampstead was less full of traffic then. They used to play at a basement bistro in Belsize Village. Full of cigarette smoke of course in those days. So does Mike still play music? I guess a double bass is a bit lonely on its own........

P M L Bristol said...

I used to know Mike, Ros and Brian. The club was called The Witches Cauldron in Belsize Park and they used to play on a Thursday night (could have been Wednesday). It was a great place, opposite The Belsize Tavern. I am transported to my mis-spent youth.

It's true Brian went on to be a successful business man. Mike was a real character, fond of cable knit sweaters and a regular at The Flask pub in Hampstead.

Ah, those REALLY were the days.

Anonymous said...

I played bass in Frugals mk II with Brian, Ros and Mick Berg 1968 I think. Glad to see the posts.

I played pro till 1980 I think then reluctantly got a job...shame.






angecinq said...

Did not know there was a Frugals 2 My life had moved on by then I think Happier times.....

angecinq said...

Great to know Mike has a wife n son Brian is all over the internet via his polo resaurant etc but Ros n Mike are happily low profile

Anthony Hart said...

Wow memories come flooding back.
I was the drummer with the group for a few years, and I remember we used to practise in Brians penthouse in Hampstead. We could have achieved bigger things but at the time Brian had many business commitments and was reluctant to expand what we wanted to achieve, also the manager was useless. We did have a few good gigs and one was in DARTMOUTH at the naval academy. Plus of course some BBC recording we made in their Piccadilly studio. It's seems like all a dream now, it was so long ago. I left to make my fortune in Canada and New Zealand, which I duly did. Drumming was a hobby and I haven't played since those days..
I wish all in the frugal sound the best of health and a long life..
Tony Hart