24 November 2010

Herbie & The Royalists - Soul of the Matter

Herbie & The Royalists - Soul of the Matter

Label: Saga
Year of Release: 1968

"In the last eight months Herbie & The Royalists have acquired a tremendous following in London and the provinces.  Fans delight not only in their music but also incurable sense of humour.
The effervescent HERBIE captivates his audiences, expounding energy and vitality, "above and beyond the call of duty".
The Royalists themselves are excellent musicians whose music is exciting, original and varied.
"Baby I Love You" is fast and lively, featuring exciting guitar work by IAN MILLER (lead guitar), "Dirty Old Town" is slow, sentimental and nostalgic, depicting HERBIE's home town in Barbados.
A number with a heavy beat and interesting harmony backing from BRIAN COOPER (drums), STEVE FIELD (bass) and IAN is "A Day in the Life of Julie", but perhaps the most sensational number on the album is the dramatic "Lost Voyage", a powerful and original instrumental.
The only other instrumental on the LP is "Royal Suite", based on Handel's "Entrance of the Queen of Sheba".  Arrangement on this was by organist DENIS LASCELLES.  The number displays a perfect blend of classical and popular music.
Alien to HERBIE's happy personality are the sentiments of "My Life Has Just Blown a Fuse", the cry of a lost and angry young man in a powerful hard-hitting number.  The album closes romantically on "It's All Because Of You".  And it's all because of Herbie & The Royalists that you will enjoy this album - because they get right to the SOUL OF THE MATTER."

Hmm, yes.  "Mulligan and O'Hare" styled sleevenotes aside, this album often crops up in passing conversation as being one of the few relatively untapped mines of sixties goodness, so please let me begin this blog entry on a critical note - it's largely very average indeed, and when it troughs, by God does it trough.  Disclaimers aside, however, there is at least one track on here I'm incredibly surprised has never found its way on to a British psychedelic compilation.

To understand the potential failings of the album, you need to consider the fact that Saga Records specialised in quickly bashed out budget albums designed for the cash-strapped patron of Woolworths and the record department of Boots the Chemist.  From the sleeve design to the recording and pressing of the vinyl, very little expense was spared.  Bands were given contracts to sign which entitled them to a one-off payment and no royalties at all on sales.  The recording itself would take place in cheaply assembled studios in unlikely places, with several items in the Saga back-catalogue (most notably the Magic Mixtures album) having been recorded in an Infant School Hall at night.  The session would generally last only slightly longer than a straight run-through of the band's material would take, so there were few (if any) retakes allowed, and the production seemed non-existent.  It takes an exceptional band performing under top flight circumstances to pull the necessary on-the-one genius out of the bag, and Saga weren't dealing with bands at the top end of their profession, just hungry musicians desperate to get some product in the shops and their name known.

Given these mitigating factors, it is possible to see "Soul of the Matter" in a much more flattering light.  Herbie admittedly isn't the best singer the Royalists could have hoped for, and his voice probably is more suited to frustrated howlers such as "My Life Has Just Blown a Fuse" rather than romantic ditties.  However, there are a few tracks here which arguably would have made the miniscule asking price of the album worth anyone's while.  Besides "Fuse", there's the decidedly unsoulful psychedelic trip of "Lost Voyage", which starts off in a subdued, metronomic fashion only to burst into kaleidoscopic colour and life two minutes in, filled with a blistering, soaring guitar break up there with the finest instrumental Pink Floyd pieces of the same period.  "Royal Suite" too is as good a take on classically influenced pop as any I've heard, and it leaves me wondering what Herbie and his gang would have been capable of with more production time and a better studio.  As this appears to have been their only recorded output, we'll probably never know.

It's not clear to me what happened to the band after this release, but Saga have gone from strength to strength and now own a radio station, as well as specialising in holidays, private finance and insurance. As such, they're probably a lot more bankable than EMI at present... Perhaps Herbie & The Royalists work in one of their offices.

For people who want to skip downloading the whole album and just listen to "Lost Voyage", I have provided a stand-alone mp3 below.


Side One
1. Baby I Love You
2. Dirty Old Town
3. Please Forgive
4. A Day in the Life Of Julie
5. Forever Yours
6. Flowers All Surrounding
7. Lost Voyage

Side Two
1. Royal Suite
2. Try to Find Me
3. Too Blind To See
4. I'll Never Stop
5. My Life Has Just Blown a Fuse
6. I'm Breathing Heavy
7. It's All Because of You

Download it Here


Anonymous said...

Excellent Post. I really enjoy your Sixties selections. Hard to find stuff..Keep it going.

Best Paul

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this hard to find one!

Unknown said...

Really well put. Iv Just bought the album on Discogs, & I like the idiosyncratic, aloof nature of the album, check out, Breathing Heavy. Its reminiscent of an early Duster Bennet album; its quirkiness is its appeal.

Presagio http://praesagio.blogspot.co.uk/

The Flickering Image said...

Ha! I just cratedigged this album, and was blown away by Lost Voyage, up until that point I thought I'd wasted my $5. Your review was spot on, great stuff....time to get some insurance from Herbie and the boys.