Year of Release: 1965
We've been here before, and regular readers will know the drill, but for the benefit of those of you who have just tuned into this blog... Embassy were a tireless label in the early sixties, churning out endless discs of session musicians covering the hits of the day. Their platters would then end up in the budget rack of Woolworths waiting to be purchased by punters who felt that their approximations of hit singles were affordable alternatives to the real thing. So infamous were their offerings that John Lennon even jokingly referenced the label as a possible home for The Beatles when their chances of getting signed seemed slim.
Like the "Top of the Pops" albums that followed them, Embassy recordings were a decidedly mixed bag, ranging from faithful interpretations to wayward messes. This "Big Four" EP is particularly absurd in that it contains two ballads and two counter-cultural anthems, so Gene Pitney's "Looking Thru The Eyes of Love" shares Side One with "Anywhere, Anyhow, Anywhere" by The Who, and Side Two pairs "Mr Tambourine Man" with Lulu's top ten ballad "Leave A Little Love". If ever you needed proof that such things as youth splinter groups and demographics hadn't been fully defined by 1965, here it is staring at you in the face.
"Left and to the Back" readers are likely to be more interested in "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere" by The Who and "Mr Tambourine Man", and their interest will probably be inflated further still when they realise that neither version is particularly faithful. "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere" is, in particular, a really interesting approximation due to the fact that Embassy studio band The Jaybirds clearly don't know what to do with The Who's sound. The drumming sounds primitive and punkish rather than copying Keith Moon's ambitious style, the lead vocals yelping, desperate and close to the style of Jim Sohns of The Shadows Of Knight (though don't get excited - I'm not suggesting it is him) and the feedback-heavy break of the original is replaced with something a bit more synthetic and measured. It sounds more like a bunch of teenagers in a garage trying to copy The Who, and whilst I doubt that's actually the case, it's a peculiar old listen to say the least. It doesn't top The Who's original, but something about the hollow, primal simplicity of it almost reminds me of The White Stripes, which is no bad thing at all.
Meanwhile, The Typhoons - a session band previously known to handle The Beatles material on Embassy, although I don't know if the personnel remained the same throughout all their recordings - battle with "Mr Tambourine Man". It's a fey, gentle take which sounds influenced more by English folk than the American folk rock scene that spawned The Byrds, sounding sleepy and contended rather than urgent, preaching and elated. Readers won't be in a hurry to replace The Byrds version on their iPods with this one, but once again the different approach is at least an interesting interpretation.
As for Terry Brandon's take on "Looking Through The Eyes of Love" and Sally Hyde's version of "Leave A Little Love" - I hate to be dismissive, but neither track really captured my imagination in the first place, so my opinions on these reinterpretations are unlikely to be balanced or fair. They're here for anyone who feels curious enough to hear them, though.
And I hate to say it, chaps, but sorry for the surface noise on some of these recordings. It's difficult to find Embassy records in Excellent condition, and what we've got is the best I can obtain at the moment.