17 June 2018

Sparrow - Don't Ask Me/ Hiawatha

Elaine Page and various stagey chums in hairy, hippyish supergroup

Label: Spark
Year of Release: 1972

When people think of Elaine Page, it's likely to be her successful showtunes and theatrical appearances that spring to mind, not her appearances on popsike obscurity compilations. Nonetheless, her work as a pivotal member of Sparrow in the seventies did find its way on to Volume Six of "Circus Days", and their LP "Hatching Out" has found itself becoming a moderately sought-after item (zero points for the title or the sleeve though, Spark).

Sparrow consisted of a wide array of performers and musicians besides Page, and their LP is an odd pot pourri of rock, folk, faintly retro pop and MOR harmony pop. As such, "Don't Ask Me" is about as representative a release from it as any. Beginning with a "Be My Baby" inspired beat and continuing with an unashamedly Spector-ish production, it feels as if it could have been released in the previous decade, in common with a lot of Sparrow's work. Despite that, it never truly soars (and no, that wasn't my attempt at any kind of bird-related pun).

The group seemed to be a cast of thousands, and apparently had Jonathan Bergman (vocals, percussion), Helen Chappel (vocals), Micky Keen (guitar), Pete Kelly (keys), Diane Langton (vocals), Ken Lewis (vocals), Elaine Page (vocals), Bill Shepherd (string arrangements), Larry Steele (bass), Derek Wadsworth (brass), Liz White (vocals) and Pete Woolf (percussion) in their ranks - a membership which must surely have made the royalty statements look positively sparse for each member when they hit the doormat. Perhaps that's why a second album was never released.

Of all the members, Page obviously is the best known these days, but Diane Langton has had a not unenviable career as an actress herself, notching up roles in numerous places, not least some very high profile TV shows, from being Del's old flame June in "Only Fools and Horses" to Nana McQueen in "Hollyoaks". The whereabouts of the rest is less obvious.

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