23 February 2020

Reupload - Buzz - The Digger on Mars/ Jubilee Rock

Fascinating bit of atmospheric proggy glam on the flip of a Silver Jubilee novelty 45

Label: Crystal
Year of Release: 1977

Another record with something unusual and interesting on the flip, and something utterly insubstantial on the A-side. The 1977 Silver Jubilee only really produced one single which anyone still talks about, and that's The Sex Pistols "God Save The Queen". There were others which took a much more positive tone, such as Neil Innes' seldom referenced (by him or anyone else) "Silver Jubilee", or a multitude of associated singles BBC Records and Tapes slipped out. None made any real impact with the public, and it might be tempting to think that's because we're a bunch of Republicans at heart, but I rather suspect it had more to do with the quality of the material on offer.

Take this A-side, for example, a forgettable piece of chugging pop-rock with some boy scouts and girl guides singing on it. It was surely intended as a joyous party record, but nobody involved sounds enthused enough to really carry it. The vocals alone sound like the work of somebody who was keen to get the whole business over and done with as quickly as possible.

The B-side gives us some clues as to why, and makes it apparent that this clearly wasn't a band whose ambitions lay with Royal event novelty tie-in singles. It sounds out-of-time for 1977 but also notable. Clearly taking its cues from both the David Bowie and Pink Floyd back catalogue, "The Digger On Mars" combines whizzing analogue synths, chugging Glam Rock guitars, and a surprisingly ambitious arrangement. Just when you think the song has settled into a knuckle-dragging, punchy glam rut, there's a superb middle-eight which sounds almost prog in its leanings, a "Dark Side of The Moon" inspired piece of spacey introspection. Then the drums burst in again, the song returns, and this time buzzes full-throttle into something much more minimal and repetitive and almost - but not quite - motorik. A three minute song of clear thirds, then, and the last thing on Earth you'd expect to find buried on the back side of a Royal Family tribute record.

19 February 2020

Bear Foot - Frightened/ Girl Are You A Woman Now

Obscure, quirky one-off Pye 45 with slightly glam leanings

Label: Pye
Year of Release: 1971

Here's a puzzler. This single is listed by all other sources as being by the group "Bare Foot", but my copy - as you can plainly see - has been corrected with typed stickers to show that the group's name is actually "Bear Foot". This makes some kind of sense, I suppose. If "Bare Foot" is an awful and uninspiring band name, "Bear Foot" is at least a slightly rocky and acceptable pun by comparison.

I'm going to assume that these stickers and doodlings are indicative of a record company error and this was either the group or their management trying to cover up the mistake, because the alternative is that somebody falsely corrected it very carefully for no good reason at all, which seems pointless. That said, the sleeve this comes in has been vandalised so it says "Pye The Shit Makers" rather than "Pye The Hit Makers", so it's terribly hard to know what's the truth and what isn't. Was this the work of somebody who was particularly disgruntled with the label they were signed to, or the "doings" of a disaffected youth with a felt-tip pen, too much time on his or her hands and no youth club to go to? (Anyone who graffitis record labels for no good reason, particularly in ways designed to create confusion fifty years hence, should obviously be given community service at the very least in my opinion, possibly involving tidying up second hand record shops or something). 

Anyway, all this speculation over a trifling matter brings us no closer to the record itself. "Frightened" is a slightly quirky A-side which pre-empts the over-accentuated vowels and drawls of the artier side of glam rock. The horn and rhythm section underneath swings in a much more traditional way, though, and stops the track from truly weirding out. Likeable though it is, you're left with the impression that it could have pushed the boat out much further than it did. There's something here which is perfectly fine and an enjoyable listen, but hamstrung slightly by its rigid arrangement - the freak flag could have been flown a lot higher. 

16 February 2020

Kracker - A Song For Polly/ Medicated Goo

If you thought only Rolling Stones members released records on the Rolling Stones record label, think again...

Label: Rolling Stones
Year of Release: 1973

Aside from occasional Keith Richards approved releases by Peter Tosh - man, Keith loves his "heavy, happy dudes" - the Rolling Stones record label was, as its name would suggest, mainly an outlet for group-related activities. If the band's name wasn't on the label, then it was usually a Bill Wyman solo project. 

This one-off single by Kracker on the label is a peculiar exception, though. The Stones had a strong interest in the Chicago based group, and after their debut LP "La Familia" came out on ABC Dunhill in 1972, approached them with an arrangement that the second would emerge on the then relatively new Rolling Stones label outside the USA, and the group would support The Stones on tour. Clearly hoping for a shot in the arm from the Jagger and Richards fraternity, Kracker keenly accepted, but watched as this single and the accompanying album "Kracker Brand" didn't really progress them any further ahead.

On reflection, there's nothing here to suggest that the group should have become world-beaters, and if the Rolling Stones were desperate to poach a group from a US label, one wonders why they picked on Kracker in particular. Nonetheless, "A Song For Polly" has a rattling, rolling rhythm and an anthemic quality which will definitely appeal to some readers. 

The B-side, though, is likely to be where most of the interest goes. The non-LP cover version of Traffic's "Medicated Goo" shows the band's skills off finely as they plough through the song with gusto. You're left with the impression that most of the appeal probably came from their abilities as a live act, and it's a shame it's often tough to judge that from their recorded work - but the flip gives one of the strongest impressions. 

12 February 2020

Lucien Alexander - Baby You've Been On My Mind

Sweet and warm Dylan cover from mystery singer

Label: Polydor
Year of Release: 1967

Who would dare to count the number of Bob Dylan covers that littered the sixties, hits and non-hits alike? Some honourable attempts have been made to compile the best Bob covers on to single compilations, and a vinyl copy of "It Ain't Me Babe" sits proudly in my collection, pulled out on the rare occasions that I fancy hearing Bryan Ferry, Spirit, Johnny Cash and The Tremeloes in one sitting.  The obscurities, though? Would you want the job of rustling through every crate in the land past all the acetates of English folk groups and workshy beat combos plundering his songbook?

Nonetheless, "Baby You've Been On My Mind" is actually a good one-off obscurity by the mysterious Lucien Alexander, beautifully arranged, sweetly delivered and sounding distinctly like a possible summer hit. Unfortunately, given that it was issued in December 1967, that was never going to be.

The flip "Play Along (Miss R.)", here in a rather scuffed and scratchy guise - sorry kids - isn't significantly different, but has a slightly British Isles folk-rock feel to it. Think Al Stewart or David McWilliams at his least contemplative, and you're almost there.

9 February 2020

Reupload - Carpetbaggers - Sorry/ Beautiful Gas

The Allied Carpets advert theme retooled for chart success (that never came). Strange Ron and Russ Mael influence on this version.

Label: Page One
Year of Release: 1982

Roger Greenaway is a hugely successful songwriter whose list of tracks would be the envy of anyone trying to get the public's ear. From "Something's Gotten Hold Of My Heart" to Andy Williams' under-praised "Home Lovin' Man", to the... er... unique novelty talents of The Pipkins, his abilities and work with Roger Cook often seemed effortless throughout the sixties and seventies.

Besides his attempts to crack the charts, he also had a successful career writing songs for television adverts, some of them among the most iconic jingles of the period. This is a two-sided single boasting two of his better known efforts retooled for home listening, released on the short-lived relaunched eighties version of the Page One label.

A-side "Sorry" is actually the music used by Allied Carpets to flog their wares to excited home improvers, and would usually be accompanied by the slogan "Allied for carpets for you". However, it's only in this rewritten seven inch guise with the corporate sponsorship removed that you realise how much the damn jingle sounded like a Sparks tribute. "Sorry" suffers from a slightly cheap, Rumbelows synthesiser production, but besides that the jerkiness of the arrangement, the wryness of the lyrics and the vocal stylings smack of Ron and Russ Mael. All this begs the question - how on earth did anyone in the marketing department think that a subtle reference to the Mael brothers might have put people in mind of luxury carpet fittings? Did Ron's hypnotic stare indirectly help to sell many a roll of quality feltback? Could he, even today, resuscitate the ailing fortunes of the carpet showroom and cause a shift away from the modern trend in wooden floorings and laminates? We may never find out.

5 February 2020

Force West - Sherry/ Mr. Blue

Bristol wonders - also known as the Oscar Bicycle and Shakane - with their final shot at success

Label: CBS
Year of Release: 1969

Nobody could ever accuse Bristolians Force West of not trying their hardest to break through to a larger audience. They had three record contracts and seven singles out across four years, opening with "I Can't Give What I Haven't Got" on Decca in 1965, and closing with this effort. 

The group were initially formed from the remains of the groups The Jaguars and The Diatones. While they issued one vaguely psychedelic record under the pseudonym Oscar Bicycle in 1968, Force West tended to specialise in carefully arranged, commercially sound beat and harmony pop, and as such their output hasn't had many appearances on sixties obscurities compilations. Nonetheless, their records were generally neat, likeable affairs with an excess of warmth in their grooves; their hearts and souls were clearly somewhere on the American West Coast rather than the western edge of the UK. A quick listen to the beautiful 45 "A Walk In The Rain" gives you a firm impression of their sun-kissed pop.  

Their cover of that old chestnut "Sherry" was their last attempt for a single on CBS, and in common with a lot of last-ditch cover versions foisted on groups who have previously failed to chart, it's... OK.  The group handle the track with care and even give it a slightly tropical feel in an attempt to bring out different tones and colours. Ultimately though, I've never been enough of a fan of the song itself to appreciate any particular interpretation of it, so it's probably wasted on my ears.

Better is the B-side "Mr. Blue" which sounds uncannily like an early Jeff Lynne ballad - a huge coincidence given that the song's title being only one word short of ELO's most famous moment - filled with tremulous vocals and a weary, Sally Army styled brass arrangement in the background. It will doubtless have seemed a bit dated for 1969, but it's a lovely moment and appropriately downbeat enough to act as the band's final bow.

2 February 2020

Nimbo - When The Swallows Fly/ Noticeingly By

Second single from Pye signings who refused to accept the sixties were over

Label: Pye
Year of Release: 1972

There's a tendency to think that once the sixties finished and a new decade dawned, everyone involved in music realised they had to move on and buck their ideas up fast, and start thinking of the next "big sound". In reality, quite a few bands carried on as normal, even when barely anyone else noticed. 

Pye was actually a fantastic label for issuing mildly psychedelic or sixties pop sounds long past the point anyone else cared, and for this reason Sanctuary Records dedicated album four in their "Psychedelic Pstones" series to post-1969 recordings and didn't struggle to fill a whole CD at all. Nimbo are one of the groups sitting snugly at home on the record, with their debut 1971 single "Forget Her" - and a sound which made it perfectly clear that they were struggling to forget The Beatles. 

Less easily found and certainly less talked about is this, their follow-up, which has an ambitious and damn fine reading of The Bee Gees "When The Swallows Fly" on the A-side, which explores every last avenue afforded by the song, turning into a towering rock ballad. Possibly too reflective and subtle to make it on to daytime radio, it remains a deeply obscure release.

Over on the flipside, though, the group are up to their old Beatle-loving tricks, and turn in an original song which chimes and jangles with old-school, naive beat merriment. If it feels a little rushed in places, it makes up for that with enthusiasm and charm, and was surely one of the least 1972 sounding tracks issued that year.

29 January 2020

Levity Lancers - Oh Play That Thing/ Too Late

Highly Bonzos-esque piece of likeable daftness with darker flipside

Label: Mercury
Year of Release: 1969

The mainstream reputation of the Bonzo Dog Band in the UK - if indeed they have much of a "mainstream" reputation these days - is probably that they were a bunch of funster one-hit wonders. More knowledgable music and comedy lovers might point to their work in "Do Not Adjust Your Set" and how it helped to launch the Python team, and also the gentle subversion and genuinely great songwriting on their LPs. 

Depressingly few would probably rank them as counter-cultural satirists these days, but nonetheless that's almost certainly where they often sat. Behind the slapstick, the gurning and the gentle farces on display in their work lay some pretty savage wrecking of societal norms, as well as the gleeful dismantling of the fragile webs most pop songs and pop careers are spun with. When I first heard a bootleg recording of "The Craig Torso Show" in a second hand record shop in the nineties, I was blown away by how playful and skewering it was simultaneously, giving UK pirate radio - the template for all pop radio that followed - a playful poke in the ribs while also giving it a fair warning. "Look," it seemed to say, "We can boil down the basic essence of one of your ridiculous shows in under four minutes. This isn't something you should be able to build a career on." "The Pink Half Of The Drainpipe" too is clearly Stanshall railing against suburban normality and who people expected him to be and who he wanted the freedom to be. (Others have also pointed out that Stanshall's on-the-street vox pops predated other satirists use of the gullible public by many years, but we're in danger of digressing out of control now and need to talk about this record...)

The point I was coming to, dear readers, is that while the Bonzos influenced other groups such as (most famously) the New Vaudeville Band, all of those bands tended to grasp at the cosy, the nostalgic and the faintly daffy elements of their output rather than the tough stuff to emulate. Most, of course, contented themselves with quick careers on the pub, student union and cabaret circuit before naffing off to the next session job once demand died down. 

I don't think I'm being unfair when I suggest that Levity Lancers were probably a very short-lived proposition who came and went very quickly. So far as I can tell, this was their only single, but despite the fact that it cosies up to the 78rpm era with pie-eyed nostalgia, it manages to be sweet and relatable too; toytown, psychedelic era observational lyricisms come through here. The A-side "Oh Play That Thing" is about the adventures of a woman and her brass instrument which is both silly and enjoyable, while the B-side "Too Late" owes a debt to Ray Davies, highlighting broken-down bungalows and lives spent in old age, loneliness, waste and dull routine. If Dukes of Stratosphear/ XTC had taken on the Bonzos, this might have been the end result (key reference points here for that band might be "Bungalow" or "Dying") Jollity, merry melodies and casual observations seem to be masking something much sadder and more regrettable.

26 January 2020

Reupload - Blue U - I've Been Lonely For So Long/ Melinda Marie

Tommy Vance forsakes the foaming nut brown ale for some special tablets

Label: York
Year of Release: 1972

Radio One Rock Jockey Tommy Vance was, by all accounts, a thoroughly decent and rather self-effacing chap who was to Rock (with a capital "R") and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal what John Peel was to indie bands. If you weren't one of the underweight floppy fringed kids in the corner of the student refectory listening to the latest Close Lobsters cassette on your Walkman, and instead chose to perch your more significant arse among the fluffy bearded boys who always carried guitars everywhere, chances are Vance's evening rock show was an important part of your week.

Nonetheless, metallers are a notoriously ungrateful bunch - ask any non-metaller who has ever been booked to support a Heavy Metal band by mistake - who adore their beery hijinks. Apocrypha has it that at the Donington Monsters of Rock Festival back in the eighties, Vance asked the audience to all chant "Tommy Vance Friday Rock Show!" to supply him with an impressive sounding jingle. True to form, the ungrateful bastards instead all yelled in unison "Tommy Vance is a wanker!" and the recording was deemed unsuitable for broadcast.

God alone knows what they would have made of this single. The A-side was produced by Vance but seems rather Vance-free in terms of the performance - it's a fairly straight piece of soul-inspired pop which is sprightly but unlikely to get reassessed by a club DJ anytime soon.

The B-side, on the other hand, is Vance overload. Accompanied by ambient aircraft noises and pretty much nothing else, our man Tommy sings a simplistic song-poem about the mysterious Melinda Marie, who is leaving him on a plane eight miles high. His voice sounds sleepy, tranquil, faintly under the influence (though I doubt he actually was) and altogether lacking the usual gruff Man-in-Denim tones for which he would become famous. It was doubtless a studio afterthought, a quickie recording job to give the single a B-side, but it's a strangely fascinating piece of work, both due to the person involved and also a certain amount of prescience on its part. After all, spin forward to the eighties and Jane's acapella effort "It's A Fine Day" and you have a record cut from a rather similar cloth. Nobody has yet taken Vance's effort here and turned it into a dance track, but I suspect it's only a matter of time.

23 January 2020

Oak Tree - The Sun, It Always Shone/ My Baby Don't Cry

Epic 70s pop on President

Label: President
Year of Release: 1971

President has had a long and unusual history. Starting as one of the first big independent labels in 1966 and continuing to the present day, it had very early success with The Equals. From that point, it took on all manner of styles, groups and genres, from soul to psychedelia and reggae, and even had a late flush of cult hipster success with Robots In Disguise in the noughties.

Its release schedules throw up all manner of one-off artists and flops, making it a fascinating company for collectors, and Oak Tree were one of many. The A-side here is a huge, epic tune which brings to mind Father Dick Byrne singing his heart out on a Song For Ireland. Most listeners will probably get more joy out of the B-side, which is a Gene Pitney-esque, swinging ballad with a certain rawness in its bones. Once again, this is one to flip the sides for. 

19 January 2020

Vigrass & Osborne - Men Of Learning/ Forever Autumn

A Lego advert with some lyrics put to it, or "War of the Worlds"?

Label: Uni
Year of Release: 1972

As someone who hasn't necessarily been a keen student of all things Jeff Wayne, it took blogger (and ex-Green and ex-London Assembly politician) Darren Johnson to bring this one to my attention. 

Vigrass & Osborne were a slightly folky harmony pop duo who came under Jeff Wayne's charge for one LP in 1972. Gary Osborne had previously been a member of the UK (rather than US) Chocolate Watch Band who issued two singles on Decca in 1967, one of them being the highly sought-after "Requiem". Paul Vigrass, on the other hand, had served time as a solo artist on RCA as well as briefly delivering lead vocals for a post-Tony Burrows line-up of Edison Lighthouse.

Their debut album "Queues" was a collaborative effort with Wayne, with him providing the music and the duo providing lyrics for all the tracks. Despite being a contemplative and highly melodic album, it didn't achieve a lot of attention at the time, and despite occasional reissues around the world appears to have drifted off-catalogue once again.

That's surprising when you consider that one of the key tracks from Jeff Wayne's "War of the Worlds" project was already hiding away both on the LP, and on the B-side to the second single from it. "Forever Autumn" is, in this guise, slightly choppier and breezier than the eventual Justin Hayward version, clipping along like a song whisked through a gale, which was surely the intention. Droning synths and fluttering flutes rush past the song's post-romance angst, and for me, it's actually a more effective and evocative version, appropriately summing up the turmoil and confusion of a relationship's end. There again, it was the first version, and therefore had every right to be better.

15 January 2020

Fuzz Face - Mighty Quinn/ Voices From The Sky

"Groovy" sitar and organ instro version of the Dylan/ Manfred classic

Label: Page One
Year of Release: 1968

Anything I write about the progression of "Mighty Quinn (Quinn The Eskimo)" from a "Great White Wonder" Dylan bootleg track to a major hit for Manfed Mann is probably going to be a bit of a waste of energy - everyone knows the story, after all. Dylan's songbook was continually plundered throughout the late sixties (and indeed beyond) by bands desperate for both cred and hits, and the adventures of Quinn the Eskimo were possibly the poppiest of options on offer, as well as handily buried on an unofficial release.

While Manfred Mann had shot to number one with their version of the track by February 1968, Fuzz Face here - who I'm 99.9% confident were some sort of American studio group - were latecomers to the party, issuing their version in April of that year. In fairness, it puts a slightly different spin on things, loading an instrumental version of the track with guitar effects, sitars, organs and decidedly "groovy" backing rhythms, making it prime fodder for anyone's house party. You can dance to this with much greater ease than the Mann's rather stompier take. 

Commercially, though, there wasn't much room in the charts for two versions of the same song at roughly the same time, and this sank on both sides of the pond. A shame, but it wasn't at all unusual for instrumental versions of pop hits to do this, however innovative or otherwise faintly psychedelic they were.

12 January 2020

Reupload - Trevor Burton - Fight For My Country/ Janie Slow Down

Utterly marvellous anthemic electro-psych glam from ex-Move man

Label: Wizard
Year of Release: 1971/72

After Trevor Burton left The Move, he had huge plans for his future. Not for him the usual course of putting an advert in Melody Maker for musicians and waiting for the results - on the contrary, he wanted to tap into the much in-vogue (at the time) practice of forming a supergroup of respected and talented musicians.

The ridiculously named Balls were born, consisting of Brummie wunderkinds like Steve Gibbons of The Uglys, Richard Tandy (later of ELO), and Denny Laine from The Moody Blues. In truth, the formation of the group was muddy, complicated and fraught with difficulties and intense arguments. A revolving doors policy appeared to be in operation, and describing the personnel coherently here would be a task and a half. If you're really interested, the excellent Brum Beat website has patched together a very patient and detailed overview of their history here.

During the chaos of rehearsals and recording, it would seem that only one usable piece of work emerged, and that was this single, which consisted of Burton, Steve Gibbons and Denny Laine. Originally released under the group's name Balls in January 1971, it failed to sell, and was subsequently reissued as an edited version in 1972 under Trevor Burton's name. That also flopped, and the track was then reissued again on Birds Nest Records in 1975 under the name B L and G (with the track retitled as "Live In The Mountains"), where it also did precisely nothing. After that point, clearly everyone involved simply gave up.

I suspect the single's sales chances were harmed by the fact that it only appeared an entire year after Balls ceased to exist, but it's not hard to hear why many people felt the track had enormous potential. Strident, cocksure, anthemic and unusual, the buzzing analogue synths spin throughout the track like helicopter rotary blades while Burton and the boys build a naive but relatable anti-military message over the top. "Why don't we all go and live in the mountains?" Burton roars, and far from being the usual pile of old hoary supergroup mush, this actually sounds like psychedelic Brum beat crossed with early electronica and glam - a squidgy, messy soup of ideas taking place on the cusp of two decades which shouldn't really work, but does so brilliantly. I'd be willing to bet that at least one member of the Super Furry Animals likes this one...

8 January 2020

Variation - Snowbird/ Nebula

Phil Cordell's attempt to repeat his Springwater success

Label: Warner Bros
Year of Release: 1973

One of the big surprise hits of 1971 was Springwater's "I Will Return", a guitar instrumental released when the charts weren't exactly chock full of them. The days of the music press having a "Best Instrumental Group" category in their reader's polls had long passed, and the idea of a group having a lead guitarist out front, not singing but Hank Marvinning to his heart's content, was passé to say the least. Springwater, however, bucked the trend and reached the top five in November of that year after a slow trudge up the charts.

Springwater were somewhat different to the usual format in that all the instruments on their recordings were played by one man, Phil Cordell. It proved to be a complete one-off success, though, and other singles released by "them" - including a somewhat unexpected cover of "Jerusalem" - flopped. Given that, it's a slight surprise to find this was also written, recorded and released by Phil Cordell in 1972, only under the name Variation. Issued in January 1973 mere moments after the Springwater name had been abandoned, it doesn't really offer any progression on the formula and is really just more of the same; quite haunting, very strongly performed and subtle, but unlikely to change his fortunes. The public were clearly not interested in more of the same. 

The flipside here is more interesting, being a church organ led piece of minimalism which sounds almost post-rock in its ambitions - slow, atmospheric and lingering like a low, druggy mist. It's possible that if Cordell had written more material of this ilk and sprawled it across an LP, he may have an underground hit of sorts.

5 January 2020

The Silvers - Where Has Love Gone/ She's My Woman

Obscure Johnny Hawkins produced baroque pop trio, lost to time

Label: CBS
Year of Release: 1968

The Silvers were one of the more luckless but persistent pop groups of the mid to late sixties, issuing three 45s which sold so poorly that copies are pure bitches to find (if you'll pardon the language this early on in 2020). Their 1966 Polydor debut "What A Way To Start The Day" (b/w "Blue Blue Eyes") is barely ever seen in record racks, and their follow-up on the same label, "The Trouble" (b/w "Almost In Love") managed to chart inside Radio London's payola-driven Top 40 in 1967, but turns up for sale just as infrequently.

Less obscure, but still not exactly cramming the record racks of Music and Video Exchange, is their final single - this time on CBS - "Where Has Love Gone". If it's anything to go by, it suggests that their earlier records might be worth checking out. The A-side is carefully arranged solemn, wintery baroque pop which gets prettier and more entrancing with each play. The group's vocal harmonies are fantastic and do much to complement Hawkins' careful orchestral arrangements. By January 1968 it might have seemed slightly dated and probably not sufficiently catchy or upbeat for radio, which is a pity. 

The flip is uncharacteristically popsike in its stylings too, beginning with what sounds like the master tape being reactivated after an unexpected power cut, before getting all groovy on our asses. It's careful and a little bit buttoned-up, but it nonetheless shows the group could let their hair down when required.

2 January 2020

The Sound Barrier - She Always Comes Back To Me/ Groovin' Slow

Mediocre mod-pop backed with killer popsike cut

Label: Beacon
Year of Release: 1968

A constant problem I have with flop sixties singles is how frequently their flipsides out-perform their official A-side. On occasion, it's not necessarily that the more buried work is lost hit material, but rather that it's of a higher quality and leaves me hungry for more by the group, and hoping there's a lost album out there somewhere. In other cases, I find myself thinking "Seriously? You left this to rot on the backside of this slice of stale Denmark Street leftovers?"

The Sound Barrier's only single is a definite case for the latter phenomenon. The almost never-heard "She Always Comes Back To Me" isn't necessarily a bad tune, but is hampered by a somewhat uncertain, limp performance by the group. In the hands of Geno Washington or a Motown recording artist, it might have cut it, but here the vocals strain to be soulful without success, and the backing is too loose for its own good. What this track needed was intensity and conviction, and what it gets is a fairweather approach. I doubt the woman in question actually came back, and they sound more deluded about the chances of her returning than anything else ("Maybe that's the point" - a voice).

Lurking on the B-side, however, is the Small Faces and Traffic aping "Groovin' Slow" and this is a complete delight, sounding far more powerful and demanding on vinyl than on any bootleg or semi-official psychedelic compilation it's appeared on over the last twenty years. Pitched somewhere between "Lazy Sunday" and "Hole In My Shoe", it's a red blooded cockney walkabout through city life which, had it been released at the height of Britpop, would probably have been welcomed as a knowing nod and pastiche to the mid-sixties era. "Take-a-good-look-out-your-window-at-the-sidewalk-see-the-people-rushing-byyyyyyy" the vocalist bleats at breakneck speed in the first few seconds, and the hippified, contemplative chorus eventually cuts in after several more frantic lines, acting as a slightly psychedelic break between the speedy verses. 

The track fades on what sounds like a faintly piss-taking parody of "Hole In My Shoe" - the group sound as if they might be tittering to themselves at one point - and while I suspect tongues were firmly in cheek, it's marvellous pop which is clearly up to its gills in the summer of love era.