14 April 2021

Reupload - Paul Slade - Odyssey/ Sound Of Love

Spectacular Ivor Raymonde arranged piece of bombastic melodrama
Label: Decca
Year of Release: 1969

The name Paul Slade may seem somewhat unfamiliar to most readers, but as a songwriter he managed to get credits on a number of hits in the seventies and eighties, perhaps the most well known examples being Grace Jones's "I Need A Man" and Changes' enormous disco smash "Searchin'". 

Obviously, though, our story doesn't begin there. Way back in the sixties when Grace Jones was just the stuff of our wildest nightmares, he was a jobbing bass guitarist and backing vocalist, usually working as a session musician for visiting live artists in London. Having been spotted playing at the Revolution Club in London, he was offered a management contract and a deal with Decca followed not long after, resulting in two incredibly scarce singles, "Heaven Held" and "Sound of Love". 

"Sound of Love" is, to be frank, an unexciting Bee Gees cover which may be of interest to fans of the group, but is unlikely to get casual readers of this blog hot under the collar. Slade performs it convincingly, but the arrangement is rather by-numbers and fails to sell the song at all well.

Of far more interest is the flip "Odyssey", which was co-written by Slade and is a melodramatic, moody piece of seemingly Scott Walker inspired hullabaloo about a missing lady. Punctuated by punching strings and something that sounds like the Thames TV ident (but isn't) Slade informs us "She haunted me wherever I go... And Still The Wind Carries Her Name!" It's over-the-top, frantic and fantastically arranged, putting the A-side to absolute shame. As the B-side to an unremarkable ballad, it's obviously been somewhat buried over the last fifty years, but that really deserves to change - "Odyssey" is ambitious and constantly interesting throughout its three minutes.

11 April 2021

The Wake - Boys In The Band/ To Make You Happy

Grooving Lieber and Stoller cover from seventies popheads
Label: Carnaby
Year of Release: 1970
While The Boys In The Band's single "(How 'Bout A Little Hand) For The Boys In The Band" was a hit in the USA, its British reception was more muted and it failed to chart. That might seem like a puzzling outcome for such a bold dancefloor smash, but a key factor in its failure might have been this spoiler release being put out a whole month earlier and sucking up most of the media attention.
It has to be said, The Wake's version isn't greatly different. The vocals are softer and more persuasive, but the backing is as powerful a facsimile as arranger Bill Shepherd could manage, and it swings just as hard as the original version. Such persuasive production enabled The Wake to sneak on to "Top of the Pops" to mime to this record, but despite the prime-time television exposure, it still sold poorly, meaning "Boys In The Band" has never really been a widely recognised track in the UK.

The Wake consisted of Bill Hurd on vocals and keyboards, John Edmonds on guitar, Chris Weeks on bass and Tony Miles on drums. Hurd later went on to more notable success with The Rubettes.

They also managed to release four other singles before calling it a day, and their 1971 concept LP "23:59" - based on the goings-on at a New Year's Eve party - is quite keenly sought after by psychedelic pop collectors these days, with copies going for as much as £150.

7 April 2021

Flight - What Am I To Do/ Is This The Way

Bizarre reminiscence about childhood misdemeanors from seventies glam group

Label: BASF
Year of Release: 1974
I only bought this one because of the cheap asking price and the Geoff Gill production credit, and blimey what a strange record it is. With a backing consisting of that much-loved oompah bounce which seemed to haunt many an early seventies single, the lyrics consist of a man reminiscing about getting his arse spanked and being generally admonished by his mother throughout childhood. 
"What am I to do with you my boy/ oh what am I to do with you?/ What will I tell your father when he comes back from the loo?" she asks throughout the three minute song, suggesting perhaps that the boy's Dad was hiding in there for the duration (nobody's ever that constipated). With this much of a rumpus going on in the household at all times, though, I can't say I blame him. The bathroom can be a safe space sometimes.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, hit songwriter Lally Stott was behind this piece of work, and was most famously known for penning the monster hit "Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep". We've covered his solo version of that track, with the faintly psychedelic "Henry James" on the flip, before on this blog.

The precise membership of the group Flight is somewhat vague, but we do know that bass guitarist Kevin Nixon was a member, who later went on to work with Francis Dunnery, as was the vocalist Mick Adamson who went on to join eighties metallers Maineeaxe. 

4 April 2021

Songbird - Sweet Elaine/ Spread The Word

Rocking record from American ex-pats based in Vancouver

Label: MAM
Year of Release: 1971

The group Songbird were, initially at least, somewhat misleadingly named. Their music tended to rock out and generally resembled no garden birds I'm aware of who would probably be appalled and terrified by their blues rockin' racket.

While their name may not be on the tips of everyone's tongues, they were nonetheless a busy group of American ex-pats based in Canada to work with singer Tom Middleton (among presumably other things). When they weren't acting as a backing group for him, they did also manage to cut some singles of their own, opening with this self-penned effort on the GRT label in 1971, then leaving a three year gap before issuing the distinctly smoother and sweeter "I Believe" and "Dirty Work" on Mushroom.

"Sweet Elaine" was the only track of theirs to get a UK issue on Gilbert O'Sullivan's happy home MAM, and is a piece of raw blues-rock boogie featuring vocalists Jay Caress possibly doing his vocal chords harm with his roared approximations of lustful thoughts. Ladies, he's doing himself serious damage here, and honey-menthol sore throat remedies ain't going to put that right. What he needs is some sweet loving.

Besides Mr Caress, the group initially consisted of Mike Flicker on drums, Terry Gotlieb on bass, and Charles Gray Jr and Bob Siegel on unnamed duties, though one can only assume that one of them was the lead guitarist. Flicker and Gotlieb would eventually work with Heart, with Flicker taking on the production duties for several of their LPs and Gotlieb sitting on the engineer's desk. Siegel eventually moved into music management.

31 March 2021

Reupload - Bryan Evans - Dont'cha Like Boys/ I Cry For Me

Camp glam classic given a straighter approach

Label: Pye
Year of Release: 1978

Keen "Left and to the Back" readers will know that some months ago, I uploaded Starbuck's "Do You Like Boys?" for everyone's delight and delectation. There's much more about the flop disc here (beneath the blurb about the equally fascinating Prowler single) but in a nutshell, it was a gay glam rock record which failed to pick up much radio airplay. "Do you go for a mean, aggressive bear?" Starbuck asked their listeners forcefully.

The plot gets much thicker, because a full five years after that single flopped, Bryan Evans decided to have another bash at making it a hit, albeit with Howard and Blaikley's original lyrics dramatically altered to obscure the original reading. Gone are the references to homosexual attraction, and instead the song could be interpreted as Bryan selling himself as something of a ladies man, seemingly questioning whether the woman of his desires is either asexual or a lesbian. "Dont'cha Like Boys?" he asks, while squealing analogue synths go off around him like personal attack alarms. Of course, if you've heard the Starbuck original first, it's hard to hear the question in quite such a way, and it still manages to seem flamboyant and camp. The directness is lost, and it's become an object of ambiguity instead.

It's a baffling addition to the Howard and Blaikley canon, but you can't blame them for trying to turn a brilliant single into a proper hit. By 1978, though, the analogue keyboard sounds and stomping glam beats really were yesterday's news, and it stood not a hope in hell. A shame, as this is a spirited and different approach which at another point might have lead to success.