27 September 2012

Reupload - Thurman - Lux

Label: Righteous
Year of Release: 1995

This may turn out to be the least popular blog entry I've ever written on here.  To most critics, you see, Thurman were considered a dreadful band, so mind-bogglingly awful that even their plagiarism was unsubtle.  Their lead singer's hair was mocked in Select magazine (and to be fair, it did look rather like a Royal Guardsman's Busby at one point) the album was derided in the weekly press, and the fact that nobody bought it and it regularly appears in second hand store bargain bins today should surely be no surprise.  It was cursed.

Thurman allegedly bought much of this upon themselves.  Rumours circulated throughout the mid-nineties that they had originally been a heavy metal band who had been asked to change their style to Britpop to get signed.  Wikipedia is still quoting this as fact today.  I feel somewhat ambivalent about this story.  Interfering A&R executives do indeed tamper with the sound of bands regularly in order to get chart action out of them, but a leap from heavy metal to Britpop sounds rather like asking a techno artist to change tack to recording soul ballads.  Why not simply sign one of the several thousands acts out there playing the right genre already?  It may of course be that Thurman did indeed change tack when Britpop was brewing out of their own choices, but they'd be no less guilty of doing that than certain members of Menswear if other popular rumours are to be believed, and the latter didn't exactly have negative press to start with.

Despite this, it's impossible to ignore the fact that "Lux" does sound like a very cheeky, chancey little album, and it's actually that aspect of it which makes me grin from ear to ear at times.  Numerous tracks are so derivative that it's a wonder the band didn't get their arses kicked by a team of lawyers, and in fact I'm sure they would have done had the album sold in any reasonable quantities.  "Loaded" is "Children of the Revolution" all over again, right down to the vocals.  The opening riff to "Cheap Holiday" is as close to "All The Young Dudes" as you can possibly get without directly cribbing every single detail.  There are numerous other naggingly familiar sounding riffs and melody lines throughout the album that show a band determined to pilfer their way through the classic rock catalogue, stopping at nothing.  However, as Elastica were doing much the same thing at the same time to widespread praise for their supposed post-modern daring, why were Thurman rapped around the knuckles by the critics for having keen ears for somebody else's tune?

There have been some rabid online defenses of this record since, but the truth frequently lies between two stools, and in my humble opinion, "Lux" is actually quite a good album - neither a lost classic nor a complete dud, just an enjoyable listen.  There's a gleeful cheek to the whole thing which makes it sound very much of its time even though its clearly in thrall to the past, and rather like the neo-psychedelic bands which littered the eighties, Thurman appeared to be taking elements of mod and glam into their work and parodying them affectionately rather than tip-toeing gently around them.  "Oh... what a luv-er-ly day/ To drink some English Tea" they proclaim during the rather Move-ish track of the same name, banging most of the period details firmly on the head.  Other tracks such as "Famous" chime along in the manner of so many mid-sixties pop 45s, feeling breezy and effortless.

Part of me wants to believe that this album is indeed the work of metallers pissing around and parodying a movement - if so, that makes tracks like "English Tea" pieces of Spinal Tap-esque genius.  Whatever the truth, it's not a bad record, and is probably actually the most typical record of its era that's ever been made.  In the year 2050 when they've finally invented a computer which can produce an album in any style you care to name, and you ask to hear the mighty Hal's version of mid-nineties Britpop, this will be what the great machine spits out, and not "Parklife" like you thought.  Relax with it, and have fun - it's only an album nobody bought.

(Update - this blog entry was originally created in August 2009.  As I predicted, it wasn't a popular write-up with everyone, but not for the reasons I originally suspected.  On the contrary, there were readers out there who felt I should have sold the album more vigorously, with one person arguing that it was up there with "Definitely Maybe" and "Parklife".  I don't particularly want to pour cynical acid over such observations, but I'm afraid I can't agree, and I utterly refuse to budge on my original assessment that this is not a lost classic by any means.

Still, listening to this CD again did cheer me up no end just now, and Thurman sound grittier and sparkier than most of the revivalists on the live circuit at the moment, so I'm far from being completely condemning of the band. 

And apparently they were a heavy metal band before this album, too, calling themselves To Die For - strewth. One wonders what Edwyn Collins made of it all).

Download it Here

1. She's a Man
2. Loaded
3. Cheap Holiday
4. Strung Out
5. It Would Be
6. English Tea
7. Famous
8. Now I'm a Man
9. Clowns
10. Lewis Brightworth
11. Talk to Myself
12. Automatic Thinker
13. Flavour Explosion

26 September 2012

Sitting On The Dock Of The (E)Bay (watching the shipments coming in... and going out again)

I haven't put any records up on ebay for so long that - ooh - it feels like another lifetime ago.  I probably looked younger and had a different haircut or something.  Anyway, my Paypal account could do with some topping up and if any of the below titles take your interest, do follow this link.

Circus Days Volumes 1 & 2 (psychedelic compilation CD)
Circus Days Volumes 4 & 5 (")
Circus Days Volume 6 (")
The Shadows - Dance On (French EP with Picture Sleeve)
Bob Morgan - Marguerite (pictured - and don't worry, I'm not selling my original promo copy of this, I just happen to have picked up the commercially issued copy in the last few months)
Private Eye Sings EP (Private Eye's first satirical release, dating from 1962 - very cheap starting price of 99p)
Depeche Mode - Policy of Truth - KLF Trancentral Remix 

Not much on offer this time, I realise, but what is on offer is at least either obscure or worth owning.  

24 September 2012

The E-Types! - Action Packed EP

Label: Square Target
Year of Release: 1992

Among the British retro-boppers there seems to be precious little mention of US neo-mod and garage bands.  Whilst plenty of readers of both this blog and some of the others on the reading list probably tuck into revivalists linked to Billy Childish or signed to Acid Jazz records, mentions of bands such as The Go and The Woggles are rather thin on the ground (and we'll put The White Stripes to one side as a freak accident for the purposes of this discussion).  This isn't perhaps as odd as it might initially appear - the more underground movements are, after all, the more likely it is that their appreciation will become regionalised and localised.  It's highly unlikely that most of these bands have the finances to organise a global promotional tour even if the will might be there.

Sacramento's The E-Types! were a case a point, spending the period from 1987-1992 producing the kind of power-pop which actually seeped into the British charts earlier in the eighties - out in America, however, they were a cult band who played to enthusiastic specialised audiences who probably might not otherwise have gained easy access to bands influenced by The Jam.  Predictably, the contents of this EP sound rather sunnier and less wiry and neurotic than their British counterparts, but maintain a snappy three-minute pop charm which sees the whole thing through nicely.  In particular, the final track "1,000 Times A Day" is shows a band who might have been capable of much more commercial things had they been given the chance to develop further.

It didn't happen, obviously, and - compilation appearances aside - this appears to have been their only release.  Still, one-single and one-EP wonders were also a sixties phenomenon, so perhaps the limited music available from this lot was actually just one more aspect to their authenticity, albeit an unintentional one.

Track Listing:
1. She Changes
2. What's Goin' On
3. I Never Cried
4. 1,000 Times A Day

20 September 2012

New York Public Library - Whei Leng Ty Luu/ Boozy Queen

Label: B&C
Year of Release: 1972

It's very seldom I bother to upload tracks by bands who are still going strong - far apart from the offence that may be caused by adding their names to a "Where Are They Now?" file, there's the small matter of the fact that people don't generally need to be told about them.

New York Public Library are an odd case in point, though. Starting life in Sheffield as The Cherokees in 1961, they were plucked from obscurity by producer Mickie Most who eventually scored them a minor number 33 hit with "Seven Daffodils" in 1964.  After The Cherokees failed to build on this initial promise, the band had some minor line-up changes two years later (involving Brian Morris of The Knack joining) and renamed themselves New York Public Library, going abroad to work in Hamburg's Star Club for a period around the same time.

The discs issued by New York Public Library from 1966-68 are all solid stuff, with a noticeable peak occurring around the fantastic "Gotta Get Away" which is one of the finest pieces of brittle guitar pop about suburban ennui that's ever been issued - a real "Everyday Is Like Sunday" for the mod generation.  Sadly, the single completely undeservedly failed to chart and copies are extremely hard to get hold of now, to the extent that even I only have a needledrop mp3 of it from a kind member of a certain sixties forum.

"Whei Leng Ty Luu" was released four years later and represents a rather more mellow side to the band, who by this point were clearly partly influenced by country rock and Crosby Stills Nash & Young as well as the faded remnants of psychedelia.  Simplistic in structure with a nagging mantra of a hook, it also recalls George Harrison's finest early solo hours, and is a strong release.  The building swelling of vocal harmonies peaks at the tail end to create a tranquil yet powerful melody, but this perhaps wasn't quite commercial sounding enough to succeed.  Meanwhile, the flip-side "Boozy Queen" is a bit more of a rocker and apparently still exists in the band's live sets.

The band are based in Farnham in Surrey these days, and tragically their original lead singer John Kirby Woollard passed away in 2007.  Despite this, gigs in and around the area are still possible to witness with their new singer Topper Clay in post, and it does warm the cockles of my heart to learn of a band that's still out and about gigging around the circuit for the sheer love of it.  To learn more about the band, do visit their website.

Apologies for the fact that the mp3s below are only short clips of either side, but as you might suspect their material remains on iTunes.  Both tracks form part of the "Boston Tapes" album which stems from a period the band spent recording in America, but also worthy of your investigation is the marvellous "Anthologically Speaking" which contains some of their best sixties sides.

17 September 2012

Second Hand Record Dip Part 81 - Master Singers - Weather Forecast/ Roadilore

Who: The Master Singers
What: Weather Forecast/ Roadilore
Label: Parlophone
When: 1966
Where: Music and Video Exchange, Notting Hill Gate, London
Cost: £1

We've already explored the peculiar world of The Master Singers once on this blog, and there's little to add at this juncture.  After "The Highway Code" invaded the charts in a manner which must surely have surprised most people, they decided to chance their arm at the format again, this time recording an Anglican chant version of a typical British weather forecast.

Surprisingly, despite the fact that this was really just a repeat of their first joke, the single only just missed breaking into the Top 40, finally finishing at Number 45.  It's fair to say that if you've heard "The Highway Code" you'll already know what to expect - it's a peacefully melodic a-capella summary of a changeable weather system with a bit of a punchline at the end.

After this disc the group largely gave up, although they are notable for also providing Peter Sellers with backing on his Richard III version of "A Hard Day's Night" - but in reality, the demand for Anglican singers performing parodical versions of everyday public texts was rather limited, and once their idea to sing elements of the Yellow Pages telephone directory was dismissed as a step too far, that was largely the end of that.

13 September 2012

Something Pretty Beautiful - Something Pretty Beautiful

Label: Creation
Year of Release: 1990

People with famous relatives don't always have an easy ride.  A few weeks ago I wandered into a local charity shop and found a signed copy of Julian Lennon's debut album "Valotte" on sale for 25p.  You would have thought that an item once touched by the hands of John Lennon's son would be worth more than the price of a small child's lollipop, but don't look at me.  I don't make the rules of the marketplace up.

Something Pretty Beautiful were a band put together by Julian Cope's brother Joss, and in an utterly expected fashion failed to scale the career highs of everyone's favourite mic stand clamberer.  They were snapped up fairly quickly by Alan MacGee and signed to Creation Records, who put out their debut EP "Freefall" in October 1989 to some critical interest but not a great deal of sales action.  The second EP "Freak Outburst" was scheduled for an April 1990 release, but amidst Creation's financial turmoil somehow didn't actually materialise, the label instead opting to cobble the tracks intended for that issue together with the songs from "Freefall" to create this mini-LP.

It's actually a refreshing listen, taking a hard edged indie guitar sound and marrying it with buoyant, summery, Byrdsian melodies.  "Expect A Miracle" in particular showcases the band's ability to create sharp, breezy and compelling pop songs with polite English vocals.  Not entirely unlike The Doctor's Children (who we examined some time ago) Something Pretty Beautiful seemed to occupy a space favoured by the numerous psych-influenced independent guitar bands who littered the eighties, and perhaps their sound seemed rather stripped back and lo-fi against the bolder, funkier statements being made by bands such as The Stone Roses at the time.  Listening to them now in 2012, though, it's noticeable how invigorating their sound could be.

Joss Cope is still involved in music, playing for Dexter Bentley and also sessioning for various other small, underground acts.  The fact that he has occasionally played keyboards for his brother Julian on some sessions also cannot be ignored.

I've left mp3s of two tracks from this mini-LP live below as tasters, but if you want to download the full works, click on the link beneath the track listing.

1. Freak Outburst
2. I Want To Watch
3. Amnesia
4. Expect A Miracle
5. Landmine
6. Free Fall

Download It Here

10 September 2012

Russ David - MacArthur Park

Label: World Pacific
Year of Release: 1968

I hate "MacArthur Park". I hate it with a passion even though I've been told not to, by my Dad (who seems to think it's some kind of piece of epic genius), by my English Literature lecturer at university (who felt that the lyrics were a fantastic piece of abstract lyrical expression about the constant, life-long reminders and nagging pull of first love) and by friends who have some peculiar Richard Harris fetish going on.  I've ranted about the bloody song so many times that a friend of mine made me a special birthday present one year - a double CD of cover versions of "MacArthur Park" from people as varied as Vic Damone, who unintentionally emphasised the comedy potential of the track, to Frank Sinatra to Jack White's old band Goober and the Peas.  Whatever his intentions were, it's safe to say that the "Best MacArthur Park Album In The World... Ever!" did little to convert me to the cause.

Somewhere along the way, however, he missed out this one.  Russ David was an accomplished bandleader and pianist who left a litter of pieces of easy listening and easy jazz on American record shelves everywhere, and this version of the tune is probably one of the only ones I actually find bearable - but then given that the overblown lyrics always were my main snagging point, this is probably inevitable.  Both sides of this snatch at the numerous riffs and melodic hooks throughout the original epic track and manage to get it done and dusted in quicktime.  There is a slight whiff of cocktail parties and cheese and wine gatherings about the affair, but the arrangements and general performance can't be faulted, and this takes something which was once grand and pompous and turns it into something welcoming and pleasant.  In doing so it possibly misses the point completely, but you won't find me complaining.

Incidentally, before any of you burn me as a witch I should add that I do like a lot of other Jimmy Webb tracks.

6 September 2012

Reupload - Cupid's Inspiration - My World

Label: NEMS
Year of Release: 1968

It's rare, but every so often a single falters which in all other respects seems absolutely like a sure-fire hit. Not only is it a sleek, classy beast, filled with all the production trends of the time, it also has straightforward hooks and melodies even the Mums and Dads can nod along to, and a chorus which is so damn persuasive as to remain in your cranium for the next year after one solitary listen. I'm a realistic man, people, and I understand that much of what I upload to L&TTB wouldn't usually get within a sniff of the Top 75, much less the top ten. Sometimes, however, I have to wonder what went wrong.

"My World" is a superb single, make no mistake about that, which came hot on the heels of Cupids Inspiration's other (inferior) hit "Yesterday Has Gone". Like its predecessor, "My World" utilises lead singer Terry Rice-Milton's voice to its full potential, but this time backs it with an orchestra so blasting it could quite easily peel wallpaper away. This single is so ridiculously unsubtle that its a neon-coloured delight, a screaming statement of intent which couldn't have failed to get the average listener's attention - the only close comparison I can draw is to ask you to imagine the arrangements at the end of Suede's "Still Life" given double the amount of power. All this would mean nothing if the tune itself weren't a triumph too, and of course it is - the natural, care-free verses leading effortlessly into the wind-tunnel of the chorus.

Whatever, the orchestral bombast of the disc must have rankled with the public, or perhaps nobody played it on the radio - it only climbed as high as number 33 in the charts, and that was Cupids Inspiration's career (more or less) over and done with. Occasionally, though, I have to wonder if some enterprising advertising executive will use this on a television commercial and hoist it up into the charts again - both I and a number of other Internet speculators have often wondered if this is a sleeping giant of a disc.

(This entry was originally uploaded in November 2009, and there's not much new to add here - except to say that I stand by all the above.  What a brilliant single this is).  

3 September 2012

Glass Museum - Daytripper

Label: RGM
Year of Release: 1983

Oh, is there no end to the cover versions of Beatles songs out there?  By now, we shouldn't be surprised - after all, there have been reggae, easy listening, heavy metal and even military brass band covers of Lennon and McCartney, so the addition of eighties synth-pop to the canon can only be expected.

Glass Museum were a pan-European group of session musicians who decided to combine forces to produce a self-released new wave/ synth-pop album - also entitled "Daytripper" - which has now become extremely collectible in certain circles.  Consisting of British members James Clyde and Tony Red,  German Andy Gold and Belgian Walter Mets, their sound was powerful and convincing enough to earn them a support slot with Simple Minds in 1982, and their performances from that period seem to have subsequently become the source of a lot of Internet chatter.

"Daytripper" actually makes a surprisingly convincing piece of synth-pop, the original guitar riff being manipulated to sound like a repetitive early Depeche Mode hook, and the metronomic drum patterns underneath causing floods of eighties (rather than sixties) nostalgia to come flooding back.  It's highly probable that many sixties buffs will find this track horribly offensive and impure, but fans of Tik and Tok's version of "Summer In The City" (already covered elsewhere on this blog) should get an enormous kick out of it.  I did.

As for what became of the various members of Glass Museum, it would seem that the bass player Tony Red went on to work in the Pink Floyd tribute band Think Floyd, whilst the whereabouts of the others is less clear.

Meanwhile, the promo copy I've got is one-sided, I'm afraid - so anyone hoping for anything more than the A-side is going to be horribly disappointed.