29 August 2018

Reupload - Help - Run Away/ Keep In Touch

Label: Decca
Year of Release: 1971

Consisting of members Chet McCracken on vocals and drums, Jack Merrill on vocals and guitar, Rob Rochan on vocals, bass and percussion, Help were a country rock outfit from California who fell through the cracks in the early seventies.

"Run Away" has become a much-referenced single online since those days, and it's easy to hear why. Released in 1971 it may have been, but there's a raw garage roughness to some of the guitar work, combined with some mean and lean "licks" - this is searing riffage without too much fat on the bones, and quite atypical of most of their debut album "Help" which overall tended to be rather more laid-back in tone. 

26 August 2018

Peter Law - The Long Black Veil/ You'll Never Get The Chance Again

Stormer on the B-side - rather dull over-long Tom Jones styled ballad on the A-side

Label: Major Minor
Year of Release: 1968

Major Minor is a fascinating little label if you're an idle collector - with an output varying from folk whimsy to easy listening to psychedelia and full-on rock, picking up a little known record with their logo on it is a bit like taking a dip into a bag of Revels. It could be a delicious toffee or a rather unpleasantly powdery orange "surprise".

Lo and behold, just to confuse things, this single manages to be a bit of both. The A-side here is a tedious Tom Jones styled version of the country standard "Long Black Veil" which lacks any kind of emotional punch.

Nestling on the flip, though, is Law's own composition (in collaboration with one Tommy Scott) "You'll Never Get The Chance Again", which is a lovely stormer. Infamously, The Grumbleweeds recorded this first as the flipside to their awful single "Goodbye", and there are some aficionados out there who consider that to be the definitive version. Nonsense, says I. This take is hard, sharp, has a nice clattering guitar high in the mix, and gives the track a dancefloor urgency, whereas The Grumbleweeds take a lighter and slightly more showy approach. A lost Northern Soul dancer? Maybe.

22 August 2018

Offered With Very Little Comment #4 - The Whales, Nick and Nichola, Laura, Sheila Scot

Some regular readers will be aware of the fact that from time to time, I throw a whole batch of singles up on to this blog in one swoop while writing very little about them.

This is usually for one of a few very simple reasons:

  • I know virtually nothing about the artist(s) in question
  • I have very little to say about the music
  • The record in question didn't really seem to me to warrant a lot of dissection. Nothing wrong with that. Sometimes things just are what they are. 

So then, with no apologies offered for the lack of background reading, and with no expectations raised, please see the latest batch behind the link. Some of these are really very obscure and there's a chance you'll have been keeping one eye open for a copy.

19 August 2018

Introducing The Exciting Stereo Sound Of Franck Pourcel (EP)

Whizzing, squealing analogue synths meet Easy Listening 

Label: Columbia
Year of Release: 1967

This EP has been causing a bit of fuss online of late, primarily for featuring one of the most unexpectedly strange cover versions in Easy Listening land. That track, the squealing, oscillating, analogue synth infested cover of "Days of Pearly Spencer", is indeed an exciting stereo sound - like something you would hear at a firework party while drunk on scrumpy and high on LSD simultaneously, or the sort of noise Number 6 might have heard at a cocktail party in "The Prisoner" at which he was injected with something that made him a bit woozy. This, folks, shows just how weird even the most middle-of-the-road offerings could be in the late sixties.

While "Pearly Spencer" here is clearly intended to demonstrate the wonders of music heard through a good stereo system, with its ambitious arrangement and hi-tech (for the time) instrumentation, the rest of this EP is comparatively run-of-the-mill in terms of its ambition. Pourcel's attention to detail with the arrangements is wonderful, but they won't slap you in the face with quite the same force as the first track.

15 August 2018

Reupload - Brotherly Lovers - If You Need A Love Song/ Our Favorite Hill

Rough and ready garage ballad from New York

Label: eskee
Year of Release: 1966

Brotherly Lovers are responsible for a garage track called "Was A Lie" which has been talked about enthusiastically online for awhile now. Rough and imperfect, it sounds as if was recorded for a few cents, and even they were probably fed into the electricity meter just to keep the session going.  Like so much of its ilk, though, it possesses a charm that some contemporary hits of the time lacked.

Far less has been written about its follow-up "If You Need A Love Song", despite - or perhaps because of - the fact that this seems to be the release where Brotherly Lovers had smoothed off some of the rough edges. Sounding less buzzsaw and agitated in approach and more akin to an aspiring folk-rock group, it showcases gentle vocal harmonies and a slightly melancholy but jingle-jangle melody. Still, though, there's a brittleness and punkish naiveté to the delivery which clearly indicates that this is still a low-budget affair, like a DIY eighties indie take on The Byrds as opposed to the polished Columbia Records deal.

12 August 2018

Tony Washington - Crying Man/ Please Mr. DJ

Island ska songwriter with a neat piece of mid-tempo soul

Label: React
Year of Release: 1965

The name Tony Washington may not seem immediately familiar, but he is believed to have played piano on the historic, ground-breaking recording of "My Boy Lollipop" by Millie, and also wrote the single's B-side "Something's Gotta Be Done".  Arriving from Jamaica in the early sixties, he found an early champion in Chris Blackwell who, besides the Millie gig, cut some of his own singles on Island and also the label's Black Swan and Sue subsidiaries. 

Unfortunately, unlike Millie his solo ska material never really came close to breaking into the mainstream, and most of his singles are incredibly scarce these days. He attempted some non-ska releases too, such as the track "Sunday" in 1963 which was aimed more at the pop market, but even these went nowhere.

Given the fact that "Crying Man" found its home on the tiny independent label React, it's arguably one of his more obscure and poor-selling efforts. Like "Sunday", though, it falls back on a conventional structure, this time a jogging soul sound. You could almost describe it as a Northern Soul sound, but it arguably lacks the tempo or the emotional delivery; Washington's vocals in places sound oddly cheery given the rather glum break-up the lyrics portray. Nonetheless, it's a solid performance and a highly likeable record. 

8 August 2018

52nd Precinct - Time Is Tight/ Feel It

Vast, ever-evolving library track featuring fuzz guitars and flutes. Nice!

Label: Dart
Year of Release: 1973

Now here's a treat. This appears to be a different treatment of Simon Park's track "Precinct" (issued under the name Simon Haseley) on the DeWolfe LP "Hogan, The Hawk and Dirty John Crown". 

Clocking in at four-and-a-half minutes long, a fuzz guitar introduces the proceedings before the track slowly unveils puffing flutes, groovy beats, and foreboding brass lines. Slinky, sleek and atmospheric, it's a complex and genuinely lovely bit of work which is clearly inspired partly by Isaac Hayes' soundtrack to "Shaft".

If it sounds halfway familiar, that's because elements of it have been used in soundtracks - even recently, "Bargain Hunt" has apparently utilised its charms during an episode (Yes, I know).

5 August 2018

The Almond Lettuce - Tree Dog Song/ To Henry With Hope

Bouncy but marginally deranged popsike from this mystery band

Label: Columbia
Year of Release: 1968

Arguing about what constitutes a "psychedelic" record has been an intense political debate for collectors for decades now. People the length and breadth of the country have screamed and shouted at each other in pubs demanding to know what exactly is so "way out" about the contents of some of the "Rubble" series. Why, I even have a scar on my forehead from the time someone angrily threw a copy of Barnaby Rudge's "Joe Organ & Co" at me, yelling the words "You couldn't listen to that while taking a trip, you moron, it sounds like a third-rate sixties Bowie out-take" (Some of the above may be lies).

I'm using the word "psychedelic" to describe this record advisedly, then. It's hardly "See Emily Play", but then again... both sides are infused with a pie-eyed, child-like worldview, and arrangements which are prone to sharp diversions. "Tree Dog Song" on the A-side has one of the worst and most irritatingly child-like intros in the world, but gradually settles down into sounding like The Kinks at their most skewiff and countrified singing about God knows what. 

The B-side is the real winner for me here, though, delivering absurd lyrics about domestic failures and marital break-up over a melancholy organ sound and insistent, minimal, chiming guitar line. "Oh Henry... I know that the rhubarb pie was under-done/ and your cricket pads were stained with eggy juice" the singer explains, and it's hard not to empathise. Henry sounds like a monster. The song also has a McCartney-esque bounce to it which is compelling. 

1 August 2018

Reupload - Chris Sievey - Camouflage

The person beneath Frank Sidebottom's head with a genuinely cracking single

Label: EMI
Year of Release: 1983

I suspect that there will be non-British readers of this blog for whom the name Chris Sievey rings very few bells, the significance of it being utterly lost. But then again, maybe not - maybe times are changing. Since the release of the film "Frank", which was partly based on Sievey's Frank Sidebottom persona, more people around the world are beginning to question who he was and what drove him on through numerous years of near-breakthrough success and utter failure.

Sievey's bullheadedness and resilience became apparent very early on. In 1971, at the age of sixteen, he and his brother hitch-hiked from their home city of Manchester to the Apple headquarters in London  and refused to leave their offices, demanding to meet one of the Beatles so they could play them their music. Staff were unable to help, but the Head of A&;R Tony King allowed them some time in Apple's studio to record a demo, though he clearly wasn't interested in making a signing upon hearing the results. For the next few years the rest of the music industry remained similarly oblivious to Sievey's charms, and he self-released numerous cassettes and slabs of solo vinyl to the public's general indifference.

His solo efforts gradually morphed into the band project The Freshies in 1974 (who, according to Sievey, a very young Johnny Marr tried to join) who slowly began to attract attention, hitting their peak after being signed by MCA in 1981 and almost having a hit with "I'm In Love With The Girl On The Manchester Virgin Megastore Check-Out Desk". Follow-up efforts such as "I Can't Get Bouncing Babies By The Teardrop Explodes", however, were greeted less keenly, and MCA lost interest, as eventually did the rest of the band, leaving Sievey to release solo material again.

While even his greatest fan would probably have to admit that Sievey was sometimes much too keen on gimmickry and whimsy to connect strongly with the general public, "Camouflage" is one of those eighties hits that should have been but never was. Bulging with hooks, anthemic riffs, a Springsteen-esque chorus and a keyboard line peculiarly reminiscent of Carly Simon's "Coming Around Again", its a lean and marvellous pop record which should have been on the radio dozens of times a day. In the event, "Camouflage" got a slot on Channel 4's "The Tube", some minimal radio exposure, and little in the way of sales. If he seemed to give up on a straight pop career after this, I for one can't blame him - "Camouflage" is the sound of someone throwing every last great idea they have at the wall and smoothing everything over to commercial neatness and perfection.