28 April 2019

Colorfull Seasons - Out Of The Blue/ It's Gonna Break My Back

Super-obscure but likeable cover of the Tommy James & Shondells track

Label: MGM
Year of Release: 1968

Like most record collectors, I have a regularly updated 'wants list' of scarce records I'm keeping an eye open for. This one sat on it for years on end... so long, in fact, that by the time a copy actually turned up a couple of weeks ago, I couldn't remember why I'd started looking for it in the first place. Doh! What am I like, eh?

The trouble is, I still can't remember. My best guess is that some years ago I was tipped off about this being a good record by a trusted fellow vinyl lover, and took a note of it without giving it an awful lot of further thought. It's a very pleasant and very well performed cover of Tommy James & The Shondells "Out Of The Blue", given a slightly West Coast harmony pop arrangement. Problematically, though, I doubt that the group are actually from the USA, despite its presence on the MGM label or the style of the record (or indeed the use of the word 'color'). This didn't appear to get released over there, and the production team behind this (Harry Robinson and Finito) are UK based, with the former in particular having his fingerprints all over the British sessions of the day.

Who is responsible, then? Search me. I have a hunch that Jackie Lee may be involved somewhere in this mix on vocal duties, as that "Moore, Lee" credit on the flip appears on a couple of her records as well. I've nothing but blanks to offer you alongside that, though, and this was the group's only release so there are no further clues to be had. 

25 April 2019

The Majamood - 200 Million Red Ants/ Faces Amassed

Lo-fi fuzz-guitar ridden folky protest about Chinese communism

Label: WIRL
Year of Release: 1966

All record collectors come across vinyl that bothers them in the wee small hours of the morning, not just with the questions "Who did this?" but "Who enabled them?" The music business may be many things, but it's seldom generous with its money - it knows its markets, and few releases are ever done as favours or frivolous gestures. Everyone, from the band to the record label owner, usually expects some kind of dividend to emerge from a release, whether it's an increase in credibility or proper sales.

On those standard levels, then, this release makes no sense at all. The WIRL label, which stands for West Indies Records Limited, dealt in the kind of regional fare you'd expect. Anyone anticipating a reggae or ska release in this instance, however, would be surprised by what they hear when the needle hits the grooves - this is fuzz guitar infested folk with the kind of production values you'd expect from a group recording in a community hall after-hours. 

The A-side "200 Million Red Ants" worked its way on to the "Circus Days" series of compilations, which is how I first became aware of it. It's a doomy, sombre meditation on the rise of communism in China and how a serious watch needed to be kept on such things - well, it's either that or a literal protest song about red ants on the lawn (my garden got colonised by the little bastards last year, and let me tell you, they do destroy the lawn. It also counts as the only time I've ever had this single as an earworm). The flip is yet more of the same, leaving you with the impression that the group had an obsessive focus on this particular topic. 

22 April 2019

Reupload - High Broom - Dancing In The Moonlight/ Percy's On The Run

The remaining members of Jason Crest ploughed on under another name, but failed to have a hit with an early version of this timeless track

Label: Island
Year of Release: 1970

If at first you don't succeed, try again… and again… 

"Dancing In The Moonlight" really is a song which took years, arguably decades, to reach its full "classic" potential. A minor cult hit for the American band Boffalongo, whose member Sherman Kelly penned it, it slept soundly for another couple of years until Sherman's brother Wells, who drummed for King Harvest, introduced it to the band in 1970. Smelling a top tune immediately, they covered it and happily watched it climb to Number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Before King Harvest got their mitts on it, though, the remnants of the Tonbridge, Kent based group Jason Crest recorded it for British release. Consisting originally of Terry Clarke on lead vocals, Terry Dobson on lead guitar, Derek Smallcombe on rhythm guitar, Ron Fowler on bass, and Roger Siggery on drums, they had a long and chequered history. Formed in 1964 as The Spurlyweeves, changing their name to the Good Time Brigade in 1967, then finally Jason Crest upon earning a contract with Philips, the cult popsike legends had cut many fantastic sides by the end of the sixties, not least the semi-legendary, psychedelic doomy screamer "Black Mass" - once heard, never forgotten. Sales had not been on their side, however, and after five years of loyal but presumably skint service the lead singer Terry Clarke quit in 1969. Shortly prior to this, bassist Ron Fowler had left to be replaced by John Selley.

Rather than giving up entirely, the group quickly recruited Brian Prebble from the Riot Squad, and drafted in Brian Bennett from Leviathan to add an additional guitar to the mix. Philips gave them the heave-ho, the new moniker High Broom was adopted, and a contract to produce one LP for Island Records was signed. However, aside from this version of "Dancing In The Moonlight" and its flip, nothing else emerged from the agreement. Stylistically it is impressive to hear how the band had managed to jump from their slightly woozy, small-town back-street alley popsike into a harder, rougher country rock sound. This sounds so damn North American that you'd never guess any member of Jason Crest had anything to do with it, and it possibly could have been a hit under the right circumstances. The flip "Percy's On The Run" also rocks out, being about as psychedelic as a bottle of sour mash bourbon.

17 April 2019

Fish Hildas - How I Itch To Stitch My Pitch/ Big Fat Gun

Indiepop weirdos with strange and peppy meandering sound

Label: Fishdisc
Year of Release: 1987

Lazy journalism and received wisdom would have it that NME's "C86" compilation, which launched the scene of the same name, was solely filled with lots of cute but awkward kids playing clumsy songs on cheap guitars about shyness, lost love and The Velvet Underground. In reality, the cassette was a much more rounded consideration of the underground independent scene at that point in time, and also featured the hard, angular music of A Witness, Stump and Bogshed (among others) whose sounds could be amusing, confusing, disorientating and seemingly more inspired by Captain Beefheart or Gang Of Four than Orange Juice or The Smiths.

While it's a fascinating listen, there are inevitably some jarring stylistic changes as a result, and very few bands whose style seemed to act as a bridge between both camps. It's a genuine shame that The Fish Hildas hadn't had a record out by that point, then, as they're possibly one of the only bands who you could imagine being on tour with either Stump or The Pastels and pleasing both audiences.

Their only release was this single on their own "Fishdisc" label, which begins with mystical puffing flutes, jangly guitars and despairing, gnashing vocals, and just when you think it's locked itself into a direction or groove it then goes skidding at another angle, before throwing in a cornucopia of synthesised strings and glockenspiels and slowing to a halt before grinding forward again. It's possible to hear the influence of The Associates, The Pastels and The Incredible String Band here, which seems like an odd and unpalatable pot-pourri of styles - but it somehow manages to get away with it.

14 April 2019

Information - Lovely To See You/ Face To The Sun

Registered business/ progressive band attempt Justin Hayward cover for second and final single

Label: Evolution
Year of Release: 1970

This group emerged with the single "Orphan" on the small Beacon label in 1968, and told the world that rather than being a common-or-garden pop group, they were all "company directors" of the "registered business of Information". John Lydon would make a similar brag for Public Image Limited following his split from The Sex Pistols, but clearly this lot beat him to the idea by some margin. 

While the group toured with Hendrix and Manfred Mann and apparently enjoyed endless hi-jinks on the road (including the accidental creation of a forest fire in Germany) their work sold only selectively to niche audiences, and neither single seemed to spark enough enthusiasm in either Beacon or Evolution Records to persuade either party to keep them signed for further releases.

Despite these unpromising signs, the neat cover of  Justin Hayward's "Lovely To See You" on the A-side of this 45 clearly shows a group who had some commercial potential as well as a slightly progressive feel, and the flip "Face To The Sun" has an Animals-esque roughness to it combined with a mournful underground mood. Both are likely to please fans of the kind of music which sat on the cusp of late psychedelia and full-blown prog.

10 April 2019

Terry Lawrence - Medicine Man/ Let Me Be Free

Storming, mod dancefloor friendly cover of the Buchanan Brothers track

Label: Pye International 
Year of Release: 1971

Here's a single I'd never ever seen or heard of until a couple of weeks ago, when I decided to flinchingly gamble my money on it - and unbelievably, it's an absolute corker. 

The original version of "Medicine Man" was released by the Buchanan Brothers in 1969, and is the kind of laidback groove that US hairies were so incredibly fond of at the time. Cool and breezy, it's the right kind of background tune for a truck drive down the freeway, but was utterly ignored by British audiences who failed to relate to its particular atmosphere.

Enter Australian Terry Lawrence, ex-member of the brotherly duo Peaches 'n' Cream, who wisely decided that what the whole thing needed was a kick up the backside with a taut, barnstorming beat. The end results are fantastic, with the track clattering and rambling along at breakneck pace with quickfire basslines, urgent horns and a distinct lack of summery subtlety. In fact, what this actually sounds like is a pill-popping sixties dancefloor track, which is possibly why it got completely ignored on its release in 1971. For our purposes, though, it's an absolute delight (and I'm unsure who is drumming throughout this track, but they deserve some kind of award).

7 April 2019

Reupload - Juan & Junior - The Chase/ Nothing

Superb sixties Spanish pop which deserved to break through in the UK

Label: CBS
Year of Release: 1967

Anyone who enjoys rummaging around boot sales and second hand stores for largely unheard sixties records could do worse than pick up some sounds from continental Europe. The British charts unfairly locked out all manner of brilliant overseas artists, and even when a band like Los Bravos did break through with a single like "Black Is Black", the rest of their output was cruelly and unjustly ignored ("Bring A Little Lovin'" in particular sounds as if it should be have been a huge top three hit).

Juan and Junior are another case in point. Both were ex-members of the rather good Spanish beat combo Los Brincos, and while that group did enjoy some success in their home country, they had even more chart hits and plaudits in their reduced duo form. One single of theirs, Anduriña, was so admired by Pablo Picasso that it moved him to contribute an etching to use on their record sleeve.

Both went to Britain for an extended trip in 1967 to record some tracks in English and aim to break one of the more unforgiving markets. Naturally, they failed miserably. Their two singles "The Chase" and "To Girls" were not hits, and CBS had no interest in trying further. A pity, as "The Chase" in particular demonstrates songwriting suss and a buoyant, brassy, confident delivery. Its pure pop to its bones, but so bursting with cheer and sunshine that it's impossible not to be impressed. Far better than a great many of the frankly awful UK acts CBS were chancing recording budgets on at this stage, one can only conclude that Juan and Junior were cursed by the fact that they had no real time to develop a big enough fanbase over here to push the single over the red line and into the charts.

6 April 2019

(Very) Minor Technical Issues

OK, so I've been getting a number of emails and comments about the fact that the "mp3s aren't working". Rather than dealing with them all individually, which is what I've been doing up until now, it seems to me that it would probably relieve everyone if I just explained what's going on (and updated the FAQ instead of being a lazy tyke).

Nothing is broken. Or, it depends what you mean by "broken". The files are still downloadable, it's just the preview function is sometimes a little bit temperamental the first time you load the page - this is almost certainly due to Box fiddling with their settings and causing minor conflicts rather than anything I've done to the blog. 

THIS IS THE FIX - if when you first land on a new blog entry you can't seem to click on 'play' and hear the mp3, or Side A of a single loads but Side B doesn't (or vice versa) just refresh the page and 90% of the time it will reload successfully. That's it. That's really all you need to do. And of course, if it doesn't reload successfully, refresh again. Think of it as being like a car whose engine won't always start at the first turn of the ignition key. 

In the meantime, I'll try to talk to Box about how we can get this problem fixed, if at all, but it shouldn't be a major obstacle to using the site. I'd love to have a foolproof system I controlled myself, but that would involve server space I don't have the money for and technical skills I don't possess, so we're always going to be dependant on remote file sharing sites who may have occasional hiccups, I'm afraid. 

Any other problems with the files should also be answered in the FAQ. (Hint/tip - it's almost always down to your computer's security settings or your version of flash not being up to date.) 

3 April 2019

The Cresters - I Just Don't Understand/ I Want You

Bramley's beat kings with a slightly bluesy offering

Label: HMV
Year of Release: 1964

Like a number of beat groups in the early sixties, The Cresters didn't suddenly form after being wowed by performances by The Beatles and The Stones - rather, they had something of a history beforehand, going under the name of "Mike Sagar and The Cresters" and producing work which had a much more traditional old-school rock and roll feel. "Deep Feeling", a number 44 near-hit from 1961, showcases a very measured, British approach (dig those intricate guitar lines).

By the time they re-emerged in 1964, however, Sagar's name was no longer in lights and they were producing a much more modern beat sound, doubtless in an attempt to capitalise on the fact that groups with guitars were certainly not on their way out. Their cover of Ann-Margret's "I Just Don't Understand" has a bit more of an agitated, bluesy tug about its melodies than most of their contemporaries, and while not especially wild, is reasonably angsty for its January 1964 release date.

The flip "I Want You" is a group penned effort and is perfectly listenable, but is clearly the work of a group developing their skills in that area.