29 September 2019

Crazy Paving - Anytime Sunshine/ Sweet Brandy

Another burst of sunshine from songwriter Pete Shelley

Label: MCA
Year of Release: 1970

Right back at the start of the year we took a dip into the pre-Alvin Stardust world of seventies songwriter Peter Shelley. "Paper Chase" was probably released far too late to pick up anyone's psychedelic pop pocket money, and as such came nowhere near to charting, but gave a good impression of Shelley's enviable pop songwriting chops. 

Later on in the same year, "Anytime Sunshine" was handed to the group Sir Percy Quintet, who had previously issued a 45 on MCA entitled "She's Such A Good Looking Girl". On this occasion, they for undisclosed reasons opted to go under the name of Crazy Paving, and showed that Shelley had more tricks up his sleeve. Breezy pop like this was everywhere in 1970, but in terms of style, "Anytime Sunshine" is the full 50mph open-top rush down a country A-road, like The Love Affair with less adolescent pounding and pleading and more adult aspirations. Airy strings meet euphoric vocals, and a day out in bright sunshine with a partner in fashionable sunglasses is yours for free for the three minutes it plays.

The B-side, on the other hand, is a lost swinger which I'm surprised hasn't made its way into any mod DJ playlists yet. Repetitive, insistent and jam-orientated, very much like the "Turkey" flip to "Paper Chase", it nonetheless chugs and grooves in such an insistent way that you too will succumb to its boozy charms. It's like "Mony Mony" for people who crave sugary liquor. 

25 September 2019

Wendy Peters - Morning Dew/ I Don't Understand

Another top notch cover of the apocalyptic folk song

Label: Saga Opp
Year of Release: 1968

For a song that has - to the best of my knowledge - never actually been a hit in the UK, Bonnie Dobson's "Morning Dew" has seriously done the recording session rounds over the years. Covered by the likes of the Grateful Dead, Lulu, Jeff Beck, Tim Rose, Nazareth, Clannad, Devo, Robert Plant, Lee Hazlewood and Episode Six (and no, that's not a complete list either) the eerie, sinister, non-specific apocalypse outlined in the song has captured the imagination of many musicians. The foreboding line "What they were saying all these years has come true" is a fantastic, skewering lyrical hook which sums up humanity's tendency to assume things will sort themselves out in the end, until the very moment that they don't, and the situation is too late to resolve.

It can't hurt that the song is almost impossible to mess up, either. Simple, direct and powerful, all it needs is an expressive vocalist and a reasonable arrangement to work. Most listeners regard Tim Rose's version as the definitive one, but for my taste Episode Six's take is an undersung piece of brilliance, being filled to the brim with melodrama and mystery.  

Wendy Peter's version here is probably one of the more obscure efforts, but doesn't mess with the palette too much. Her voice rings loud, sharp and clear and the arrangement takes its cues from Rose's. The fact that it was released on Saga, a small budget label, inevitably means that the production sounds a little bit brittle at times, but at no point does that subtract from the song's power.

The B-side "I Don't Understand" shows a punchy girl-pop side to Peters' abilities too, kicking and stomping its way through two minutes of a relationship tantrum. 

22 September 2019

Reupload - Sunchariot - Firewater/ The Only Girl I Knew

Rocking take on the plight of Native Americans, co-written by Monty Python songwriter Dave Howman

Label: Decca
Year of Release: 1973

A trend has emerged in recent years for compiling psychedelic pop and rock obscurities from the early seventies on to CD compilations. Now that the sixties era seems to have been largely hoovered clean, obscure quirky rock and art pop with psychedelic influences from the next decade is gaining popularity. Sunchariot seem to have escaped a place on one of these albums so far, but there's no good reason for that.

Take "Firewater" for example. It's a truly berserk piece of rock music about the plight of the Native American, filled to the brim with hollering noises, dramatic tribal vocals and an urgent instrumental break. There are shades of stomping glam about this, but nothing dominant in that sense. For the most part, it sounds like the work of a proper rock band swimming around in a period concept for all it's worth (and indeed, the seventies was awash with these ideas. Hard to know who started it, but I suspect Jeff Lynne got the ball rolling with the Idle Race's "Days Of Broken Arrows", and finished it with ELO's "Wild West Hero" - but perhaps that's too simplistic an overview).

At least one member of Sunchariot went on to far more successful ventures. Dave Howman (whose name appears to have been spelt "Hawman" on the credits here) went on to co-write songs for - among other people -  Monty Python, including "Brian" in the "Life Of Brian" and "Every Sperm Is Sacred" in "The Meaning Of Life". He's a multiple BAFTA nominated songwriter who continues to create soundtrack work and play with his band The Ruthless Brothers.

19 September 2019

Tony Hatch and the Cherry Children - Yoko/ Bahama Sound

There's no-one quite like Yoko/ And I know you will agree...

Label: Pye
Year of Release: 1970

If popular perception is to be believed - and, in fact, if John Lennon himself is to be believed - Yoko Ono did not enjoy a particularly warm welcome in the UK after she met Beatle John. Indeed, that refrigerated reception dipped down further to chest freezer levels when she allegedly "broke up The Beatles" (who seemed to be doing an excellent job of drifting off in separate directions without her alleged influence anyway).

The fact this single exists is more than surprising, then - rather, it's outright shocking. Surely, a novelty single filled with children merrily chirping their love and happiness for Yoko would have stood absolutely no chance of being a hit? Most Beatles fans, who would have been the core target market, wouldn't have cared for it, and Yoko Ono's own fans - at this point, either modern art enthusiasts or some of the hairier lovers of her peace protests and avant-garde pieces of "difficult listening" on Lennon flipsides - weren't going to buy a novelty record inspired by her. It sank into oblivion, and it's hard to understand how anyone thought it would do anything else. 

Musically, it's a sweet little concoction which is too innocent lyrically and well-arranged to be irritating, and while you probably won't rush to put it on your digital playlist, it's a fun few minutes. I'm glad it exists, and I only hope Yoko Ono heard it and it raised a smile with her too.

14 September 2019

King Koss - Spinning Wheel/ Louisiana

Sweaty pub soul take on the much-covered Blood Sweat and Tears tune - gritty and good

Label: Polydor
Year of Release: 1969

I've lost count of how many covers of "Spinning Wheel" there have been now. Blood Sweat and Tears may have written it and birthed it, but it was subsequently taken on by artists as diverse as Peggy Lee, Sammy Davis Jr, James Brown and Nancy Wilson and, perhaps most notoriously, was butchered by reggae duo Mel and Dave so badly that Kenny Everett gave it a placing on his "World's Worst Records" compilation. Beyond that, it's appearance in adverts and samples has also been apparent.

Chalk one more up on the list, then, because this single by the mysterious King Koss also aims its eyes on the spinning wheel prize. It's actually pretty damn good, managing to transplant the feel of a sweaty, swinging basement dwelling blue-eyed soul group to vinyl without losing any of the rawness.  I haven't DJ'ed in a couple of years now, but if I was asked I might take a chance on this at the right moment - the song is familiar enough to get people on the floor, but the pounding urgency of this version would also probably keep most of them there.

This was King Koss's only single, and we must file him next to numerous strange and (these days) faceless one-off Polydor releases which were licensed from independent companies. Had it been a hit, no doubt he would have been drilled into doing the necessary broadcasting and press publicity to make more of a name for himself, but this clearly didn't sell enough copies to get him beyond passing mentions. If you know who he was, drop us a line.

11 September 2019

U.S.A.U.K. - Illinois/ Heads You Win

Mysterious 70s pop-rock outfit with presumably Transatlantic membership

Label: MAM
Year of Release: 1977

God help me, it's one of those dastardly cases of a band name I can't find in any reference book which is also more or less impossible to Google. Not only does "U.S.A.U.K." mainly call up examples of trade deals and companies with Transatlantic headquarters on everyone's favourite search engine, the group made the A-sides of their only two singles about popular areas of the US. The follow-up to "Illinois" was "California Bound", causing the group to get further hidden among business websites.

You can't kick a group for not predicting the future well enough, though, and I'm forced to conclude that this band's debut single is a pretty good slice of pop-rock boogie. It's not impossible to imagine it being produced in a pub rock style by Nick "Basher" Lowe, but instead the group went for a slicker production and ended up with this - a halfway house between Camden boozers and West Coast snazz.

The B-side "Heads You Win" is even more polished, owing a minor debt to Steely Dan. It would probably have caused a toothy grin to slide all over Whispering Bob Harris' visage at the time. 

8 September 2019

Reupload - J.A. Freedman - Love Got A Mind Of Its Own/ When You Walked Out Of My Life

Obscure 60s singer-songwriter with hugely under-appreciated release

Label: Decca
Year of Release: 1969

A more recent enthusiastic addition to the list of records known only as "popsike", "Love Got A Mind Of Its Own" is a peculiar yet lovely piece of singer-songcraft to be filed alongside Bill Fay or Nick Garrie. Thudding but minimal basslines connect with a meandering and loping ballad and some powerful vocals, and the effect of the whole is actually pretty marvellous. 

However, it's the A-side that really got all the publicity at the time - naturally. "When You Walked Out Of My Life" was the winning entry representing Great Britain at the International Grand Prix RTL Music Competition in 1969, organised by Radio Luxembourg. It's not a patch on its flip, unfortunately, being pretty standard run-of-the-mill balladry, but its not without its fans online.

J.A. Freedman, aka Jules Freedman, issued an album through Decca in the same year entitled "My Name is J.A. Freedman… I Also Sing" which is now often cited as one of the scarcest sixties LPs in that label's catalogue. Featuring top session workers Herbie Flowers, Kenny Clare and Don Lusher, it's apparently hit-and-miss but the hits - such as "Love Got A Mind…" - are strong enough for it to finally see some belated acclaim falling its way and the asking price rising drastically.

4 September 2019

Chamber Pop Ensemble - Walk Away Renee/ 59th Street Bridge Song

Two obscure and prim, buttoned-up takes on American sixties pop

Label: Decca
Year of Release: 1968

Back in 1968, the producer Irving Martin had the brainwave of gathering a collection of current tunes noted for their "strong melodic content" and arranging them for a small chamber orchestra. Among the sounds he singled out for attention were the likes of "Reach Out I'll Be There", "Up Up And Away" and "You've Lost That Loving Feeling", all of which seem like good choices. Also selected were "Satisfaction" and "I Was Kasier Bill's Batman" which, for different reasons, beg a few questions.

The LP slipped out that year without much press or public attention, presumably attracting neither the pop kids nor their easy listening Mums and Dads when I suspect it was meant to pull in both. More unexpected still was the solitary single launched from the platter, this sweet and subdued take on "Walk Away Renee" - a song so choicely and gently arranged in the first place you have to wonder if it ever needed this treatment.

2 September 2019

Man In A Shop - records now for sale on Discogs

Readers, when my wife isn't barking her catchphrase "Where do you get this shit from?!" when I'm playing records by castrato clowns and suchlike, her other favourite utterance is "Can you please just get RID of some of these records?"

She's got a point, to be fair. We live in a very small house and I have duplicates in my collection, plus records I liked once but could live without owning on vinyl, and records I bought for the purpose of DJ'ing only to discover that they weren't going to get the dancefloor moving... and on the list goes. As soon as you find yourself close to becoming one of those hoarders you were warned about, it's time to take action.

Therefore, I've taken the step of opening up a Discogs shop which will be gradually added to over time. You can take a look at it here.

While most of it is currently the kind of fare you'd expect to find on this blog, there's no reason it will necessarily stay that way - a clear-out is a clear-out. There's already a lovely UK London promo copy of "Little Bit O' Soul" up for grabs (which I have duplicate copies of at home) and there's no reason why there won't be more of that sort of thing. So keep checking weekly to see what I've added. 

1 September 2019

The Rubber Band - Cream Songbook

Nine instrumental takes on Cream's finest moments - expect harpsichords, flutes and some bombast

Label: GRT
Year of Release: 1969

Regular readers will probably remember that back in December, I uploaded The Rubber Band's "Jimi Hendrix Songbook" for everyone's enjoyment - an instrumental tribute LP which included richly arranged and occasionally intriguing versions of the tongue-wiggling wonder's top tunes.

There was a long series of these LPs, and reader Arthur Van Daele very kindly got in touch sending me mp3s of the others, which I then stashed to one side for a convenient moment. The Cream LP still seems to have the heavy involvement of Michael Lloyd, who largely led on the Hendrix project. This time round, though, there are no uncredited 'celebrity' drop-ins from the likes of Warren Zevon, though I'm happy to be corrected if I'm wrong.

What you get is some thunderous orchestral takes on Cream's songbook, which don't take as many liberties with the original tracks as the Hendrix LP, though the puffing flutes and zinging harpsichords on "Sunshine Of Your Love" (mp3 sample available below) are somewhat unexpected, as is that track's hysterical ending.