5 February 2020

Force West - Sherry/ Mr. Blue

Bristol wonders - also known as the Oscar Bicycle and Shakane - with their final shot at success

Label: CBS
Year of Release: 1969

Nobody could ever accuse Bristolians Force West of not trying their hardest to break through to a larger audience. They had three record contracts and seven singles out across four years, opening with "I Can't Give What I Haven't Got" on Decca in 1965, and closing with this effort. 

The group were initially formed from the remains of the groups The Jaguars and The Diatones. While they issued one vaguely psychedelic record under the pseudonym Oscar Bicycle in 1968, Force West tended to specialise in carefully arranged, commercially sound beat and harmony pop, and as such their output hasn't had many appearances on sixties obscurities compilations. Nonetheless, their records were generally neat, likeable affairs with an excess of warmth in their grooves; their hearts and souls were clearly somewhere on the American West Coast rather than the western edge of the UK. A quick listen to the beautiful 45 "A Walk In The Rain" gives you a firm impression of their sun-kissed pop.  

Their cover of that old chestnut "Sherry" was their last attempt for a single on CBS, and in common with a lot of last-ditch cover versions foisted on groups who have previously failed to chart, it's... OK.  The group handle the track with care and even give it a slightly tropical feel in an attempt to bring out different tones and colours. Ultimately though, I've never been enough of a fan of the song itself to appreciate any particular interpretation of it, so it's probably wasted on my ears.

Better is the B-side "Mr. Blue" which sounds uncannily like an early Jeff Lynne ballad - a huge coincidence given that the song's title being only one word short of ELO's most famous moment - filled with tremulous vocals and a weary, Sally Army styled brass arrangement in the background. It will doubtless have seemed a bit dated for 1969, but it's a lovely moment and appropriately downbeat enough to act as the band's final bow.

The group consisted of Adrian Castello on guitar and vocals, Danny Clarke on vocals, John "Sid" Philips on drums, John Strange on bass and Brian Trusler on lead guitar. Clarke decided to give up his life in the music business shortly after the failure of this record, and the rest of the group relocated to Germany and became Shakane who continued to release a series of singles, including the flute-festooned collector's favourite "Find The Lady". 

They eventually returned home to Bristol in 1973 and began a residency at the Town Talk night club, which continued until 1989 - one hell of a lengthy career for a fascinating group who perhaps never quite got the recognition they deserved outside their home city. 

1 comment:

Michael Alden said...

I love this group. Great sixties pop. A shame they never broke through for a hit. Some of the Shakane songs are pretty good too, especially Jenny.