28 April 2021

Reupload - Drew Ross - Close Your Eyes And Go To Sleep/ Let It Be

Zingy piece of pounding pop from Inverness solo artist

Label: CBS
Year of Release: 1970

In common with almost all the solo artists I seem to be finding singles by at the moment, I really can't find a scrap of information on Drew Ross. I know that he had two 45s out on CBS, this one and the 1971 follow-up "I'm Going Home". I know that both records sold poorly and are difficult to find copies of these days. Beyond that... nothing. Nowt. Nada. Zip. My best guess would be that he was a keen cabaret/ working man's club performer who got the chance to release a couple of singles on a major label, but that's based on the laws of probability rather than the conclusive results of my research.

I can't speak with any confidence about any of his other recordings, but "Close Your Eyes..." is really rather good. It starts off with a similar pounding gusto to Love Affair's "Everlasting Love" and continues in a similar plastic Northern Soul vein. Packed with optimistic brassy blasts and bouyant drumming, it's actually something of a tonic - a skippy, bouncy record, and the kind of bright, immediate sixties pop that absolutely nobody seems to be either attempting to emulate or take seriously anymore. It could have been a hit at the time, but quite clearly wasn't.

The flip is a rather pedestrian cover of The Beatles "Let It Be", which really doesn't add anything new to the song, and isn't as worthy of your time. 

25 April 2021

Marjorine - I Live/ Loving Shrine

Likeable Howard and Blaikley pop track washed up on to a reggae label 

Label: Pyramid
Year of Release: 1969

Most record collectors in the UK will recognise the Pyramid label as a source of some of the best sixties reggae 45s, issuing records by respected names such as Desmond Dekker and The Maytals. The sight of its logo in a charity shop box is enough to get the average ageing rude boy's heart racing, and usually for fair reasons.

There were, however, a couple of moments when the label threw everyone a serious curveball while trying to diversify their product. Once was when they issued the psychedelic stomp of Staveley Makepeace's "I Wanna Love You Like A Mad Dog", which had about as much to with reggae as this blog has to do with embroidery. The other moment was when this Howard and Blaikley penned ballad slid out by the group Marjorine.

The group apparently came from Jersey and there's a black and white photo of them over on the Discogs site, but all other details about them seem to have evaporated into thin air in the following decades. The A-side here is a smooth and well-arranged Hollies-esque ballad with majestic brass backing and confident vocal harmonies, but isn't quite strong enough to sound like a probable hit. In typical Howard/Blaikley fashion, though, the melodies twist around your head beautifully and enable Marjorine to sound a lot more confident than your average bunch of plucky unknowns on a small independent label.

21 April 2021

The Dalys - Early Morning Rain/ Chanson D'Amour

Very pleasant take on Gordon Lightfoot's classic from Cork folk duo
Label: Fontana
Year of Release: 1969
"Early Morning Rain" is one of those fascinating singles which seems to have been recorded by an unimaginable array of artists - Paul Weller, Peter, Paul and Mary, Steve Forbert, The Settlers, Neil Young, Elvis Presley, Judy Collins, Eva Cassidy, Billy Bragg and The Grateful Dead have all had a stab at it, and I'm sure there are other artists besides who I've just completely forgotten to mention. It's a deathless and utterly wonderful song which proves that Bob Dylan had a point when he said that Gordon Lightfoot was the greatest folk performer in the world. At some point or another, all of us have been that man on the airport tarmac pondering our life choices while the person we love is already out of reach (maybe not literally, but that's obviously not the point).
While Lightfoot's original version of the song will always be my favourite, part of its popularity with other artists may lie in the fact that it's so damn difficult to screw up, and has a threadbare arrangement which allows them to stamp their own identity on it with relative ease. The Dalys were a folk duo from Cork who issued a raft of singles in the sixties, beginning their recording careers with "Without You" on Decca in 1964 and finishing at the end of the decade, seven singles later, with this. 

Duo takes of the track aren't unheard of but are somewhat less commonly chanced upon, meaning the Peter and Gordon styled interplay between John Daly and Paddy Carroll here lends the track an added fleecey warmth against the chill of the early morning airport farewells in the lyrics. 

18 April 2021

Dave Justin - Everybody's Gone Home/ Lincoln Green

Twee, merry and uptempo popsike via Enfield
Label: Polydor
Year of Release: 1967
Dave Justin - or Dave Forey to give him his proper birth name - had quite a few throws of the dice when it came to pop success. Initially he was in a duo with John Karlsson under the unimaginative name of Justin & Karlsson, and they issued the exceedingly rare and highly sought after cover of Simon & Garfunkel's "Somewhere They Can't Find Me" on Piccadilly in 1966.

After that single failed to gain any attention whatsoever, he moved on to a solo career and signed to Polydor in 1967, issuing four flop singles, "For Brandy", "You Outside", "Rachel" and this one, which was his second release for the label.

It is, to say the least, a somewhat unexpected concoction where folky Dylan influences collide with brassy oompah sounds and merry melodies, like a fight between the Salvation Army Sunday march-round and a gaggle of protesting beatniks. Parts of "Everybody's Gone Home" also sound uncannily like some of the brass band music beloved of The Village in "The Prisoner".

The flipside "Lincoln Green" takes a similar tack but milks the "la la la la la" aspects in a manner reminiscent of both Pink Floyd's "Jugband Blues" and Tintern Abbey's "Bee Side". 

14 April 2021

Reupload - Paul Slade - Odyssey/ Sound Of Love

Spectacular Ivor Raymonde arranged piece of bombastic melodrama
Label: Decca
Year of Release: 1969

The name Paul Slade may seem somewhat unfamiliar to most readers, but as a songwriter he managed to get credits on a number of hits in the seventies and eighties, perhaps the most well known examples being Grace Jones's "I Need A Man" and Changes' enormous disco smash "Searchin'". 

Obviously, though, our story doesn't begin there. Way back in the sixties when Grace Jones was just the stuff of our wildest nightmares, he was a jobbing bass guitarist and backing vocalist, usually working as a session musician for visiting live artists in London. Having been spotted playing at the Revolution Club in London, he was offered a management contract and a deal with Decca followed not long after, resulting in two incredibly scarce singles, "Heaven Held" and "Sound of Love". 

"Sound of Love" is, to be frank, an unexciting Bee Gees cover which may be of interest to fans of the group, but is unlikely to get casual readers of this blog hot under the collar. Slade performs it convincingly, but the arrangement is rather by-numbers and fails to sell the song at all well.

Of far more interest is the flip "Odyssey", which was co-written by Slade and is a melodramatic, moody piece of seemingly Scott Walker inspired hullabaloo about a missing lady. Punctuated by punching strings and something that sounds like the Thames TV ident (but isn't) Slade informs us "She haunted me wherever I go... And Still The Wind Carries Her Name!" It's over-the-top, frantic and fantastically arranged, putting the A-side to absolute shame. As the B-side to an unremarkable ballad, it's obviously been somewhat buried over the last fifty years, but that really deserves to change - "Odyssey" is ambitious and constantly interesting throughout its three minutes.

11 April 2021

The Wake - Boys In The Band/ To Make You Happy

Grooving Lieber and Stoller cover from seventies popheads
Label: Carnaby
Year of Release: 1970
While The Boys In The Band's single "(How 'Bout A Little Hand) For The Boys In The Band" was a hit in the USA, its British reception was more muted and it failed to chart. That might seem like a puzzling outcome for such a bold dancefloor smash, but a key factor in its failure might have been this spoiler release being put out a whole month earlier and sucking up most of the media attention.
It has to be said, The Wake's version isn't greatly different. The vocals are softer and more persuasive, but the backing is as powerful a facsimile as arranger Bill Shepherd could manage, and it swings just as hard as the original version. Such persuasive production enabled The Wake to sneak on to "Top of the Pops" to mime to this record, but despite the prime-time television exposure, it still sold poorly, meaning "Boys In The Band" has never really been a widely recognised track in the UK.

The Wake consisted of Bill Hurd on vocals and keyboards, John Edmonds on guitar, Chris Weeks on bass and Tony Miles on drums. Hurd later went on to more notable success with The Rubettes.

They also managed to release four other singles before calling it a day, and their 1971 concept LP "23:59" - based on the goings-on at a New Year's Eve party - is quite keenly sought after by psychedelic pop collectors these days, with copies going for as much as £150.

7 April 2021

Flight - What Am I To Do/ Is This The Way

Bizarre reminiscence about childhood misdemeanors from seventies glam group

Label: BASF
Year of Release: 1974
I only bought this one because of the cheap asking price and the Geoff Gill production credit, and blimey what a strange record it is. With a backing consisting of that much-loved oompah bounce which seemed to haunt many an early seventies single, the lyrics consist of a man reminiscing about getting his arse spanked and being generally admonished by his mother throughout childhood. 
"What am I to do with you my boy/ oh what am I to do with you?/ What will I tell your father when he comes back from the loo?" she asks throughout the three minute song, suggesting perhaps that the boy's Dad was hiding in there for the duration (nobody's ever that constipated). With this much of a rumpus going on in the household at all times, though, I can't say I blame him. The bathroom can be a safe space sometimes.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, hit songwriter Lally Stott was behind this piece of work, and was most famously known for penning the monster hit "Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep". We've covered his solo version of that track, with the faintly psychedelic "Henry James" on the flip, before on this blog.

The precise membership of the group Flight is somewhat vague, but we do know that bass guitarist Kevin Nixon was a member, who later went on to work with Francis Dunnery, as was the vocalist Mick Adamson who went on to join eighties metallers Maineeaxe. 

4 April 2021

Songbird - Sweet Elaine/ Spread The Word

Rocking record from American ex-pats based in Vancouver

Label: MAM
Year of Release: 1971

The group Songbird were, initially at least, somewhat misleadingly named. Their music tended to rock out and generally resembled no garden birds I'm aware of who would probably be appalled and terrified by their blues rockin' racket.

While their name may not be on the tips of everyone's tongues, they were nonetheless a busy group of American ex-pats based in Canada to work with singer Tom Middleton (among presumably other things). When they weren't acting as a backing group for him, they did also manage to cut some singles of their own, opening with this self-penned effort on the GRT label in 1971, then leaving a three year gap before issuing the distinctly smoother and sweeter "I Believe" and "Dirty Work" on Mushroom.

"Sweet Elaine" was the only track of theirs to get a UK issue on Gilbert O'Sullivan's happy home MAM, and is a piece of raw blues-rock boogie featuring vocalists Jay Caress possibly doing his vocal chords harm with his roared approximations of lustful thoughts. Ladies, he's doing himself serious damage here, and honey-menthol sore throat remedies ain't going to put that right. What he needs is some sweet loving.

Besides Mr Caress, the group initially consisted of Mike Flicker on drums, Terry Gotlieb on bass, and Charles Gray Jr and Bob Siegel on unnamed duties, though one can only assume that one of them was the lead guitarist. Flicker and Gotlieb would eventually work with Heart, with Flicker taking on the production duties for several of their LPs and Gotlieb sitting on the engineer's desk. Siegel eventually moved into music management.