Wednesday, April 19, 2017

More U.K. Tracks On U.S. Labels: The Swinging Blue Jeans 2

THE SWINGING BLUE JEANS-Don't Make Me Over/What Can I Do Today US Imperial 66154 1966

This Swinging Blue Jeans January 1966 single was their very last U.K. chart placing , reaching #31 (His Masters Voice POP 1501). It was issued in the United States a month later but failed to chart.

"Don't Make Me Over", a Burt Bacharach/Hal David composition, was Dionne Warwick's first U.S. hit (#21 in 1962, it did not chart in the U.K.). The Blue Jeans interpretation utilizes a beat/ballad delivery with some subtle strings (orchestration by Harry Robinson). It's mildly appealing, but nothing that warrants repeated plays.

The real gem is the flip side, "What Can I Do Today".  Starting with some 12 string guitar playing a lick that's extremely reminiscent of The Animal's reading of "It's My Life", it's one of the band's strongest tracks with some great harmonies and a jangly "folk rock" feel to it.

Incidentally guitarist Ralph Ellis left after the single's release and was replaced by ex-Escort and future Hollie Terry Sylvester.

Both sides have been compiled on several Swinging Blue Jeans compilations, the best being the British "At Abbey Road" CD and the American "Hippy Hippy Shake: Definitive Collection" disc.

Hear "Don't Make Me Over":

Hear "What Can I Do Today":

Monday, April 10, 2017

Cream's Debut!

CREAM-Wrapping Paper/Cat's Squirrel UK Reaction 591007 1966

Cream have been touted as the first "power trio" (not true) and the first "supergroup" (possibly true). Cream was formed when former Graham Bond Organization drummer extraordinaire Ginger Baker approached blues aficionado/ guitar hero Eric Clapton who was then playing with John Mayall's Bluebreakers. Clapton agreed but on the condition that they add Baker's former Graham Bond Organization band mate, bassist Jack Bruce who was at that time playing in Manfred Mann. The move was interesting because Baker had sacked Bruce from the G.B.O. and as legend has it threatened him at knife point when he failed to get the message.

Seeing as there was an intense blues/r&b pedigree within all three members musical preference and CV it was rather astonishing that their debut 45 (issued in October 1966 on Robert Stigwood's new Reaction label) was not even remotely bluesy.

British TV debut "Ready Steady Go!" November 4, 1966

"Wrapping Paper", penned by Jack Bruce and Pete Brown, would have been better suited for the M.O.R. pop filed of The Merseys or the Mike D'Abo Manfred's not Britain's first power blues trio!  That said it's not a terrible number, just not remotely what the music scene expected.  To me it's always a perfect book end to Manfred Mann's reading of Randy Newman's "So Long Dad" or The Alan Price Set's "The House That Jack Built".

 The "real" Cream comes through on the B-side, "Cat's Squirrel", a traditional blues jam where each member gets to show their chops with Bruce blowing some wild harp while Clapton does his "God" thing on his Les Paul and Baker's driving drums bring it all down. Strangely the version on this U.K. 45 is an entirely different take than the album version and is far superior in my book.

"Wrapping Paper" was been issued on the deluxe version of their debut album "Fresh Cream", but the version of "Cat's Squirrel" has yet to surface anywhere to my knowledge.

Hear "Cat's Squirrel":

Thursday, April 6, 2017

More U.K. Tracks On U.S. Labels: The Swinging Blue Jeans

THE SWINGING BLUE JEANS-Tremblin'/Something's Coming Along US Imperial 66255 1967

The Swinging Blue Jeans American label, Imperial, continued to plug the band despite them only having one hit in the States ("Hippy Hippy Shake" which reached #24 in 1964). Though they did not issue all of the bands British 45's here by 1967 they had issued seven 45's and one LP.  Today's specimen was their 8th and final U.S. release (compare with 12 U.K. 45's, 2 E.P.'s and one LP!). It was issued in the U.S. in September 1967 and was previously issued in June of '67 in the U.K. (His Master's Voice POP 1596).

I've chosen to flip the 45 because I prefer the B-side "Something's Coming Along" to the top side "Tremblin". "Something's Coming Along" is a perfect pop smash full of sunshiney vocals, subtle brass, minor key piano hammering away and all the trappings of a cheery little innocuous ditty. It's technically a "solo" 45 by lead singer Ray Ennis as none of the band play on it.  Backing vocals are provided by the crack team behind many Dusty Springfield sessions: Lesley Duncan, Kiki Dee and Madeline Bell.

"Tremblin'", written by the American song writing team of Arthur Resnik, Joey Levine and Kris Resnik follows the same production technique of "Something's Coming Along" but the song itself is schlock garbage no matter how much fairy dust you sprinkle on it. It was previously cut by Gene Pitney, which explains why its an indistinguishable piece of trite pop trash.

Both sides have been compiled on sevderal Swinging Blue Jeans compilations, the best being the British "At Abbey Road" CD and the American "Hippt Hippy Shake: Definitive Collection".

Hear "Something's Coming Along":

Hear "Tremblin'":

Monday, April 3, 2017

More U.K. Tracks On U.S. Labels: The Scaffold

THE SCAFFOLD-Thank U Very Much/Id B The First US Bell 701 1968

The Scaffold will always best best known as the band that featured Paul McCartney's younger brother Mike (under the alias of "Mike McGear").  They also featured poet Roger McGough OBE and John Gorman.   "Thank You Very Much" was the band's debut American release (issued in January 1968, it was previously issued in the U.K. in November of '67 as Parlophone R 5643 where it reached #4 in the charts). It was also the favorite of the Queen Mum!

"Thank You Very Much" is a catchy, cheeky chappie type number penned by Mike McCartney.  It's all round jollity and sing along style is not too far from "Yellow Submarine" or the Small Faces "Lazy Sunday". That said it's English to it's very core and there's something incredibly addictive to it's main chorus.

Messrs McGough, McGear and Gorman: The Scaffold

"Ide B The First" follows it's A side's whimsical nature with it's delivery but there's some very Bonzo Dog Ban-esque bits about it too with it's satirical lyrics and general musical tomfoolery backed by some regal brass. Not their strongest track by a mile, but still worth a listen.

"Thank U Very Much" failed to replicate it's U.K. chart success in the States but that didn't deter Bell records from issuing an LP in 1968 titled after the non-hit (Bell 6018).

Strangely though "Thank U Very Much" appears on two now out of print Scaffold CD compilations ("Scaffold At Abbey Road 1966-1971" and "Thank U Very Much: The Very Best Of Scaffold") "Id B The First" does not seem to have been compiled anywhere on CD.

Hear "Thank U Very Much":

Hear "Id B The First":

Saturday, April 1, 2017

March's Picks

1. THE CAVEDOGS-"Tayter Country"
I missed Boston's Rickenbacker slinging power trio The Cavedogs when they blew through the area in 1990/1991 due to my participation in Operation Desert Shield/Storm but by all accounts they were pretty powerful.  This opening track from their sole LP "Joy Rides For Shut Ins" reminds me musically of the Jam but the detached sounding vocals are pure early 90's.

2. GENERATION X-"Ready Steady Go"
Billy Idol and Co.'s 1978 paen to the cutting edge 60's British TV series must have raised some eyebrows among the year zero punk rock cosignetti but it's a gas regardless of the topic from it's "My Generation" stutter ("I'm not in love with Tttttwiggy" ) to citing it's heroes (The Beatles, The Stones The Who etc) it's a far cry from The Clash's assertion of "no Elvis, Beatles or the Rolling Stones" in "1977".

3. GEORGE BENSON-"Ain't That Peculiar"
From his 1964 album "It's Uptown (aka "The Most Exciting New Jazz Guitarist On The Scene Today"), former Brother Jack McDuff sideman cuts an uptown, funky instrumental version of Marvin Gaye's "Ain't That Peculiar" aided in no small part by Lonnie Smith on organ and his own virtuoso guitar licks.

One of my favorite tracks from their second album "Winter Harvest" is this merry little number that was also released as a single in their native Netherlands. It has some great pop hooks, soulful vocals and a wiggy little organ solo.

5. THE YARDBIRDS-"Respectable"
From their legendary debut album "Five Live Yardbirds" recorded live at the Marquee club in March 1964, the band turn the Isley's "Respectable" into an all out party that cheekily uses a ska rhythm to burst into Eric "Monty" Morris "Humpty Dumpty" mid rave. Listen for lead singer Keith Relf's nonsensical improv when he doesn't know the words for the same verse not once but twice.

6. DESMOND DEKKER-"This Woman"
This uptempo Island ska 45 from 1965 bears a slight resemblance to Alton Ellis "Dance Crasher" but with some call and response vocals thrown in and the pace quickened it's a still a killer!

7.LOWELL FULSOM-"The Letter"
Though it dates from 1968 don't let the release date fool you, this uptempo blusey stormer about a lovesick G.I. away in Vietnam is a kick ass little burner worth checking out.

8. THE LARKS-"Mickey's East Coast Jerk"
Borrowing more than a little from The Ad-Lib's "Boy From New York City" and "High Heel Sneakers" this kick ass 45 on the small Money label is a solid piece of dance floor action and probably my favorite track by The Larks.  The flip "Soul Jerk", is equally cool.

9. THE UNLUV'D-"Ain't Gonna Do You No Harm"
For the past three decades I've wondered who the hell this band were and I'm still no closer to knowing anything about them.  It's a great soul track with some super horns and organ and a catchy guitar lick.

10. THE JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE-"The Burning of The Midnight Lamp"
The fourth single by the J.H.E. took a slight detour from the usual "heavy" guitar sounds and was propelled by some murky wah-wah and a very baroque harpsichord that turn it into a sort of wonderful psychedelic dirge.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Great Obscure U.K. 60's R&B Sides: Paul Williams & The Big Roll Band

PAUL WILLIAMS and the BIG ROLL BAND-Gin House/Rockin' Chair UK Columbia DB 7421 1964

Not to be confused with the diminutive American singer/songwriter this Paul Williams was (and still is) a 60's British r&b singer.  He started out singing with the Wes Minster Five before accepting an invitation to join Zoot Money's Big Roll Band on bass (despite not ever having played bass), where band leader Zoot Money had asked him to join based on his vocal skills so that the act could have a second vocalist in the line up.

Today's subject is both Williams first single with the Big Roll Band and the latter's first release on Columbia after just one single with Decca ("The Uncle Willie"/"Zoot's Suite" Decca F 11954 August 1964 credited to just "Zoot Money"). "Gin House" , originally cut in 1928 as "Me And My Gin" by Bessie Smith was something of a British 60's standard with versions cut by The Boston Crabs, The Animals and Amen Corner to name but a few.  The Paul Williams and the Big Roll Band version is the earliest U.K. version, no doubt it was brought to their attention by Nina Simone's reading. The Big Roll Band's version though not as upbeat as Simone's, is still delivered faster than the dirge like feel of subsequent U.K. covers.  Its an interesting version with Zoot's Hammond gently weaving in and out and the powerful horn section building the track bar by bar.

"Rockin' Chair" is an uptempo jumpin' jive affair with an almost ska meets jazz beat to it. Interestingly it musically resembles the jazz/r&b/ska style that William's previous act, The Wes Minster Five had nailed down.

Williams would receive top billing on another 45 with the Big Roll Band the following year as Columbia DB 7768 "The Msany Faces Of Love" b/w "Jump Back" in November.

"Gin House" is on the excellent EMI compilation CD "Take My Tip: 25 British Mod Artifacts From The EMI Vaults" and both sides are on Repertoire's comprehensive Zoot Money singles CD "A's & B's Scrapbook".

Hear "Gin House":

Hear "Rockin' Chair":

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Classic 60's British Labels : Reaction

Set up by Australian Robert Stigwood in the U.K. in 1966, Reaction was a short lived independent label (distributed by Polydor) with just 3 LP's, 18 singles and an E.P. in their brief 18 month existence. Nonetheless they were the home for Cream, The Who and a host of others.  Here's 10 interesting singles from their colorful discography for your perusal.

1. OSCAR-"Club Of Lights" 591003 June 1966
We profiled Oscar's releases on the label in several posts which can be viewed herehere and over here. "Club Of Lights" was his second of three 45's for the label and hands down his punchiest. Penned by future Thunderclap Newman member (and author of The Who's "Armenia City In The Sky") Speedy Keen, "Club Of Lights" is a raving '66 go-goer with a driving beat, horns, fuzz guitars and an amphetamine tempo.

2. LLOYD BANKS-"Look Out Girl" 591008 October 1966
This brass based harmony pop number was the flip of "We'll Meet Again". Falling somewhere between The Tremeloes '67 stuff and The Fortune's poppier side "Look Out Girl" is a decent slice of uptempo '66 pop (with a cool little organ solo in the middle) and a great false ending.

3. BIRDS BIRDS-"Daddy Daddy" 591005 September 1966
After three singles on Decca The Birds changed their moniker to Birds Birds and moved to Reaction for what would be their last 45. Bringing up the rear on the flip of a version of The McCoy's "Say Those Magic Words" is this menacing Ron Wood/Tony Munroe group original. "Daddy Daddy" is  pure unadulterated '66 mod/freakbeat at it's best with plenty of thundering drums, Vox fuzz box licks and detached confusion.

4. THE WHO-"In The City" 591004 August 1966
This Keith Moon/ John Entwhistle was the flip to "I'm A Boy". It's an interesting mix with John's French horn, him and Roger's West Coast harmonies, jangly Rickenbacker and surf music lyrics no doubt care of resident Beach Boys fanatic Keith Moon.

5. WEST POINT SUPERNATURAL-"Time Will Tell" 59103 April 1967
The curiously named West Coast Supernatural's  sole Reaction single "Time Will Tell" is a poppy little ditty with crisp harmonies, a jaunty Kink's '67 feel and a cheery all round feel. I know absolutely nothing about them.  Anyone?

6. BILLY J. KRAMER & THE DAKOTAS-"Chinese Girl" 591014 April 1967
"Chinese Girl" covered the flip side of Billy's solo outing , an unreleased track by Stigwood's charge The Bee Gee's called "The Town Of Tuxley Toymaker Part One". Written by Dakota's Mick Green and Robin Macdonald, it would be Kramer's last work with the Dak's and no doubt his most powerful AND freakiest!

7. THE MAZE-"Telephone" 591009 November 1966
The Maze are best known to Deep Purple historian's as the band that contained singer Rod Evans and drummer Ian Paice. "Telephone", the flip of a version of Barbara Lewis "Hello Stranger", is a semi interesting piece of beat music melded with harmony pop.  At times it's rather tepid and mundane but interesting for historical value and Evan's deep tones.

8. SANDS-"Listen To The Sky" 591007 September 1967
Formerly The Others, Sands "Listen To The Sky" rounded off the unreleased Bee Gee's gem "Mrs Gillespie's Refrigerator" on the top side.  Starting out as a fairly innocuous pop track "Listen To The Sky" earns its spurs with cool harmonies, tough guitars and an ending mashing up guitars imitating an aerial dogfight with air raid sirens thrown in before ominously descending into Holst's "Mars, Bringer Of War".

9. MARIAN MONTGOMERY-"Monday Thru Sunday" 591018 October 1967
The final release by the label was this odd ball 45 release by M.O.R. personality Marian Montgomery. Sounding musically not unlike something Cilla Black would have cut at the same time, "Monday Thru Sunday" starts out with some uptown horns/flutes and is actually not a bad record thanks to it's high end production care of John Shakespeare and the previously mentioned musical accompaniment.

10. CREAM-"Cat's Squirrel" 591007 October 1967
The flip side of Cream's uncharacteristic vinyl debut "Wrapping Paper" was this raw blues instrumental driven by the powerhouse rhythm section of Jack Bruce (bass) and Ginger Baker (drums) and requisite Chicago blues guitar licks by Eric "God" Clapton.  The 45 version is in my estimation far superior to the different recording used on their debut LP "Fresh Cream".