Saturday, January 24, 2015

My top ten 50 years back

Now and then I delve back into my list of personal top ten records that I studiously wrote down once or twice a week from 1960 to 1965. Looking at the list for 50 years ago - January 22nd, 1965 to be precise - it's striking how many classic recordings are listed. What also struck me was the important role that the pirate radio stations played in those days. For example, standing at number six in my top ten was Baby Don't You Do It by Marvin Gaye - a great record and a substantial US hit. Yet when I checked the Rare Record Guide I realised that it was never released as a single in the UK. It didn't even come out on an LP until later in 1965 on Marvin's How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You album. Yet it clearly got significant airplay on the pirates. Why it wasn't released as a single I don't know, but maybe it had something to do with the changeover in distribution in the UK from Stateside to the new Tamla Motown label, which was launched in March, 1965. Here it is.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZKhqL3xS0Dw   
Another case in point was Leader Of The Pack by the Shangri-Las, which received a great amount of airplay on the pirate stations (but not, naturally, on the BBC which banned it because of its death theme) before it was belatedly released in the UK and became a hit. By this time the follow up Give Him A Great Big Kiss (with its great line 'You best believe I'm in love, LUV')  was ready for release and both records find themselves listed in my top ten. (Top 12 actually, as there were so many good records around that I had five tied in equal eighth place).   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfieVfAwU0w
Another point of note is that Sam Cooke's Shake is at joint number one on my chart. This isn't surprising as virtually everything recorded by Sam made it to number one in my top ten. But what is worthy of note is that there's no sign of the B side - A Change Is Gonna Come. It received no airplay that I can recall on first release  and it was only later that it was recognised as one of the great civil rights anthems of all time. The version issued as a 45 was edited to exclude one verse which was on the original LP track. Some people thought that this was because RCA thought the verse too controversial, although Peter Guralnick in his book Dream Boogie says that Sam made the decision in order to make the length of the single more suitable for radio airplay. Check out this great video of Shake.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4DDJW0rOG5s   
Here's my top 12:
1= You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling - Righteous Brothers
1= Shake - Sam Cooke
3. Leader Of The Pack - Shangri-Las
4. Hold What You've Got - Joe Tex
5. Night Train - James Brown
6. Baby Don't You Do It - Marvin Gaye
7. Dance Dance Dance - The Beach Boys
8= Oh No Not My Baby - Maxine Brown
8= Come See About Me - Supremes
8= The Name Game - Shirley Ellis
8= Keep Searchin' - Del Shannon
8=Give Him A Great Big Kiss - Shangri-Las

Thursday, January 15, 2015

1966 record reviews - part 4

This is the final batch of my record reviews from the pages of the Croydon Advertiser in 1966 – a journey back in time nearly 50 years to an era that possibly marked the zenith of popular music in terms of variety, quality and innovation, even if the charts of the time seldom reflected that.
After the Beach Boys, there can be little doubt that the next most popular American group are the Four Seasons. For their new disc the Seasons have retained their famous high-pitched sound, but the song they have recorded marks a big change from their normal material. The song is ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin, on Philips BF 1511, the Cole Porter standard which never seems to lose its appeal. This song, combined with the group’s brash, commercial sound, may sound incongruous, but it works out surprisingly well. Brilliant arrangement and, as usual, a highly professional performance from the group make it sound as though the song was written for them It should be yet another Four Seasons hit.
From one of the top songwriters of this century to two of the top songwriters of the sixties – Bacharach and David, who wrote the new Walker Brothers single ‘Another Tear Falls’, on Philips BF 1514. The song, which was first recorded by Gene McDaniels four years ago, sounds sad, almost mournful, in the hands of the Walkers, who are accompanied by a full orchestra. It’s a good song, handled well by the boys, and should give them another big hit.
There’s some very sexy, smooth sounding singing on ‘Make Me Belong To You’ , the new disc by Barbara Lewis on Atlantic 584037. It’s a really first rate performance with a good arrangement and some fine singing from Barbara. The kind of record you’ve got to play over and over again. It’s not really commercial, but, given enough plugs, it should do well.
A very strange intro on the new record by the Righteous Brothers on Verve VS 542. It’s called ‘Go Ahead And Cry’ and to begin with I thought the ‘Sing Something Simple’ singers had got on the disc by mistake. But no. Suddenly the deep voices of the Righteous Brothers burst on the scene in unmistakable manner. It’s very dramatic – too dramatic, I think – and climaxes come thick and fast. At times it sounds as though there about 200 Righteous Brothers singing at the same time.
Lulu seems in a very happy, bouncy mood on her new disc ‘What a Wonderful Feeling’ on Decca F 12491. The song was written by Alan Price and it has a catchy tune. Three or four years ago the song could have been a hit, but now the twist is dead and this sounds like a typical old twist number.
Just Walk In My Shoes’ is the name of the latest record from Gladys Knight and the Pips, a group whose name seems to produce a joke from everyone who hears it. But they may not be regarded as a joke for much longer because this record, on Tamla Motown TMG 576, is a very professional sounding one. Gladys sings with great feeling and there’s a typically powerful Motown backing behind her.
Talking of old records, the new Searchers release, ‘Have You Ever Loved Somebody’, on Pye 7N 17170, would have been a certain hit three years ago. Now, however, this typical Searchers song, with rock beat, busy guitar and expressionless singing, is unlikely to attract much attention. It’s Liverpool ’63 all over again, very dated now, and really rather boring.
Little Anthony, with his group the Imperials, has been on the American scene now for about seven years without ever making much impression in this country. Their new song, ‘Gonna Fix You Good’, on United Artists UP 1151, isn’t going to change things for them I fear. Intro features piano played in boogie woogie style and then Anthony’s incredibly high-pitched voice comes in on this medium paced beater. The disc is well performed but it’s some way below his best.
Maiden aunts may not like the lyrics of ‘Lady Godiva’, the latest record by Peter and Gordon, on Columbia DB 8003, but I’m sure the average record buyer will be intrigued, if nothing else. The disc is something new for the boys – a sing-along number with clever and amusing words. Roughly speaking, it’s about a stripper who finds fame and fortune by rather dubious means as a film star. This could make it Peter and Gordon’s most successful disc for some time.
‘Bend It’, the new record by Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich, on Fontana TF 746, could well be titled ‘Zoba’s Dance Part Two’. But whereas ‘Zorba’s Dance’ was original, exciting and pleasant, ‘Bend It’ is none of these things. To start with, the bazouki sounds on the record are not genuine – it’s just a guitar. The group strains to make the disc exciting but it doesn’t come off. They’ve come up with a sound which is different from ‘Hold Tight’ and ‘Hideaway’, but it’s merely a copy of a sound that has had it anyway. And the whole thing is so monotonous I thought it was never going to end.
Rather more to my taste is ‘Chains Of Love’ by Chuck Jackson on Pye International 7N 25384. The first record by Chuck in a long time, it’s an upbeat number which he sings well in his powerful deep voice. My only slight criticism is that the tune seems disjointed at times. But since Chuck is touring here soon it should do well.
One British singer who never fails to give a polished performance on her records is Dusty Springfield. Her new disc, ‘All I See Is You’, on Philips BF 1510, is no exception. It’s another very dramatic ballad with big band backing and Dusty in highly emotional mood. It doesn’t sound immediately commercial perhaps, but Dusty sings so well, so expressively, that it must be a massive hit.
It’s amazing the way you can’t keep a good song down – or even a good instrumental disc, come to that. Here we are, three years after ‘Wipeout’ by the Surfaris was a hit for the first time and it looks as though it’s going to be a hit all over again. It was a smart move by Dot records to re-release the disc, on Dot DS 26756, because it still sounds as good as ever. Pulsating guitar work, pounding drumming, and, most important, a fantastic beat, makes this a cert for the charts, even in these days when an instrumental disc doesn’t make the charts in a month of Sundays.
Some months ago the Rockin’ Berries announced that they planned to drop the ‘Rockin’’ bit of their name because, they said, it wasn’t representative of the type of songs they sung. On their latest single, ‘I Could Make You Fall In Love’, released on Piccadilly 7N 35304, they haven’t changed their name and, if anything, they’re even further away from rock singing. Their new one is written by the Ivy League and their influence shows through in the vocal harmonies which the Berries use. It’s a mid tempo song, given a Shadows-type backing, which is pleasant enough and appealing enough to give the group the chart come-back they need.
‘Ain’t That A Groove’ is the title of the latest record by the king of the showmen James Brown, which is released on Pye International 7N 25367. There isn’t much tune to the song, but then there rarely is on his songs, but James makes up for it with jerky, violent yelling and screaming and a punchy sax backing – all of which adds up to excitement. Similar to a lot of his previous records perhaps, but still enjoyable.
A record which is likely to get a lot of plays on the pirate stations is the new one by The Writ, called ‘Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind’ on Decca F 12385. But I can’t see why. On first hearing, it seems totally lacking in impact – just uninspired, rather muffled, singing, even more muffled backing and meaningless lyrics. But it grows on you. The tune creeps up from nowhere and before you know it it’s running round your head and you can’t get rid of it. Which proves, I suppose, that it must have something.
Sandie Shaw, the girl who had a number one hit with her very first record ‘There’s Always Something There To Remind Me’ a year and a half ago and who hasn’t stopped since, has come up with a record which seems very unfitting to her career so far. It’s called ‘Nothing Comes Easy’, on Pye 7N 17086, and like her other records I’m sure it will be shooting up the charts. I’m not a great Sandie Shaw fan, but this record deserves to do well. As usual, it is written by Chris Andrews and Sandie sings very pleasantly to a lively, jingly backing on a song which is ideal for her voice. It’s her best for a long time.
Still with the girls, but far less happily, is ‘He Cried’ by the Shangi-Las on Red Bird RB 10053, a morbid sounding number. No one gets killed on this particular record, although judging by the slow, heavy drumming, the spoken intro and the mournful singing of the girls, you’d never believe it. The overpowering echo throughout the disc  only adds to the depression. But I must admit it’s very effective.
Avid followers of ‘Five O’Clock Club’ will be glad to hear that the Dave Clark Five have brought out another record especially for you. The song is called ‘Look Before You Leap’, on Columbia DB 7909. It’s the usual jolly Dave Clark formula with a simple tune, the occasional scream and the odd burst of sax creeping in.
The latest record by Hedgehoppers Anonymous is ‘Baby You’re My Everything’ on Decca F 12400 and it represent a complete change of style for the group. It’s a dramatic pop ballad with a strong tune which sounds as though it could easily be sung by a Tamla Motown artist. The Hedgehoppers’ performance, however, is rather uninspired.
More the sort of record I like is ‘Hold On I’m Coming’ by an American duo called Sam and Dave, on Atlantic 584003. The song isn’t commercial and doesn’t have an exceptionally strong tune, but the jerky, pumping beat is great and the boys manage to whip up quite a bit of excitement. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Curtis Lee & Anita Ekberg RIP

Curtis Lee, who has died aged 73,  recorded some of my favourite rock and roll records of the early sixties, a couple of which, Pretty Little Angel Eyes and Under The Moon Of Love have become all
time classics. Both of these were produced by Phil Spector for the Dunes label, prior to him setting up Philles, and have been much covered over the years. Curtis's recording career goes back to 1959 when he moved from his home town of Yuma, Arizona, to the West Coast, where he recorded a Johnny Burnette penned number called Pure Love for the Warrior label, also recorded by Sonny James. Curtis was discovered by Ray Peterson, who signed him to his Dunes label, where he teamed up with Tommy Boyce to write his two biggest hits. Spector brought in the Halos, who had a doowop hit with Nag, to to back him on Pretty Little Angel Eyes, and Under The Moon Of Love became a UK number one in the seventies for Showaddywaddy. The B side, Beverly Jean, is also a classic.
Curtis's follow up to this, the Gary US Bonds-flavoured A Night At Daddy Gee's, was almost as good, but his career stalled, and after a couple of blue eyed soul records for small labels he retired from the music business in the late sixties and returned to Yuma where he became a builder.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_EjlsYiVD0
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sI5SiPZt-Qc
Swedish actress Anita Ekberg, who has died aged 83, was one of
the top Hollywood sex symbols of the fifties and early sixties and is best known for her starring role in the Italian film La Dolce Vita in
1960. Other films included Back From Eternity, Interpol, Hollywood Or Bust, Paris Holiday, Boccaccio 70 and 4 For Texas. She was, in my personal opinion, gorgeous.

It's farewell too to another sex symbol of the sixties Donna Douglas, who came to fame as Elly Mae Clampett in the Beverly Hillbillies. Born in Baton Rouge, she appeared in a number of TV series but, apart from a starring role with Elvis Presley in the 1966 movie Frankie and Johnny, she never quite made it in films.
Finally, The Vinyl Word raises a glass to Eric 'Rockin' Ricky' Nugent, who compered several of the Tales From The Woods shows and also proved himself to be a very good singer. RIP to them all.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Record reviews from 1966 - Part 3

I hope readers have been enjoying my series of  record reviews taken from the pages of the Croydon Advertiser in 1966. There were many great records released during the course of that year, plus the usual amount of duds, and this selection includes a couple of all time classics. Fascinating to see what I made of them on first hearing. There are a couple of UK 'freakbeat' records here that are worth three figure sums now - shame I don't have them any more!
'One of the few groups capable of challenging the chart domination of the Stones and Beatles are The Animals. Their new record is called ‘Don’t Bring Me Down’, on Decca F 12407, and I have no doubt that it will fairly race up the charts. Like most of the group’s discs, the backing is pretty wild – featuring organ, guitar and a fair amount of feedback – but by Animals standards the vocal is subdued. Eric Burdon’s voice comes in low and quiet, hiding behind the feedback on a song which isn’t all that strong on tune. He builds up the excitement, lets it subside, then builds up again towards the end. This, combined with the well-performed and unusual backing, makes it an obvious hit.
Anyone who thinks the Phil Spector sound has had it should listen to the new Spector-produced record by Ike and Tina Turner, called ‘River Deep – Mountain High’ on London HLU 10046. The duo are best known for rocking soulful numbers, but this record has all the usual Spector trademarks – atmospheric backing, echoing vocal work and, above all, a great sense of drama. I can’t hear much of Ike on this one, but Tina’s high-pitched singing sends shivers down my spine. The record seemed rather strange to me at first, but now I can’t stop playing it. Could be a surprise hit.
The number of British groups to use Oriental sounds on their records is growing week by week. The latest to do so are the Yardbirds, who use what could well be a South Arabian nose-flute, or possible a Burmese yak horn, on their new record ‘Over Under Sideways Down’ on Columbia DB 7928. Whatever it is, it bounces along merrily with hand-clapping, chanting and guitar helping out in the backing. The vocal is quiet to start with, but the disc gets really wild in the end. It’s all a bit strange, but definitely commercial.
A good deal quieter is ‘So Much’ Love’ by Ben E King on Atlantic 584008 – a strong ballad written by Goffin and King. Ben sings with great emotion on this disc, which deserves to do well. Alas, I fear it’s too subtle for the British hit parade.
I never seem to meet any Cliff Richard fans these days, but, since every disc he brings out gets to about number three in the charts, he must still have plenty. No doubt his latest offering ‘Visions’ on Columbia DB 7968, will be yet another big hit. Cliff has returned to his ballad style for this one – very soft, very relaxed, but rather corny. It doesn’t make much impact on me, but it will on the charts.
Wilson Pickett is at his explosive best on his new disc called ’99 and a half (Won’t Do)’ on Atlantic 584023. It’s a slow song without a great deal of tune, but Wilson puts a fantastic amount of feeling into the lyrics and the backing is just right. I reckon it’s his best since ‘In The Midnight Hour’ and it could well be a hit.
A group who have been playing locally a great deal in the last few months are The Poor Souls. Now they have a brand new record on a brand new label. The song is called ‘Love Me’ and label Alp (No 595004). It’s a mid tempo number with a vague disjointed tune and the boys fail to make it at all interesting. The vocal is dull and the backing uninspired.
I don’t know how they do it, but The Shangri-Las manage to produce one dirge after another and still make them worth listening to. Their latest, called ‘Past, Present And Future’, on Red Bird RB 10068, is perhaps their weirdest record to date. One of the group talks, or rather whispers, about her mixed up love life, to the accompaniment of the ‘Moonlight Sonata’. Of course, more usual Shangri-Las touches, such as short conversations between various members of the group are included. Very unusual, but really quite effective.
With ‘River Deep – Mountain High’ still in the charts, Ike and Tina Turner have had another disc released. This one’s called ‘Tell Her I’m Not Home, on Warner Brothers WB 5753, and was, I suspect, made some time ago. Certainly it’s a return to their former violent R and B style as Tina belts out the lyrics. The song, which was once recorded by American Chuck Jackson, opens very dramatically. A telephone rings, a voice answers, and Ike drawls out the title line, then the beat starts.
Former Pretty Thing Viv Prince has had a record released in his own right – a thing called ‘Light Of the Charge Brigade’ (surely one of the kinkiest titles this year) on Columbia DB 7960. Despite the title, the disc turns out to be a rather run–of-the-mill instrumental. It’s a piano-led item with some nice touches here and there, but I don’t think it’s different enough to make the charts.
The old Johnny Otis (and Cliff Richard) number ‘Hand Jive’ gets a new lease of life from The Strangeloves on London HLZ 10063. The Bo Diddley beat is still there as strong as ever and the group give the song a jerky staccato treatment.
‘Investigate’ is the title of the latest disc by Major Lance on Columbia DB 7967. There’s a strong Tamla Motown influence on this one with a girl chorus warbling away in the background with Major double tracking on a routine beat number.
I have long been an admirer of The Beach Boys and I think their latest release, ‘God Only Knows’ on Capitol CL 15459, is their best-ever single. I’m sure it will be a hit, and it could start a new trend in pop music. The song is fairly slow, and the tune and vocal harmonies are complex. But the group’s subtle treatment of the number, aided by a haunting, atmospheric backing, makes this a really attractive record.
Another American group on top form are The Drifters, who bring out ‘Up On The Streets Of Harlem’ on Atlantic 584020. It’s a Latin American style number with a very attractive tune, given a smooth treatment by the group. This is their best record for a long time, and could easily be a hit.
More smooth sounds are also provided by The Majority, an English group who sing ‘Simplified’ on Decca F 12453. The group make a quiet, pleasant noise on this mid tempo song. The tune is quite good and the arrangement even better. But I doubt if it’s strong enough to make the charts.
American blues singer Slim Harpo had a surprise hit a short time ago with ‘Baby Scratch My Back’. With his new disc, ‘Shake Your Hips’, on Stateside SS 527 he’s looking to repeat the success. This time, though, he’s going to miss out. Slim sings well in his hoarse voice but the song is nearly tuneless.
That popular duo Diane Ferraz and Nicky Scott seem to be aiming at the sub-teenage market with their new record ‘Sh-Boom, Sh-Boom’ on Columbia DB 7962. It’s a catchy, happy-sounding song, but rather childish and a little dated. Very reminiscent of ‘Seven Little Girls’, the big Paul Evans his of 1960.
A fairly new group, The Young Rascals, had a hit in the States a short time ago. Their new record ‘You Better Run’, on Atlantic 584024, looks like giving them another. Whether it gets anywhere in Britain is doubtful however. The group alternate between quiet passages and full-blooded roaring vocal work.
London group The Mickey Finn choose the old Billy Stewart number ’I Do Love You’ for their latest release on Polydor 56719. The boys make a determined effort to attain an American sound, but they don’t quite succeed.
Croydon-born Cliff Aungier was well known as a folk and blues singer until a few months ago. But, believing folk music to be on the way out, he has changed his style – he has also changed his name. Now Cliff, on a record contract with EMI, can be heard as Daemon Dee singing ‘Half a Picture’, a pop ballad, on Columbia DB 7970. He’s hoping the change will result in a big hit. The disc is a little sentimental, corny even, but he sings it pleasantly in his smooth, deep voice. It could well make the charts. The flip side, ‘Tell Me baby’ was written by Cliff himself and, he hopes, is only the first of many songs he will write.  Cliff, who is 24, lived until recently in Stanley Road, West Croydon, but now lives in Cricklewood. He’s been on the music scene for some years, singing mostly folk and blues songs, plus some country and western. At one time he was teamed up with another folk singer, Royd Rivers, but after two years they broke up. ‘Half A Picture’ isn’t his first record. Some time ago he (and Royd) had a long player of folk songs released by Decca. The disc sold well, but not spectacularly.'

Friday, January 02, 2015

More record reviews from 1966

As promised, here are some more of my record reviews from the pages of the Croydon Advertiser in 1966. More will follow. So there! (Comments more than welcome.)
'One of the most promising, and most unusually named American groups at the moment are The Mamas and the Papas, whose first record ‘California Dreaming’ was a smash hit in the States. That one didn’t make it over here, but their latest record ‘Monday Monday’, on RCA 1516 is so good that it can’t miss. It’s a slightly folksy number with a really attractive tune given a charming treatment by lead singer Denny. The rest of the group and the musical arrangement all help to make this an outstanding disc – and a hit.
A completely different type of song – but nevertheless a hit – is the new one from the Small Faces, on Decca F12393. Called ‘Hey Girl’, it’s another noisy, upbeat number which is similar in style to ‘ Sha La La La Lee’. To my mind it’s blatantly commercial, in fact rather juvenile. There’s no subtlety in the treatment whatsoever, but the tune is catchy and the beat thumps away incessantly.
Having found a successful hit formula with ‘Uptight’, Stevie Wonder is taking no chances on his latest record ‘Nothin’s Too Good For My Baby’ on Tamla Motown TMG 558. Again it’s a beaty number with a strong tune and powerful backing, generating a load of excitement. Maybe a little repetitious though and it seems too fast somehow.
‘A Most Peculiar Man’ is the title of the new record from Adam, Mike and Tim on Columbia DB 7902 - and it’s not only the title that’s peculiar. The lyrics, written by Paul Simon, are offbeat to say the least – about a man who lives like a hermit and who eventually kills himself – and so is the backing, which has a slightly Eastern flavour. The boys’ performance is not so unusual, though, with a flat, perhaps deliberately, toneless style.
One of the groups around London’s clubland at the moment is the Ram Jam Band who, with lead singer Geno Washington, have brought out a record called ‘Water’ on Piccadilly 7N 35312. It’s a bouncy, very danceable item which is one of the very best attempts at reproducing the American R and B sound in this country. Because of this, it probably isn’t generally commercial.
Another ‘in’ name at the moment is that of Lee Dorsey, who recently did well with ‘Get Out Of My Life Woman’. His new record ‘Confusion’ on Stateside 506 is very similar to his last, with the same wandering beat and group backing. The number is very well performed both by Lee and backing group, but it probably won’t be a hit.
A new single by the Rolling Stones nowadays means an automatic number one hit – even though their records seem to be getting stranger and stranger. Their latest offering ‘Paint It Black’ certainly follows the trend, with a subdued start leading into their usual thumping beat. There’s an Eastern flavour about the record with the sitar, that increasingly popular Indian guitar-like instrument, strongly featured. The lyrics are almost drowned by the backing but so what? It’s the Stones, and I’m sure their thousands of fans will rush out to buy it.
More to my taste is ‘When A Man Loves A Woman’, the first release on Atlantic since distribution was taken over by Polydor, numbered 584001. The singer is Percy Sledge, who looks like having a surprise hit on his hands. It’s a slow, very bluesy, organ-backed song – definitely not the sort of record that usually makes the British charts. But on this record the song is so strong and the singer, who sounds a bit like Joe Tex, puts so much feeling into it that it must do well.
There’s a spoken introduction to ‘Not Responsible’, the new record by Tom Jones, on Decca F 12390, which leads into an upbeat powerfully backed performance of a song recorded by Helen Shapiro. This record falls well short of the usual standard of Tom’s releases though.
Seven years after his death, the Buddy Holly sound still isn’t finished – especially for the Bobby Fuller Four, who recently had a big American hit with the Holly-inspired ‘I Fought The Law’. On their new record, ‘Love’s Made A Fool Of You’, on London HLU 10041, they revive the Holly sound once more. The song was written by Buddy and the group’s performance contains the same outstanding guitar work as his records. There’s a solid beat and a solid professional sound which might put it in the charts.
A very attractive piece of piano work opens ‘Patti’s Prayer’ by Patti LaBelle and Her Belles on Atlantic 584007 and this is followed by some expressive and emotional vocal work by Patti. The song, however, is rather sentimental and I doubt it will make much impression on the charts.
The newly formed Strike label is already enjoying its first hit with a song called ‘That’s Nice’ by Neil Christian and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if ‘Cheat and Lie’ by Miki Dallon, on Strike JH 306, was the second hit on the label. Miki has a strong voice, similar to that of Tom Jones, and builds up a fair bit of excitement on the disc. This, combined with the tough sounding backing, could make it sell well.
Respectable and easy to listen to the Seekers may be, but they are hardly pacesetters when it comes to their records. These are predictable: sweet, tuneful songs sung in a gentle, folksy manner. Their new disc ‘Morningtown Ride’ on Columbia DB 8060, is no exception. The song is as attractive as ever, the singing harmonious. But there’s a sickly-sweet quality about it. The whole performance lacks impact – unlike some of their earlier releases – and I can’t see it making much impression on the charts.
Christmas is coming and with it, the usual crop of semi-religious discs. Past-master of this art is Julie Rogers, whose offering is entitled ‘While The Angelus Was Ringing’ on Mercury MF950. In fact, it’s another variation of the ‘Three Bells theme, which made the charts seven years ago. The record is very solemn – sounds as if it was recorded in a cathedral – and absolutely great if you like this kind of thing. Unfortunately I don’t.
Much more to my taste is the new record by American Percy Sledge called ‘Heart Of A Child’ on Atlantic 584055. It’s a complete change of style for Percy from his massive hit ‘When A Man Loves A Woman’ but he handles this bouncy upbeat song with great professionalism. The song is tuneful and interesting, if not exciting, and it could well put Mr Sledge back in the charts.
Four years ago the biggest selling American artist was Dion. Then he changed his name to Dion DiMucci, joined a new recording company, and gradually he slipped out of the limelight. The flow of his records slowly dried up until he became just another fallen idol. But now HMV have released a Dion record called ‘Berimbau’, on POP 1565. On it he sings with the Belmonts, the group he was with before he went solo. Whether this is the original Belmonts group or not I don’t know, but it’s very different from the type of record they used to record. ‘Berimbau’ is, in fact, the only recognisable word sung on the record. The rest consists of weird, off beat noises made by Dion and the group humming and mumbling their way through a complex, jazz-tinged tune. It’s all very vague, sounding a little like the Swingle Singers, but effective.
‘Missy, Missy’ is the title of the latest record by Paul and Barry Ryan, on Decca F 12520, which seems to be destined to be a flop.  A Vaudevillian intro leads into a rather dull, old-fashioned song and the voices lack any interest. Can’t see this one appealing to many people.
That classic blues record ‘I’m A King Bee’ by Slim Harpo has at last been issued on a single on EMI’s Soul Supply series (on Stateside 557). It was released some years ago on an EMI long player and was made famous when the Stones recorded it. Everything about this record – the singing, the atmospheric backing, even the hole in the middle – is great. It’s an absolute must for any collector of blues records – pop record collectors too.'

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Final farewells of the year

The Grim Reaper has been busy in the few days since I listed those in the music and entertainment business who have passed away during 2014.
Best known among them is Sheffield born Joe Cocker who will forever be associated with his
version of With A Little Help From My Friends, which was a major hit and which he sang live at Woodstock in 1969. Aged 70, Joe began with a skiffle group, The Cavaliers, before becoming the front man of Vance Arnold and the Avengers in 1960. After one unsuccessful single for Decca (the Beatles song I'll Cry Instead) Joe formed the Grease Band and recorded Marjorine, before taking up a residency at the Marquee Club in London. After hitting number one with 'Friends' in 1968 he followed its US success with the Mad Dogs And Englishmen tour, which included Leon Russell and Rita Coolidge. He made several albums during the seventies and eighties, enjoying great success with Up Where We Belong with Jennifer Warnes in 1982. Always too much of a rock singer for my taste, there's no doubting his place in music history over the last 40 years.
Another recent death, at the age of 76, is that of soul singer Jo Jo Benson, best known for his duets with Peggy Scott on numbers such as Soulshake, Lover's Holiday and Pickin' Wild Mountain Berries, which were produced by Huey Meaux and released on Shelby Singleton's SSS International label. Originally from Alabama, he went on to own a number of night clubs and was seriously injured in a shooting incident in 1979. He recorded two soul albums at the turn of the century - Reminiscing In The Jam Zone and Everybody Loves to Cha Cha Cha.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLcnyauzuCc
From the world of gospel we have lost Leroy Crume, who was a member of the Soul Stirrers and is credited with introducing the electric guitar into the gospel field. I can do no better than point readers in the direction of Red Kelly's excellent blog, which has a comprehensive item about Leroy's life and career.   http://redkelly.blogspot.co.uk/
Another gospel singer, in her later years, who has died is Jamaican Barbara Jones, who is best
known for her smooth reggae recordings in the seventies. Aged 62, she recorded reggae versions of Angel In The Morning, Just When I Needed You Most and Pretty Blue Eyes, among others.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gnfArQzlDEc
Detroit blues singer Alberta Adams is another who has passed away, at the age of 97. A night club singer and dancer in the 1930s, Alberta won a recording contract with Chess in 1952 and toured with the likes of Louis Jordan, Duke Ellington and T Bone Walker. She enjoyed success late in life when she signed with Cannonball records and released two albums, 1999's Born With the Blues and 2000's Say Baby Say.
It's farewell also to to John Fry, founder of Ardent Records of Memphis. Many Stax artists recorded there, as did Al Green, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, B B King and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Also to Larry Henley, lead singer of the Newbeats, who had hits with Bread And Butter and Run Baby Run in the mid sixties and went on to become a major country songwriter with songs such as Til I get It Right. Also to Nashville country guitarist and producer Chip Young, who played with Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Skeeter Davis and Waylon Jennings.
The Vinyl Word raises a glass to them all. Happy New Year to all my readers. Let's hope 2015 brings us good health and happiness.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Record reviews from 1966

As promised, here are some of my record reviews from the pages of the Croydon Advertiser back in 1966. More to follow (possibly)! You have been warned.

Wilson Pickett: 634-5789, That’s A Man’s Way. (Atlantic 4072). Some tremendous soul singing on this pounding effort by the ‘In The Midnight Hour’ man. Good song with a girl vocal group chanting the numbers (it’s the guy’s phone number) in the background. Gets really wild towards the end. Flip is a slower blues-tinged song with organ backing.
James Brown: I Got You, I Can’t Help It. (Pye International 7N 25350). This is great soul-filled singing and shouting from James on a forceful, punchy number. Powerful backing from the Famous Flames with some pumping sax work well to the fore. Very exciting and great for dancing. Flip is slower but with the dramatic singing and strong backing.
Gene Pitney: Backstage, In Love Again. (Stateside SS 490). Typical Pitney material – orchestral backing, dramatic singing with double tracking in parts, building to a climax. Not his best but a good performance.
Elvis Presley: Blue River, Do Not Disturb. (RCA Victor 1504(. There’s absolutely nothing to arouse interest in this song and it’s a disappointing Presley. Flipside is slightly better.
With lyrics by William Shakespeare (adapted by Howard Blaikley) and music by Franz Schubert,  I thought Who Is Sylvia? By The Honeycombs on Pye 7N 17039 ought to be interesting. But no! The vocal is dreary and off key at times and the backing is dull on this mid tempo song. The flipside, ‘How Will I Know?’ is no better – just dull singing of a dull song.
Yardbirds: Shapes Of Things, You’re A Better Man Than I. (Columbia DB 7848). Latest from the successful group and it’s a fastish number with a heavy thumping beat. Quite commercial, with a group vocal and some strange sounds going on towards the end. However, it’s lacking a strong melody. Not bad, but hardly their most exciting disc so far. Flip is a slower number but quite good.
Donovan: Josie, Little Tin Soldier. (Pye YN 17067). Donovan didn’t want this record to be released and I can hardly blame him. It’s the usual Dylanish, pseudo folk stuff sung in a voice lacking expression. Similar styled song on the flip with Donovan’s little boy voice telling a sort of fairy tale with a message.
Hollies: I Can’t Let Go, Runnin’ Through The Night. (Parlophone R 5489). Good intro to upbeat number with a complicated series of vocal harmonies from the boys. A hit, like every other Hollies record, but I fail to see the attraction of this group’s records. Flip is a country and western styled song.
Sam The Sham: Red Hot, A Long Long Way. (MGM 1298). This is a real old fashioned piece of rock from the ‘ Wooly Bully’ man. There’s a gruff, gravel-voiced vocal and the beat moves along at a fair old rate. Perfect for rock fans but otherwise rather dated. Flipis another piece of uncompromising rock and roll.
Junior Walker & the Allstars: Cleo’s Mood, You Know You Ain’t Right. (Tamla Motown TMG 550). Slowish, bluesy instrumental track this one, with a powerful  gutsy sax taking the honours. Strange organ work at times. Not chart material. Flip is more interesting: a punchy vocal which brings back memories of Junior Walker’s Shotgun.
Small Faces: Sha-la-la-la-lee, Grow Your Own. (Decca F12317). This one, by the group who had a hit with What-cha Gonna Do About It is a beaty number written by Kenny Lynch and Mort Shuman. A catchy commercial song with lead singer Steve Marriiott and the boys fairly belting out the lyrics. It’s bound to sell well. Flipside is a raucous organ-led instrumental.
The Ugly’s: A Good Idea, Quiet Explosion. (Pye 7n 17027). The best part of this record is probably the strange bass noise on the introduction. Thereafter it’s a steady beat number which gets progressively more boring. Flipside is, I suppose, a sort of protest about the population explosion.
The Marvelettes: Don’t Mess With Bill, Anything You Wanna Do. (Tamla Motown TMG 546). Unusual bass intro on this one, followed by a soft sexy lead voice and good group harmony on a slowish bluesy song. One of the group’s best ever records. Flip is not so good, but there’s some soft warbling sax work in the backing.
Clyde McPhatter: Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool, I Belong To You. (Stateside SS 487). The hitmaker of the late 50s here trying to make a comeback with a revival of the old Connie Francis hit. Clyde talks his way through the song while a girl backing group does the singing. Nevertheless the song builds and builds and gets really exciting. More talking on the B side which is more of a ballad and not really too exciting.
Lee Dorsey: Get Out Of My Life Woman, So Long. (Stateside SS 485). Very similar tune to Lee’s last raucous record ‘Ride Your Pony’ but far superior. Much slower bluesy sort of song with a very pronounced beat. Flip side every bit as good.
Downliners Sect: All Night Worker, He Was A Square (Columbia DB 7817) Rufus Thomas song given a typically British approach by a group who has been trying to get into the charts for quite a while. Backing is noisy but ordinary and vocal is unexciting.
Sandie Shaw: Tomorrow, Hurting You (Pye 7N 17036). Yet another Chris Andrews song from Sandie Shaw. This time a marching song with clever backing arrangement, but it’s not a strong one. Another Andrews song on the B side.
Episode Six: Put Yourself In My Place, That’s All I Want. (Pye 7N 17018). New group with a beaty, fast moving commercial number which could get them established. Vocal is loud and so is the backing. Flip is a dated group-styled song.
Adam Faith: Idle Gossip, If Ever You Need Me. (Parlophone R5398). This old song is given a remarkably square and old fashioned treatment by Adam. However, anyone who buys Ken Dodd’s records will no doubt love this one.
The Quiet Five used to be a very popular group in their home town, Croydon. Now they’re beginning to make a name for themselves nationally, but it would seem that Croydon is still their first love if their latest record is anything to go by. It is called ‘Homeward Bound’ released on Parlophone R5421 and on it the boys bemoan  the fate of pop stars who are constantly travelling around the country and never get a chance to go home. It’s a slow mournful song given an attractive tuneful treatment by the group. This is a cover version of a song which is hitting it big in the States for the hit making duo Simon and Garfunkel, but it stands a fair chance of making the charts here.
Polydor, a German record company, are making a tremendous effort to become established as a major company here. A new label, Reaction, has just been started up and with their very first release they look like having a big hit. It’s called ‘Substitute’ and it’s by one of Britain’s most popular groups, The Who. The song, on Reaction 591001, makes up on beat what it lacks in tune. A heavy, pounding beat featuring bass guitar and drums backs up an almost tuneless vocal. Nevertheless it’s quite strong enough to make the charts. The B side, Instant Party, is similar with a heavy beat and a vague, nondescript tune.
A big American star of a few years ago, Del Shannon turns up on Stateside SS494 this week with a song called ‘I Can’t Believe My Ears’. Strange organ sounds open the disc, followed by double tracking and the usual falsetto singing by Del on a slowish song which is reminiscent of ‘Little Town Flirt’. It’s a fair effort but Del doesn’t seem to be able to recapture the magic of his old hits. ‘I Wish I Wasn’t Me Tonight’ on side two, is a sad song dominated by Del’s own echo.
The Righteous Brothers sang it; the Kingsmen sang it. Both groups made it a hit in the States but not over here. The song: ‘Little Latin Lupe Lu’. And now Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels are making it a hit for a third time in America. But I can’t see the record. On Stateside SS498, making it third time lucky in Britain. Like the group’s last disc, Jenny Take A Ride, it may not make much impression. It’s got a solid beat and occasional screaming and whistling in the background, but the singing is dull and there’s nothing new about it.
Wilder still is ‘Baby Don’t Push Me’ by the Alan Bown Set on Pye 7N17084 – but I doubt it will be a hit. The rhythm is jerky and the tune weak.
A lot better, as far as the melody is concerned is ‘Splendor In The Grass’, recorded by Gulliver’s People on Parlophone R5435. The song is written by Jackie DeShannon and has a strong tune and a reasonable lyric and there is powerful backing. This could be a hit – though only on the strength of the song itself.
‘Just How Wrong You Can Be’ by The Epics on Pye 7N 17053 is a fairly pleasant, medium pace song given a fairly pleasant treatment. There’s nothing new about it, but it may well be quite successful.
That grand old man of song, Frank Sinatra, would never have followed up a hit record by bringing out another almost exactly the same, I’m quite sure. But that’s exactly what daughter Nancy Sinatra has done with her follow up to ‘Boots’, called ‘How Does That Grab You Darling’ on Reprise R20461. Sticking to the old theory that if you’ve found a winning combination why change it, the new record should really be called ‘Boots Part 2’. It has the same tune, same backing and the same rather tuneless voice Nancy has – so different from her father.
Another American who obviously agrees with Nancy about follow-up records is Lou Christie, whose latest disc ‘Rhapsody In The Rain’, on MGM 1308, is very similar to his smash hit Lightning Strikes. In Fact, the giro vocal group backing him even go so far as to chant ‘Lightning Strikes’ at one stage. It’s got the same high pitched vocal work and exciting arrangement as the original.
After months without a single release Manfred Mann make a long-awaited return with Pretty Flaingo on HMP POP 1523. It may not be as strong as some of their earlier releases but it’s a change of style and Paul Jones does a fair job.
There are some very strange noises on the intro to the record by the Riot Squad, called ‘I Take It That We’re Through’ on Pye 7N 17092, but the song itself is a drag. This backing, however, which includes some weird Oriental-style sounds at one point, greatly improves it.
I’ve never heard of American singer Edwin Starr before, but his new record ‘Stop Her On Sight’, released on Polydor 56701, is a real gas. The singer’s voice is really great.