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.'


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