7 December 2016

The Gibsons - Night And Day/ City Life

Label: Major Minor
Year of Release: 1967

We've already covered the career of The Gibsons in some depth on "Left and to the Back", providing entries on their singles "Only When You're Lonely" and "Magic Book". You should all head off to the entry for "Only When You're Lonely" right now for a read about their Australian origins, and their unfortunately rather hitless UK career.

"Night And Day" is perhaps most famed for its flip side "City Life", which has worked its way on to numerous psychedelic compilations, and deservedly so - its a slightly pithy, bitter observation on London life with numerous period production flourishes. However, there's no reason why "Night And Day" shouldn't also be heard by you good readers. Despite its groovy organ opening, it's nothing like as good as its B-side, but is nonetheless an interesting and accomplished harmony pop take on the Cole Porter song. Not really paisley patterned, but slightly swirly and groovy in its own way.

"City Life" is available to buy all over the Internet, and so isn't included here. If you want to try before you buy, nip over to YouTube where you can hear it in full

4 December 2016

Roof Tops - Astro Projection/ Tequila Samba

Label: AA
Year of Release: 1973

I must admit that getting hold of this one got me all hot under the collar. It's an Icelandic rock band's self-released 1973 single "Astro Projection", and I don't know quite what I was expecting, but something odd, low-budget but unquestionably proggy was my ultimate hope.

In reality, this is pretty much straight-ahead bar-room hard rock which is slightly muffled sounding in places (Not helped by the poor pressing I have). Filled with flashy, showy guitar runs and powerful vocals, it's clear where the band's ambitions lay, but the muted production - especially around the rhythm section - diminishes the potential power of the tracks somewhat.

I know very little about Roof Tops, but you can see a picture of the lads over at 45cat. The Icelandic rock circuit carried few opportunities in 1973, but was certainly established - Thor's Hammer had already ripped huge holes in the country's venues with their barnstorming sound throughout the sixties. Roof Tops are rather more laidback in their sound and proved a wider variety of sounds had emerged by this point. 

Sorry about the knackered B-side label and the scuffs, pops and clicks on these recordings. It looks as if my copy of this single has been through some strange battles in its time. 

30 November 2016

Romford Golden Sunshine Band - Alberto The Great/ Kalahari Bushman Shuffle

Label: MGM
Year of Release: 1968

Ah, Romford. The Essex town that spoils us all, with the whiff of yeasty goodness from its brewery (way back when), the cheap polyester work shirts on sale at its market stalls, the tattered Union Jacks flapping proudly over various right-wing political party leafletting points... it's a place us Ilfordians, ourselves not living the high life, tend to look at when we want to feel a bit posh. 

A few days ago, someone remarked on Twitter that "The world is not like a pub car park in Romford" in an attempt to get someone to understand that violence is not always the answer to everything. A Romfordian user hit back: "Not comfortable with this level of Romford bashing. Fights tend to happen everywhere, and not just car parks." 

Still, I ought to be careful what I say - the great brassy force of this record makes it sound as if there's a lot of members in the Romford Golden Sunshine Band, and after this blog entry they might try to beat me up. While there may have been multiple musicians involved, the only members I'm able to verify with any certainty are lead man Dave Watson and co-writer Dennis Masterton. The drummer was apparently Bill Legend of T Rex fame, but I can't find a verifiable source for that fact.

"Alberto The Great" here is an incredibly merry instrumental, packed with equal doses of Herb Alpert styled shine and a tiny bit of soulfulness. It's a bit too chirpy to be a credible case for the dancefloor, but like some of the better easy listening instrumentals from this period, it has a careful and bouncy arrangement that's never boring. 

Sadly, Watson passed away some time ago from a heart attack, but his group's album "Would You Believe" is still available in its entirety on YouTube. It might be better to listen to them there rather than below. As you can see from my scans of the labels above, my copy of this single has been very well-loved and overplayed. 

27 November 2016

Reupload - Dave Allen - The Good Earth/ A Way Of Life

Label: Philips
Year of Release: 1969

A few entries back when we discussed Alexei Sayle's hit single, I (possibly unnecessarily) listed many of the comedians who - for better or worse - had issued vinyl from the fifties onwards. I neglected to mention Irish comedian Dave Allen, whose sole 45 is possibly one of the most unlikely releases there's ever been.

Before we really get stuck into the contents of this disc, it's worth me getting on my soapbox and arguing that I genuinely regard Allen to be a legend. His lengthy television career from the sixties to the nineties is a testament to his surprisingly broad appeal, but what's less appreciated in some quarters is quite how revolutionary he was in his own understated way. Way before Ben Elton steamed in with his "bit of politics", Allen weaved tales of hypocrisy in the church, lampooned authority figures and generally (and perhaps most successfully) highlighted the absurdities of human life. Allen certainly traded on grouchiness and his material frequently landed him in trouble, but unlike many comedians with an axe to grind, there was a warmth to his story-telling which still seems unique today. His sign-off line to audiences everywhere was "Goodnight, thank you, and may your God go with you", an entirely non-cynical and utterly ecumenical statement which, despite my lack of belief in a "God" as such, I can't help but find touching.

So perhaps it shouldn't be too surprising that a comedian choosing to sign off his shows in such a giving way released this record, in which he appears to read soft but slightly weary poetry to the accompaniment of an orchestral backing. "The Good Earth", despite its rather sentimental leanings, manages to sum up Allen's personality rather well, using an astronaut looking down upon the planet as its focus, then signing off with the resigned statement: "Why can't we be good on the Good Earth?"  The wonder of space travel may seem like a rather corny focus for such a thought in the present day, but in 1969 this was doubtless a very modern, contemporary message.

The B-side "A Way Of Life" is actually more absurd still, being akin to "The Sunscreen Song" long before that God-foresaken record was ever issued (note - a blog reader has since informed me that it's a poster/ greetings card poem called "Desidereta" which has also been recorded by Leonard Nimoy under the title "Spock Thoughts"). To the accompaniment of "Greensleeves", Allen advises all his listeners on the best ways to approach life, offering gems such as "Listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant - they too have their story" and "For all that is sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a very beautiful world". It's easy to laugh for all the wrong reasons at such a record, but maybe this was the closest we got to the softer side of Allen, almost - although not quite - uninterrupted by thoughts about the planet's aggressive absurdities. And whilst neither side of this record would ever be likely to win the Forward Prize for Poetry, it means well and isn't nauseating.

It wasn't a hit, but when a Radio Two DJ played the record again in the nineties and asked in a rather perplexed manner why Allen put it out, he was unembarrassed and unrepentant, stating simply that he just saw it as a good opportunity to put some spoken word material with a message he happened to like to music. Of all the novelty or spin-off singles I've ever uploaded, this one feels the least like a cash-in, and certainly among the least likely to ever actually stand a hope of charting. I, for one, believe his version of events.

25 November 2016

Have Yourself A Northern Soul Christmas

Back in the mid-seventies when the country was facing an enormous amount of political uncertainty, Northern Soul was HUGE. With the beats per minute to encourage frantic dancefloor activity, and the emotional content to pierce right into our hearts, it ticked all the right boxes. And I'm not saying that it could be a form of joyous relief from all our woes right now, but, y'know... er....

Anyway, I'm DJ'ing at a regular FREE Northern Soul night in Hackney Wick on Saturday December 3rd, and all the details can be found on Facebook here. It's a great night out and I'll be joined on the decks as always by John The Revelator and guest Janie Jones. Please come along.

If you don't do Facebook, here are the address details:

Grow, 98C Wallis Road, Main Yard, Hackney Wick, E9 5LN.