27 May 2015

Reupload - The Calliope - Clear Mud/ Wiser

Label: Uni
Year of Release: 1970 (recorded in 1969)

Remember what I said about rare psychedelic/ dancefloor crossover records? One would have imagined that the era would have been shot through with such gems, but the reality is that those thoughtless hippies left behind very few records which swung. For all their versatility, even The Beatles left only slow groovers like "Get Back" and "Ballad of John and Yoko" behind, neither of which tend to set people's feet on fire (although you can - kind of - move a bit to "Paperback Writer" if you're feeling ambitious).

Here's another exception to the rule, then. "Clear Mud" is a messy, domineering, bongos-and-organ driven workout which slipped out in Britain in January 1970, long past the point where anyone cared for chipper little records with cheery hippy vocals in this country. A deep shame, because beneath the puffing flutes and bashed bongos lies a record which sounds like a distant cousin of Deep Purple's "Hush", utterly loose, carefree and actually quite wonderful for all that. Whereas most psychedelic pop had an obsession with the idea of catchy choruses, this is more interested in the rhythms and the mantra-like repetition of the song title, giving it more in common with a lot of the soul and mod records being released during the late sixties than perhaps you'd rightfully expect it to have.

The flipside "Wiser" restores order to the proceedings and is a brief, wistful ballad mentioning hope and rainbows. It's OK and comes with plenty of studio-glossed shimmering effects, but fails to defy your expectations in the manner of the A-side.

Little is known of The Calliope, but their line-up was apparently Jim Andron on guitar, organ and vocals, John Ray on guitar and vocals, Tony Riparetti on guitar, Sue Ferrel on flute and vocals, Dan Protheroe on bass guitar and Jim Saad on drums and vocals. Online evidence points towards a band active in Santa Barbara who had a couple of minor local hits but failed to take America as a whole. How "Clear Mud" ending up getting issued in the UK is a mystery which is clearly perplexing some record collectors online as we speak - US psych flops could hardly have been in much demand in Britain by 1970, and there's no evidence to suggest that this picked up any unexpected radio or club play prior to release. Nonetheless, here it is, proof that UK pressings of obscure records from across the Atlantic should never fail to surprise in their quantity.

Sorry about the surface noise on this record in some places, by the way. I did my best to minimise it, but unfortunately I don't have a perfect copy of this record.

(This blog entry was originally uploaded in November 2011. Little extra information has come to light since then, but I should add that The Calliope's regional US hit "Ryan 5" is well worth tracking down as well - you can hear it on Youtube). 

24 May 2015

I Shinko - The Shining/ Daze of Pleazure

Label: Gem
Year of Release: 1980

Kenny Young is no stranger at all to this blog. As a songwriter, he'll also be familiar to the public as the pensmith of some timeless classics like "Under The Boardwalk" and "The Captain Of Your Ship". As a singer-songwriter, he might jangle some memory bells as the frontman of one-hit wonders Yellow Dog.

Like most of his kind, though, his huge hits fell between hectares of flops, and hence Young has also fallen on to psychedelic obscurity compilations where his non-sellers have picked up underground appreciation. His late period flops are rather less well recorded, though, and "The Shining" is one particular peculiarity - a piece of psuedo-Japanese futuristic pop with tinges of Jeff Lynne about it. Kicking off with backwards vocals which sound like "I've been to a shit party", the track continues with squeaking synths, pie-eyed innocent girlish vocals and a very "Time"-era ELO vocoder (though for the sake of fairness, I should point out that "Time" had yet to be released at this point, so Young was pre-empting their direction rather than copying it).

It could have been a hit, but it wasn't. Instead, it fell between the cracks and was largely utterly ignored, even until now. It's very much a period piece, but none the worse for it. Of equal interest is the B-side "Daze of Pleazure" which sounds more like Bis than Bis.

Apologies for the sound quality of the vinyl - I did the best I could to clean this up.

23 May 2015

Legion of Extraordinary Traders - May Event

I'll be back DJ'ing at the LOET market event at Earl Haig Hall, Crouch End on Sunday 31st May. Vintage pinball machines, coffee, cake, booze and roasts will combine with the sounds of soul, funk, mod, psychedelia and classic pop, with efforts from me and semi-legendary London old-school DJs Sean Bright and John The Revelator.

This will be the last event of its kind before the usual London summer doldrums kick in, so go and click on the Facebook event here. And attend. That's the most important part. 

21 May 2015

Eurovision Song Contest (Part Two)

Apparently, Bob Dylan only watched the Eurovision Song Contest once, in his hotel room during a tour in the year 2000. Sat with his various band members and friends, he critically dissected all the entries with a voice of disgust. We do not have a record of his precise comments, which is something of a shame - clearly Bobby does not keep a biro and pad by his side during the contest, like you and I both do at home - but he apparently expressed disbelief that something so ridiculous should occupy so much television schedule time.

When Lativa's entry (Brainstorm's "My Star") came on the television screen, however, his mood changed somewhat. Pointing an authoratative digit at the lead singer Renārs Kaupers, he announced "That guy... he's got something... what's he doing taking part in this crazy circus?" Whenever Renārs was asked this particular question, he simply shrugged and replied "We have taken part in many song contests before Eurovision". So there you go, then.

Dylan had a point, though. Brainstorm were a genuinely eccentric proposition on the evening, delivering the decidedly poppy "My Star" in a bow legged, pie-eyed manner that managed to disturb plenty of people, but not enough to prevent it from climbing into third place on the final scoreboard. The band are successful throughout Eastern Europe, having supported bands such as Supergrass on regional tours, and continue to do well on the continent to this day. In fact, they're possible candidates for a "Left and to the Back" entry in themselves, since their albums can frequently be found scattered around stores in East London, presumably discarded by people from other countries (their discs sold poorly here, despite being hyped to Kingdom come by none other than Jonathan King).

If Brainstorm had indie-ish leanings, it should be noted that 2007's contest had a fantastic entry of that ilk from France which barely anyone voted for. Les Fatals Picards "L'Amour a la Francaise" was a wonderful piece of string-laden pop which in places sounded slightly like Jack at their poppiest. It was, quite simply, far too good for a contest which traditionally attracts a middle of the road audience, and bombed near the bottom of the board. It did go on to become one of the biggest sellers of the contest on iTunes in the UK, though, proving that it wasn't totally ignored. The video for the track should be viewed first:

But their performance at the final - which partly consisted of a man in a pink suit running around going beserk with a stuffed cat on his shoulder - may have alienated some:

And finally, let us not forget Iceland's entry from Paul Oscar in 1997. Here was a man who clearly predicted both the eighties revival and Hoxtonite stylings way before anyone else had even bothered - roundly mocked at the time, I wouldn't be at all surprised if nobody batted an eyelid at this now. Then again, the stageshow was perhaps a bit much.

Enjoy the second semi-finals tonight, and the finals on Saturday night. Remember, Bob Dylan was right - the Eurovision most definitely is a circus, but it doesn't hurt to indulge in such frivolities once in a while. 

20 May 2015

The Amboy Dukes [UK] - Judy In Disguise/ Who's Foolin' Who/ Simon Says/ The Marquis

Label: Polydor
Year of Release: 1967

Cratediggers the length and breadth of the UK have regularly been confused by the fact that there were two Amboy Dukes releasing records at around roughly the same time. The one most people will keenly be searching out is obviously the US Garage Group featuring Ted Nugent, but there was also a British soul/ ska outfit sharing the moniker. 

Still, record collectors chancing a spare pound or two on the British group will very rarely go home disappointed. Many of their 45s - and they did gain quite a brace of releases on Polydor due to their strong reputation on the live circuit - are actually pretty nifty. The real prize of the pack, which tends to go for quite hard cash, is "High Life In Whitley Wood", a ska song about a housing estate in Reading which mentions various local facilities (such as the by-pass) in a joyous fashion. This is on my personal "wants" list.

But even their management's utterly cynical attempts at carving hit singles for the group contained gems on the flip side. The Amboys were given "Judy In Disguise" on the false understanding that the original version wouldn't otherwise be gaining a release in the UK. We all know what balderdash that proved to be, and sadly the group's sales suffered. Buried on the B-side, though, is a version of Arthur Conley's "Who's Foolin' Who" which is fine stuff indeed, and evidence of their powerful live sound.

Label: Polydor
Year of Release: 1968

And if at first you don't succeed, try again… and with much the same format and results as before. The version of "Simon Says" on offer here is frankly nothing to write home about, but once again, if you flip the side over you get a more remarkable B-side. "The Marquis" has become a northern soul spin in recent years and is as smooth as an eel, all prowling basslines and dramatic brass stings. 

Talking about the membership of the group is hard work, as they went through numerous different line-ups and at any given time seemed to have a cast of thousands. Nonetheless, by the point of these recordings it seems that the group consisted of the following:

Dave Kislingberry (Vocals)
Trevor Lock (Guitar)
Pete Howard (Bass Guitar)
Mick Jerome (Drums)
Rod Lee (Trumpet)
Steve Gregory (Tenor Sax & Flute)
Buddy Beadle (Baritone & Alto sax)

Steve Gregory went on to play the saxophone on George Michael's "Careless Whisper" - probably one of the most known pieces of popular saxophony after the work of not-Bob Holness on "Baker Street". Trevor Lock is now in "Magic", a Queen tribute band. Pete Howard became a sound engineer at the BBC, but sadly passed away in 2007. The whereabouts of the rest is slightly unclear.