HAPPY IN HOLLYWOOD-THE PRODUCTIONS OF GARY USHER.

Happy In Hollywood-The Productions Of Gary Usher.

Label: Ace Records.

Format: CD.

Release Date: ‘29th’ July 2022.

Although Gary Usher was born in Los Angeles, California, on December ‘14th’ 1938, he spent his childhood and teenage years living in New England. That was where his lifelong love affair with music began.

Growing up, music was an important part of Gary Usher’s life. He spent time listening to the radio at the family home in New England. Then at the dawn of the rock ’n’ roll era he began collecting records. Elvis was a favourite of the future producer.

By 1957, Gary Usher had returned to California and was working as a labourer for his uncle Benny who lived in Hawthorne, south-west LA. This wasn’t far from the Wilson family who had three sons Brian, Dennis and Carl.

Gary Usher’s career as a labourer was short-lived, when he got a job with the Bank Of America. This was where he met guitarist Dick Burns, who taught him how to play a few basic chords. Little did either man realise that this was the start of Gary Usher’s musical career.

Before it began, Gary Usher enlisted in the US Army and was posted to Seoul, where he became a company clerk. In his spare time, he formed a group with other soldiers. 

The nascent group played a mixture of chart hits while Gary Usher began writing his own compositions for the first time. This was an important development.

When Gary Usher was discharged from the US Army and returned to California he knew that wanted to pursue a career in music. He was reunited with  his friend Dick Burns when he joined Bobby Fry and His Troupe. The group entered the studio which was a new experience for Gary Usher. However, he had a dilemma.

He wasn’t sure whether he wanted to pursue a career as a songwriter or producer. Despite this, Gary Usher released singles on two local labels, Titan and Lan-Cet. However, neither single sold well and it looked like his solo career was going to be short-lived.

It was at this time that Gary Usher met the Podolor brothers. Don Podolor helped him with the business side of music, while his brother Richard would go on to play on a number of Gary Usher productions.

Over the next few months and years, Gary Usher met musicians who would play on his sessions. This included drummer Wayne Edwards plus singer and guitarist Les Weisner, who were part of the Bobby Fry Group. That was in the future.

Before that, in 1962, Gary Usher, who was still living in Hawthorne at the time, heard good things about the Wilson brothers and visited them for the first time. Straight away, he bonded with Brian the eldest brother and they began writing songs for The Beach Boys. 

The group was just starting to make a breakthrough, and the first Usher and Wilson composition was 409, which featured on the B-Side of their sophomore single, Surfin’ Safari. The song lent its name to the group’s debut album, which featured five further compositions from the burgeoning songwriting partnership. This, however, didn’t please everyone.

Brian, Dennis and Carl Wilson’s father Murray, who was also the group’s manager, made it clear to his sons that he didn’t want outsiders cowriting songs. He was of the belief that songwriting should be kept within the family. After all, publishing was a lucrative business.

By 1963, Gary Usher had signed to Four Star Music as a songwriter and to Challenge Records as a recording artist. However, during this period, he started to learn more about the music business. This included the role of the producer.  Gary Usher watched and listened to the arrangers and engineers he worked with, absorbing their knowledge which he would soon be put to good use.

Later in 1963, Gary Usher released singles by two studio he groups he put together. This included The Sunsets and The Four Speeds, a project which Dennis Wilson was involved with.  There was also The Super Stocks, which was the up-and-coming producer’s first project for Capitol Records.

Meanwhile, Gary Usher was also working with local DJ Roger Christian. The pair cowrote numerous surf, drag and hot rod tracks that became singles and various compilations. Many groups recorded the pair’s songs including The Competitors, The Hondells and The Kickstands. Usually, Gary Usher was the arranger but by 1964 was being credited as producer.

In 1964, Gary Usher was in demand as a producer and was enjoying the most successful period of his career. Between 1962 and 1969 he produced twenty-four hit singles and twenty-four of the albums that he produced went on to chart. Three of these albums were certified gold.  

As the sixties drew to a close, Gary Usher was regarded as a versatile producer who was able to seamlessly switch between musical genes. Music was changing and producers had to be adaptable. By then, the thirty-four year old had already produced an eclectic selection of successful singles and albums. This was just the start of a long career as a producer.

His career is celebrated on Happy In Hollywood-The Productions Of Gary Usher. It’s the latest instalment in Ace Records’ Producer Series, and this twenty-four track compilation will be released on the ‘29th’ July 2022.

Amongst the artists on Happy In Hollywood-The Productions Of Gary Usher are The Byrds, Gene Clark, The Hondells, Keith Allison, The Spiral Starecase, The Neptunes, The Surfaris, The Sons Of Adam, Brian Wilson and The Peanut Butter Conspiracy. These tracks are part of a carefully curated overview of Gary Usher’s production career between 1964 and 1987.

Opening Happy In Hollywood-The Productions Of Gary Usher is Lady Friend by The Byrds. It’s the B-Side to their 1967 single Old John Robertson. The session wasn’t an easy one for the newly appointed producer. Gene Clark had left the group in late 1966, and this session was punctuated by squabbling between Roger McGuinn and David Crosby. This resulted in the producer spending part of his time acting as referee and peacemaker. Despite the conflict, the group recorded what’s regarded as one of their finest songs.

Gene Clark was seen as the best songwriter within The Byrds. He left the group in March 1966, and was soon offered a solo recording contract by Columbia. So You Say You Lost Your Baby is one of the singer’s compositions and features on the album Gene Clark With The Gosdin Brothers. The song was arranged by Leon Russell and produced by Gary Usher and is one of the highlights of what’s now regarded as an influential album which featured everything from baroque pop to country rock and folk rock.

In early 1967, a studio only lineup of The Hondells entered the studio to record a new single for Columbia. This was Yes To You. The B-Side was Just One More Chance a slice of memorable sixties pop-psych arranged and produced by Gary Usher who proves that he’s an innovative producer who could work across disparate musical genres. 

Keith Allison was a familiar face on American television by 1967. He featured on the popular program Where The Action Is. That was how Larry Marks asked him to record the In Action album. Originally, the project was meant to be produced by Larry Marks. However, when he left Columbia Gary Usher took over and completed the project. The finest is the album opener Louise, a joyous fusion of sixties pop, psych and rock.

The Spiral Starecase were based in Sacramento where this talented group played regularly. However, for many people lead singer Pat Upton was seen as the group’s shining star. This included Gary Usher who arranged and produced their cover of Baby What I Mean, which had previously given The Drifters a hit single. For the session, members of the Wrecking Crew replaced band members and were augmented by a horn and string session as they accompanied the charismatic vocalist. Despite the all-star lineup this pop-rock single stalled at 111 on the US Billboard 100.

When The Neptunes recorded Shame Girl for Warner Bros in April 1964, at Western Recorders in LA, members of the Wrecking Crew  played on the session. Sharing lead vocal dudes were Chuck Girard and Gary Usher who also arranged and produced a track whose roots are in the surf, drag and hot rod which was popular at the time. 

I Don’t Wanna Say Goodnight was released by The Forte Four in November 1966. It was Gary Usher’s first production for Decca. It’s a slick, carefully crafted track with a commercial sound that should’ve found favour with DJs and record buyers. 

Gary Usher began working with The Surfaris in 1964. In 1965, he arranged and produced their cover of The Beach Boys’ Don’t Hurt My Little Sister. Tucked away on the B-Side was Catch A Little Ride With Me a memorable example of a sixties Californian pop song which is based around a fairground theme and features drummer Ron Wilson on lead vocal. Sadly, the single failed commercially and this hidden gem was only unearthed much later.

For their classic album Sweethearts Of The Rodeo, this latest lineup of The Byrds covered Bob Dylan’s You Ain’t Going Nowhere. It was recorded in Nashville while Gram Parsons was a member of the group during the session. He plays an important part in the sound and success of this country rock track. It’s a reminder of a truly talented group who pioneered this genre. 

Show Me, Girl was The Hondells swansong for Mercury. This Goffin and King cover was one of six recorded during June 1966. Just like the rest of the songs, it was arranged and produced by Gary Usher and released as a single later in 1966. Despite its commercial sound, the single failed commercially and it was a case of what might have been for the group? 

When Brian Wilson recorded his 1988 eponymous album for Sire, a variety of producers were used during the lengthy and complicated sessions. Gary Usher produced Let’s Go To Heaven In My Car, which featured on the soundtrack for Police Academy 4. It’s one of the highlights of the album and is a welcome reminder of one the legendary figures of music as he makes a welcome return.

Happy In Hollywood was the title-track from California’s 1976 album for A&M. The group features many big names from the LA music scene, including David Batteau who in 1967 worked with Gary Usher on his previous project, Sagittarius. This time around, the pair co-produced the album. The title-track is a perfect example of laid back soft rock and without doubt, is one of the album’s highlights. It’s the perfect way to close the compilation.

Happy In Hollywood-The Productions Of Gary Usher is the perfect introduction to one of the most innovative and versatile producers in LA during the sixties. He was able to seamlessly switch between musical genes. Proof of this can be found on the compilation which features a variety of disparate genres which show that music was changing and producers had to be adaptable. 

Not all producers were as adaptable as Gary Usher. However, his ability to work with a wide range of groups resulted in him producing many critically acclaimed albums during the sixties across various musical genres. Between 1962 and 1969 he produced twenty-four hit singles and twenty-four albums that he produced went on to chart. Three of these albums were certified gold. This was just the start of a long career as a producer.

Gary Usher’s career continued through the seventies and into the eighties. By then, he was a hugely respected figure and was working with some of the biggest names in music. This included his old friend Brian Wilson who he met back in Hawthorne, LA in the early sixties. A lot had happened to both men since.

Just two years after working with Brian Wilson, Gary Usher died in LA on May the ’25th’ 1990. He was just fifty-two. The singer, songwriter, musician, arranger and producer had enjoyed a career that spanned three decades and enjoyed commercial success and critical acclaim. 

However,  it’s as a producer that Gary Usher is best known. He was a musical pioneer whose productions were inventive and innovative. Partly, this was to do with the musicians he worked with, including members of the legendary Wrecking Crew. They can be heard on some of the tracks on Happy In Hollywood-The Productions Of Gary Usher which is a fitting tribute to a pioneering producer whose much missed.

Happy In Hollywood-The Productions Of Gary Usher.

MASTERPIECES OF MODERN SOUL VOLUME 6.

Masterpieces Of Modern Soul Volume 6.

Label: Kent Dance.

Format: CD.

Release Date: ‘29th’ July 2022.

Almost nineteen years ago,  in October 2003,  Kent Soul released the first instalment in the Masterpieces Of Modern Soul series. Since then, another six volumes have been released.

The first came in January 2009, when Masterpieces Of Modern Soul Volume 2 was released. 

Just over two years passed, and then Masterpieces Of Modern Soul Volume 3 hit the shops in November 2011. However, connoisseurs of modern soul had to patiently wait the release of Masterpieces Of Modern Soul Volume 4. 

A year passed, and then two became three, and still, there was no sign of Masterpieces Of Modern Soul Volume 4. Then after nearly four long years, the much anticipated fourth volume in one of Ace Records’ most popular compilation series was released to critical acclaim in September 2015.

Then, as 2016 dawned, the Masterpieces Of Modern Soul series converted from CD to vinyl when a compilation Masterpieces Of Modern Soul was released. This was a welcome addition to the long-running series.

Another three years passed before  Masterpieces Of Modern Soul Volume 5 was released by Kent Dance in June 2019. Since then, there’s been no further instalments in this much-loved series. That, however, will soon change.

On the ‘29th’ July 2022 Masterpieces Of Modern Soul Volume 6 will be released by Kent Dance, an imprint of Ace Records. It features twenty-four tracks from familiar faces and some new names. However, all the tracks have one thing in common…quality. This includes the unreleased tracks. Just like previous instalments in the series, the emphasis is on quality.

Opening Masterpieces Of Modern Soul Volume 6 is Wake Up Smiling by Janice. This is a track from her critically acclaimed eponymous album released on Fantasy in 1975. It’s an uplifting, driving dancer with horns and strings that sets the bar high for the rest of the compilation.

Joe Graham had just signed to Aware when the Atlanta-based label imploded in 1975. He had just recorded four tracks earlier that year. One of them was the previously unreleased Higher Than The Sun. This soulful, funky dancer is a welcome inclusion and a reminder of a truly talented singer.

Dee Erwin wrote You Make Me Happy which he recorded for Hotatlanta in 1975. Given the demise of the label, the track was never released. Now forty-seven years later this joyful and anthemic mixture of soul and gospel-tinged harmonies makes it’s debut. It’s one of the best of the unreleased tracks and highlights of the compilation, and is sure to find favour with fans of modern soul.

Legendary jazz trumpeter Donald Byrd, was brought onboard to produce The 3 Pieces’ 1975 album Vibes Of Truth for Fantasy. One of the highlights was If Only I Could Prove To You, which  was arranged and conducted by Wade Marcus. He’s responsible for the string chart that plays such an important part in the song’s success. Guesting on guitar during the session for the Washington-based group’s debut album was Ray Parker Junior. He plays his part on a soulful paean with a soul-baring vocal which is a hidden gem from an album that sadly, failed to find the audience it so richly deserved.

In 1969, Margie Joseph released One More Chance on Memphis-based Volt. Hidden away on the B-Side was Nobody which was penned by Willie Tee and features a defiant but deeply soulful powerhouse of a vocal. It’s  accompanied by horns and harmonies that play their part in making this such a memorable track, and one that’s stood the test of time.

Another of the unreleased tracks is Jean Shy’s What Tomorrow Brings. It was recorded in 1977 and is a Leaptop Production. Soul is combined with disco on what can only be described as a call to dance that’s sure to become a favourite with DJs and dancers on the modern soul scene. 

In 1975, soul man Phillip Mitchell made his way to Muscle Shoals Sounds where he recorded this alternate take of I’ll See You In Hell First for the Event label. Producer Brad Shapiro is responsible for a big, bold arrangement where soul and funk are combined. The lyrics which are different to the final version are akin to a mini soap opera about a relationship that’s gone badly wrong, and tragically, love has turned to loathing. 

Joe Hinton was signed to Atlanta-based Act One label when it crashed and burned. One of the tracks he had recorded that was never released was You and Me Baby. It’s a prime slice Southern Soul with an emotive, heartfelt vocal and a carefully crafted arrangement that oozes quality. 

Maggabrain was an eight-piece funk band from Atlanta, who in 1975, released their debut single New Wavin’. Three years later, in 1978, the ground recorded Sam Dees and Stephen Perry’s Have A Good Time at the city’s Sound Pit studio. Sadly, the track was never released. It’s a fast, funky and soulful dancer that leaves a lasting impression on the listener.

Mickey Stevenson produced I Can’t Turn You Down for Melanie Burke in 1981. The vocal on this ballad is best described as an cathartic outpouring of emotion and hurt that’s complimented by an arrangement where the strings play leading role.

Closing Masterpieces Of Modern Soul Volume 6 is Bedroom Eyes by Betty Everett. It was written and produced by Billy and Gene Page who was also the arranger.  The track was a highlight of the album Happy Endings, which was released on Fantasy in 1975. This beautiful ballad features a tender, heartfelt vocal from the Chicago-born singer and is the perfect way to close the compilation.

Let’s hope that it won’t be another three years before Kent Dance releases the next instalment in the Masterpieces Of Modern Soul series. Even if it is, if it’s anywhere near as good as Masterpieces Of Modern Soul Volume 6 then it’ll be well worth the wait. After all, this is no ordinary soul compilation.

The twenty-two tracks on Masterpieces Of Modern Soul Volume 6 are from a mixture of familiar faces and what will be new names to many people. There’s everything from minor classics, B-Sides, album cuts and hidden gems on this lovingly curated compilation. Then there’s the unreleased tracks which ooze quality. Just like the other tracks, they’re variously uber soulful, sometimes funky and dancefloor friendly. What more can fans of modern soul ask for on a compilation that oozes quality?

Masterpieces Of Modern Soul Volume 6.

ATLANTA SOUL ARTISTRY 1965-1975.

Atlanta Soul Artistry 1965-1975.

Label: Kent Soul.

Format: LP.

Atlanta’s black music scene started to thrive during the fifties and sixties. However, one of the most important figures during the sixtes was Bill Haney. 

He was a producer, songwriter and owner of Down South Productions who was responsible for some of the finest Southern Soul to come out of Atlanta. While his career continued into the early seventies, Bill Haney, like so many others involved in Atlanta’s music scene were overshadowed by the arrival of Michael Thevis.

The story began in the early seventies, when Michael Thevis was looking for a legitimate way to get his substantial fortune into the financial system. By then, he was heavily involved in pornography. So much so, that he would later admit to a Louisville jury that he was: “the General Motors of pornography.” That was still to come.

In the early seventies, Michael Thevis had a problem. He discovered that he was under investigation from the FBI. Not wanting to follow in the footsteps of Al Capone and Dutch Schultz who were brought down by federal investigations, he began looking for legitimate enterprises.

Casting around looking for a legitimate business, Michael Thevis hit upon the idea of forming not one, but three record labels. This included GRC (General Recording Corporation), Aware and Hotlanta Records. These labels would become part of his nascent musical empire.

Soon, there was a new addition to Michael Thevis’ musical empire, the Sound Pit Studio in Atlanta. It boasted some of the best equipment money could buy. Building the studio made financial sense. It saved hiring other studios, and meant artists signed to GRC, Aware and Hotlanta Records could record at the impressive new studio. And when the studio wast in use, it could be hired out, and bring in much needed income. However, as all this empire building continued, tongues began wagging, including Michael Thevis.

Veterans of the Atlanta music scene watched, as the state-of-the-art studio took shape. This was the most advanced studio in Atlanta. It was a similar case with the rest of Michael Thevis’ musical empire.

No expense was spared as he expanded his musical empire. He added to his record labels the Act One publishing company, the Jason Management booking agency and a film company. They became part of Michael Thevis’ musical empire which he was proud of and wasn’t shy about telling people about it.

Rather than keep a low profile, Michael Thevis ran his musical empire from a lavish suite of offices in Atlanta. They were featured in Billboard in May 1974, when the magazine ran a feature on the Atlanta music industry. He told Billboard of his latest takeover, and his expansion plans.

Michael Thevis’ most recently acquisition was the Moonsong publishing company, which he had purchased from Bill Brandon. This became part of the GRC’s publishing division, alongside Act One. 

To run the newly expanded publishing division, Bill Brandon joined GRC, and became the publishing manager of GRC’s R&B division. However, the acquisition of Moonsong was just part of Michael Thevis’ grand plan.

He told Billboard of his plans to build a brand new twenty-eight story skyscraper in Atlanta. This would be where he ran his musical empire. It would have outposts in Nashville, Houston, Los Angles, New York and London. What made this  seem all the more convincing was when he booked eight pages of advertising in Billboard’s Atlanta special.

To most people, Michael Thevis came across as a legitimate businessman with big plans for the future and for Atlanta. By then, everyone seemed to buy into his grand plan. He was the local boy who had made good. It was a case of hail the conquering hero.

Incredibly, though, nobody seemed to be paying close attention to the numbers. None of Michael Thevis’ record companies were particularly successful. They were neither consistently releasing hit singles, nor successful albums. So where was all the income coming from? Was it the publishing company, recording studio, booking company or film company? Nobody knew nor seemed, in a hurry to find out. Given the musical entrepreneur’s past and his reputation for violence maybe that wasn’t surprising?

Originally, Michael Thevis’ film company financed legitimate films. This included the Zhui Ming Qiang in 1973, and Seizure which was one of Oliver Stone’s earliest films. It was released in 1974. 

A year later, Michael Thevis had gone up in the world, and released Poor Pretty Eddy 1975. Every film was more successful than the last. However, although he  was trying to build a legitimate business empire, he had reverted to type.

The film company he had acquired began producing pornographic films. If any journalist had even looked into activities of Michael Thevis’ empire, it could’ve come tumbling down. This looked unlikely in early 1975.

Country singer Sammy Johns had been signed to GRC for a couple of years. In early 1973, Sammy Johns released Chevvy Van as a single. It was reported to have sold over three million copies. Given that a GRC artist had just enjoyed such a successful single, surely the label’s finances would be on a sound footing as 1975 progressed?

While most people would’ve thought so, the truth was that many of GRC, Aware and Hotlanta Records’ releases weren’t particularly successful and hadn’t sold in vast quantities. 

That was despite the labels having such an impressive roster of artists. This included Dorothy Norwood, Joe Hinton, Ripple, John Edwards, Loleatta Holloway, Jimmy Lewis, Deep Velvet and Joe Graham. They all feature on Atlanta Soul Artistry 1965-1975, a new fourteen track compilation which was recently released by Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records. There’s also two Bill Haney productions Arthur Alexander and Bobby Burn. They’re welcome additions on a compilation that also features singles, album cuts and unreleased tracks from GRC, Aware and Hotlanta.  Sadly, Michael Thevis musical empire was about to collapse leaving artists high and dry. That was still to come. 

During 1975, GRC, Aware and Hotlanta were still operating and releasing some of the finest Southern Soul of the seventies. Proof of that can be found on Atlanta Soul Artistry 1965-1975.  So much so, that it’s not easy choosing the highlights.

Side One.

Opening side one of Atlanta Soul Artistry 1965-1975 is Big Boat Ride by Atlanta-born Dorothy Norwood. She was originally a gospel singer who found fame after moving to the Windy City of Chicago. By the time she signed to GRC in the early seventies, she was singing gospel tinged soul. Backed by strings and a dancefloor friendly arrangement this irresistible hidden gem in a reminder of a truly talented singer who released over forty albums.

LA-born Joe Hinton recorded I’m Tired Of Dreaming  for Hotlanta, but it’s lain unreleased until now. This beautiful soulful paean features a polished Southern Soul arrangement and needy, pleading, heartfelt vocal. This track is a real find and welcome addition to the compilation.

Originally, Ripple’s main influences were jazz and funk. However, by the time they released their eponymous debut album in 1973 their music had evolved. Their new sound was  dancefloor friendly harmony soul. One of the finest examples was the album cut You Were Right On Time.

John Edwards was one of Aware’s most successful artists. He enjoyed four hit singles and his eponymous debut album is now regarded as a Southern Soul classic. However, he recorded many songs that were never released after the demise of Michael Thevis’ musical empire. This includes the Sam Dees penned It’s Got To Be The Real Thing. It’s a memorable mid-tempo track which had the potential to be a hit.

Closing side one of Atlanta Soul Artistry 1965-1975 is Love Woke Me Up by Loleatta Holloway. It’s taken from her 1973 debut album which was released on Aware. Its features a soul-baring vocal where she lives the lyrics on what’s one of the highlights of the compilation.  

Side Two.

Jimmy Lewis’ Is That Any Way To Treat A Lady opens side two. The track was from his 1974 debut album Totally Involved which was released on Hotlanta. It’s a tale of devotion that’s written by a man to the woman he loves. He’s besotted and goes above and beyond the call of duty as the song examines love from a quite different perspective.

From the sixties, Bill Haney managed and produced Arthur Alexander. One of the tracks he produced for the legendary Souther Soul man was You Ain’t For Real. Sadly, this hidden gem was never released until 1999 when it featured on the Kent soul compilation Bill Haney’s Atlanta Southern Soul Brotherhood Volume 2. This mid-tempo track features a vocal full of frustration and sadness.

By the time Joe Graham signed to GRC in in 1975, all wasn’t well behind the scenes. He recorded four tracks for the label including I’m Leaving which features a rueful vocal full of hurt on what’s a poignant but beautiful unreleased track.

Closing Atlanta Soul Artistry 1965-1975 is Since We Said Goodbye by The Counts, who usually were a funk band. This William Bell and William McDuffie is very different to the other tracks on their 1974 album Funk Pump, which was their second they released on the label. This poignant and moving ballad is a beautiful and fitting way to close the compilation. Especially given what happened next.

Running a regional record companies offered Michael Thevis an opportunity and facility to launder dirty money. He may have used dirty money to buy his own label’s releases. These phantom record sales would only exist on paper, and would have the effect of laundering the dirty money through the company’s accounts. 

Once the money was in the record label’s company’s accounts, tax could be paid on the profit that had been made. This would further legitimise any dirty money the company was making. Especially, as the FBI were still watching Michael Thevis.

His musical empire all came crashing down in late 1975. Michael Thevis’ attempt to build a legitimate business empire had failed. Soon, it emerged that his musical empire was always doomed to failure. It had been for three years, ever since the FBI starting investigating his business activities.

That was when Roger Dean Underhill was involved in a routine traffic stop. An eagle-eyed traffic officer noticed a small cache of stolen guns under the passenger seat. This resulted in him being arrested. Rather than face the consequences, he decided to inform upon his business partner, Michael Thevis.

This lead to the start of a three year investigation that resulted, in the arrest and subsequent conviction of Michael Thevis. For all the artists signed to GRC, Aware and Hotlanta Records, this was the beginning of the end.

All the artists signed to GRC, Aware and Hotlanta Records were left high and dry. It was disaster for all the artists affected by the collapse. They were left without a label and some of the artists were also owed royalties, which in some cases, was a significant sum of money. The artists had no idea what the future held for them.

It was a similar case for Michael Thevis whose grand plans were left in tatters. It looked like the beginning of the end for GRC, the company he had spent three years building.

It wasn’t. His wife Veld and son Michael Jr, took over the running of GRC. For a while, it was business as usual for GRC. However, for Michael Thevis things were about to get much worse.

He was convicted of conspiracy to commit arson and distribution of obscene materials. The man who sparked the three year investigation into Michael Thevis, even testified in court. Roger Dean Underhill  took to the stand, and the FBI’s informant testified against his former business partner. He thought this was the right thing to do.

It was a decision Roger Dean Underhill would later live to regret. In 1978, Michael Thevis managed to escape from prison. Straight away, he was placed on the FBI’s top ten most wanted list. By then, he and some of his associates had placed an open contract on Roger Dean Underhill.

There’s an old saying that you never see the bullet that kids you. When the hit came, the shooter was none other than Michael Thevis. He shot and killed Roger Dean Underhill and one of his associates. Not long after the murders, Michael Thevis was arrested and taken to a high security facility. 

The Scarface of Porn was later convicted of the two murders. Over thirty years later, Michael Thevis died in prison in Bayport, Minnesota on November the ’20th’ 2013. The man who founded GRC, Aware and Hotlanta Records was eighty-one.

One day, documentary makers will chart the rise and demise of Michael Thevis and his musical empire. It’s a story of two kinds of hits, the musical ones, and the other type that cost two men their lives. 

The story of GRC, Aware and Hotlanta Records is truly compelling one, and is one that deserves to be told. These three labels releases some of the best Southern Soul of the seventies and  enjoyed a string of hit singles. That’s no surprise.

The labels had signed some truly talented artists from Chicago, Detroit and LA. They worked worth top musicians and producers during recording sessions at the Sound Pit Studio in Atlanta. Sadly, many of the singles and albums weren’t as successful as they should’ve been. This includes future Southern Soul classics from John Edwards and Loleatta Holloway. It was a case of what might have been and missed opportunities.

Thankfully, the music of GRC, Aware and Hotlanta Records is starting to find the wider audience it so richly deserves thanks to Kent Soul. Over the years, they’ve reissued album and released a string of compilations. 

The latest is Atlanta Soul Artistry 1965-1975 which feature twelve tracks from GRC, Aware and Hotlanta Records and two Bill Haney Productions from the sixties. For anyone yet to discover the music released by Michael Thevis’ musical empire, this new compilation is a tantalising taste of some of  the seventies’ finest Southern Soul. It’s sure to be the start of a musical voyage of discovery that includes the majestic music of Dorothy Norwood, Joe Hinton, John Edwards, Loleatta Holloway, Jimmy Lewis and all the other talented artists who were signed to GRC, Aware and Hotlanta Records.

Atlanta Soul Artistry 1965-1975.

FUNKADELIC’S GREATEST HITS.

Funkadelic’s Greatest Hits.

Label: Westbound.

Format: CD.

Nowadays, most albums released in 1975 have been reissued at least once. An exception is Funkadelic’s Greatest Hits compilation which was originally released in 1975. That’s about to change when Westbound, an imprint of Ace Records reissues this ten track CD. It’s been newly remastered and is a vast improvement on the thin, tinny sounding original album.  The compilation is known as s “the sheep album” because of Neil Terk’s unique and memorable cover.  It’s the perfect opportunity to discover ten tracks from George Clinton’s groundbreaking group taken from their first six albums which were released between 1970 and 1975. 

George Clinton was born in Kannapolis, North Carolina, in 1941, but grew up in New Jersey. That was where he formed the doo wop group The Parliaments in the late fifties. 

At the time he co-owned a barber salon in Plainfield and spent much of his day straightening hair. That was about to change when he formed his new group. It featured Ray Davis, Fuzzy Haskins, Calvin Simon, Grady Thomas and George Clinton who became the leader and manager of The Parliaments. 

Initially, the group  entertained customers in the barber shop. This was good practice as it allowed the group to hone their sound.

In June 1959, The Parliaments released their debut single Poor Willie. Although it failed to trouble the charts this was the start of career that that spanned twenty-one years.

As the fifties gave way to the sixties, the group had honed a sound that fused elements of soul and funk with increasingly bizarre and surreal lyrics. Initially, this didn’t find favour with record buyers. To complicate matters, The Parliaments were constantly switching between record labels. Still, though, a hit single continued to elude The Parliaments.

In 1964, George Clinton hired Frankie Boyce, Richard Boyce and Langston Booth to back The Parliaments. They were now a quintet which he hoped would result in a change in fortune for the group.

Sadly, it wasn’t to be and two years later, in 1966, Frankie Boyce, Richard Boyce and Langston decided to join the US Army. This left George Clinton looking for three new musicians.

He recruited bassist Billy Bass Nelson and guitarist Eddie Hazel in 1967. Later, he added guitarist Tawl Ross and drummer Tiki Fulwood. This was the lineup of The Parliaments that headed to Detroit.

By 1967, George Clinton was working as a staff songwriter at Motown. He had also arranged and produced numerous singles for other independent labels in Detroit. However, his own group The Parliaments had still to make a breakthrough.

This was about to change when The Parliaments released I Wanna Testify in May 1967, on the Detroit-based label Revilot Records. It reached number twenty on the US Billboard 100 and three on the US R&B charts. At last, The Parliaments had enjoyed a hit single, and it looked as if this was the breakthrough that they had been working towards.

It may well have been the case if Revilot Records had been forced to file for bankruptcy. This resulted in The Parliaments becoming embroiled in a contractual dispute which led to the band losing the rights to the name. For a band that had just enjoyed the biggest hit of their career, this was a disaster.

What The Parliaments needed a new name. That was when Billy Bass Nelson came up with the name Funkadelic. It stuck and the group adopted the new name.

This allowed the newly named Funkadelic to continue to record for other labels, and in 1968 they signed to Westbound Records.

Having signed to Westbound Records, Funkadelic’s music began to evolve. Doo-wop was yesterday’s sound. The newly named group needed a new and much more contemporary sound. Psychedelia, rock, soul and funk were the musical flavours of the month. So were Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone and it made sense for Funkadelic to fuse these musical genres and influences. 

This is what Funkadelic did. However, they were no ordinary band. This was, after all, the era of the civil rights movement. Just like many other bands, the civil rights movement inspired them and their lyrics were full of social and political comment. The group’s music would prove to be a heady brew.

By then, George Clinton had decided that Funkadelic would be a funk-rock band which featured five backing musicians and The Parliaments as uncredited guest artists. This would be the lineup of Funkadelic that featured on their eponymous debut album which was released on Westbound Records.

Funkadelic.

Funkadelic was released to plaudits and praise on ‘24th’ February 1970, and was a truly ambitious genre-melting debut album of P-Funk. The group fused blues-tinged acid rock,  lysergic space funk and conventional soul songs whose sound hinted at Stax and even Motown influences. This included I’ll Bet You and  Got a Thing, You Got a Thing, Everybody’s Got a Thing which are among the highlights of a truly innovative and imaginative debut album that showcased what George Clinton and the group were capable of.  It was no surprise that these two tracks featured on Funkadelic’s Great Hits’ album in 1975.

When Funkadelic reached 126 in the US Billboard 200 and eight in the US R&B Charts the future looked bright for the psychedelic, funkateers. They would release their sophomore album later in 1970. 

Free Your Mind… and Your Ass Will Follow.

George Clinton have a brainwave when recording of Funkadelic’s album was due to too place. He decided to record an album of P-Funk whilst they were tripping on acid. This was a first and the result was the future funk classic Free Your Mind… and Your Ass Will Follow. 

It was album was mired in controversy. This was down to the title-track. It was a ten minute epic where amidst a feedback drenched backdrop, Funkadelic managed to offend Christians everywhere. The result was mixed reviews. 

Despite that, the album reached number ninety-two in the US Billboard 200 and number eleven in the US R&B charts. This made Free Your Mind… and Your Ass Will Follow the most successful album of Funkadelic’s career. That’s no surprise.

Funk, psychedelic soul and acid rock were combined into a majestic musical potpourri on an album of P-Funk packed full of highlights. This included Funky Dollar Bill and I Wanna Know If It’s Good to You? Both tracks later featured on Funkadelic’s  Greatest Hits album in 1975. By then, they had released four more albums.

Maggot Brain.

This included Maggot Brain which was recorded during 1970 and 1971. By then, the group had a s voracious appetite for drugs, and specifically, acid. What would become a classic album, cost not just Funkadelic, but the individual members dearly.

On its release, on 12th July 1971, Maggot Brain was well received by critics. Most critics gave the album glowing reviews. The album featured genre-melting music where acid rock, funk rock, psychedelic soul funk and progressive soul melted into one on their third album of P-Funk  With tracks of the standard of Can You Get To That and Hit It and Quit It, it which also featured on Funkadelic’s Greatest Hits in 1975. That was still to come. 

Before that, most critics thought that Maggot Brain would  become a classic and a comically successful album. 

Sadly, that wasn’t the case. Music buyers weren’t convinced by Funkadelic’s dark, moody worldview. Maggot Brain stalled at 108 in the US Billboard 200 and number fourteen in the US R&B charts. For George Clinton this was a huge disappointment. Worse was to come.

After the release of Maggot Brain, Tawl Ross, Eddie Hazel, Billy Nelson, and Tiki Fulwood left Funkadelic. Maggot Brain became the last Funkadelic album to feature the original group. The original group’s swansong was their finest hour. 

America Eats Its Young.

Funkadelic returned on May 22nd 1972 with their fourth album America Eats Its Young. It was a double album and featured a new lineup of the group. 

With the new lineup came a new sound. It was radical mixture of funk, fusion, psychedelia, P-funk and rock that was combined with insightful powerful lyrics full of social comment on an  album that was hailed as George Clinton’s  “grand statement” on the ongoing Vietnam War. Elsewhere, some of the tracks were tinged with humour and playful as Funkadelic showed different sides to their music. 

However, some critics felt that some of the material on America Eats Its Young wasn’t strong enough and it would’ve been better as a single album. The same can be said of The Beatles’ White Album. Nowadays, though, America Eats Its Young is regarded as one Funkadelic’s finest and most eclectic albums. One of the standout tracks is Loose Booty which was released as a single and features o Funkadelic’s Greatest Hits album in 1975.

Despite the mixed reviews, America Eats Its Young still etched 123 in the US Billboard 200 and twenty-two in the US R&B charts. Meanwhile, the single Loose Booty reached thirty-eight in the US R&B charts. For the new lineup of Funkadelic it was a good start. Now to build on it.

Cosmic Sloop.

It was a case of expect the unexpected from George Clinton and his fellow musical shapeshifters. They released Cosmic Slop in May 1973, and it was an album very different to their previous releases.

Everything from funk and rock were combined with elements  of hard rock and what can only be described as proto-heavy metal. The finest track on their latest album of P-Funk was Cosmic Sloop,  a glorious genre-melting track that finds a band pushing boundaries to the limits. It’s no surprise the track  featured on Funkadelic’s 1975 Greatest Hits album.

It gave critics and music fans the opportunity the revaluate the track. When the album Cosmic Sloop was released it passed critics it reached 112 on the US Billboard 200 and t twenty-one on the US R&B charts and surpassed the success of America Eats Its Young. Could Funkadelic continue to make progress and introduce their music to a wider audience?

Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On.

For Funkadelic’s sixth album Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On, virtuoso guitarist Eddie Hazel made a welcome return to the P-Funk pioneers. He cowrote each of the seven tracks, shared lead vocal duties and added his distinctive guitar sound. The result was an album that saw the group’s fortunes improve. 

This time, critics were won over by an album where the music and jamming and music was the order of the day. Unlike previous albums, the lyrics although good, were overshadowed by Funkadelic and especially a guitar masterclass from Eddie Hazel. This includes on the track Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On which in 1975, reappeared on Funkadelic’s Greatest Hits compilation.

However, when Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On was released on July 14th 1974, it reached 163 in the US Billboard 200 and thirteen on the US R&B charts. This was a disappointment after the success of Cosmic Sloop. The big question was what next for Funkadelic? 

Let’s Take It To The Stage.

On ‘21st’ April 1975, Funkadelic returned with their seventh album Let’s Take It To The Stage. It was an album where funk rock, jazz, soul and what was called street rap. Although dark in parts and tough, it featured a tight group making dancefloor friendly music.  There was also an element of humour on an album that was well received by many critics and regarded by some as their most engaging an listenable. However, one criticism was that the subject matter of some of the lyrics weren’t particularly PC.

When Let’s Take It To The Stage was released the album reached 104 in  the US Billboard 200 and thirteen on the US R&B charts. This was an improvement on Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On. Funkadelic were making progress and a new compilation was released later in 1975.

Greatest Hits.

Westbound released Funkadelic’s Greatest Hits’ album later in 1975, amd it featured ten tracks. They were a mixture of singles, albums and an edit of the instrumental A Joyful Process. It’s a welcome addition, and is part fo what’s a perfect introduction to the groundbreaking and genre-defying music of George Clinton’s P-Funk pioneers. 

For anyone yet to discover the music of Funkadelic, then the newly remastered reissue of  Funkadelic’s Greatest Hits is the perfect place to start. Listen to their cosmic mix of musical genres and influences which often featured insightful lyrics full of social comment. Other times, humour was the order of the day. When things got lysergic, the lyrics can be surreal and spacey. However, when Funkadelic unleash a genre-melting jam it’s a case of sit back and enjoy the musical journey. That’s the case on their Greatest Hits album which is a heady and  musical brew to savour time and again. 

Funkadelic’s Greatest Hits.

WHATEVER YOU WANT-BOB CREWE’S 60s SOUL SOUNDS

Whatever You Want-Bob Crewe’s 60s Soul Sounds.

Label: Kent Soul.

Format: CD.

Mention Bob Crewe’s name and most music fans remember the pop-soul songs he wrote, and his recordings with Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons and Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels. Then there’s the New Voice and Dynavoice labels which he founded and ran. Sadly, many of the singles the labels released failed to find the wider audience they deserved and were only by unearthed by crate digging DJs and music fans at a later date. By then, Bob Crewe had worked with some of the biggest names in soul and R&B.

This included Jerry Butler, Ben E King, Chuck Jackson, Dee Dee Sharp, Barbara Mason, Walter Jackson and James Carr. They all feature on Whatever You Want-Bob Crewe’s 60s Soul Sounds, a new compilation which will be released by Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records on ‘1st’ July 2022. It features twenty-four tracks recorded during the sixties. However, by then, Bob Crewe had already enjoyed commercial success.

In 1957, Bob Crewe produced Silhouettes for Hal Miller and The Rays. It was a track that the producer had written with his original songwriting partner Frank Slay Jr. The pair were based in Philly, which was also home to the Cameo label who released the single nationwide. It gave the group a hit and increased the songwriting partnership’s profile.

Later in 1957, the pair penned La Dee Dah which gave Billy (Ford) and Lillie (Bryant) a hit on Swan. Then in 1958 the pair enjoyed a hit with Lucky Ladybug. The Bob Crewe and Frank Slay Jr songwriting partnership was on a roll. 

They penned two hits for Freddy Cannon who was also signed to Swan. Both 1958s Tallahassee Lassie and 1959s Way Down Yonder In New Orleans reached the top ten. However, it wasn’t  long before Bob Crewe and Frank Slay Jr decided to concentrate on different projects.

Frank Slay Jr continued as Swan’s head of A&R. Meanwhile, Bob Crewe returned home to the New Jersey-New York area where he embarked upon the next chapter in his career.

That was where he discovered the New Jersey vocal group The Four Lovers. They became The Four Seasons in 1962. The youngest member of the group Bob Gaudio became Bob Crewe’s new songwriting partner. 

Bob Gaudio wrote An Angel Cried for Hal Miller and The Rays in November 1961. It opens Whatever You Want-Bob Crewe’s 60s Soul Sounds. This Bob Crewe production was released on Topic in 1961. It’s a dramatic track with a complicated arrangement and an emotive lead vocal that’s accompanied by soaring harmonies. Two years later, in 1963, the backing track featured on Chuck Jackson’s King Of The Mountain.

In 1962, Jerry Butler released Whatever You Want which was written by Bob Gaudio and Bob Crewe. It’s a string-drenched ballad featuring a soul-baring, heartfelt vocal.

Bob Crewe wrote The Beginning Of Time for Ben E King. It was the B-Side of I Who Have Nothing which was released on Atco in 1963. The single reached twenty-nine in the US Billboard 100 and sixteen in the US R&B charts. Record buyers who listened to the B-Side discovered a hidden gem where strings accompany a vocal that’s a mixture of power and passion.

When Chuck Jackson released his album Encore on Wand in 1963, it featured the Bob Gaudio composition Another Day. It’s an atmospheric Bob Crewe production, with a vocal masterclass from one of the great soul men of his generation. 

Philly born Dee Dee Sharp released Deep Dark Secret on Cameo in 1964. Bob Crewe who produced the track cowrote it with Eddie Rambeau and Bud Rehak. Sadly, the single failed to find an audience but later, became a favourite of DJs and dancers on the UK Northern Soul scene. 

Barbara Lewis released Pushing A Good Thing Too Far on Atlantic in 1964. Bob Crewe cowrote the track with Sandy Linzer and Denny Randell, while Ollie McLaughlin took charge of production. It’s another soulful hidden gem that was belatedly unearthed by DJs and soul aficionados.

(You’re Gonna) Hurt Yourself was released by Frankie Vali on Smash in 1966. It was produced by Bob Crewe and is a soulful dancer with horns, handclaps and harmonies from the Four Seasons accompany the vocal. It’s no surprise that the single reached thirty-nine in the US Billboard 100

Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels’ You Get Your Kicks driving dancer was released on New Voice in 1966. Gary Knight cowrote this irresistible single with Bob Crewe who was also the arranger and producer. 

Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons released their album New Gold Hits on Phillips in 1967. Although I’m Gonna Change which was never released as a single it featured on the album. It was produced and directed by Bob Crewe that became a favourite on the UK Northern Soul scene. The track is another welcome addition to the compilation.

Everything Under The Sun was written by Bob Crewe and Gary Knight and recorded by Walter Jackson. He released it as a single on Okeh in 1967. It showcases a truly talented singer at the peak of his powers.

James Carr originally recorded Sock It To Me Baby for the Memphis-based Goldwax label. However, the track lay unreleased for over thirty years when it made its belated debut on Kent compilation The Complete James Carr Volume II. It’s a reminder of legendary soul man whose music should’ve found a much wider audience.

Closing Whatever You Want-Bob Crewe’s 60s Soul Sounds is The Time Keepers’ 3 Minute Heavy. This uplifting choppy dancer was arranged, conducted and produced by Herb Bernstein for Bob Crewe Productions and is the perfect way to close the compilation.

The twenty-four tracks on Whatever You Want-Bob Crewe’s 60s Soul Sounds are a tantalising taste of a truly talented songwriter and producer. There’s contributions from familiar faces and what will be new names to some music fans. Some of the tracks may be favourites of soul and R&B fans. They’re joined by several hidden gems on this lovingly curated compilation that oozes quality and is the perfect introduction to the music Bob Crewe wrote and produced during the sixties. 

Whatever You Want-Bob Crewe’s 60s Soul Sounds.

BOB STANLEY AND PETE WIGGS PRESENT FELL FROM THE SKY: DOWNTEMPO AND AFTER HOURS 1990-91. 

Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present Fell From The Sky: Downtempo and After Hours 1990-91.

Label: Ace Records.

Format: CD. 

Release Date: ‘1st’ July 2022.  

House music arrived in Britain in 1987 and instantly transformed the musical landscape. Just like disco a decade earlier, it went on to provided the soundtrack for a generation in clubs across Britain. The genre that was born in the Windy City of Chicago was embraced by a new generation of clubbers. This was the case during the long hot summer of 1989 and right through to the start of the new decade.

Then two records were released during February 1990 that turned out to be gamechangers and  once again, transformed Britain’s musical landscape. They were The KLF’s Chill Out and Andrew Weatherall’s  remix of Primal Scream’s album track Loaded. Both tracks were much slower than house music and were just 98 beats per minute and turned out to be hugely influential.

Chill Out and the remix of Loaded slowed the tempo on the dancefloor way down. Both tracks also caught the imagination of DJs and dancers  who, it seemed, preferred the slower tempo tracks.  No wonder after three hedonistic years dancing to frantic 4/4 house tracks. The times they were a changing.

It was no surprise that within weeks, an array of similar mid-tempo, chilled out tracks were released. They were atmospheric, dreamy, lysergic, smokey, spacey, floaty, and fuzzy sounding. Many of these tracks charted in Britain. 

Some lacked originality and sounded as if they had been heavily inspired by Soul II Soul, who at the time, were at the peak of their popularity. However, other artists and groups released innovative, genre melting tracks that would quickly become favourites of DJs and dancers. This included another Primal Scream remix as well as tracks by Sheer Taft, Q-Tee, The Grid, Saint Etienne, One Dove, BBG, The Aloof and Moodswings. Tracks by these artists feature on the new compilation Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present Fell From The Sky: Downtempo and After Hours 1990-91, which will be released by Ace Records on the  ‘1st’ of July 2022. 

Opening the compilation is an Extended Remix of Primal Scream’s Higher Than The Sun (Higher Than The Orb). The original version featured on the group’s 1991 classic album Screamadelica where they fused acid house and rock. However, this spacey, lysergic remix marries dub with elements of neo-psych and the pastoral sound of the second side of Pink Floyd’s 1969 album Ummagumma. Listen carefully, and even the influence of Steve Hillage’s 1979 ambient album Rainbow Dome Musick  can be heard on this genre-melting remix. It was later hailed a genre classic and  has definitely stood the test of time.

Thirteen of the fourteen tracks on Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present Fell From The Sky: Downtempo and After Hours 1990-91 are by British artists and groups. The exception is the Essential Trance Hall Mix of It Could Not Happen by Critical Rhythm featuring Jango Thriller and Vandal. It was produced by New York-based production duo Brooklyn Funk Essentials and released in 1990. However, with its breathy, dreamy vocal and understated, spacey arrangement it sounds as if could’ve been made in London.

Thomas Taft, who originally, was from Greenock, not far from Glasgow. By 1990 he was living in London and recording using the moniker Sheer Taft. He recorded two singles with vocalist Ingrid Kudos and the album Cascades.  However, it’s the Hypnotone  Mix of Cascades which features on the compilation. The track was reworked by Manchester musician Tony Martin aka Hynotone with Thrash from The Orb helping with the final mix. The result is an ethereal, dreamy example of mid-tempo trance.

The Grid was a production duo of David Ball formerly of Soft Cell and Richard Norris. One of their finest productions was the original version of Floatation. Straight away, the influence of acid house with squelch synths to the fore can be heard. So can the new-age relaxation influence that was proving popular in 1990 when this track was released.  The tempo is slower with space left between the grinding beats which is joined by a breathy, sensual and suggestive vocal. It’s no surprise that the track found favour with DJs and clubbers across Britain.

The only unreleased track is a Radio Edit of Speedwell which was the third single Saint Etienne released during 1990. The group were still a duo as Sarah Cracknell wasn’t officially a member. For the single, gospel house samples were used and combined with the hook from a piano house tracks. For the backing track, parts of  Andrew Weatherall’s Mix Of Two Halves were reused.  When all this is combined the result is an uplifting and anthemic hands in the air track that brings back memories of 1990.

One Dove originally released Fallen in 1991. The version on the compilation featured on the album Morning Dove’s White which was released on Boy’s Own Productions in 1993. It’s a genre-melting track where elements dream pop, dub, techno-pop and trance melt into one. Play a leading role in the sound and success of the track is Dot Allison’s vocal.

After leaving Manchester’s School Of Sound Engineering, Graham Massey embarked upon a career as an engineer, producer and remixer. His first project was the Massonix single Just A Little Bit More.  It was inspired by I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little Bit More by The Love Unlimited Orchestra, which was written by Barry White. Graham Massey had come across the track in a charity shop. For the recording session, Denise Johnson who worked with Primal Scream, A Certain Ration and Fifth Of Heaven takes charge of lead vocal duties. However, it’s the Electro Instrumental Mix that features on the compilation. This hypnotic and mesmeric slow jam from 1990 is a welcome  inclusion, and is a timeless reminder of a new musical era. 

By 1991, The Shamen’s star was in the ascendancy and they were about to release Pro-Gun (Move Any Mountain). However, Will Sinnott aka Sill Sin decided to work on a side project, using the Elsi Curry pseudonym and recorded and produced U Make Me Feel. Sadly, before the single was released, Will Sin drowned and the single was only released as a promo. The Running Water aka Workhouse Mix has a sensual, Balearic sound that’s truly timeless. 

In 1990, BBG produced and mixed Snappiness which was released on the Urban label.  However, it’s the 7” Edit that features on the compilation. The original version was an airy, atmospheric piano-led downtempo instrumental.  Then when Dina Taylor’s vocal was added the track became a top thirty hit. 

Closing  Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present Fell From The Sky: Downtempo and After Hours 1990-91 is The Moodfood Megamix of Moodswings’ Spiritual High. The track incorporates elements of Jon and Vangelis’ State Of Independence and Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream speech. The result is a track that’s hypnotic, mesmeric and lysergic, and the perfect way to close the compilation.

The fourteen tracks on Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present Fell From The Sky: Downtempo and After Hours 1990-91 all have a modernist sound. However, a number of the producers sought inspiration from music’s past. This is something many producers have done in the past.

There’s everything from the pastoral sound of Pink Floyd right through to Barry White, Jon and Vangelis, Soul II Soul and Steve Hillage. Add to this Neo-Psychedelia as well as acid house, ambient music, Chicago house, dream pop, electronica, gospel house, piano house, soul and trance.  These influences can all be heard on  Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present Fell From The Sky: Downtempo and After Hours 1990-91 which was the start of a new chapter in dance music.

After nearly three years dancing to house music, it was time to slow things down and enjoy some chilled out, laid-back and lysergic sounds. It was the perfect anecdote to the three hedonistic years.  Dancers found themselves dancing at 98 beats per minutes as a new breed of producers and remixers took dance music in a new and exciting direction that’s documented on  Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present Fell From The Sky: Downtempo and After Hours 1990-91. It’s another lovingly curated compilation which is sure to bring back memories of what was the start of a new musical era.

Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs Present Fell From The Sky: Downtempo and After Hours 1990-91.

NIMBUS SEXTET-FORWARD THINKER.

Nimbus Sextet-Forward Thinker.

Label: Acid Jazz Records.

Format: CD.

It was just over three years ago when Nimbus Sextet signed to Acid Jazz Records in the spring of 2019. A lot has happened since then. 

The group recently released their sophomore album Forward Thinker, and are now regarded as one of the leading lights of the UK jazz scene. However, the story begins in the city known as the Athens of the North, Edinburgh.

That was where the group was founded by bandleader, primary composer, keyboardist and harmonica player Joe Nichols while he was studying at Edinburgh University. That was where he met the rhythm section of drummer Alex Palmer and bassist Mischa Stevens. The nascent group’s lineup was starting to take shape.

With the addition of guitarist Honza Kourimsky, trumpeter Euan Allardice and saxophonist Michael Butcher, Nimbus Sextet’s lineup was complete.

The newly founded group began honing their sound, playing live in Scotland and further afield. However, the most important gig of the group’s career took place in Scotland’s musical capital, Glasgow.

Nimbus Sextet had been booked to support DJ Gilles Peterson at the city’s Sub Club. In the audience that night, was Wayne A. Dickson of Groove Line Records. He spotted the group’s potential and during the gig, was convinced that Acid Jazz Records would be interested in signing Nimbus Sextet. 

They were. Nimbus Sextet signed to Acid Jazz Records in the spring of 2019. Meanwhile, Wayne A. Dickson became the group’s manager. This was the start of a new chapter in the group’s story.

By then, the group had forged their own unique genre-melting sound. The starting point was jazz. To this, they added elements of funk, fusion, jazz-funk, Neo-Soul and world music. It was a potent and heady brew which continued to win over audiences.

This included a tour of the UK during  February and March of 2020 that culminated at a sellout gig at London’s Servant Jazz Quarters in London. By then, the group were going from strength-to-strength. Then the lockdown struck, and bands like Nimbus Sextet were unable to tour. It was the start of a difficult time for the music industry.

Seven months later, on October ‘23rd,’ 2020, Nimbus Sextet released their much-anticipated, critically acclaimed and commercially successful debut album, Dreams Fulfilled. By then, they were already well on their way to becoming one of the leading lights of the UK jazz scene. 

Since then, Nimbus Sextet’s star has been in the ascendancy. They released their Helix EP on September 3rd, 2021. Two tracks were unreleased recordings from the Dreams Fulfilled sessions. This included an imaginative and innovative rework of Yussef Kamaal’s Lowrider. When it was played on BBC6 Music and Jazz FM it found favour with the group’s existing fanbase and introduced them to a new and wider audience.

As 2022 dawned, Nimbus Sextet were being hailed as one of the most groundbreaking groups who were part of the recent new wave of the UK jazz scene. It was no surprised when they were booked to play on hallowed ground, Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London.

Everyone from British jazz greats like Stan Tracey and Tubby Hayes through to American jazz legends Bill Evans, Chet Baker, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Roy Ayers, Sonny Rollins, Sonny Still and Wes Montgomery have played at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club. It was also the venue for Jimi Hendrix’s final public performance. Nimbus Sextet were following in the following in the footsteps of musical giants.

Having just released the single To The Light earlier that day, they didn’t disappoint. The group played a stunning set which showcased their unique genre-melting sound. Nimbus Sextet had come a long way in a short space of time.

Less than three months later, and the ‘4th,’ April 2022 was a big day for Nimbus Sextet. The group released a new single, High Time. This delicious slice of Neo-Soul finds Charlotte de Graaf of Kid Creole and The Coconuts taking charge of the lead vocal, and also features Jackson Mathod, who has worked with Stormzy. The single was a truly tantalising taste of what was to come from Nimbus Sextet on their new album. 

The same day as High Time was released, Acid Jazz Records announced the release of Nimbus Sextet’s much-anticipated sophomore album Forward Thinker, on 27th, May 2022. It finds Nimbus Sextet joined by a number of guest artists as they add elements of dance and hip hop to their existing musical palette. 

This included legendary percussionist Steve Forman who previously has worked with Pink Floyd, Barbara Streisand and Herbie Hancock. There were also contributions from Nubiyan Twist’s Jonny Enser, Scottish saxophonist Harry Weir and Nathaniel Cross who has worked with Macy Gray, Solange and Emilie Sande. These guest artists and the production duo of Wayne A. Dickson and Luigi Pasquini play their part in the evolution of Nimbus Sextet’s music on Forward Thinker.

Setting the bar high on Forward Thinker is the album opener High Time which is the only track to feature a guest vocalist. Charlotte de Graaf delivers a Neo-Soul vocal masterclass, and is accompanied by horns and keyboards which  ensure the arrangement swings. The result is one of the album’s highlights.

An eight minute genre-melting journey describes the title-track. As Nimbus Sextet’s rhythm section drive the arrangement along, horns are to fore on a track whose roots are in jazz-funk, but also incorporates elements of fusion, electronics and benefits from twinkling keyboards and the lushest of synths.

Woodview is just a short interlude written by bandleader. Initially, there’s a pensive, thoughtful sound before it’s all change and flamboyant flourishes of keyboards take this enchanting track in a new direction. 

Very different is Another Place which sounds as if it’s been influenced by Miles Davis or John Coltrane. Initially, it reveals a ruminative sound that encourages reflection. Then when  Nimbus Sextet change direction it’s as if the sun starts to shine. Playing a leading role are the blazing horns while a brief burst of hissing hi-hats sound as if they belong a seventies funk album. Then driving keyboards play their part in the sound and success of a track that also incorporates everything from jazz-funk to fusion as the group continue to showcase their virtuosity and versatility.

Another Place is another chapter in this eclectic musical journey. Initially there’s a nod to Frank Zappa and even free jazz. Then it’s all change as the tempo drops and a much more traditional jazzy sound takes shape. Later, the arrangement takes on a dreamy, laid-back, summery sound before briefly heading in the direction of cocktail jazz. However, Nimbus Sextet bowl another curveball and seamlessly the arrangement to this captivating musical odyssey heads in the direction of progressive jazz. 

Cinematic, spacey, dark and dramatic are just some of the words that could be used to describe From The Shadows. There’s even a hint of library music on a track that sounds like it could easily be the theme to either a new sci-fi series or cop show. 

Closing Forward Thinker is the jazz-funk and fusion of To The Light. In places, it seems to reference and pay homage to Herbie Hancock’s classic album Head Hunters. Bandleader Joe Nichols switches between keyboards, synths and mellotron as he and the horns drive the arrangement along at breakneck speed. The result is one of the strongest tracks on the album, and ensures it closes on a high.

Musical shapeshifters Nimbus Sextet return with Forward Thinker, a  captivating album of genre-melting music. Seamlessly the group combine and switch between disparate genres as they showcases their virtuosity and versatility. They combine everything from jazz and jazz-funk to free jazz, funk, fusion, library music and even electronica, hip hop and Neo-Soul on this genre-melting musical journey.

It’s a case of expect the unexpected on Forward Thinker. Nimbus Sextet bowl a series of curveballs and spring surprises aplenty along the way on their much-anticipated sophomore album Forward Thinker which doesn’t disappoint and leaves a lasting impression.

Nimbus Sextet-Forward Thinker.

MOONSHINE AKA MONICA RYPMA AND FRIENDS-CLASSIFIEDS.

Moonshine aka Monica Rypma and Friends-Classifieds.

Label: BBE Music.

Format: CD.

Release Date: 17th June 2022.

When BBE Music recently released the compilation We Are The Children Of The Sun, one of the highlights was Monica Rypma’s Let Love Flow, a hook-laden Balearic groove hidden gem. The track was a tantalising taste of the album Classifieds, which was released as a private press in 1985. 

Sadly, the album is now a rarity, and is much prized amongst collectors and fans of the folk-funk scene. That’s why original copies of Classifieds are changing hands for ever increasing sums of money, and are now beyond the budget of most people. However, there will soon be a solution to this problem. 

On the ‘17th’ June 2022,  Classifieds will be reissued for the first time by BBE Music. It’ll allow music fans to discover and enjoy Moonshine aka Monica Rypma and Friends’ debut album. It’s an album with a fascinating backstory that showcases a truly talented singer-songwriter.

Monica Rypma’s musical career began in 1976, when she decided to make the move from her home in Holland to London, to follow her dream of making a career out of music. 

Upon her arrival in London, Monica Rypma wanted to find as a flat as close as possible to the West End where she began making her dream reality. Soon, she was taking classes, doing auditions, working as a backing vocalist and writing songs. To make ends meet, the aspiring singer worked in hotels and restaurants during the day. By night, she followed her dream. 

In the early eighties, Monica Rypma returned home to Holland, where she enrolled at Conservatorium van Amsterdam. It had followed the example of American universities including Berkeley and  The Juliard School and had opened a Jazz Department. This was the start of the next chapter in Monica Rypma’s career.

By then, had already started singing with bands and was singing professionally. This included with Moonshine and The Blaze which featured her brother Hans and friends. The band were soon making progress, embarking upon a tour and even playing in London. Things were looking good for Monica Rypma.

Then in 1985, when a relationship ended, Monica Rypma  walked out of her course at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam. She took refuge in music, and after being inspired by René Van Helsdingen, the composer, pianist and crowdfunding pioneer who was also based in Amsterdam, began work on the project that would eventually become her debut album Classifieds.

To raise the funds to produce the album, Monica Rypma decided to fund the album using sponsorship and crowdfunding which was in its infancy. She decided  to sell advertising space on the album sleeve, which would look like a newspaper. That was why the album was entitled Classifieds.

Fortunately for Monica Rypma it was relatively easy to sell advertising space on the cover of Classifieds. Businesses including shops, bars, restaurants and record shops bought space. This was just the start.

Having recorded a demo at a local studio Monica Rypma went to trade fairs and anywhere else she thought she would encounter potential advertisers. When they heard the demo and saw a mock-up of the album sleeve they bought advertising space. With this being an LP, there was plenty of space for dozens of advertisers. This was enough to fund the recording of the album.

Now that Monica Rypma enough money to record her debut album, there was just one problem. She didn’t have enough material for an album. Over the next few months, jam sessions took place but still there was a shortage of new material. That was when René Van Helsdingen mentioned the name of a musician he had worked with before, Brian Batie.

He was an arranger, composer, producer, synth virtuoso and multi-instrumentalist who at the time, was living in Los Angeles. Brian Batie returned home to work on the album and his contribution to Classifieds proved to be invaluable.

Initially, Monica Rypma, René Van Helsdingen and Brian Batie had what was akin to a few musical sketches. These they fleshed out, and soon, they had the lyrics to the songs on Classifieds. They were joined by the six Interludes on that featured on the album.

The thirteen tracks on Classifieds were recorded  in just three days during September 1985 at Farmsound Studios. Monica Rypma and Brian Batie produced the album, which was engineered by Wil Hesen. With the album completed, the release of Classifieds was scheduled for later in the year.

Before that, friends and family helped Monica Rypma to print, fold and assemble the copies of Classifieds. It was like a cottage industry.  By the time the process was complete, it looked like there were three different versions of the album. 

This caused wasn’t the case. With a tight budget, when one colour of ink ran out, another was used. This explained why there some of the Classifieds’ album covers were yellow while others were green or pink.

Now the album could be distributed to people who had supported the crowdfunding of Classifieds. The remaining copies were distributed to shops. However, before long the album had disappeared from view and nothing more was heard of Classifieds until recently.

That was when a new generation of DJs and music lovers discovered the delights of Classifieds with its mixture of DIY synch pop, eighties electronica, folk-funk, psychedelia and Balearic interludes. It’s a truly enchanting and oft-overlooked hidden gem.

Classifieds opens with Everybody Came To Rock. It’s hook-laden, melodic and memorable as synth pop meets elements of electronica and rock and sets the bar high for the rest of the album. The quality continues on Haunted, one of the album’s highlights. This heartachingly beautiful ballad is wistful, ruminative and and features a vocal full of hurt and heartache. It’s sure to tug at the heartstring.

Interlude “After War” is an ambient, understated, experimental and cinematic track that paints pictures. Then What’s The Sense Of War is a quintessential and thought-provoking slice of eighties synth pop that showcases Monica’s vocal prowess.  In an instant, the listener is transported back to 1985 on a track that’s the musical equivalent of time travel. 

Interlude “Senses” is an ethereal, spacious, dreamy and truly beautiful track that meanders magically along. On Sunrise  joyous, scatted vocal sits above a genre-melting arrangement where synth pop, eighties electronica and a hint of Eastern influences collide. Then it’s all change on Interlude “Record Change” which closed the first side of  Classifieds. It’s dark , dramatic and even gothic

Very different is Hey, Where You Goin.’ It features a driving arrangement where an eclectic selection of instruments melt into one and provide the perfect accompaniment to a  breathy, coquettish, needy and sensual vocal on a truly memorable track.

Interlude “Westertoren” is a cinematic scene setter that deserves to feature in a movie. 

Ik Hou Veel Van Jou features an emotive vocal that one minute seems wistful but later, delivered with a smile. Meanwhile, drums provide the heartbeat to the synth pop arrangement. Then synths play and transport the listener far from Amsterdam during this Interlude “Koto.” 

The centrepiece of the album is a beautiful synth pop ballad that features Monica’s finest vocal.  Harmonies accompany her providing the perfect accompaniment offering encouragement to “Let Love Flow.”

Then it’s all change on Interlude “Aqua + Uitro.” It’s best describes as otherworldly, experimental, filmic and latterly rhythmic as the album marches to a close leaving just magical memories of Classifieds the debut from Moonshine aka Monica Rypma and Friends.

For anyone who heard Monica Rypma’s Let Love Flow on BBE Music’s compilation We Are The Children Of The Sun and wanted to hear more from a truly talented singer-songwriter, the reissue of Celebrations is the perfect opportunity to do so. 

This oft-overlooked private press is being reissued for the first time by BBE Music. The album is a captivating mixture of musical genres where carefully crafted songs and ambient interludes sit side-by-side. Everything from  ambient, DIY synch pop, eighties electronica, folk-funk, psychedelia, rock and soul are joined by beautiful ballads and Balearic interludes on Celebrations which is Moonshine aka Monica Rypma and Friends’ oft-overlooked and enchanting hidden gem that belatedly, is starting to find the wider audience it deserves thanks to a new generation of DJs and music lovers.

Moonshine aka Monica Rypma and Friends-Celebrations.

THE COUNT BISHOPS-THE COUNT BISHOPS.

The Count Bishops-The Count Bishops.

Label: Chiswick.

Format: LP.

During 1977, a genre that has continued to divide opinion was at the peak of its popularity, punk. This anti music was championed by critics and cultural commentators who were willing to overlook that many of the musical charlatans within punk bands could barely play their instruments and were musically illiterate. Music had changed the critics said, and many thought not for the better.

Despite this, DJs championed the latest punk singles on their late-night radio shows and waxed lyrical about the new genre. This was, they said the future of music.

Punk, its champions explained, was about rejecting the supposed excesses of seventies mainstream music and embracing and adopting a DIY ethos. Many punk singles were released on newly founded independent labels that sprung up across the country. 

The singles were fast, edgy and featured arrangements that were pared back with lyrics were full of anger, angst and frustration. Thankfully, many of the singles were also short as these chippy class warriors ran out of things to say after a couple of minutes.

Many of these singles turned out to be one-offs and the bands sank without trace. Some punk bands enjoyed a degree of success and went on to enjoy a degree of longevity. 

Meanwhile, in 1977, an eclectic selection of talented bands were playing live and releasing albums that deserved to find a much wider audience. This included The Count Bishops, who released their eponymous album on the Chiswick label in 1977. However, the story began two years earlier.

It was London, in the spring of 1975, when The Count Bishops were formed when members of the group Chrome joined forces with American vocalist Mike Spenser. The group combined elements of blues, R&B and rock. They were also influenced by sixties garage rock and the seventies pub rock scene. These influences would feature when the group played live.

By July 1977, the line of The Count Bishops had changed. The group were in Paris when Mike Spenser place the first in a series of transatlantic calls to Johnny Guitar. After some persuading, the American guitarist packed two Les Pauls and flew to Britain.

That was where Johnny Guitar was reunited with Mike Spenser who introduced him to guitarist Zenon DeFleur. He had been given the name after being discovered passed out on the floor during the group’s first recording session. 

It took a few weeks for the three members of the band to recruit a new rhythm section. Drummer Paul Balbi and bassist  Steve Lewins joined The Count Bishops and the following month, the new lineup made entered the studio for the first time.

The group were joined at Pathway Studios by engineer Barry Farmer. They recorded a total of thirteen tracks and four were chosen to feature on the group’s debut EP.

Route 66, I Ain’t Got You, Beautiful Delilah and Teenage Letter featured on The Count Bishops’ Speedball EP. It was released by Chiswick Records in 1975, and featured elements of garage rock, pub rock, R&B and rock ’n’ roll. Sadly, the EP wasn’t a commercial success and it was another year before the group released a single.

This was Train, Train which was released in 1976 by Chiswick Records. However, just before the release of the single Mike Spenser left the band. It’s alleged that this was because of incident involving a glass door and the singer’s boot. 

Having lost their vocalist, Johnny Guitar and Zenon DeFleur  shared lead vocal duties during  part of 1977. This arrangement was only temporary.

Before the group recorded their eponymous album, The Count Bishops, they decided to recruit a new vocalist. This was Australian Dave Tice who previously, had been a member of Buffalo. He would feature on most of the songs on the album.

Twelve tracks were chosen, and were a mixture of covers and new songs. Zenon De Fleur penned Stay Free and Baby You’re Wrong while Steve Lewins contributed Talk To You, Someone’s Got My Number and You’re In My Way. Covers included the Ray Davies’ composition I Need You, Willie Dixon’s Down In The Bottom, Elmore James’ Shake Your Moneymaker, Don Raye’s Down The Road Apiece, Ed Cobb’s Good Guys Don’t Wear White and Taste and Try which was written by British blues rock singer Chris Youlden. The other track on the album was a cover of the blues Don’t Start Crying Now which was written by Slim Harpo with producer JD Miller.

The Count Bishops were once again a five piece band and headed to Jackson Studios to record their eponymous album. It featured a rhythm section of drummer Paul Balbi and bassist  Steve Lewins. Zenon DeFleur switched between guitar and slide guitar. Johnny Guitar was the group’s lead guitarist and took charge of the vocal on Don’t Start Crying Now. Meanwhile, new recruit David Tice made his debut as vocalist. Making a guest appearance on Down The Road Apiece was pianist Julian Holland. Just like the single Train, Train, the group produced the album which was engineered by Vic Maile.

The result was The Count Bishops which featured the London-based band at their tightest on an album that’s a mixture of original material as well as covers of blues and tracks from the sixties that also inspired the band. They were fans of sixties beat music so it was fitting that a cover of The Kinks’ I Need You opened the album. This set the bar high. 

Over the next eleven tracks, the group never miss a beat as they combine elements of blues, pub rock, R&B and rock ’n’ roll during a series of driving, energetic and sometime raucous, riotous and rollicking, fist pumping, good time music that was honed in the bars and clubs of London. The Count Bishops was an album that should’ve introduced the group’s music to a much wider audience.

Sadly, that wasn’t the case, and The Count Bishops wasn’t a commercial success when it was released in 1977. Nor was the single Baby You’re Wrong when it was released later that year. It was a huge disappointment for a truly talented group.

Despite the disappointment, The Count Bishops returned in 1978 with the album Live. It was a tantalising taste of the band when they played live.

During 1978, The Count Bishops also released two singles, I Take What I Want and I Want Candy. This led to an appearance on the British television show Top Of The Pops. It looked as if the London-based band were about to make a breakthrough.

Meanwhile, the group were recording their next studio album studio album Cross Cuts. By then, bassist Steve Lewins had been replaced by Pat McMullan and Ruan O’Lochlainn was drafted in to add horns. The album took eighteen months to complete and was meant to be band’s breakthrough album. It was eventually released in March 1979. Just a few days later tragedy struck for The Count Bishops.

On the ‘18th’ March 1979, Zenon DeFleur died when he crashed his Aston Martin which he had lovingly restored. It was a devastating blow for his family, friends and The Count Bishops.

Sadly, the anticipated breakthrough never happened Zenon DeFleur’s death. 

Despite that, The Count Bishops headed out on tour with Blitz Krieg of Blast Furnace deputising on guitar.

Not long after this, the group were looking for a new drummer when Paul Balbi was deported back to Spain. 

The Count Bishops recruited Charlie Morgan who had played with Elton John and the Tom Robinson Band on drums. This was only temporary arrangement but the group continued to tour and even toured Australia.

This meant that former drummer Paul Balbi was able to rejoin the group albeit only for their Australian tour. 

In 1980, The Count Bishops split-up having never reached the heights that they should’ve. It was a case of what might have been for the London-based band. 

The Count Bishops which was recently reissued on vinyl by Chiswick, an imprint of Ace Records. They’ve even faithfully reproduced the original album cover with its blurred photo which shows the group exuding an air of menace. Then the back cover reproduces the board that featured on the original and gives a gritty, rough cut look. This reissue is a fitting tribute to The Count Bishops at the peak of their powers on their 1977 eponymous album which is now considered to be their finest hour and is belatedly is now finding the wider audience it so richly deserves.

The Count Bishops-The Count Bishops.

THE PRISONERS-THE LAST FOURFATHERS.

The Prisoners-The Last Fourfathers.

Label: Big Beat Records.

Format: LP.

Musical history is littered with the story of groups who could’ve gone on to enjoy a long and successful career. This includes The Prisoners, who were one of the leading lights of the Medway Scene.

They were formed in Rochester, Kent in 1980, and released four albums. This included The Last Fourfathers which was released on the band’s Own Up label in 1985. Despite failing to attract the attention of critics it’s now regarded as one of their finest hours.

That’s why nowadays, the album is in such demand and original copies can cost upwards of £100.  This is beyond the budget of most of the group’s fans. Fortunately, The Last Fourfathers has just been reissued by Big Beat Records, an imprint of Ace Records. This welcome reissue is a reminder of a group who should’ve gone on to greater things but sadly, split-up a year later in 1966. It was a case of what might have been.

Things could’ve been very different for The Prisoners. However, The Prisoners were determined to do things their way and weren’t willing to listen to advice. Even from music industry veterans. It didn’t seem to matter that these people had spent a lifetime in the music industry, and could’ve helped them make a commercial breakthrough. Instead, The Prisoners continued to continue on their contrarian way.

This meant The Prisoners never graduated from playing in smaller venues, in London’s now thriving underground psychedelic and mod scenes. Nor would The Prisoners’ albums sell in vast quantities. However, things looked promising in the early days.

The Prisoners were formed in 1980, at Rochester High School. Initially, the band was a trio featuring vocalist and guitarist Graham Day, bassist Allan Crockford and drummer Johnny Symons.

By the time organist James Taylor joined, The Prisoners seemed to be spending more time rehearsing than playing live. However, after the addition of James Taylor, the nascent band took its tentative steps onto the competitive Medway scene.

The Prisoners were soon familiar faces on the local Medway scene. Their influences ranged from R&B, garage, rock, psychedelia, plus The Kinks and The Pretty Things. These influences resulted in a band whose roots may have been in the past, but were capable of creating catchy, melodic and memorable music. 

At the heart of The Prisoners’ sound, was Graham Day’s lyrics; James Taylor’s Vox Continental organ; and choppy, punk inspired guitar licks. This was what the audience heard when The Prisoners began to share bills with Billy Childish’s The Milkshakes.

By then, The Milkshakes were regarded as the top band in the Medway scene and Billy Childish its kingpin. Soon, though, it became apparent that they had a rival in The Prisoners. The Milkshakes it seemed, had competition. However, that was until James Taylor announced he was heading to Newcastle University.

Given the importance of James Taylor’s Vox Continental organ in The Prisoners’ sound, this the other band members thought would spell the end of road for the group. So they decided to record an album A Taste Of Pink to document their short musical journey.

A Taste Of Pink!

For A Taste Of Pink!, The Prisoners had written eleven tracks. They were recorded at Oakwood Studios on the 12th September 1982, and were produced The Prisoners. Not long after this, James Taylor headed to Newcastle University.   

When A Taste Of Pink! was self-released by The Prisoners, on their Own Up label, only 500 copies had been pressed. They quickly sold out, and another 500 were pressed. By then, James Taylor was having second thoughts about life in academia, and returned home.

As James Taylor returned home, another 500 copies of A Taste Of Pink! was pressed. Nobody, apart from The Prisoners know how many albums were sold. All that’s known, is that several times they returned for more stock. By then, The Prisoners were travelling further afield, leaving Billy Childish to remain the kingpin of the Medway scene.

By now, The Prisoners were playing all over London and Sometimes, they ventured as far as St. Albans. That’s where Ace Records’ Roger Armstrong and Ted Carroll first saw The Prisoners.

The next time they saw The Prisoners was in the Hope and Anchor, in Islington, London. That night, they were the support band. However, it was the headliner Roger Armstrong and Ted Carroll were there to see. By the end of the night though, it was The Prisoners that signed to Big Beat Records.

Originally, the plan was to get The Prisoners’ music heard by a much wider audience. To do this, Roger Armstrong and Ted Carrol decided to bring on Phillip Chevron to produce The Prisoners’ sophomore album The Wisermiserdemelza. 

With The Prisoners signed to Big Beat Records, the label began formulating a plan for their latest signing. From the start, this included Phillip Chevron producing The Prisoners’ sophomore album. He was a member of The Radiators, and later, would join The Pogues. However, in 1983, his main concern was getting  The Prisoners’ music heard by a much wider audience. This began with recording their sophomore album, Thewisermiserdemelza.

Thewisermiserdemelza.

For Thewisermiserdemelza, Graham Day penned eleven of the twelve tracks. He also cowrote Tonight with James Taylor. These tracks would be recorded at ICC Studios, in Eastbourne, Sussex.

Before the recording sessions began, producer Roger Chevron made his way to Chatham to hear The Prisoners rehearse. The Prisoners ran through the songs they planned to record. As he listened to The Prisoners, he realised that here was a group it would be best to record live. There should be no overdubbing. For this to be possible, he had to coax and cajole performances out of The Prisoners. This can’t have been easy.

By then, The Prisoners were regarded as talented, confident and assured group. However, The Prisoners achilles heel was that they didn’t like to take other people’s advice. This could make recording an album interesting.

Fortunately, choosing Roger Chevron to produce the album proved to be a mini masterstroke. He wasn’t a producer first and foremost. Instead, he was a musician who just happened to have produced a few albums. So The Prisoners could relate to him and he could see where the band were coming from. This meant when the record session began things would go relatively smoothly.

Producer Roger Chevron and The Prisoners headed to  ICC Studios, where they recorded twelve tracks in just six days. These twelve tracks would become the band’s sophomore album.

Now the hard work began for Big Beat Records. They had to get The Prisoners’ music heard by a wider audience. Usually, bands are willing to do whatever is needed to get their album into the hands of record buyers. However, The Prisoners were different. 

They were determined to do things on their terms. Whether it was their sound, image or advise about the music industry worked, The Prisoners dug their heels in. It was frustrating for those that were advising what was a young, inexperienced band that had never been been signed to a record label before. However, The Prisoners were also a talented band That’s apparent on their sophomore album.

This is apparent when from the opening bars of the album opener Go Go, right through to the closing notes of Go Go. The Prisoners are firing on all cylinders on Thewisermiserdemelza. In between, they reference groups like The Pretty Things and The Kinks, while fusing elements of garage rock, pop,  R&B and rock to their psychedelic sound. Among the album’s highlights were Hurricane, Love Me Lies and Tonight.

Then on Come The Misunderstood and The Dream Is Gone,the darkness descends and the band showcase their trademark psychedelic sound that had proved popular on the live circuit. However, would their sophomore album Thewisermiserdemelza prove as popular?

Sadly, the answer was no. When Thewisermiserdemelza was released, very few copies of the album sold. It didn’t even come close to replicating the success of their self-released debut album A Taste of Pink! For Big Beat Records who had place their faith in The Prisoners, it was a disappointing outcome. However, they weren’t giving up…yet.

Later in 1983, Hurricane was released as the lead single from Thewisermiserdemelza. However, lightning struck twice and Tomorrow She Said failed commercially. Still, Big Beat Records weren’t giving up on The Prisoners.

In 1984, The Prisoners returned to the studio. This time, there was no sign of Roger Chevron. Instead, Russell Wilkins produced what  became The Electric Fit E.P. which featured Melanie, What I Want, The Last Thing On Your Mind and Revenge Of The Cybermen. The E.P. was released layer in 1984.

Sadly, wasn’t third time lucky for The Prisoners when they released The Electric Fit E.P. When it failed commercially this was a huge blow for the band.  Despite this, Big Beat Records were going to have one more roll of the dice.

Later in 1984, The Prisoners recorded the Love Changes E.P. It was produced by Russell Wilkins and featured songs written by Graham Day. When the E.P. failed to find an audience this was the end of an era for The Prisoners and Big Beat Records.

After The Love Changes E.P. The Prisoners’ left Big Beat Records. No label could continue to release singles, E.P.s or albums which weren’t selling. It seemed that the plan to have The Prisoners’ music heard by a wider audience hadn’t worked. However, it wasn’t the end of the line for The Prisoners.

Following their departure from Big Beat Records, The Prisoners released another two albums. They self-released their third album The Last Fourfathers in 1985.

The Last Fourfathers.

Despite no longer having a recording deal, The Prisoners decided to begin work on their third album. It became The Last Fourfathers.

For their third album the band wrote twelve new tracks. Graham Day penned I Am The Fisherman, Mrs Fothergill, The Drowning, Whenever I’m Gone and Explosion On Uranus. He cowrote  Nobody Wants Your Your Love with Billy Childish, Take You For A Ride with Alan Crockford and Night Of The Nazgul with James Taylor. The pair also joined forces with producer Russell Wilkins to write Thinking Of You (Broken Pieces). This wasn’t the producer’s only contribution to   the album. He and the band cowrote F.O.P., Who’s Sorry Now and I Drink The Ocean. These tracks became The Last Fourfathers.

When recording began, it was the same line-up that featured on the group’s two previous albums. This meant drummer Johnny Symons, bassist Allan Crockford, pianist and organist James Taylor while vocalist Graham Day plays guitar, clarinet and bongos. Taking charge of production on The Last Fourfathers was Russell Wilkins.

The result was a truly captivating genre-melting album of British rock ‘n’ roll that features elements of freakbeat, funk  garage punk, mod soul and psychedelia. Add to that garage rock and  soul on an album that benefits from a rock steady rhythm section, soaring, searing trippy guitars, James Taylor’s masterful and sometimes frenzied Hammond organ workouts while Graham Day unleashes  powerful but soulful vocals as he delivers lyrics that veer between thoughtful to witty on The Last Fourfathers.

Throughout an album that opens with the uber funky Nobody Wants Your Love, the Rochester four piece take no prisoners. The music was  catchy, irresistible, melodic and often a call to dance as a myriad of disparate influences shine through. This includes everyone from Small Faces, early Pink Floyd, sixties soul and garage rock through to the Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Pretty Things, The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown  and even the first two albums by The Nice. These influences can be heard on The Last Fourfathers which was released in 1985.

With no recording contract, The Prisoners decided to release The Last Fourfathers on their Own Up label. This was how they had released their debut album A Taste Of Pink! It had sold well and the group had to have the album repressed several times.

Four years later, and The Prisoners were a much more experienced, accomplished and talented band who certainly weren’t lacking in confidence. As they prepared to self-release The Last Fourfathers they must have been hoping that the album would fare better commercially than their sophomore album Thewisermiserdemelza. 

Sadly, that wasn’t to be and when The Last Fourfathers was released it wasn’t to critical acclaim and commercial success. The album was overlooked by critics and very few copies were sold. It was a huge disappointment for The Prisoners.

It was only later, that The Last Fourfathers started to find the audience it deserved. By then, copies of the album were hard to find and this cult classic was much prized among fans of the band. They knew that that had in their possession an album that in 1985 deserved to be heard by a much wider audience. Sadly, that wasn’t the case and it was nearly the end of the road for the leading lights of The Medway Scene.

By 1986, The Prisoners had signed to a Countdown, an imprint of Stiff Records. The group’s  one and only album for the label was In From The Cold which saw them try to crossover. However, after the release of the album  The Prisoners’ split-up. For some music industry insiders this came  was no surprise.

Throughout their recording career, many people remarked that The Prisoners weren’t the easiest group to work with. They were determined to do things their way. However, ploughing their own furrow proved costly for The Prisoners.

By not listening to the advice of others, especially those that had been around the musical block a few times, The Prisoners recording career lasted just three years. During that period, they released four albums. These albums showcase a talented and assured band; and one who should’ve reached greater heights.

The Prisoners genre-melting third album The Last Fourfathers was recently reissued by Big Beat Records and showcases a truly talented band who should’ve gone on enjoy a long and successful career. However, in some ways, they were their own enemy. Sadly, their determination to do things their way, cut short their career.

However, for six years, The Prisoners were one of the exciting bands on London’s live circuit. Their two finest albums are 1983s Thewisermiserdemelza and the cult classic The Last Fourfathers which is belatedly starting to find the wider audience it so richly deserves.

The Prisoners-The Last Fourfathers.

 

WILLIAM BELL-NEVER LIKE THIS BEFORE.

William Bell-Never Like This Before.

Label: Kent Soul.

Format: CD.

Veteran Southern Soul man William Bell was born William Yarbrough on July the ’16th’ 1939, in Memphis, Tennessee. Growing up, he sang in church and was inspired by the gospel group The Soul Stirrers, who at the time, were led by Sam Cooke.

By the age of ten, the future William Bell had written his first song Alone On A Rainy Nite. Even then, it was almost inevitable that he would embark on a musical career.

At Booker T Washington High School, Memphis William Yarbrough decided to form a vocal group with some friends. That was when he decide to change his name to William Bell, which was his grandmother’s surname. 

Aged fourteen, he won a talent contest and soon was singing in clubs in the Memphis area. Soon, the young singer was making waves in the local music scene.

William Bell joined The Del Rios which would launch the career of several future soul greats. This included Louis Williams of The Ovations and Norman West of The Soul Children. 

The nascent group began singing in clubs in the Memphis area, and decided to enter a talent contest which they won. That was how they came to the attention of Rufus Thomas who at the time was a local radio DJ.

Having won the talent contest, The Del Rios secured a one-off record deal with local label Meteor Records. It was an imprint of LA-based Modern Records which was owned by the Lester Bihari.

In the studio, Rufus Thomas’ band The Bearcats provided a bluesy backdrop on Alone On A Rainy Nite and the upbeat, and rocky track Lizzie.  William Bell who was just seventeen took charge of the lead vocal.

Sadly, when the single was released in November 1956 the sales were disappointing. This was disappointing for William Bell who wondered whether to pursue a different career?

That was how the young singer found himself studying to become a doctor. However, he didn’t turn his back on music and continued to work with Memphis bandleader Phineas Newborn until the early sixties. William Bell also continued to write songs, including one that would kickstart his recording career.

Towards the end of the summer of 1961, William Bell was performing in New York when he wrote You Don’t Miss Your Water. At the time, he was with a record deal. However, this would soon change.

On returning to Memphis, William Bell met Chips Moman who was the head of A&R at a new local label. He asked him if wanted to do a session Stax Records which would become the singer’s musical home for the next fourteen years.

At Stax Records, William Bell was reunited with Rufus Thomas, who was also signed to the label until its demise in 1975. However, a lot would happen before that.

Between 1961 and 1968, William Bell released fourteen singles on Stax Records. These singles featured the original design on the blue label with the Stack Of Records’ logo. This is why this period is often referred to as Stax’s blue period. 

The fourteen singles and their B-Sides feature on Never Like This Before, which is a new compilation from Kent Soul, an imprint of Ace Records. For fans of the veteran Southern Soul man and Stax Records this will be a welcome release.

The twenty-eight tracks on Never Like This Before are in chronological order, and show how William Bell’s music evolved between 1961 and 1968. His period begins with one of his best known songs.

Opening Never Like This Before is You Don’t Miss Your Water which was released in 1961 and was William Bell’s debut single for Stax Records. It was an innovative song with no middle eight and no instrumental break. Instead, there were just three verses where the label’s newest signing delivered a despairing vocal full of heartbreak and hurt. It’s no surprise that the song would later become a Southern Soul classic. Although it was a local hit the single reached just ninety-five in the US Billboard 100. Ironically, things might have been very different as the B-Side, Formula Of Love, a mid-tempo track, was originally meant to be the single. Luckily, there was a change of heart and the single was the start of William Bell’s long association with Stax Records which became his musical home.

It wasn’t until 1962 the William Bell returns with his second single for the label, Any Other Way which features a soul-baring vocal. On the B-Side was a cover of the Hal Blair and Don Robertson composition Please Help Me I’m Falling. It features a vocal that’s emotive vocal that’s akin to a confessional. However, despite the quality of both sides the single failed to chart.

In 1963, William Bell’s career was interrupted when he received his call up papers and like all young American men, had to spend time in the military. The singer was sent to Hawaii, but returned to Memphis whenever his leave permitted and returned to the studio.

During 1963, William Bell released four singles, but none of them charted. The problem was serving in the military meant he was able to promote the singles. This included I Told You So which showcased the early Stax sound that was starting to develop. On the flip-side was What’Cha Gonna Do which he wrote with guitarist Steve Cropper. They would go on to write a number of songs.

This included Just As I Thought where they joined forces with Willie Parker. Just like William Bell’s previous single it’s another example of the early Stax sound. On the B-Side wasI’m Waiting On You, an underrated and oft-overlooked song that was the perfect platform for the twenty-four year old who was maturing as a singer. 

William Bell’s third single from 1963 was What Can I Do (To Forget) where he lives the pain and hurt in the lyrics. Tucked away on the B-Side was Somebody Mentioned Your Name, a gospel-tinged slice of Southern Soul. It’s another underrated track that’s one of the hidden gems from the singer’s blue period.  

Despite commercial success continuing to elude William Bell, he released one more single in 1963. This was I’ll Show You, a  heartachingly beautiful ballad which he wrote with Booker T Jones. On the flip-side was Monkeying Around which was one of a number of songs with a similar theme. It would later become a favourite of Georgie Fame who covered the song on his sophomore album and included it in his live sets. 

During 1964, Stax Records released just one single by  William Bell. This was the Southern Soul ballad  Don’t Make Something Out Of Nothing which he wrote with Steve Cropper. On the B-Side was Who Will It Be Tomorrow which also features Stax Records’ future Queen of Soul Carla Thomas. Sadly, when the single was released it failed commercially. 

Things didn’t improve in 1965 when the ballad Crying All by Myself was released as a single and failed to trouble the charts. That’s despite featuring a vocal that’s akin to a cathartic outpouring of hurt and heartache. It was accompanied by a wistful sounding arrangement where the horns play a leading role. On the B-Side was the Motown influenced Don’t Stop Now.  

As 1965 drew to a close, William Bell had released eight singles on Stax Records and just one minor hit single. However, soon the singer would be able to return to civilian life and he hoped that his fortunes would improve.

William Bell, Steve Cropper and David Porter joined forces to pen Share What You Got (But Keep What You Need). It’s a beautiful ballad that was recorded in 6/8 time and features soaring, soulful harmonies. On the B-Side was Marching Off To War a powerful track that featured lyrics full of social comment. When William Bell’s first single of 1966 was released it reached number twenty-seven in the US R&B charts. At last, his fortunes had improved.

This continued when the soulful dancer Never Like This Before was released later in 1966, and reached number twenty-nine in the US R&B charts. On the B-Side was Soldier’s Goodbye, which another song about the Vietnam War penned by William Bell and Steve Cropper. Their songwriting partnership was going from strength-to-strength.

After two hit singles William Bell was in no hurry to release a new single. He wanted to find the right song and wrote the ballad Everybody Loves A Winner with Booker T Jones. Stax’s famous rhythm section plays little part in the arrangement where strings provide a wistful backdrop for the vocal. Hidden away on the B-Side was the dancer You’re Such A Sweet Thang. It provided a contrast to the single that reached ninety-five in the US Billboard 100 and eighteen in the US R&B charts. This made it William Bell’s most successful single to date.

Later in 1967, William Bell returned with the followup to his biggest single. This was the dancefloor friendly Eloise (Hang On In There). On the B-Side was One Plus One a vastly underrated Southern Soul ballad that could easily have been the single. Maybe it should’ve been as Eloise (Hang On In There) failed to trouble the charts?

Despite this, Stax Records released The Soul Of A Bell, which was the twenty-eight year old’s debut album. However, it also failed to chart which was another disappointment for the Memphis-born soul man.

Fortunately, this was just a temporary setback for William Bell. (Hang On In There) was the first single he released in 1968 reached thirty-three on the US R&B charts. It would go on to become a seasonal standard. On the flip-side was the bluesy sounding Ain’t Got No Girl. 

Disaster had struck on the ‘10th’ of December 1967 when the plane that was carrying Otis Redding and members The Barkays crashed in a lake in Madison, Wisconsin. William Bell was devastated at the loss of his friend and what was one of Stax’s up-and-coming groups.

William Bell and Booker T Jones penned a tribute to Otis Redding, A Tribute To A King. His voice was filled with emotion as he delivered the poignant lyrics. The song was destined for the B-Side with Every Man Ought To Have A Woman chosen as the single. However, when it was released in 1968 DJs discovered the B-Side and started playing the tribute to a giant of soul music. It entered the charts reaching eight-six in the US Billboard 100 and sixteen in the us R&B charts. This made it the most successful single of William Bell’s blue period.

During his blue period at William Bell released fourteen singles at Stax Records between 1961 and 1968. Along with the B-Sides they feature on a forthcoming compilation Never Like This Before, which will be released by Kent Soul on ‘27th’ of May 2022. 

This lovingly curated compilation will be of interest to fans of William Bell and anyone interested in Southern Soul’s greatest labels, Stax Records. For newcomers to the veteran soul man, whose now eighty-two, and still performing these songs live, it’s the perfect introduction to a legend of Southern Soul, who played his part in the sound and success of Stax Records. 

Later in 2022, a second compilation covering William Bell’s yellow period will be releasing completing the story of his Stax Records’ years. Never Like This Before is just the first part in his fourteen year spell at the label that was his musical and spiritual home.

 William Bell-Never Like This Before.

WE ARE THE CHILDREN OF THE SUN.

We Are The Children Of The Sun.

Label: BBE Music.

Format: CD.

Recently, BBE  released the compilation We Are The Children Of The Sun, which was compiled by DJ and renowned crate digger Paul Hillery, who is one of leading lights of folk-funk scene. This new compilation offers a tantalising taste of a genre that many music lovers will be unfamiliar with. That’s a great shame as there’s a veritable feast of hidden gems awaiting discovery.

Just like origins of many genres, much debate sounds when the term folk-funk was coined. Musical historians continue to debate this, but it may be as long ago as 1967.

That’s when an article written by Chuck Boller for The Democrat and Chronicle newspaper, in Rochester, New York, and he used the term folk-funk. He was writing about The Kingston Trio who were at the heart of the late-fifties folk revival that began in American colleges. After that, folk music began to evolve, and a new sound became prevalent. This the writer referred to as “folk-funk.” However, he didn’t define this new genre.

By then, a number of artists had already made their mark on what would later be called folk-funk. This included Chicago-born Terry Callier and David Crosby who were part of the folk scene and headed to New York where they became familiar faces on the Greenwich Village folk scene. Later, they would be hailed as influences on the folk-funk genre.

So would Bob Dylan, and especially when he plugged in at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. This landmark performance and the electric folk sound was a gamechanger and influenced everyone from The Byrds right through to CSNY.

Soon, other artists were playing their part in shaping the folk-funk sound. This included The Last Poets, Gil Scott-Heron and LeRoi Jones who who combined elements of jazz, proto-rap, poetry and social comment. 

Other influences included sixties sunshine pop whose origins can be traced to California. The music was influenced by the past and its lysergic sound was shaped by the counter culture. However, towards the end of the sixties optimism gave way to pessimism as the music took on a darker sound.

Partly, this was because of the looming threat of nuclear war as the Cold War began. It was no surprise that other influences began to influence what later became known as folk-funk.

This included a variety of genres including early seventies Christian music which soon evolved into Xian in an attempt to interest a younger audience. Soon, a variety of genres that included elements of folk were being released and later, would become part of folk-funk scene.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic in Britain the folk scene had changed as groups like Pentangle, Fairport Convention and Sunshine Superman Donovan were transforming folk music. To do this, they plugged in and added a lysergic sound to their music. One artist pioneered this sound.

This was John Martyn who released his debut album London Conversation, in October 1967. His music began to evolve and on his 1971 album Bless The Weather he used an Echoplex tape delay on Glistening Glyndebourne. The followup Solid Air, was released in 1973 and was genre-melting classic that showcases the future folk-funk sound. So did his other classic album, 1977s One World. Especially the groundbreaking and timeless title-track which showcases a lysergic, dreamy sound by an artist who pioneered the folk-funk sound.  

In 1973, the same year that John Martyn released Solid Air, the San Francisco Examiner used the term folk-funk to describe concerts taking place in the city. 

Then a year later, in 1974, the duo Brewer and Shipley were being described as folk-funk by music critic Pete Bishop in The Pittsburgh Press. Suddenly, the term was being more widely used.

By then, Jon Lucien and Terry Callier had combined soul and folk and had helped to shape the new genre which grew in popularity in the late-eighties. 

That was when sample hungry crate diggers and DJs started to search for folk-funk hidden gems. They were played in clubs and the funkier cuts were sampled by producers for their drum breaks. Suddenly, these tracks were taking on a new lease of life.

With folk-funk’s popularity continuing to grow, it was no surprise that during the nineties and noughties that record labels started to release compilations of what was being referred to as a new genre. 

Meanwhile, there was a resurgence of interest in many artists that had influenced the folk-funk genre. This included Terry Callier, Jon Lucien and Susan Christie. 

Since then, folk-funk is still a popular genre with compiler, crate digger and DJ Paul Hillery one of the leading lights of the UK scene. He showcases his impeccable taste on We Are The Children Of The Sun. 

He’s hand picked eighteen eclectic tracks on We Are The Children Of The Sun. This includes a mixture of folk-funk, blissed out Balearic beats and soft fuzzy electronica.  

Opening this lovingly curated collection is Make Believe by Jim LaMarche with Theresa Moylan and Music Industry Art. This track features just flute and synths and an impassioned vocal full of sincerity on a track that fuses folk-funk and electronica.

Man Of Misery is a track from Mike Baumann and Tom Huntington’s 1981 album Get A Grip. It’s a quite beautiful song combines elements of sunshine pop and ambient music. Playing a starring role in this multilayered track is a ruminative vocal that’s tinged with sadness and emotion.

By 1983, Pixie Lauer entered the studio she was already a familiar face on the Maine and New England folk scene. The resulting album was the private press Pixie Lauer and Friends which was released later that year. It featured Sunday Morning a quite beautiful  example of laid-back femme-folk that’s a real hidden gem. 

Marla Fant was living in Florida when she recorded and released her debut album At Last in 1980. It features Land Of Wonder which was written by her brother Duane during a rainy afternoon. This song features a heartachingly beautiful vocal from a truly talented singer, while her brother and sister add backing vocals to a track with a Balearic vibe. It’s a welcome addition to We Are The Children Of The Sun, and is one of its highlights. 

Mistérios was the title-track to Brazilian singer Diana Pequeno’s 1989 album. It was released on her own Acquarius label. The song has a dreamy, lysergic sound as elements of jazz-folk, pop and sixties Brazilian music melt seamlessly into one resulting in a truly memorable track. 

Scott McGregor Moore’s So Good When It Comes originally featured on Share Chez a second compilation released by a Canadian radio station to showcase Canadian talent in 1981. The multi-instrumentalist is responsible for a radio friendly track that fuses electronica and synth pop with a Balearic sound. 

In West Germany in 1986, a compilation entitled Rock Aus Aachen, Wa, was released by Radio-Aktiv. One of the highlights was I Send You All My Love by Checkpoint which features a sweet, soulful and heartfelt vocal from Susy Wetter. 

When White Feather released Summer Days/Golden Haze on No No Records in 1983 it was a genre-melting track. Elements of folk and psychedelia combine to create a blissed out track. 

Monica Rypma released her one and only album Classifieds in 1985. This private press featured Let Love Flow where electronica, pop and soul on this hook-laden Balearic groove hidden gem.

Guy Maxwell’s You Never Sang This Song closes We Are The Children Of The Sun. It’s taken from his 1980 album Outside My Window and finds jazz, blues and rock being combined by this talented guitarist, songwriter and troubadour.

For newcomers to the folk-funk, We Are The Children Of The Sun is the perfect introduction to the genre. DJ and crate digger Paul Hillery’s taste is impeccable and features an array of hidden gems that showcase everything that’s good about folk-funk. Some are from genre-melting track and others are from private presses released in the seventies and eighties. They all have one thing in common, quality. There’s contributions from trippy troubadours and femme-folk singers. Along with the other artists on We Are The Children Of The Sun they’re responsible for a collection of folk-funk, blissed out Balearic beats and soft fuzzy electronica that’s the perfect post club soundtrack and also for early mornings on the beach spent watching the sun rise.

We Are The Children Of The Sun.

LADIES SING THE BOSS.

Ladies Sing The Boss.

Label: Ace Records.

Format: CD.

On the ‘5th’ January 1973, Bruce Springsteen released his debut album Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. Forty years later the album was ranked at No. 379 in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. By then, the man known simply as The Boss was well on his way to becoming one of the biggest selling artists in the history of music.

Fast forward to 2022, and it’s estimated that The Boss has sold over 150 million records worldwide. There’s also a small matter of twenty Grammy Awards, two Golden Globes an Academy Award and a Special Tony Award    for the soundtrack album for Springsteen On Broadway. This is testimony to an artist who forty-nine years after releasing his debut album still remains relevant.

Bruce Springsteen was one of the pioneers of heartland rock genre of music which combines mainstream rock with cinematic songs about working class American life. Many of the songs feature socially conscious lyrics which music lovers all over the world can relate to and have embraced. 

So have the many singers and bands who have covered Bruce Springsteen’s songs. This includes the nineteen who feature on Ladies Sing The Boss which will be released by Ace Records. Among the artists and bands to feature are Patti Smith Group, Lucy Dacus, Darlene Love, Cowboy Junkies, Bettye LaVette, Lucinda Williams, Thea Gilmore, Anna Calvi and Emmylou Harris. They play their part in eclectic and lovingly curated compilation.

Opening Ladies Sing The Boss is Because The Night which Bruce Springsteen cowrote with Patti Smith. This anthemic song was released by The Patti Smith Group as a single in 1978 on Arista, and reached thirteen on the US Billboard 100 and five in the UK. This was the track that launched the singer’s career and forty-four years later is regarded as a classic.

Dancing In The Dark was the biggest selling single on The Boss’ classic album Born In The USA. Ironically, the song was only written when Bruce Springsteen’s manager and co-producer Jon Landau suggested the album needed a hit single. When the single was released in 1984 it was certified platinum in Britain and the UK. This comes as no surprise as this cinematic and introspective song paints pictures. That’s the case in the original and Lucy Dacus’ cover from her 2019 EP.  She reinvents the song replacing the synths in the original with blistering guitar licks which prove effective.

In the sixties, Darlene Love worked with producer Phil Spector, and was the voice of The Crystals and Bob B Soxx and The Blue Jeans. The Boss was a fan of the singer and was introduced to her by Lou Adler in the eighties. He wanted to record an album with her. While this never materialised he contributed two tracks to her 2015 album Introducing Darlene Love. One of the tracks is Night Closing In which features an impassioned and emotive vocal from a truly great vocalist. 

As a new millennia dawned, Sub Pop released Badlands: A Tribute To Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska. One of the artists who was asked to contribute a track was Nashville-born country singer Deana Carter whose captivating cover of State Trooper is akin to a confessional.

Kansas-born Piney Gir contributed a cover of Waiting On A Sunny Day to the 2009 compilation Play Some Pool, Skip Some School, Act Real Cool: A Global Pop Tribute To Bruce Springsteen. There’s a wistfulness to the track that features lyrics that are best described as bittersweet. They’re brought to life on this beautiful cover which is an oft-overlooked hidden gem. 

Bettye LaVette delivered  a soul-baring cover of Streets Of Philadelphia on the 2007 compilation Song of America. The cover benefits from a spartan arrangement that allows the vocal to take centerstage. It’s best described as an outpouring of emotion on what’s a hugely moving rendition of this track.

Factory featured on his 1978 album Darkness On The Edge Of Town, and was inspired by Bruce Springsteen’s father toiling on the assembly line.  The Boss seeing how the drudgery of the 9 to 5 life took its toll on him vowed that this life wasn’t for him, and that instead, he was destined for greatness. By 2016, when Lucinda Williams covered the song on her album The Ghosts Of Highway, he had achieved greatness and was a musical icon. However,  this powerful cover brings to life the poignant imagery the song conjures up and the back-breaking work on the assembly line.

Cover Me was a rousing anthem that featured on The Boss’ classic album Born In The USA. It was reinvented by Thea Gilmore on her for fourth album Songs From The Gutter wing was released in 2002. With a pared back arrangement and a haunting vocal it’s very different to the original, and a welcome addition to the compilation.

Kerry Hart recorded a heartachingly beautiful cover of Secret Garden on her debut album I Know A Gun. She transforms the song, but is almost scared to betray any hint of vulnerability as she sings of about a man loving a woman. However, she’s out of reach as if scared to be hurt again.

Closing Ladies Sing The Boss is Emmylou Harris’ cover of My Father’s House. It’s another track from Nebraska that featured on her 1986 album Thirteen. The song was inspired by Bruce Springsteen’s dysfunctional relationship with his father which he often thought about in later life. This reading of the song song is emotionally charged and brings to life a relationship which sadly had gone wrong and haunted its writer as an adult. 

Choosing just ten tracks from Ladies Sing The Boss wasn’t easy, as this lovingly compiled oozes quality. This latest instalment in Ace Records’ long-running and successful Songwriter Series finds famous faces rubing shoulders with what will be new names to some music fans. However, for fans of Bruce Springsteen they’ll know and love each and every one of the nineteen tracks, and will enjoy and embrace these cover versions. They’re part of what’s bound to be a must-have and eclectic compilation for fans of The Boss when it’s released on May ‘27th’ 2022.

Meanwhile, Bruce Springsteen has just announced that next year, aged seventy-three, he will embark upon a tour of the US and Europe. This marks the return to the stage of a musical icon fifty years after he released his debut album Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. Until then, Ladies Sing The Boss is a tantalising taste and reminder of what’s in store for Bruce Springsteen’s legion of loyal fans next year.

Ladies Sing The Boss.

  

LUKE UNA PRESENTS E SOUL CULTURA.

Luke Una Presents E Soul Cultura.

Label: Mr. Bongo.

Format: CD.

Each week, countless new compilations are released into what’s become an increasingly competitive marketplace. These compilations are released by indies and major labels in the hope that this is the start of a lucrative and long-running series. However, the reality is that most will be one-offs, while others may become a short-lived series. Especially with one type of compilation.

This is the genre specific compilation. Sometimes, after a few instalments in the series, the compiler discovers that they’ve used up the best available material. What’s left isn’t up to the standard of the previous instalments and would be tantamount to barrel scraping. The compiler and label are left in between a rock and hard place.

The compilation series was lucrative, well received by critics and raised the profile of the label. They want to release further instalments but know they well has run dry and the music that’s left just isn’t good enough. Another release would be a cash grab and damage the reputation of what was a much loved compilation series. That’s why the compiler and label decide that it’s best to call it a day. 

However, other compilers and labels aren’t faced with this problem as they take a very different approach to compilations. The compilations that they release have a much more eclectic and esoteric selection of music.  An example of this is Luke Una Presents E Soul Cultura, which was recently released by Mr. Bongo.

Luke Una is know for his eclectic taste in music and there’s everything from acid jazz and Brazilian sunshine music to British Neo-Soul as well as jazz-funk, minimalist electronic, proto-house and spiritual jazz on this captivating musical adventure with a concept.

The concept for Luke Una Presents E Soul Cultura is an eclectic compilation that is for late-night listening after the clubs close and it’s time to chill-out. It’s also a compilation to lie and watch the sun rise after a hedonistic evening with friends and old and new. 

Opening Luke Una Presents E Soul Cultura is Eva, an irresistible and uplifting slice of Brazilian sunshine music from Robson Jorge and Lincoln Olivetti.

Theatre group Chene Noir was founded in Avignon in southeast France. Their contribution is Le Train a track from their 1976 album Chant Pour Le Delta, La Lune Et Le Soleil. It’s best described as a hidden gem that’s not just spiritual but also ethereal and sensual as genres melt seamlessly into one.

Metropolis released their album The Greatest Show On Earth on Salsoul Records in 1978. Taking charge of vocals on an album that combined funk, soul, disco and electronic were The Sweethearts aka Barbara Ingram, Carla Benson and Evette Benton.  Their at their finest on 

Every Time I See Him a truly memorable example of two-step soul with lush strings that would still fill a dancefloor.

The Lunar Dub version of The Brand New Heavies’ Stay This Way from 1990 features N’Dea Davenport. It was remixed by David Morales who fuses acid jazz with deep house and dub. This results in a dark, late night sound that for many, will bring back memories of raves in warehouses during the heady days acid house.

Many people won’t have heard the extended edit of Typesun’s The PL, which was released by Root Elevation Recordings in 2006. It’s a quite beautiful and welcome addition to the compilation.

King Errisson released Space Queen as a single on Venture Records in 1978. It’s magical mixture of boogie, disco, funk and soul that’s stood the test of time.

Yusef Lateef wrote Robot Man, which was produced by Creed Taylor, and released as a single on CTi Records in 1977. it’s a smooth and spiritual slice of disco, jazz-funk and spiritual jazz then featured on the album Autophysiopsychic and was a favourite of DJs and dancers.

Daniel Humair, Francois Jeanneau and Henri Texier’s Le Cyclope is a spiritual jazz hidden gem that’s guaranteed to brighten up even the dullest day.

Airto Moreira’s O Galho Da Roseira (The Branches Of The Rose Tree) is something of slow burner that gradually embraces and caresses the listener as it reveals its dreamy, feelgood sound. It’s taken from the 1971 album Seeds On The Ground-The Natural Sounds Of Airto which features a potpourri of disparate influences. There’s everything from Latin, jazz, funk, fusion, jazz-funk and soul on the album which this captivating and bewitching genre-melting track was taken from.

In 1978, Frantz Charles-Denis a.ka. Francisco released his fourth album on the SA Production label. This was the oft-overlooked and now hard to find release Francisco (Frantz Charles-Denis). Tucked away on the album was the hidden gem of jazz-tinged dancer Wache that also includes elements of Latin and jazz-funk.

Nar’Chiveol’s Apocalypse Now Ho is a energetic example of proto-house that features chanted vocals and is almost anthemic.

When Southern Freeze originally released by Freeze in 1981, it reached number eight in the UK. It’s been covered several times, including by Sheffield-based On. They reinvent the track which features a vocal from Julie who steals the show on this e-soul rarity.

Closing Luke Una Presents E Soul Cultura is Soylent Green’s After All a lysergic slice of minimalist electronica. It brings to a close what’s been a truly eclectic musical adventure.

Luke Una Presents E Soul Cultura is the DJ’s first solo compilation. It’s certainly eclectic with everything from boogie, deep house. disco, funk, fusion and minimalist electronica rubbing shoulders with Brazilian sunshine music to British Neo-Soul and jazz-funk. Then there’s acid jazz, dub, proto-house and soul on a compilation that features singles, album tracks, rarities and hidden gems as Luke Una takes listener on a magical and memorable musical journey on this truly eclectic compilation. 

Luke Una Presents E Soul Cultura.

NEW YORK CITY BLUES.

New York City Blues.

Label: Ace Records.

Format: CD.

The golden age of blues in New York was between the forties and sixties. By then, many people had moved from the southeastern states and brought with them southern rural music. Soon, blues music was being heard in ballrooms, clubs, theatres and on the streets of Harlem. It was a far cry from when the music was heard in rural juke joints. 

Suddenly, New York had a rich and vibrant blues scene, and it thrived over from the forties and survived right through to the sixties. Since then, the city’s blues scene has often been overlooked by music fans and musical historians? The big question is why?

What didn’t help the New York blues scene was the lack of big name artists. Other cities were home to well known blues musicians, including giants of the genre. Sadly, this wasn’t the case in the Big Apple. 

However, there was no shortage of blues music produced in the city by many talented musicians. Some who are now regarded as blues legends were only passing through or spent a short time in the city. Others who nowadays, are favourites of blues aficionados made the city their home. This includes many of the artists on New York City Blues, a new compilation that’s just been released by Ace Records.

New York City Blues features twenty-six tracks that cover the golden era and the revival period. The compilation is a tie-in to the book written by Larry Simon and edited by John Broven, who also compiled the CD. It features everyone from Billy Bland, Blind Boy Fuller, Bob Gaddy and Brownie McGhee to Champion Jack Dupree, Dave “Baby” Cortez, Joe Turner, John Hammond and June Bateman. Then there’s Dr Horse, Reverend Gary Davis, Wilbert Harrison, Wild Jimmy Spruil and Ruth Brown and Her Rhythmakers. These are just some of the artists on this lovingly curated compilation.

Opening New York City Blues is New York City Blues – Larry Dale and The Houserockers. It’s a revival period track that was recorded in 1988 for Golden Crest but lay unreleased until 2010 when it featured on The Best Of Golden Crest: 48 Tall Cool Ones. Twelve years later this Kansas-type shuffle makes a welcome return and is a reminder of the late Larry Dale’s skills as a guitarist and vocalist.

Blind Boy Fuller’s Step It Up and Go is the earliest track on the compilation. It was released on Okeh in 1940, and reached number five on the US R&B charts. This made the single the most popular by a truly influential guitarist who inspired future generations of guitarists. 

In 1955, Brownie McGhee released a new versions of My Fault #2 on Savoy. The song had given him a hit seven years earlier in 1948. However, the new and much more melodic version features Sonny Terry on harmonica and guitarist Mickey Baker. Not long after this, Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry turned their back on the New York blues’ scene and reinvented themselves as folk musicians.

Bad Blood is taken from Champion Jack Dupree’s 1958 album Blues From The Gutter. It was engineered by Tom Dowd and produced by Jerry Wexler. Nowadays, the album is considered a genre classic and this track is one of its highlights.

Bob Gaddy recorded a cover of T-Bone Walkers’ Stormy Monday Blues for Old Town around 1960. However, the track was never released until it featured on the Ace compilation Rip And Run in 1986. Thirty-six years later this emotive cover returns for an encore on New York City Blues. 

Say No To The Devil was the title-track to Reverend Gary Davis’ 1962 album on Prestige Bluesville.  He started out playing the blues, before turning his attention to gospel. This track is a reminder of a truly talented and influential guitarist, who also taught everyone from Bob Weir to Jon Sebastian.

In 1966, Larry Johnson and Hank Adkins collaborated on the album The Blues/A New Generation. This album of country blues was produced by Samuel Charters and released on Prestige in 1966. One of the highlights of the album is Four Women Blues which showcases the skills of two familiar faces on the New York City Blues’ scene.

Billy Bland wrote Chicken Hop which he released on Old Town in 1954. It’s a country-dance track that featured  Brownie McGhee and Sonny Terry. 

Blues shouter and pianist Joe Turner was born in Kansas but moved to New York. By 1956, he was signed to Atlantic and had already crossed over into rock ’n’ roll. However, when he released Corrine Corrina as a single, he goes back to his blues’ roots. Tucked away on the B-Side  was the irresistible hidden gem Boogie Woogie Country Girl. It’s one of the many highlights of the compilation.

I Still Love You was released by Buddy and Ella Johnson on Wing, in 1956. The track features the cream of the Big Apple’s session players with Buddy’s sister Ella delivering a tender, heartfelt vocal. This combination results in a truly timeless track. 

Pianist and vocalist Dave “Baby” Cortez released Honey Baby on Okeh in 1958. It sounds as if it was influenced by Little Richard. Sadly, the single which features lead guitarist Jimmy Spruill failed to trouble the charts. That’s a great shame as this oft-overlooked is underrated. It’s a welcome addition to the compilation.

Jimmy Spruill wrote Believe Me, Darling which was recorded by his wife June Bateman for Fury in 1960. This soul-blues ballad features a soul-baring vocal full of emotion. 

Mudcat was recorded by Muddy Waters with Paul Oscher on harmonica for his Live (At Mr. Kelly’s) album. It’s one of the highlights of an album that was released by Chess in 1971.

The two tracks that close New York City Blues are Honky Tonk (Parts 1 and 2).  It was released on King in 1956, and reached number two in the US Billboard 100. This was an important and influential single that’s regarded as launching the R&B instrumental.

For anyone interested in either the golden era of New York City Blues, or the revival period, Ace Records new compilation will be of interest to them. So will the tie-in to the book written by Larry Simon and edited by John Broven, who also compiled the CD. It’s captivating and lovingly curated collection where blues giants rub shoulders with familiar faces and stalwarts of the scene.  

Likewise, for newcomers to blues music then the compilation and book will be part of their musical education. New York City Blues and could be the start of a voyage of discover and a lifelong love affair with one of the most important and influential musical genres.

New York City Blues.

SOUL DROPS.

Soul Drops.

Label: Acid Jazz Records and Miles Away Records.

Format: CD.

In April 2019, Acid Jazz Records and Miles Away Records decided to reissue some of their favourite 45s. This included many soul sides released from 1969 onwards. Many of them were long out of print and nowadays, are real rarities coveted by crate digging record collectors. Given their rarity they’re also beyond the budget of most soul fans. However, reissues gave them the opportunity to own these rarities.

Since the reissue of these vintage soul singles they’ve also become collectors items. That’s no surprise as they were in-demand  limited editions and soon sold out. 

However, on the ‘8th’ of April 2022, Acid Jazz Records and Miles Away Records released Soul Drops a new compilation that features some of the best 45s from the past three years. It’s an eclectic section of soulful sides that will appeal to anyone with an interest in soul music.

Opening Soul Drops is Ungodly War by Lamont Butler. Born in Louisville, Kentucky, music was in his family. His father Clifford was a well known gospel, blues and R&B singer and pianist. It was no surprise when he followed in his father’s footsteps becoming a member of The Enterprise, The Dynamics and The New Beginnings. Eventually, he embarked on a solo career and in 1981 released his only album It’s Time For A Change. It was reissued in 2020 by Miles Away Records. The highlight is Ungodly War which sets the bar high as soul, jazz, gospel and funk melt into one on a track that’s reminiscent of the late, great Gil Scott-Heron. 

 The Tom-Emmanuel And Ron Experience feature twice on the compilation. Their contributions are their one and only single. This was Why (The Knower) which was released on Golden Three Records in 1970. It’s a heart-wrenching ballad that will also appeal to fans of Northern Soul. Tucked  away on the B-Side was You Lose Your Groove. This slice of crossover soul features a vocal that’s a mixture of hurt, frustration and emotion and is a hidden gem.

In 1979, the Patterson Twins released Gonna Find A True Love on Commercial. This slice of modern soul was produced by Troy Shondell. Dancing disco strings, stabs of horns, soaring harmonies and funky guitar play their part in the sound and success of this joyous and timeless dancer.

The tempo drops on Rita Joyce’s beautiful, sensual sounding Dancing Close. It was released on Ren Cen Records in 1979 and this rarity is a welcome addition to Soul Drops. 

Time Is Long by Rick Hickman was released by Special Edition Records, which was based in Houston, Texas. This ballad was written by the singer, songwriter and producer and features a heartfelt, emotive and soul-baring vocal. It’s a beautiful, dreamy track with a yacht rock influence, and is, without doubt, one of the highlights of the compilation. 

Although The Fantastics recorded We Got Good Lovin’ in 1968 the track lay unreleased until 2012. That was when it made its debut on the EP Graham Dee’s Hitsville London which was released by Acid Jazz Records. Ten years later and this deeply soulful ballad returns for a well deserved encore.

Delores Fuller released One More Chance Lord as a single on Intro Records in 1983. It features an impassioned vocal as soul, gospel and funk are combined on this rarity.

Stabs of horns open Family Tree which was released by Family Tree featuring Sharon Brown. She unleashes a soulful vocal powerhouse on this slice of oft-overlooked and vastly underrated modern soul released on Anada Records in 1975.

 Leon’s Creation released their debut album This Is The Beginning in 1970, on the Studio label. The San Francisco-based band combine soul, funk and gospel and sometimes, sound as if they’ve been influenced by Sly and The Family Stone.

Tony and Tandy with Les Fleur De Lys released Two Can Make It Together on Atlantic in 1969. It’s a memorable mixture of soul, funk and pop where that will appeal to dancers and DJs.

Bookending Soul Drops is Thank You Lord by Lamont Butler. It’s another track from album It’s Time For A Change. It finds him giving thanks as he delivers a vocal that’s heartfelt and full of sincerity against an understated arrangement. This is the perfect way to close the compilation.

Soul Drops is a lovingly curated compilation, and is the perfect opportunity to own some of the finest soulful sides released by Acid Jazz Records and Miles Away Records over the last three years. Some of the tracks will be new to many soul fans. Singles, B-Sides and album tracks side-by-side on Soul Drops which doesn’t disappoint and oozes quality. Quite simply, Soul Drops is a compilation that’s all killer and no filler, and will appeal to anyone who likes their music soulful.

Soul Drops.

DUSTY SINGS SOUL.

Dusty Sings Soul.

Label: Ace Records.

Format: CD.

Dusty Springfield’s love of soul and R&B was apparent from the very start of a solo career that spanned three decades. Between 1964 and 1995 she released fifteen studio albums. However, she was at the peak of her powers when signed to Philips Records. Especially on the ten albums she released for the label between 1964 and 1969. 

On a number of these albums Dusty Springfield recorded some of her favourite American soul songs.  Some had been a hit for some of the biggest names in soul. However, this wasn’t a case of jumping on the bandwagon and quickly releasing a cover version to cash-in on the success of the original. 

Instead, Dusty Springfield waited until the single dropped out of the charts and recorded her version. Some became singles while others featured on EPs or albums. These tracks were very different to the covers of show tunes and pop songs that she recorded and was known for. They’re a reminder that Dusty Springfield was one of the greatest British soul singers of her generation.

Proof of that can be found on Dusty Sings Soul, a new compilation that was recently released by Ace Records. It features twenty-four tracks that were released on EPs and albums between 1964 and 1969.

The earliest track on Dusty Sings Soul is Every Day I Have To Cry. It was written by Arthur Alexander and is a tantalising taste of the soulful side of Dusty Springfield. Originally, Phillips thought about releasing the song as a single. However, they decided to release I Only Want To Be With You and the song featured on  the 1964 EP I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself. It reached number eight in the UK EP charts.

Later in 1964, the Dusty EP was released and featured an impassioned versions of Can I Get A Witness, and a hurt filled interpretation of All Cried Out. The EP reached number three in the UK EP charts and the Dusty Springfield success story continued.

In 1964, she released two albums. This included A Girl Called Dusty which featured Do Re Mi which was penned by Earl Johnson and gave Lee Dorsey a hit. A highlight of the album was Nothing which is best described as a vivacious interpretation that’s a mixture of joy and power. Given the quality of songs on the album, it was no surprise that it reached number six in the UK in April 1964.

Just two months later, in June 1964, Dusty Springfield released Stay Awhile/I Only Want To Be With You which was her debut album in America. The album opener was her 1962 debut single I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself. It features an outpouring of emotion and nowadays, is considered by many as a classic. 

1965 was another busy year for Dusty Springfield. She released her third EP Dusty In New York. It featured I Wanna Make You Happy which was penned by Cynthia Weil and Russ Titelman, with Shelby Singleton taking charge of production. It’s a needy and soulful version that’s one of the highlights of the EP. It reached number thirteen in the UK.

On October 1965, Ev’rything’s Coming Up Dusty was released in the UK, and reached number six. It was the second album from the twenty-six year old and featured the soulful side of Dusty Springfield. This includes on Bacharach and David’s Long After Tonight Is All Over, an almost needy take on Won’t Be Long and a melancholy version of That’s How Heartaches Are Made which was originally recorded by Baby Washington. They were joined by an emotive reading of It Was Easier To Hurt Him and Oh No Not My Baby where the hurt is almost palpable. There was also a heartfelt version of I Had A Talk With My Man which was originally recorded by Mitty Collier, and was by then a favourite of UK soul fans.

In 1965, during the sessions for Ev’rything’s Coming Up Dusty, the Goffin and King composition Some Of Your Lovin’ was recorded.  Adding backing vocals were Madeline Bell, Lesley Duncan and Kiki Dee. They play an important part in the sound, and later, success of this much-loved song. However, the song was left off the album and instead, released as a single. It reached number eight in the UK thanks to a vocal that’s full of longing.

For what was meant to be her fifth EP, recorded Every Ounce Of Strength which was written by Isaac Hayes, David Porter and Steve Cropper. However, the EP was cancelled and the song eventually featured on the B-Side of You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me which became Dusty Springfield’s most successful single. Tucked away on the B-Side is this hidden gem with its coquettish vocal.

The following year, 1967, Dusty Springfield recorded What’s It Gonna Be which was released as a single on both sides of the Atlantic. It’s regarded by many as her most soulful song. Despite that, it released just fifty-two in the UK and seventy-six in the US Billboard 100.

Later that year, on the ‘27th’ of October 1967 Where Am I Going? was released in the UK. This was Dusty Springfield’s third album, and most eclectic to date. However, despite being well received by critics it stalled at a lowly number forty in the UK, which was hugely disappointing. However, there’s a number of soulful cuts on the album. This includes an impassioned rendition of Bring Him Back, a gorgeous take on the Chip Taylor penned Welcome Home and a soul-baring version of I Can’t Wait Until I See My Baby’s Face. They’re joined by Don’t Let Me Lose This Dream which was originally recorded by Aretha Franklin. This homage to the Queen of Soul is much more hopeful and delivered with confidence.

When Dusty… Definitely was released on the ‘22nd’ November 1968 it stalled at number thirty in the UK. This was the fourth album that Dusty Springfield had released in the UK. However, just like Where Am I Going? it failed to replicate the success of her first two albums. Despite this, it was anther eclectic album with some soulful sides. This included Take Another Little Piece Of My Heart which stays true to Erma Franklin’s original.  It’s joined by wistful reading of Ain’t No Sun Since You’ve Been Gone, and Love Power which features a powerhouse of a vocal that’s joined by gospel-tinged harmonies. It was one of the highlights of the album.

Having recorded her classic album Dusty In Memphis, the singer returned to the studio and recorded the single Am I The Same Girl. It was released later in 1969 and features a sweet and soulful vocal, on what’s the most recent track on Dusty Sings Soul.

Although there’s many Dusty Springfield compilations available, Dusty’s Got Soul stands head and shoulders above the competition. Compiler Tony Rounce has dug deeper into her Phillips back-catalogue and chosen a mixture of singles, a B-Side and tracks from EPs and albums. He eschews many of the predictable tracks that feature on the lesser compilations and instead, chooses deep cuts. 

Especially the album tracks which featured Dusty Springfield at her most soulful. Many of these tracks will be well known amongst the soul and R&B fans who are familiar with the originals. However, for other music fans this will be the first time that they’ve heard these tracks. Dusty Springfield’s readings of them are incredibly soulful as she unleashes a wide range of emotions as she lives the lyrics. It’s no wonder that Dusty Springfield is regarded as one of the greatest British soul singers of her generation. The twenty-one tracks on Dusty’s Got Soul is proof of this, if any were needed.

Dusty’s Got Soul.

YOU SHOWED ME-THE SONGS OF GENE CLARK.

You Showed Me-The Songs Of Gene Clark.

Label: Ace Records.

Format: CD.

Like so many of his generation, Gene Clark developed an interest in folk music after hearing the Kingston Trio. It was no surprise that after graduating from Bonner Springs High School, in Bonner Springs, Kansas, in 1962, that the seventeen year old formed his own folk group, The Rum Runners. Little did he know that this was the start of a musical career that would span nearly thirty years.

A year later, in 1963, Gene Clark was asked to join The Surf Riders, who were an established regional folk band based in Kansas City. The group played in the Castaways Lounge which was owned by Hal Harbaum. It was during a gig on August the ‘12th’ 1963 that he was spotted by The New Christy Minstrels, and was asked to join the group.

Despite recording two albums with The New Christy Minstrels Gene Clark’s time with the group was short-lived. Having heard The Beatles, he quit the group and headed for Los Angeles. 

That was where he met fellow Beatles fan Roger McGuinn at the now famous Troubadour Club. As 1964 dawned, the pair began to assemble the folk rock band that would eventually become The Byrds.

Gene Clark was originally The Byrds’ rhythm guitarist with Roger McGuinn on lead guitar. They then recruited David Crosby who also played rhythm guitar. However, this would cause problems later. Completing the rhythm section was bassist Chris Hillman and drummer Michael Clarke. 

Soon, Gene Clark became the band’s principal songwriter. This would prove problematic when the band signed to Columbia Records.

They released Please Let Me Love You as their debut single on October the ‘7th’ 1964. It failed to trouble the charts. However, it wouldn’t be long until The Byrds enjoyed commercial success and critical acclaim.

Mr. Tambourine Man.

On the ‘20th’ of January 1965 a session was scheduled to record The Byrds’ debut single. The song that was chosen was a cover of Bob Dylan’s Mr. Tambourine Man with the Gene Clark composition Knew I’d Want You destined for the B-Side. However, with the group still to gel musically the only Byrd at the session was Roger McGuinn. The group’s management decided that he would take charge of the lead vocal on both songs. He would also take charge of other Bob Dylan covers and some of their best known songs. However, joining the newly appointed lead singer were members of the legendary studio band the Wrecking Crew. Little did anyone know they were about to make musical history.

Most of the band’s debut album was recorded between January the ’20th’ and March the ‘8th.’  A final session took place on April the ’22nd’ 1965. 

On June the ’21st’ 1965 The Byrds released their debut album Mr. Tambourine Man on June the ’21st’ 1965. It was a mixture of original material and covers of modern folk songs. The Terry Melcher produced album was well received by critics upon its release, and reached number six in the US Billboard 200 and seven in the UK. However, things were about to get even better for The Byrds.

The same day as the album was released they released a cover of Bob Dylan’s Mr. Tambourine Man as the lead single. It featured Roger McGuinn’s distinctive, melodic and jangling twelve-string Rickenbacker guitar. Jangle pop and folk rock melted into one on what was hailed as a groundbreaking single. It topped the US Billboard 100 and UK charts, and is regarded as a hugely influential track and one that provided a template for the folk rock genre. 

Ironically, the only Byrd to play on Mr. Tambourine Man and the B-Side I Knew I’d Want You was Roger McGuinn. By then, the group had still to gel, and producer Terry Melcher decided to use members of the legendary studio band the Wrecking Crew for the session. 

Lighting didn’t strike twice when The Byrds released another Bob Dylan cover as their second single on June the ’14th’ 1965. It stalled at forty in the US Billboard 100 and but reached number four UK charts. However, further success was just months away for Gene Clark and Co. 

Turn! Turn! Turn!

The Byrds had wasted no time in starting work on their sophomore album with producer Terry Melcher. They entered Columbia Studios in Hollywood on June the ’28th’ 1965 to begin work on the album that eventually became Turn! Turn! Turn! 

The title-track was released as the lead single on October the ‘1st’ 1965, and again, topped the US Billboard 100. Across the Atlantic, the single stalled at twenty-six in the UK charts. This was disappointing as Turn! Turn! Turn! was a tantalising taste of the much-anticipated followup to Mr. Tambourine Man.

Four months later, on December the ‘6th’ 1965 Turn! Turn! Turn! was released to mostly plaudits and praise. Just like their debut, it featured a mixture of covers and new material. This included three Gene Clark compositions, Set You Free This Time, The World Turns All Around Her and the soul-baring If You’re Gone. These tracks were part of an album that reached seventeen in the US Billboard 100 and eleven in the UK charts. Despite a number one single, the album hadn’t fared as well as the group’s debut. 

Set You Free This Time was chosen as the second single, and released on January the ’10th’ 1966. Despite the undoubted quality of the song it stalled at seventy-nine in the US Billboard 100. A small crumb of comfort came when the B-Side It Won’t Be Wrong reached sixty-three in the US Billboard 100. By then, all wasn’t well with The Byrds.

There had been problems within the group for some time. This could be traced back to when The Byrds’ management decided that Roger McGuinn should take charge of the lead vocals on some of their best known songs, including their Bob Dylan covers. This was a disappointment for Gene Clark who had been already been relegated from rhythm guitarist to playing tambourine and harmonica. Another problem was that he disliked travelling and had a fear of flying. This must have impacted on the group’s touring schedule and meant that income from touring was being lost. However, it was the extra money Gene Clark received from songwriting royalties that caused much of the resentment amongst the other band members. Soon, things would come to a head. 

Fifth Dimension.

It was all change when work began on the group’s third album, Fifth Dimension. Producer Terry Melcher had been replaced by Allen Stanton when work began on January ‘24th’ 1965. Gene Clark sang the goal on future Byrds classic Eight Miles High and Why. He also played harmonica on Captain Soul. These three tracks would be his last contributions as a member of The Byrds.

When Fifth Dimension was released on July the ’18th’ 1966 the reviews were mixed.  The loss of the group’s principal songwriter resulted in an album that featured four cover versions and an instrumental. It lacked cohesion and wasn’t the same quality as their first two albums.  The album reached just twenty-four in the US Billboard 200 and twenty-seven in the UK. This was disappointing for The Byrds who were now reduced to a quartet. However, their fortunes were about to improve.

For the lead single, Eight Miles High which chosen. It was penned by Gene Clark with Roger McGuinn and David Crosby and features the influence Ravi Shankar and John Coltrane’s saxophone playing. The influence pf India from his 1963 album Impressions can be heard on this groundbreaking and genre-melting single. Psychedelic rock and raga rock melt into one on a single that reached number fourteen in the US Billboard 100 and twenty-four in the UK. This was as good as it got for The Byrds without Gene Clark. 

Gene Clark With The Gosdin Brothers.

Having left The Byrds, Gene Clark signed to Columbia Records as a solo artist.  During the summer of 1966 he recorded the majority of his debut solo album. Taking charge of production were Larry Marks and Gary Usher. On September the ’29th’ 1966 they recorded the final track Echoes. The result was an album that was very different the music he recorded with The Byrds.

 The album that became featured everything from baroque psychedelia and country to pop. It was an innovative release that was well received by critics and showcased Gene Clark’s ability as a singer and songwriter. Despite the quality of music and reviews, when it was released in baroque psychedelic Gene Clark With The Gosdin Brothers was a commercial failure. It didn’t help that it was released at the same time as The Byrds’ fourth  Younger Than Yesterday.  

After the commercial failure of his debut outing, Gene Clark’s solo career looked in doubt. However, after two changes in line-up of The Byrds, Gene Clark rejoin the group he had cofounded in 1964. 

The Notorious Byrd Brothers.

By then, work had already began on The Notorious Byrd Brothers with producer Gary Usher. Recording started on June the ’21st’ and Gene Clark returned in October 1967. 

The first departure was drummer Michael Clarke who left after disputes with the other band members. They weren’t happy at his playing ability. Meanwhile, he wasn’t happy with the standard of new material for the group’s fifth album. Michael Clarke decided to quit and replaced by session players Jim Gordon and Hal Blaine of the Wrecking Crew. However,  he wouldn’t be the last Byrd to fly the nest.

David Crosby was sacked by the band in October 1967, and Gene Clark was asked to rejoin the group. At the time, he wasn’t working on any new music so decided to rejoin The Byrds. His time with the band was short-lived.

Gene Clarke’s second tour of duty with The Byrds lasted just three weeks. During that period he played live and featured on The Notorious Byrd Brothers. However, later, the extent of Gene Clark’s involvement became the subject of debate amongst music critics and historians. It’s thought that he contributed backing vocals on Goin’ Back and  Space Odyssey. Roger McGuinn later said in an interview that Gene Clark cowrote Get To You and that the songwriting credits on the album are wrong.

After just three weeks and three concerts as a Byrd, Gene Clark left the group for a second time.  His anxieties and fear of flying was the reason for his departure. This meant that just two members of the band that started recording the album remained.

Despite the recording session being beset by tension, acrimony and the departure of three band members the result was an album that was a groundbreaking fusion of baroque pop, country, electronic music, folk rock, jazz and psychedelia. New effects and instruments were used during the recording of The Notorious Byrd Brothers which looked like being Gene Clark’s Byrds’ swansong.  

The Fantastic Expedition Of Dillard and Clark.

Having left The Byrds,  Gene Clark signed to A&M and started work on a collaboration with banjo player Doug Dillard. The pair were joined in by producer Larry Marks and some top musicians. This included bassist Dave Jackson, mandolinist Don Beck, Chris Hillman of The Byrds and  Bernie Leadon who would later, join The Flying Burrito Brothers and The Eagles. This multitalented and versatile band recorded a landmark album during 1968.

Because of Gene Clark disliked travelling and had a fear of flying he refused to tour. The only concerts the duo played were a series of concerts at the Troubadour in LA. This was the only promotion for The Fantastic Expedition Of Dillard and Clark.

When the album was released in October 1968, it was a commercial failure. However, nowadays, many critics regard the album as Gene Clark’s finest album and a mini masterpiece where country rock and Americana are combined seamlessly. 

By 1968, other artists had already started to cover Gene Clark’s songs. This includes The Rose Garden who feature on You Showed Me-The Songs Of Gene Clark, which is a new compilation that was recently released by Ace Records. It features twenty-one cover versions that were released between 1968 and 2020.

Among the artists that feature on the compilation are Juice Newton, Thin White Rope, Flamin’ Groovies, Roxy Music, Velvet Crush, The Flying Burrito Bros, Linda Ronstadt, Iain Matthews, The Byrds and The Baird Sisters. They’re among the twenty-one artists and groups on You Showed Me-The Songs Of Gene Clark, which is a lovingly curated compilation.

It opens with You Showed Me by Echo In The Canyon with Jakob Dylan and Cat Power. This oft-covered track which was written by Gene Clark and Roger McGuinn, and featured on the CD Echo In The Canyon, which was released in 2019. It’s a timeless track and a reminder if any was needed, of one of the great songwriters of his generation during one of the most productive periods of his career. 

I Knew I’d Want You by alt-rockers Thin White Rope featured on the compilation Time Between-A Tribute To The Byrds. It was released in 1989, and finds the Californian band taking the track in a new and different direction to the original.

San Francisco and the Flamin’ Groovies were inspired by groups like The Byrds, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Despite musical tastes changing with the advent of punk, the group stayed true to the music that they believed in. This meant that their music sometimes fell out fashion and wasn’t always embraced by music critics and record buyers. By 1984, the group had signed to Skydog International and released The Gold Star Tapes EP. It featured a cover of the Gene Clark composition She Don’t Care About Time. It’s a lovingly created homage to The Byrds, and a welcome addition to the compilation.

One of The Byrds’ classic tracks was Eight Miles High. It was covered by Roxy Music, and features on their 1980 album Flesh and Blood. This cover is best described as a fusion of boogie, disco, funk and lounge. It’s very different from the group’s early art rock sound, but is a reminder of their versatility and ability to innovate. 

In 1968, The Rose Garden covered Till Today on their eponymous debut album. It was released by Atco finds the folk rockers paying homage to Gene Clark on one of the finest cover version on the compilation.  

Elevator Operator featured on Velvet Crush’s 2001 compilation CD A Single Odyssey. It was released by Action Musik and finds the power pop renaissance group reinventing as they play with energy and enthusiasm.

By the time The Flying Burrito Bros recorded their eponymous third album Gram Parsons had left the cosmic country-soul pioneers and embarked upon a solo career. The album was recorded at Sunset Sound in LA by new members of the group. Producing the album were Jim Dickinson and Bob Hughes. When the album was released in 1971, one of the album’s highlights was a cover of Gene Clark’s Tried So Hard. Although it’s a toe tapping country track the vocal is wistful, ruminative and full of hurt and heartache  as he thinks aloud about how to save a failing relationship? 

On her 1970 sophomore album Silk Purse, Linda Ronstadt covered He Darked The Sun. She delivers a soul-baring vocal on this beautiful ballad seamlessly mixing power, passion and emotion.

Polly was covered by Iain Matthews for his 1974 album Journeys From Gospel Oak. It was  meant to be third albumin he released on the Vertigo label. However, they lost interest in the album and it was released by Mooncrest Records. Sadly, this album of country rock and folk rock failed commercially. One of the highlights is the Gene Clark composition Polly a heartachingly beautiful ballad.

The original lineup of The Byrds decided to reunite for what would be the group’s twelfth and final album. This was Byrds, which features Full Circle which was written by Gene Clark who takes charge of lead vocal on the album opener. Sadly, when it was released as a single it failed to chart. That’s despite being a breathtakingly beautiful track that nowadays, is a hidden gem in the folk rock pioneer’s back-catalogue.

Closing You Showed Me-The Songs Of Gene Clark is Strength Of Strings by This Mortal Coil. It’s an atmospheric interpretation from their 1986 album Filigree and Shadow where the track is taken in a new and very different direction.

Theres a total of twenty-one tracks on You Showed Me-The Songs Of Gene Clark, which is a lovingly curated compilation, and another welcome addition to Ace Records’ long-running and successful Songwriter Series. There’s a mixture of tracks from familiar faces and what will be new names to some music fans. However, each and every track shares one thing in common…quality.  It’s not just the quality of the recordings, it’s the quality of the songwriting.

The songs were penned by Gene Clark, who was a musical master craftsman, who sadly passed away aged just forty-seven. Nowadays, the legendary singer-songwriter’s music is starting to find the wider audience it so richly deserves. You Showed Me-The Songs Of Gene Clark is the perfect introduction to his music, and will be the start of a voyage of discovery through the music of a true musical pioneer.

You Showed Me-The Songs Of Gene Clark.

THE MORE THINGS CHANGE-FILM, TV AND STUDIO WORK 1968-1973 BY JOHN BARRY.

The More Things Change-Film, TV and Studio Work 1968-1973 By John Barry.

Label: Ace Records.

Format: CD.

By 1968, composer and conductor John Barry was enjoying a golden era in a career that began in 1957. He had come a long way in a short space of time and already written the soundtrack to four James Bond films and won three Academy Awards. This included two for Born Free in 1966 and one for The Lion In Winter in 1968. For the thirty-five year old it was just the start.

During a long and illustrious career, John Barry won six Academy Awards, a Granny, a BAFTA and a Golden Globe Award. He had come a long way from the early part of his life spent working in the cinemas his father owned in the North of England. However, both of John Barry’s parents would influence him in later life.

John Barry Prendergast was born on the ‘3rd’ of November 1933, in York, Yorkshire, in England. He was the youngest of four children and came from a musical family. His mother was a classical pianist, and while he was educated at  St Peter’s School, York, he received composition lessons from composer Francis Jackson who was the director music at York Minster. This stood him in good stead during a career spent composing for television and film.

This love of film began when John Barry worked in the cinemas his father owned. He had started life as a projectionist during cinema’s silent era. Little did his father realise when his son started working for him that one day, his son would be composing for some of the biggest films on the silver screen.

Later, John Barry would say that his childhood interests influenced not just his tastes, but his interests. This included a lifelong love affair with cinema.

Before embarking upon a musical career, John Barry was called up for his national service. The two years he spent in the British Army were spent playing the trumpet. He also took a correspondence course with American jazz composer William Russo. Already John Barry was thinking how he was going to spend his life?

After completing his national service, he worked as an arranger for Jack Parnell and Ted Heath’s orchestras. However, in 1957 The John Barry Seven was formed and they went on to enjoy seven hit singles on EMI’s Columbia label. The hit singles included Hit and Miss which became the theme tune to the BBC TV series Juke Box Jury.

By 1959, John Barry was working as an arranger for a number of artists signed to EMI. This included the Three Barry Sisters and Adam Faith.  However, later that year John Barry’s breakthrough came.

He had been asked to compose the theme to Drumbeat, a BBC TV program that the corporation hoped would be a rival and compete with ITV’s Oh Boy. Although only twenty-two episodes were aired, the program launched the career of Adam Faith and John Barry.

In 1960, John Barry composed the score for Beat Girl, which was Adam Faith’s first film.  When the music was later released it became the first ever British soundtrack album.

Later in 1960, John Barry composed the score to another Adam Faith film, Never Let Go. The two men were reunited two years later.

1962 was a busy year for John Barry. The twenty-nine year old composer wrote the score for Never Let Go, which featured Adam Faith. Then John Barry orchestrated the score for Mix Me a Person and composed, arranged and conducted the score for The Amorous Prawn. By then, he his star was already in the ascendancy.

That was why when  producers of Dr. No, the first James Bond film, were unhappy with Monty Norman’s theme and Noel Rogers, the head of music at United Artists contacted John Barry. He came up with a new version of The James Bond Theme,  which was still credited to Monty Norman. However, he wasn’t asked to work on From Russia With Love. That honour fell to John Barry.

He composed the score for eleven of the next fourteen James Bond films, during a relationship that lasted twenty-five years. This also included 1964s Goldfinger, 1965s Thunderball and You Only Live Twice which was released in 1967. By then, John Barry’s career as television and film composer was burgeoning.

Three years earlier, in 1964,  John Barry had written the score to Zulu which was directed by Cy Endfield. 

The following years, 1965 the thirty-two year old composer wrote the soundtrack to the espionage film, The Ipcress File, which starred Michael Caine. It won a BAFTA Award for the Best British film released in 1965.  However, the following year was a game-changer for John Barry.

In 1966, Born Free, the British drama produced by Sam Jaffe and Paul Radin was released. The score was written by John Barry, who was nominated for two Academy Awards. This included Best Original Score and Best Original Song. For thirty-three year old John Barry this was the biggest achievement of his career.

Just two years later in 1968, two Academy Awards became three when John Barry won the Best Original Score for The Lion In Winter.  It featured an all-star cast that included Peter O’Toole, Katharine Hepburn and Anthony Hepburn. Later, in 1965,  The Lion In Winter wan a BAFTA Award for the Best Original Score and John Barry was enjoying one of the most successful periods of his career.

For many critics and cultural commentators, John Barry was at the peak of his powers during the five year period between 1968 and 1973. This is the period covered in a new compilation released by Ace Records, The More Things Change-Film, TV and Studio Work 1968-1973 By John Barry. It features twenty-two timeless tracks from a musical master craftsman.

Opening The More Things Change-Film, TV and Studio Work 1968-1973 By John Barry  is one of his classics, Midnight Cowboy. This memorable and melancholy instrumental featured on the soundtrack when it was released by CBS in 1969. The track went on to win a Grammy Award for the Best Instrumental Composition in 1969.

By 1969, lush strings were a feature of many of John Barry’s soundtrack compositions. This includes the beautiful, emotive instrumental version of We Have All The Love In The World, which featured on the soundtrack to the 1969 James Bond movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. 

Wistful and melancholy describes Who Will Buy My Yesterdays which originally, was meant to featured on the soundtrack to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in 1969. A year later, in 1970, it was featured on the reissue of the soundtrack as Sir Hilary’s Night Out. On the compilation it’s given its original title and is a welcome reminder of John Barry at the peak of his considerable creative powers.

The Lion In The Winter was released as a single from John Barry’s award-winning soundtrack album by CBS in 1969. He had won two Academy Awards and a BAFTA, for the soundtrack. The title-track finds him deploying synths, stabs of brass and chanted vocals as the track veers between otherworldly and atmospheric to ethereal.

John Barry composed the score to fourteen James Bond films over a twenty-five year period. This includes On Her Majesty’s Secret Service which was released just before Christmas 1969. The title-track features a Moog synth and ferocious drumming and is probably one the most dancefloor friendly James Bond themes John Barry wrote. 

One track that many people may be unfamiliar with is Theme From The Appointment, which was on the soundtrack to a romantic drama released by CBS in 1970. The track featured on the theatrical release but not for the American television version. That’s a great shame as lushest of strings play their part in a track that conjures up pictures of romance in continental Europe as a new decade dawns.

Atmospheric and moody describes The More Things Change which was also written for the score of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. However, it wasn’t recorded until 1970 and is best described as a hidden cinematic gem from the pen of John Barry.

Before soundtrack work took up so much of his time, John Barry wrote a number of themes for television shows. This included  Vendetta in 1966. Five years later, in 1971, he was commissioned by ITC to compose the theme for The Persuades, which featured Roger Moore and Tony Curtis. From the opening bars of this unmistakable, distinctive and memorable theme, the years melt away and suddenly it’s 1971 all over again as the crime fighting duo flit between Britain, France, and Italy in pursuit of the bad guys. 

One of the most beautiful scores written by John Barry was for Walkabout, an Australian film released in 1970.  The soundtrack was meant to be released in 1971, but this never happened. For the next forty-five years it was thought that the soundtrack was lost. That was until the Australian label Roundtable discovered that the soundtrack was in Phil Ramone’s archive. The label released the album later that year, and the gorgeous title-track and ethereal sounding The Children are welcome additions to the compilation.

Understated describes the single version of Diamonds Are Forever. It was released by Polydor in 1971, and has a much more restrained sound. Having said that, it still hints at the danger and drama to come in the seventh James Bond film.

Closing then compilation is Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland Suite. It featured on the 1972 soundtrack to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland which was released by Polydor. Opening the suite is Curiouser and Curiouser, which is written in waltz time. It gives way to the unworldly but exquisite sounding I’ve Never Been This Far Before. This captivating suite closes with The Me I Never Knew and shows just how imaginative and innovative a composer John Barry was.

For anyone yet to discover the delights of John Barry’s music then this new twenty-two track compilation is the perfect place to start. The More Things Change-Film, TV and Studio Work 1968-1973 By John Barry will be the start of a voyage of discovery through the work of one of the greatest composers of his generation. 

Sadly, John Barry died on the ’30th’ January 2011, aged just seventy-two, in Oyster Bay, New York.  However, the award-winning York born composer left behind a rich and eclectic musical legacy that includes the tracks on The More Things Change-Film, TV and Studio Work 1968-1973 By John Barry which are a reminder of a musical master craftsman at the peak of powers.

The More Things Change-Film, TV and Studio Work 1968-1973 By John Barry.

ALL TURNED ON! MOTOWN INSTRUMENTALS 1960-1972.

All Turned On! Motown Instrumentals 1960-1972.

Label: Ace Records.

Format: CD.

Previously, Ace Records have dug deep into the Motown vaults and released two successful and critically acclaimed compilation series. Motown Girls was the first and this was followed by Motown Guys. However, now two becomes three with All Turned On! Motown Instrumentals 1960-1972, which was recently released.

All Turned On! Motown Instrumentals 1960-1972 features twenty-four tracks that are a mixture of funk, soul and jazz. Six of the tracks on the compilation have only ever been available as a digital download. Another five tracks have never been release before, and make their debut on the compilation.

Opening All Turned On! Motown Instrumentals 1960-1972 is Festival Time by The San Remo Golden Strings. It was released on Ric Tic in 1966 but failed to trouble the charts. By 1971, track was a favourite on the UK’s Northern Soul scene. This led to this irresistible floor filler being released as a single and reaching thirty-nine in the UK charts. 

In June 1965, keyboardist Earl Van Dyke released his album The Motown Sound. However, one track never made it onto the album. This was Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch) which he had yet to complete. By the time the song was complete The Four Tops’ version was en route to the top of the charts. The two versions have much in common. It’s the same backing track on both tracks with the vocals replaced by the keyboards. When the single was released on the Soul label later in 1965 it was credited to Earl Van Dyke and The Soul Brothers. This was the third of singles he released on Motown, and is another dancefloor filler.

Sweet Soul by Jr Walker and The All Stars was the B-Side of his hit single Come See About Me which was released on the Soul label in 1967. So was the album Home Cookin’ which  also features this oft-overlooked hidden gem.

Trumpeter Jonah Jones signed to Motown in 1968. By then, he was already fifty-eight, and the oldest artist to sign to the label. A year later, 1969, he released the album A Little Dis, A Little Dat on Motown. One of its highlights is that blistering and inventive rework of Stevie Wonder’s Uptight (Everything’s Alright).   

Fittingly, this is followed by Stevie Wonder’s Let Me Loose. The track is essentially a remake of Fingertips. However, the song lay unreleased until 2005 when it was belatedly released as a download. Now seventeen years later it makes its debut on CD, and music fans can enjoy a tight talented band where the horn section play a leading role in the sound and success of this driving track. 

Among the other previously unreleased tracks are Choker Campbell’s brassy stomper The Break Down. It was recorded on the ‘8th’ January 1964. Later that year, Earl Van Dyke and The Soul Brothers recorded L.B.J. where Hammond organ, vibes and guitar play starring roles. A year earlier, in 1963, saxophonist Frank Morelli’s  recorded the jazzy Defunk Brothers. Another guitarist, Harold Williams plays a starring role on Mack’s Shuffle by the Morrocco Muzik Makers. It’s another hidden gem from the Motown valuts. So is Great Google Mook by The Mysterions. This honker and twanger is a real find and a welcome addition to the compilation.

There’s another contribution from Stevie Wonder on the compilation. When he entered the studio in 1968 one of the tracks he recorded was Hugh Masekela’s Grazing In The Grass. It’s a captivating cover where the tempo is slightly quicker than the original. The track didn’t feature on a Stevie Wonder album. Instead, he used the moniker Eivets Rednow. This was also the title of the album when it was released on Gordy in 1968. Eagle eyed record buyers spotted that the title spelt Stevie Wonder backwards and the secret was out.

Although the cover of Uptight was credited to Herman Griffin and Band, it’s thought he didn’t play any of the instruments on the track. He was better known as a dancer and the bandleader used to dance onstage. This blues was released on Motown in 1962, and if one listens carefully the piano sounds slightly out of tune. However, it’s a track that was quite different to much of the music the label was releasing in the early sixties.

The funky Double 0 And A Half by The Agents is another track making its debut on CD. It was recorded in 1967 but lay unreleased until 2017 when it was released as a digital download. 

Another track that previously, was only available was a digital download was Hot Sausage by The Mysterions. It was recorded in 1962, and again, lay unreleased for fifty years until it was released in 2012. It returns for a well deserved encore and is sounds quite unlike the “Motown” sound. It finds the saxophone, Hammond organ and guitar playing starring roles as the rhythm section drive the arrangement along combing elements of R&B, funk and surf. 

Although Good Rockin’ by Jr Walker and The All Stars was recorded in 1963, it was three years before the track was released. It made its debut on the Soul Session album which was released on the Soul label in 1966. The track features the original lineup of the group in full flight on what was one of the highlights of the album.

Closing All Turned On! Motown Instrumentals 1960-1972 is Papa Hooper’s Barrelhouse Groove by The Crusaders. It featured on their Hollywood album which was released by MoWest in 1972. The track was also on the B-Side of their only single for the label, Spanish Harlem. However, the flip side is a real find and features jazz, funk and soul melting into one  as this all-star band showcase their considerable talents.

All Turned On! Motown Instrumentals 1960-1972 is a compilation that will appeal to a wide range of music fans. There’s fans of the label whose mission in life is to collect everything it ever released. They’ll be nearer that goal as the compilation features tracks previously only ever released as digital downloads. Then there’s unreleased tracks which for many fans of Motown are akin to a musical Holy Grail. 

Apart from fans of Motown, anyone who is interested in instrumentals will enjoy the compilation. There’s tracks from familiar faces including some of the label’s biggest names on All Turned On! Motown Instrumentals 1960-1972. Then there contributions from what will be new and unknown names to many music fans. They’re responsible for some hidden gems which have been unearthed, and are welcome additions to this latest lovingly curated compilation from the Motown vaults. 

All Turned On! Motown Instrumentals 1960-1972.