Tuesday, 28 July 2015

"Universal Love" by MFSB (2015 Big Break Records Expanded CD – Nick Robbins and Wayne A. Dickson Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...My Mood..."

In April 1975 (with the Vietnam War officially declared over by President Ford) – the last troops left Saigon and America was ready to party and feel good. You can see this in the sleeve of June 1975's "Universal Love" by MFSB (MFSB was the in-house Soul Orchestra for Gamble & Huff’s Philadelphia International label). A sun rises on a vessel-less sea that has flowers of hope floating above it – a far cry from the cover art for MFSB's 2nd album "Love Is The Message" from December 1973 with its ugly skull soldier and atomic bomb explosion looming in the background (the self-titled debut album from April 1973 showed a syringe lying in a coffin - reflecting America’s inner-city slide into drugs). The largely instrumental "Universal Love" album contained sexy rhythms and warm sways totally capturing the National zeitgeist and catapulting it up to No.2 on the American R&B charts and an impressive No. 4 on the US Pop charts. This 2015 Expanded BBR CD is a great celebration of that warmly remembered summer record and here are the tender loving cares (with big strings and even bigger hairdos)...

UK released July 2015 – "Universal Love: Expanded CD Version" by MFSB on Big Break Records CDBBRX 0312 (Barcode 5013929061231) breaks down as follows (46:41 minutes):

1. Sexy
3. Human Machine
4. Love Has No Time Or Place
5. T.L.C. (Tender Loving Care) [Side 2]
6. Let's Go Disco
7. K-Jee
8. My Mood
Tracks 1 to 8 are their 2nd studio album "Universal Love" – released June 1975 in the USA on Philadelphia International KZ 33158 and July 1975 in the UK on Philadelphia International S PIR 80410

9. Sexy (Single Version)
10. T.L.C. (Tender Loving Care) (Single Version)
11. Let's Go Disco (Promotional Single Version)
12. K-Jee (Single Version)

Four 7" singles were released in the UK and USA around the album and this BBR CD will allow fans to sequence 'most' of them as follows...
[9] = Track 9 on the CD:

1. Sexy [9] b/w Human Machine [3]
Released May 1975 in the USA on Philadelphia International ZS8 3567
Released July 1975 in the UK on Philadelphia International S PIR 3381
Notes: the A-side is a 7" single edit at 3:13 minutes, the album cut is 3:36 minutes. "Sexy" also turned up at a B-side to the January 1977 UK reissue 7" single of "TSOP (The Sound Of Philadelphia)" by MSFB on Philadelphia International S PIR 4888.

2. T.L.C. (Tender Loving Care) [10] b/w Love Has No Time Or Place
Released September 1975 in the USA on Philadelphia International ZS8 3576
Notes: the A-side is a 7" single edit at 3:20 minutes, the album cut is 3:44 minutes. The B-side "Love Has No Time Or Place" is also an edit at 3:30 minutes but unfortunately isn't included on this CD (the full album version runs to 6:21 minutes). There was no UK 7" issue.

3. Let's Go Disco [6] b/w My Mood [8]
3. Let's Go Disco (Album Version) [6] b/w (D.J. Short Version) [11]
Released September 1975 in the UK on Philadelphia International S PIR 3635. Only the Demo/Promo version had a 'D.J. Short Version' on the B-side running to 2:37 minutes instead of the album's 4:18 minutes on the A.

4. K-Jee [12] b/w My Mood [8]
Released March 1978 in the USA on Philadelphia International ZS8 3641
Released May 1978 in the UK on Philadelphia International S PIR 6287
Notes: the A-side is a single edit at 3:20 minutes while the album full version is 4:19 minutes – the B-side is the full album version at 4:15 minutes.

The CD comes in one of those round-corner jewel cases BBR seems to favour their reissues while the 16-page booklet features new liner notes by noted NYC-based Soul writer CHRISTIAN JOHN WIKANE. There’s detailed discussion on the sophistication of the album for the Disco genre and its popularity across all boards (including the Pop world) – all of it peppered with photos of those American Philadelphia International labels along with rare European picture sleeves and photos of the huge ensemble orchestra. But the big news (as ever with BBR) is a superb remaster by NICK ROBBINS and BBR's main tape man WAYNE A. DICKSON. Primarily an 8-track instrumental LP with vocals only on "Love Has No Time Or Place" and "Let's Go Disco" – the emphasis was always going to be on the orchestral swirls, guitar licks, bass slaps, brass punches and that high-hat rhythm. This CD sounds fabulous. If I was to single out one track that shows this it’s the gorgeous album finisher "My Mood" – an instrumental that sounds like easy-listening Bacharach taken to another Soulful level. I’ve had this on Philly compilations of old – but the audio off this beauty beats them all. Impressive...

Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff not surprisingly penned the two slick openers – the dancefloor friendly "Sexy" and "MFSB" (Mothers Fathers Sisters Brothers) and they sound fab. Ron Baker of the Salsoul Orchestra co-wrote "Human Machine" with Leon Huff and is a mid-tempo groove with great Steely Dan-ish guitar and keyboard flicks (feels like Disco all grown up and proud of itself). By the time you get to the six-minute "Love Has No Time Or Place" (written by Bruce Hawes and Cynthia Briggs) the group has reached a place of sophisticated excellence that is hard to resist – a perfect hybrid of Disco girl-vocals over George Benson Jazz guitar licks – all of it complimented by that shuffling Philly backbeat and the ever-present lush strings. It’s an impressive groove and frankly sexy too.

Side 2 opens with "T.L.C. (Tender Loving Care)" – a jazzy slide in gives way to pure Philly bop – all high-hats, wah-wah guitars, brass and strings. We get a bit Funk with "Let's Go Disco" where they sound like Kool & The Gang and "K-Jee" is cool too –but my poison has always been the masterful Gamble & Huff slink of "My Mood" – a stunning instrumental that feels the ultimate Easy Listening Jazz cool. I'm always putting it on Soul CD-R compilations in order to show off my Soul smarts and Street cred (oh dear)...

So there you have it – a wicked 2015 Expanded CD reissue for MFSB's "Universal Love" and with that crack-a-lacking Audio - a must own for fans everywhere. The only glitch is the absence of that 7" Single Edit of "Love Has No Time Or Place" (a bad mistake really) – but other than that slip up - this is another BBR audio winner - and well done to all the bods in Big Break Records who got it out into the public domain in such style...

PS: Big Break Records (BBR) CD Remasters I’ve reviewed up to July 2015:

1. Central Heating – HEATWAVE (1977)
2. Hot Property - HEATWAVE (1979)
3. Candles - HEATWAVE (1980)
4. Turnin' On - HIGH INERGY (1977)
5. Harvest For The World - THE ISLEY BROTHERS (1976)
6. Go For Your Guns - THE ISLEY BROTHERS (1977)
7. I Hope We Get To Love On Time - MARILYN McCOO & BILLY DAVIS (1976)
8.  I Miss You - HAROLD MELVIN & THE BLUE NOTES (1972) [known as "Harold Melvin The Blue Notes" in the UK]
9. Black & Blue - HAROLD MELVIN & THE BLUE NOTES (1973)
10. Love Is The Message - MFSB (1973)
11. Universal Love – MFSB (1975)
12. All The Faces Of... - BUDDY MILES (1974)
13. For The First Time – STEPHANIE MILLS (1975)
14. I Can See Clearly Now - JOHNNY NASH (1972)
15. In Philadelphia - O'JAYS (1969)
16. Back Stabbers - O'JAYS (1972)
17. Ship Ahoy - O'JAYS (1973)
18. Down To Love Town – THE ORIGINALS (1977)
19. Ebony Woman - BILLY PAUL (1970 and 1973)
20. 360 Degrees Of Billy Paul - BILLY PAUL (1972)
21. War Of The Gods - BILLY PAUL (1973)
22. Platinum Hook – PLATINUM HOOK (1978)
23. Love For What It Is - ANITA POINTER (of The Pointer Sisters) (1987)
24. Summernights – SILVER CONVENTION (1977)
25. Smoked Sugar - SMOKED SUGAR (1975)
26. Soul Master – EDWIN STARR (1968)
27. Involved - EDWIN STARR (1971)
28. Switch - SWITCH (1978)
29. Watercolors – THE WATERS (1980)
30. Just As I Am - BILL WITHERS (1971 Debut LP on Sussex/A&M Records)
31. Heartbeats – YARBROUGH & PEOPLES (1983)

"Subtle As A Flying Mallet" by DAVE EDMUNDS (2013 RPM Records Expanded CD – Simon Murphy Remasters) - A Review By Mark Barry...

"...Get Into Trouble..."

In the early Seventies Dave Edmunds seemed to be late for everything. After departing LOVE SCULPTURE with two great albums under his belt - "Blues Helping" from October 1968 and "Forms And Feelings" from January 1970  – he recorded a cover version of the Smiley Lewis classic "I Hear You Knocking" and released it 30 October 1970 on the then tiny UK independent label Mam Records not thinking it would do much business (it was their first single on MAM 1). "I Hear You Knocking" promptly took the UK charts by storm (reaching number 1) and going Top 5 Stateside (as well as many other territories). Our Dave wasn’t ready and his debut solo album didn’t arrive until June 1972 on Regal Zonophone by which time two further singles - "I'm Comin' Home" in March 1971 and "Blue Monday" in June 1971 sank without a trace as did "Down Down Down" from July 1972. Two years after the momentum of the Number 1 single his 1972 "Rockpile" album was barely noticed and sold jack (its very hard to find on original vinyl).

The scatterbrain guitarist and Rock 'n' Roll revivalist did the same for his 2nd solo album – the long forgotten Phil Spector-ish sounding "Subtle As A Flying Mallet" from 1975. "Subtle..." was also preceded by two singles in May 1973 "Born To Be With You" and September 1974 "Need A Shot Of Rhythm And Blues" before the album belatedly showed up in the spring of 1975. But by that time – the same thing had happened again – no one noticed and "Subtle" has been a bit of a dark corner in Edmunds' long and illustrious career. Personally I’ve always loved both records (I reviewed the "Rockpile" CD elsewhere) and I'd argue "Subtle..." deserves a second-go-round on your deck. And you have to say that RPM Records have done a bang up job on this CD (it's an absolute must-own for fans). Here are the Rock 'n' Roll hammerhead details...

UK released February 2013 – "Subtle As A Flying Mallet" by DAVE EDMUNDS on RPM Records RPM 520 (Barcode 5013929552029) breaks down as follows (60:34 minutes):

1. Baby I Love You
2. Leave My Woman Alone
3. Maybe
4. Da Doo Ron Ron
5. Let It Be Me
6. No Money Down
7. Shot Of Rhythm And Blues [Side 2]
8. Billy The Kid
9. Born To Be With You
10. She’s My Baby
11. I Ain't Never
12. Let It Rock
Tracks 1 to 12 are his 2nd studio album "Subtle As A Flying Mallet" – released April 1975 in the UK on Rockfield RRL 101 (reissued April 1978 on RCA PL 25129) and in the USA on RCA LPL1-5003

13. Some Other Guy – non-album B-side (see 4 below)
14. When Will I Be Loved
15. Make Me Good
16. You Kept Me Waiting
17. C'mon Little Dixie
18. Need A Shot Of Rhythm & Blues (Alternate Version)
19. Da Doo Ron Ron (by Dave Edmunds & The Electricians)
20. Pick Axe Rag (by Dave Edmunds & Mickey Gee) – non-album B-side (see 2 below)
Tracks 14 to 19 are from the November 1974 UK 2LP set "Stardust – 44 Original Hits From The Sound Track Of The Film" on Ronco Records RG 2009 and are exclusive to that double-album.

The 12-track album consisted of 11 cover versions and one original by NICK LOWE then with BRINSLEY SCHWARZ ("She's My Baby"). Two of the tracks were recorded live in front of a Welsh audience at the Top Rank Club in Cardiff with Brinsley Schwarz as the backing band – covers of Chuck Berry's "No Money Down" and "Let It Rock". "I Ain’t Never" has Nick Lowe on Bass and Pick Withers on Drums (later the drummer with Dire Straits). "She's My Baby" features Nick Lowe and Bob Andrews of Brinsley Schwarz on Bass and Piano respectively. Edmunds produced the LP at Rockfield Studios in Monmouth, Wales and all other tracks feature him playing every instrument. The album famously featured productions that deliberately aped the dense Phil Spector Wall-Of-Sound recordings of the Sixties on his Philles label. 

"Subtle..." also saw four singles issued around it and this Expanded CD Remaster on RPM will allow fans to sequence them all as follows ([1] = Track 1 on the CD etc)...

1. Baby I Love You [1] b/w Maybe [3]
Released December 1972 in the UK on Rockfield ROC 1
Released 1973 in the USA On RCA Victor 74-0882
Notes: the A-side is a cover of the 1963 Ronettes hit on Philles, the B-side is a cover of the 1957 Chantels hit on End Records.

2. Born To Be With You [9] b/w Pick Axe Rag [20]
Released May 1973 in the UK on Rockfield ROC 2
Released 1973 in the USA on RCA Victor LPBO-5000
Notes: the A-side is a Chordettes cover version that features a Harmonica solo 'probably' by Lee Brilleaux of Dr. Feelgood. The non-album B-side "Pick Axe Rag" is credited to Dave Edmunds & Mickey Gee - Gee was the second guitarist in Love Sculpture for the "Forms And Feelings" album and also played in Joe Cocker's Grease Band prior to that.

3. Need A Shot Of Rhythm And Blues [7] b/w Let It Be Me [5]
Released September 1974 in the UK on Rockfield ROC 4
Released 1974 in the USA on RCA Victor PB-10118 (A&B-sides reversed)
Notes: the A-side is an Arthur Alexander cover version. The album track is listed as "Shot Of Rhythm And Blues" but for some reason the words "Need A..." were added for the single (no one seems to know why). The mix of the song on the "Stardust" double-album soundtrack is an 'Alternate Version' and differs to and LP/45 cut. The B-side "Let It Be Me" is a cover of The Everly Brothers 1959 hit on Cadence.

4. I Ain't Never [11] b/w Some Other Guy [13]
Released February 1975 in the UK on Rockfield ROC 6 [no USA release]
Notes: the A-side is a cover of Webb Pierce’s 1959 hit on Decca while the non-album B-side "Some Other Guy" is a cover of a Jerry Lieber & Mike Stoller song done by Richie Barrett on Atlantic Records in 1962.

The 16-page booklet features liner notes by ROGER DOPSON with new Dave Edmunds interviews about the album crossing recording paths with the David Essex film soundtrack "Stardust" (as well as appearing in the movie himself - DE also got the band Brinsley Schwarz a part in it). There are photos of UK Rockfield labels, trade adverts and Euro picture sleeves of "Baby I Love You" and "Born To Be With You" as well as track-by-track credits. The remaster from original tapes has been done by SIMON MURPHY at Another Planet Music and given the density of the recordings – he’s done a stunning job. I love the way that this CD sounds – Murphy has lost none of that Retro Rock 'n' Roll feel that Edmunds so adores – it drips from every cleverly chosen song. In fact you could argue when you hear the live takes of "No Money Down" and "Let It Rock" – perhaps it would have been simpler and even more effective to simply record the lot live – and get that 'real' feel the music so needs.

As fans will know – Edmunds feels the whole Spector-in-the-studio sound he obsessed over only half works and even in some cases is a downright mistake (an experiment that didn’t work). Personally I like what he was trying to get in the echoed and dreamy "Let It Be Me" – a fabulous cover of a gorgeous Everly Brothers song. Even "Billy The Kid" (the odd-man-out here stylewise) rocks in its own weird way. It's a Traditional song Ry Cooder first threw at us in 1972 on his "Into The Purple Valley" LP on Reprise Records. Edmunds apes Cooder's Cajun Americana style of picking – but it also works because the song isn’t that familiar to anyone and breaks up the Fifties R'n'R feel of the rest of the record. I love it that Lee Brilleaux of Dr. Feelgood is 'probably' the Harmonica player on his cover of "Born To Be With You" (its his trademark warble) and you can 'so' hear Nick Lowe's languid vocal style in "She's My Baby". Another fave is the Arthur Alexander cover "Shot Of Rhythm And Blues" and a great stab at Webb Pierce's "I Ain't Never".

Amongst the Bonus Stuff both the non-LP B-sides are worthy inclusions – the fast-paced almost Country picking instrumental "Pick Axe Rag" is a curio for sure but it’s a cool one. I have the Richie Barrett original of "Some Other Guy" on Atlantic Records from my 2006 Ace CD "Lieber & Stoller Story Vol.2..." – but again – a smart choice by Edmunds that suits his love affair with Rock 'n' Roll leanings and is a criminally forgotten sing-a-long gem of the genre. The "Stardust" tracks are a brilliant inclusion what with the double-LP languishing in CD limbo. Edmunds was commissioned by film producer David Puttnam to do nine songs for the film - both "Let It Rock" and "Shot Of Rhythm And Blues" from the album are on their but the other six presented here make their CD debut to my knowledge. "When Will I Be Loved" has always been an Everly Brothers bopping winner and Edmunds wisely doesn't mess with that original dynamic. "Make Me Good" and "You Kept Me Waiting" (written by the trio of Peter Anders, Paul Naumann and Kenneth Laguna) sound like typical Edmunds layered-vocal fare. The Orleans R'n'B boogie of "C'mon Little Dixie" is a winner (penned by Gerry Goffin and Barry Goldberg) too...

A fab little reissue of "Subtle As A Flying Mallet" and a long overdue reassessment that I hope will make people sit up and take notice. Now if only someone would expand CDs of his Swan Song albums – I’d be hammering on about those too...

Sunday, 26 July 2015

"Shine On Brightly: 3CD Deluxe Edition" by PROCOL HARUM (2015 Esoteric Recordings Reissue/Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...Tea Time At The Circus..." 

I diligently picked up the reissues of Procol Harum's 60s and 70s catalogue when they were reissued in sequence in 2009 by Salvo Records of the UK - and dug their natty gatefold card sleeves and half-decent remasters. But just as soon as they had arrived - they seemed to be quickly deleted and almost instantly started to attract unhealthy price hikes right across the board. So along comes England's Esoteric Recordings (part of Cherry Red) in 2015 to rescue the British band's legacy and fan's wallets with a full on reissue campaign that practically doubles the preceding issues in size and scope (and in real style too). There is a lot on this chunky sucker so let’s to those glimpses of Nirvana (if you know what I mean)...

UK released 29 June 2015 (July 2015 in the USA) – "Shine On Brightly: 3CD Deluxe Edition" by PROCOL HARUM on Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 32500 (Barcode 5013929460041) is a 3-Disc Remaster in a 5" Clamshell Mini Box Set of their classic 2nd album from 1968 on Regal Zonophone Records (A&M in the USA).

Newly Remastered on all counts (BEN WISEMAN and ROB KEYLOCH did the expert transfers) – Disc 1 is the Stereo Mix of the 11-track album plus three extras - Disc 2 features the 11-track 'MONO' Mix on CD for the first time - while Disc 3 gives us 20 more Bonus Tracks – 7 of which are Previously Unreleased 1968 BBC Sessions from John Peel's "Top Gear" Radio One Series. Inside the Clamshell Box are three postcards repro'ing American Concert Posters – one for the San Francisco International Pop Festival 1968 and two for the "Grand Ballroom" shows in Detroit in May and October 1968. A fold-out double-sided colour poster features the album’s UK artwork on one side (a George Underwood painting) and the different USA A&M Records artwork on the other (a Guy Webster photograph that was deemed more 'appropriate') - as well as the lyrics and the Gary Brooker/Keith Reid blurb that accompanied the original UK trade advert.

On top of all that there’s a beautifully laid out 24-page colour booklet with liner note by HENRY SCOTT-IRVINE who authored the book "Procol Harum: The Ghosts Of The Whiter Shade Of Pale". The card sleeve for CD1 has the UK album artwork (Stereo), CD2 has the US LP artwork (Mono) and CD3 features a (unseen) variant of the US album artwork. A nice touch and real attention to detail is that the label for CD1 is Purple in colour and CD2 is Red – both reflecting the original Stereo and Mono label colours of the original 1968 LP issues - while Disc 3 is in Black. Page 19 of the booklet gives a good indication of the classiness on offer here – a 9-picture collage of rare European and Japanese 7" single sleeves for "Quite Rightly So". There is discussion on the impact of the album (Pete Townshend name-checks it as an influence on "Tommy"), concert photos, concert posters and publicity shots, paragraphs on the 'outtakes' etc. It’s very tastily done. Here is a detailed break down of each CD:

Disc 1 – STEREO MIX (49:36 minutes):
1. Quite Rightly So
2. Shine On Brightly
3. Skip Softly (My Moonbeams)
4. Wish Me Well
5. Rambling On
6. Magdalene (My Regal Zonophone)
7. Glimpses Of Nirvana
8. Twas Tea Time At The Circus
9. In The Autumn Of My Madness
10. Look To Your Soul
11. Grand Finale
Tracks 1 to 11 are their 2nd studio album "Shine On Brightly" – released September 1968 in the USA in Stereo Only on A&M Records SP 4151 and December 1968 in the UK on Regal Zonophone SLRZ 1004 (Stereo)

12. Il Tuo Diamante ("Shine On Brightly" Italian Version In Mono, Recorded September 1967) – a small chart hit in Italy in January 1968 on Nil Records 45NIL 9005
13. Quite Rightly So
14. In The Wee Small Hours Of Sixpence – Tracks 13 and 14 are the non-album A&B-sides of a March 1968 UK 7" single on Regal Zonophone RZ 3007

Disc 2 – MONO MIX (38:39 minutes):
1 to 11 as per Disc 1 - their 2nd studio album "Shine On Brightly" – released December 1968 in the UK on Regal Zonophone LRZ 1004 in Mono (No USA variant) - Previously Unreleased on CD

Disc 3 (53:06 minutes):
1. Monsieur Armand (Mono) – a 1967 recording that first appeared on the may 1976 UK LP "Rock Roots" by Procol Harum on Fly/Cube Records ROOTS 4. It was re-worked and re-recorded as "Monsieur R. Monde" for the 1974 LP "Exotic Birds & Fruit" on Chrysalis Records
2. Seem To Have The Blues (Most Of The Time) (Mono) - a 1967 recording that first appeared on the may 1976 UK LP "Rock Roots" by Procol Harum on Fly/Cube Records ROOTS 4
3. Magdalene (My Regal Zonophone) (1967 Version in Mono)
4. Shine On Brightly (1967 Version in Mono) – recorded October 1967
5. In The Wee Small Hours Of Sixpence (Stereo Mix) – recorded 6 December 1967. A mono version is on Disc 1 as the B-side to "Quite Rightly So"
6. Monsieur Armand (Stereo Backing Track) – recorded 11 October 1967
7. A Robe Of Silk (Stereo Backing Track) – recorded 12 January 1968
8. McGreggor – first appeared on the 1997 "30th Anniversary" CD Edition of "A Salty Dog" on Westside
9. The Gospel According To...[Wish Me Well] – recorded 19 March 1968
10. Skip Softly (My Moonbeams)
11. Quite Rightly So
12. Ramblin’ On
13. Shine On Brightly (tracks 10 to 13 are from "Top Gear" BBC Radio One Session, 14 February 1968) – PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED
14. Skip Softly (My Moonbeams)
15. Wish Me Well
16. Long Gone Geek (tracks 14 to 16 are from "Top Gear" BBC Radio One Session, 19 August 1968) – PREVIOUSLY UNRELEADED
17. In Held 'Twas In I (Look To Your Soul/Grande Finale) (track 17 is from "Top Gear" BBC Radio One Session, 6 October 1968) – PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED

Released in the run up to Christmas 1968 on both sides of the pond, Procol Harum’s 2nd album "Shine On Brightly" was produced by DENNY CORDELL and an uncredited GLYN JOHNS and featured the same line-up as their January 1968 self-titled debut album:

Piano and Lead Vocals – GARY BROOKER
Lead Guitar – ROBIN TROWER
Hammond Organ and Keyboards – MATTHEW FISHER
Drums and Percussion – B.J. WILSON
(Lyrics) – KEITH REID

As the Matthew Fisher organ sails in for the album opener "Quite Rightly So" - the new Stereo remaster on Disc 1 is immediate and powerful (the tambourine and Brooker's vocals have more clarity too). A huge fan favorite – the title track "Shine On Brightly" is also incredibly clean on that wailing Trower guitar and Fisher's Hammond. And even though the channel separation is harsh and that cross fading is gimmicky – the remaster still feels better than what was on the 2009 reissue. "Slip Softly (My Moonbeam)" has Trower's guitar and those treated keyboard sounds married well – and when it goes into that floating piano passage in the middle of the song and Trower comes in with that wicked solo – it's the best I’ve ever heard this track. Probably my personal crave and a groove I've loved for years – "Wish Me Well" is Funk for Procol Harum and feels like a great Joe Cocker track with The Grease Band. It has real power now and renewed clarity.

Side 2's "Glimpses Of Nirvana" is a talking-tale of hippy lore too far for me ("...life is like a beanstalk..." - yikes) – but what's not in dispute is that this remaster adds a huge power to the instruments as they build. The 1:19 minutes of "Twas Tea Time At The Circus" feels like a Small Faces madrigal – and again the remaster is amazing. Much was made in initial reviews of the threesome that finishes the album (like a suite of serious songs) – "In The Autumn Of The Madness", "Look To Your Soul" and "Grand Finale". You can hear elements of Gabriel's Genesis circa "Nursery Cryme" in all that melodrama – those heavy themes and sound affects while the heavy Prog guitars feel like Vertigo Spiral territory. A tiny bit hissy – still the opening Bass and Cymbal to "Grand Finale" is beautifully clear as Fisher's piano fades in and then those church-like vocals – superb.

I must admit the Mono Mix does little for me and actually makes tracks like "Rambling On" sound ever so slightly weird and less powerful somehow. The extras on Disc 3 are a motley crew of different mix rarities and genuine finds. "Monsieur Armand" opens proceedings strongly – the Mono mix on this song having a huge punch with Trower’s solo shining half way in. The very Jethro Tull "Seem To Have The Blues (Most All The Time)" thunders through your speakers with Trower's heavy grungy guitar offset by R 'n' B keyboards from Fisher as Gary Brooker bemoans his fate ("...whole lotta people treat me unkind..."). The vocal on the Mono "Magdalene (My Regal Zonophone)" is way back in the mix and gives it a more melancholy feel. But a genuine blast comes in the shape of the Stereo Mix of that beloved B-side "In The Wee Small Hours Of Sixpence" which puts Fisher's keyboard runs more to the fore (loving this).

Next we get a duo of fan-pleasers in the (vocal-less) Stereo Backing Tracks to "Monsieur Armand" and "A Robe Of Silk" where Procol sound like The Spencer Davis Group or even the Small Faces in their Immediate period on both cuts (very cool additions). The lament "McGreggor" is good but far better is the Bluesy and Funky groove of "The Gospel According To...(Wish Me Well)" where they sound almost like "Tons Of Sobs" Free with keyboards added – Trower trucking away on that guitar as the slow beat drives the song on (it ends abruptly at 3:35 minutes and you wish there was more). The BBC stuff is professionally recorded and packs an impressive punch – the soft piano and wild guitar soloing of Trower on the opening "Skip Softly" doing anything but skipping softly. The band sounds fresh and pleased with itself on "Quite Rightly So" – the drums well recorded too. "...Our local picture house is showing the Batman movie..." Brooker sings plaintively on "Ramblin' On" where a copper warns him that his newly purchased Batwings may not work if he jumps off a building like Adam West. The cheesy spoken intro of "...mind expanding sound...burn into your brain baby..." at the beginning of "Shine On Brightly" is 'so' Radio 1 DJ-speak (what a hoot!). The 2nd "Top Gear" set seems better recorded with superior Stereo imaging. The soft piano intro to "Wish Me Well" followed by Trower’s chugging guitar and the doubled vocals is wicked stuff and a real discovery. The 2:34 minutes of "Long Gone Geek" is the sound of a band finding its feet and thoroughly enjoying it – very cool little tune. And on it goes...

There are four x 2015 titles in Esoteric's 'Deluxe Edition' PROCOL HARUM reissue campaign so far and at this rate – all will be mandatory purchases for lovers of the band. “Shine On Brightly” is a superlative reissue and one that will please both fans and whet the appetite of the curious. Well done to all involved...

2015 PROCOL HARUM CD Reissues/Remasters by Esoteric Recordings:
1. Procol Harum – January 1968 UK Debut Album - 2CD Deluxe Edition UK released 17 July 2015 on Esoteric ECLEC 22497 (Barcode 5013929459748)

2. Shine On Brightly – December 1968 2nd Studio Album – 3CD Deluxe Edition UK released 29 June 2015 on Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 32500 (Barcode 5013929460041)

3. A Salty Dog – June 1969 3rd Studio Album – 2CD Deluxe Edition UK released 31 July 2015 on Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 22503 (Barcode 501392946348)

4. Home – June 1970 4th Studio Album – 2CD Deluxe Edition released 31 July 2015 on Esoteric Recordings ECLEC 22505 (Barcode 5013929460546)

This review is part of my SOUNDS GOOD Music Books Series

SOUNDS GOOD: Exceptional CD Remasters 1960s and 1970s Volume 1...

See Amazon Kindle e-books at the following link....

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

"Dust On The Nettles: A Journey Through The British Underground Folk Scene 1967-72" by VARIOUS ARTISTS (2015 Grapefruit 3CD Box Set Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...A Branchy Tree..."

I love box sets like this. Brilliantly put together, chock full of forgotten left-of-centre music that’s worth rediscovering (mostly Acid Folk) and all of it presented in fact-filed style by good guys who genuinely care (compiled by David Wells and John Reed). In terms of Audio and Presentation everything about "Dust On The Nettles" on the Grapefruit Label (a part of Cherry Red Records) feels classy and even features some big-time scoops in Previously Unreleased demos for mighty names like Fairport Convention, The Incredible String Band and Tyrannosaurus Rex.

I know my music from the period (or at least I thought I did) – but I’d happily admit that there are obscurities on "Dust On The Nettles" that have completely eluded my decades of scouring racks – and they’re not the kind of musical creations that should be forgotten either. Some of these rarities number 10 copies (The Moths) or 99 copies (Frozen Tear) while others made it unto decent independent labels like Dawn, Pye, Island, Dandelion, Immediate and Decca. It’s also pleasing to say that apart from a few rough tapes here and there and despite the myriad sources – the audio is exceptionally good throughout - and as you can see from the total playing times – each disc is generously chock to the gills. There’s a ton of stuff on here – so once more with our dandelion stalks and joss sticks unto the pagan green altars (ye heathens of England)...

UK released 29 June 2015 (July 2015 in the USA) – "Dust On The Nettles: A Journey Through The British Underground Folk Scene 1967-72" is a 63-track 3CD Set in a Clamshell Box on Grapefruit CRESEGBOX 030 (Barcode 5013929183001) with a 36-page booklet and pans out as follows:

Disc 1 (78:34 minutes, 20 tracks):
1. Let No Man Steal Your Thyme – THE PENTANGLE (from their debut UK album "The Pentangle" released June 1968 on Transatlantic TRA 162. Also issued in the USA as a 7" single on Reprise 0794, A)
2. Willow’s Song – MAGNET (Recorded in 1972 for "The Wicker Man" Soundtrack LP but not issued)
3. Come All You Travellers – WIGHT (September 1970 French-Only 7" single on French Festival SPX 147)
4. Love Is A Funny Thing – SPIROGYRA [with Barbara Gaskin on Lead Vocals] (on the UK LP "St. Radigunds" released September 1971 on B&C Records CAS 1042)
5. Images Of Passing Clouds – GARY FARR (recorded 1968, Previously Unreleased Demo Version)
6. Peek Strangely And Worried Evening – SYNANTHESIA (on the LP "Synanthesia" released November 1969 on RCA Victor SF 8058)
7. Glass Of Water – BOG & CAROLE PEGG (on the UK LP "And Now It Is So Early: Songs Of Sydney Carter" on Galliard GAL 4017)
8. Winter Is Blue – VASHTI BUNYAN (on the Various Artists Soundtrack LP "Let's All Make Love In London" released July 1968 in the UK on Instant INLP 002)
9. Winter Is A Coloured Bird – COMUS (from the 3-track 7” Single EP "Diana" first released in the UK January 1971 on Dawn DNX 2506 – non-album track).
10. The Seagulls Scream – CHRISSIE QUAYLE (from the 1970 UK LP "Sounds Like West Cornwall" on Sentinel SENS 1001)
11. Stories Of Jesus – CLIVE PALMER (recorded 1967, not originally issued)
12. Amanda – STEVE PEREGRIN TOOK’S SHAGRAT (Recorded circa November 1969, Not Originally Issued)
13. Curious Crystals Of Unusual Purity – BRIDGET ST. JOHN (from the August 1969 UK LP "Ask Me No Questions" on Dandelion S 63750)
14. Roses For Columbus – MARK FRY (from the June 1972 Italian LP "Dreaming With Alice" on ZSLT 70006)
15. Till The Morning Comes – DANDO SHAFT (from the May 1971 UK LP "Dando Shaft" on RCA Neon NE 5)
16. Black Girl – MARY-ANNE (Paterson) (from the April 1970 UK LP "Me" on Joy Records JOYS 162)
17. The Garden Of Jane Delawney (from the May 1970 UK LP "The Garden Of Jane Delawney" on CBS Records S 63837)
18.  Weirdsong Of Breaking Through At Last – PRINCIPAL EDWARDS MAGIC THEATRE (from the February 1971 UK LP "The Asmoto Running Band" on Dandelion Records DAN 8002)
19. Minas Tirith – OBERON (from the August 1971 UK LP "A Midsummer Night's Dream" on Acorn OBE LPS 1)
20. Prisoners, Victims, Strangers, Friends – PAPER BAUBLE (recorded October 1970, Previously Unreleased)

Disc 2 (79:29 minutes, 22 tracks):
1. Pilgrim – GERALD MOORE (recorded 1972, Previously Unissued)
2. River Lane – MELTON CONSTABLE (recorded 1972, Previously Unissued)
3. Way Out Hermit – MOONKYTE (from the November 1971 UK LP "Count Me Out" on Mother SMOT 1)
4. All Things Are Quite Silent – STEELEYE SPAN (from the June 1970 UK LP "Hark! The Village Wait" on RCA Records SF 8113)
5. Upon Reflection – HERON (from the November 1970 UK LP "Heron" on Dawn DNLS 3010)
6. Love Is Come Again – PARCHMENT (from the December 1972 UK LP "Light Up The Fire" on Pye International NSPL 18388)
7. Stargazer – SHELAGH McDONALD (from the September 1971 UK LP "Stargazer" on B&C Records CAS 1043)
8. There Are No Greater Heroes – TONY CARO & JOHN (1972 UK Self-Financed LP "All On The First Day")
9. Visionary Mountain – JOAN ARMATRADING (from the November 1972 UK LP "Whatever's For Us" on Cube Records HIFLY 12)
10. Glow Of The Firelight – TUESDAY (recorded August 1972, Previously Unreleased)
11. Searching For Lambs – WARM GOLD (from the 1972 UK LP "Sounds Like North Cornwall" on Sentinel SENS 1011)
12. Samantha Carol Fragments – BENJAMIN DELANEY LION (from the October 1969 Privately Pressed UK LP "Satori" on Hollick & Taylor, 70 Copies Only)
13. Fotheringay (Demo Version) – FAIRPORT CONVENTION (recorded February 1969, Previously Unreleased)
14. You Know What Has To Be – FROZEN TEAR (Privately Pressed UK 7” single of 99 Copies released September 1969 on RA Records RA 5001. B-side is a cover version of Free's "The Hunter" that was mistakenly credited as the A)
15. Meanwhile Back In The Forest – HUNT, LUNT & CUNNINGHAM (March 1972 UK 7” single on Pye International 7N 45125, A)
16. First Girl I Loved – THE INCREDIBLE STRING BAND (recorded early 1969, Previously Unreleased Demo Version)
17. Halfdan’s Daughter – THE MOTHS (July 1970 UK LP "The Moths" available only on a Deroy Sound Service Test Pressing, 10 copies)
18. The Mutant – TRADER HORNE (from the March 1970 UK LP "Morning Way" on Dawn DNLS 3004)
19. Meeting By The Moonlight Mill – DRY HEART (recorded early 1970, Previously Unreleased)
20. Highways (Misty Mist) – TYRANNOSAURUS REX (recorded August 1967, Previously Unreleased)
21. Gabilan – DUNCAN BROWNE (from the August 1968 debut UK LP "Give Me Take You" on Immediate IMSP 018)
22. Sand All Yellow – KEVIN COYNE (from the November 1972 UK LP "Case History" on Dandelion 2310 228)

Disc 3 (78:50 minutes, 21 tracks):
1. Garden Song – BILL FAY (recorded early 1969, Previously Unreleased Demo Version)
2. Music Of The Ages – C.O.B. [Clive’s Own Band] (from the November 1971 UK LP "Spirit Of Love" on CBS Records S 69010)
3. A Song For The System – EVERYONE INVOLVED (from the 1972 Privately Pressed LP (1000 copies) of "Either/Or" on Arcturus ARC 4)
4. The Colour Is Blue – COUNTRY SUN (from the November 1972 UK Label Sampler LP "There Is Some Fun Going Forward" on Dandelion 2485 021)
5. Silent Village – WILD COUNTRY (from the May 1970 UK 7" single on Trafalgar TRAF1, A)
6. Welcome To The Citadel – MARC BRIERLEY (from the February 1969 UK LP "Welcome To The Citadel" on CBS Records S 63478)
7. The Evil Venus Tree – THE OCCASIONAL WORD (from the February 1970 UK LP on "The Year Of The Great Leap Sideways" on Dandelion DAN 63753)
8. Standing On The Shore – ANNE BRIGGS (from the November 1971 UK LP "The Time Has Come" on CBS Records S 64612)
9. Kind Sir – AGINCOURT (from the 1970 UK LP "Fly Away" on Merlin HF 3)
10. Eagle – MICK SOFTLEY (from the November 1970 UK LP "Sunrise" on CBS Records S 64098)
11. Rosemary Hill – FRESH MAGGOTS (from the September 1971 UK LP "Fresh Maggots" on RCASF 8205)
12. The Happy King – MUSIC BOX (from the 1972 UK LP "Songs Of Sunshine" on Westwood MRS 013)
13. Me And My Kite – FUCHSIA (from the October 1971 UK LP "Fuchsia" on Pegasus PEG 8)
14. Wizard Shep – THE SUN ALSO RISES (from the October 1970 UK LP "The Sun Also Rises" on Village Thing VTS 2)
15. Scarborough Fair – FOLKAL POINT (from the 1972 UK LP "Folkal Point" on Midas MR 003, 500 copies only)
16. Prisoner – MARIE CELESTE (from the Privately Pressed April 1971 UK LP "And Then Perhaps" (No label), 200 copies only)
17. Patrice – SIMON FINN (from the April 1971 UK LP "Pass The Distance" on Mushroom 100 MR)
18. Girl Of The Cosmos – SHIDE & ACORN (from the June 1971 UK LP "Under The Tree" on Solent SM 011, 99 copies only)
19. Elegy To A Dead King – CHIMERA (recorded circa 1968, Previously Unreleased)
20. Silence Returns – BEAU (from the June 1971 UK LP "Creation" on Dandelion DAN 8006)
21. Orange Days And Purple Nights – MOTHER NATURE (from the October 1971 UK 7" single on B&C Records CB 166, A)

The 36-page booklet is beautifully done – each artist gets a detailed paragraph and in most cases their rare albums pictured – the text is also peppered with memorabilia like concert tickets, trade adverts for eclectic labels like B&C Records and Kingdom, double colour plates for Oberon, Heron and Mark Fry with black and whites of all the others. I know the Anne Briggs, Parchment, Heron and Trader Horne album covers fairly well and I've reviewed the likes of Bridget St. John, Dando Shaft and Marc Brierley on quality reissue CDs - but stuff like the Euro releases of Wight and the privately pressed LPs are new to me. The DAVID WELLS liner notes are fabulous – full of details that amaze with pithy observations that tickle your interest for more - while the whole shebang is dedicated to two heroes of the genre who passed in 2014 and 2015 – Clive Palmer of The Incredible String Band and John Renbourn of Pentangle. The audio is by SIMON MURPHY at Another Planet Music and is superb overall (with the occasional dip depending on the rarity of the source).

Disc 1 opens on an absolute winner – Pentangle mixing Traditional English Folk with trippy Rock thereby creating Folk-Rock (or Acid Folk in this case). As Jacqui McShee sings "...a woman is a branchy tree..." and John Renbourn slaps those chiming six strings - the audio on this sucker is awesome – beautifully in your face like 1967's "London Conversation" by John Martyn. It's followed by a clever choice "Willow's Song" – an acoustic ballad from "The Wicker Man" soundtrack (never released at the time) sung by Linda Mackay who played Daisy in the horror movie (apparently Pentangle were lined up to do the music hence the connection). Gary Farr’s track is gorgeous too and so inventive in its rhythms and vocal arrangements. Unfortunately there’s bad tape wobble on the gorgeous Synanthesia track “Peek Strangely And Worried Evening” – as lovely a Folk Rock melody as I’ve ever heard. Former Mr. Fox couple Bob & Carole Pegg make lovely racket on the very Mike Oldfield sounding “Glass Of Water”. Amongst collectors Vashti Bunyan’s sole album “Just Another Diamond Day on Philips in its pretty stippled gatefold has now become a legend for both its Prog Folk musical beauty and its staggering cost (£1500 + to acquire a copy). Here we get Vashti’s equally heralded earlier work at the hands of Andrew Loog Oldham where he teamed her up with members of Immediate’s Twice As Much to produce the spellbinding “Winter Is Blue” for the 1968 “Let All Make Love In London” soundtrack LP. The 8-minute Comus track (EP only) steps away from their usual doom and gloom “First Utterance” songs to offer up a truly fabulous piece called “Winter Is A Coloured Bird” where they come at you like a cross between Deram’s Mellow Candle and Roy Harper on Harvest (a combo that will send shivers down the spine of many). It’s one of those long songs that doe not overstay its welcome but amazes – not just in terms of the acoustic guitar playing but especially the vocal layers – up and down like waves in the sea – inventive and special.

Disc 2 has a gorgeous Previously Unreleased track in “River Lane” by the delightfully titled MELTON CONSTABLE and you can ‘so’ hear why the fantastic trippy Sitar Folk of MOONKYTE commands some astronomical prices on original vinyl (£400 to £600 in a pop-up Spire sleeve). I’ve never been moved by STEELEYE SPAN but the HERON track is superb (literally recorded in a Berkshire field while smoking Lebanese) – very Matthews Southern Comfort in its English Folk-Rock feel as they sing of “...making daisy chains...” Sung by Sue McClellan - “Love Is Come Again” by PARCHMENT is another Sitar trippy jaunt that makes you want to shake your head from side to side as you exit the city rat race. It’s cleverly followed by the beautiful Robert Kirby string arrangements of “Stargazer” and the Sandy Denny-like vocals of SHELAGH McDONALD. Her two albums on Charisma’s B&C Records have steadily risen in value over the years as people discover their Mellow Candle beauty. I wouldn’t have thought of including JOAN ARMATRADING in this compilation – but it’s another smart choice. “Visionary Mountains” from her overlooked 1972 debut LP “Whatever’s For Us” features piano, acoustic guitars and more importantly a Sitar background that lends the track an Acid Folk hippy feel (Manfred Fred covered the song on their 1975 “Nightingales And Bombers” LP). The Fairport demo is excellent if not a little hissy (Denny’s voice still thrills). With a decidedly dodgy band name like HUNT, LUNT & CUNNINGHAM – their lone Pye single “Meanwhile Back In The Forest” sounds like 1960s Jefferson Airplane meets The Mamas and Papas for a 1972 song (and amazingly there’s a publicity photo for them on Page 24 advertising the single). The 5-minute Acoustic Demo of “First Girl I Loved” by The Incredible String Band is gorgeous – a real find – pure and melodic and a sweet professional recording too. I’ve always thought the Trader Horne album a bit of a masterpiece. Apparently named after John Peel’s Nanny – it sounds like Al Stewart Acoustic Folk mixed with Ian Anderson Flute. Roughest audio cut (clearly dubbed from a disc) goes to “Meeting By The Moonlight Mill” by Dry Heart – which is a damn shame because there’s genius in the guitars and doubled-vocal melodies (I’d love to hear a good tape of this). A highly polished Demo of “Highways (Misty Mist)” has Bolan’s high whine giving the song a huge (bit of a sweet find too). Duncan Browne’s magical classical guitar and top-end vocals imbibe “Gabilan” with a beauty that is quite breathtaking at times. Disc 2 ends with a winner – Kevin Coyne’s Folk Rock “Sand All Yellow” where he sings like a strangulated Captain Beefheart warning about over-zealous Doctors and their helpful pills.

Disc 3 has Clive’s Own Band (C.O.B.) giving us the pretty air of “Music Of The Ages” – another massively collectable album and artist. The hippy nonsense of “come little mirror” at the end of “A Song For The System” by Everyone Involved may indeed be a chant too far for many – but better is the Acoustic beauty of Country Sun’s “The Colour Is Blue” where they sound like America or Help Yourself at their most mellow. The audio on the Wild Country track isn’t great (like a bootleg). I’ve reviewed both of the Marc Brierley albums reissued for CD by Esoteric Recordings (see my SOUNDS GOOD Book – Exceptional CD Remasters 1960s and 1970s Volume 2) – and both are lovely. There’s a superb one-two with The Occasional Word and Anne Briggs – two Folk tunes that feel timeless and yet innovative somehow. And on it goes...

Admittedly after a while it can be hard to hear another fay vocal accompanied by a hovering low-breath flute ensconcing lyrics about communing with dandelions, fairies and a set of stones in Bognor Regis – but – and I do mean this - there is so much to discover on here and more importantly – so much to love. Like Blues and Country – Folk Music seems to throw up an unending amount of genius and genuine innovation for a genre that is perceived by many as being locked into only one groove and one sound. The British Underground Folk Scene from those two astonishing decades seems to finally be coming out to play.

Equal in my books to the wonderful Universal 3CD Box Sets covering the Island, Polydor, Decca, Deram and Vertigo Labels of a few years back (I've reviewed them all) – and acting as a sort of complimentary set to the "Love, Poetry & Revolution" 3CD Box Set that mines similar territory (also on Grapefruit) - there is so much to enjoy on "Dust On The Nettles" – there really is.

A dangling conversation indeed... Well done to the boys at Grapefruit for frolicking in the fronds, snorting fennel and dancing naked around the campfire for us (at my age I tend to keep my clothes on)...

This review and many others like it is available in one of my 5 e-books on CD Remasters: 

SOUNDS GOOD: Exceptional CD Remasters 1960s and 1970s Volume 2...

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