Friday, 29 April 2016

"Dada" by DADA [featuring Elkie Brooks, Paul Korda & Pete Gage] (2016 Esoteric Recordings CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...





"...Take Me Up And Put Me Down Big Dipper..." 

Derided and beloved in equal measure – England's DADA made only one LP in late 1970 for a confused Atlantic Records. A hybrid of styles encompassing Brassy Prog, Holy Roller Rock and Rotary Connection-style vocal gymnastics (and a few points beyond those) - like the eclecticism suggested by their band name – the music was impossible to pigeonhole and of course drove both the record company nuts and the public into the nearest bar.

Most Rock geezers like me know our Dada through the 99p we spent on Atlantic Super 2464 013 – "The Age Of Atlantic" label sampler LP put out in October 1970. Amidst the Zeppelin, Yes and Dr. John - there they were. Track 2 on Side 2 was Dada's Hair-like cover of The Rolling Stones 1965 "The Last Time" - a bopper radically rearranged into something more interesting and ever so slightly out there. The whole album is like that – a mishmash of 5th Dimension meets Julie Driscoll with Brian Auger and The Trinity meets Rotary Connection and a few other musical experiments along the way. Don't get me wrong – I love it – there is much to cherish here. It's not Rock for sure and it's not completely Psych either. It's a mixture of many styles – immediately dated yet actually very cool too. Here is the exploratory cross-pollination existential Dadaist details man (and that's just the left leg)...

UK released Friday 22 April 2016 – "Dada" by DADA [featuring Elkie Brooks, Paul Korda, Pete Gage and Don Shinn] on Esoteric Recordings WECLEC 2543 (Barcode 5013929464346) is a straightforward CD Remaster and transfer of their lone album (37:17 minutes):

1. Big Dipper
2. The Last Time
3. This Is My Song
4. Seed Of Peace
5. Organ Interlude
6. Tonite Is
7. She Walks Away [Side 2]
8. Aspen, Colorado
9. Eyes Of The Warren
10. Jasamin
11. Dada
Tracks 1 to 11 are their lone album "Dada" – released December 1970 in the UK on Atlantic 2400 030 and in the USA on Atco SD 33-352.

Paul Korda had a hand in writing In "Big Dipper" and "This Is My Song" (both co-writes with Pete Gage) - "Seed Of Peace" and "Tonite Is" are co-writes with Keyboardist Don Shinn and he solo wrote "Jasamin" and "Dada". Don Shinn wrote "Organ Interlude" and "Eyes Of The Warren". "The Last Time" is a Rolling Stones cover and "Aspen, Colorado" is a Tony Joe White cover. "She Walks Away" is written by Pete Gage and Ivan Zagni.

Taking its moniker from an art movement formed at the outbreak of the First World War – DADA was the brainchild of PETE GAGE - a Guitarist and Arranger heavily involved with Geno Washington and The Ram Jam Band in the mid Sixties. Deliberately choosing not to have one central singer but enough people to handle the diversity of the music (they weren't called Dada for nothing) – founder member Pete Gage decided on three sets of voices – and what a trio they were. ELKIE BROOKS had been working the cabaret circuit and doing jazz-outs with Humphrey Lyttleton's band as well as studio stints with Jody Grind – Tim Hinkley's Prog Rock act signed to Transatlantic Records. The second set of pipes belonged to the all-round eccentric and hugely creative PAUL KORDA – a falsetto singer who’d worked in the "Hair" cast and was a prolific song/lyric writer. The third was JIMMY CHAMBERS who was a Percussionist as well. DON SHINN supplement those singers with Keyboards and MARTIN HARRYMAN played Drums. Other musicians included BARRY DUGGAN on Saxophones & Flutes, MALCOLM CAPEWELL on Tenor Sax & Flute with ERNIE LUCHLAN on Trumpet & Flugelhorn.

The 16-page booklet has new liner notes by SID SMITH that feature informational interviews with founding member Pete Gage discussing the formation of the band – the eclectic styles and the tours of America in 1971 that saw Robert Palmer join the ranks and would eventually go on with Elkie to form the much-loved Vinegar Joe on Island Records. There are no photos but quotes from Dada exponents like Huelsenbeck, Blosche, Hugo Ball and Andre Breton. BEN WISEMAN has carried out the 24-bit digital remaster at Broadlake Studios and this disc rocks.

It opens very strongly with "Big Dipper" which is a brilliantly arranged Prog Rocker with Blood, Sweat & Tears brass thrown in and all three vocalists featured. Their adventurous cover of The Rolling Stones "Last Time" has clever breaks that feel very Lydia Pense and Cold Blood. The acoustic opening to "This Is My Song" is beautifully handled on the remaster as is the "Hair" chorus and keyboards – a genius tune – I'm reminded of good 5th Dimension or a cool Charles Stepney production of Rotary Connection circa "Hey, Love". I love the duet of vocals between Brooks and Korda on "Seed Of Peace" – another sort of holy-roller peace anthem that cries out to be in "Jesus Christ Superstar". The side ends on two short 'n' curlies - the 54-second "Organ Interlude" by Don Shinn that feels like the beginning to an ELP opus done on a local church organ. That immediately leads into "Tonite Is" – another one minute of hippy claptrap vocals.

Side 2 opens with the wicked "She Walks Away" – a very Rotary Connection "Hair" production song with great brass fills and multiple vocals. Tony Joe White's "Aspen, Colorado" originated on his 1968 "Black And White" LP in 1968 on Monument Records while others might recognise it as the B-side to the more famous "Pork Salad Annie". In the hands of Dada - its 2:50 original playing time is stretched to 5:03 minutes and becomes almost unrecognisable (but in a good way). Sung with real Soul by all – it features cool treated keyboards and complimentary brass. "Aspen Colorado" is a definite highlight on here. Shinn's "Eyes Of The Warren" has a great keyboard break – while the acoustic 'sweetness of a million roses' that pours off the twee "Jasamin" may be too much free-love for most (even with that great vocal ending). The album ends on "Dada" – an upbeat Blood Sweat & Tears vibe – again feeling like another 'Hair' outtake that almost made the set list.

Historically - Paul Korda appeared as one of the Lead Vocalists in the 1968 stage show of "Hair" - made a couple of solo albums in the 70ts - "A Passing Stranger" released June 1971 in the UK on MAM Records MAM-AS 1003 and "Dancing In The Aisles" released 1978 in the USA on Janus JXS-7038. He also guested on "Ride A White Horse" and "One Of The Boys" for The Who's Roger Daltrey in 1975 and 1978. Personally - I knew his name from the song "Seagull (The West Coat Oil Tragedy Of '68)" which Dave Edmund's Love Sculpture covered on their 1970 second LP "Forms And Feelings". Korda is still active and put out 2 CDs in 2009 covering his early years and new material.

It's not all great for sure - but there is genius in its midst. I never thought I'd see the day that this obscure LP would finally receive a decent CD remaster (there is a Wounded Bird issue in 2010 but I heard bad reports about its audio). So not everyone's just Joss Stick – but if you feel like sticking a flower in a child's hair or sharing your baubles and dandelions collection with the world - then the brill and hippyish "Dada" is the earth-mother for you.

I dig it baby and I still think the Stones nicked their logo design in part from the cover painting...

"Firefall/Luna Sea/Elan" by FIREFALL (2016 Beat Goes On 2CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...




"...Sold On You..."

Hailing from Boulder in Colorado (formed in 1973, debuted in 1976) - the 5-piece FIREFALL rode the shirttails of soft Country-Rock blazed by bands like America and The Eagles in the preceding five years. Firefall featured members of The Flying Burrito Brothers (Singer Rick Roberts and Drummer Mike Clarke), Mark Andes of Spirit, Jo Jo Gunne and later Heart - and two great axemen in Larry Burnett and Jock Bartley. Mick Clarke has also played in The Byrds. They certainly had the players and musical history to pull it off.

The three albums on this amazing sounding 2CD Beat Goes On Reissue were originally released on Atlantic Records and sound like the less snotty brother of Jo Jo Gunne - a milder Crosby, Stills & Nash but not quite as good as Manassas or other obvious bands of that ilk. Now considered 'yacht rock' – when Firefall were good they made a very pleasurable racket indeed. Here are the harmonious details...

UK released Friday, 29 April 2016 (May 2016 in the USA) – "Firefall/Luna Sea/Elan" by FIREFALL on Beat Goes On BGO 1234 (Barcode 5017261212344) offers 3LPs Remastered from Original Master Tapes onto 2CDs and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (60:35 minutes):
1. It Doesn't Matter
2. Love Isn't All
3. Livin' Ain't Livin'
4. No Way Out
5. Dolphin's Lullaby
6. Cinderella [Side 2]
7. Sad Ol' Love Song
8. You Are The Woman
9. Mexico
10. Do What You Want
Tracks 1 to 10 are their debut album "Firefall" – released April 1976 in the USA on Atlantic SD 18174 and in the UK on Atlantic K 50260. It peaked at No. 28 on the US charts in early May 1976 (didn’t chart UK).

Tracks 2, 4, 6, 7 and 10 written by Larry Burnett – Tracks 3, 5, 8 and 9 written by Rick Roberts
"It Doesn't Matter" is a Stephen Stills and Manassas cover version (written by Stephen Stills and Chris Hillman).

11. So Long
12. Just Remember I Love You
13. Sold On You
14. Someday Soon
15. Just Think
Tracks 11 to 15 are Side 1 of their 2nd LP "Luna Sea" – released August 1977 in the USA on Atlantic SD 19101 and in the UK on Atlantic K 50355.

Disc 2 (58:48 minutes):
1. Getaway
2. Only A Fool
3. Head On Home
4. Piece Of Paper
5. Even Steven
Tracks 1 to 5 are Side 2 of their 2nd LP "Luna Sea" – released August 1977 in the USA on Atlantic SD 19101 and in the UK on Atlantic K 50355. Rick Roberts wrote Tracks 11, 12 and 14 on Disc 1 and 2 on Disc 2. It peaked at No. 27 on the US LP charts (didn’t chart UK).
Larry Burnett wrote Track 13 on Disc 1 and Tracks 1, 3 and 4 on Disc 2. Track 5 on Disc 1 co-written between Roberts and Burnett
Track 15 written by Firefall.

6. Strange Way
7. Sweet And Sour
8. Wrong Side Of Town
9. Count Your Blessings
10. Get You Back
11. Anymore [Side 2]
12. Baby
13. Goodbye, I Love You
14. Sweet Ann
15. Winds Of Change
Tracks 6 to 15 are their 3rd album “Elan” – released October 1978 in the USA on Atlantic SD 19183 and in the UK on Atlantic K 50494. It peaked at No. 27 on the US LP charts (didn’t chart UK).

Tracks 6, 9, 11, 13, 14 and 15 written by Rick Roberts – Tracks 8, 10 and 12 written by Larry Burnett.

Track 7 is a co-write with Jock Bartley and Rick Roberts – track 11 a co-write between Mark Andes and Rick Roberts.

As you can see from the notes above beneath the track lists – Firefall featured two hugely prolific songwriters – Rick Roberts and Larry Burnett. Roberts had in fact released two solo LPs before forming Firefall in 1973 - 1972's "Windmills" on A&M SP-4372 and 1973's "She Is A Song" on A&M SP-4404. The first LP famously featured a ludicrously stacked set of musicians – Jackson Browne, Henley, Meisner and Leadon of The Eagles, David Crosby, Marc Benno and members of Stephen Still's Manassas (oddly neither LP charted). Guitarist Burnett is still active – releasing CD albums "Confidence Game" in 2004 and "Guitar & Vocals" in 2009. Also prominent across all three albums is Jock Bartley – a guitarist who'd toured with Gram Parson and The Fallen Angels and replaced Tommy Bolin in Zephyr. His wicked slide can be heard to great effect on "Sold On You" where he's aided and abetted by keyboard player David Muse giving it some great Harmonica warbles. Timothy B. Schmidt gets an early look in before he joined The Eagles providing backing vocals on "Just Remember I Love You" on the "Luna Sea" album. The Memphis Horns provide Brass backing for that whole record too. The Manassas percussionist Joe Lala guests on the "Elan" album - while Steve Forman shakes various tambourines alongside Lala on the same LP. Joe Mason produced the first two platters with number three handled by the equally legendary helmsman Tom Dowd – so production values are top notch on all – something the remaster from original tapes makes the absolute most of.

As always with BGO releases there’s an outer card slipcase lending the release a classy feel (the cover art is the three albums centred against a plain blue backdrop – I say this because there appears to be another sleeve which uses the artwork of "Luna Sea" as its backdrop). The 24-page booklet is substantial – full album credits, lyrics to all three LPs, artwork, band photos and new liner notes from noted writer JOHN TOBLER that reference the complicated musical history of the band members (Spirit, Jo Jo Gunne, The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Gram Parsons Fallen Angels and more). But the big news is new 2016 ANDREW THOMPSON High Res Remasters from Original Tapes – and man does it show. The Audio Quality on these babies rocks – clear, warm, all the instruments filling your room with clarity. A top job done...

Back in 2009 Rhino Europe featured Firefall's accomplished cover of the Stephen Stills Manassas song "It Doesn't Matter" as part of Volume 1 of their "California Groove" series of 4CD reissues. Not surprising really – the guitars are great and the production beautiful (Atlantic UK issued it as an A-side on K 10798 in July 1976 – their first 45 in Britain). "Love Isn't All" is a little too lightweight with its whiny vocal and flute passages – things buck up with the acoustic jaunt of "Livin' Ain't Lovin'" – a very radio-friendly tune complete with a tasteful Saxophone solo. Funky Rock fiends will dig the boogie of "No Way Out" – the boys allowed to rock it out with the slides. The poppy but irritating "You Are The Woman" was the 2nd UK 45 on Atlantic K 10814 in August 1976 and not surprisingly didn’t chart. Better was "Cinderella" b/w "Dolphin's Ballad" in October 1976 on Atlantic K 10853 – a hooky 'god damn' melody with nice harmonica and mood changes. The band gets a bit Outlaws with the finisher "Do What You Want" – again showcasing great guitar playing bolstered up with funky brass fills.

The second LP "Luna Sea" is the best of the bunch in my opinion. "So Long" and "Just Remember I Love You" are very Eagles territory and I'm a sucker for that fab Bartley guitar work on the rocker "Sold On You" – sounding utterly amazing here. Some very nice orchestration on the 'steal away' song "Someday Soon" while the boys discover their inner Marshall Tucker Band with "Just Think" and rock to that chugging riffage. More slide and sax underpin "Getaway" where "Only A Fool" sounds closest to the Eagles circa "One Of These Nights" (beautifully produced too). Like a jaunty Joe Walsh song circa the "...But Seriously Folks" album - "Head On Home" bops along with great slide (the playing sounding not unlike England's Bryn Haworth circa 1978's "Grand Arrival" on A&M Records). Time for the inevitable 'she done me wrong' ballad – "Piece Of Paper" and back to the upbeat melodic rock of "Even Steven".

"Elan" had Tom Dowd at the production helm and you can hear his skill in the Crosby, Stills & Nash acoustic bop of "Sweet And Sour" – a lovely listen. Larry Burnett put up the jaunty harmonica boogie of "Wrong Side Of Town" – a great builder with clever lyrics and a beautiful remaster transfer. Burnett lets the guitars rip for the Jo Jo Gunne-sounding "Get You Back" where he's determined to rectify a mistake and win his lady back. Rick Roberts and Mark Andes co-wrote "Anymore" – a plucky little funk-rock number about walking the line and not falling off again. "Baby" is the ballad (ala America) and it's a little too saccharine and produced for my palette. Yacht Rock fans however will get droopy for "Goodbye I Love You" while the band finishes proceedings with the excellent rocker "Winds Of Change".

Not as musically memorable as America or The Eagles – but on the evidence presented here - Firefall clearly had their equally melodic moments. And fans will love the Remasters and quality presentation. Another tasty BGO reissue...


"Long After Dark" by TOM PETTY and THE HEARTBREAKERS (2001 Universal/MCA 'HDCD' Reissue - Joe Gastwirt Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...



"...I'm Finding Out..." 

Originally released in November 1982 on Vinyl and Cassette – Tom Petty's fifth studio album "Long After Dark" seemed to slip through the cracks. While it managed a top-ten placing Stateside - no one cared enough to notice in good old Blighty. You just don't see British vinyl originals of it that much - and the initial 1980's CD reissue (a non-remaster) disappeared off the shelves only a few years after it was released.

Which brings us to this fantastic sounding 2001 'HDCD' Remaster – a properly decent audio overhaul - but yet again - overlooked in his canon of consistently good releases. "Long After Dark" is a brilliant rock album with all the trademark Petty hooks and catchy choruses - tune after tune hitting you with their economy and brilliance. Deliver me indeed. Here are the details...

UK and USA released March 2001 – "Long After Dark" by TOM PETTY and THE HEARTBREAKERS on MCA 112 446-2 (Barcode 008811244620) is a straightforward CD transfer/reissue (mastered in HDCD) of the album (36:24 minutes).

1. A One-Story Town
2. You Got Lucky
3. Deliver Me
4. Change Of Heart
5. Finding Out
6. We Stand A Chance [Side 2]
7. Straight Into Darkness
8. The Same Old You
9. Between Two Worlds
10. A Wasted Life
"Long After Dark" was released November 1982 in the USA on MCA/Backstreet Records BSR-5360 and in the UK on MCA Records MCL 1818. It peaked at No. 9 on the US LP charts and No. 45 in the UK.

The booklet is ok – reproducing the lyrics of the original vinyl album’s inner sleeve. The back inlay picture is different to the 80's issue but that’s about it. However – that’s offset by the gobsmacking audio... Remastered by Joe Gastwirt at Ocean View Digital from the original analogue master tapes - the sound on this 'High Definition Compatible Digital' reissue (one in a series of Petty Remasters) is just stupendous - clear, full of power and clarity and ready to kick your stereo in its sub-woofer proverbials. Gastwirt has done a truly fantastic remaster job here.

Co-Produced by Petty with JIMMY IOVINE (who'd worked so successfully with the band on "Damn The Torpedoes" in 1979) - "A One Story Town" opens proceedings with a tale of faraway feelings and nowhere city - all wrapped up in a driving set of riffs. The huge synth punch in "You Got Lucky" is so clear that it almost feels intrusive – audio that's too damn good. But then we get one of those fabulous Petty rockers - "Deliver Me" - where he begs his girl to "...take this heart...and deliver me..." Another belter follows - the faster-paced "Finding Out" - a shockingly good headbanger that builds and builds (cracking harmony vocals too). Side One ends on the clever voice-box guitar of "We Stand A Chance". Other winners include the deceptively sweet "A Wasted Life" - a shuffler that gets its hooks into and stays there. Both "Change Of Heart" and "Straight Into Darkness" is the band firing on all sixes - brilliant Petty rockers with huge sound (I love these songs and US radio played the hell out of "Straight Into Darkness"). No time for pretty as it ends with more monster riffage - the moody 'you haven't changed' song "The Same Old You".

I've always thought "Long After Dark" to be an absolute blinder of an album and not nearly as dated as so much Eighties cack is. And it's cheap too (use the Barcode provided above to get the right issue). You go TP...

Thursday, 28 April 2016

"Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen/Tales From The Ozone/We’ve Got A Live One Here!" (2016 Beat Goes On 2CD – Andrew Thompson Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...



"...Honky Tonk Music..."

I'd admit that Idaho's George Frayne (Commander Cody) and his crew of permanently Lost Airmen produced Country music that is actually hard to define. You take straight up story-song pedal-steel Country as a base – and every second song you throw in some 40s Swing, 50's R&B and Rockabilly – then layer that lot with some good old knees-up-mother-brown 60ts brass backing – and you get an approximation of the ever so slightly anarchic musical stew that's on offer here. Great fun for sure when it works – but a shade short of hammy awful when it doesn't.

But all musical summations aside - if you're a fan of Commander Cody – then a state of seventh heaven awaits you here because the High Definition Audio Remaster on these 2016 British CDs is truly fabulous stuff (taken from first generation master tapes). Here are the not-so-lost details...

UK released Friday, 29 April 2016 (May 2016 in the USA) – "Commander Cody And His Lost Planet Airmen/Tales From The Ozone/We've Got A Live One Here!" by COMMANDER CODY and his LOST PLANET AIRMEN on Beat Goes On BGOCD 1238 (Barcode 5017261212382) offers 3LPs (two studio, one live double) Remastered onto 2CDs and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (68:22 minutes):
1. Southbound
2. Don't Let Go
3. California Okie
4. Willin'
5. The Boogie Man Boogie
6. Hawaii Blues [Side 2]
7. House Of Blue Lights
8. Keep On Lovin' Her
9. Devil And Me
10. Four Or Five Times
11. That's What I Like About The South
Tracks 1 to 11 are their 5th album (debut for Warners) "Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen" – released in the USA January 1975 on Warner Brothers BS 2847.

12. Minnie The Moocher
13. It's Gonna Be One Of Those Nights
14. Connie
15. I've Been To Georgia On A Fast Train
16. Honky Tonk Music
17. Lightnin’ Bar Blues
18. Paid In Advance
19. Cajun Baby
20. Tina Louise
21. The Shadow Knows
22. Roll Your Own
23. Gypsy Fiddle
Tracks 12 to 23 are their 6th slum (2nd for Warners) "Tales From The Ozone" – released October 1975 on Warner Brothers BS 2883

Disc 2 (70:06 minutes):
1. One Of Those Nights
2. Semi Truck
3. Smoke! Smoke! Smoke!
4. Big Mammau
5. San Antonio Rose
6. 18 Wheels
7. Mama Hated Diesels
8. Lookin' At The World Through A Windshell
9. My Window Faces South
10. Milkcow Blues
11. It Should've Been Me
12. Back To Tennessee
13. Seeds And Stems
14. Rock That Boogie
15. Riot In Cell Block No. 9
16. Don't Let Go
17. Too Much Fun
18. Hot Rod Lincoln
19. Lost In The Ozone
Tracks 1 to 19 are the double live-album "We've Got A Live One Here!" – released July 1976 in the USA on Warner Brothers 2LS 2939

There's a card slipcase which always makes these BGO releases feel classy – a 16-page booklet new liner notes from noted writer JOHN O'REGAN – photos of the band recording – album credits and so on. It discusses their first four albums on Paramount and then the trio – presented here – two studios efforts for Warner Brothers and a live double that includes material from entire career stretching back to 1971. But the big news is the 'Mastered In High Definition Audiophile Recording From The Original Master' emblazoned across the top of the card slipcase. Carried out by BGO's resident sound engineer ANDREW THOMPSON – the Audio is a total triumph. There's amazing clarity and warmth on both of these CDs – a great sound that doesn't feel amped up for the sake of it. 

Hoyt Axton stumped up the opening "Southbound" – the bass and vocals so clear. Jesse Stone wrote the irrepressible bop of 'Don't Let Go" and the golden-voiced Roy Hamilton had a hit with it in 1958 on Epic Records – a great R&B dancer. Cody sticks pretty much to that bopping formula. By direct contrast is the pure country tune of "California Okie" – a lost-my-wife song supplied by Kevin 'Blackie' Farrell. They attempt a passable version of Little Feat's "Willin'" but it isn't a patch on Lowell George's hurting original. Better fun is the barrelhouse piano of "The Boogie Man Boogie" – a song about a ghost who won't leave the black and white keys alone in the dead of night. Another goody in that R&B vein is "House Of Blue Lights" – a 78" hit for Eddie Slack and Ella May Morse on Capitol Records way back in 1946 (Jerry Lee Lewis did a cover of it too). Bob Wills and his Playboys along with Phil Harris (the voice of Baloo The Bear in The Jungle Book) both had a hit with "That's Why I Like About The South" – so Cody keeps it Country and ends the album well.

Although it tries to seem like it's having fun - the 2nd Warners LP feels forced with ill-advised covers of Cab Calloway's "Minnie The Moocher" and Lieber/Stoller's "The Shadow Knows" which The Coasters did in 1958 on Atlantic. Better is "Honky Tonk Music" - a huge sing-a-long crowd pleaser. Hoyt Axton's "Lightnin' Bar Blues" is very good – a man wanting to have a brewski in peace. The live double screams good time R&B shindig more than line-dancing country – the audience whooping and hollering to "Smoke! Smoke! Smoke!" and the final flourish of R 'n' B and R 'n' R tunes like "Rock That Boogie" and Charlie Ryan's 1959 Rockabilly winner "Red Hot Lincoln".

Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen and the music on these 2CDs are very much an acquired taste. But if you're partial – you'll need to own it for that truly stunning audio. And don't you just love that 'spacemen' artwork...

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

"Original Album Series" by TOMMY JAMES & THE SHONDELLS (2014 Rhino/Warners 5CD Mini Box Set) - A Review by Mark Barry...



"...Crimson And Clover..." 

My first real introduction to the mighty 60ts Pop & Rock magic of Tommy James & The Shondells was via Bruce Springsteen vinyl bootlegs in the late 70ts (he will be pleased). I can remember his 1978 encores used to include the incendiary "Mony Mony" to staggering effect – and bluntly his "She's The One" on 1975's "Born To Run" bore an uncanny resemblance to James' signature blaster sound.

I wanted more - but their albums are not common outside of Anthologies and compilations. And that's where this dinky 2014 value-for-money 5CD mini box set reissue comes in. Excluding 2 LPs from 1967 ("It Only Love" and "Getting' Together") – you get their five other albums of the period (1966 to 1969) all in one neat little package. The music moves from Monkees-type pop in 1966 through to the acidic mayhem of 1969 where they come on like a laddish Kinks with killer tunes and a twinkle in their eye. Time to shake a tail feather y'all...

Originally UK and Europe released 20 January 2014 – "Original Album Series" by TOMMY JAMES & THE SHONDELLS on Rhino/Warner Brothers 2564636195 (Barcode 825646361953) is a 5CD Mini Box Set with 5" singular card sleeve repro’s and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (30:35 minutes):
1. Hanky Panky
2. I'll Go Crazy
3. I'm So Proud
4. The Lover
5. Love Makes The World Go Round
6. Good Lovin'
7. Say I Am [Side 2]
8. Cleo's Mood
9. Don't Throw Our Love Away
10. Shake A Tail Feather
11. Soul Searchin' Baby
12. Lots Of Pretty Girls
Tracks 1 to 12 are their debut album "Hanky Panky" – released July 1966 in the USA on Roulette R 25336 (Mono) and Roulette SR 25336 (Stereo) – no UK release. The Stereo mix is used.

Disc 2 (29:24 minutes):
1. I Think We're Alone Now
2. Trust Each Other In Love
3. What I'd Give To See Your Face Again
4. Baby Let Me Down
5. Let's Be Lovers
6. Run, Run, Baby, Run
7. Mirage [Side 2]
8. I Like The Way
9. California Sun
10. (Baby, Baby) I Can't Take It
11. Gone, Gone, Gone
12. Shout
Tracks 1 to 12 are their third album "I Think We’re Alone Now" – released April 1967 in the USA on Roulette R 25353 (Mono) and Roulette SR 25353 (Stereo) – no UK release. The Stereo mix is used.

Disc 3 (27:51 minutes):
1. Mony Mony
2. Do Unto Me
3. (I'm) Taken
4. Nightime (I'm A Lover)
5. Run Away With Me
6. Somebody Cares [Side 2]
7. Get Out Now
8. I Can't Go Back To Denver
9. Some Kind Of Love
10. Gingerbread Man
11. One Two Three And I Fell
Tracks 1 to 12 are their fifth album "Mony Mony" – released July 1968 in the USA on Roulette SR 42012 (Stereo-only) and in the UK on Roulette RRLP 1 (Mono) and Roulette SRLP 1 (Stereo). The Stereo mix is used.

Disc 4 (32:31 minutes):
1. Crimson & Clover
2. Kathleen McArthur
3. I Am A Tangerine
4. Do Something For Me
5. Crystal Blue Persuasion [Side 2]
6. Sugar On Sunday
7. Breakaway
8. Smokey Roads
9. I'm Alive
10. Crimson & Clover (Reprise)
Tracks 1 to 10 are their sixth album "Crimson & Clover" – released January 1969 in the USA on Roulette SR 42023 (Stereo-only) and in the UK on Roulette RRLP 2 (Mono) and Roulette SRLP 2 (Stereo). The Stereo mix is used.

Disc 5 (42:24 minutes):
1. Cellophane Symphony
2. Makin' Good Time
3. Evergreen
4. Sweet Cherry Wine
5. Papa Rolled His Own
6. Changes [Side 2]
7. Loved One
8. I Know Who I Am
9. The Love Of A Woman
10. On Behalf Of The Entire Staff & Management
Tracks 1 to 10 are their seventh album "Cellophane Symphony" – released October 1969 in the USA on Roulette SR 42030 (Stereo-only) and in the UK on Roulette RRLP 3 (Mono) and Roulette SRLP 3 (Stereo). The Stereo mix is used.

As with all of these mini box sets there's no booklet but you do get 5 x 5" singular mini album sleeves (no gatefolds anyway) with the original front and rear cover of the American LPs on Roulette Records. The writing is tiny of course but how cool is it to see that original artwork after all these decades. The writer-credits are on the CD labels as are full track lists (no timings) with all 5 CD labels having generic colours that don’t reflect the original LP colours.

SOUND: There's no mention of Remasters but its Rhino/Warner Brothers and to my ears the Audio is wickedly good. I've got the 2009 Revola CD for "Crimson & Clover" and "Cellophane Symphony" and I'd have to say that the Audio on their release is the real deal – much better than what's on offer here. But as I say – what is on offer is excellent and at roughly two quid per album – a bit of a deal. Glitches - there was a mastering error on the "One Two Three And I Fell" track on the "Mony Mony" CD album – mistakes were admitted and Rhino have replaced it (my copy is fine).

The "Hanky Panky" album peaked at No. 46 on the US LP charts and produced two big singles – "Say I Am (What I Am)" b/w "Lots Of Pretty Girls" which hit No. 21 in August 1966 on Roulette R-4695 – and the title track "Hanky Panky" that went all the way to No. 1 in June 1966 on Roulette R-4686. Coming across like a more aggressive version of Roy Orbison and penned by the dynamic songwriting duo of Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich - "Hanky Panky" is a total 60ts dancing winner. The boys then show their Soul smarts by covering James Brown's "I'll Go Crazy" as well an almost vocal group take on The Impressions classic "I'm So Proud" (penned by Curtis Mayfield). "The Lover" is the first of three originals on the LP – this one penned by their Tenor Sax man George Magura and Bassist Mike Vale. The other two originals are band numbers - "Don't Throw Our Love Away" and "Soul Searchin' Baby". Soul gent Deon Jackson wouldn't cringe at their cover of his sublime "Love Makes The World Go Round" - while The Rascals might sue for identikit on "Good Lovin'". As I recall the funky Soul-Stroll of "Cleo's Mood" (penned by Junior Walker) would also turn up as an instrumental B-side to Isaac Hayes monster "Shaft" in 1971 on Stax Records. The Shondells Saxophone take on it is the kind of wicked 60ts groover you might hear in a bar and rush to the counter to find who it is. Other happy tunes include the infectious "Shake A Tail Feather" – a frat-party winner originally done by The Five Du-Tones in 1963 and picked up on again in 1967 by James & Bobby Purify.

"I Think We're Alone Now" hit No. 74 in April 1967 – it’s title track represented here in its Mono 7” single variant for some reason (weedy sound). "I Think We're Alone Now" is probably better known as a Tiffany song when the teen sensation covered it 20 years later in 1987. Producer and songwriter Phil Cordell took over the reins for the "I Think We're Alone Now" LP - proffering all the songs except their cover of The Isley Brothers classic "Shout". Winning tunes include "Baby Let Me Down" (a lovely vibe) while "California Sun" is probably the most famous groove on here a regular spin for DJs wanting to lively-up their airwaves. Another emotion-puller on here is "(Baby, Baby) I Can't Take It No More" – a fantastic piece of Sixties pop that will lift the most jaded of hearts.

Considering what a smash "Mony Mony" was as a song – it's surprising to see that the LP barely scraped No.193 in July 1968. But that doesn’t mean its weak. It opens with hand-clapping and you can literally see all those shimmy-shaker girls giving it some go-go – driving all the boys wild in their lame boots and mini-skirts (yeah baby). Taking it down several notches the pretty ballad-melody in "(I'm) Taken" is another hidden album nugget. Phil Spector fans will love the Wall Of Sound production given to "Run Away With Me" complete with speaker-to-speaker panning of the vocals. Other faves include the exit-that-bad-relationship-real-quick "Get Out Now" and the harpsichord pop of "Some Kind Of Love".

Fans will also know that the LP variant of the "Crimson & Clover" track is known as the 'long version' because it runs to 5:26 minutes (5:33 on this CD - the single was an edit at three and half minutes). Luckily Rhino have used the 'long version' complete with the engineer saying "...do a thing...whatever..." at the beginning and that fantastic psych-out extended guitar passage. Released at the beginning of January 1969 – the album "Crimson & Clover" showed maturity in the writing and gave a nod to the druggy culture of the times. The wonderful trippy "I Am A Tangerine" is an obvious homage "I Am The Walrus" by The Beatles. "Don't worry about guys...it's all in the mix..." we’re advised at the beginning of "Sugar On Sunday" by the Producer - a song where we go heavy on the harpsichord and treated vocals – the band sounding not unlike a stoned Bee Gees. But my fave is the garage guitar of "Breakaway" – a fantastic little groover buried on Side 2.

Part concept LP – part drug-addled – "Cellophane Symphony" continued the exploration of its predecessor. It opens on what could be The James Gang or Iron Butterfly or even Zappa. The 9:36 minute guitars of "Cellophane Symphony" signal a Tommy James & The Shondells that has moved away from three-minute power pop so much as to be almost unrecognisable. The music continues on the shorter and more recognisably Tommy James "Made Good Time" - where they already sound like Canned Heat on the road (great organ solo). The ballad "Evergreen" has great Production values and feels bigger and better than its 2:07 minute playing time would suggest. The witty homemade cigarettes song "Papa Rolled His Own" has a circus-carousel vocal that's fun but a tiny bit dated. Better is the Side 2 opener "Changes" – the sort of funk-rock religious song that wouldn't have gone amiss in "Hair" (I used to have some myself in 1969). My other poison here is the deceptively deep "I Know Who I Am" which feels like Warner Brothers Dion or even one of Link Wray's Polydor Records '3-Way Shack' recordings – all languid and knowing. While "The Love Of A Woman" may indeed be their very best song – hidden away on an album that's been lost in the mists of time.

A fantastic ride then through those amazingly creative years – and the best way to rediscover some criminally forgotten 60ts joy...

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