Sunday, 14 September 2014

"Five-A-Side" [aka "An Ace Album"] by ACE [feat Paul Carrack] (2011 Cherry Red 2CD 'Expanded" Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

“…The Most To Gain…”

After years of crap-sounding budget compilations (most deleted now and ludicrously expensive into the bargain) - along comes Cherry Red Records of the UK finally reissuing the debut album by ACE (featuring Paul Carrack) in proper style. And this time "Five-A-Side" even boasts an extra CD of previously unreleased tracks - including beautifully recorded and produced BBC sessions. Here are the musical scarves, football tackles and studio dribbles...

UK released June 2011 - Cherry Red CDBRED 493 (Barcode 5013929149328) is a 2CD set and breaks down as follows:

Disc 1 (35:52 minutes):
1. Sniffin' About
2. Rock & Roll Runaway
3. How Long
4. The Real Feeling
5. 24 Hours
6. Why
7. Time Ain't Long
8. Know How It Feels
9. Satellite
10. So Sorry Baby

Tracks 1 to 10 are the album "Five-A-Side" - originally issued on vinyl LP November 1974 in the UK and USA on Anchor Records ANCL 2001 (it was called "An Ace Album" in the USA).

Disc 2 - BONUS TRACKS (32:23 minutes):
1. Taste Like A Fish
2. 24 Hours
3. Ain't Gonna Stand For This No More
4. Rock & Roll Runaway
5. Know How It Feels
6. Why
7. Know How It Feels
8. Satellite

Track 1 is an album outtake - 2 to 5 are all from a BBC Radio 1 John Peel Session recorded 12 November 1974 - while the final three were recorded for a Bob Harris Session at the BBC on 2 December 1974 (all Previously Unreleased)

The 8-page inlay reproduces the LPs liner notes complete with each individual playing football - PAUL CARRACK On Lead Vocals and Keyboards (ex Warm Dust), Phil Harris on Lead Guitar (ex The Action, formed the band as Ace Flash and the Dynamos), Alan 'Bam' King on Rhythm Guitar (ex The Action, Mighty Baby and B.B. Blunder), Terry 'Tex' Comer on Bass (ex Warm Dust) with Dubliner Fran Byrne on Drums (ex Bees Make Honey). MICHAEL HEATLEY'S liner notes give a potted history of the band and their debut while it doesn't say who did the remaster - but it's superb compared to what I've been used to. The sound quality on Disc 2 is awesome also.

Musically this is a London white boy's Rock band with a Soulful twist - not unlike Cado Belle who would join Anchor in 1976. There's a lovely J.J. Cale lilt to the rhythms too and Carrack's voice has always been one of the band's strong points (not to mention his quality songwriting). The only British single off the album was of course the fabulous Carrack original "How Long" - UK issued as a 45 in October 1974 on Anchor ANC 1002 with "Sniffin' About" on the flip. It hit a respectable peak of 20 in the British single charts in November (just as the album came out) - but its US equivalent issued in March 1975 on Anchor ANC-21000 went Top 5 eventually gaining Number 3. It was a huge radio hit Stateside and saw the LP (known as "An Ace Album" over there) push its way up to Number 11 in March 1975 (it didn't even dent the top 50 in the UK). Despite the warmth given "How Long" in good old Blighty - oddly the newly established Anchor Records didn't release a follow up single that surely cost the album momentum. Anchor did try "Rock & Roll Runaway" b/w "Know How It Feels" in the USA on Anchor ANC-21002 - but it stalled at Number 71. A further 7" came out March 1975 in the UK ahead of the second album "Time For Another" - it was "I Ain't Gonna Stand For This No More' with Five-A-Side's "Rock And Roll Runaway" as it's B-side (Anchor ANC 1014) - but again despite a strong A - it went nowhere. Let's get to the album...

Produced so sweetly by JOHN ANTHONY (of Queen, Genesis, Rare Bird and Van Der Graaf Generator fame) - "Five-A-Side" opens with the catchy "Sniffin' About" and gets even better with the piano funky jaunt of "Rock & Roll Runaway". But then you're hit with absolute magic - the standout "How Long". To this day it sends me and to hear it sound this good is a proper blast. We're back to Katy Lied Steely Dan keyboard Funk with "The Real Feeling" (nice guitar too) and the superb "24 Hours" (both Carrack tunes).

Side 2 opens with what should have been the 2nd single - the killer groove of "Why?" - sounding like the Average White Band on a Rock tip. "Time Ain't Long" is about family, parents and their passing - and to this day its lyrics don't seem to sit comfortably with the upbeat soulful melody. Things slow down and get better with the Soulful "Know How It Feels". The TV song "Satellite" gets piano funky again while the finisher "So Sorry, Baby" could also have been a great single (a Paul Harris original). You wouldn't call the album a lost masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination but I've always loved its Rock Soulfulness and this remaster really brings that out.

The good news is that the lone "Tastes Like A Fish" is an outtake gem - the bad news is that it's minus an obvious vocal - so what you get is a Funky Instrumental of about 3 minutes. But the 7 that follow are truly excellent - studio-quality live BBC sessions with the band sounding so tight and fresh. There's a killer version of "24 Hours" (the keyboards are particularly brill) while the cool continues with "It Ain't Gonna Stand For This No More" - again sounding so sweet. We get a near note-perfect "Rock & Roll Runaway" with superb harmonizing vocals (man were they rehearsed!). "Know How It Feels" has lovely Soulfulness while the Bob Harris Session version of "Why?" is just so damn groovy (lyrics above).

It's probably going to come as a shock to fans to find that Disc 2 - which cherry picks the albums best tracks - is almost better than the album itself (even if "How Long" isn't on here). In summing up - a good Seventies Soul/Rock album given a quality CD reissue/remaster at last. And for me that's one to shout from the terraces about...

PS: Cherry Red has also put out ACE's 2nd and 3rd albums on Anchor - "Time For Another" (November 1975) and "No Strings" (January 1977). Released June 2011 the 3CD set also features more Previously Unreleased BBC Sessions (CDTRED 494).

This review is part of my SOUNDS GOOD Music Book Series. One of those titles is CLASSIC 1970s ROCK - an E-Book with over 250 entries and 2100 e-Pages - purchase on Amazon and search any artist or song (click the link below). Huge amounts of info taken directly from the discs (no cut and paste crap). 

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