Saturday, 8 July 2017

"Call My Name: Selected Recordings 1964-1970" by JAMES ROYAL and The Hawks (June 2017 RPM Records CD Compilation - Simon Murphy Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...He's About A Mover..."

London's Jimmy Nairn has been an underground white Soul-boy phenomenon for decades amidst Mod-mad stylists and Northern Soul dancefloor fiends.

Never a musical household name in any sense of the word – James Royal (his stage name) nonetheless clocked up a staggering 18 seven-inch singles on Parlophone and CBS Records between 1964 and 1970 in the UK alone – as well as a straggler track on a rare 1964 Decca compilation. Royal even managed a British debut album of his own on CBS in 1969 named after this compilation - "Call My Name" (9 of its 13 tracks are accounted for here).

Musically this CD is pure Soul-Boy dancing candy where James Royal swoons Jackie Wilson style about heartache, suffering, pain or dying (or all four if you're really lucky) - and you can literally see and feel those sassily-clad British dancers getting lost in the cross-armed drama of it all as they slide about in 45-induced rapture on runways of talcum powder. You can also hear the improvement in his vocal delivery as the years went on - to a point where his stunning 1969 cover of The Rascals "You Better Run" (an exclusive to the 1969 "Call My Name" LP) is virtually indistinguishable from Steve Marriott between late Small Faces and early Humble Pie (high praise indeed). On the evidence of this track alone – JR's legend is more than justified.

And that's where this hip-gyrating 2017 CD from the collectors specialist reissue label 'RPM Records' comes shimmying in. Here are the ravers and movers...

UK released 23 June 2017 (30 June 2017 in the USA) - "Call My Name: Selected Recordings 1964-1970" by JAMES ROYAL on RPM Records RETRO 989 (Barcode 5013929599895) is a 25-Track CD compilation of Remasters that plays out as follows (69:26 minutes):

1. She's About A Mover
2. Black Cloud
(Tracks 1 and 2 are the A&B-sides of a June 1965 UK 7" single on Parlophone R 5290)
3. Work Song
4. I Can't Stand It
(Tracks 3 and 4 are the A&B-sides of a November 1965 UK 7" single on Parlophone R 5383)
5. I'm Leaving You
(From the November 1964 UK Various Artists LP "Ready, Steady - Win!" on Decca LK 4634
6. Call My Name
7. When It Comes To My Baby
(Tracks 6 and 7 are the A&B-sides of a January 1967 UK 7" single on CBS Records 202525)
8. Green Days
(Track 8 is the B-side of "It's All In The Game", a May 1967 UK 7" single on CBS Records 2739. The A-side "It's All In The Game" is not on this compilation)
9. Hey Little Boy
(Track 9 is the A-side of a May 1968 UK 7" single on CBS Records 3450. The B-side is "Thru' The Love" is Track 12 on this compilation)
10. I've Lost You
11. Send Out Love
(Tracks 11 and 10 are the A&B-sides of an August 1969 UK 7" single on CBS Records 4463)
12. Thru' The Love
(Track 12 is the B-side of "Hey Little Boy", a May 1968 UK 7" single on CBS Records 3450 and Track 9 on this compilation)
13. A Woman Called Sorrow
(Track 13 is the A-side of an August 1968 UK 7" single on CBS Records 3624. The B-side "Fire" is not on this compilation)
14. Time Hangs On My Mind
(Track 14 is the A-side of a November 1968 UK 7" single on CBS Records 3797. The B-side "Anna Lee" is not on this compilation)
15. I've Something Bad On My Mind
16. She's Independent
(Tracks 15 and 16 are the A&B-sides of an April 1969 UK 7" single on CBS Records 4139)
17. You'd Better Run
(Track 17 is from his 1969 UK debut LP "Call My Name" on CBS Records S 63780)
18. A Little Bit Of Rain
19. I Can't Stand It
(Tracks 19 and 18 are the A&B-sides of an August 1967 UK 7" single on CBS Records 2959)
20. House Of Jack
(Track 20 is the A-side of a June 1969 UK 7" single on CBS Records 3915. The B-side is "Which Way To Nowhere" - Track 24 on this compilation)
21. Little Red Wagon
(Track 21 is from his September 1969 UK debut LP "Call My Name" on CBS Records S 63780)
22. I'm Going Home
23. And Soon The Darkness
(Tracks 23 and 22 are the A&B-sides of a June 1970 UK 7" single on CBS Records 5032)
24. Which Way To Nowhere
(Track 20 is the B-side of a June 1969 UK 7" single on CBS Records 3915. The A-side is "House Of Jack" - Track 20 on this compilation)
25. Sitting In The Station
(Track 25 is the B-side of "Take Me Like I Am", a January 1968 UK 7" single on CBS Records 3232)
All tracks credit to JAMES ROYAL except 1 and 2 credited JAMES ROYAL and THE HAWKS and 5 credited to JIMMY ROYAL and THE HAWKS

Eight tracks of the 12-song September 1969 UK LP "Call My Name" on CBS Records S 63780 can be sequenced from this 2017 CD as follows:
Side 1:
1. Call My Name [Track 6]
2. Something Bad On My Mind [Track 15]
3. He'll Have To Go
4. Little Red Wagon [Track 21]
5. She's Independent [Track 16]
6. A Woman Called Sorrow [Track 13]
7. Fire (Keep Away From My Heart)
Side 2:
1. House Of Jack [Track 20]
2. It's All In The Game
3. When It Comes To My Baby [Track 7]
4. Forget To Remember
5. You'd Better Run [Track 17]
6. Send Out Love [Track 11]

I know RPM have carefully and honestly entitled the compilation 'Selected Recordings...' – but we should also highlight what's 'not' here. As you can see from the LP's track-list provided above and bearing in mind this CD has a total playing time of 69:26 minutes - the four missing songs from the 1969 debut album could and should have been included here. The two B-sides "Fire..." and "Anna Lee" and the A-side "It's All In The Game" are also missing too and you can't help but think there was room on this disc for all seven no shows. Having said that - let's deal with what we do have...

Project-managed by JOHN REED and MARK STRATFORD for RPM Records - the 16-page booklet has a superb essay on Royal's early career by IAN GRINHAM (dated April 2017) that clearly has had input from the great man himself. Trade and publicity photos of the West London slugger pepper the text - there's a colour repro of the rare 1964 "Ready, Steady - Win!" LP sleeve on Decca where Royal had an exclusive track - repro's of British Parlophone and CBS 45 demos - adverts for The Ealing Club in 1964 where James Royal and The Hawks twisted on Thursday while some no-mark bunch of ne’er-do-wells played R&B on Saturdays - The Rolling Stones. There are some side-profile colour photos of JR as we approach 1969 and an intriguing 1968 snap of our British hero with two other American heroes and influences - Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins. It's very nicely done and the text is hugely informative throughout - going into details on every song that fans will love ("I Can't Stand It" and I’ve Something Bad On My Mind" were hits for The Soul Sisters and Timi Yuro - that kind of stuff).

SIMON MURPHY over at Another Planet Music has done the mastering and the Mono and Stereo recordings vary from very good to amazing - but always clean and full of that 45-punch collectors love.

The music is one long play of dancers and smoochers - opening with the fab Doug Sahm groover "She's About A Mover" - Royal's debut 7" single on Parlophone in June 1965 with the equally wicked "Black Cloud" on the flipside. The Smokey McAllister winner "I Can't Stand It" that he penned for The Soul Sisters back in 1964 on Sue Records is presented here in two forms - a 1965 first stab on Parlophone and a 1967 re-cut on CBS Records in 1967. Both are great as is the so Northern Style vibes and strings of "And Soon The Darkness" written by Laurie Johnson and former Animals stalwart Alan Price.

Speaking of superb songwriters - an unsung hero here is the Canadian tunesmith Ralph Murphy who joined the James Royal camp in 1967 when he first signed to CBS. His name is either sole or co-writer on 10 of the 25 here - and the man had a knack for penning a white man's version of a Motown groove that white kids could dig and dance too. His compositions "Green Day", "Thru' The Love" and "A Woman Called Sorrow" are fantastic Northern Soul thumpers and alongside "Send Out Love" by Guy Fletcher and Doug Flett are obvious choice-cuts amidst many other classy covers. Royal's tremendous version of Van McCoy's "I've Lost You" (made famous by Jackie Wilson) is another toe-tapper as is the Ashford & Simpson song "When It Comes To My Baby" - originally a hit for Ronnie Milsap. Even the slightly sappy version of Jimmy Webb’s "Which Way To Nowhere" sees JR put in storming vocals amidst the strings and girly backing singers.

Music is a funny old world and that England’s James Royal never tasted British chart success is some kind of special criminal neglect.

Despite the fact that I feel RPM could have bolstered up "Call My Name..." with the LP tracks - what you do get here is solid five-star grooviness. Icing on a very tasty CD cake indeed. And I for one am down with that. Well done to all involved...

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