Monday, 16 April 2018

"Shook, Shimmy And Shake: The Complete Recordings 1966-1970" by WYNDER K. FROG (February 2018 RPM Records 3CD Box Set of Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Dancing Frog..."

Lincolnshire lad Michael Weaver hailed out of Bolton and his weirdly named band WYNDER K. FROG (with one 'g' mind you and never two) had a couple of albums of instrumental keyboard-driven groovers in 1966 and 1968 on Island Records in the UK and one belatedly on United Artists in the USA in 1970.

They also managed some straggler tracks in movies, stand-alone singles beloved of Mods and Club-Going Dancers alike and an ultra-rare unreleased second album (recorded 1968) that makes its way into the public domain for the first time ever via a Dub from a surviving-acetate (tracks 9 to 17 on Disc 3). For fans of his groovy 60ts Hammond-Organ sound (the lad is still with us and provides new liner notes for this release) - "Shook, Shimmy And Shake..." from RPM Records has gathered together the whole caboodle and presented the shimmering lot to us in this rather spiffing little 3CD Box Set.

At times sounding not unlike a glorified Booker T & The MG's covers band from South Ealing giving it some sugar-shaker on a Woolworths LP sporting a scantily-clad nubile to pull in male shoppers on a Saturday afternoon - it’s not all undiluted hippy-hippy-shake genius for sure. But the good stuff is great fun, Island Records 7" singles fans will love those catalogue-hole-filling tracks (great talcum powder shuffling B-sides like "Zooming", "Dancing Frog", "Shook, Shimmy And Shake" and "Baldy") and you have to say that the overall presentation here is top notch (as it is with all RPM stuff). And who doesn't love a cool Hammond Organ groove-tastic neck-jerker. Out of the fire and into the frying pan – time to Boogaloo folks and do the Harpsichord Shuffle...

UK released Friday, 23 February 2018 (2 March 2018 in the USA) - "Shook, Shimmy And Shake: The Complete Recordings 1966-1970" by WYNDER K. FROG on RPM Records RPMBX 540 (Barcode 5013929554009) is a 3CD Box Set containing three period albums (1966, 1968 and 1970) along with other Bonus Material and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 "Sunshine Super Frog" (46:50 minutes):
1. Sunshine Superman [Side 1]
2. I Feel So Bad
3. Oh Mary
4. Blues For A Frog
5. Somebody Help Me
6. Mercy
7. Hold On, I'm Coming [Side 2]
8. Shook, Shimmy And Shake
9. Incense
10. Walking Into New Orleans
11. (Don't Fight It) Feel It
12. Dancin' Pain (alias Dancing Frog)
Tracks 1 to 12 are the debut album "Sunshine Super Frog" - released December 1966 in the UK on Island Records ILP-944 in Mono only (no US release).

13. Turn On Your Lovelight
14. Zooming - Tracks 13 and 14 are the A&B-sides of a non-album UK 7" single released July 1966 on Island WI-280
15. Green Door (Mono Version) - non-album A-side of a UK 7" single released February 1967 on Island WIP 6006 (Track 12 on the LP is the B-side)
16. I'm A Man - non-album A-side of a UK 7" single released June 1967 on Island WIP 6014 (Track 8 on the LP is the B-side)
17. Henry's Panter - originally released 1966 on a UK 7" Flexidisc on Lyntone LYN 1109 (credited to Wynder K. Frogg (And Henry) and has an Ed Stewart ‘Dog’s Life’ spoken intro)
18. Wade In The Water (BBC Radio Version) - originally broadcast 15 October 1966 on the BBC's "Saturday Club"

Disc 2 "Out Of The Frying Pan" (56:19 minutes):
1. Jumping Jack Flash [Side 1]
2. Gasoline Alley
3. Willie And The Hand Jive
4. Harpsichord Shuffle
5. Baby I Love You
6. This Here
7. Green Door [Side 2]
8. Bad Eye
9. Alexander's Ragtime Band
10. Tequila
11. The House That Jack Built
12. Hymn To Freedom
13. Hi-Heel Sneakers
Tracks 1 to 13 are their second studio album "Out Of The Frying Pan" - released December 1968 in the UK on Island Records ILPS 9082 in Stereo and April 1969 in the USA on United Artists UAS 6695.

14. Jumping Jack Flash (Mono Version)
15. Baldy - Tracks 14 and 15 are the non-album A&B-sides of an August 1968 UK 7" single released on Island WIP-6044
16. Dancing Frog (Stereo Version)
17. Blues For A Frog (Stereo Version) - Tracks 16 and 17 remixed from Mono into Stereo and released February 1969 on the UK Soundtrack LP to "The Touchables" on Stateside SSL 10271 (Stereo only)

Disc 3 "Into The Fire" (70:37 minutes):
1. Into The Fire [Side 1]
2. Howl In Wolf's Clothing
3. F In Blues
4. Cool Hand Stanley
5. Eddie's Tune
6. Why Am I Treated So Bad
7. Hot Salt Beef
8. Warm And Tender Love  
Tracks 1 to 8 are their third and last album "Into The Fire" - released April 1970 in the USA on United Artists UAS 6740 in Stereo. The album was to be called "Accrington Mushroom" and due for UK release November 1969 on Island ILP 9109 but was withdrawn (no test pressings have ever surfaced).

9. Happy Jack
10. We Can Work It Out
11. Funky Broadway
12. Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever
13. A Memory Of Bruce
14. The House That Jack Built
15. I'll Go Crazy
16. Tequila
17. Baldy
Tracks 9 to 17 are PREVIOUSLY UNISSUED - an unreleased second album recorded in 1968 and dubbed here from surviving acetate

To my knowledge and outside of a long deleted CD reissue by Edsel in 1995 for the second LP "Out Of The Frying Pan" – none of these Frog albums have made it officially onto CD before - so well done to compiler and true son of the Modfather JOHN REED for his bang up job at compiling what fans have been after for decades. Each singular card sleeve repro’s the three rare album covers and a tasty attention to detail had CD1 with the Red and White colour scheme of the Island Records label from late 1966, CD2 is the Pink variant of 1968 and the third has the United Artists Orange and Pink colours of 1970.

The 28-page chunky booklet has wonderfully detailed liner notes courtesy of NICK ROSSI that include valuable and first hand accounts by MICK WEAVER in new interviews. These are complimented by the usual plethora of trade adverts, that rare promo-photo of the six-piece band where Island misspell the name with two ‘g’s’ instead of one, repros of the those fab UK Island 7” singles, a Belgium single on Philips and a cool French EP sleeve where Weaver is flogged as a teen-idol singing Donavan’s "Sunshine Superman" alongside three other hits from the first album. The band also featured on two desirable Island Records label sampler LPs – "Green Door" on the 1967 compilation "British Blue-Eyed Soul" (ILPS 9066) and "Gasoline Alley" on the wonderful "You Can All Join In" from 1969 (IWPS 2 was yours for only 14/6d) – so they're both pictured. Traffic fans will love the Jimi Hendrix London Tour Date Poster on Page 23 where on the 18th of February 1969 you can see The Soft Machine and 'Mason, Capaldi, Wood & Frog' supporting the great man at The Royal Albert Hall (2/6d for a ticket!). This ill-fated four-piece moniker for Traffic (featuring Mick Weaver as the Frog and once muted to called Wooden Frog) didn't last of course past this public appearance. There are also photos of "The Touchables" soundtrack on Stateside and a US 45 promo on UA of WKF doing the Stones hit "Jumpin' Jack Flash". It is indeed a gas, gas, gas...

The Audio comes courtesy of SIMON MURPHY over at Another Planet and these notoriously crude recordings are full of beans even if the first album's Mono has all the subtlety of an overworked transistor radio. They're not audiophile but they are punchy and absolutely full of that 60ts shoutin' 'n' roarin' party-hard shing-a-ling. Being an Acetate I’m amazed at how good that unreleased LP sounds and the Stereo of the second LP is wonderful too. For sure his one-dimensional instrumental-after-instrumental set up on the LPs may grate some after a while – but I'm honestly loving how damn good much of this stuff is - music I honestly haven't listened to in decades and now feel I've been missing out on something fab and period-groovy.

Apart from Syd Dale's "Blues For A Frog" (itself a derivative of a James Brown groove), the Mick Weaver/Jimmy Miller penned "Dancing Frog" and the Fallon/Miller track "Incense" - the other nine are R&B covers and contemporary pop hits of the day - Donovan's "Sunshine Superman", a variant of Jackie Edward's "Somebody Help Me" (a hit for The Spencer Davis Group with Stevie Winwood), Owen Gray's fantastic "Shook, Shimmy And Shake", Fats Domino's "Walking To New Orleans", the Sam & Dave hit "Hold On, I'm Coming" penned by Isaac Hayes and David Porter and so on. The six Bonus Tracks on Disc 1 are actually that – the first four being killer Mod sides – Mono and Marvellous as they mumble through Jim Lowe’s "Green Door" (a number 1 hit for Shakin’ Stevens in 1981) – while the BBC’s Ed Stewart tries to sound cool as he sells some kind of dog product on "Henry's Panter".

Album number two does the same - the Stones "Jumpin' Jack Flash", Johnny Otis' "Willie And The Hand Jive", Tommy Tucker's "Hi-Heel Sneakers", The Champs "Tequila" and so on. But there are very cool self-penned tunes like Weaver's own "Gasoline Alley" where both he on the organ and Dick Heckstall-Smith of The Graham Bond Organisation on Saxophone play up a storm. It's funny also to hear "Willie And The Hand Jive" sound like The Benny Hill Show Theme song - but that's what happens track after track - groovy organ and a driving rhythm section making you want to strut your ancient stuff across some dancefloor somewhere making an unholy tit of yourself. Weaver's own "Harpsichord Shuffle" is pretty much a Ray Charles keyboard riff turned up a notch while Chris Mercer of The Keef Hartley Band gives it some cool Sax and Kokomo's Neil Hubbard gets Ike Turner funky on his guitar (what a belter). For sure "Alexander's Ragtime Band" is a Hammond groove too far but that’s immediately followed by a kick-ass take on "Tequila" that’s liable to make your mother shimmy those voluminous hips as she vacuums Dad’s cigarette ashes off the living room carpet.

But the real surprise here is the American-only album that died a death on its initial release. Weaver stumped up most of the instrumentals for the April 1970 LP "Into The Fire" which has a decidedly Funkier feel than the first two albums - like his band just discovered Sly & The Family Stone and Clarence Carter. Choppy guitars, sexy sax work and a backbeat that just won't quit infest the songs. Favourites include the Bluesy Harmonica of "Howl In Wolf's Clothing" - another fab workout - while "F In Blues" is a rare excursion into actual Blues - a slow late-night lounge-lizard lurch on the organ punctuated by great Sax blowing. I also dig his cover of The Staple Singers stunning "Why Am I Treated So Bad" - a tune that still has power even if there are no words to ram home the message of equality - his new Hammond Organ sounding loud and clear. For sure there is an audible drop in the sonic attack as we’re treated to The Who's "Happy Jack" and The Beatles' "We Can Work It Out" from the Acetate of the unreleased album - but it's not as bad as you would imagine. "Funky Broadway" feels more of an inspired choice than the obvious Who and Fabs choices.

For sure the band Wynder K. Frog and its main-man Mick Weaver are a footnote in Pop's history and few in 2018 will probably know their names or even care. But if you've any penchant for 60ts Groovers and that driving Hammond Organ Sound - then the little 3CD Box Set "Shook, Shimmy And Shake" is the fried hot potato that needs to be on your shopping list. Well done to RPM and all involved...
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