Tag Archives: A&M

Procol Harum: Shine on Brightly

Vinyl reissue of second LP, with original U.S. artwork and gatefold

As indelible as Procol Harum’s first single, “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” has become, the band managed to flourish artistically amid only middling commercial success. Other than a live release, their many albums never cracked the Top 20, and only a small sprinkle of singles did any better. But the band persevered and continued to release new material through the mid-70s, regrouped in the 90’s, ‘00s and most recently for the newly issued Novum. This 1968 release was their second, following the success of their debut single and its follow-up “Homburg.” The album failed to chart in the group’s native England, and topped out at #28 in the U.S.

The album’s first side follows the direction of their self-titled debut, mixing rock and soul with progressive changes into three- and four-minute songs. All of the sounds that defined the first album were retained for the second – Gary Brooker’s smoky vocals, Matthew Fisher’s soulful organ, Robin Trower’s buzzing guitar and Keith Reid’s poetic lyrics. The album’s second side cuts loose, for better or worse, with the seventeen-minute, five part prog-rock suite “In Held ‘Twas In I.” Better, because it was an interesting artistic leap; worse, because it opened the floodgates to a wave of self-indulgent wankery.

The suite opens with drone-backed spoken word, and gets heavier as it mixes progressive rock, psychedelia, classical, vocal choruses and studio craft. You can hear the storms of pomposity on the horizon, but at this point it still felt organic. Varese’s Record Store Day 2017 reissue reproduces the U.S. release’s cover art and gatefold. Completists will want to pick up a CD reissue for the bonus B-sides, but the 12” gatefold cover (which provides a handy surface on which to separate seeds and stems from leaves), and the physicality of flipping the disc will help you relive this album’s place in time. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

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Evie Sands: Any Way That You Want Me

Soul-singer-songwriter’s 1970 LP debut

The Brooklyn-born Sands had been in the music industry for nearly a decade before her bad luck lifted for this 1970 LP. She broke in in the early ‘60s with a pair of forgettable singles before having the good fortune to sign with Leiber & Stoller’s Blue Cat label. Unfortunately, her original recording of “Take Me for a Little While” was spirited off to Chicago where it was quickly covered by Jackie Ross. Ross had the hit. Sands’ follow-up “I Can’t Let Go,” much loved by Brill Building and girl-group aficionados met a similar, though less cloak-and-dagger fate, with her version covered more successfully by the Hollies. Her next potential hit, “Angel of the Morning,” was lost amid the bankruptcy of Cameo-Parkway, and the now familiar version by Merilee Rush became a top-10 hit. Fans can find Sands’ version of “Angel of the Morning” can be found on the superb Cameo-Parkway box set.

In 1969 Sands signed with A&M and was finally in a position to cash in on her deep soul voice and longstanding partnership with songwriter Chip Taylor (who’d penned both “I Can’t Let Go” and “Angel of the Morning”). Their initial collaboration was the superb power-soul ballad “Any Way That You Want Me,” with Sands beseeching vocal backed by a dynamic arrangement of acoustic guitars, chugging drums, strings and a deft piano figure lifted from the bass riff of “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling.” Though the single only climbed to #53, it was enough to anchor this 1970 LP of pop and soul, with seven songs by Taylor, an original by Sands and a terrific cover of Buffy Sainte-Marie’s “Until It’s Time For You to Go.” Sands’ voice is often compared to Dusty Springfield’s, as on the tour de force slow-burn remake of “Take Me for a Little While” heard here. But on the Memphis soul “Close Your Eyes, Cross Your Finger,” Sands finds an original vocal tone that marries southern gospel with an urban soul sound. That same urban vocal sound, reminiscent of Marilyn McCoo at times, is even more prominent on the ballad “I’ll Never Be Along Again.”

As memorable as was Sands’ upbeat soul belting, she was equally convincing on emotional ballads like “Shadow of the Evening” and “Until It’s Time for You to Go.” The latter will be a revelation to those who know the song via MOR covers by Vikki Carr, Helen Reddy, Andy Williams and others. Sands could sing with both delicacy and power at the same time, expressing the deep pain of a heart about to be broken. Her wheelhouse, though, is mid-tempo power-soul such as a powerful cover of “I’ll Hold Out My Hand” that easily bests The Clique’s overwrought interpretation, and gives the Box Tops (with Memphis soul icon Alex Chilton on lead vocal) a run for their money. There are numerous tracks here that should have been singles, and a handful that should have become soul icons in the company of Dusty, Aretha and the rest. With Rev-Ola’s reissue (including the bonus track “Maybe Tomorrow”), at least these songs can be icons in your own collection. [©2008 hyperbolium dot com]

Listen to “Any Way That You Want Me”
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