Posts Tagged ‘British Invasion’

The Creation: Action Painting

Saturday, March 18th, 2017

The Creation gets their due with deluxe box set

Many U.S. listeners were first introduced to the Creation via the inclusion of their debut single, “Making Time,” in the film Rushmore. It was a canny selection, harboring the angst of the early Kinks and Who, but without the familiarity that’s turned their viscerality into a nostalgic echo. Fans have been serviced by reissues and compilations, but never before a comprehensive box set of their mid-60s glory. Numero fills the void with this 2-CD, 46-track collection, served up with a hard-covered 80-page booklet of photographs, ephemera, label and sleeve reproductions, liner notes by Dean Rudland and detailed session notes by Alec Palao.

Like many bands of the beat era, a complete catalog of the Creation’s releases includes singles, albums, mono and stereo mixes, versions prepared for foreign markets, and sundry odds ‘n’ sods. Numero collects all of this, starting with the original mono masters on disc one and four (of the original eight) mono sides by the pre-Creation Mark Four kicking off disc two. The bulk of disc two is taken up by new stereo mixes created for this set by Alec Palao (and approved by original producer Shel Talmy), along with previously unissued backing tracks for “Making Time” and “How Does It Feel to Feel,” and an unedited cut of “Sylvette.”

The stereo mixes maintain a surprising amount of the original recordings’ punch. To be sure, there’s alchemy in the mono sides, but the guitar, bass, drums and vocals are each so individually driven that the stereo mixes don’t drain the records of their attack. And spreading out the guitar, lead and backing vocals adds welcome definition to many tracks. Even more interesting is that both in mono and stereo, producer Shel Talmy’s distinctive style – particularly in recording the drums and the presence of Nicky Hopkins on piano – puts these tracks in a sonic league with the early sides he made with the Who.

The earliest Mark Four singles (unfortunately not included here) featured cover songs, but by 1965 the group was recording original material that had the blues base of the Yardbirds with the garage attitude of Mouse & The Traps and the Shadows of Knight. The B-side “I’m Leaving” finds Eddie Phillips wringing truly original sounds from his guitar as the drums vamp a modified Bo Diddley beat for a then-generous 3:32 running time. It was a sign of what was to come, as the group’s 1966 debut as the Creation sported what many believe to be the first use of a bowed guitar.

Eddie Phillips departed in late 1967, but with vault material still being released, and tours still being offered, the band soldiered on into 1968. They added Ron Wood in between his time with the Birds and the Jeff Beck Group, and he played on a handful of singles that started with “Midway Down” and its flip, “The Girls Are Naked.” Some iteration of the group (exactly which is a subject of discussion in Palao’s session notes) recorded posthumously released covers of Larry Williams’ “Bony Moronie” and Cannonball Adderley’s “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” and the group’s final single, “For All That I Am” garnered little attention in its Germany-only release.

At well over two hours of music, Numero’s set provides a definitive recitation of the Creation’s original mono run, a worth-hearing restatement in stereo, and the odds ‘n’ sods that mark a spelunking of the vault. The book is rendered in microscopic print, but it’s worth digging out a magnifying glass to read Palao’s meticulous recording and mixing notes. The reproduced photos, correspondence, labels, picture sleeves and tape boxes perfectly complement this salute to a band whose commercial fortunes never rose to the level of their musical and stage artistry. [©2017 Hyperbolium]

Louder Than Love – The Grande Ballroom Story

Thursday, October 27th, 2016

dvd_louderthanloveDetroit rock city’s ground zero

The seeds planted by Bill Graham at the original Fillmore in San Francisco bloomed in many other cities, but few flowered as brightly as Detroit’s Grande Ballroom. Inspired by Russ Gibb’s 1967 visit to the Fillmore, the Grande became a melting pot of flower power and urban grit, and a centerpiece of Detroit’s music and cultural scene. When Kiss sang “Detroit Rock City,” they were singing about the Grande. The city’s industrial culture bred tough workers and industrial strength, no bullshit rock ‘n’ roll. Gibb’s fortuitous connections to Detroit’s art scene and alternative community led to John Sinclair, and ultimately the MC5 and numerous other local luminaries. The Grande’s imaginative booking policy turned the venue into what Don Was calls “The Mecca of Hip,” hosting local and national bands, and establishing itself as a lynchpin in the U.S. tour circuit of British acts.

The 74-minute documentary includes interviews with Gibb and Sinclair, ballroom manager Tom Wright, alternative publisher Harvey Ovshinsky, poster artist Gary Grimshaw, light show artist Chad Hines, and musicians Wayne Kramer and Dennis Thompson (MC5), Roger Daltrey (The Who), Scott Morgan (The Rationals), James Williamson (The Stooges), Dick Wagner (The Frost), Ted Nugent and more. A few of the interview clips feel short, but there are many great stories, including that of the Who’s first Grande gig. The Fillmore is rightly lauded for its seminal place in music history, but San Francisco and New York weren’t the only happening spots. The Grande stands alongside Cleveland’s Agora, Chicago’s Kinetic Playground, and San Francisco’s Fillmore, Carousel, Matrix, Avalon and Winterland as one of rock’s great halls, and Tony D’Annunzio and Karl Rausch’s documentary tells its story grandly. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

Louder Than Love Home Page

The Mobbs: Jolly Good

Monday, August 29th, 2016

From their upcoming fourth album Piffle!, this “pale and interesting” Northampton trio play 60s-styled rave-ups with a punk rock edge. And at one-minute-twenty, they don’t waste a second of your attention.

The Mobbs’ Home Page

Them: The Complete Them – 1964-1967

Monday, January 18th, 2016

Them_CompleteThemThe complete Them with Van Morrison

It’s tempting to see Them primarily as a launching pad for Van Morrison, and though anyone who saw them live or heard these early singles would quickly zero in on Morrison, the band’s tight, tough sound was as essential to framing Morrison’s vocals as Morrison’s vocals were to defining Them. Though not a huge commercial success in the U.S., cracking the Top 40 only twice with “Here Comes the Night” and “Mystic Eyes,” the band still had a lasting impact on American music. In addition to their iconic cover of “Baby Please Don’t Go” (a single that failed to crack the stateside Top 100 but remains as familiar as if it had), Morrison’s original “Gloria” proved to be one of the foundational pillars of garage and punk rock.

Sony’s three-CD set gathers together all of the material recorded for their first two albums, Angry Young Them and Them Again, non-LP singles and EPs, and adds a large helping of demo tracks, live recordings and alternate takes. In the process the set provides a huge helping of crisply remastered mono originals and introduces a few new stereo sides on disc three. Some will be disappointed that true stereo mixes weren’t used everywhere they were available, but mono is what just about everyone heard in the mid-60s, and the punch of these mixes makes the band sound all the more visceral. Neither Morrison nor the band ever seem to lose steam, even when the tempo slows they remain ferocious, and their mix of original and cover material is seamless.

The three discs come packed in a four-panel digipack with a 16-page booklet that includes newly written notes from Morrison. The return to the original mono master tapes undoes some of the changes brought by 1997’s The Story of Them; the earlier collection is worth hanging onto for its true stereo mixes, but it’s no substitute for the original mono sides presented here. Add in the demos, alternate and live tracks featured on this set’s third disc (including “Mighty Like a Rose,” which was omitted from the 1997 set), and this compilation becomes an essential addition to any Van Morrison fan’s collection. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

Van Morrison’s Home Page

Billy J. Kramer with the Dakotas: All-Time Greatest Hits

Sunday, November 22nd, 2015

BillyJKramerWithTheDakotas_AllTimeGreatestHitsRiding the Beatles’ wake

Few British Invasion acts rode the Beatles coattails better than Billy J. Kramer with the Dakotas. Not only were they managed by Brian Epstein and signed to the Parlophone label under the direction of George Martin, but more than half of their chart hits and several of their album tracks were penned by Lennon & McCartney themselves. And among the many L&M compositions, which included “I’ll Be on My Way,” “Bad to Me,” “I’ll Keep You Satisfied,” “From a Window,” “I Call Your Name” and “Do You Want to Know a Secret,” only the latter two were released by the Beatles. But even with this British dynamo in their corner, the group reached out to America for several hits, including the Brill Building’s Mort Schuman (and his eccentric co-writer J. Leslie “Pumpkin Juice” McFarland) for “Little Children.”

Varese’s concise, 32-minute collection (featuring an 8-page booklet with excellent liners by Jerry McCulley) includes all seven of the group’s U.S. and U.K. hits plus a handful of album tracks, non-charting singles and the shelved L&M tune “I’m in Love.” It’s a fair sampling of the group’s wares, stretching from their 1963 cover of “Do You Want to Know a Secret” through their last hit, a fine take on Bacharach and David’s “Trains and Boats and Planes.” Among the riches delivered by the British Invasion, the group’s recordings weren’t the most revelatory, but with such strong material to draw upon, a sweet lead voice and talented instrumental backings, they remain quite charming. There are deeper helpings and album reissues of the group’s catalog to be had, but for many, this taste will be just right. [©2015 Hyperbolium]

Billy J. Kramer’s Home Page

RIP Jack Bruce

Saturday, October 25th, 2014

Jack Bruce, legendary bassist, singer and songwriter, passed away Saturday, October 25 at the age of 71.

The Kinks: The Essential Kinks

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Kinks_Essential30 years of pivotal music on two fully-packed CDs

The Kinks touched so many musical bases that two full CDs (79 minutes each!) can still only outline their story. They blazed the British Invasion’s trail with “You Really Got Me” and “All Day and All of the Night,” and supplied a steady stream of ever-more finely-written hits into the early ’70s. In parallel with their singles success, the band’s vocalist and primary songwriter, Ray Davies, wrote compelling B-sides and sketched out thematic collections that turned into a string of inventive concept albums. Davies ruminated on British culture, society, working class life and schooling, show business and the record industry in ever-more ambitious and increasingly theatrical productions that couched his lyrical alienation in satire, nostalgia and music hall tradition.

Banned from performing in the U.S. from 1965 until 1969, the band’s success on the American charts quickly faded. But elsewhere, particularly in their native Britain, they continued to land hit singles (including “Dead End Street,” “Waterloo Sunset,” “Death of a Clown” and “Autumn Almanac”), and their albums continued to attract critical praise. Although the band returned to the U.S. in 1969 to promote Arthur, “Autumn Almanac” signaled the start of a fallow commercial period, with a brief respite from 1968’s “Days.” At the same time, Davies was crafting what was to be among the Kinks’ most revered albums, The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society.

Though not a commercial success at the time of its release, Village Green has grown to be the group’s best selling album, and the album track “Picture Book” gained belated exposure in a 2004 HP commercial. By 1969 the group reestablished themselves commercially with the singles “Victoria,” “Lola” and “Apeman,” and the well-regarded albums Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround Part One and Muswell Hillbillies. The latter represented their shift from Pye/Reprise to RCA, and unfortunately for the latter’s immediate commercial returns, Davies’ preoccupation with theatrical concept albums led to a string of early ’70s releases that failed to garner any singles action. On the other hand, the albums slowly rebuilt the group’s album sales in the U.S., and led to renewed chart action later in the decade.

Davies finally moved on from writing rock operas (and the Kinks from RCA to Arista) with 1977’s Sleepwalker, and the group returned to the American charts with the album’s title track. Their next few albums found an audience with U.S. record buyers, and the band became a regular concert draw. The latter success was memorialized on 1980’s Top 20 One for the Road, and represented here by live versions of “Lola” and “Where Have All the Good Times Gone.” Two years later the group had their last major commercial success with State of Confusion and the single “Come Dancing.” The latter even broke through to MTV with a heavily spun video. The group’s remaining albums, through 1993’s Phobia, garnered less and less commercial attention, as did their singles, though they did continue to find a home on rock radio into the early ’90s.

Legacy’s 2-CD, 48-track, 2-hour and 39-minute collection does an admirable job of surveying the group’s lengthy catalog, covering early mono productions (disc one, tracks 1-13), UK and US hits, deeply-loved album tracks, concert favorites and live performances (including a terrific 1972 rendition of “Till the End of the Day” drawn from the CD reissue of Everybody’s in Show-Biz). The timeline spans releases from Pye/Reprise, RCA, Arista and Columbia, and stretches from the band’s primal first hit, 1964’s “You Really Got Me,” to their final release for Columbia, 1993’s “Scattered.” Absent are stellar early B-sides like “I Gotta Move” and “Come On Now,” tracks from Schoolboys in DisgracePercy and the band’s two 1980’s album for MCA, but what’s here paints a compelling overview of a band whose three decades of music outstripped even the sizeable recognition it’s received over the past fifty years. [©2014 Hyperbolium]

The Kinks’ Home Page

Various Artists: Audio with a G – Sounds of a Jersey Boy

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

Various_AudioWithAGThe man who wrote the Four Seasons to the top of the charts

Although Frankie Valli stood out front of the Four Seasons, and his name was prefixed to the group’s starting in 1970, the act’s commercial success was equally dependent on their long-time songwriter and keyboardist, Bob Gaudio. Gaudio not only played and sang with the group, but he penned the bulk of their biggest hits, including chart-toppers, “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man,” “Rag Doll,” the group’s mid-70s comebacks, “Who Loves You” and “December 1963 (Oh What a Night),” and Frankie Valli’s solo hit “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” Incredibly, that’s just a few of his accomplishments, as he wrote many more singles, B-sides and album tracks for the Four Seasons, and scored hits with several other acts.

Rhino’s two-disc set collects thirty-six tracks that sample Gaudio’s songwriting, including material from the Four Seasons, Jerry Butler, Chuck Jackson, Cher, Nancy Wilson, Frank Sinatra, Nina Simone, Diana Ross, Roberta Flack, Lene Lovich, Ruthie Henshall, the Royal Teens, Bay City Rollers, Tremeloes, Walker Brothers and Temptations. The Four Seasons material features hits and album tracks, including a pair from the group’s Gaudio-Jake Holmes penned 1969 concept album, The Genuine Imitation Life Gazette. Perhaps more interesting to Four Seasons fans will be songs Gaudio wrote for or turned into hits for other acts.

The Royal Teens’ “Short Shorts” opens the set, as it did Gaudio’s hit-making career. The single rose to #3 in 1958 and Gaudio dropped out of high school to tour, meeting Frankie Valli along the way. Gaudio and Valli joined forces in 1960 to form the Four Seasons with Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi, but it took another two years for them to hit with “Sherry.” Gaudio wrote many of his hits with producer Bob Crewe, and several of the Four Seasons’ songs became hits for other acts. Included in this set are the Tremeloes’ “Silence is Golden,” which had been the B-side of the Four Seasons’ “Rag Doll,” and the Walker Brothers’ “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore,” which had been released in a slower arrangement as a Frankie Valli solo single.

The many covers of Frankie Valli’s 1967 hit “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” are represented here by a smokey, soul-jazz version by Nancy Wilson that cracked the charts in 1969 and a 1982 disco remake by Boys Town Gang. The Four Seasons 1975 UK hit, “The Night,” is included in both its original version and a non-charting single by Lene Lovich. Reaching farther out are songs that Gaudio wrote for Frank Sinatra, Nina Simone and Diana Ross. Sinatra’s tracks are drawn from Watertown, a concept album written by Gaudio and Jake Holmes that married the singer’s ability to sound forlorn with the songwriters’ pop craft. Ross’ tracks date from 1973’s underappreciated Last Time I Saw Him, recorded during a period in which the Four Seasons were signed to Motown.

Gaudio’s songwriting moved with the times, gaining social consciousness in the mid-60s, striking a deeper personal resonance with Jake Holmes at decade’s end, resuscitating the Four Seasons chart fortunes in 1975 with “Who Loves You” and “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night),” and surviving then-modern productions for The Temptations and Roberta Flack. He became a successful record producer and writer for soundtracks and musical theater. His stage work is represented here by two songs from the original London cast recording of Peggy Sue Got Married, and three (including “Sherry”) from the original cast recording of Jersey Boys. The latter is a project that began with Gaudio’s idea of a showcase for the Four Seasons’ material, and blossomed into national and international productions and, in parallel with this set (and two others) a feature film.

Compilation producer Charles Alexander has drawn from both mono (tracks 1, 7, 8, 11) and stereo masters, giving listeners a chance to hear two of the Four Seasons biggest hits in the punchy single mixes that dominated AM radio. These two discs (clocking in at just under two hours) cover the commercial highlights of Gaudio’s career as a hit-making songwriter. There’s more of his craft to be found in the Four Seasons’ albums, Frankie Valli’s solo releases, and his productions for Eric Carmen, Neil Diamond, Barbra Streisand and others. The inclusion of the Four Seasons’ hits is essential to telling his story, but also likely to duplicate the holdings of this set’s primary buyers; then again, with songs this good, who’s going to complain? [©2014 Hyperbolium]

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The Zombies: R.I.P.

Saturday, July 12th, 2014

Zombies_RIPPreviously unreleased final album sees the light of day

One might say that this final, previously unreleased Zombies album is something of a Frankenstein’s monster. Constructed after the band’s dissolution in 1968, the six previously unreleased Zombies tracks and six new tracks recorded by a prototype of Argent were meant to satiate an American market that had been late to discover “Time of the Season.” But the album’s pre-release singles (“Imagine the Swan” and “If it Don’t Work Out”) failed to ignite any commercial interest, and the album was shelved by the American label that had requested it in the first place. The tracks dribbled out on singles, compilations (most notably the double-LP Time of the Zombies and Ace Record’s omnibus Zombie Heaven box set) and bootlegs, but an official issue of the original running order from the original master takes had evaded fans until now.

The album, as the last-remaining-Zombies-standing Rod Argent and Chris White conceived it, was neatly split in two: side one was written by Argent and White, and performed by Argent, White, Russ Ballard, Jim Rodford and Bob Henrit, in a line-up soon to be known as Argent; side two was assembled from previously unreleased tracks that had been recorded years earlier by the original group, and brushed up by Argent and White (notably with backing vocals and orchestral touches) for the album. There’s a musical seam between the two sides, but the new recordings aren’t a complete departure. In fact, they sound like what they actually were: a follow-on to the progressive end-times of the original line-up’s Odyssey and Oracle, heavily influenced by the band’s keyboardist.

Listeners familiar with the Zombies’ hits will immediately resonate with Colin Blunstone’s lead vocals and the group’s harmonies on side two. These earlier songs also have beat and baroque pop touches that are closely associated with the Zombies original sound. Argent and White’s material on side two, sung by Argent, including an organ jam, “Conversation Off Floral Street” (a track that was apparently mislabeled with “of” on the singles of the time), and slinky piano-led “I Could Spend the Day” that speak to the jazz inflections of “Time of the Season.” Both album sides have material that is as good as anything the Zombie released during their hit-making tenure, including the singles “Imagine the Swan” and “If It Don’t Work Out,” featured here in both stereo album and mono single mixes.

Zombies fans probably have most or all of this material on compilations and box sets, but it’s still worth hearing the original stereo mixes, in the original sequence, from the album’s master tape. The mono single mix of “Don’t Cry For Me” (the flipside of “If it Don’t Work Out”) is offered here for the first time in a digital format, and the mono mix of “Smokey Day” makes its first-ever appearance. Despite the album’s cobbled-together origin, this is a volume that belongs on the shelf right next to Begin Here, The Zombies and Odyssey and Oracle, extending the criminally under-rewarded brilliance of the Zombies. [©2014 Hyperbolium]

The Zombies’ Home Page

The Rolling Stones: Charlie is My Darling

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

RollingStones_CharlieIsMyDarlingThe Rolling Stones at their 1965 peak

Filmed on a two day Rolling Stones tour of Ireland in September 1965, Peter Whitehead’s fifty-minute documentary garnered only limited showings before being shelved. In 2012, ABKCO returned to the source material to restore and expand the film to sixty-five minutes, releasing it as a single DVD and a five-disc box set that included the DVD, a Blu-ray, an LP and two CDs.  The second of those CDs featured thirteen live tracks from the tour’s concerts, recorded at the peak of the Stones first incarnation. Those tracks are now being released as digital downloads, augmenting the meager selection of commercially released early live performances, such as 1964’s T.A.M.I. Show and 1965’s UK EP Got Live if You Want It.

Included among the tracks are many icons of the Stones early live set, including covers of Solomon Burke’s “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love,” Bo Diddley’s rave-up “I’m Alright,” Hank Snow’s “I’m Moving On,” Willie Dixon’s “Little Red Rooster,” Allen Toussaint’s “Pain in My Heart,” Bobby Troup’s “Route 66,” Jerry Ragovoy’s “Time is on My Side,” and two Jagger/Richards’ originals, “Off the Hook” and “The Last Time.” The latter was the Stones’ first hit single of 1965, but by the time of their Irish tour, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (which is included on the box set’s first CD) had already topped the U.S. chart and was just about to peak in the UK.

The mono recordings are surprisingly listenable, given the state of mobile recording in 1965. These tracks don’t have the presence or instrumental separation of live albums made a decade later, but Jagger’s vocals are seated nicely into the mix, and the guitars, bass and drums are all legible. Better yet, the screaming crowd adds electricity without often overwhelming the music. The only thing that would be better is for the live tracks from the box set’s first CD to have been added here; at only 28 minutes (and as a digital collection with no physical length limitation), there’s plenty of room. Stones fans will want to see the documentary, but will also need the audio tracks for more regular rocking. [©2014 Hyperbolium]

The Rolling Stones’ Home Page
ABKCO’s home page