Mod Classics 1964-1966
Like fellow white soul boy, Reggie King of The Action, Georgie Fame had a unique way of interpreting obscure (at the time) US soul and R&B, adding a suave jazzy vibe with those silk cut vocals and pounding Hammond. Who’d have thought a boy from Lancashire dare outdo Brother Ray?
Mod Classics 1964-1966 features choice material from his first three studio long players (sadly long out of print) alongside a couple of songs from his live ’64 set, Rhythm And Blues At The Flamingo, a handful of 45s and a cover of Earl Van Dyke’s ‘Soul Stomp’ previously available only on a limited Japanese reissue.
His career took a few odd turns from ‘67 onwards but these tailor-made cuts, like the latin-tinged groove ‘El Bandido’ and the swinging ‘Monkeying Around’, still sound great on the floor at Mod clubs.
Essential fodder for those who still long for the kind of world described by Tom Wolfe in his Noonday Underground essay.
Career-spanning 48-track anthology of the Manchester pop gods’ finest – from frenetic R&B-flavoured 1963 debut ‘Ain’t That Just Like Me’ to a respectable live version of ’72 single ‘The Baby’ recorded last year – and stopping at all points in between.
Rarities ‘Man With No Expression’ and ‘Schoolgirl’ rub shoulders with surprise album tracks ‘Butterfly’, ‘I’ve Got A Way Of My Own’ and ‘Rain On The Window’. And there are the hits. Bleedin’ loads of ‘em, accounting for some of the best pop music ever recorded in this writer’s humble opinion: ‘I Can’t Let Go’, ‘On A Carousel’, ‘I’m Alive’, ‘Carrie Anne’, ‘Yes I Will’… the list goes on and on.
The remastering is sparkling (‘King Midas In Reverse’ particularly benefits here) but the non-chronological sequencing can be jarring, with over-produced ’80s outings like ‘Heartbeat’ and ‘Soldier’s Song’ feeling like unwelcome gate-crashers and stemming the flow of an otherwise near-perfect river of songs and singing.
If you’re a Shindig! reader and you don’t already own this, see me in my study after double French. The sole 1968 album by Skip Bifferty, too-short-lived angels of the North East, is a cornerstone of UK psychedelia: so definitive an artefact that the psych dictionary falls open at this page.
Capable of out-creating The Creation (‘Planting Bad Seeds’, ‘Money Man’) out-pacing Traffic (‘Time Track’, ‘Prince Germany The First’) and extending the focal length of Kaleidoscope (‘Gas Board Under Dog’, ‘Jeremy Carabine’), this extraordinary group majored in a paisley-shirted brand of rushing mod pop smudged with impressionistic flecks of backward guitar and ferociously compressed piano. Next to Art/Spooky Tooth vocalist Mike Harrison, Skip Bifferty’s Graham Bell was Steve Winwood’s most credible rival.
Just because fate overlooked them doesn’t mean we have to. This reissue, drawn from the RCA masters, gifts us with nine bonus tracks including both sides of their three towering singles and previously unreleased early demos ‘Skizoid Revolution’ and ‘Jesus Smith (The Other Side Of)’.
Looking Towards The Sky: Progressive, Psychedelic & Folk Rock From The Ember Vaults
Fantastic Voyage CD
Following three volumes of ’60s beat and pop outings, the exhaustive excavation of Ember’s vaults continues apace with the first of two compilations focusing on the heavier end of the decade and the early part of the next.
It’s an uneven affair populated by bit part players like The Dorians and 9:30 Fly; an occasionally inspired but often insipid world of recycled boogie riffage and limp instrumental “work outs”. Thank God then for Blonde On Blonde who blow the roof off with the outstanding (and surprisingly modern sounding) ‘Heart Without A Home’, and Paddy Maguire whose ‘Doin’ The Best I Can’ comes on like a folk-rock Andwella’s Dream.
Best of the bunch for this writer is The Knocker Jungle’s Tyrannosaurus Rex/ISB-flavoured reading of Stevie Wonder’s ‘I Don’t Know Why’, produced by Fairport Convention drummer Dave Mattacks and boasting a lead vocal that veers between grade-A Lord Snooty whimsy and a growling Roy Harper. It shouldn’t work but it does.
Rare Mod Volume 2
Acid Jazz CD/LP
A real tapestry of delights to be found on this second volume of rare soul-tinged mod beat from young wannabes such as Essex boys The Gass Company, who give The Afex a run for their money with a snotty take on the frenzied garage anthem ‘She’s Got The Time’.
The compilation valiantly taps into the ’60s club scene beyond the big smoke including; Manchester (Richard Kent Style), Brighton (The Summer Set), Reading (The Amboy Dukes), Torquay (The Spartans) and Bournemouth (Dave Anthony’s Moods). The Nocturnes from Birmingham do a mean Booker T on the imaginatively titled ‘Hay, That’s What Horses Eat’ recalling the party vibe of ‘Bert’s Apple Crumble’ by The Quik.
A couple of bands have links to Southampton-based and Shindig! faves The Fleur De Lys, who feature here with two unreleased gems. This fine series deserves a more inspired title along the lines of sister compilations such as the influential Rubble, Nuggets and Pebbles collections.
CLIFFORD T WARD
Path Through the Forest
Wooden Hill CD
This anthology collects together no fewer than 57 tracks recorded between 1964 and ’72 before Ward established himself as a singer songwriter of some repute through classic albums such as Home Thoughts.
And what a great collection it is, covering not just the six A and B-sides he cut with various incarnations of his mid-60s band The Secrets, but also a wealth of unreleased material and demos.
This overview provides a unique perspective of a fledgling talent trying on different styles and finding they fit like a glove. With the track listing eschewing any sense of chronology you never know what you’re going to get next – from blue-eyed soul to paisley pop to exquisite piano-led tropes on love and loss.
Of particular interest to Shindig! readers will be the inclusion of both the original and demo versions of the title track, a genuine psychedelic classic later covered by The Factory.
Featuring future psychedelic-era Pretty Things Jon Povey and Wally Waller, The Fenmen were daring and original; steeped in sun-kissed vocal harmonies. They were also a combo well-sussed in all things beat and rock ’n’ roll.
This superbly put together CD collects their 1965-66 discs – after ditching original singer Bern Elliott – of which the inspirational ‘Rejected’ is a long-cherished favourite. ‘Is This Your Way’, flipside of a vibrant ‘California Dreamin’, is also commanding, rendered in soul-fired style.
Additionally, there are brand new compositions recorded as The Bexley Brothers. They successfully reinterpret outstanding ’67 Pretties’ album cut ‘The Sun’ and with Povey’s ‘It’s No Disgrace’ and Waller’s ‘It Takes A Lot’ (featuring Dick Taylor on guitar) and ‘Life’s Highway’, produce remarkably poignant moments that invoke the spectre of the Pretties circa Parachute.
A vintage radio session, and a battered ’63 acetate containing wild takes of ‘Mashed Potatoes’ and ‘Do You Love Me?’ all add to the thrill.