Sunday, 19 January 2020

The Decca/Deram "Scene" Series

The Northern Soul Scene

This is a really interesting compilation, but an odd one in that, as someone who owns around 1200-1300 Northern Soul downloaded tracks, I was unfamiliar with nearly all of the album’s twenty-five tracks. Only one of them appears on any of my many other compliations. They were all recorded on the UK-based Decca and Deram labels, so you are not going to get any copper-bottomed soul recordings from Georgia or Tennessee, although some of the artists are American, but produced by British producers, notably Wayne Bickerton. Most of the tracks are “blue-eyed” Northern Soul, however.

Obviously, the concept of “Northern Soul” had not really taken off in 1968 (it was just beginning, but took several more years to really take off), so these records were sort of trying to get in on the act that their producers were becoming aware of. Presumably they were just trying to ape the US records that were trying to ape Motown. Whatever, they certainly did a good job as there are lots of convincing songs on here, and the sound is absolutely top notch too. Seriously so. It obviously was de rigeur around 1967-1968 for artists such as Tom JonesDave Berry and Amen Corner to record these beaty Northern Soul numbers as ‘b’ sides or album tracks.

I'll Hold You by future blues rock vocalist Maggie Bell (“Frankie”) and “Johnny” and a young David Essex’s So-Called Loving both have Northern Soul-style backing, but I just can’t take them seriously as Northern recordings.

Nothing But A Heartache by black US female vocal trio The Flirtations is the real thing. It was written, however by Wayne Bickerton and Tony Waddington who produced The Rubettes in the mid-seventies. Don't Change It by Fearns Brass Foundry also has credible credentials. The Drifters’ Clyde McPhatter’s Baby You've Got It was also a Bickerton production.

Apparently popular at Wigan Casino was Name It You Got It by Micky Moonshine, which has a disco-ish wah-wah guitar backing. My Love by Ronnie Jones sounds like a catchy sixties pop record rather than a Northern Soul one, though. Tom Jones chips in with a mega-soulful, convincing Stop Breaking My Heart. Everybody Needs Love by Bobby Hanna is one of my favourites - this one  has a true Northern sound to it.

A real unearthed gem, for me, is the supremely catchy Billy Sunshine by Billie DavisOur Love Is In The Pocket is the one track that, of course, was familiar to me due to the JJ Barnes Northern classic. Here it is done by UK pop band Amen CornerDanny Williams’ Whose Little Girl Are You has a real Northern beat to it and an authentic black vocal and brass section. Everybody Needs Love by Bobby Hanna is one of my favourites - a true Northern sound to it.

The one track I did know is one of my absolute favourite rarities - I Wanna Know by John E. Paul (credited on my other compilation as just “John Paul”). A proper Northern classic, this one. Jon Gunn sings about travelling on the underground on I Just Made Up My Mind, a UK experience. It comes over as a swinging London pop song as opposed to a Northern Soul one. I like it though.

When I saw the name Adrienne Poster I thought “is that sixties Lulu look-alike actress Adrienne Posta?”. Indeed it is. A real rarity, this one. Her song is Something Beautiful. It is a very sixties poppy number. Also an unusual name for the Northern Soul scene is Elkie Brooks. Here she gives us a vibrant rendition of Smokey Robinson/The Temptations’ The Way You Do The Things You Do. Then we also have the early incarnation of The Brotherhood Of Man with the funky, gospelly soul of Reach Out Your Hand. This has very vague hints of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons’ The Night about it, for me.

Truly Smith’s My Smile is Just A Frown (Turned Upside Down) is a nice rarity, but its pop ballad strains are a long way from Northern Soul, for me. The same applies for the Hollies-esque Listen To My Heart by The Bats.

So, in conclusion, this is an eminently listenable mix of “blue eyed” Northern Soul, a few genuine Northern cuts from black US artists and some carefree sixties British pop. For the real thing, I would recommend the four volumes of The Northern Soul Story, the soundtracks to Northern Soul and Soul Boy and “The In Crowd”.

The Freakbeat Scene

What was "freakbeat"? It was a fusion of blues and original r 'n' b with hippy, psychedelic vibes around 1966-68 in the UK. Groups that dabbled in it were The Pretty Things, Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd, The Move, The Small Faces, The Troggs, Them, The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown and some of the lesser-known acts that appear on this intriguing compilation of material released on the Decca label and its imprint, Deram. Lots of the tracks feature a swirling guitar and organ sound, lots of reverb and echoey drums. It was popular with mods, or at least the "freakier" end of mod culture, man. It was an interesting phenomenon, and, while always staying somewhat niche, its influence on many more mainstream chart singles and British pop music in general can be clearly detected.

The BeatlesPlease Please Me is given hippy-ish makeover by The Score in 1966, that, for me has echoes of Pink Floyd's See Emily Play. It throws a completely new light on such a familiar song. Anymore Than I Do is a solid, drum-driven bluesy rocker from The AttackThe Majority's One Third is The Rolling StonesGet Off My Cloud meets Manfred Mann and The Hollies.

Shel Taylor's One Fine Day is a big, bassy thumping number with hints of The Big Three's Some Other GuyUnto Us by The New Breed has a catchy "Tequila"-inspired rhythm with a touch of The StonesPoison Ivy. It also uses Bill Wyman's trademark "reverse" bass run at one point. The Syn's Grounded sounds like The Stranglers would ten years later. My Father's Name Is Dad is a Who-inspired number with cynical lyrics that display a punk-ish observational commentary that had no relation to happy sixties pop. The Small Faces (Understanding) and Marc Bolan (The Third Degree) are the only artists I had previously any knowledge of, although The Birds (No Good Without You Baby) featured a young Ronnie Wood.

I'm Leaving by Mark Four is very Stones-influenced, with a bit of Bo Diddley rhythm and blues guitar in its extended instrumental middle part. It is a bit of an unearthed gem. Wooden Spoon by The Poets is another corker, too. Just Help Me Please by The Outer Limits slightly steals the riff from Mony Mony by Tommy James & The Shondells. Denis Couldry & The Next Collection's I Am Nearly There starts as a mysterious, slow number before breaking out into a madcap Arthur Brown-style chorus. Far out, man.

I Can Take It by The Blue Stars is another frantic Poison Ivy/Don't Bring Me Down type rocker. The second Beatles cover is a trippy cover of George Harrison's Taxman by Loose Ends. It is vibrant and enjoyable. Interestingly, I am sure they sing "I'm a taxman, I'm a black man.." at one point.

Another very interesting rarity is from The Sea-Ders, who were from Lebanon, apparently, and the Eastern sound on Thanks A Lot was an electric bouzouki type instrument. The riff sounds a lot like The ByrdsEight Miles High. Surely the only Lebanese band to make an impact in the UK. Human Instinct's Pink Dawn had a riff that I am sure Tommy Roe would use on Dizzy a few years later.

Look, I think you've got the idea of what this album contains by now - lots of Who-like drumming and reverb, Animals organ, Chris Farlowe meets Eric Burdon vocals, early Status Quo and Pink Floyd guitar. Rock, blues, soul, r 'n' b and psychedelia all mixed up in short, sharp two-three minute upbeat blasts. This is a most energising collection that I would recommend getting hold of in order to discover a few hidden nuggets.

The R 'n' B Scene

This is another in this truly impressive series of Decca/Deram released tracks from the mid-sixties. This time it deals with the "r&b"/upbeat blues rock scene. While there are crossovers with The Blues Scene, the material on here is pretty much all fast-paced, energetic rocking blues. Rhythm and blues, in fact. It only covers stuff that was released on Deram/Decca, so there is no Who, Yardbirds, Animals, Rolling Stones or Them but, among the lesser-known names, there are a few famous ones too. It goes without saying on this series that the remastered sound is 100% brilliant.

Ronnie Wood's first band, The Birds, start the album with the early Beatles meets the blues of You're On My MindThe FairiesAnytime At All is a Rolling Stones-ish, harmonica-driven upbeat piece of blues rock. The much-covered Boom Boom is given a solid, bassy cover by Blues By FiveGotta Be A Reason is a brooding blues from Cops And Robbers that has an Animals-esque organ backing on its chorus. Don't Gimme No Lip Child by Dave Berry is a bit of a Can I Get A Witness groove. The latter track appears later on the album. The same beat backs the young Lulu's throaty take on I'll Come Running Over.

The Graham Bond Organisation and The Frays both contribute energetic blues rockers, the latter very much in an early Rolling Stones mode. A unique rarity is Louie Louie Go Home by Davie Jones with The King Bees This was the first release by none another than one David Bowie. It is a slightly ska-influenced bluesy shuffler. John Mayall's Crawling Up A Hill is not as bluesy as much of his subsequent material. Zoot Money's track is as ebullient as you would expect.

A most unusual rarity is the moody, jazzy, vaguely Doors-esque Can't Let Her Go by Hipster Image (I didn't realise the term "hipster" was around in the sixties). Blue Beat by The Beazers appropriates a slight ska beat, but it is largely bluesy. Recognise the voice? Sure you do - it's Chris FarloweCross My Heart by The Exotics has a genuine ska beat I don't know anything about the group, but I'm not sure if they were Caribbean, or a UK imitation. 

Now for a couple of big hitters - first up is a youthful Rod Stewart covering Good Morning Little Schoolgirl. It was his first ever single. Then it is bluesman Alexis Korner and the harmonica-drenched cover of I Got My Mojo Working. This also featured future Cream drummer Ginger Baker. He features on several numbers throughout this series.

The remainder of the tracks don't see a lessening of the pace - all catchy, lively numbers. Steve Aldo's cover of Marvin Gaye's Can I Get A Witness is nothing ground-breaking, but it is still vibrant and enjoyable. The Birds are back with You Don't Love Me to close this invigorating collection. As with all of these excellent albums, it is highly recommended.

The Blues Scene

This is another in this truly impressive series of Decca/Deram released tracks from the mid-sixties. This time it deals with the "r&b"/upbeat blues rock scene. While there are crossovers with The R'n'B Scene, the material on here is pretty much all fast-paced, energetic rocking blues. Rhythm and blues, in fact. It only covers stuff that was released on Deram/Decca, so there is no Who, Yardbirds, Animals, Rolling Stones or Them but, among the lesser-known names, there are a few famous ones too. It goes without saying on this series that the remastered sound is 100% brilliant.

Curly by John Mayall's Blues Breakers is a searing piece of guitar-driven fuzz to start off. It is an instrumental and it features some excellent guitar throughout, drums too. Great stuff. Their second track (there are six in all) on the album, The Super-Natural is another instrumental, this time sounding very like Peter Green's Fleetwood MacEddie Boyd's Key To The Highway is an authentic-sounding slow, piano and harmonica-backed blues. His Blue Coat Man is an early rock'n'roll-influenced boogie-woogie blues with some sumptuous toe-tapping drums and accompanying guitar. Jools Holland would love this.

Otis Spann's Pretty Girls Everywhere is a catchy and rhythmic, groovy piece of upbeat, rocking blues. Champion Jack Dupree's Third Degree is a genuine, slow-burning, bassy blues. John Mayall is back again, with another corking instrumental, Steppin' Out, once more featuring that buzzy guitar. Then we get some authentic blues in Train To Nowhere by Savoy Brown and Roll Me Over from Curtis Jones.

Zoot Money's Get On The Right Track Baby is very jazzy and Georgie Fame-like. Mae Mercer's Sweet Little Angel is a storming piece of guitar and piano solid blues. There really is so much good material on here. The Graham Bond Organisation have featured on some of the other compilations in this series. They were an impressive outfit who, unfortunately, never quite made it. They featured future Cream members bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker, so no wonder they were good. Here they give us the thumping Strut Around.

The remaining John Mayall, Eddie Boyd, Champion Jack Dupree, Savoy Brown and Alexis Korner tracks are all excellent. A rarity is a young Rod Stewart's I'm Gonna Move To The Outskirts Of Town.

These days, I find I am retreating more and more into the comforting blanket of music, often the blues, to keep me from going insane. This fine album is one that helps with my treatment.

The Beat Scene

This compilation is part of Decca/Deram's nine CD series of sixties rarities. This one concentrates on the mid-sixties boom in Beatles-inspired "beat" pop. Personally, I prefer the blues-orientated ones in the series, but this one is not without its interest. It goes without saying that the sound is superb, as it is on all the releases.

Gonna Get Me Some by The Game is one of the album's rockiest, solid, thumping numbers. It is less derivative than many of the others, standing strong in its own right. I really like this one. Each And Every Day by Thee is actually an obscure early Rolling Stones cover (their version appeared on Metamorphosis), as also did Walking Thru The (Sleepy City) which also has vague echoes of Have I The Right by The HoneycombsIt's Gonna Happen Soon by Shel Naylor (who also appears on The Freakbeat Scene) is very Beatles-influenced. A very young Joe Cocker contributes a lively, rock 'n' roll type number in I'll Cry Instead. Once again it is so very Beatles in its lively and melodic sound. Third Time Lucky by The Beat Boys uses a typical Buddy Holly guitar riff and has a Gerry & The Pacemakers vocal.

Mark Four was also on The Freakbeat Scene compilation. Here he delivers the impressive Hurt Me If You WillSandra Barry's Really Gonna Shake is a really rocking slice of fun. Lulu uses her impressive voice on the rousing Surprise Surprise, a Rolling Stones cover. The Mojo's Everything's Alright will be familiar with David Bowie fans as he covered it on 1973's Pin Ups album. Now I Know by The Beat Chics is a delightful piece of gospelly pop. Ex-Beatle Pete Best is on here with I'm Gonna Knock On Your Door, which was a chart hit for Little Jimmy Osmond later in the early seventies.

Don't Make Me Blue by The Warriors is so incredibly early Beatles-sounding, it could almost be them. The same applies to That's What I Want by The Marauders, complete with "woo-woo" backing vocals. Once In A While by The Brooks sounds like something from A Hard Day's Night or With The Beatles. Itty Bitty Pieces by The Rockin' Berries owes a lot to The Dave Clark Five's Bits And Pieces. There is a lot of derivative material on this album, it has to be said.

Unit 4 + 2 are known for their hit Concrete And Clay. Their track here, I Was Only Playing Games is a laid-back, melodic number with an Eleanor Rigby-style cello. It dates from 1969, way past the main "beat" period. The Hi-Numbers, incidentally, should not be confused with The High Numbers, forerunners of The WhoThe Andrew Oldham Orchestra was indeed Rolling Stones producer Andrew Loog OldhamThe Knack are not to be confused with the US new wave band from the late seventies. Their track Who'll Be The Next In Line is one of the album's deeper, bluesier rock/pop numbers. Listening to the fast-paced guitar and bass lines you can hear ones used by The Jam on their 1977 debut album. Brian Poole & The TremeloesKeep On Dancing showed that rock'n'roll was still important in the mid-sixties. Lots of two-way influences to be found as you listen to this interesting cornucopia of rarities.

The Mod Scene

As with the entire "...Scene" series of sixties rarities released on the Decca and Deram labels, this is a compilation of interesting material, often completely unknown, and all of excellent remastered sound quality. Often, rarities are rarities for a reason - nobody bought them in the first place. Just because they are rare doesn't necessarily make them good. However, although that may be the case for many tracks, most of the ones here are pretty good, I have to say.

A lot of the tracks included are very Northern Soul in sound or else they have a pounding, brassy Chris Farlowe-style soul kick to them. (Farlowe contributes a track himself). There is an energy and ebullient vigour to all of them. There is some great straight up soul on here too.

Bert's Apple Crumble by The Quik is a dare I say delicious and lively instrumental. It is incredibly catchy and toe-tapping. Hipster Image's Make Her Mine is a jazzy but also Beatles-esque number. The group also appear on The R&B SceneThe PoetsThat's The Way It's Gotta Be is a slightly psychedelic number, while How Could You Say One Thing by The Wards Of Court is a brassy, Motown-ish stomp. Graham Gouldman is none other than the same who would go on to have massive seventies success with 10cc. Here his track is a Northern Soul-ish thumper called Stop! Stop! Stop!.

The Pete Kelly track is very Chris Farlowe-esque and Girl Don't Make Me Wait, included here by Timebox, was a Northern Soul hit floor filler for Bunny Sigler. Another Northern in feel number is Lovingly Yours by The Mockingbirds. The brassy power of Welsh chart-toppers Amen Corner's Expressway To Your Heart is just a delight as is the upbeat bassy Otis Redding meets The Animals-style soul of We Don't Know by The Attack, with its quite adventurous social message lyrics (for the time). Check out that killer bass line on it too.

Chris Farlowe's Air Travel is very Sam Cooke meets The Drifters. An old favourite of these collections is The Graham Bond Organisation, featuring bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker, later to be two thirds of Cream, plus guitarist John "Mahavishnu" McLaughlin. Their Little Girl has just a massive bass sound to it. Truly great stuff. This is no throwaway rarity. It is quality. The Small Faces appear with an organ-driven instrumental and Tom Jones gives us Dr. LoveZoot Money always gives value, so to speak, too. Baby What You Want Me To Do by Steve Aldo is copper-bottomed bluesy soul.

I really can't praise this album enough (or any of them in the series, for that matter). It kicks posterior from beginning to end. Highly recommended.

The Rock 'n' Roll Scene

This is another in the excellent Decca/Deram series of comparatively unknown rarities from the sixties. As always the sound quality is truly outstanding, just really well remastered, especially considering that the material is from the sixties.

The songs on here are all from the early sixties and take in the British rock 'n' roll boom, featuring artists such as Wee Willie HarrisJoe BrownTommy SteeleBilly FuryScreaming Lord SutchFreddie Starr and crossover skiffle artists such as Lonnie Donegan. The messiahs of the milk bar. Obviously the compilation is restricted to artists who recorded under the Decca umbrella, so there is nothing from The Shadows, Cliff Richard, Gerry & The Pacemakers, Billy J. Kramer or Freddie & The Dreamers. That doesn't really matter, though, as this is a genuinely feel-good, lively, uplifting album. A lot of the tracks are fast-paced rockabilly-style rock 'n' roll - fairground fare, with that rumbling stand-up bass, and the beat doesn't let up for a minute. The skiffle tracks are all similarly energetic, as you would expect, with some blues influence in there too. As well as giving you an energised listen, it is excellent as an accompaniment for a bit of indoor exercising.

I won't go through the songs, track by track, other than to list what in on here and say that the album is a fine, nostalgic pleasure from beginning to end.

The Psychedelic Scene

This is another in Decca/Deram’s excellent series that saw them searching through their vaults from some classic rarities that probably never made it on to Radio One in the years 1967-1969. There is probably far more “freakbeat” and hippy pop on here than Hendrix-style psychedelia, to be honest, but there are still lots of crazy Eastern influences and LSD-dripping lyrics throughout the album. I won’t describe every single track but will mention a few to give a useful taste of where it’s coming from. I have to say that the sound quality throughout the album is simply stunning. Full, bassy and warm.
Tintern Abbey’s Vacuum Cleaner is simply wonderful, full of brilliant bass, great drums and superb clear sound. Just great dreamy stuff, man. Shades Of Orange by The End is full of Beatles brass, Lennon-esque vocals and Harrison-style Eastern influence. Derivative it may be, but I still like it. It is quirky and enjoyable.

Red Sky At Night by The Accent is everything you would expect from psychedelic rock - huge, dense guitar riffs, swirling, madcap organ, mysterious, sonorous vocals, monster, rumbling bass. This is another diamond in the rough that not many people know about. Once more, the remastered sound is incredibly good. Curiosity Shoppe’s Baby I Need You has more delicious bass and a funky rolling drum beat. Pefect for some wild go-go dancing. Hey man, just let yourself go.

14 Hour Technicolour Dream by The Syn is more poppy than some of the other numbers. The Poets’ In Your Tower has another mega-heavy bass line and some groovy flute lines, plus more of the seemingly ubiquitous Eastern influences. Colour Of My Mind by The Attack was a freakbeat-ish number that merged a bluesy feel with the psychedelic vibe. The first well-known band to appear on this compilation is The Small Faces with their druggy, intense That Man.

Another known name is Al Stewart. Here he contributes a sombre-sounding number with monastic vocal influences called Turn To EarthSecret by Virgin Sleep is another beautifully bassy gem. Meditations by the fantastically-named Felius Andromeda is a wonderful piece of freaky pop. Its use of string orchestration came long before The Electric Light Orchestra. I wonder if Jeff Lynne ever heard this?

Ice Man by Ice is infectious, nonsense hippy pop with, it goes without saying, a sumptuous bass line and some of those typical sixties drum rolls. The final one from a famous group is The Moody Blues’ dreamy, harmonious Love And Beauty. I could go on, but there seriously isn't an unlistenable track on here. Just stick this on, light an incense stick and some candles and get far out...

The Girls' Scene

Of the truly excellent nine album “…Scene” series from Decca/Deram, this is probably the least impressive. The songs are all mid-sixties offerings from either girl groups or solo girl singers. Many of them are imitations of The Ronettes, The Crystals or other US girl group’s in the My Boyfriend’s Back style. Otherwise they are typical mid-sixties girl-pop ballads about being in love. All of this is ok, but they are as I said they were - imitations - and most of them don’t quite match the admittedly impeccable standard of those other groups/artists. Not that they are bad records at all, but none of them were hits and when you are talking about pop, it is hits that determines the  kudos of the song, in many ways.

The Freakbeat or Psychedelic songs on some of the other compilations in the series get away with being “hidden gems” because of the eclectic nature of their genres, whereas pop is different. Not too many failed pop records are classics. Having said that, Northern Soul came up with a fair few. It was full of them, so what am I talking about.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, there are probably not too many unearthed diamonds on offer here. Although I have to admit that there are a few intruguing ones all the same. (Make up your mind, man!)
Oo- Chang-A-Lang by The Orchids is a very Da Doo Ron Ron influenced typical sixties girlgroup upbeat poppy rocker. Jenny Let Him Go by Antoinette and The Vernons Girls Only You Can Do It both have hints of some of The Beatles’ early songs. Louise Cordet’s Two Lovers is an early example of increasing female independence, as she revels in having two lovers dangling on her string.

Truly Smith’s The Boy From Chelsea is just so “swinging sixties” that it could almost be a parody, about a cute and groovy boy who works in a Chelsea coffee shop. Yeah, baby, yeah. Dana Gillispie’s riffy You Just Gotta Know My Mind is excellent, featuring a lovely, vibrant bass line and powerful vocal.

Jean Martin’s cover of Save The Last Dance For Me is actually a really good cover, but a fair amount of that is down to the fact that it is a great song. Jackie Frisco’s Sugar Baby is a quirky, little rock’n’roll song. The fairground rock feel is continued on Janice Nicholls’ mildly amusing I'll Give It Five.

There are some “names” on here, though - Dusty Springfield covers The Supremes’ When The Lovelight Starts Shining Thru His Eyes impressively, as you would expect. Olivia Newton-John’s first single is present too in the vibrant Motown-esque pop of Till You Say You'll Be MineMarianne Faithfull gives us Is This What I Get For Loving You?, which was actually recorded by The Ronettes and written by Phil SpectorGerry Goffin and Carole King. Lulu contributes the soulful Try To Understand.

Actress Susan Hampshire even got in on the act with the syrupy but appealing When Love Is TrueAdrienne Posta (credited here by her real surname of Poster) was a minor celebrity in various comedy shows in the seventies, as I recall. Her song here is the girl-groupy Shang A Doo Lang. The pleasant Nobody's Home To Go Home To by Billie Davis has a sumptuous bassline, I must say. The sound on this album, as on all of them, is very good. Check out the crystal clear percussion on Rain On My Face by Shapes And Sizes. Excellent.

Overall, there are certainly points of interest on this album and it passes an hour very enjoyably, but it doesn’t justify as many revisits as others in the series.


  1. I always wondered what they meant by Freakbeat, and even just Beat. I always see them as genre tags everywhere but couldn't figure them out. A lot of the British Invasion bands that everybody knows often have a freakbeat or a Beat genre tag. At least you explained it a little bit for me.

  2. You should try and steam all of these albums, I think you would really like them.

    The Beatles were initially referred to as a "beat combo" and their name gives it away, of course, and subsequent stuff with a poppy early Beatles influence was referred to as "beat". Then you got "freakbeat", "mod" "r 'n' b", "blues explosion" and finally "psychedelic". Whatever label was applied, it was all excellent, wasn't it? A truly great period, the forerunner of the punk/new wave era.

    I used the term "nuggets" in the freakbeat review completely without knowledge of the nuggets album at the time!