Wednesday, 31 March 2021

George Harrison

All Things Must Pass (1971)


I'd Have You Anytime/My Sweet Lord/Wah-Wah/Isn't It A Pity/What Is Life/If Not For You/Behind That Locked Door/Let It Down/Run Of The Mill/Beware Of Darkness/Apple Scruffs/The Ballad Of Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll)/Awaiting You All/All Things Must Pass/I Dig Love/Art Of Dying/Isn't It A Pity (Version Two)/Hear Me Lord/Out Of The Blue/It's Johnny's Birthday/Plug In/I Remember (Jeep)/Thanks For The Pepperoni

George Harrison’s bloated triple album, from late 1970, certainly out-did McCartney or The Plastic Ono Band. It was a huge achievement in many ways, as Harrison managed to blend his increasing spiritual devotion and motivation with some good, accessible rock music. Personally, though, I have always found the album to be a half-good, half-bad frustrating one. I have problems with the sound and production, which I will refer to as the review progresses.

The opener is a laid-back, somewhat sleepy and solemn collaboration between Harrison and Bob Dylan in I'd Have You Anytime. It has beautiful parts, though, and a beguiling vocal from Harrison. Then came My Sweet Lord, known all around the world now. Its iconic acoustic and slide guitar intro is just so nostalgic. It is the dark afternoons of late 1970 again. Lyrically, of course it tapped in to the zeitgeist of religious experimentation and searches for spiritual peace that pervaded the beginning of the seventies. I loved it then and still do, however. So evocative.

  

Wah-Wah has some excellent guitar, but the mushy drum sound and generally crashing backing spoils it. There is a horn riff in there somewhere, but even on this supposedly remastered version it is difficult to hear properly, which is such a shame. The production has, in my opinion, always been awful on this track. Harrison was searching for a Spector-esque Wall Of Sound, indeed, using Spector himself to help him out on the production, but in many respects it just ended up as a muffled, trebly wall of frustration. For me, anyway. It is nigh on unlistenable. In many respects it is the worst track on the album. Many others are sonically much better.

The next track, though, the impressive and lengthy Isn't It A Pity (rejected as a Beatles track as far back as the Revolver sessions, incidentally), restores the quality. It has a rich, warm bassy sound, particularly when the drums kick in. Harrison’s vocal is haunting and plaintive and overall, the track is very atmospheric. Lovely strings merge with Harrison’s guitar half way through. It should have ended at around five minutes though. Oasis surely took bits of this to influence their Be Here Now album.

What Is Life is excellent. Vibrant and lively, with airs of mid-sixties Beatles and a catchy hook. It suffers a little from the Wah-Wah production gremlins, however, (the horns are buried under the wall of sound) but I still enjoy it a lot more than Wah-Wah. It would have made a good single. Great guitar riff on it, particularly in the intro.

Dylan’s If Not For You is delivered in a beautiful, steel guitar country rock style. Harrison’s voice suits it down to the ground. He even seems to be trying to imitate Dylan at some points. 

The country rock groove continues with the melodious, once again steel guitar dominated country-ish vibe of Behind That Locked Door. There is some good sound quality on this one. No wall of sound = great sound - on this album at least (and I am a sixties Spector fan). 

Let It Down again starts with some cacophonous noise, but settles down into a reasonable track. Harrison sounds almost like Lennon in places and the drums are very Starr-like. It is a track that I enjoy for half of it while the other half irritates me, I’m afraid. It ends raucously. For that reason, so much of this album is, for me, unrealised potential.

The next track, Run Of The Mill, sees a great improvement, however. It sounds clear, Beatles-ish and is much more of a pleasure to listen to. Excellent clear drum and guitar sounds on it with a warm, vibrant bass too and a stronger vocal from Harrison. Beware Of Darkness starts the old “side three” and is a nice one. Great sound on it again, a mysterious vocal and a generally beguiling, Dylanesque ambience. Harrison’s strange accent “take curr, bewurr” is odd, though, listening to it now. Scousers don’t talk like that anymore. It is more "take caiiir” now. 

Apple Scruffs is a light but appealing throwaway, with some Lindisfarne-style harmonica. Enjoyable but dispensable. Ballad Of Frankie Crisp (Let It Roll) is interesting. Chugging and powerful in its pounding drum and funky piano sound. Harrison’s vocalists somewhat distant, however. The track never quite gets there, in my opinion. 

Awaiting You All sees a return to an unclear muffled sound. Somewhere beneath that murk lies a fetching, lively song. Spoilt again, unfortunately.



All Things Must Pass (another one rejected for The Beatles) is an improvement. It is a little bit murky in the production, with Harrison’s voice too far down in the mix, though. Maybe it just revealed weaknesses in his voice, thinking about it. The “big’ sound tended to drown him out. 

The extremely Lennonesque I Dig Love is one of my favourites, however. I like the catchy and potent drum and piano “riff” bit that underpins it. It reminds of me of David Bowie's "Heroes" album in places (the piano).

Art Of Dying suffers from the sound thing again, but it sort of works on this one. Not quite sure why. At the same time, I still can’t hear those horns properly. Nice bit of guitar work half way through though. The second version of Isn't It A Pity is actually my preferred version, shorter and more nuanced. 

Hear Me Lord is another good track in a late sixties Beatles slowed-down bluesy rock stye. There are hints of Pink Floyd on here, for me. Maybe they listened to this while writing Dark Side Of The Moon. It certainly sounds like it in places.

** The plaintive bonus track I Live For You is similarly appealing and, again, very, very Beatles in its sound and ambience. Harrison’s slide guitar comes into its own on here. A pity it wasn’t on the original album.

Of course, there are also the Apple Jams which took up the old sides five and six. Did anyone play them much at the time, I wonder? Or indeed, do they now? Actually, Out Of The Blue is quite enjoyable, as are most of them. Certainly the sound quality is much more tolerable on Out Of The Blue - a really clear guitar sound. The piano/guitar bit at six minutes sounds very Rolling Stones on 1974’s Fingerprint File - the link being Billy Preston. Eight minutes in and I’m still enjoying it. Plug Me In is a rocker, and most enjoyable. Big, punchy and bassy.

So, in conclusion (my review has been as sprawling as the album itself!) this is an album which contains around four tracks that were, in my view, produced to death and suffer for it. The wonders of digital technology means I can select the others at times. When I do so, I have a more enjoyable album. The sad thing is, due to these production gripes and its bloated size I find I listen to McCartney more than I listen to this, which is a shame. Isn’t it a pity.




Living In The Material World (1973)



Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)/Sue Me, Sue You Blues/The Light That Has Lighted The World/Don't Let Me Wait Too Long/Who Can See It/Living In The Material World/The Lord Loves The One (That Loves The Lord)/Be Here Now/Try Some Buy Some/The Day The World Gets 'Round/That Is All


Over two years since his previous gargantuan triple album, some people had sort of forgotten about George Harrison and his return here was something of a surprise (to my fourteen year-old self, anyway, if not to the music media, who were clamouring for it). I already perceived Harrison as a washed-out old hippy. The album sort of confirms that, but it is a sensitive creation all the same. With all that vibrant glam rock around it was not really surprising that I felt that way.


On to this now critically-acclaimed (retrospectively) album. Without the tinny, over-the-top, indulgent Phil Spector production of its predecessor, however, we get a much warmer, more accessible and chunky sound that is far more to my taste. The album has many hippy themes and it shows that Harrison was the one Beatle who really continued burning that White Album candle long after it had extinguished for the others.


Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth) is a nice throwback to the last album, but without the bombast, having a winning, gentle acoustic melody and some of that trademark Harrison guitar sound such as used on My Sweet Lord. I liked it a lot back in 1973 for its understated feel, and I still do. 


Sue Me, Sue You Blues is a robust, bluesy, late Beatles-style chugger in that Old Brown Shoe style, featuring some fine slide guitar and piano and Harrison's typically cynical lyrics. The Light That Has Lighted The World is a sad and sombre number expressing Harrison's hope for the future, albeit in a most quiet, hangdog way, as he regrets that people can't accept that he has changed. It is most moving song. The tempo raises on the archetypal Harrison gentle rock of Don't Let Me Wait Too Long. There are smatterings of Lennon effect to be found all over this album, especially on this song. 


Who Can See It is a plaintive piano-driven ballad with a bit of a McCartney feel to it. Harrison's voice has a natural sadness on this song and it grows on me. Living In The Material World is a strong song  - as George tells John and Paul that they are in the material world - with a solid drum sound and an enjoyable mid-song tabla bit of percussion together with some good saxophone. Nice one. Up there with the album's best.


As everyone knows, Harrison was always a spiritual guy and he shows it here on The Lord Loves The One (That Loves The Lord), a track whose piety is hidden slightly by a lively, infectious and most enjoyable melody. The acoustic Be Here Now is extremely maudlin, however, although it has its solemn appeal. Harrison is publicly expunging old ghosts with considerable pathos. Try Some Buy Some had been written a few years earlier for Ronnie Spector and has also been covered by David Bowie on his Reality album. It is a bit of a miserable song, for me, though - not one of my favourites.


The Day The World Gets 'Round is probably the most Beatles-esque of the songs, with its bold brass sections and seeping string backing and That Is All continues in the same vein. 


Although the album was well-received, critically, Harrison's commercial star fell from here on and he kept a comparative low profile until a brief mid-eighties resurgence. Back to this one though - personally, I lose interest a little as it progresses. It is not a work of genius, but it's ok. There you go. It is one of those albums that benefits from several listens and with each listen I find myself appreciating it more. 


** The two non-album bonus tracks, the acoustic Deep Blue, the more vibrant, country rock-ish fun of Miss O'Dell and the hard-hitting Bangla Desh are good ones. 












Dark Horse (1974)



Hari’s On Tour (Express)/Simply Shady/So Sad/Bye Bye Love/Maya Love/Ding, Dong, Ding, Dong/Dark Horse/Far East Man/Is It ‘He’ (Jai Sri Krishna)


Recorded during Harrison’s self-named “naughty years” (his drug-taking indulged in at the same time as John Lennon’s “lost weekend”) this was a vibrant, punchy album and one that I really like. It plays out a lot like a Lennon album too, I have to say. For me, it is considerably underrated in the canon of ex-Beatles work. What do I know, eh? It was slated by critics at the time, disappointed, no doubt, that there was not much Beatles-ish about it. So what. Harrison was ploughing his own furrow. Time has mellowed some of that criticism, however, which is pleasing. As I said, I like the album.


Hari’s On Tour (Express) is an excellent, really enjoyable saxophone-driven instrumental to start the album with, that features some great guitar riffs too. It rocks as solidly as Harrison had done for quite a while and was recorded with US group LA Express. 


Simply Shady is muscular and chunky, although Harrison’s voice is a. It overwhelmed by the strength of the dignified rock backing. It’s a good track, though.


So Sad is a typical, mournful Harrison rock ballad while Bye Bye Love is a very Lennon-esque cover of the Everly Brothers’ classic. Maya Love is a rumblingly bassy mid-pace rocker with a bluesy feel to it and a nice bass line near the end. It is my personal favourite from the album.


Ding, Dong, Ding, Ding sounds like a Eurovision entry and it is a saxophone-laden romp of a New Year’s song that I have memories of hearing some time back in my dim, distant past. It was released as a single, I believe.


Dark Horse is a beguiling, acoustically-driven shuffler of a track that features some Jethro Tull-style flute. Far East Man was written with soon to be Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood. It, unsurprisingly, has a Ronnie Lane-Faces bucolic sleepiness to about it. 


Is It ‘He’ (Jai Sri Krishna) will undoubtedly have infuriated the album’s many critics. Again, I don’t mind its gentle rhythmic piety.


** The non-album ‘b’ side, I Don’t Care Anymore has George going all Lennon on his spoken intro and for the rest of the song.





Extra Texture (Read All About It) (1975)



You/The Answer's At The End/This Guitar (Can't Keep From Crying)/Ooh Baby (You Know That I Love You)/World Of Stone/A Bit More Of You/Can't Stop Thinking About You/Tired Of Midnight Blue/Grey Cloudy Lies/His Name Is Legs (Ladies And Gentlemen)


Harrison himself described this as a "grubby album" and it has been on the receiving end, like its predecessor, of much criticism, both contemporary and subsequently. Like Lennon and McCartney solo albums from the same period it got slagged off because it wasn't The Beatles. Of course we will never know, but maybe Beatles albums in that period would have sounded like this, with the Lennon and McCartney solo material on them too. I think the best thing to do is forget he was in The Beatles and treat it in isolation.


You harks back to All Things Must Pass in its relatively muffled sound, although it is an improvement on that album's murk. It is dominated, as much of Harrison's material was at this time, by a vibrant saxophone. It is a good opener, but it is a track that sits incongruously with the generally mournful tone of the rest of the album. 


The Answer's At The End is a sombre, Lennon-esque piano-powered ballad that is ok, but goes on way too long at nearly six minutes. He could have got the message over in half that time. 


A My Sweet Lord-style strummed acoustic guitar introduces the backwards look at While My Guitar Gently Weeps in This Guitar (Can't Keep From Crying). This retrospective approach attracted much criticism, but it still isn't a bad song, possibly the best on the album, ironically. 


Ooh Baby (You Know That I Love You) is also very Lennon-inspired in its maudlin loved-up feeling, it is like John singing to Yoko. World Of Stone is a chunky late Beatles-Lennon-sounding slow rock ballad. It could almost be early seventies Elton John in places. 


A Bit More Of You briefly reprises You to open the original side two in a bit of a pointless way, because it soon morphs into another hangdog, lachrymose ballad in Can't Stop Thinking About You. I get the impression that the best of this album is behind us now, and that may be the case, but Tired Of Midnight Blue is attractive enough (although it reminds me of the sort of stuff Ringo Starr put on his own solo albums). The same applies to the somnolent Grey Cloudy Lies. Both of these tracks are growers, though.


The fun boogie of His Name Is Legs (Ladies And Gentlemen) finally livens proceedings up a bit but it is nothing to justify repeated plays. 


Listening to these seventies Harrison albums, I can't help but keep thinking that he was "the third Beatle" for a reason. They don't match the solo work of McCartney or Lennon, for me, however occasionally appealing they may be. 


The next album of his I paid any attention to, surprisingly, was in 1982.


Gone Troppo (1982)


Wake Up My Love/That's The Way It Goes/I Really Love You/Greece/Gone Troppo/Mystical One/Unknown Delight/Baby Don't Run Away/Dream Away/Circles                 
They were funny things, George Harrison albums. After the mammoth offering that was 1970's All Things Must Pass, he seemed to put out an album every three to five years, and it always seemed to me as if he did it because he thought "I was in a band once, I'm a musician, this is what I do...". In the meantime, he explored his other hobbies away from music - movies producing, car racing. mysticism. As more and more years went by since Harrison had been in the Beatles, the less I, personally, viewed him as a musician putting out regular work. Many times I found myself almost forgetting about him, even Ringo was more in my consciousness. So, when this album came out, in 1982, it was a virtual irrelevance. Punk had been and gone, post punk, new wave, two tone, new romanticism were all around. Harrison suddenly remembered he was a musician and collected some old friends - Ray Cooper, Dave Mattacks, Billy Preston, Herbie Flowers, Gary Brooker and Syreeta among others and produced a laid-back summery poppy album full of the synthesised backing that so blighted the eighties. It was a sort of contemporary Beach Boys, lazing in the sun sort of thing that attracted a lot of critical opprobrium.

So, lets listen to it and see if it was as bad as they all said.
                               
Wake Up My Love is a lively slice of synth-driven pop, with a vague appeal. Harrison's voice sounds remarkably like Traveling Wilburys mate Jeff Lynne on this. It is by far the album's most upbeat and accessible track. 

That's The Way It Goes features some typical Harrison My Sweet Lord high-pitched guitar and a mid seventies Beach Boys vibe about it. Actually it is not a bad track at all, in a light, airy sort of way. 

I Really Love You is a catchy fifties "doo-wop" pastiche that would have been fine in 1962, as opposed to 1982. Greece is a pretty throwaway, light poppy number. Material like this and the slightly feeble Gone Troppo were really quite unimpressive.

 

Mystical One is a laid-back slightly Lennon-esque easy listening slow rock song. Again, it is very much like the stuff The Beach Boys released in the mid-late seventies. Both they and Harrison had seen better days. 

Unknown Delight also has a Lennon feel to it, a nice bass line and a mournful-sounding vocal from Harrison. Baby Don't Run Away is a bit Beatles-ish but also a bit unmemorable. Oh I guess it's nice enough, I suppose. It just doesn't stick in the mind. 

Dream Away is another very singalong pop number with a few hidden Harrison-esque bits scattered around here and there. 

Circles is a typically Harrison plaintive, Beatles-style ballad. His voice, while never great, always carried a bit of a sad quality to it. Harrison would not release another album after this for another five years, popular mythology suggests it is this album that put him off, seeing him lose his muse. We'll never know now.

It is all pleasant enough, with Harrison playful and relaxed as opposed to serious and mystical, but completely culturally inessential when it was released. This album passed me by in 1982, but I can't imagine it appealing to anyone much back then. Listening to it now, it is not as pointless as it would have seemed then, though. It now stands as a bit of a curio. Thoroughly out of time, but strangely interesting, just in places. Overall, though, it has to go down as "one for completists", but, whenever I come across one of those I feel compelled to give it a chance. To be fair, there are a fair few Paul McCartney albums that were certainly no better than this and, on listening to it again, it is growing on me, in an unthreatening, harmless way.




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John Lennon

Tuesday, 30 March 2021

Tom Jones


Tom Jones & Jools Holland (2004)


Life's Too Short/200lbs Of Heavenly Joy/Good Morning Blues/One O'Clock Jump/It'll Be Me/Who Will The Next Fool Be/Linda Lu/St. James' Infirmary Blues/Odd Man Out/Roberta/Baptism By Fire/Think/Hanging Up My Heart For You/Mess Of Blues/Sally Suzas/My Babe/Slow Down/Glory Of Love/Mam & Dad's Waltz/End Of The Road    
Tom Jones came full circle with this album - from the tuneful sixties pop of the mid-sixties, to the semi-country ballads of the late sixties/early seventies, to the Las Vegas residency years of the mid seventies and then the collaborations with contemporary dance/chart acts in the nineties - Jones had showed his versatility in coping with all those styles effortlessly. Here, joining up with boogie-woogie pianist Jools Holland, he revisits his first love - rocking blues/r 'n' b. The album is a revelation. Both of them seem to be having an absolute blast and Jones sounds as invigorated as he ever has, showing just what a great, strong blues voice he has. The album has an "almost live" feel about it, giving the impression from the first "ready Tom" shout that they just turned up to the studio and laid it down in one take. The album also features some seriously kick posterior brass sections too.   It goes without saying that Holland's piano is rocking throughout.
                      
"How's that?" Jones asks in his deep Welsh baritone after the opener, Life's Too Short finishes its frenetic few minutes. It was fine, Tom, and you know it too. 200 lbs Of Heavenly Joy is a blues burner of high quality, packed full of searing slide guitar and Jones' voice soaring high above the whole thing, as if he were born to it. There are nineteen tracks on the album, just listening to the first couple makes you realise that it has something special about it. You don't actually need to listen to the whole lot, just put a few on before going out and it will lift your mood. Again, it is pretty superfluous of me to describe each track, as they are all great and delivered by musicians of the highest order. 

Good Morning Blues; the frenetic blues rock of Linda Lu; the totally effervescent, addictive Sally Suzas and the New Orleans jazz-flavoured St. James Infirmary Blues are among my favourites.

 

This is just a seriously enjoyable, good time album. Highly recommended. There is an argument that suggests this was Tom Jones' best ever album. There may be something in that.

Praise And Blame (2010)



What Good Am I?/Lord Help/Did Trouble Me/Strange Things/Burning Hell/If I Give My Soul/Don’t Knock/Nobody’s Fault But Mine/Didn’t It Rain/Ain’t No Grave/Run On


Tom Jones began a trio of retrospective, digging into his musical roots albums with this enjoyable mix of gospel and blues. His voice, even as he ages, is warm, soulful and inspiring. I do have to wonder, though, when he produces material as credible and as good as this if he didn’t waste those “Vegas Years” in the seventies somewhat. Jones has come to accept he has the blues at a late time in life. What’s new pussycat? Tom’s got the blues, that’s what. 


Incidentally, it’s Booker T. Jones on piano and organ.


I could put all the tracks down as highlights, they all bristle with a vibrant, raw fervour.


Highlights - What Good Am I?, Lord Help, Did Trouble Me, Burning Hell, If I Give My Soul, Nobody’s Fault But Mine


Spirit In The Room (2012)



Tower Of Song/(I Want To) Come Home/Hit Or Miss/Love And Blessings/Soul Of A Man/Bad As Me/Dimming Of The Day/Traveling Blues/All Blues Hail Mary/Charlie Darwin


This is a collection of largely acoustically-backed folk songs all given the glorious Jones soulful treatment. Covers are from Leonard Cohen, Paul McCartney, Odetta and Paul Simon among others. Electric blues occurs on occasions, though, most notably on the searingly bleak The Soul Of A Man and the equally chunky Bad As Me. A lot of the album reminds me of Chris Rea’s journeys into the blues on the Blue Guitars project. 


Highlights - Tower Of Song, Hit And Miss, Dimming Of The Day, Soul Of A Man, Bad As Me


Long Lost Suitcase (2015)



Opportunity To Cry/Honey, Honey/Take My Love (I Want To Give It)/Bring It On Home/Everybody Loves A Train/Elvis Presley Blues/He Was A Friend Of Mine/Factory Girl/I Wish You Would/'Til My Back Ain't Got No Bone/Why Don't You Love Me Like You Used To Do?/Tomorrow Night/Raise A Ruckus


This is another fine album, this time concentrating on folky and r'n'b covers, some of which are in the vein of Bruce Springsteen's Seeger Sessions, some are Delta blues interpretations others just drip with a muscular sixties bluesy, r'n'b attitude. Jones, as if it would ever not be the case, let's be honest, copes with everything the songs throw at him like the big old Welsh, coal-fired powerhouse that he is. The man has the blues running through his veins, along with a huge dose of instinctive soul too. Top notch stuff. 


Highlights - Honey Honey, Bring It On Home, I Wish You Would, Elvis Presley Blues, Factory Girl






Monday, 29 March 2021

The Four Seasons

The Best Of The Four Seasons



What a great, unique group The Four Seasons were - dominated by Frankie Valli's remarkable (if occasionally even a little ridiculous) falsetto, they took street corner doo-wop to the top of the charts with a string of singalong numbers that inspired later artists such as Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen. They were, without question, one of the great white vocal groups and often have remained a little overlooked.


The hits were - Sherry, Big Girls Don't Cry, Walk Like A Man, Rag Doll, Silence Is Golden (covered by The Tremeloes), Let's Hang On (covered by Darts), Workin' My Way Back To You (covered by The Detroit Spinners), Bye Bye Baby (covered by The Bay City Rollers), Can't Take My Eyes Off You (covered by Andy Williams), The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore (covered by The Walker Brothers) and my own personal favourite, Opus 17 (Don't You Worry About Me). They are simply great pop-rock and roll singles that require no real analysis other that every time you hear them your spirits lift. I can't listen to Big Girls Don't Cry without approximating a Valli vocal. As I write this, I'm bleating along to Walk Like A Man.


Also notable were a couple of big hits on the early seventies Northern Soul dance floors in The Night and You're Ready Now.





Who Loves You (1975)



Silver Star/Storybook Lovers/Harmony, Perfect Harmony/Who Loves You/Mystic Mr. Sam/December '63 (Oh What A Night)/Slip Away/Emily's (Salle De Dance)


The Four Seasons were not about albums, were they? Hit after early-mid sixties hit guaranteed that they were not necessary. In 1976, however, they had a comeback as mature, AOR artists and had several hits, three of which are on this, their only really successful mainstream album in the true sense of the word. It saw the band full of new members, apart from singer Frankie Valli (who had a couple of big solo hits just before this in My Eyes Adored You and Swearin' To God). Indeed, Valli did not sing on all the tracks. The album was written and produced by sixties member Bob Gaudio, together with his wife Judy Parker. 


Silver Star is a delightful, gently harmonious, slowly insistent song about dreaming of being a Wild West hero. It is presented here in its full six minute version (it was an edited single) and it goes through several changes of pace before ending in true Four Seasons high-pitched harmony vocal style. It is a really good track - The Four Seasons showing that they could do what everybody seemed to be doing at the time (David Essex and John Miles did similar songs in City Lights and Music) and recording a lengthy opus. 


Frankie Valli delivers a typically impressive ballad vocal in the My Eyes Adored You style on the West Coast meets mid-seventies Billy Joel-ish Storybook Lovers. Joel was a self-confessed early Four Seasons fan, so in many respects they were acknowledging their own inspiration here. Harmony, Perfect Harmony is an Elton John-esque song made recognisable as The Four Seasons once more, of course, by Valli's vocal. The subject of the song is nostalgia for the late fifties-early sixties.


Who Loves You tapped into the contemporary trend for white disco, which acts such as The Bee Gees had started with Jive' Talkin'. It does so in fine fashion on a song full of irresistible hooks, strings and brass breaks. Mystic Mr. Sam features a catchy piano backing, more sassy brass and a very Billy Joel feel about it - very New York. 


The album's biggest hit was actually sung by drummer Gerry Polci and was a perfect exercise in infectious nostalgia - December '63 (Oh What A Night). It was a huge smash and now makes me very nostalgic for February 1976. I just love that instantly recognisable drum, cymbal and melodic piano intro. 


Slip Away is a pleasant enough, sleepy summer afternoon-sounding slow number while that Billy Joel vibe reappears on the lengthy (comparatively), piano-driven Emily's (Salle De Dance). There is a fine funky break half way through.


This was a nice album - a perfect piece of mid-seventies nostalgia. 


Helicon (1976)



If We Should Lose Our Love/Let's Get It Right/Long Ago/Rhapsody/Helicon/Down The Hall/Put A Little Away/New York Street Song (No Easy Way)/I Believe In You


This was the follow-up to Who Loves You and was pretty much more of the same - the first two tracks, If We Should Lose Our Love and Let's Get It Right serve as examples of the AOR-Billy Joel piano-powered enjoyable rock. Also notable was the excellent and most underrated single, Down The Hall, along with another good single in the harmonious, classy Rhapsody


Long Ago is really nice too, again featuring that December '63 piano intro. Put A Little Away is very Beach Boys-esque. Doo-wop meets seventies disco on the lively New York Street Song (No Easy Way)


The album doesn't really feature Valli much at all on anything other than the two singles as he was close to leaving the group. The musicians who did, feature, though, did a great job (particularly John Paiva on guitar) and, although it does not contain the big hits of its predecessor, for me, it is the more consistent and enjoyable album overall. 







Thursday, 25 March 2021

Glam Rock also-rans

After T. Rex, Sweet and Slade had exploded glam rock all over the place in 1971-72, together with credible glam-influenced rock acts like David Bowie, Roxy Music, Mott The Hoople and Elton John along came the second division of glam acts. Here are some of them (Suzi Quatro and Wizzard were part of this sub-genre, but thy have qualified, due to album releases, for a section of their own). These artists featured below we all very much singles-orientated groups.


We are looking at the years of 1973-75 here. For some reason, rock and roll revivalism (or at least, rock and roll influence) was popular during these years and the first such group was teddy boy outfitted Mud, fronted by "huh-huh-huh" Elvis-fixated singer Les Gray. After a couple of more poppy-sounding hits in Crazy and Hypnosis, glam songwriting team Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman (Sweet and Suzi Quatro), they went full on stomping, singalong glam with Dyna-Mite, The Cat Crept In and the monster number one, Tiger Feet, which came with its own peculiar sidestepping, hands on belts dance. 


Mud were a big hit act for a short period and the rock and roll thing continued on the Christmas crooner, Lonely This Christmas, Rocket, The Secrets That You Keep and an a capella cover of Buddy Holly's Oh Boy.





Even more rock and roll-influenced were nostalgists Showaddywaddy - also wearing teddy boy drapes and shoes  - who combined those trademark stomping glam beats with a clear rock and roll instinct on hits like Hey Rock And Roll, a cover of Eddie Cochran's Three Steps To Heaven, Dancin' Party and Trocadero. Their biggest hit was another cover in Under The Moon Of Love and further massive charters followed in Heartbeat, When, You Got What It Takes, Pretty Little Angel Eyes, A Little Bit Of Soap and I Wonder Why. They joyfully doo-wopped up the charts until 77-78.





Adopting an Elvis-68 comeback leather outfit was Alvin Stardust, who, to go with his clichéd moniker, held his microphone upside down from an outstretched wrist, the reason for which was never clear. He had two big poppy glam hits in My Co Ca Choo and Jealous Mind. A few inferior ones followed, including Red Dress, Good Love Can Never Die and an acceptable cover of Cliff Richard's Move It.





Similarly contrived and, let's be honest, silly-looking, were The Rubettes, who wore white flared suits and yes, white berets. They hit the top spot in 1974 with Sugar Baby Love, notable fo singer Alan Williams' ludicrous falsetto vocal - except that it wasn't Williams, it was session singer Paul Da Vinci, who, irked at his non-credit, had his own minor hit with Your Baby Ain't You Baby Anymore


The Rubettes also had hits with I Can Do It, Tonight and the infectious Juke Box Jive. Again the rock and roll influence was clear. 





A strange appearance, in 1973, was that of Barry Blue, (pictured) who utilised a Greek bouzouki on his catchy hit Dancing On A Saturday Night. He had minor hits with School Love and the glam-drum sound of Do You Wanna Dance. Ploughing a similar furrow in 1975 were Kenny, who struck big with the dance-craze hit, The Bump, along with Fancy Pants, Baby I Love You OK and Julie-Ann. They are not to be confused with a previous incarnation of  Kenny, who had a hit in 1973 with Heart Of Stone and a minor one in soundalike follow-up Give It To Me Now.





A huge hit machine from 1974-76 were Scots lads The Bay City Rollers, aimed firmly at the teenage girl market. They brought with them tartan scarf fashions and had massive hits with the chant-along Remember, Shang-A-Lang, Bye Bye Baby (a Four Seasons cover), Give A Little Love and Summerlove Sensation among others.





By 1975, we were very much into the realms of lesser performers and these included Hello (Tell Him and New York Groove); the proto Ramones-looking, leather-clad US-UK band Arrows (A Touch Too Much, My Last Night With You and the original of I Love Rock And Roll, later made famous by Joan Jett & The Black Hearts) and Brendon, who hit only once with the glam drummy Gimme Some





So, that was it for UK glam, I have pretty much covered all of it except, of course, the now permanently disgraced Gary Glitter, whose work has been airbrushed from musical history. That is to overlook the indisputable fact that, between late 1972 and mid-1974, he dominated the charts and was a true king of glam. The contribution and influence of his excellent band, The Glitter Band, who with their two pounding drummers and blaring saxophone influenced many a glam group and also subsequent acts such as Adam And The Ants and Oasis should never be overlooked.


 

The hits were many - Rock And Roll Parts One and Two, I Didn't Know I Loved You (Till I Saw You Rock And Roll, Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah), Hello, Hello I'm Back Again, I'm The Leader Of The Gang (I Am), I Love You Love Me Love, Oh Yes You're Beautiful, Always Yours and Remember Me This Way. Unfortunately, however great these stonking glam offerings were - and they were - we will never remember him with anything other than with revulsion. The Glitter Band were totally unknowing associates of Glitter's, unaware of his proclivities, so here's to them - great musicians to a man.