The star rating system takes into account that these are "Acquisitions Of The Year". Therefore * represents 50-60%, ** is 60-70%, *** is 70-80%, **** is 80-90% and ***** is 90-99.9% (we're talking Pet Sounds or Forever Changes here). The retail price, actual price paid, packaging etc. are not relevant to the rating
Fairport Convention (57.51)*** R 1967-1968, P 2003
Long out of print, as I discovered after trading in the Polydor vinyl album some years ago, this re-mastered reissue includes bonus tracks including their first single, a cover of Maxine Sullivan's 1940 recording of If I Had A Ribbon Bow. The best track is probably the Dylan-influenced and rather psychedelic It's Alright Ma, It's Only Witchcraft.
Among the other original material, some of it dating from Richard Thompson's previous band, is a fair smattering of well-chosen songs from contemporary performers. Joni Mitchell was virtually unknown and unreleased on record in 1967 when this album was recorded and her own versions of the two songs here did not appear until her second album, Clouds, in 1969. The Fairports knew her as she had been in the UK at the invitation of their producer, Joe Boyd, and she had played some British dates supporting the Incredible String Band. Emitt Rhodes was still performing in the obscure group the Merry-Go-Round when they recorded Time Will Show The Wiser to open the album.
Dylan's Jack O'Diamonds was actually a poem which turned up on the liner-notes of Another Side Of Bob Dylan. He had given it to an actor friend called Ben Carruthers at the Savoy, who had used it in a TV play called A Man With No Papers, and subsequently recorded it with his group Ben Carruthers And The Deep, aided by Jimmy Page and Nicky Hopkins, on a flop single. One Sure Thing was a cover of a little-known duo called Jim and Jean (Jim Glover and Jean Ray).
There is no clue from this eclectic mix of songs featuring Ian Matthew and the very underrated Judy Dyble that they were to virtually reinvent folk-rock with Sandy Denny just a couple of years later. I saw the band a couple of times around the time of this album and, much as I enjoyed their later albums, rather miss these styles of playing in their music.
Their version of Suzanne used to feature alternate verses sung by Ian Matthew and Sandy Denny but the May 1968 version here sadly falls between Judy Dyble leaving and Sandy Denny joining; however you can hear the dual-vocal version on Heyday, taken from their August 1968 Top Gear session
(review updated 20 November 2003/5 January 2005)
A Lasting Spirit - The Collection (57.51/74.35/76.26)* R 1967-1997, P 2005
This budget-priced 3CD box set spans thirty years of the Fairports' illustrious career and includes a few rarities, enough to make it a worthwhile purchase for someone with a couple of their regular albums and an interest in delving a little deeper.
Of greatest interest is the first disc, Sweet Days. This includes the first song they ever recorded in a studio, Both Sides Now, written by a total unknown called Joni Mitchell. Judy Dyble does a beautiful lead vocal, with Richard Thompson singing back-up (Iain Matthews had yet to join the band). At the session, on 10 August 1967, they also recorded an early version of One Sure Thing and If I Had A Ribbon Bow. This became their first single while the other two were consigned to the vaults.
Iain Matthews sings lead, with Judy provided harmony, on the opening track, Some Sweet Day, the old Everly Brothers song which was to have been the band's second single in 1968, but shortly after it was recorded Judy found herself out of the band and the single was shelved. The song was recorded again on 28 May 1968 for John Peel's Top Gear programme with new vocalist Sandy Denny, and Jackson Frank's You Never Wanted Me is taken from that same session (it is also on Heyday).
Night In The City and Marcie, both unreleased Joni Mitchell songs that were later to appear on Song To A Seagull, come from a 1968 radio broadcast of the David Symonds Show. Unfortunately these are from an AM signal, complete with buzzes, crackles and late fade-ins, but are good to hear as there are no official versions.
Memphis Slim's You're Gonna Need My Help Someday comes from a later David Symonds session, February 1969, and is in far better quality. Again, there is no official equivalent and this version has not before been generally available. Fotheringay, from the same session, is a delight as it comes from a better source than the transcription copy used on Heyday, lacking both the distortion and the intrusive voice-over by Brian Matthew at both ends.
A month later they were in the studio for the Unhalfbricking sessions. Dear Landlord did not make it to the final cut, which had three other Bob Dylan songs. Sir Patrick Spens made its recorded debut on Full House, by which time Sandy Denny had left the band. The version here was recorded before she left and is not the BBC Top Gear version you may know but a stereo outtake from 1969's Liege And Lief, and is marvellous, featuring her lead vocal and piano and some tasteful phasing effects. I would have preferred more of these alternative recordings from the 1960s than the seven live recordings from 1997 that flesh out the rest of disc one.
Long Summer Days, the second disc, juggles tracks from Gladys' Leap (1985), Expletive Delighted! (1986) and The Five Seasons (1990), plus the Wishfulness Waltz medley from 1997's Who Knows Where The Time Goes, in what seem to be their standard released versions.
Cropredays, finally, features live recordings taken from their 30th anniversary concerts at the Cropredy Festival of 1997, with a shifting line-up of Fairport Convention members past and present including Richard Thompson and Dave Swarbrick, both in fine form. Interspersed are a couple from the 1995 Cropredy (Close To The Wind and I Heard It Through The Grapevine) and a 1997 version of Who Knows...? featuring Simon Nicol, from the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury. There are copious notes with the box set but these are eulogical more than they are factual and unfortunately include little of the information I have added here or other details such as full line-ups for the various incarnations, making this a welcome but imperfect collection.
(review filed 26 October 2005)
Time Enough At Last - The Receiver Years (59.39/54.15/64.45)* R 1979-1996, P 1997-2002
The world is always a better place with a curmudgeonly Fall album snarling at you in your home, and there is certainly no shortage of them to choose from, official and otherwise.
Between 1996 and 1997 the Receiver label, part of the Trojan group, put out half a dozen albums of previously unreleased Fall material. This box set collects the second batch of these, originally released separately in 1997 - Oxymoron, Cheetham Hill and The Fall Live - 15 Ways To Leave Your Man (all named after Fall songs), with new liner notes by Daryl Easles and as much documentation about them as exists. Unfortunately, this is very little.
A new collection of Fall demos, rehearsals, out-takes, alternative mixes and live recordings is very much my cup of rat poison. However I do like to know roughly to what I am listening, and am frustrated by the total lack of provenance that comes with these. We know that they date from between 1979 and 1996 and the third album comes with a recording date of 26 June 1996 at the Astoria in Finsbury Park, but even this proves deceptive.
Most of all three discs seems to actually date from the nineties, judging from how each track sounds, with the exception of E.S.P. Disco, which is actually Psykick Dancehall wearing a new hat but sounding as if played by a line-up similar to that of the Dragnet album from whence the song comes.
The first two albums are peppered with live performances, tracks 6 to 12 of Cheatham Hill all being live for example, though the audible absence of Brix E Smith from many of these suggests that they do not all date from the June 1996 date quoted for disc 3. 15 Ways. On the other hand, only the first nine tracks of the ostensibly live 15 Ways are actually from live performances.
Fifteen of the tracks on the box set come from 1996's The Light User Syndrome, eight from Code: Selfish (1992), seven from Cerebral Caustic (1995), four from Middle Class Revolt (1994), two from Bend Sinister (1986), two from Shift-Work (1991), two from Perverted By Language (1983), and one each from The Infotainment Scan (1993), Extricate (1990), This Nation's Saving Grace (1985) and I Am Kurious, Oranj (1988), though the live versions in particular could be more recent than their parent albums. Three of the live tracks were originally non-album singles from between 1988 and 1992 (Ed's Babe, Hit The North and White Lightning), and the instrumentals White Lines and Italiano were previously unreleased titles.
Some of the juxtapositions, edits and segues suggest the mischievous hand of Mark E Smith at work, and the sound, though variable (like most Fall albums), is no obstacle to the enjoyment of any of the tracks which form a kind of alternative history document
(review filed 5 January 2005)
Are You Are Missing Winner (47.45)** P 2001
You can't have too many Fall albums, but as they keep coming at you at such a phenomenal rate it is impossible for all but the most committed collector to keep up. Of course, the Fall have kept up a prolific rate since 1978. Line-ups seem to change daily but Mark E Smith remains always at the helm ("If it's me and your granny on bongos, it's The Fall").
This curiously misspelled album title dates from 2001 and mixes Smith's errant poetry and music with a handful of covers - from Gene Vincent, Iggy Pop and the slightly more obscure R Dean Taylor, a Motown writer and singer from Canada, who, perversely, The Fall have covered before (There's A Ghost In My House), to Leadbelly's Bourgeois Blues (renamed, and wrongly attributed to Robert Johnson), a song he recorded for the US Library of Congress archives in 1938 telling how he and his wife visited Washington DC in June 1937 and were turned away from hotels and restaurants because they were black.
Sometimes the cuts and splices are as intrusive as a Jean-Luc Godard film, and probably as deliberate, and as ever, the result is an addictive and idiosyncratic assault on the senses. Is he having a laugh, though?
(review updated 11 November 2003, revised 11 January 2004)
The Real New Fall LP - Formerly 'Country On The Click' (Promo) (44.23)** P 2003
Such is the proliferation of Fall product flooding the market that this album title was needed to guide the confused Fall punter. The subtitle is explained by the fact that the tracks were originally recorded between December 2002 and January 2003 and were mixed by Grant Showbiz and Jim Watts in February 2003 for early release as Country On The Click. Promos were sent out and 3 of the new songs were previewed in March on an absolutely sizzling John Peel session, their 23rd for the show.
The release was then delayed after a mix appeared on the internet, causing a put-out Mark E Smith to partially remix, re-record and re-sequence the album.
The line up of Mark E Smith (vocals), Ben Pritchard (lead guitar, vocal), Jim Watts (bass, guitar, computer, vocal) and Dave Milner (drums, vocal) was augmented by this time with Elenor Poulou (the latest Mrs Smith) on keyboards, and heralded the Fall Mk. 30 (approximately).
This promo cites a release date of 27 October and has a slightly different running order to the released version. It warns (in block capitals), "For promotional use only - anyone abusing this will have Mark E Smith to contend with and may God have mercy on your soul!!"
I believe this is the first studio album to be recorded since Are You Are Missing Winner (I could be mistaken), but a live album, 2G + 2, appeared in 2002. The material and overall sound seem to be the strongest for some years with Theme From Sparta FC just missing out on becoming the John Peel Festive Fifty No. 1 for 2003 (by one vote apparently), and fade-in album opener Green-eyed Loco Man also voted in to no. 26. Contraflow conjures up urban M62 hell with a suitably barbed lyric where Mark E counters perversely, "I hate the countryside so much." As always there is an unlikely cover, this time Lee Hazlewood's Houston, and the award for the strangest title goes to Last Commands Of Xyralothep Via M.E.S.
All is right with the world
(review filed 4 January 2004/updated 5 January 2005)
Words Of Expectation - The BBC Sessions (42.56/69.25)*** R 1978-1996, P 2003
The previous compilation of the Fall's Peel sessions, cunningly titled The Fall - The Peel Sessions (though it included one track from the non-Peel Evening Session programme), adopted a scattergun approach, selecting from 17 sessions across 17 tracks. This double CD instead takes 7 of the Fall's 24 sessions for the John Peel programme and presents them in their entirety. Only four tracks are common to both collections (and Rebellious Jukebox includes Mark E's spoken announcement this time around). Needless to say, Words Of Expectation, from a 1983 session, is not included.
The choice of sessions is rather bizarre, perhaps fittingly for a Fall collection, as having presented the first five sessions in chronological order from June 1978 to August 1981, the next and final sessions, from midway through the second disc, are not sessions 6 and 7, but nos. 19 and 20, a leap of some fourteen years and eleven line-up changes, resulting in an almost entirely new band. Oddly, this rather works as everything one likes about the Fall is as present in the twentieth session as it was in the first.
Incidentally, the 5th session was recorded on 19 August 1981, broadcast on 26 August and repeated on 19 September, not as stated in the liner info and notes, or as in Ken Garner's invaluable tome In Session Tonight.
Some of these session versions are arguably better performed and recorded than their official counterparts. Many appeared months before the official versions were even recorded, while titles such as Mess Of My remain unavailable on record. These include two intriguing covers. One has guest singer Lucy Rimmer singing Nancy Sinatra's This City Never Sleeps At Night, and the other is an excellent rendition of the good Captain's Beatle Bones 'n' Smoking Stones, a Peel favourite.
Perhaps the intention was to release a further two sets, with sessions 6-11/21-22 and sessions 12-18/23-24 making up the collection. At the time of writing, this spookily prescient scheme had not been realised, but a forthcoming 6CD box set of all the Peel sessions had been announced, making this and its predecessor somewhat redundant, although as a generous helping of music by the mighty Fall this would be hard to beat. Always different, always the same
(review filed 2 March 2005)
The Fall - The Complete Peel Sessions 1978-2004 (63.11/72.25/76.51/65.30/69.13/78.25)**** R 1978-2004, P 2005
John Peel had been presenting his show on Radio One for over a decade before he aired the first session from the Fall on 15 June 1978. Nevertheless, over his unbroken thirty-seven years of broadcasting for the BBC, his name became most closely linked with that of the mighty Fall, "the great miracle of my musical life", in a symbiotic relationship which had them recording twenty-four exclusive sessions for his programme, far more than any other one act, and they are all magnificently here.
Such a box set had been eagerly awaited for years, and the contents and presentation are pretty much everything that could have been hoped for. The sessions are presented in their entirety and a fulsome booklet gives all the details of line-ups, producers and engineers where known (oddly these details are not known for some of the sessions from 1987 onwards, including the two most recent).
Curiously, the location is not specified (usually BBC Maida Vale Studio 4, at least until 1994, though sometimes in Maida Vale 3 or 5, and once in 1981 at Langham Studio 1, in Regent Street). The liner notes were written by Fall expert Daryl Easlea and are generally illuminating and concise, and where he might express an occasional opinion with which one disagrees - well, this is part of the pleasure of the Fall experience.
The BBC sessions came about because of restrictions in the amount of records they were allowed to play ("needle time") and were turned from being regarded as something of a limitation into one of the BBC's great strengths by John Peel, who encouraged the acts he booked not to merely attempt to replicate their current single, a doomed exercise given the time and studio limitations, but to use their day as a platform to experiment and try out new material; in fact, to do whatever they wanted at the BBC's expense.
It is a testament to the production and engineering skills of the staff at London's Maida Vale that bands could turn out around four tunes in a session that were often more robust and focused than their commercially available counterparts. Though some bands would simply produce as-live versions of highlights from their latest LP, the Fall fully realised the Peel ethos by regularly previewing material that would not be recorded for a year or more, if at all - as in the case of Mess Of My, for example, or the lengthy Words Of Expectation.
They also submitted a number of exclusive and unpredictable cover versions, such as their bizarre send-up of Do The Hucklebuck; the long overdue Mr Bloe revival on Groovin' With Mr Bloe; Max Bygraves' Jingle Bell Rock; Lee Perry's Kimble The Nimble, which was released on a single and reached 34 in the 1992 Festive Fifty; This Perfect Day by the Saints in 1998, or Strychnine by the Sonics, both showing that Mark E Smith had rightly retained his love of garage.
On Nancy Sinatra's The City Never Sleeps At Night (the B-side of These Boots Were Made For Walkin', so nothing obvious) a guest singer, Lucy Rimmer, was drafted in to sing lead. Perhaps best of all was the Fall rendition of Captain Beefheart's Beatle Bones'n'Smoking Stones, originally from Strictly Personal in 1968.
Eight other Peel session tracks reached the annual Festive Fifty of listener's votes, in preference to the records, between 1985 and 1998 (Cruiser's Creek, ROD, Athlete Cured, Ladybird, M5, Hey! Student, Feeling Numb and Shake-Off), proving that the days of radio sessions being regarded as second best were truly dead and buried.
Twenty-four sessions in twenty-six years is insufficient to chronicle all the multifarious line-up changes the Fall has undergone, and by the last only Mark E Smith remained from the first, though as he has pointed out, "If it's me and your granny on bongos, it's The Fall". It is noticeable how fresh and vital the band still sound, with a passion and creativity many of today's new young pretenders should envy.
Despite his reputation as a hard taskmaster, like Captain Beefheart, it is also significant how members who have left the band are prone years later to return, presumably missing the challenges being in one of the most prolific and inventive bands around could bring. Guests were often brought in to augment the sessions, providing clarinet, fiddle or (possibly, unless it is Mark E Smith uncredited) harmonica, and on their very first session I believe I can hear Marc Riley's backing vocals on Rebellious Jukebox (he was their roadie at the time, and had only joined the band by the time of their second session).
Covering twenty-six years in a breakneck seven hours of Fall history is also insufficient to do justice to their many sides but it does highlight their remarkable consistency of quality in a variety of forms.
Fall enthusiasts will be encouraged to see that Whizz Bang from session 13 (which was never broadcast, perhaps at the band's request as the song never surfaced on record either) is included, as is the track Job Search, an extra track they recorded at their final Peel session that was broadcast on the occasion of his 65th (and final) birthday.
Other Radio One live concert broadcasts and sessions such as those for Saturday Live and the Evening Session (one of which was re-broadcast on the John Peel programme) are not included. The 5th session, incidentally, was recorded on 19 August 1981, and first broadcast on 26 August, not as stated in the liner notes.
There have been other compilations of Fall Peel sessions. Should you own any of them, throw them out now and buy this. Pass them on to any unsuitable curmudgeonly young person and darkly brighten their life.
The Fall: "They are always different, they are always the same" - John Peel
(review filed 2nd August 2005)
Let's Stick Together (37.56)** P 1973-1976, P 1999
Bryan Ferry launched his solo career during the first flush of Roxy Music's fame. As some members played on his solo recordings, one must assume his dual role did not cause undue friction within the band. After the space-age art rock avant-gardity of Roxy Music, the musical direction of Bryan Ferry's first solo albums was something of a surprise, ranging from Billie Holiday's My Foolish Things (the title track of her first album) to Bob Dylan's A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall, Dobie Gray's The In Crowd and the Platters' Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, all of which were extracted as singles. It was a long way from Virginia Plain and Pyjamarama.
The album Let's Stick Together came out in 1976 in time to capitalize on the success of the single it was named after. It was an extremely useful mopping-up of all the non-album tracks released to date, including Extended Play (a freshly released EP of cover versions comprising The Price Of Love, Shame Shame Shame, the extraordinarily lightweight Heart On My Sleeve and Beatles cover It's Only Love) and You Go To My Head, another Billie Holiday standard from the thirties given the Ferry makeover treatment. It also had one previously unreleased track, Casanova, an original Ferry composition that had previously appeared on Roxy Music's Country Life album in 1974.
The other four tracks are all alternative recordings of songs that appeared on the first Roxy Music albums, and were re-made as B-sides of his solo singles between 1973 and 1976. I recall Bryan Ferry remarking at the time that he didn't like a song to be represented by just one recorded version of it, that would always play identically to the time before and be set it in aspic, and therefore liked to tackle songs he had previously recorded. Chris Spedding is the guitarist, and Roxy Music alumni Eddie Jobson, John Wetton and Paul Thompson provide colour and backbone. Bryan Ferry had not quite found his own voice on the first album and these versions are more confident, if less idiosyncratic than the group versions, and of course lack Eno's unique input. 2HB, Chance Meeting and Sea Breezes are otherwise relatively faithful re-makes of the originals, Sea Breezes being particularly effective, but Re-Make Re-Model from 1975 has been re-made and re-modeled into a blue-eyed soul funk groove for the B-side of You Go To My Head, and has perhaps dated less well. Incidentally, Roxy Music's own non-album B-sides have yet to be compiled onto CD.
All in all, this makes an ideal companion piece to the albums These Foolish Things and Another Time Another Place.
(review filed 20 October 2007)
Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac
The Best Of Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac (77.53)*** P 1968-2002, P 2002
There have been compilations before of Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac, the band he formed after leaving John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, but this latest one puts right most of the wrongs and omissions of those.
Everything you have a right to expect is here including Oh Well Parts 1 & 2 in its full 9 minute glory and without fading out in the middle, where you had to turn over the single, as previous collected versions had; and the previously unreleased US Version of Need Your Love So Bad, which is a superb extended six minute piece, with strings arranged by Mickey Baker (who played guitar on Little Willie John's original). The towering magnificence of The Green Manalishi is also re-established by its inclusion.
Stop Messin' Round was on the flipside of Need Your Love So Bad, but it is here in the slighter shorter take used on the album Mr Wonderful. Several of the selections included are album tracks.
The compilation ends with a token track by Chicken Shack, because of Christine McVie's involvement with the band, and the then-recent hit remix of Albatross by Chris Coco, both of which I could have done without in this particular context, perhaps replaced by their first single, Rambling Pony/I Believe My Time Ain't Long.
Peter Green was up there with Hendrix and Clapton in the sixties and as well as his work with Fleetwood Mac it is well worth checking out the album A Hard Road by John Mayall's Bluesbreakers.
(indexed 17 July 2003/updated 27 May 2007)
Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac
The Pious Bird of Good Omen (64.20)* R 1967-1968, P 2004
This is a rather different pious bird to the previous CD incarnation of the same album, which was a straight reissue of the LP that first appeared on vinyl courtesy of their old record label in 1969, at the same time as their Reprise album Then Play On. Two tracks taken from the first two albums and two of the band backing Eddie Boyd have been dropped from the new release (although there was room for them), leaving from the original album only the first four singles the band released, in 1967 and 1968: Rambling Pony/I Believe My Time Ain't Long, Black Magic Woman/The Sun Is Shining and Albatross/Jigsaw Puzzle Blues, between them totalling less than fifteen minutes.
Need Your Love So Bad appeared before in its original edit, fading after 3:45 (its B-side, an alternative take of Stop Messin' Round, was not included, and has not been added), but now this album in its new plumage is a protracted homage to the 1955 Little Willie John standard, as about forty-seven and a half minutes of the CD are taken up with various working versions and remixes. We hear the first abandoned try-outs of the song from 11 April 1968, the first three takes from the second session of 28 April and the completed 6:55 master of take four, with overdubbed horns, and strings arranged by Mickey Baker (who played guitar on Little Willie John's original). At the end, Peter Green can be heard to say, "I mucked the ending up." This didn't matter for the single edit (not included), but when the full-length mix was proposed for an American B-side, he returned to the studio in October to re-do his vocal and guitar parts for it, and this superb 'USA Version' (which was never used) closes the album.
The other additional track is an early take of Like Crying, a song that featured on Then Play On, featuring Danny Kirwan and Peter Green alone. All the tracks have been mixed anew from the session multi-track tapes and sound stunning. Bits of studio chat and the odd musical fluff have been allowed to stand, making this more of a documentary study of a band at work than a "best of" collection.
(review filed 30 November 2005)
Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac
The Original Fleetwood Mac (55.40)** R 1967-1969, P 1971-2000
Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac formed in July 1967, and made their live debut at the Windsor Jazz and Blues Festival on 12 August. They released their first single, I Believe My Time Ain't Long/Rambling Pony, in November. This marked the beginning of their association with producer Mike Vernon, mostly for the Blue Horizon label, with the then stable line-up of Peter Green, Jeremy Spencer, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood, and their first, self-titled album appeared three months later.
It was a very prolific time for the blues band as neither side of the single appeared on the album and a second album, Mr Wonderful, appeared six months later along with the non-album single, Black Magic Woman/The Sun Is Shining. A third album, English Rose, appeared just six months after that, in February 1969.
Even more remarkably, during this period they recorded enough surplus material for a further 12-track album of equally good material, which Blue Horizon's parent label CBS put out in 1971, after they had been with Reprise for a couple of years.
As well as their usual mix of original material, liberally spiced with Elmore James influences, there are covers of songs by Homesick James, Otis Rush and BB King. There are also two acoustic country blues pieces, including the traditional Mean Old Fireman, performed by Jeremy Spencer, who is no slouch on bottleneck guitar. Peter Green's playing is exemplary throughout, of course. Some of the tracks seem to feature Danny Kirwan from Boilerhouse who was added to the line-up in time for the third album, and Christine McVie's piano makes a guest appearance on one or two tracks. There is a reworking of Rambling Pony, too, their rewrite of Rolling And Tumbling, with Mick Fleetwood on washboard. It would be nice to know if it was from the same sessions as the 1967 B-side or revisited some time later.
For this re-issue four bonus tracks have been added: Jeremy Spencer's rocker Mighty Cold, an atmospheric live version of the late Duster Bennett's Jumping At Shadows sung by Peter Green, Jeremy Spencer's Man Of Action and, most interestingly, the stereo debut of a former B-side from their one-off Immediate single Man Of The World, recorded 10-11 January 1969, Somebody's Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight. This tongue-in-cheek rock and roll pastiche, which again featured Jeremy Spencer, was issued under the pseudonym Earl Vince and the Valiants and shows the band shrugging off their blues straitjacket and letting their hair down (it was later covered by the Rezillos)
(review filed 28 May 2004/updated 5 January 2005)
Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac
Live At The BBC (56.57/51.53)***R 1967-1971, P 2002
During the three years or so covered on these two discs, Fleetwood Mac evolved from being a blues band to being something else entirely, and they still had another four fraught years to go before Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks were to join the remaining members and turn them into a license for printing money. The original line-up that signed to Blue Horizon in 1967 stayed relatively stable during these three years but apparently Jeremy Spencer's unwillingness to collaborate with Peter Green on his boss's material meant that a third guitarist was drafted into the band.
Eighteen-year old Danny Kirwan from the band Boilerhouse joined in August 1968, and made his BBC debut later that month with a live broadcast for the Radio One O'Clock Club before a studio audience. By this time, the band's name had shortened to just Fleetwood Mac, and for the final two sessions represented on this disc (from July 1970 and January 1971) Peter Green was no longer in the line-up.
Changes in direction and line-up meant that a fair amount of material was amassed that did not see the light of day on their records and there are seventeen titles on this set otherwise unrecorded, plus two that were on a solo album by Jeremy Spencer (helped out by mates from the band).
The one and three-quarter hours here barely scratches the surface of the amount of material they recorded for the BBC, though there are plenty enough Elmore James covers, psychedelic blues and time-stopping flights of guitar to feed the soul. Twenty-one sessions between 1967 and 1971 are mentioned in Ken Garner's book of BBC sessions In Session Tonight, each probably averaging 20 minutes in playing time, though many of these may well not be preserved, at least not in the quality of those here, which is largely excellent and appears in the main to have come from single-track master tapes (Need Your Love So Bad is a notable exception).
Nearly all are session recordings, though the CD kicks off with a blistering seven and a half minute version of Rattlesnake Shake that was recorded live at the Paris Theatre in 1970 for the In Concert series; and includes two live performances from the Radio One O'Clock Club show mentioned earlier.
Liner notes are sparse, giving only first broadcast dates without specifying the programme involved, and unfortunately line-ups are limited to surnames, not specifying what instruments were played or who is singing lead. In Session Tonight helps out a little here but doesn't identify the mystery pianist who crops up on ten of the tracks. Unless one of the band doubled up on piano the most likely candidate is Christine Perfect, who is credited with playing on Stop Messing Around, and appeared on some of their records of this period. Sweet Home Chicago comes from a World Service session they shared with Eddie Boyd, and so may well be the pianist on that particular track.
BBC sessions are not synonymous with John Peel and though nineteen tracks come from his Top Gear programme, the rest were all recorded for shows presented by other disc-jockeys, including David Symonds and hairy cornflake Dave Lee Travis. One session, the only one to appear in full, was recorded for a Top Gear spin-off called First Gear, presented by producer John Walters while Peel was off on holiday. The theme for this month-long series was rock and roll and Fleetwood Mac came up with an appropriate mix of originals in the style of Buddy Holly and Elvis, as well as covers of songs by the Everlies, Big Joe Turner and Bobby Vee, the last being a tribute to Buddy written by his mother to the tune of Peggy Sue Got Married. Their blues roots were not forgotten, though, and the newest session included features Jeremy Spencer's version of Son House's Preachin'. This is the song that inspired Robert Johnson's Preachin' Blues, as also featured in a brilliant solo rendition by Peter Green in 1968 for Top Gear.
These double-sided discs feature a CD one one side and DVD-A on the other. I do not have DVD-A or surround sound equipment, but the DVD sides, played in standard DVD format through a digital amplifier, sounded clear and full of detail. I would have to query the benefits of 5.1 surround sound, though, as all the tracks were recorded and mixed to monaural single-track tape; and the claim on the sticker that the CD sides comprise "complete album in stereo" is clearly incorrect.
(review filed 13 May 2007)
Flying Burrito Brothers/Gram Parsons
Sleepless Nights (38.00)**** R 1970-1973, P 1976
This comprises tracks of country standards Gram Parsons made with the Burritos shortly before he left the band, and three fantastic previously unreleased duets with Emmylou Harris which were inexplicably left off his wonderful second solo album, Grievous Angel, including the definitive version of Sleepless Nights. You need to have these
(indexed 10 February 2003/updated 5 January 2005)
The Ultimate Collection (72.30)** P 1964-1972, P 1997
Concentrating on their singles career, this 25 track collection appeared on the Motown label in 1997 when it was licensed to Polygram, and covers the period from their first Motown single, Baby I Need Your Loving, up to 1972 when they first left the label (they were back between 1983 and 1986).
Nearly all the hit singles are present so it is easier to itemise what isn't: their cover of Tim Hardin's If I Were A Carpenter, a bigger hit here than in the US; Do What You Gotta Do, not a single in the US; Don't Let Him Take Your Love From Me, not a single in the UK and only a minor hit in the US; Just Seven Numbers, and In These Changing Times, both only minor hits, extracted from the Changing Times album; Walk With Me Talk With Me Darling, not a single in the US; and their two-part version of MacArthur Park, a non-album single that wasn't even released in the UK and which one probably has to buy Anthology to get hold of on CD.
It also includes 4 popular B-sides including their great original version of I Got A Feeling, better known in its cover by Barbara Randolph. Three of these were taken from albums but one, If You Don't Want My Love, was only ever the B-side of You Keep Running Way, perhaps making its debut on CD. Most of the songs were produced by Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier, with whom they had a string of huge hits, but a handful were produced by Mickey Stevenson, Ivy Jo Hunter, Johnny Bristol and others.
It states in the liner notes that "The Ultimate Collections feature the original 45 rpm versions. Album sources are issued for reference purposes; the LP versions were very often different mixes, and sometimes different performances." What this means in practice is that all but 2 tracks - Still Water (Love) and (It's The Way) Nature Planned It - are mono versions which I suppose means that Motown hope to have us buy the parent albums as well to get the stereo mixes
(review filed 5 March 2004)
Inez and Charlie Foxx
Mockingbird (76.19)*** P 1963-1965, P 2001
Rather like Orson Welles, Inez and Charlie Foxx achieved such success at the outset of their careers that there was nowhere to go but down. In the Foxxes case, it was their first single together, Mockingbird, that sold a million and became their albatross.
The hit song, adapted from a traditional American lullaby known as Hush Little Baby, came out on Juggy Murray's Symbol label, a subsidiary of Sue Records, in 1963, and in the UK was chosen by Guy Stevens to be the first single of the British Sue label, licensed by Chris Blackwell for Island Records. The nursery theme was pursued for their follow-up single Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush, though subsequent very strong singles such as Hurt By Love and La De Da I Love You showed there was more than one string to their bow. One wonders how more diverse their records might have been had Mockingbird not been such a success.
As it is, they frequently returned to their debut single for inspiration with rewrites like Confusion and Competition, and songs with titles like Jaybirds, Hey Diddle Diddle, Hummingbird and Yankee Doodle Dandy (the last two both containing many references to mockingbirds), often again featuring Inez Foxx's sassy and throaty vocals calling to her brother Charlie for response, and leading to comparisons with the R&B duo Ike and Tina Turner, though on songs like I See You My Love and the rather kitsch ballad The Angels Got Together she shows a far wider range, veering into the soul ballad territory as favoured by labels like Scepter and Wand. Much of their material was written by Charlie Foxx, who also plays guitar on the records and in their stage act, and sings lead on two songs here on which Inez does not appear. My Momma Told Me is slightly reminiscent of Sugar Pie Desanto's Soulful Dress, while La De Da I Love You contains traces of Four Tops and Supremes songs of the period, though are none the worse for that.
This collection is subtitled Phase One: The Complete Sue Recordings and contains their complete output between 1963 and 1965 (subsequent recordings for Musicor and Dynamo are collected on Ace's The Dynamo Duo). It includes in full their two albums Mockingbird (1964) and Inez And Charlie Foxx (1965), though the running order is seriously randomized. Mockingbird can be recreated by programming tracks 1, 10, 17, 15, 18, 16, 19, 3, 20, 2, 21 and 22; while Inez And Charlie Foxx consists of 4, 12, 9, 5, 11, 14, 13, 8, 6, 7, 16, 1, 24. The other tracks are non-album singles from their 11 US releases (UK singles followed a different pattern). Four of the tracks from Mockingbird and two of the B-sides have been transferred from vinyl sources, as is explained in the liner notes, though do not suffer unduly.
Hurt By Love unfortunately appears in its truncated single edit; the longer album version can be found on The UK Sue Label Story Vol. 3: The Soul Of Sue.
Most of these tracks would go down a storm at any sixties club soul event and this collection demonstrates that Inez and Charlie Foxx deserve to be as well remembered as many of their more high profile contemporaries.
(review filed 1 January 2008)
Impossible But True - The Kim Fowley Story (76.10)*** P 1959-1968, P 2003
Kim Fowley seems to pop up at memorable moments of musical history like a Zelig-figure. In fact he is quoted as saying, "I sometimes think I'm playing the lead role in The Kim Fowley Story." He turned up in the film Treasure Of The Rio Grande at the age of ten, attended high school with Nancy Sinatra, Jan & Dean and Dick & Dee Dee, was in a high school group with Sandy Nelson and future-Beach Boy Bruce Johnston that Phil Spector sometimes sat in with on guitar, booked Eddie Cochran for his last ever US gig, hung out with PJ Proby, Terry Melcher and Gary Lewis, recorded Richard Berry, the Pharoahs and Paul Revere and the Raiders, became a food runner for Alan Freed, met Leonard Chess and Sonny Bono, was mentored by Paul Gayten, invited to BB King's house for ribs, dated Candice Bergen... and all by the time he was 23. By this time he had scored number one hits with Alley Oop by the Hollywood Argyles and Popsicles And Icicles by the Murmaids in the US, and Nut Rocker by B Bumble and the Stingers in the UK, and a string of other hits such as the Rivingtons' Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow, and of course, many interesting flops.
When the British Invasion came in 1963 he made "the first authentic American Beatles-soundalike record", Shush-Boomer by the Alpines, before realising he needed to be in England to tap into what was going on. In London he hooked up with Andrew Loog Oldham, sipped tea with Joe Meek, and produced records featuring unknowns like Dave Mason, Jim Capaldi and Ritchie Blackmore. When he returned in 1966 he recorded with former members of Them (he renamed them the Belfast Gypsies); produced a band called the N' Betweens who later became Slade; wrote with and recorded a new singer called Cat Stevens on what became the flipside of his first single, I Love My Dog; hustled Keith Moon and the Beatles promoting the Beach Boys; discovered the Soft Machine and produced their first single (the A-side was remade by Chas Chandler before it was released) and was in on the birth of the Jimi Hendrix Experience. He also made records under his own name, such as The Trip, which became something of an underground classic, and was briefly a member of the Mothers Of Invention on their Freak Out! album.
The mega-booklet by Rob Finnis makes this CD a good read as well as a highly-entertaining and varied 32-track selection of productions by one of the true legends of the Los Angeles scene, from Gene Vincent singing Ernest Tubbs to Buddy Rich's 13-year old daughter doing Wild Thing
(review filed 17 March 2004)
Lady Soul (43.56)**** P 1968, P 1995
Artists such as Aretha get anthologised and compiled so much that it easy to overlook the original albums, which would be a mistake, as hearing the recordings in their intended context, recorded over period of a few months, gives the songs extra strength and cohesion. This one was recorded between February and December 1967 in New York with Jerry Wexler in the producer's chair and produced 3 hit singles. Bonus tracks include an extended version of the magnificent Chain Of Fools
(indexed 1 April 2003)
Aretha Now (29.28)*** P 1968, P 1993
This was Aretha's fourth album for Atlantic and was top five in both UK and US, despite a playing time of under half-an-hour. When the grooves are as funky as these, who cares? Two great tracks had already been hit singles when the album came out - Think, which had been recorded on 15 April 1968, the day Martin Luther King was assassinated; and her fantastic re-interpretation of Burt Bacharach's I Say A Little Prayer, which she and the Sweet Inspirations had apparently worked up while on tour, just for fun. In America I Say A Little Prayer was buried as a flipside before discerning deejays turned it over, but it had been the bona-fide A-side the month before in the UK where it reached number 4.
Her revival of Don Covay's See Saw was the first single lifted from the album, with I Can't See Myself Leaving You being extracted the following year while she was taking time off to avoid burn out.
Sam Cooke had apparently come to the Franklin household while he was still in the Soul Stirrers and considering turning secular with an acetate of You Send Me. After its success she said, "I'd sure like to sing that, too" and here turns in a smoldering version which is not only secular but intensely sexualized to boot.
The Muscle Shoals crew were flown in to New York for all sessions and were augmented by the Sweet Inspirations and, in April 1968, the Memphis Horns. Most of the album was recorded that April, but three tracks held over from the Lady Soul sessions of December 1967 make up the remainder and feature Bobby Womack on guitar, an 8-piece brass section and Carolyn Franklin on additional background vocals. Two of these were written by Ronnie Shannon who had written I Never Loved A Man and Baby, I Love You.
Aretha had found her voice and was on a roll, complemented by Tom Dowd and Arif Mardin's arrangements and sure-footed production by Jerry Wexler. The album went gold.
Now overdue for a remaster, let's hope it comes with the full complement of bonus tracks from the period, singles and unreleased material that are bound to be gold dust
(review filed 11 August 2004/updated 5 January 2005)
Live At Fillmore West (67.54/60.50)**** R 1971, P 2006
When a concert is released as an album, how accurate a representation of the night should it be? Quite apart from the dubious practice of adding studio overdubs to correct errors and "sweeten" vocals, there is a question of the sound balance - should it reflect the stage monitors that the performers hear, or the sound system that the audience experiences, and since most of the instruments are plugged directly into amplifiers, how important are the building's acoustics to the end result? Then there is the editing - the longeurs between songs while instruments are retuned and technicalities sorted out, the banter and chat between performers and audience - should they be left in? What songs should be excised and should any be shortened?
These questions (and I don't have the answers, by the way) were raised by this reissue of Live At Fillmore West, my third copy of the album, each one a substantial revision of the previous release. Aretha played three nights at the Fillmore and the album was compiled from two of the nights, so it never claimed to be from a single concert, and there is no suggestion of nefarious overdubbing. What fascinates me is how each release adds further clues as to what went down on those nights.
The original album was on vinyl, with all the time constraints inherent in the format. It clocked in at 42:43. Several of the songs were edited and there was little chat between the songs. Dr Feelgood, which ran for seven minutes on its CD debut, was edited to 3:23. The CD ran to 48:12 with most of the rest of the extra time coming from between the songs.
For this CD, Rhino have gone back to the unedited tapes of all three nights, as used on the box set Aretha Franklin and King Curtis Live At Fillmore West: Don't Fight The Feeling, and used the same performances to recreate the original track list. A note inside says, "Both performances of Spirit In The Dark were edited on the original album release but appear on this release unedited." This means that performances that previously ran to 13:44 on CD now extend to 26:26, with the whole disc now lasting 67:54. Both came from the final night and include an impromptu performance from Ray Charles, plucked from the audience, and are thus especially valuable to hear as originally performed.
I was surprised to discover that many of the other selections were also now longer, apparently the same powerful performance of Dr Feelgood now being 8:58, and there were stage announcements I'd never heard before, which to my mind added to the sense of the event, as Aretha interacted with the appreciative Fillmore crowd, making it more of an occasion. I did notice that the mikes of the band and singers were left open between songs more on this mix, allowing extraneous noise such as coughing and rattling, which may be a more honest representation but which I found mildly intrusive.
The recording dates given here of 5-7 March 1971 differ by a month from those given on earlier releases, and in all the discographies I could check, but are correct, as I was able to confirm from a reproduction of the original psychedelic poster for the event. Nearly all of the recordings come from the final night, with Love The One You're With and Dr Feelgood from the second night. However, one very good reason for choosing this particular revamp is the second disc of Alternates And Unused Songs.
This includes seven songs from the opening night, including a Jimmy Webb song, Mixed-Up Girl, not represented on the album. Other unused songs include her own classic Call Me, Bobby Blue Bland's Share Your Love With Me and her current single, a revival of You're All I Need To Get By. The rest of the disc offers alternative performances, from other nights to those on the album, with some enjoyable variations and banter, cherry-picked from the box-set which considerations such as keeping a roof over our heads may discourage us from acquiring.
My focus in this review is on this two-CD edition of a very well-known album, originally released in 1971. Therefore I have little to add to the mileage of editorial coverage it has already received. I would say that the perspective of time has been less kind to the material chosen to pander to the Fillmore audience. The lyrically preposterous Love The One You're With and the MOR excesses of Make It With You suffer far more than her fabulous gospel-infused interpretation of Bridge Over Troubled Water, but it is on home-grown material like Don't Play That Song and Spirit In The Dark that Aretha's true brilliance shines. Her new band, featuring King Curtis, the Memphis Horns, Billy Preston, Bernard Purdie, Cornell Dupree and an all-star cast, really make a difference, too. One of the great live albums.
(review filed 28 June 2008)
David Holmes Presents The Free Association (Promo) (42.29)** P 2002, 2003
David Holmes' 2002 mix album Come Get It I Got It was created in collaboration with Steve Hilton, who also works as a programmer/composer for Craig Armstrong and David Arnold, and amongst the freaky vinyl and deep soul rediscoveries, featured the pair creating some new linking music under the guise of the Free Association. The decision for the Free Association to become a live act meant expanding the line-up to a core four-piece, with the addition of the Bay Area MC Sean Reveron and the singer Petra Jean Phillipson. A few months later the band spent 10 days in the basement studio at LA's Sunset Marquis with mix engineer Michael Patterson recording this debut album.
Although it originally came out in 2002, it was re-released the following year with the addition of recent single Sugar Man, featuring backing vocals by 61-year old Mexican-American anti-establishment legend Sixto Rodriguez, whose original 1969 version of the song had been the opening track on Come Get It, I Got It. The song was recorded in New York in April 2003 by David Holmes with Rodriguez, who drove in from Detroit especially for the sessions because he didn't want to risk taking his guitar on the plane. It is just one of many weird and wonderful, often unexpected delights to be found here.
The singles (I Wish I Had) A Wooden Heart (newly re-recorded for this edition of the album) and Everybody Knows perfectly demonstrate the Free Association fusion of sounds with a giddy and powerful rush of craziness and rhythms, crackling with energy and topped by bluesy trip-hoppy vocals and madcap rapping. The band memorably performed both songs on Later With Jools Holland in November 2002 and totally ripped the joint, raising the question, where do these amazing singers spring from?
Sean Reveron (now aka Exodus 77), was born in 1969 and grew up in Hollywood, where his mother waitressed at the Whiskey A Go Go. Too young to leave at home, he would be left in the cocktail booth there but would get out to see all the bands. Kicked out of home for awhile at 15 because of his anti-social lifestyle in the local skate parks where he discovered punk, he moved to San Francisco where Drew Bernstein from the band Crucifix became his legal guardian. Rejoining his mother and spending time in Jamaica, he got involved with a dub soundsystem, later moving in with Augustus Pablo and Junior Delgado in Kingston. Still a teenager, he studied African History at UC Berkeley and discovered hip-hop, working over the next years with Tupac Shakur, KRS-1 and Q-Tip. A period away from music in New York ended when he hooked up with the Beta Band, performing with them in London and Glastonbury, and moving to live in London.
Perhaps unexpectedly, Petra Jean Phillipson has a double life as a conservator at St. Paulís Cathedral. Born in Ashford, Kent in 1973, she formed a band when she was eight, and also spent some childhood years in Australia. Hip-hop was an early love and she was also a fan of KRS-1. A yearís art foundation course at St. Martinís was followed by an art degree course in Bath where she produced installations and ran a hip hop night there called The Swamp. She was in various ďall girl punk funk line upsĒ singing and playing guitar, and recorded for Fierce Panda. A period of globe-trotting ended for a while in New York, but she returned to London and over the years has provided session vocals for The Beta Band (perhaps encountering Sean at this time?), Martina Topley-Bird, the Mad Professor, Marc Almond, Grand Drive and others. She met David Holmes through Martina Topley-Bird, a close friend who lived near her London home. One day he phoned her out of the blue to invite her to do some vocals in LA with him.
Though unique, the band's sound would not sit unhappily alongside Death In Vegas or even Primal Scream, marrying a nineties ethic with more contemporary soundboard trickery. Pushin' A Broom stands out with Petra Jean contributing a vocal tour-de-force. Throw into the mix some Hitchcockian orchestration and David Lynch darkness and you have some idea of the heady psychedelic punk-funk odyssey in store
(review filed 10 June 2005)
Fun Lovin' Criminals
100% Colombian (52.01)*** P 1998
From the understated freaky guitar on The View Belongs To Everyone to the Barry White homage Love Unlimited, there is much criminal fun to be had on the second album from the Big Apple trio with the wickedest rhythm section. Smooth and deceptively easy on the ear
(review filed 13 June 2005)
20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection - The Best Of The Funk Brothers (38.26)** P 1964-1972, P 2004
Although they had played on thousands of records for Motown, until the documentary film Standing In The Shadows Of Motown in 2002 few had heard of the Funk Brothers by name, and even fewer knew the names of the master musicians who did so much to create the identity of Motown from the snake pit at the Hitsville Studio in Detroit throughout the sixties. Until Marvin Gaye insisted on having them credited on his album What's Going On in 1970, their names had apparently never even appeared on a Motown sleeve.
Names like bandleader and keyboard player Earl Van Dyke, bassist James Jamerson, guitarists Robert White, Joe Messina and Eddie Willis, and drummers Benny Benjamin, Pistol Allen and Uriel Jones, to mention a few, are gradually seeping into our consciousness as we backtrack through the mighty ever-expanding Motown archives.
Occasionally the band were let loose and allowed to add lead instruments over the backing tracks originally recorded for the various Motown singers, and in 1965 an album appeared by Earl Van Dyke and the Soul Brothers (Berry Gordy didn't approve the name Funk Brothers because of what he considered its improper connotations) called That Motown Sound. The tracks were mostly led by Earl Van Dyke's Hammond organ, with extra guitar fills by Robert White or Joe Messina, and six of them are included on this Best Of, including All For You and I Can't Help Myself, which came out as singles in the UK and America respectively, with B-sides Too Many Fish In The Sea and How Sweet It Is. Given the 38 minute playing time, it is a shame space could not have been found for the rest of the album. Also, as the first five tracks come from the stereo version of the album, it is a pity that the single mono mix of I Can't Help Myself has been used.
Three other Earl Van Dyke singles are included in mono: Soul Stomp (1964), Six By Six (on which the Funk Brothers are joined by the six-piece Motown Brass)(1966) and Runaway Child, Running Wild (1969). Soul Stomp was a cover of a Contours song which wasn't released.
The Stingray is a funky workout taken from a 1970 Earl Van Dyke live album called The Earl Of Funk. Marvin Gaye's single What's Going On featured the instrumental backing track (with backing vocals) on the flip side, with Eli Fountain's memorable opening sax line, but sounds slightly incomplete, though it is a welcome inclusion as it is a first-time stereo mix. The final track is similarly the (mostly) instrumental B-side of the mighty Tempts' track Papa Was A Rolling Stone. This is the most recent recording on the record, having been made on 28 June 1972, though it remains sadly in mono, so for the full effect you need to turn to the near twelve minute version on their album All Directions.
There are no new unreleased tracks here (two can be found on the Cellarful Of Motown compilations) and the playing time is skimpy, but it's what's in the grooves that counts and this is a testament to the creators of some of the finest grooves to be found.
(review filed 11 August 2007)
The Sound Of Fury (22.27/44.30)*** R 1959-1962 P 2000
British rock and roll is rather thin on the ground. There are a few essential tracks - Vince Taylor's Brand New Cadillac, Cliff Richard and the Drifter's Move It, Johnny Kidd's Please Don't Touch - and a few collectable artists such as Marty Wilde, Wee Willie Harris and Joe Brown. Most aspiring Brit rock and rollers were steered by monolithic old-guard managers into the more lucrative "family entertainment" arena, rock'n'roll being seen as a worthless delinquent fad; witness Tommy Steele progressing from Rock With The Cavemen to Tommy The Toreador in three short years.
When it comes to albums, top of any aspiring collectors' list has to be Billy Fury's 1960 10" album The Sound Of Fury. The whole album (apart from one already completed track) was produced by Jack Good and recorded in two epic three-hour sessions on 14th April. It speaks volumes that in order to get the slap-bass sound they knew from records by Gene Vincent, Bill Haley and the like they needed two bass players, one to play the notes on bass guitar and the other to slap the bass, because no-one knew the technique. Don't knock it though, it worked, and Joe Brown's Scotty Moore-style guitar work is great. All ten songs were written by Billy Fury (using the pseudonym Wilbur Wilberforce) and encompass rockabilly, blues and country influences. He, too, was later to be steered towards the big ballad style of the all round entertainer, but is here presented doing the sort of material he loved best.
This two-CD album presents the unadorned mono 10" album on disc one, clocking in at under 23 minutes, but also adding a valuable bonus disc. Stereo versions of all the album tracks (excluding the previously recorded Turn My Back On You) turned up in America in 1988 (presumably in the possession of Jack Good). They seem to be mixes of the same takes as those on the album with the exception of That's Love, although the sleeve notes are ambivalent. These give the recordings an immediacy and presence that make them definitive.
An alternative take, in stereo, of his 1959 single Maybe Tomorrow is followed by a further nine mono bonus tracks. These consist of the single My Christmas Prayer (to be covered in 1993 by St Etienne), the entire Billy Fury No. 2 EP (including the excellent Don't Jump) and the B-sides to Jealousy, Letter Full Of Tears and I'd Never Find Another You, which present the orchestral side of Billy Fury in 1961 and 1962.
(review filed 8 October 2005)