Posts Tagged ‘ 1967 ’

Les Fleur De Lys “Reflections”

As Britain’s “other” major Atlantic seaport, Southampton might have been expected to produce a stream of pop and rock successes to rival Liverpool during the Golden Years, but it didn’t happen. Probably the highest-profile outfit to emerge from the south coast seaport during this period was Les Fleur De Lys, certainly the only such with a grammatically-incorrect French name. Like their near-neighbours, Brighton’s Mike Stuart Span, they enjoyed a chequered history involving half–dozen lineups, dabbling in half-a-dozen genres, sporadically releasing a dozen or so singles and finally fragmenting in frustration after half-a-dozen years (1964-1970). Again like the Span, they never contrived to issue an album in their lifetime, but the present CD is a compendium of all their  singles from their earliest Beat Boom days through their freakbeat, blue-eyed soul, harmony-pop, psychedelic and nascent prog-rock phases. Their legacy remains a handful of classic freakbeat and psych A-sides, and their other main claim to fame is as a launch pad for guitarist Bryn Haworth’s subsequent career; he would morph into perhaps Britain’s finest electric slide player and thence become a doyen of Christian rock music in which field he remains very active.

The Fleurs could in fact boast some pretty substantial musicianship throughout their various incarnations. Drummer Keith Guster, the only ever-present member, could hold down a metronomic funky beat whilst bassist Gordon Haskell, who would move on to King Crimson, had formidable rock and soul chops. Haworth’s predecessor Phil Sawyer was also a fine player in a reckless Jeff Beck style, whilst Haworth himself boasted a fluid bluesy technique and a distinctive, piercing Stratocaster/AC30 sound. They were a top live draw around Swinging London, acting as backing band live and on disc for singer Sharon Tandy and supporting such esteemed and varied visiting headliners as the Beach Boys, Isaac Hayes and Aretha Franklin. In an attempt to break through chartwise they also recorded under various pseudonyms including Shyster, Waygood Ellis, Rupert’s People and Chocolate Frog (!). Several of the early singles were produced by one Jimmy Page, no less.

The twenty-four tracks of the present compilation include the A’s and B’s of all seven singles issued under their own name, the Tandy sides and all the sides released under the fake monikers. The early Beat-era stuff and the soul-based tracks are pretty disposable; the Fleurs were no Young Rascals, nor despite the presence of a couple of competent organists in the early lineups were they anyone’s Procul Harum. However the Page-produced freakbeat cover of Pete Townshend’s “Circles” and its follow-up “Mud In Your Eye” forefront Sawyer’s fine manic lead guitar licks, whilst “Gong With The Luminous Nose” and “Liar” are fine examples of Brit psychedia and guitar-led prog respectively with Haworth’s exemplary Hendrixoid fretwork to the fore. The two Sharon Tandy sides “Hold On” and “Daughter Of The Sun” are rip-roaring rockers, with the powerful backings complementing Tandy’s steely vocal and Haskell’s bass work on “Hold On” a revelation. On the rock and pop tracks the instrumentation and vocals are more than competent but the songwriting is passable at best and sometimes mediocre. The result is a fascinating 24-track collection of historical interest to Sixties rock completists, but which would have made a really good “best of” if reduced to sixteen cuts.

Originally issued on CD by Blueprint in 1996, the present Gonzo budget reissue has the same track listing but a different cover photo. The typo-strewn track listing and historical perspective in the booklet notes are not exactly academic masterpieces, but better ones can be found.

mp3: Circles (Instant Party)
mp3: Gong with the Luminous Nose

:D Compilation | 2010 | Gonzo | buy here ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

PODCAST 26 Garage,Pop

 

I Want to Hold Your Hand (1968-) – The Moving Sidewalks
Naughty Girl (1965/1966) – The Missing Links
Sad and Lonely and Blue (1966) – The Easybeats
I’m On Fire (1968-) – The Easybeats
Calm Me Down (1966) – The Human Expression

Her Face (1966/1967) – Steve Ellis and the Starfires
You Lied To Me Before (1966) – The Treez
You’re Too Young (1965) – The Vagrants
I’ll Come To You (1967) – The Elite
Gone To The Moon (1966) – The Savages
Out of the Question (1967 – from the Future LP) – The Seeds

Download: Podcast26.mp3
To subscribe to this podcast: http://therisingstorm.net/podcast.xml [?]

The Cryan’ Shames “A Scratch in the Sky”

Every now and then something unexpected hits you in a way that leaves a deep and  lasting impression. For me, one of those occasions came with Chicago garage band The Cryan’ Shames’ recording of the old Drifters hit “Up On the Roof,” off their incomprehensibly under-appreciated psychedelic classic A Scratch In the Sky. Granted, “Up On the Roof” itself has been overplayed to the point of nausea since it first made the scene back in 1963, but the Shames take the old Tin Pan Alley standard and turn it into a soaring, tightly woven piece of teenage magic that does not waste a second out of its three minutes and twenty four seconds. It’s the sound of youthful rebellion and romantic angst woven into a thing of panoramic beauty.

As a matter of fact, I reckon that the record that this song is buried in is itself well-defined by the above platitudes. A Scratch In the Sky is one of those rare records laid down at the height of the sixties which manage to pull in the best qualities of the band’s many influences and turn back out something wholly unto its own. The cosmic harmonies of the Beach Boys, the jangling spirit of The Byrds, the rollicking pop of The Beatles; these are all commonly borrowed sounds, but rarely ones so expertly disassembled and recast as we hear on this record. Though this collection of songs remains well-polished through studio-craft and the musicians’ own abilities, it retains a freshness and noncommercial edge that makes it both an accessible and adventurous listen.

The second track, “Sailing Ship,” is a good example of what I mean by all this. There are all sorts of influences detectable here, but nothing absolute. I never fail to be impressed by the thundering drums, jagged guitar chords and droning bagpipes here, all of which make the song sound strangely ahead of its time, or at least out of its own time. In true Sgt. Pepper fashion, the band clearly strove to make each song stand out as a distinct work of art, rather than sounding like something they had simply worked up on the road. The arrangements are ornate and layered with lysergic sounds and tape tricks, and besides the previously mentioned bagpipes the band manages to bring in accordion, harpsichord, tamboura, french horn, and…french lyrics (on “In the Cafe,” of course). If there’s any song reminiscent of the band’s work on their previous record, Sugar and Spice it’s the hard grooving “Mr. Unreliable,” which retains a lot of the garage band attitude and sweet harmonic edge that painted earlier jewels like “Ben Franklin’s Almanac”.

I’m rather blown away to find that the 2002 Sundazed reissue of this record has already dipped back out of print, leaving it perhaps the hardest of the Shames discs to track down. Should the following tracks catch you like they caught me, however, you shouldn’t have to fork over too much for a vinyl copy. It seems strange that so many new reissues end up becoming more obscure and desirable than vintage releases of the same recordings, but I suppose that’s the way it goes.

mp3: The Sailing Ship
mp3: I Was Lonely When

:) Original | 1967 | Columbia | ebay ]
:D Reissue | 2002 | Sundazed | amazon ]

NGC-4594 “Skipping Through The Night”

Here’s another genuinely “lost” sixties psych album, laid down in 1967 but not seeing the light of public exposure until forty-three years later.

Coming together in ‘66 at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, these six students and alumni must have thought they had a stellar musical career in store, because not only did all the undergrads drop out of their courses but they took as their name the astronomical designation of the Sombrero Galaxy in the constellation of Virgo. This didn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but in the trippy atmosphere of the times it conveyed a trendy spaced-out attitude. The auguries were however unpromising; while David Bliss, Steve Starger and Danny Shanok were all experienced pianists, Minty Collins wasn’t even a musician though he was determined to become one, “liberating” a flute from the UConn Music Department and teaching himself the basics. Chas Mirsky contributed rudimentary but suitably whacked-out electric guitar, whilst to fill out the backline Starger switched to Farfisa organ and Shanok took the bass guitar. No-one came forward to be the featured vocalist, but drummer Bob de Vos proved to possess a creditable baritone and was duly pressed into the rôle.

The band assembled an acid-soaked collection of originals, mostly from the pen of pianist Bliss, relocated to Stanford, CT in January ’67 and gigged their set around New England, honing their chops and tightening their act. In April they moved to NYC where they auditioned for Mercury and were invited to rapidly record their whole oeuvre live in the studio as a monophonic demo. From this two sides were selected for a single and re-recorded to professional studio standards. “Going Home” and “Skipping Through The Night” appeared as a 45 on Mercury’s Smash subsidiary, garnered some desultory airplay on Northeast radio stations and disappeared. Despite a few subsequent high-profile concert appearances supporting the likes of the Doors and Country Joe & The Fish, the band’s briefly-flaring star had passed its zenith and by the fall of ’67 they’d split. It wasn’t till the early 90s that Tim Page, a professor at UConn, much taken with hearing the play-worn single on the college’s Campus Restaurant jukebox, would seek out former band members Mirsky and Starger and discover that the original tapes from the Mercury audition still existed. It took a further two decades before the estimable Tune In imprint of psych reissue specialists Cherry Red was able to license the tapes for CD release, along with both sides of the Smash single.

The two Smash tracks are carefully-produced, commercially-viable soft-psych numbers. The twelve “lost” album tracks, by comparison, are a revelation; given the uncompromisingly basic circumstances of their creation they shouldn’t work but somehow they do, revealing a band on the cusp of garage R’n’B and psychedelia, given a fizzing veneer of excitement by the live-in-the-studio performance and unvarnished production values. Even the crude, play-in-a-day lead guitar, flute and harmonica figures contribute to the ambience rather than detracting, whilst Bob de Vos’s Scott Walker-ish vocal is an unexpected asset. The leadoff “Colors” is definitive garage-into-psych with clichéd lysergic lyrics, ringing Wurlitzer piano arpeggios, hyperactive bass and fuzzed-up boxing-glove guitar. “Negative Zone” is Brit R’n’B straight out of the Pretty Things with wailing harp, cheesy Farfisa and rattling maracas framing its cod-protest lyrics. “Imagination Dead Imagine” offers a soporific, trippy mantra with spacey Floyd-style organ, jazzy piano fills and druggy flute and guitar leads, while “Forever Gone” is a doomy blues, heavy with eleventh chords on the Wurlitzer, reverbed vocals and a dragging surf guitar solo. The closing “So Bright” is a pulsating piano-driven rocker that strays into Moody Blues territory with stacked harmonies and flute colouration. All the other tracks provide energetic, freewheeling variations on these themes with plenty of tempo and instrument changes.

The In Tune reissue CD from 2010 is an excellent remaster and includes a comprehensive illustrated history of the band with input from Page and various former members.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“Colors”

:D Reissue | 2010 | Tune In | buy ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Blossom Toes “We Are Ever So Clean”

Variously described as “the finest popsike album ever recorded”, “a quirky look at British life in the late 60s with tea and cakes on the lawn, budgerigars and balloons wafting in the breeze” and “Georgio Gomelsky’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, you might conclude that this definitive whimsy-psych opus was a premeditated attempt to upstage the Fabs and the Kinks at their own game by a similarly professional outfit. In fact it was the more-or-less accidental result of a dissolute R’n’B covers band ingesting lots of pharmaceuticals, reluctantly writing their own material, being impelled by their uber-persuasive manager/producer to come up with potential hit singles, and witnessing their lyrically quirky but musically straightforward guitar-based acid-pop songs being swathed in florid orchestral overdubs by their record company. All of which may sound like a recipe for a ragged, stylistic disaster of an album, and track titles like “The Remarkable Saga Of The Frozen Dog”, “I Will Bring You This And That” and “The Intrepid Balloonist’s Handbook, Volume 1” didn’t help to dispel that initial impression. Released a shade too late for the Summer Of Love and receiving a thoroughly polarised critical reception, it collapsed commercially. However, it gradually established a reputation as one of the great “lost” psych artefacts, was repeatedly bootlegged over decades for the benefit of aficionados, and has continued to attract enthusiasm and opprobrium in equal measures to this day. I like it a lot; you make up your own mind.

Brian Godding (vcl, gtr, keys), Jim Cregan (gtr, vcl), Brian Belshaw (bs, vcl) and Kevin Westlake (drs, vcl) had been the Ingoes, tramping the well-worn path from Hamburg beat band via freakbeat to R’n’B and soul covers. Picked up by former Stones/Yardbirds svengali Gomelsky and re-christened Blossom Toes, they signed to Polydor and worked up a clutch of self-written tunes with lysergic lyrics, spare, brittle backings and dense harmony vocals in the Ivy League vein. These were then subjected, against the band’s wishes, to various degrees of post-production orchestration, some tracks being left more or less unadorned while others were totally swaddled in brass bands, string quartets, plaintive woodwinds and what-have-you.

The leadoff “Look At Me I’m You” is typically everything-but-the-kitchen-sink, featuring a “Taxman”-ish riff with dense harmonies, backwards guitars, scat singing, a full brass band on the bridge and a fake scratched-record-stick on the outro. The thoroughly excellent near-caricature of definitive Britsike, “I’ll Be Late For Tea”, is well-known and has been much anthologised. “Frozen Dog” is a piece of wigged-out craziness with a stomping beat overlaid with deliberately formless, tuneless backing vocals and barking noises – in fact “barking” in every sense. “Telegram Tuesday” comes nearest to the original concept, a fully-formed lilting pop song with Byrdsy guitars and trademark rich harmonies, and for once no orchestral interference. The joyful marching rhythm and hysterical ironic laughter of “People Of The Royal Parks” mask a vituperative attack on the Establishment in the form of a diatribe against po-faced park keepers, government ministers and other officious killjoys. “Mrs Murphy’s Budgerigar” is classic whimsy, chronicling the misadventures of the said bird with enormously over-egged decoration by harpsichord, strings and piccolo trumpet. “Balloonist’s Handbook” is a demented rumba with organ and accordion accompaniment, its rhythm and whacked-out theatrical vocal delivery more than slightly hinting at the Bonzos. For good measure, the closing “Track For Speedy Freaks” is a whirling eighty-second collage of snippets from all the preceding tracks, while between those tracks come brief sotto voce interludes: random speech, coughing, operatic singing and bits of dialogue that sound like cuts from The Goon Show.

After the album bombed the band replaced drummer Westlake with multi-instrumentalist Poli Palmer and released a second album, If Only For A Moment, almost two years later. This was a more conventional prog-rock offering but suffered a similar fate, and Blossom Toes called it a day soon after. Godding enjoyed a subsequent career with various jazz-rock and avant-garde outfits including Centipede and Mike Westbrook’s band, whilst Cregan and Palmer wound up in the highly-successful prog-rock outfit Family. We Are Ever So Clean eventually found a kosher CD re-release on Sunbeam in 2007, its fifteen original tracks being augmented by an interesting assortment of un-orchestrated versions, live takes and unused demos.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“Look at Me I’m You”

:) Original | 1967 | Polydor | search ebay ]
:D Reissue | 2007 | Sunbeam | buy here ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

The Freak Scene “Psychedelic Psoul”

The story of pop music in the 1960s is littered with “bands” that were never truly bands, but were, rather, the creation of record companies and record producers anxious to cash in on prevailing trends. This, too, is the story of The Freak Scene.

The Freak Scene was the creation of Rusty Evans, an ostensible folksinger who’d gotten his start recording rockabilly for Brunswick Records. The Kasentez-Katz of psych-pop, Evans was responsible for several albums by “bands” that were, in actuality, Evans and a group of studio musicians.  The Freak Scene was the second of Evans’ psych-pop groups, following on the heels of The Deep, and featuring many of the same musicians who’d played on the The Deep’s sole album.

Like The Deep, The Freak Scene was credited with one album before Evans lost interest. Psychedelic Psoul, the lone contribution by The Freak Scene, is a fascinating late-60s curio, made up of songs interspersed with spoken word vignettes that address all the hot-button issues of the time – the Vietnam War, civil rights, the plight of hippies. The result is as much art-rock as psych-pop.

Not surprisingly, the spoken word vignettes have not aged well, but several of the songs on Psychedelic Psoul have lasting appeal. “A Million Grains of Sand,” “Rose of Smiling Faces” and “My Rainbow Life”’ bear heavily the Indian influence that dominated the music of the Summer of Love, with their mystical lyrics and swirling strings; however, “My Rainbow Life” suffers from banal lyrics that make it sound more like a soundtrack entry on an acid exploitation flick than a real song. “Behind the Mind,” “The Center of My Soul” and “Mind Bender” bear a striking resemblance to garage-psych on the level of the Electric Prunes (another pre-fab band) or the Strawberry Alarm Clock.

By far the best offering on Psychedelic Psoul is “The Subway Ride Through Inner Space,” which somehow manages to mash-up the stream-of-conscious lyrical quality of Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and any of George Harrison’s sitar-heavy Beatles tracks, all on top of a loping, hypnotic rhythm.

Evans abandoned The Freak Scene after Psychedelic Psoul. Evans worked in A&R for a time, establishing Eastern Productions, which signed both Third Bardo and The Facts of Life, and producing the Nervous Breakdown for Take Six.

Although The Freak Scene was short-lived, Evans wasn’t quite finished with the band’s output; when he re-emerged as a recording artist in 1969 under his given name, Marcus, he recycled “A Million Grains of Sand” as “Grains of Sand,” slowing the tempo, simplifying the instrumentation, and generally going for a more seductive vibe.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“The Subway Ride Through Innerspace”

mp3: Marcus – Grains Of Sand

:D Reissue | 2010 | TBird | buy here ]
:) Original | 1967 | Columbia | search ebay ]

The Stone Poneys (s/t)

The Stone Poneys should be much more than a footnote. Forever eclipsed by Linda Ronstadt’s latter-day success, the band has found itself set down in history as little more than an early backing group for the singer – hardly a fair assessment, especially considering the strength of the material recorded by the band, of which Ronstadt was only one contributor. In fact, Poneys Ken Edwards and Bob Kimmel were remarkable singers in their own right and actually penned all of the group’s original material.

The Poneys’ self-titled debut is perhaps their strongest statement as a band. Produced by the great west-coast folk-rock producer Nick Venet (Fred Neil, Hedge & Donna, et al.), the album typifies the slow and hazy L.A. sound that would become the man’s signature. Venet would also serve to connect the recent Tucson immigrants with several other players on the local folk scene, most notably Tim Buckley, whose songs they would soon go on to record, and the band Hearts & Flowers, who Linda would sing with on their 1968 record Now Is the Time.

Legendary multi-instrumentalist Cyrus Faryar’s bouzouki opens the album and kicks off one of its most memorable songs, Edwards and Kimmel’s “Sweet Summer Blue & Gold.” Starring the Poneys’ beautiful vocal blend set to a swirling, eastern folk-rock melody, this one could have easily become an underground hit. The singing also helps to immediately put into focus what the Poneys would later go on to lose: first when Linda began to take on the lion’s share of the lead vocals, and at the end, when she essentially became the sole Poney.

All this is not to say that Ronstadt doesn’t reveal her incredible talents on The Stone Poneys. Her soulful rendition of Fred Neil’s “Just A Little Bit of Rain” is a stunner, and she really tears the roof off “Orion,” a cut which foreshadows her rock and roll future while also driving home her companions songwriting abilities. On the second side of the record, Edwards and Ronstadt take a duet on the blue, drifting “The Train and the River,” before borrowing the Rising Sons’ arrangement of Tom Campbell and Linda Albertano’s classic “2:10 Train” to bonnie effect.

Raven Records has reissued The Stone Poneys alongside the band’s second album, Evergreen, which contains their famous recording of Mike Nesmith’s “Different Drum,” as well as a few key tracks from the final, Linda-centric Poneys record. I’d say this is definitely a collection to look into, especially if you aren’t yet willing to hunt down all three records on vinyl.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“Sweet Summer Blue & Gold”

:D Reissue | 2008 | Raven | buy here ]
:) Original | 1967 | Capitol | search ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

Afterglow “Afterglow”

Afterglow

Not too many bands were coming out of Oregon in the late 60s, and it’s not the first locale that comes to mind when you hear the sun drenched songs on Afterglow’s only record.

Originally called “The Madallions,” Tony Tucemseh, Ron George, Roger Swanson, Gene Resler, and Larry Alexander became Afterglow to record their self titled debut in 1966. Under the direction of producer Leo Lukia, a very interesting album was cut at Golden State Recorders that autumn.

Released in early ’67 on MTA records, Afterglow made hardly a dent and the group disbanded soon after. The tragedy of this is apparent when hearing such a delightful record full of pop hooks and potential.

It may have been their relatively remote location that helped quicken the bands demise, but it also added to the unique songwriting on Afterglow. If you hate the sound of the Farfisa organ, you should probably pass on this record altogether. It makes a prominent appearance on every cut, and though the production is slightly derivative the writing is extremely progressive and original for such an obscure debut. Definitely a must for fans of The Zombies, The Left Banke, and Joe Meek’s mid period freakbeat phase.

“Chasing Rainbows” is by far the best track here with it’s odd melody and rhythmic changes melding into a dizzying hook. A dark autumnal vibe undercuts the sunny arrangements, with tracks like “Mend This Heart of Mine”  and “Dream Away”.

“Love” could almost pass for a Meek production with its buzzy organs and slightly off kilter vocal sound. “It’s a Wonder” should be a staple of modern classic rock radio with its catchy hook and Zombies by-way-of the Byrds harmonies, which really drives home what a shame it is this album wasn’t heard more.

There’s an excellent reissue on Sundazed that includes some decent bonus tracks (mostly alternate versions/backing tracks). It’s available on both CD and Vinyl.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“It’s a Wonder”

:D Reissue | Sundazed | buy here ]
:) Reissue | Sundazed | buy here ]

Dave Van Ronk and the Hudson Dusters

The Hudson Dusters was a band put together by legendary folksinger Dave Van Ronk in a short-lived attempt to buy into the folk-rock craze that hit the States in the mid-sixties. Though Van Ronk was one of the founding fathers of the original Greenwich Village revival, he had never really conformed to any of the stereotypes which were so quick to develop among his contemporaries. Thus, the music which developed out his “going electric” was far more eccentric than most people’s. This was no attempt to simply copycat (and thus capitalize on) Dylan’s new aesthetics, this was an artist expanding his sonic palate on his own terms.

Dave Van Ronk and the Hudson Dusters, like any Van Ronk record, is an eclectic experience. Not only does the band draw from folk, blues, jazz and rock and roll traditions, but Van Ronk’s unique sense of humor and unmistakable whiskey-and-tobacco voice lend the music a surreal edge. In fact, I’d argue that the convoluted middle-class satire of “Mister Middle” almost lands the proceedings in Mothers of Invention territory. Though neither it nor “Keep Off the Grass” should be considered the era’s sharpest attempts at social commentary, the tongue-in-cheek approach and adventurous musical arrangements make them more entertaining than most such material.

I have to admit that I’ve never been wild about Joni Mitchell, but Dave Van Ronk’s back-to-back takes on “Chelsea Morning” and “Both Sides Now” are surprisingly successful. This is one of those instances where you wouldn’t expect the artist and the material to click, but somehow the deadpan earthiness of the interpreter lends new angles to what are otherwise rather spacey and introverted lyrics. Apparently Mitchell herself praised Van Ronk’s recording of “Both Sides Now” as being definitive, but I’ll leave that one up to the reader to decide.

The Hudson Dusters also run through a few numbers previously recorded by Van Ronk on his acoustic records, such as the Reverend Gary Davis’ “Cocaine Blues” – which has always been something of a signature song for the singer – and “Dink’s Song,” in which subtle strings underscore Van Ronk’s rough-yet-tender vocal performance. The goofy show tune “Swinging On A Star” would also become a Van Ronk standard in the years to come, though my own reaction to this one is lukewarm at best. I much prefer their psychedelic garage take on Dallas Frazier’s old rock and roll chestnut “Alley Oop” with it’s odd, echoplexed vocal chorus.

With a few notable exceptions, the majority of Van Ronk’s 1960s recordings remain unreleased or out-of-print on compact disc, and unfortunately this is one of the former. Don’t let this unfortunate detail deter you, though; Hudson Dusters may not be the definitive statement from Dave Van Ronk (he tended to stick to the acoustic guitar for a reason), but as a rare electric anomaly in his catalog, it is definitely worth checking out.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“Both Sides Now”

:) Original | 1967 | Verve/Folkways | search ebay ]
:D

Mike Stuart Span “Children of Tomorrow”

The cosmopolitan seaside resort of Brighton, Sussex – my own birthplace, as it happens – has been a Mecca for the more unbuttoned forms of the performing arts ever since the louche patronage of the Prince Regent, later King George IV. Strangely, especially given its nearness to “Swinging” London, it produced only a sparse crop of memorable artists and groups in the halcyon years of pop and rock music. During their brief sojourn as a recording act, the Mike Stuart Span were the only such from Brighton – and that at the height of the sixties beat/psych era when groups were being signed nationwide in hundreds.

Like many of their contemporaries, they launched as a beat group, became a mod-soul outfit, then floated off into psychedelia before gravitating towards progressive rock. Starting around 1963 as the Mighty Atoms, they underwent numerous personnel changes and name-changes, first to the Extremes and then to the Mike Stuart Span – after their vocalist, Stuart Michael Hobday – before landing a contract with EMI Columbia in 1966 under which they released a couple of Stax-ish singles. These both bombed and EMI let the band go. Dumping their keyboards and horn section, the remaining four-piece – Hobday, guitarist Brian Bennett,  bassist Roger McCabe and drummer Gary Murphy – recorded an acid-tinged cover of “Rescue Me” and a couple of similarly lysergic originals for Decca, who branded these insufficiently commercial and declined to release them at all. Taking what appeared to be the only remaining path, the band cut, at their own expense, two unashamedly psychedelic originals “Children Of Tomorrow” and “Concerto Of Thoughts” and issued these in 1967 in a run of 500 singles on a small independent label, Jewel. The record received sufficient exposure and critical acclaim to gain them local support slots to Cream and Hendrix, a couple of John Peel sessions, a BBC TV documentary (on struggling rock bands!), a misguided pure-pop single on Fontana and, eventually, an offer to sign to the UK branch of Elektra, under condition that they change their name; this they did yet again, to Leviathan. Two fine guitar-led prog-rock singles on the new label came and went unnoticed in 1969, and sessions for an LP were completed but Elektra head honcho Jak Holzman was dissatisfied with the product. With the prospect of the album’s release fading, the band called it a day and split late in ’69, all but Bennett leaving the music industry. “Children Of Tomorrow” resurfaced as an uber-rarity during the 1980s psych revival. Interest slowly grew and a compilation (officially-sanctioned) of most of the band’s psych/prog-era studio work finally appeared in 1996.

This new collection, Children Of Tomorrow, represents the entire studio output of the band in all its incarnations on all labels apart from about half of the aborted Elektra album, and gives a fascinating insight into a band exploring every avenue to try to make the big-time, with talent to spare but luck totally lacking. The whole story is laid out in the splendid accompanying booklet. Of the music, the early soul-based tracks are solid and energetic if unoriginal, while the Decca efforts are worthy generic acid-pop. From here things improve markedly; both sides of the Jewel single are splendidly druggy stuff, fully deserving of their high rating. But best of all IMHO are the demos the band cut before the Elektra signing and the sides subsequently released as Leviathan singles; the tight arrangements, imperious vocals and wallpaper-stripping guitar work of “World In My Head”, “Second Production”, “Flames”, “Blue Day” and “Remember The Times” suggest that the cancelled album would have been a fine prog-guitar artefact. Allegedly the master tapes still languish in Elektra’s vaults, and Warner has hinted in the past about finally releasing the album in original form. If it ever appears, it will almost certainly have been worth the wait.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

“Children of Tomorrow”

:D Compilation | 2011 | Grapefruit | buy here ]