Reviews 2005


The Everly Brothers' decade with Warner Brothers Records (1960 to '70) was once the most neglected back catalog of the Spectropop era . . . . . Suddenly, we are overwhelmed with thoughtful, draconian accounts of this fertile Everly period. Aside from Euro-Warners' ongoing series of twofer reissues of the Bros' original WB LPs, each loaded with rare bonus tracks, and Collector's Choice's unimaginative single-disc sets, Bear Family in Germany has just birthed a seven-disc boxed set, "The Price Of Fame". In addition, Varese Vintage has swiftly coughed up "Too Good To Be True" and "Give Me A Future", two amazing discs of Everlys songwriting demos from the '50s to the '70s.

From famine to feast, so suddenly: it's almost too much to take in! Let's concentrate on "From Nashville To Hollywood", the first in a series that will gather non-LP tracks, alternate versions, and outright-unissued material from the WB period. While not everything on this disc can be considered rare, its 25 tracks make a strong case for granting Don and Phil Everly belated studio genius status. Like Brian Wilson, Sloan-Barri, Barry-Greenwich and other performing/producing artists, the brothers Everly were de facto producers for most of their 1960s material. Alas, some of their most daring and complex material never saw the light of day.

Had the Everlys not split acrimoniously with their controlling producer-publisher, Wesley Rose, in 1960, this privilege might never have been granted them. As Andrew Sandoval's fine liner notes reveal, it was Don's obsession with recording a Wall Of Sound-ish version of the Bing Crosby pop standard "Temptation" that got the boys kicked out of the Rose-garden. Wesley Rose simply didn't want the Everlys to record a piece of music his powerful publishing company, Acuff-Rose, didn't hold in its copyrights. The break with Rose cost the Everlys access to the song-writing services of Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, Nashville's smartest cleffers of the early rock era. Nor, ironically, could Don and Phil easily call upon their own skill as writers. They were Acuff-Rose contract writers, and any song they wrote meant Wesley Rose still had some control over their destiny.

Their sessions now ping-ponged from Nashville to Hollywood. They snuck in a handful of songs under the nom de plume of "Jimmy Howard", belatedly hitched their wagon to the Screen Gems stable of writers, and even raided the hoariest of old standards and show-tunes in a desperate search for material. That's where we find the brothers Everly on this disc. It opens with the second of three versions of "Temptation". (The first and third are included as extras on the twofer disc "It's Everly Time/A Date With...", WB EU CD 9362 47869-2.) It's very similar to the released version -- a bit more passionate and yearning, a little less grand in scope. Don Everly clearly had a vision of a new sound for pop music. That the final version of "Temptation" was a Top 40 hit validated his vision, but Don (and Phil) were unable to commercially expand upon this recording's fascinating premise.

The Everlys next applied their alchemy to the Gerry Goffin/Jack Keller song "Little Hollywood Girl". We hear two distinctive approaches to this downbeat ditty. The first version, taped in Hollywood, is a bouncy mid-tempo piece with sprightly percussion and a girlie chorus. Sensing they hadn't quite nailed the song, the Everlys took it to Nashville for a remarkable re-make. After a lugubrious, classical-flavored piano intro, a sinuous, slow, brooding beat pulses through the song. The Everlys elongate the song's syllables in their trademark vocal harmony. It becomes a completely new song, filled with desperation and loneliness, where the Hollywood version was almost hopeful in its sound and feel. This second version of "Little Hollywood Girl" is truly a lost gem of early '60s pop. Alas, it would never see the light of day. (The Crickets would issue a Bobby Vee-ish version of the tune later in 1962.)

By that time, Don was newly obsessed with a Henry Mancini-inspired piece from his own hand -- "Nancy's Minuet". This striking, eerie song was a dark sequel to "Cathy's Clown", their 1960 smash. Slicing tremolo guitar and harsh harpsichord frames this haunting piece of pop melancholy. Not content with this seemingly fine version, the Everlys played with the arrangement, and literally turned the song inside out for a curious alternate version. The song's lyrics are pruned down, and the tempo slowed down to a somnambulistic drag, and the brothers' vocals sound sluggish. They quite correctly decided to try the song once again, and the results were an Everly masterpiece. The youthful yearning, the hints of romantic obsession, and the melancholy of their entire career were summed up in two minutes and three seconds. "Nancy's Minuet" was issued on the B-side of a 1963 single, to no acclaim whatsoever. It must have been frustrating to the Everlys to spend so much time on these studio experiments, which were costing somebody a lot of money, and have the results ignored by the public and their peers. (This final version is heard as a bonus cut on the twofer "Sing Great Country Hits/Gone Gone Gone", WB EU 5046 75830-2.)

These three stellar experiments, in their many forms, frame a grab bag of alternate takes, non-hit singles, and unissued material. There is one bona-fide hit here: "How Can I Meet Her", another Goffin-Keller piece that is a virtual template of the Merseybeat sound, harmonicas and all. While it's about as rare as snowfall in Siberia, it fits the context of the CD's theme.

Goffin-King fanatics will be pleased by the inclusion of four songs from 1962 Everly sessions. "Nice Guy" and "What About Me", while not among their strongest material, are appealing confections, much more on the country side than their other work from this period. Better, both as song and performance, is their version of "I Can't Say Goodbye To You", beautifully remastered and rescued from its gutless mix on the 1977 rarities disc "The New Album". The Everlys also had first crack at "Chains", which they taped several months before the Cookies' Top 20 hit version. Twanging electric guitars, crisp drums and clever use of tambourine (to simulate the song's subject), topped with the Everlys' driving harmony vocals, give to this original version of "Chains" the feeling of a sure-fire hit. Yet they didn't release it.

A 1962 pairing that was released, but barely scraped the Top 50, was more subtly innovative. "Don't Ask Me To Be Friends"/"No One Can Make My Sunshine Smile" showed a growing maturity in the Everly sound, and in the brothers' vocal performances. These two Goffin-Keller songs were solid, melancholy pop material, and the Everlys took completely different approaches with each. To the almost painful mood of the topside, sprightly acoustic guitars, a deep, brooding rhythm track and dramatic strings frame Don and Phil's mid-range, close harmonies movingly. It's an emotionally complex lyric for '62, and the Everlys sell it with grace and heart. On the B-side, the catchy-eerie "Sunshine" keeps the mandolin-like acoustics, adds Nashville slip-note piano and offers one of the best rhythm tracks in Spectropop history. Don and Phil bring something special to a song that, in other hands, might just seem a flyweight piece. An alternate take, recorded one week before the released version, offers a bar mitzvah sax section and tremeloed electric guitar. It is, quite honestly, a big mess. There's also one important chord change missing. It's surprising how different the song is without that one little touch.

We hear dress rehearsal and final version of the A-side to "Nancy's Minuet", Arthur Altman's stately "(So It Was...So It Is) So It Always Will Be". As with "Little Hollywood Girl", the two takes here are completely different. The first version has a crawling, deep feeling, with almost inaudible background noodling on an electric organ. Those guitars from "Sunshine" are back for the final draft. This version is airy, dreamy and intensely romantic, with a pop-tango tempo to the song's bridge and a beautiful close-harmony coda.

Two of my obscure Everly faves are here: Sonny Curtis' sweet, so-sad "Whatever Happened To Judy?" and Jim Gordon's intense, doomy, minor-keyed "I'm Afraid". The latter, one of the darkest songs in the Everly catalog, is also heard via an alternate take with brooding, ultra-tremelo guitar, a James Bond-ish hook, and clams galore, as the musicians feel their way through the ad-hoc arrangement. Two takes of Roger Miller's witty "Burma Shave" offer a rare glimpse of the Everlys in the studio, calling the shots. An alternate version skids to a halt, 15 seconds in: an Everly complains, "That's too slow," and demonstrates the desired tempo by smacking the back of his hands together. The Nashville cats catch on quickly, and switch from trot to gallop for a galvanizing shot of pioneering country-rock. To hear the released versions alongside the alternates, throughout this disc, illustrates dramatically how much the Everlys were using the recording studio as a sonic laboratory. They weren't afraid to explore diverse ideas -- to basically spend a lot of time (and tape) playing with songs, futzing with instruments and tempos, coming up with fascinating ideas and discarding them as easily as they came.

"From Nashville To Hollywood" makes a convincing bid for the Everly Brothers as more than mere performers, or songwriters. Don and Phil were aware that the recording studio was, itself, an instrument, and that songs were pliable, not cast in stone, and subject to dramatic re-thinkings at a moment's notice. Without much fanfare, their studio experimentation has been overlooked. Had some of these cuts been issued, back in the day, they might have changed the faltering fortunes of these immensely talented siblings. I hope it helps them out in 2005.

(Frank M. Young, December 2005)

The Everly Brothers "From Nashville To Hollywood" (Warner Brothers EU CD 5046-75829-2)

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Kim Weston should have been a major player at Motown but somehow stardom just kept on eluding her . . . . . My first encounter with Kim was on the legendary British TV programme, Ready, Steady, Go! A very beautiful, young American singer from Detroit walked slowly and appealingly down a staircase, hair piled high with a diamante brooch perched on the front of it. And best of all, she was singing "A Little More Love". I bought that single on Stateside Records that very weekend and I've been in love with her sometimes soft and seductive, sometimes harder edged voice for almost 40 years now.

It was in the late 1980s that unreleased songs started to escape illegally from Motown's vaults and many British fans, including me, eagerly bought cassette tapes for a tenner or so. Crackly, often speeded up songs delighted us and any old quality satisfied us for a while. But soon we were longing for clean, properly remastered songs and, at last, Universal has come up with the goods - and more.

Just recently, Universal Records in Great Britain has released Kim Weston's "The Motown Anthology", which brings together the best and most widely know of her released hit tracks and nearly 40 previously unreleased songs in fabulously clear, digitalised stereo sound.

This double CD gives us access to the majority of Kim's solo performances at Motown. And what performances they are! Kim was the Motown artiste par excellence, who could turn her voice from bitter into sweet in just a few lines of a song. This is most evident in "You Hit Me Where It Hurt Me". The quiet pleading of the verse changes into the frantic, angry outburst of the chorus. Kim makes it more than obvious that she is normally sweet lady who will change mood in the twinkling of an eye. She makes it clear that she ain't to be messed with!

Kim's own preference for big show tunes over her faster, more popular dance numbers like "Helpless" and "Take Me In Your Arms (Rock Me A Little While)", is well documented. When we spent some time with Kim at Hemsby in October, she wanted to listen to just one track - "Joey Joey" from the musical The Most Happy Fella, written by Frank Loesser. A faraway, wistful look in her eyes disappeared as she closed them and was transported to a happier place as she sang along to the track. She told us that she liked show tunes because "they stretched me vocally." I should also add that there was no difference in quality between her recorded voice of 40 years ago and that which she displayed in a humble apartment in the cold Norfolk atmosphere of that Motown Weekender. I should also add here that she tore the place apart that weekend with an outstanding display of showmanship and sheer talent.

There is also more than enough evidence of Berry Gordy's practice of having several artistes record the same song. Then came the cutthroat decisions that had to be made by Quality Control about which version was to be released. No feelings were spared in these meetings. Here we have Kim's often original, first recorded versions of songs made more familiar by Brenda Holloway ("Hurt A Little Every Day"), Martha & the Vandellas ("Love (Makes Me Do Foolish Things)", "I Know His Name (Only His Name)" and "Come And Get These Memories"), the Marvelettes ("Marionette"), the Supremes ("Your Wonderful Sweet, Sweet Love" and "I'm The Exception To The Rule") and finally, Miss Mary Wells ("Drop In The Bucket"). Kim's versions stand up more than well to any of these other artiste's interpretations.

Kim's main producer was her husband, Mickey Stevenson, about whom, she told us, "I had big arguments in the studio because he always wanted me to sing the way he wanted me to." However, she also worked with Holland-Dozier-Holland, Smokey Robinson, Ronald White (of the Miracles), Norman Whitfield, Bob Hamilton, Ivy Jo Hunter and Hank Cosby. Outstanding examples of their collaborations are all included here.

With such top-drawer names working with her, I find it amazing that Kim was never a major star at Motown. Her vocal prowess and capabilities are evident on all of these tracks. However, Kim remained a second-string artiste with Motown and the amount of time between her 45 releases was lengthy. There was certainly no favouritism shown to Kim just because she was Mrs. Mickey Stevenson.

Here we have a 2 CD set, which certainly sets the record straight for Kim Weston, who was such a prolific recording artiste for Berry Gordy. We have some of Motown's best-kept secret tracks on this release that we have waited almost 40 years to hear. We can now listen to the best of Kim's solo work and marvel at a lady who can sing show tunes, torchy songs, big soulful ballads and very loud, powerful out and out dancers with equal aplomb.

Buy this release and come to love Kim's work as much as I do. Remind yourself of just how good she was. It's a shame that you couldn't all have been at Hemsby to see just how good she remains.

(David Bell, December 2005)

Kim Weston "The Motown Anthology" (Universal / Motown 983 160-5)

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After much anticipation, I got to see Jersey Boys: the Story of Frankie Valli & The Four Saesons, last Thursday . . . . . The show was at the August Wilson Theatre on 52nd Street. It was a thoroughly entertaining experience. The characters handled the Seasons' songbook with a lot of energy with the audience clapping and stomping along with them. The show was very well received.

In addition to the flawless interpretation of the Seasons' recordings, the cast depicted the inner workings of the group, much of which would have been unknown even to their staunchest fans. Surprisingly, there was a lot of emphasis on Tommy Devito and Nick Massi, two guys who have come down in history as mere band members. Tommy Devito's role in the early years seemed to be extensive. His presence gave the show a strong New Jersey edge, something that the producers were clearly trying to push.

There was some nice attention to detail. I liked when the show featured the Seasons' work as back-up singers in the early days. A character playing Hal Miller comes on and the whole ensemble rocks to "An Angel Cried". A couple of the songs got big build- ups as the audience's expectation was heightened: "Sherry" and "Can't Take My Eyes Off You". The reception for these was rapturous and well deserved. The appearance of the horn section for the latter song was memorable.

I have seen a number of musicals over the last year or so. Some sway towards the music, such as Dancing In The Streets, some towards the drama, as in the Joe Meek story, Telstar. Jersey Boys does the best job in combining both elements. The musical performances are excellent and the dramatic parts are engrossing. Finally, Spectropoppers have their very own Mama Mia. I so totally recommend this to fellow members.

(Mike Edwards, November 2005)

Jersey Boys: The Story of Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons

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Jackie DeShannon had been recording and performing for no less than 8 years when something momentous happened to her in 1964 . . . . . The erstwhile Sherry Lee, Jackie Dee and Jackie Shannon, still a youngster just out of her teens, was invited to tour the United States and Canada as a support act to the Beatles.

Now the Fab Four had great musical taste in those days, and would have heard at least some of Jackie's amazing Liberty 45s. Certainly "Needles And Pins" and "When You Walk In The Room" would have impressed them, arranged by Jack Nitzsche with a sound redolent of the happening LA productions of Phil Spector. Those two songs impressed the Beatles' buddies from Liverpool, the Searchers too, as the Top 40s around the world in 1963 and 1964 will attest. Jackie had written hits for Brenda Lee and many others too, while still in her teens, was drop-dead petite blonde gorgeous, and could sing too - could she sing!

Performing on the Beatles tour may not have given anyone, other than the moptops, any artistic satisfaction. You would sing two or three songs, be completely drowned out by young females screaming "We want the Beatles", leave the stage and collect your money. The Righteous Brothers, another support act, reputedly walked away from the tour long before it ended. But Jackie stayed the course, knowing that exposure on this scale could make her career skyrocket.

Predictably, Liberty records rush released an album to coincide with the tour. "Breakin' It Up On The Beatles Tour" (an impossible title, what on earth does it mean?) has a hastily grabbed soft focus photo of Jackie performing on the cover, and the 12 tracks were a quickly assembled throwing together of some of Jackie's better songs which had already been released. Enough said? Actually no. This album is a treasure and for the last 40 or so years, copies have been almost impossible to find on the second-hand market.

OK, "Needles And Pins" and "When You Walk In The Room" you would expect to find on any DeShannon complilation album and here they are, but listen to them. Don't the hairs just stand up on the back of your neck? Listen to the way she lives the words of "Needles And Pins". Listen to that full, satisfying sound that Jack Nitzsche magics on "When You Walk…". Then there are two songs that Jackie co-wrote with Randy Newman, from the time when Randy and Jackie were both contracted to write for Liberty's Metric Music - the dramatic "She Don't Understand Him Like I Do" (also covered by Connie Stevens and Brian Hyland) and the even more dramatic "Hold Your Head High". Randy also contributes "Did He Call Today, Mama", a question which Jackie asks huskily to an almost reggae beat. Jackie also wrote a few with guru Nitzsche, and the lovely loping doo-wop "Should I Cry" is a treat.

Jackie's previous writing partner was Sharon Sheeley, and they contribute a couple of passionate and wonderful teen ballads, "You Won't Forget Me" and "The Prince". The folky all-join-in "He's Got The Whole World In His Hands" and two stormers, "It's Love Baby (24 Hours A Day)" and the New Orleans classic "Over You" round the album off, not forgetting the only song which may well have been especially recorded for the album, a pounding version of Buddy Holly's "Oh Boy". In those days people didn't record covers of Buddy's songs and this may have been a first for Jackie, decorated with some shrill "ooohs" as a tribute to her touring co-stars. Great fun.

Anyway, this wonderful slab of early 60s LA music making, with Jackie's sexy voice thrown in, would be sufficient in itself for a re-release. But those nice guys at RPM have gone and added some bonus tracks. Tempted they may have been to throw in a few more hits, but no, they have gone and found eight more contemporary tracks, and wonderful they are. "I'm Looking For Someone To Love" and "Maybe Baby" are more from the Holly repertoire, with Jackie greatly at ease singing the songs of her 50s hero. "Breakaway", as covered years later by Tracey Ullman, is a gem, unheard until it snook out on an EMI CD a few years ago, but why oh why was it hidden? A top 10 hit if ever there was one. "Try To Forget Him" is another wonderful curling, pulsing teen tune, tailor made for Bobby Vee and with that unmistakeable early 60s Liberty sound right through the grooves. And "Till You Say You'll Be Mine", originally the A-side to "When You Walk In The Room" is such a great Nitzsche/DeShannon collaboration that you just want to listen to that voice, those guitars, that sound again and again on repeat.

I haven't finished yet! The best news for us admirers of Miss DeShannon are the three previously unheard tracks. And they are treats. "Mean Old Frisco" allows me to put Jackie and Muddy Waters into the same sentence for the first time, although I have previously written a fair amount about Jackie. Here Jackie sings the blues like I've never ever heard her before. Recorded in 1963 when still in her teens. D'ya hear, Joss Stone? "Give Me A Break" is a shuffling country tinged song with a slight Sam Cooke feel, not unsurprising, since Jackie co-wrote it with Sam's associate, Zelda Samuels. I wonder if they wrote it with Sam in mind? And finally…… "Today Will Have No Night". Some of us have heard Jackie's LA demo of this; but the finished job is quite different. Buzzing with life and activity, girl backing singers, bouncing strings, hand clapping a creation of wonder. And recorded in Nashville.

Nice insert with lots of pics of Jackie, wonderful remastering of the original tapes, I do think you will enjoy this, I really do. If you need more tempting, Jack Nitzsche arranged all but one of the tracks. And great work Jim Pierson, who did all the unearthing and compiling. More please.

(Peter Lerner, The Jackie DeShannon Appreciation Society, October 2005)

Breakin' it up on the Beatles tour! - Jackie DeShannon (RPM 302)

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Ever wondered how many Carole King compositions were recorded by the Monkees? (Find the answer below) . . . . . How do I know this? I've just read The Monkees: The Day-By-Day Story Of The 60s TV Pop Sensation. "This book is the most detailed and revealing examination of the Monkees ever written" it declares on the front flap. Whoever wrote those words ain't kidding! In diary format, Andrew Sandoval's new tome chronicles the group's every moment from their 1965 formation through to their demise in 1970. The TV shows, concerts, movies, recording sessions - all are covered in detail. There's a lot to be learned. For instance, did you know that Marcie Jones & the Cookies (support act on the Monkees' 1968 tour of Australia) were four young girls in purple sequinned micro skirts? The following taster documents the sessions for Carole King & Gerry Goffin's "Porpoise Song", just one of over 200 songs recorded by the Monkees.

Monday, February 26th, 1968
Studio: California Recorders, Hollywood, CA
6:00pm-9:00pm, 10:00pm-1:00am
Producer: Gerry Goffin
One-inch 8-track; tracking
"Porpoise Song", master # WZB4-3513
Personnel: Ken Bloom (guitar); Bill Hinshaw (French horn); Jules Jacob (oboe); Danny "Kootch" Korthmar (guitar); Doug Lubahn (bass); Michael Ney (drums); John Raines (drums, percussion); Leon Russell (keyboard); Ralph Shuckett (keyboard)

The session for this astounding track was directed with great majesty (and mystery) by its co-writer Gerry Goffin. Russ Titelman, who conducts the musicians for this piece, recalls later that California Recorders "was a delvy little studio that Gerry knew about." Although a few incomplete takes are heard on the session reel, probably none of the real-time tracking recordings will survive. All the energy is placed into building up a single master take through overdubbing. The main tracking occurs this evening between 6:00 and 9:00pm and then French horn and oboe parts are added from 10:00pm to 1:00am. The final production features these particular performances heavily processed through a filter, giving them an almost synthetic sound quality.

Wednesday, February 28th, 1968
Studio: California Recorders, Hollywood, CA
Producer: Gerry Goffin
One-inch 8-track; overdubs
"Porpoise Song", master # WZB4-3513
Personnel: Gregory Bemko (cello); Max Bennett (upright bass); David Filerman (cello); Bill Hinshaw (horn, woodwind); Clyde "Whitey" Hoggan (upright bass); Jim Hughart (upright bass); Jules Jacob (horn, woodwind); Jan Kelley (cello); Jacqueline Lustgarten (cello); Jerry Scheff (upright bass)

During this further session for the centrepiece of the Monkees' movie "Head", Jack Nitzsche's stunning orchestral arrangement is committed to an already brimming master. His score features a double quartet of cellists and bassists conducted by Russ Titelman. The results are split - cellists on one track, bassists on the other. Bill Hinshaw and Jules Jacob are on hand once again to augment their parts from Monday's session. The final track features both French and English horns that are very likely overdubbed today.

Thursday, February 29th, 1968
Studio: Wally Heider Recording, 6373 Selma, Hollywood, CA
6:00pm-9:00pm, 10:00pm-1:00am
Producer: Gerry Goffin
Engineer: Chris Hinshaw
One-inch 8-track; overdubs
"Porpoise Song", master # WZB4-3513
Personnel: Russ Titelman (cymbals); unknown (chimes)

Producer Gerry Goffin moves to Wally Heider's studio for some further sweetening, but first bounces down the tracks from his previous two "Porpoise Song" sessions. This is a rather daunting task, given the amount of instrumentation previously taped, but he succeeds in creating a new 8-track master tape. Even after taking this step to create more space, Goffin must use whatever open tracks he can find to add overdubs of cymbal crashes (courtesy of pal Russ Titelman), chimes, or tubular bells, and some genuine aquatic sound effects. In April Goffin will overdub three vocal tracks from Micky Dolenz and some background vocals from Davy Jones. To add another subtle texture, Davy's performances will be recorded with the tape running at slower than normal speed and then played back at standard pitch, giving a mild speeded-up effect.

Wednesday, April 3rd, 1968
Studio: RCA, Hollywood, CA
One-inch 8-track; overdubs
"Porpoise Song", master # WZB4-3513
Personnel: Micky Dolenz (vocal)

Micky Dolenz enjoys some time off from shooting "Untitled" and adds his voice to "Porpoise Song".

Thursday, August 1st, 1968
Studio: RCA, Hollywood, CA
Engineer: Richie Schmitt
Quarter-inch mono and stereo; mixdown
"Porpoise Song", master # WZB4-3513

All of the Monkees' songs to be featured in "Head" are mixed and/or assembled in both mono and stereo today. The stereo mixes will be included on the soundtrack album - which will be compiled next month - while the mono mixdowns will be featured in the film. Today's mono mix of "Porpoise Song" will be used as a single master when the song is released as a seven-inch in November.

The Monkees' CD "Head" (Rhino 71795) features the original stereo LP mix of "Porpoise Song", lacking the song's coda. The full version can be heard on the various artists compilation "Nuggets: Hallucinations" (Rhino Handmade RHM2 7821), which features the mono 45 mix, or the Monkees' "Greatest Hits", which includes a period stereo mix. A stereo remix appears on their "Listen To The Band" CD boxed set (Rhino 70566).

In answer to the question above, the Monkees recorded 17 Carole King compositions, three of which she co-wrote with Toni Stern, the remainder with Gerry Goffin.

(Mick Patrick, October 2005)

The Monkees: The Day-By-Day Story Of The 60s TV Pop Sensation - Andrew Sandoval
(Backbeat Books, 2005)

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If you find the title a bit cryptic, this book's subtitle - A Musical Appreciation of Female Surf, Hot-Rod and Related recordings 1961-1967 - should prove more illuminating . . . . . Unlike surfer girls, females singing the praises of surfing was largely a '60s phenomenon and this book attempts to chronicle that brief yet interesting flowering. The concept of the girl singing about surfing and its related offshoot of hot-rod music has never been fully explored, until now.

If you've read any of Stephen J. McParland's other tomes, you know exactly what to expect: exhaustively researched minutiae on his particular area of expertise - California music, every cranny and nook thereof. This book documents the recorded exploits of female performers who have fallen under the creative wing of individuals well-known for their own involvement in the surfing and hot-rod music genre. Such product by record producers, music arrangers and songwriters of the calibre of Brian Wilson, Gary Usher, Bruce Johnston, Terry Melcher, Joe Saraceno, Phil Sloan & Steve Barri and Gary Zekley is therefore discussed and documented, not all of which falls into the category of surfing or hot-rod music, but is often couched in similar musical terms. Likewise, girls singing about hot-rods, drag racing and motorcycles have been included, as well as actresses from the Beach Party genre of films who have recorded material. For those interested in the girl group musical genre, this book taps into an area (and covers individuals) largely ignored elsewhere and so should provide an additional bountiful supply of information and trivia.

The book comprises three main parts, the first of which includes basic discographies of all known female releases in the book's chosen mini-genre and songs about female surfers/hot-rodders, plus a listing of female performances in Beach Party movies. In part two each release in the main discography is documented, at lengths varying from a brief paragraph to a full page (in many cases, expect to learn more about the men behind each record than the women who performed them). Part three, the book's main meat, contains detailed biographies and discographies of the musical area's most important female protagonists, namely Annette Funicello, Carol Connors, Shelley Fabares, Jill Gibson, Susan Hart, the Honeys, Candy Johnson, Little Pattie, Donna Loren, the Murmaids, Rachel & the Revolvers, Judy Russell and the Surf Bunnies. Thankfully, the book is thoroughly indexed, with even a separate photograph index.

Talking of photos, they are of excellent quality and quantity throughout, frequently in colour, and sometimes rather rare. The Surf Bunnies, for instance, are pictured not once, but four or more times. And who ever saw a photo of the Tower label's Starlets before?! Full-page too.

(Mick Patrick, October 2005)

Bikinis, Black Denim And Bitchen Sounds: A Musical Appreciation Of Female Surf, Hot-Rod And Related Recordings 1961-1967 - Stephen J. McParland

A4 size (8.5" x 11.5"), 280 pages, including 53 pages of black and white photos, 7 pages of full colour, 7 pages of graphics, full index, perfect bound with a full colour glossy cover.

Price $US44.00, plus postage:
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Economy Air (2-4 weeks) = 15 (USA)/17 (Europe)/13 (Japan)
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All books posted in a padded bag. If you want a cardboard box, add $5. Payment by PAYPAL preferred, or US cash in a registered letter. Personal checks/cheques accepted, but add an additional $10 for bank charges.

Contact: California Music, P.O. Box 106, North Strathfield, NSW 2137, Australia.
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"The Best of Reparata & the Delrons" - I've been waiting years for a CD like this to be released . . . . . As a lifelong friend of Reparata, or Mary, as I know her, this CD brings back a flood of memories of recording sessions, record hops, club appearances and the special thrill of hearing my best friend's voice on the radio. It also reminds me of the personal times we spent together - going to parties, attending local dances, playing games, watching TV and dancing to the latest hits.

This is a great collection of songs. It spans the group's entire recording career and includes both their US and UK hits. It also contains all the cult favourites as well as my personal favourites. All the tracks were expertly produced by the Bill and Steve Jerome and geniusly arranged by the late John Abbott. In my unbiased opinion, they are all great, but for me some of the songs have special memories attached to them.

"Whenever a Teenager Cries" - this is the song that started it all. I remember hearing it for the first time while sitting in Mary's living room along with her family and a few friends. I was amazed. I was speechless. Her voice sounded so clear, so crisp and so strong. I thought to myself, "Wow, this is really good". Unlike the group's first effort, this one was special. This one was different. After a few weeks, we heard that it was on the charts in Pittsburgh, Pa. But, truthfully, even though I thought the record was fantastic, I never expected to ever hear it on the radio, especially in New York City. The Big Apple was a tough market. Then, one evening I was in my room doing my homework and listening to the local radio station WABC. I heard the deejay, Scott Muni, say, "Here's a new song by three girls from Pittsburgh, Re-part-ta and the Delrons." I immediately turned up the volume to maximum. He mispronounced their name, he got their home city wrong, but it was being played!! I couldn't have been more surprised, or more excited. The phone began ringing almost immediately. All her friends started calling one another: "Did you hear it?" "I can't believe it!" "Yes!" "WABC!" We were all jumping up and down. It was just like that scene from the movie That Thing You Do. Pretty soon the record was climbing the charts, and it was the talk of Brooklyn that three girls from St. Brendan's High School had a hit record. It rose into the top ten on all three stations (WABC, WINS, and WMCA). It had a long run on the charts. You couldn't turn the radio on without hearing it. The group appeared at local record hops, NY-based TV shows and on weekends they performed at dance clubs in the area.

After much discussion about which song should be picked as the follow-up single, "Tommy" was chosen. Some people thought that the follow-up should have been "In My Diary", while others suggested "That's How It All Began". Although nobody asked me, I thought "Tommy" was a good choice. It was a hit in New York City and it is now one of the two songs that the group has become identified with here in the US.

When the World Artists label went bankrupt, the group was signed to RCA. The first release was "I Can Tell". This is a great track. Reparata sings most of the parts herself. I remember she originally thought that the talking bit at the beginning was a little corny, but it remained on the final cut. I love the humming during the bridge and also the counterpointing during the last chorus. Great performance. Great production. Just as the record was about to be released, we heard that Lesley Gore had recorded the same song, and was planning to release it as her next single. Mary's version was recorded first and it was released first, and the New York radio stations began playing it almost immediately. It became a big deal among the two camps as described in Mick Patrick's notes, but I never could understand why. Lesley had so many great hit records to her credit and she was already a star - why should this one song be so important? But, apparently it was. Anyway, I may be biased, but when you compare the two records, I have to say that Mary's version far outshines Lesley's. There's really no comparison. Coinciding with the release of "I Can Tell", Nanette and Lorraine were chosen as the new Delrons. This was good news to me because both of them were good friends of mine. Lorraine lived on the same block as Mary and she was part of our close circle of friends, and Nanette was Mary's often present buddy from St. Brendan's High School.

The first recording session with the newly formed group was probably the best in the group's history. It was also the first one that I attended. It included "I'm Nobody's Baby Now", "I Can Hear The Rain", "Always Waiting" and "My Hero". I was so impressed. The RCA recording studio was big, bright and comfortable. It was just the way I imagined a recording session would be like - a full orchestra, violins, horns, pianos, drums, etc etc. The song from this session that I remember most vividly is, of course, the legendary "I'm Nobody's Baby Now". I first heard the song a few weeks prior when Mary played us the demo that she had recorded. The actual recording session was truly extraordinary. The record sounds like a Spector recording because they took great effort to make it sound that way. A lot of time was spent perfecting the sound - a full orchestra, echo, bells, castanets, chimes, bongos, crashing cymbals, etc. The background vocals of the Delrons were augmented by studio singers, including Melba Moore, and Reparata herself. The result is a masterpiece. Reparata's powerful lead voice bleeds straight through that unbelievable wall of sound. And, OMG, that talking part, how incredible is that? I remember her telling me just before the session, "The whole song will depend on the way I say the words, 'anybody else'". I heard that Jeff Barry was blown away when he heard the finished product. What they achieved is history. What they accomplished is still being revered today, 40 years later. David A Young, in his review, describes "Nobody's Baby" as "a sublime slice of heaven that consistently, and literally, produces goose bumps and shivers every time I play it. One can only humble oneself in its shattering presence."

"I Can Hear The Rain" is another special track arranged in a similar style with that big orchestra, that full sound, that heavenly group of back-up singers, and Reparata's magnificent lead. Vocally, I think Reparata sounds better on this song than on any other. At the time, I remember mentioning to a few people that the song sounded very familiar. I knew I had heard it before, but I couldn't recall from when or where. I eventually discovered that it was the B-side to Brian Hyland's hit "The Joker Went Wild". Boy, I would love to hear that version again.

Another good track from the RCA period is "Mama's Little Girl". The recording included on this CD, to my surprise, is the original recorded version. The actual single that was released was electronically speeded up to give it a more bouncy feel. That worked well for the music and the background, but Reparata's voice sounds a bit higher than you would expect. She kept saying she sounded like one of the Chipmunks. If you compare the two versions, you can tell the difference. It's nice to hear, on this CD, how the song was originally intended to sound.

"Boys And Girls" is a really strange track. It's a humorous tongue in cheek B-side that Mary co-wrote with Bill Jerome. Do you know of any other record that begins with the singers introducing themselves? I don't. It almost sounds like a commercial. I used to kid her about this song. "Fish, in the sea they're always found"??? Great stuff. So profound! And then, "Goodbye, from Reparata and the Delrons", followed by all those goodbyes in various languages. Weird. I laugh every time I hear it. I love it!

After their stint at RCA, the group moved to Mala, a subsidiary of Bell records. They recorded some interesting songs during this tenure and had a real surprise hit in the UK with "Captain Of Your Ship". With this recording, the group experienced a level of fame and notoriety much greater than ever before. The success of the record in the UK resulted in a 3 month European tour. Mary speaks of this time as the high point of her career. They got to appear twice on the TV show Top Of The Pops, and they also did Beat Club in Germany. During this time they were invited to celebrity parties, took part in radio and TV interviews, and had their every move chronicled by the New Musical Express, England's top pop music newspaper.

One very humorous incident occurred when the paper asked Reparata to rate or comment on some of the records that were popular at the time. This was a regular feature in the paper. Each week a different artist was picked to do the reviews. Mary gave glowing and very amusing comments to most of the selected songs. The exception was the Paper Dolls' recording of "Something Here In My Heart". Mary innocently made the comment that the vocals were great, but the song was "Nothing to write home about." To her shock, the paper made her comment their front-page headline: "Reparata says Paper Dolls song nothing to write home about!!" The Paper Dolls responded the following week with the comment, "The foghorn at the beginning of 'Captain Of Your Ship' describes what we think of the Reparata record." It made good press for a few weeks until the paper arranged a reconciliation complete with pictures. All was forgiven. Surprisingly, a short time later, the Paper Dolls recorded their version of 'Captain Of Your Ship' for their album. That's another track I'd love to hear.

The group had continued success on the UK club scene with "Panic" and "It's Waiting There For You". I think "It's Waiting There For You" is a great song and a great performance by the group. It's got that Petula Clark sound and feel, but "Panic" seems to be the overwhelming favourite with the e-bay crowd. It always gets high bids whenever it's up for sale. In the mid-'70s, "Shoes" was released both in the US and the UK. This is yet another different sound and style. It almost has a Middle Eastern feel. It took me a while to get used to this track. It didn't sound anything like Reparata's other records, but the song grows on you the more you hear it. The record was starting to climb the charts, then, just weeks after its release, it was pulled from distribution when Lorraine threatened legal action over use of the name Reparata.

Attending Reparata's recording sessions was a special thrill for me. Just being able to experience how a record was created was an enlightening experience. I attended most of their sessions during the RCA, Mala, and Kapp years. It was both rewarding and fascinating. The sessions often lasted into the wee hours of the morning. Through the years, I kept thinking that a time will come when I will be asked to participate in some way. I realised that it wouldn't have anything to do with singing because I sound like a frog. But, I certainly was capable of hand clapping, finger snapping, tambourine shaking, or any task that didn't require real talent. And, after all, I was a friend of Reparata. That surely should have meant something, right? Session after session, I waited for my opportunity. Then, one fateful night about 2am during one of their recording sessions with Mala, I noticed from the observation booth that a serious discussion was taking place on the studio floor. I saw John Abbott, Steve and Bill Jerome, and the three girls all in a huddle discussing some critical issue. I assumed it had to do with the creative process of the song they were recording at the time. A moment came when everybody looked up towards me in the observation booth and Steve motioned for me to come down to the studio floor. I practically ran down that long staircase. I thought, "This is my big chance. They finally need me for something." I wondered what it could be. I was a little out of breath when I reached the group, but I was ready and willing to hear how I would be needed. Steve looked me straight in the eye and said, "Do you mind going for coffee?" So, now when people ask me if I participated in the sessions, I always reply, "Of course I did. I played a small but very important role."

Although their recording career ended in the '70s, Reparata and the Delrons continued to do shows in and around the New York area well into the '90s. They didn't have a big catalogue of hits to their credit, but their act was top class and very popular with the oldies scene. They got to perform at all the top venues including Madison Square Garden and Westbury Music Fair. They developed a good reputation with the promoters, the club owners and especially with their fellow artists. Early in her career Mary met Lou Christie when they were both on tour with the Dick Clark Caravan of Stars. They developed a special friendship that lasts to the present day. He frequently gave her advice and encouragement and came to many of her performances. Attending their shows was a special joy for me. I remember one particular show at The Bitter End club in Manhattan. The girls were particularly good that night - everything was working well. The word was passed around that Ronnie Spector was in the audience. After the show, Mary hesitantly approached Ronnie and introduced herself. Ronnie responded by saying in a loud voice, "You were f***ing great!!!" Mary couldn't have wished for a better reaction.

The Jerome brothers never gave up on Reparata. Long after the group's initial success had dimmed, Steve and Bill kept recording and releasing quality Reparata product. In a business where fame is short-lived and managers and producers quickly abandon their artists, the Jeromes stuck by her. She was lucky, back in 1964, to have met up with a legitimate and gifted team that were not out to exploit her talent and then disappear. It is through their perseverance and loyalty that today we are able to enjoy this fantastic CD.

(Ray Otto, October 2005)

The Best of Reparata & the Delrons (Ace CDCHD 1066)

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Thinking about the musical legacy of Phil Spector while listening to "Phil's Spectre II: Another Wall Of Soundalikes" . . . . . I find two facts particularly amazing to ponder. First, enough buyers share a passion for faux-Spector recordings that Ace has released its second compendium of examples to satisfy our hunger (this is especially remarkable because they're all-label anthologies, representing licensing nightmares). In other words, the appeal of the Wall of Sound concept, in and of itself, is as great and durable for many as that of its creator's hits. Second, the well of recordings done in that style is so deep that, even after collecting them for forty years, I continue to discover ones new to me (or, in some cases, to hear with new ears things with which I was familiar but hadn't considered from a "Phil's Spectre" perspective). Even among the most intimately and longtime known and loved selections, though, the phrase "to hear with new ears" still applies. Granted, each listener will have a different list of greater and lesser favourites, but regardless of how one feels about any given record as a musical statement, there's no getting around the fact that nothing here has ever sounded better, thanks to the meticulous and obviously fan-sensitive mastering.

Especially noteworthy is the care with which Clydie King's transcendently elegant single "The Thrill Is Gone" has been brought to digital life for the first time - in shimmering stereo, yet. This sublime slice of heaven is one of two songs on the disc that consistently, and literally, produce goose bumps and shivers every time I play them. The other is Reparata & the Delrons' legendary "I'm Nobody's Baby Now", also making its CD debut here. There are so few times that such an extraordinary song, such an incandescent interpretation, and such a cataclysmic production have co-existed on the same slab of vinyl that one can only humble oneself in its shattering presence. One other favourite gets honorary mention, particularly since I hadn't heard it before: Timmy & the Persianetts' "Timmy Boy". It's very convincingly in the mold of Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans' "Zip-A-Dee Do-Dah", but with a searingly soulful lead (think Garnet Mimms). Bob Finiz and Lee Lovett, respectively, should be very proud of their Phil Spector and Jack Nitzsche impersonations.

While the Spector sound is inarguably a strong influence on every track here, in truth not every single one passes my "Let me see that label!" test. For example, the Mary Wells and Four Tops tracks still sound like Motown, not Philles, to me, despite their obvious nods to the latter label's patented sound. And while I hadn't noticed before how well Bill Medley captured the Wall of Sound behind the Righteous Brothers' "Night Owl", the vocals (as on the 1964 release) are mixed so loud that the backing track is lost in a way it wouldn't have been on a Spector record. Perhaps that balance could've been re-engineered in the interest of further Spectorizing the song (admittedly at the expense of Medley's original vision), but the CD as a whole sounds so damn good that it's not a nagging concern.

The Righteous Brothers appear as themselves in the above-mentioned tune, but their spectre merges with Spector's in plenty of the offerings here. Dobie Gray, Nino Tempo & April Stevens, Kane & Abel, the Dreamlovers, Bobby Coleman, the Knickerbockers and Ruby & the Romantics all turn in records worthy of mention in the same breath as the Medley/Hatfield/Spector collaborations. Ruby fans take note: The version of "Your Baby Doesn't Love You Anymore" included here is the original reverb-drenched 2:38 UK mono single version, not the 3:22 stereo one found on their superb RPM anthology "Our Day Will Come" (both versions are radically different edits to the US 45).

Phil Spector didn't invent girl groups, of course, but he elevated and, arguably, perfected the genre, which, as is to be expected, is amply represented on the disc as well. Standout selections besides those already cited include those by the Bonnets (a dream come true to have "Ya Gotta Take a Chance" transferred from master tapes!), the Goodies, Noreen Corcoran, Connie Stevens and Suzy Wallis. As great (and otherwise Spectoresque) a record as the Fantastic Vantastics' "Gee What a Boy" is, I can't imagine Phil ever using that quirky sound effect, whatever it is, on the downbeats.

Despite the fact that Phil himself dabbled in the folk-rock field only once (with MFQ), his influence on the style is inestimable, as demonstrated on this collection by entries from the Satisfactions and Eight Feet. Somewhat more difficult to categorize, but of the same high quality as their uptempo girl group-style recordings, is the Victorians' "Climb Every Mountain", which reminds me more of the Crystals' equally unique "He Hit Me" than anything else.

If, as they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the disc's final track, Joe South's "Don't You Be Ashamed", found the singer, producer and "writer" of the track obviously (too obviously) feeling very complimentary toward Spector, Greenwich and Barry. Starting off with a "Chain Of Fools" lick, it quickly transforms into a virtual clone of "River Deep - Mountain High" that, amazingly, evaded litigation by that song's publishers.

The twenty-page booklet offers a wealth of rare photos (most priceless of which, especially in its context, is the cover shot) and label scans of all but one of the original 45s. You'll also find stories about each song, in greater detail than you're likely to find elsewhere and, more often than not, in the first person from someone involved.

According to the saying, nothing succeeds like success, but for Phil Spector, nothing succeeded like excess. The people who made the records anthologized on this disc (and its predecessor) made some valiantly excessive attempts to duplicate his success. While all of these platters failed to see significant chart action in their time, if any, they exemplify, and in some cases epitomize, a body of work that continues to impress those enthralled by the many facets the Wall of Sound. That there are enough of us out there to make Ace's releasing this material worth their while is a testament both to Spector's genius and to all the artists represented on these collections with the good taste and foresight to emulate it. Tomorrow's Sound Today indeed!

(David A. Young, August 2005)

Phil's Spectre II: Another Wall Of Soundalikes (Ace CDCHD 1059)

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The brainchild of St. Etienne's Bob Stanley - a man who knows great pop music when he hears it - "Measure For Measure" tells the story of John Carter, one of the top pop songwriters Britain has ever produced . . . . . Working mainly with Ken Lewis and Geoff Stephens, but also others, Carter wrote all bar two of the cuts here. He produced and sang lead on most of them too. With 55 tracks spread over two discs, each with a playing time of over 79 minutes, this set represents fantastic value for money. Heck, I snagged mine for under a tenner. You can't even buy 40 fags for that. Well, not my brand. If you don't know John Carter's story, Stanley tells it in some detail in the booklet, complete with quotes from the man himself - required reading for all budding pop historians. The package design is way cool too. Sequenced chronologically, "Measure For Measure" follows Carter's career from his first recordings to a series of advertising jingles cut in the late '70s.

Fresh out of school, John Shakespeare and his songwriting partner Ken Hawker arrived in London in 1960, intent on finding jobs in the music biz. The two Brummies were offered a deal by manager Terry Kennedy on their first day in town. Re-christened Carter and Lewis, respectively, they released their first record in 1961. Their backing band, the Southerners, contained at times drummer Viv Prince and guitarist Jimmy Page, no less. "Sweet And Tender Romance", Carter-Lewis & the Southerners' best 45, is a prime piece of Brit pop. By 1964 they had grown out of their Buddy Holly/Everly Brothers aspirations and teamed up with Perry Ford to form the Ivy League - hear five of that trio's best sides here, including "My World Fell Down", a true period masterpiece. In 1967 came the Flowerpot Men . . . I remember sporting a cowbell on my family's holiday to Skegness that year (sigh) . . . to hear the full 6-minute version of their "Let's Go To San Francisco" is to experience pop music as art. New to me were many of the later tracks, all of which live up to Carter's '60s output. Awash with exotic harmonies, "Tahiti Farewell" by Haystack, for instance, comes close to beating the Association at their own game, while Stormy Petrel's "Hello Hello Hello" is a magnificent piece of orchestrated pop. More familiar is "Beach Baby" by First Class from 1974 - one of the best pop records ever to come out of London's West End, surely. The three other First Class tracks contained here are almost as good. Also included are a number of previously unissued John Carter demos. These include familiar songs like "Sunshine Girl", "My Sentimental Friend", "Knock Knock Who's There" and "Winchester Cathedral", plus lesser-known wonders like "I Couldn't Spend Another Day Without You" and "Playing With Fire". Harmony Pop, Sunshine Pop, Bubblegum, call it what you like - these CDs contain some of best British pop records ever made.

Currently dormant, it seems, the Westside label issued some great CDs in its time, "As You Like It" being one of the logo's more esoteric releases . . . . . Conceived and produced by Tony Rounce and Roger Dopson, and comprising 26 previously unreleased demos recorded by John Carter between 1963 and 1967 - the S'pop era, if you will - this set is aimed at those with more than just a passing interest. The original demos of some of Carter's most famous songs are here, like "Can't You Hear My Heartbeat" (a UK hit for Goldie & the Gingerbreads and a US #1 for Herman's Hermits) and "Is It True" (Brenda Lee). Even better, though, are the Brian Wilson-esque "Am I Losing You" (cut later by the Flowerpot Men and Shirley Abicair, etc), "I Can't Let You Go" (written for, but never recorded by, Herman's Hermits - the ingrates!) and "She Won't Show Up Tonight" (a great uptown number, again unused) - I could go on. Like RPM's release, the notes are splendiferous, and feature song-by-song commentary from John Carter. Released back in 1998, copies of "As You Like It" still show up at Amazon and such places, but its shelf life must surely be fast expiring. Get smart, get Carter, I say.

In the USA they had the 4 Seasons, the Beach Boys, the Happenings and the Grass Roots, etc. Here in Britain we had the Ivy League. Were they as good as their American counterparts? Well, yes . . . . . Put together again by the Rounce/Dopson team, this still-available 1997 compilation anthologises all the known recordings of the Ivy League. Disc 1 (great listening from start to finish) presents their A and B-sides, chronologically, whilst Disc 2 (for completists only really) features all the non-single tracks from both their issued and unissued albums, plus the four tracks from their Christmas EP. What more do you want? John Carter, Ken Lewis and Perry Ford got together in 1964, primarily to work as session singers (that's them on "I Can't Explain" by the Who, for example). Inevitably, they ended up making records of their own. Their singles - "What More Do You Want", "Funny How Love Can Be", "That's Why I'm Crying", "Tossing And Turning", "Our Love Is Slipping Away", "Running 'Round In Circles", "Willow Tree", "My World Fell Down", "Four And Twenty Hours", "Suddenly Things", "Thank You For Loving Me" - were uniformly brilliant. If you don't have them already, this is the best place to find them. Yet another excellent booklet, too.

Did Carter-Lewis ever win an Ivor Novello award? If not, why not?

(Mick Patrick, August 2005)

John Carter - Measure For Measure: The John Carter Anthology, 1961-1977 (RPM D268)

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John Carter - As You Like It: The Denmark Street Demos, 1963-1967 (Westside WESM 523)

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The Ivy League - Major League: The Collectors' Ivy League (Sequel NEDCD 289)

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Compiled by "M & M", who masterminded the original series, this handsome conflation of Sequel Records' 1990s "Here Come The Girls" CDs is a literal Best-Of Brit-Girl Pop, circa 1966 . . . . . Our emcee for this 50-track set is the enthusiastic, savvy Shiela Burgel (of Cha Cha Charming fame). She offers a giddy, info-packed tour of a musical genre that's often hard to pin down.

What, exactly, is Brit-Girl Pop? Is it the female equivalent of British Beat? Not quite. Is it a UK regurgitation of the Crystals, Shirelles, Shangri-Las, et al? Again, not really. Male British groups such as Wayne Fontana & the Mindbenders, the Merseybeats, Searchers, et al, tried their hardest to sound American. Ironically, most of the British versions of American girl-group tunes came from these unquestionably hetero male outfits. If anything, the female side of '60s UK pop is in-your-face with its sheer Britishness. Some of the spirit of the pre-Beat years stayed with these female discs. A light, energetic, breezy sound, carefully arranged and often heavily orchestrated, distance these discs from the trendier hard edge of the Beat boys. Though American composers are frequently mined for material - Sloan-Barri, Bacharach-David, Smokey Robinson - the US sound seldom intrudes on these Brit-girl tunes. Nods to Motown, Brian Wilson and Phil Spector pepper certain songs - sometimes all three at once! Tammy St. John's version of "Nobody Knows What's Goin' On (In My Mind But Me)", for example, almost upstages the Chiffons' bizarre original.

Covering the years 1963 to 1972, with most tracks of '65-'68 vintage, "It's So Fine" is a whirlwind tour of would-be Dustys in soulful voice (Jackie Trent, Tammy St. John), harmony groups (Pickettywitch, the Breakaways) and eccentric entities such as Helen Shapiro and Anita Harris. No two performers sound exactly alike here. Sheila Burgel's liner notes connect every song with wit and style. She offers a brief account of her own growing fascination with Brit-girl pop, and then delights with facts and opinions on the 42 different performers of this set.

The Tony Hatch Sound permeates "It's So Fine". This is, indeed, so fine. If any one person could be called the architect of the Brit-Girl sound, it's Hatch. His work with Petula Clark made the Brit-Girl sound globally popular. Together with Jackie Trent, Hatch co-wrote some of the most memorable songs of the 1960s. We are happily served two prime, rarely-heard Petula tracks, "The Life And Soul Of The Party" and our opener, "Gotta Tell The World". Other Hatch-lings include the brain chemistry-altering "You Can Be Wrong About Boys" by Petula stand-in Mally Page, the Breakaways' "Live For Life" (with enough breathiness to tame a forest fire!) and great tracks by Jackie Trent, Yvonne Prenosilova, Dilys Watling and the Sweetcorn. The Hatch influence is deeply felt on other tracks. Most striking is Tina Tott's vibrant "Take Away The Emptiness Too".

Here's a quick rundown of some other faves. Our title track, a sublime slice of folk-rock by John Carter and Ken Lewis, is heavenly as sung by their secretary, Dee King. Val McKenna's stunning "Leave My Baby Alone" is pure pop gold in the hands of the uni-named Britt. McKenna's own version of her moody "Don't Hesitate" is equally striking. We're also privy to her double-tracked, toe-tappin' version of Patty & the Emblems' "Mixed Up, Shook Up Girl". I'd love to see an entire disc of Val McKenna's songs and performances. Best Prepubescent Performer award goes to 12 year-old Maxine Darren for her emotional "Don't You Know", penned by Freddie & the Dreamers' guitarist Derek Quinn. Nita Rossi's mega-dramatic "Untrue, Unfaithful (That Was You)", a Gordon Mills classic, makes a most welcome reappearance here. Here's British girl pop at its best! Helen Shapiro's husky pipes are heard on two choice late '60s tracks, both penned by Anthony King - "Silly Boy" and "Take Me For Awhile". Anita Harris' voice rivals Shapiro's for its, er, unusual qualities. Her breathy, understated version of Burt Bacharach's "London Life" simply drips of zeitgeist and period detail. Harris sounds like she could use an asthma inhaler - and quick!

Two-thirds of the 50 tracks here were never on the "Here Come The Girls" series. With its fab graphics and its keen encyclopedia of a sound, "It's So Fine: Pye Girls Are Go!" is my summer soundtrack for this year. May it warm your day, wherever you are!

(Frank M. Young, July 2005)

Various Artists - It's So Fine: Pye Girls Are Go! - Castle Music CMDDD1159


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"Arrangers are the unsung heroes of rock 'n' roll." Anyone who's spent more than a few minutes at Martin Roberts's Jack Nitzsche at Spectropop pages has had the experience of being overwhelmed by the sheer volume and variety of Nitzsche's output . . . . . Anyone who regularly follows the Record of the Week feature on those pages is equally impressed with the consistent high quality of Nitzsche's efforts. Given all that, to attempt an "oeuvre-defining compendium" (on a single disc, yet), as its booklet's annotator, Mick Patrick, says, is a daring act. The fact that the collection, compiled from start to finish using master tapes, succeeds so brilliantly at its ambitious purpose is cause for rejoicing and dancing in the streets.

From the very beginning, Jack Nitzsche had a gift for couching each project in a uniquely appropriate and sophisticated way. He was lucky enough to work with the best singers, songwriters, and musicians right off, and little of what he's left behind (and none of what's included here) could be called mediocre. Many of his arrangements and/or productions might be described as stately, and all are in service to the emotional impact of the songs and the performances.

Bookending the disc are two Nitzsche instrumentals, the equally immortal but decidedly differently flavored "The Lonely Surfer" from 1963 and the closing theme to "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" from 1976. In between, presented in an approximately chronological order, shuffled just enough to enhance continuity, are two dozen more examples of the man's genius. Even a casual listen commands respect, and the more often, and the more attentively, one hears these songs, especially en masse, the more one will feel reverence for Nitzsche's body of work.

A few hits are included for good measure (and quite a few more weren't available for licensing), but the emphasis is on the lesser-known masterpieces that inexplicably eluded the charts. The second track, "Don't Make My Baby Blue" by Frankie Laine, was a minor hit that deserved much better. Laine channels producer Terry Melcher's vocal style so effectively that one can consider it a lost Terry Day single, a worthy companion piece to the two Day/Nitzsche collaborations released on the same label. Similarly, "Seein' Is Believin'" by Eddie Hodges and Round Robin's "Kick That Little Foot Sally Ann" double as lost Darlene Love records; the Blossoms' vocals, and Darlene's in particular, contribute immeasurably to the success of the tracks.

As someone who generally prefers female vocalists, I find it interesting that the selections that impress me most here are by guys; it's a testament to Nitzsche's sensitivity to context that several of them give what are, in my opinion anyway, the performances of their lives on these tracks. Case in point: "Not For Me" by Bobby Darin. His heartfelt, and heartbreaking, delivery on this longtime favorite, reminiscent of the best Gene Pitney or Roy Orbison tunes, still chokes me up after all these years when I try to sing along.

For me, the centerpiece of the album is Lou Christie's even-more-theatrical-than-usual "Wild Life's in Season". Recorded a few months after "River Deep - Mountain High", it sports several parallels with that classic (which wasn't available for this compilation). Christie sings his furry ass off like never before or since, lending gale force to an already strong song, which, like "River Deep", comprises several themes. The frenetic and relentless sonic effect of two such over-the-top talents as Christie and Nitzsche combining forces is almost more than one can bear. One has to marvel that all that drama ever got squeezed onto one little seven-inch piece of plastic.

Jack Nitzsche easily adapted to pop's evolution in the '60s, overseeing consummate examples of its transitions through folk-rock (Bob Lind, Tim Buckley) and sunshine pop (Don & the Goodtimes) and the radio-friendly sounds of such latter-day hitmakers as Gary Puckett (Garry Bonner, P. J. Proby). (I've always suspected Leo Sayer of lifting the line from Proby's "You Make Me Feel Like Someone" for his "You Make Me Feel Like Dancing".)

As we move out of the '60s and into the '70s, tracks from artists like Marianne Faithfull, the James Gang and Buffy Sainte-Marie illustrate Nitzsche's continuing knack for adjusting to changing times while continuing to be true to his vision and leaving his unique and instantly recognizable stamp on his work.

Special mention must be made of the booklet accompanying this masterful set, which is in itself a work of both depth and beauty. A luxurious 28 pages long, its margins sport tributes to Nitzsche from his peers, an essay by his son, and reproductions of pages from his telephone and appointment books. The detailed liner notes are interspersed with appropriate Nitzsche quotes (from a previously unpublished interview), and a generous helping of photos from the Nitzsche family archives adds more than enough graphic interest. The care that went into the content and the presentation of the book rivals that lavished on the most expensive coffee-table tome.

In addition to the artists named above, you'll also find cuts by such disparate notables as Doris Day, Little Stevie Wonder, the Paris Sisters, Lesley Gore and Graham Parker & the Rumour, among others, demonstrating the range of talent with whom Nitzsche worked. This disc is a stunning homage to the man and his musical legacy. I understand that if it does well, Ace will compile a second volume. I sure hope so!

(David A. Young, April 2005)

The Jack Nitzsche Story: Hearing Is Believing 1962-1979 - ACE CDCHD 1030

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If Lou Christie wrote a bad song, you wouldn't know from "Original Sinner" and "Egyptian Shumba", RPM Records' digital tributes to the high-voiced Italian-American dynamo, the latter also including the complete works of his early back-up trio, the Tammys . . . The selection of hits ("Lightnin' Strikes", "The Gypsy Cried") and misses ("If My Car Could Only Talk", everything the Tammys ever recorded) all lead to the same conclusion; Lou Christie was a twenty-four carat genius, a pop writer and artist whose refusal to play by the rules (pop, gender, relationships - he broke 'em all) always resulted in something extraordinary.

Part of Lou Christie's appeal was his audacious approach to songwriting, audible in the Flamenco-tinged "Song Of Lita" and the Tammys' frenzied "Egyptian Shumba". The other half lied in his femininity. Yeah, he might've looked all cool in a trench coat, cigarette dangling from his bee-stung lips James Dean style, but we know Lou Christie was really a teenage girl in male drag. His hyperfeminized falsetto is the dead giveaway, as was his ability to tap into the essence of girlhood - heartache, hairspray, innocence, eyeliner - and translate it into the kind of melodic euphoria that makes singing along mandatory. Other mile high-voiced club members - the Beach Boys, Frankie Valli, Del Shannon - boasted a similar sound, but no one could fill a girl's high heels like Lou Christie. Perhaps it was his permanent writing partner, Twlya Herbert, who kept Lou in regular contact with his inner female. She was 15 years his senior, a psychic gypsy woman with plans to become a concert pianist before the two met and sold their souls to rock'n'roll.

"Egyptian Shumba" starts off with Twyla and Lou's first collaboration, "The Gypsy Cried", a much-lauded "ballad with a beat" that ranked at #24 on the Cash Box charts in 1962. When the Tammys - Linda Jones, Cathie Owens and Gretchen Owens - saw his TV performance of "The Gypsy Cried", they put in a call to Lou who once promised to help them out if he ever made it big. The trio became Lou's official backup girl group and they released three of their own records, including girl group favorite "Egyptian Shumba", which liner notes scribe Harry Young likens to "a mesmerizing monument of mythic proportions". The compilation is worth it for this track alone, though girl group die-hards will be pleased to find the inclusion of a never-released Veep single as well as an alternate version of the title track. The Tammys chirped away until the summer of '65 when Cathie Owens tied the knot, prompting the group to disband.

No worries though. The Angels' Peggy Santiglia, Laurie Records' girl pop artist Bernadette Carroll and former Delicates member Denise Ferri came to the rescue with equally articulate shrieks. They made their debut on Lou Christie's first cut for MGM Records and his biggest hit to date - "Lightnin' Strikes", the only possible choice for an opener on "Original Sinner". Lightning strikes twice on "Trapeze", with its dizzying assault of wailing girls and boys ("TRAPEZE! Sha-bye bye baby you'll never fly with me!") and excess of energy. Dig that funky bass line! If this is what they call a B-side, it's time we rethink the definition. Pair a pop revolutionist with production master Jack Nitzsche and out pours the melodic chaos of "Wild Life's In Season" and "If My Car Could Only Talk". Lou's penchant for stretching syllables brings the dullest of words to life ("I found pictures from the Penny Arcade in my ash-to-tra-ay-yeah-yay-hey!"). On the flipside of "If My Car Could Only Talk" lies "Song Of Lita", so advanced and other-wordly that it warrants two alternate versions on "Original Sinner".

Lou Christie historian Harry Young compiled both CDs and wrote two sets of enthusiastic and informed liner notes. A talent of Lou Christie's stature deserves only the best, and boy did he get what he deserved.

(Sheila Burgel - Cha Cha Charming, March 2005)

Original Sinner: The Very Best Of The MGM Recordings - RPM 284

Egyptian Shumba: The Singles and Rare Recordings, 1962-1964 - RPM 330

Lou Christie:

Cha Cha Charming:



Top 40 radio from 1954 to 1964 covered many different genres of music; you'd find middle-road, pop, rock'n'roll, and even some R & B on many mainstream stations . . . Thus, it makes sense that this wide-ranging CD includes tracks as diverse as Debbie Reynolds' "Tammy", the Teddy Bears' "Oh Why", Annie Laurie's "It Hurts To Be In Love", Doris Day's "Secret Love", Brenda Lee's "Dum Dum" and Mary Ann Fisher's "I Can't Take It". Let me first qualify my comments by saying that I don't have, nor have seen the track lists to, the first three volumes of this series. But this CD stands by itself on very strong legs, firmly rooted in many categories.

Many of the more "middle road" songs herein were huge hits when released; Doris Day's "Secret Love", Debbie Reynolds' "Tammy" and Patience & Prudence's "Gonna Get Along Without Ya Now" exemplify the sweeter side of those, and have an adult approach (despite Patience & Prudence's young years, they would fall into the "adorable moppet" category for adult listeners). The McGuire Sisters, hugely popular in their time (or was it the payola?), take the blues out of the Moonglows' rhythm and blues hit "Sincerely", but at least they leave in the rhythm as they belt what the former group crooned. And Rosemary Clooney, who usually appealed to the pre-rock generation, transcended categories with "This Old House"; its jauntiness belied the dark undertone of the lyrics, giving this ragtimey song unexpected emotional depth. Jeanne Black began her string of country hits with "He'll Have To Stay", a note-for-note refutation of Jim Reeves' "He'll Have To Go". Betty Johnson had good luck updating standards with a semi-rock feeling; "Little White Lies" kept the adult audience and appealed to teens. She was the biggest hitmaker on Bally Records, a company best known for its pinball machines in that era. (If you like this track, find her later hit version of Johnny Mercer's composition "Dream" on Atlantic, which is a little less cute and more honest, multi-tracked a la Patti Page and driven by a strong slow-rock beat.)

The rock and R & B selections on this CD provide most of the delights for my ears. Was Brenda Lee really only 16 when she turned "Dum Dum" into such a sexual come-on? Bonnie Lou's "Daddy-O", presented without the overdubs added later to combat the Fontaine Sisters' cover on Dot, also shows a strong voice whose owner deserved bigger success. The dated "hep-cat lingo" adds to its charm. LaVern Baker almost shows up twice; her big hit, "Tweedle Dee", is here in its hit cover version by Georgia Gibbs, who does a very professional but (to my ears) soul-less reading. However, Baker's own "I Cried A Tear", while not one of my favorite compositions, nonetheless is elevated by her vocals, as naturally soulful as breathing. The same is true for Annie Laurie's "It Hurts To Be In Love", a song I hadn't heard before, which is my favorite discovery on this CD - a swingin' blues with doo-wop overtones and an easy roll to the rhythm that's instantly captivating. And boy, could she sing! So could Theola Kilgore; enjoy her powerful church-influenced "The Love Of My Man", then find a copy of Joe Tex's "Say Thank You" (not on this CD); they sound like sibling songs separated at birth. Special mention goes to Mary Ann Fisher's "I Can't Take It"; it's hard to believe the sweet-looking lady who graces the CD's cover has such amazing grit in her voice; learning that she's a "graduate" of the "Ray Charles School of Music" goes a long way to explaining it. Let me also insert a word of praise for Annette. Question her image if you will, but "listen into" "Tall Paul". The track driving this song (which tortured me in my youth, being both tall and Paul) actually manages to do some serious rockin' beneath the cloying cuteness, and Annette does her best to help it along. (But really, folks, when would a 50s girl ever say "he's my all" about her boyfriend?!?)

There's good prime-era girl group work here, too. The exquisite "Oh, Why" by the Teddy Bears, from Phil Spector's classical/romantic songwriting period, is delightful in stereo; Carol Connors' expressive vocal shines, and the economical arrangement seems much larger and lusher than the sum of its parts. The under-rated "To A Soldier Boy" by the Tassels is touchingly naïve and frought with honest yearning. Unfortunately, I can't say the same about Jamie Horton (actually child star Gayla Peevey)'s "My Little Marine", another soldier song, which feels crassly commercial and calculating. Also, 14-year-old Priscilla Wright's version of "Man In A Raincoat" (a "film noir" disc in theme and execution) comes off as amateurish and overwrought; I would have much preferred Marion Marlowe's subtler version, which was also a hit. But the high points outweigh the lows: Marcy Joe's Pittsburgh hit, "Ronnie", is sweet and touching, and predicts her fine duets with Eddie Rambeau. It's also nice to have major hitmakers the Essex ("A Walkin' Miracle"), the Cookies ("Don't Say Nothin' Bad"), Sue Thompson ("Sad Movies") and Little Eva ("Keep Your Hands Off My Baby") represented, along with the lesser-known Tracey Dey (the turgid "Teenage Cleopatra") and the Toy Dolls ("Little Tin Soldier"). A special surprise is jazz singer Nancy Wilson's unique pop/soul foray, "How Glad I Am", as fresh-sounding now as it was when new.

Is this a perfect album? No. But is it worth owning? I'd vote yes, especially since the music - some of it as rare as truth in politics - is enhanced by thorough and frequently fascinating liner notes by Malcolm Baumgart and Mick Patrick. Compliments, too, to their selection of photos, record labels and ad scans. A note: in the CD's effort to include as much stereo as possible, a few of the stereo tracks suffer from the early "hard left-right" mixes which sound dated and oddly hollow, especially when played at lower volumes. But overall, the sound clarity and fidelity throughout are excellent, especially considering that these selections are from 40 to over 50 years old. All in all, this is another worthy package from the aces at Ace.

(Country Paul Payton, March 2005)

Early Girls, Volume 4 - Ace CDCHD 1045

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M & Ms? Little round things, sweet and sometimes a bit nutty. And they come in different colours too. Motown and Mirwood. Little round records, some sweet and some nutty. Very nutty sometimes . . . Next time you have to explain Northern Soul to someone, how about you play them the Four Tops' "It's The Same Old Song" and then play them the Olympics' (actually, as the CD's sleeve notes here reveal, just group member Walter Ward solo) Mirwood recording "The Same Old Thing"? The similarities between them are remarkable, but the differences are what make Northern Soul what it is. And while Motown is the cornerstone of the Northern sound, arguably there's no Northern Soul without Mirwood.

My real introduction to Northern Soul was Mirwood, and it remains my favourite label to this day. And here for the first time Mirwood really gets the reissue it deserves. Ady Croasdell was always going to do a good job on this release, but he's surpassed himself on the sleeve notes here with information about the label and it's complicated history that only he could have come up with. The research for this release must have been a nightmare, but access to the company's paperwork has revealed some interesting facts. L.A.'s soul recording scene in the '60s was a tightly connected one, and it's illustrated nicely here with information on Jimmy Thomas, the Mirettes, the Olympics and the Belles. Ever wondered why those girls like Gloria Jones and the Holloway sisters, Brenda and Patrice, all have a similar sound? Well wonder no more - it's Patrice's lead vocals on the Belles' "Don't Pretend", for instance. No surprise, really, when you listen to it again here in nicely mastered sound. And the story of Bob & Earl gets perhaps the clearest explanation yet with the many recordings of those two talented guys. The production names behind the records get the biographical low-down too, with legendary names like Leonard Jewell Smith, James Carmichael, Sherlie Matthews and, of course, Fred Smith all getting the full Kent treatment.

So onto the CD itself. There can't be anyone with even a passing interest in Northern soul who isn't aware of a Mirwood track, either even if it's Bobby Garrett's "I Can't Get Away", as used on TV ads in recent times. But the fact is nearly every Mirwood 45 contains a classic piece of 1960s L.A. dance music and you almost wonder if they went into the studio to record things especially to be heard in Northern England dance halls a few years later. The CD kicks off with a sublime piece of music in Jackie Lee's "Oh My Darlin'", one that has been strangely ignored on other less careful compilations. The bass intro, then girl choir (later joined by male harmonies - wonder who they are?), leads into a stomping beat and soaring strings, all coupled with Jackie Lee's distinctive vocals. The difference between Motown and Mirwood is in the sparse, hard toughness of the production (not hard in a funky way) coupled with the sweetness of the vocals, harmonies, strings and lyrics, often written by (as in this case) Sherlie Matthews.

The CD follows on in fine party style with "Baby Do The Philly Dog" by the Olympics, a group which had a hit history and strong connections with Mirwood through Fred Smith, who had also worked with them on their earlier '60s hits. This track has all the Mirwood ingredients wrapped up in one - horns, vibes and drum-led goodtime dance music, with strong vocals and simple but clever songs. Next comes the Performers' stomping "Set Me Free" from 1968 with its nagging piano riff and blasting horns, the last official release on the label. This CD is classic dancer after classic dancer from the Belles, Jimmy Thomas and Bobby Garrett leading up to Richard Temple's (Jimmy Conwell) anthemic, high octane "That Beatin' Rhythm", which just about sums Mirwood up really.

Mirwood recordings played a key part in the onetime popularity of instrumentals on the Northern scene. They're not represented here, but, of course, the backing track for "That Beatin' Rhythm" is "Cigarette Ashes", one of the best-known Northern Soul instrumentals, and released on another Mirwood 45 as by Jimmy Conwell, although there's no vocal. We're promised a Volume 2 from Kent, so maybe it'll appear there. Just to confuse things, it's also the backing-track for "There's That Mountain" by the Tripps, a group on Soundville led by Jimmy Conwell.

Track 9 slows everything down a bit with Bob (Bobby Garrett) & Earl (Jackie Lee, Earl Nelson, Earl Cosby and, later, Jay Dee) and "Baby, Your Time Is My Time". Track 10 is the smooth (licensed-in from Chicago) dancer "Stubborn Heart" from the Sheppards, which seems likely to have been a last minute decision for Mirwood because the release number was originally for Jimmy Conwell's "To Much", which then came out on the Gemini label. (It's that kind of info the sleeve notes draw together.) More smoothies and slowies from Jackie Lee & Dolores Hall's great soulful, finger-clicking duet "Whether It's Right Or Wrong" to the atmospheric "Lost" from the pen of Van McCoy with the vocals of the Darlettes (later the Sweet Things), issued on sister logo Mira..

But Mirwood is about stompers and the rest of the CD gives us the chance to kick up and dance with more well-known Northern Soul classics like Jackie Lee's "Temptation Walk" (with Jackie singing the pretty unreal lyric "Now first you lift your legs way up high" and the girls responding "No, no, Jackie, bye-bye") and a more recent club favourite from Curtis "Pretty Little Angel Eyes" Lee (also from Mira), which sounds fantastic here. Everything on the CD sounds so exciting, fresh and revitalised that it's like hearing them again for the first time. The Olympics' "I'll Do A Little Bit More" sounds awesome. New stuff? Well, a newly discovered track by Bobby Garrett called "Keep It Coming" is a rewrite of the Olympics' "Mine Exclusively" with the same backing-track - it does sound like a rough vocal run through, but is worthy of inclusion nonetheless, if only for the excited studio count-in, something personally I like hearing.

Mirwood is difficult in one respect: the infamous Simon Soussan apparently obtained the rights to the label in the '70s, which resulted in the release of instrumental backing-tracks with string overdubs and one or two questionable vocal versions. The problem is that nobody seems absolutely sure which ones they are yet. The situation is not helped by legal British releases on Jay Boy and alternate versions of tracks on Mirwood albums in the States. As such there are slight variations in some of the different releases. For sure, Jackie Lee's storming "Anything You Want", included here, has different backing vocals to the version released by Simon Soussan on his Soul Fox label, and some of the other tracks sound different to me, but that could just be the clarity of the mastering. Some of them sound slightly longer, even if only by a few seconds - I'm sure I don't remember hearing that laughing at the end of Track 9 before! The cleverness of Earl Cosby's "Ohh Honey Baby" comes across well here and Barry White's involvement shows.

The CD finishes up with two of the toughest sounding tracks on the label: Jimmy Thomas's "Just Trying to Please You", the A-side of his one-off Mirwood 45 and a personal favourite; and the Performers, who take no prisoners on "I Can't Stop You", a powerhouse of a meaty stomper with a nagging hook-line that doesn't let you relax. Volume 2 is promised with the other great sides from the catalogue and some more unreleased tracks, so hopefully we'll get the chance to hear some of those instrumentals without the interference!

Another excellent release from Kent, and one which sits nicely with their two Okeh sets and the more recent Renfro CD as classic examples of L.A. Northern Soul madness. Finally Mirwood gets the reissue it deserves and the songwriters and artists will get some of the royalties they've been denied for years. Put this one on and turn the volume up. These tracks haven't been heard in such close aural detail since they left the recording studio, but now we can and the volume makes them more exciting than ever, I promise.

(Simon White - manifesto magazine, March 2005)

The Mirwood Soul Story - Kent CDKEND 237

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