Friday, 13 April 2012

D, B, M & T - Fresh Ear (1970)

Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich like most beat groups of the era would stick a catchy, often cheesy song on the A side of a single. These songs were penned by their managers Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley. The B sides were reserved for something more beaty/psychedelic/experimental, written by the band themselves. This formula worked well for DD,D,B,M & T and made them one of the most successful British bands of the 1960's.  Thirteen out of sixteen of their singles released between 65 and 69 would chart in the top 30 and the band would spend more time in the singles chart than The Beatles during this period, selling a total of 16 million records. 

At the end of 1969, Dave Dee left the group to pursue a career as an actor/solo singer and achieved little success with both.
 The rest of the band, re-billed as (D,B,M and T) continued to release records.  Their first single sans Dee was "Tonight Today", again written by Howard & Blaikley and used a clever vocal canon technique where each member of the band would sing a line which would overlap the next line ending with all members singing their bit at the same time over each other.  A nice effect and probably my favourite A side by the band.  The record buying public at the time didn't think so and for the first time in four years they had a single that didn't crack the top 40.  The band didn't let that stop them though.

For the next single "Mr President" b/w "Frisco Annie", the band ditched Howard & Blaikley as songwriters and from then on would only release music written by themselves.  The sound had changed, catching up with the more mature sound that was developing around them at the time and a three part harmony vocal style was adopted as the sound of DBM&T in 1970.  In October the band released their pièce de résistance upon the world (UK and Germany to be more precise!), "Fresh Ear".

Crosby, Stills and Nash
were a big influence on the band at this time and it shows all over Fresh Ear especially on tracks "Rain", "Soukie" and "Mr President".  The influence doesn't end with CSN though, I can hear echoes of Deep Purple in "Mystery Rider" and John Lennon in the epic side two opener "World", ("Oh, what a miserable world we're living in"). The harmony vocals are the showcase on this record and is what makes it stand out against it's British contemporaries, really standing out in the songs against a back drop of mainly rhythmic acoustic guitars and some heavy electric that is played and mixed tastefully enough not to take over the song. The Moog synthesiser even makes a few appearances.  Good comparisons of this album would be the Tremeloes' "Master" or the Marmalade's "Songs".  Ironic that these bands, all synonymous with the sixties would release their best albums in the early seventies.

Keeping with the theme of this blog, "Fresh Ear" sold very little. Not poppy enough for the kids and not progressive enough for the longhairs seems to be the case. So with both Dave Dee and DBM&T struggling to make it on their own, they reformed briefly in 1974 and again in 1980 and again in the 90's never reaching the success of their 60's heydey.  Dave Dee passed away in 2009 and Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich continue to work the nostalgia circuit.
Check out the bands official website for more in depth info, booking details etc.

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