Sunday, 30 March 2014

Ray Brooks (1971-1972)

Ray Brooks' face may be familiar to some via his most know acting performances, The Knack, Cathy Come Home, the voice of  Mr Benn and more recently, a stint in the UK soap opera Eastenders. What you may not know though is that in the early seventies he put out an album and a couple of singles for the Polydor record label.

Now we all know that actors trying their hand at being musicians very rarely brings good results but Brooks' solo album "Lend Me Some Of Your Time" from 1971 is a pleasant exception. Melancholia is the general flavour of the album, sounding not a million miles from Bill Fay's solo output from around the same time. All twelve songs were composed by Brooks who according to the LP liner notes, began writing songs in 1969 as a form of therapy! My person highlights include the cinematic/dramatic "Hush, Hush I'm Dying" with it's killer string arrangement, the album's only (quote, unquote) rocker, "Oh Carol" (not the Neil Sedaka song) and "Wish You Were Here", a poetic number, portraying British seaside imagery. The album tracks "Lend Me Some Of Your Time" b/w "Bluebird" were tapped as singles by Polydor but appear to have sank without trace.

An excellent production job done by KPM session man Ray Cameron with help from Guy Fletcher. Arrangements were made by Guy Fletcher and Keith Roberts (Birds 'N' Brass) and the Engineers were Malcolm Jackson (Rainbow Ffolly) and our old mate John Pantry (Peter & The Wolves/Wolfe) with Doug Flett and Mike King as Co-Ordinators. Session musicians include Mike Morgan and Ken Street (Guitars), Les Hurdle (Bass), Byron Davis and Dougie Wright (Drums).

Brooks followed the album up with one of the great lost pop singles of 1972. "Pictures", a non-LP track, is more upbeat and commercial than anything on his album and has a totally infectious chorus that will have you singing along by your second listen. I absolutely adore the lyrics! The first time I heard it (on the fab Mixed Up Minds Part 4 compilation) I thought it was Peter Noone. The B-side, "On My Own" is also worthy of your attention, another upbeat tune which I'm certain Benny & Bjorn had heard before writing "Mamma Mia". It's a shame Brooks didn't dome back with a follow up album because if this single is anything to go by, he was really hitting his stride and could've had a big hit. Brooks returned to acting after this single flopped.

There is a another review of "Lend Me Some Of Your Time" on the ace Downstairs Lounge blog here and you can also check out the official Ray Brooks website here where you can buy his album on CD for the bargain price of £3.75. What are you waiting for?

(R. Brooks)

It's a rainy Sunday afternoon
The fire's alight, it flickers round the room
And you and me just sitting here looking at photographs
Having a laugh

Pictures of Auntie Ivy doing things she'll never do again
With uncle Ben
Pictures of Simon Spaniel in the garden looking his best
Now its where he rests

Pictures of faces that we knew
Pictures of me and lots of you
Faded between the pages of our picture book

It's a rainy Sunday afternoon
Pictures of you brighten up the room
And you and me just sitting here looking at photographs
Having a laugh

Pictures of spotty me with a girl who stole my heart one time
Must have been blind
Pictures of lovely you just the same as you are
That beautiful smile I'd run miles to see

Pictures of places by the sea
Pictures of me stuck up a tree
Faded between the pages of our picture book

Pictures of faces that we knew
Pictures of me and lots of you
Faded between the pages of our picture book

Sunday, 23 March 2014

The Junipers - Paint The Ground (Vinyl Reissue 2014)

Back to the future we go, right up to date in fact with a vinyl reissue of an album that me and my fellow music obsessive buddies, The Junipers made over many Tuesday nights up in our little studio in Leicester UK. Those nice folks at Sugarbush Records have done a fantastic job making it, to my ears, sound a million times better than the original digital only release. You can buy a copy from here, but be quick, they're almost all gone!

I better not say too much about it, instead I'll leave it to the people with taste to share their thoughts...

The Junipers are a psychedelic pop group with a new line up following 2008′s Cut Your Key. Paint The Ground is one of the best sunshine folk pop LPs ever with sweet harmonies and shimmering guitars similar to Curt Boettcher and Millennium. “Willow and The Water Mill” is a song that paints a vivid picture of a summer day in the country.

The gentle “Phoebus Filled The Town” is a heartbreaking melody with a prog-folk sound that will remind many of Steve Hackett era Genesis.  Each song seamlessly blends into a perfect tapestry of mood, as in “Antler Season,” the ethereal chorus rides along an acoustic melody. The only issue is that these songs tend to be indistinguishable from each other. Using a full load of instruments from Mellotrons to Zithers, it perfectly evokes the sunshine pop era without blatantly ripping it off – a true musical treasure.
Power Popaholic

This is out now - if you dig POP music you need it - already my contender for best album of 2014 ... I can hear echoes of the Stone Roses [ those early B-sides like 'going down' ] The La's , The Byrds , Michael Head and his various bands , the Bees ... a lovely hazy psyched out bucolic feel that despite echoing the past could only be made in 2014 - subtly blending elements of then and now ... it's rarely I play a record over and over again these days but this is SPECIAL - well done to Markus Holler and The Junipers - I am gobsmacked ...
Simon Norfolk

As most readers of Shindig! Know, there are several current bands who have attempted to bring that classic 60s soft pop sound into the new millenium.. And failed. There's always something not quite right, whether it's the timbre of the vocals, the production values, the melodic structures, or a combination thereof. Well, The Junipers, have managed to perfect their wonderfully shimmering, Curt Boettcher-esque folk-pop sound without even consciously trying to emulate it. Says Juniper Joe Wiltshire, "it's the era that we all listen to most, so it just falls naturally together. Even when we're recording & adding effects, it's what we know so it's what we do. We've never stopped and said, 'that doesn't sound 60s or 70s enough'. We just play it & it sounds like it does."

The band formed in Leicester around 2000, and recorded demos at home. "We startedpassing the recordings around town & got some good feedback so we started rehearsing as a band to take the songs out on the road", says Wiltshire. Several of these demos ultimately were re-recorded vor their first full length album, Cut Your Key, which was released in 2008 and garnered several fine reviews. Shindig! Was so enamoured of these recordings that we included "Gordie Can't Swim" on our hand-picked compilation, It's a Happening Volume One. Their wonderful new album, Paint the Ground, retains a similar ethos as Cut Your Key, while taking it tothe next level. "During the recording of the new stuff we got well into Space Opera and a lot of the moodier 70s sounds like America & Danny Kirwan", explains Wiltshire, and tunes like Dandelion Man & In My Reverie certainly reflect this. the Junipers have decided to eschew the usual label route & release Paint the Ground themselves.
Shinding! Magazine

The greatest band in the whole wide world have got a new album. That’s right, supreme psychedelicists, The Junipers, are following up their ‘Cut Your Key’ LP with the wonderful, enchanting, downright POSITIVE longplayer, ‘Paint The Ground’.

Get that? A totally non-cynical, upbeat LP! How deeply unfashionable to be cheerful in the face of such unrelenting worldwide gloom.

The question is, have The Junipers pulled it off? Have they managed to top their near-perfect debut album?

With a shuffle in the line-up, there’s concern for we, the gasping fanboys, the sound could differ from the Pepperland of their opening gambit. However, within in seconds of LP opener, ‘Look Into My River’, the nagging dissipates into the ether. Fact is, The Junipers haven’t changed. Much.

The perennial sunshine is still there, and once again, they’ve somehow timed their release with a bout of decent weather, meaning that, unequivocally, The Junipers need to be paid by the government to exist and constantly record, ensuring that Britain is constantly in a state of clement weather.

Someone. Quick. Make this happen.

Like their first release, ‘Paint The Ground’ is a tapestry of folk, psych, bubblegum, good vibrations and pocket-symphonies. ‘Phoebus Filled The Town’, ‘Song To Selkie’ and ‘Willow And The Water Mill’ are The Junipers doing what they’ve always done best, which is to create joyous, easy indie-pop – pants rolled up, wriggling toes in a stream.

And yes, granted, that sounds more twee than a basket filled of tweed owls, but there’s a more muscular side to The Junipers that stop them from being the latest drippy ukulele enthusiasts destined to provide a soundtrack to a pro-biotic yoghurt. The drugged, coming-up ambiance that emanates through the album guarantees you won’t vomit with sugar-overload.

Elsewhere, surefire single contender, ‘Dandelion Man’ sees the band displaying their cajones more than before, turning the amps up to warm fuzz, not to mention an almost foot-on-the-monitor moment that comes with the guitar solo in ‘In My Reverie’.

Fact is, there aren’t many better, more inventive bands around that The Junipers. They’re bold without over egging it and have an ear for a melody that is obviously indebted to McCartney when he left the Beatles and took up recording in a shed, as well as that glorious slow funk of the Small Faces ‘Autumn Stone’ and Neil Young Harvest-era, without wallowing in self-imposed pity or pointless analysing.

In pop music, the hardest trick in the world is to convincingly convey a shot of positivity, so often succumbing to forced fun. Likewise, capturing the mood of the ’60s is nigh-on impossible, with most groups growing Fab Four mops or flinging out tired Byrdsian pap. The Junipers understand what made the ’60s so creatively fun without ever forgetting what constitutes a great pop song.

They’ve captured the mood, not to mention the hearts of anyone with a decent pair or ears. The Junipers are back and, in a just universe, we’d hand the keys to the world to them because they can do no wrong. Until then, ‘Paint The Ground’ has come to improve your summer three millionfold.

Get on board.
Mof Gimmers

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Johnny Burton (1972-1973)

Johnny Burton's recording career was short and sweet, releasing two single on the Philips record label in between 1972 and 1973. His first solo effort "Polevault Man" will be familiar to psych heads, via the Circus Days compilation. A stone cold psychedelic pop classic and is as close to 1967 era John Lennon as anyone ever got. This could easily pass as a Sgt Pepper out-take without scrutiny. Produced by Bite It Deep favourite, Eddy Adamberry (who likes to spell his name differently in every instance!) and written by K. Hornby and E. Nicholson (spelt Nicholas on the next single). I've tried googling these guys and returned with very little information. The b-side is a fab piano pop stomper called "The Polythene Doll" which contains some very seventies lyrics..."I hug her and squeeze her and she doesn't know, I use her, abuse her but she'll never go".

For his second single, a banjo driven cover of Hurricane Smith's "Aunty Vi's", Burton decides to drop the scouse Lennon-esque snarl in favour of his own Blackpool accent, coming across like The Hollies post Graham Nash. The flipside "Run Mary Run", another Hornby/Nicholson composition is a decent enough tune but suffers from over production for which, I presume Arthur Greenslade is to blame.

If anyone has any information on Burton, Hornby or Nicholson then please let me know. I've got a feeling there's more good music out there connected to these guys.

For now dig this...

Polevault Man

I am the Polevault Man
I will jump wherever I can
Jump much higher than the high jump man
Go for longer than the long jump can
All the girls will quiver and sigh when I jump into the sky
Na na na na na na na, na na na na na na na

Colourless Cyril in his office routine
Nine to five on his seven day scene
Working for a garden and a mowing machine
For when he marries his girl Christine
But he don't know that she's giving the eye
to a man with a pole up in the sky
Na na na na na na na, na na na na na na na

Alec the mechanic with another oil leak
Making lots of money for his wedding next week
Saving very hard for a house and a drive
and for the children when they arrive
But his bride had other ideas
when on the television athletics appears

I am the Polevault Man, I will jump wherever I can
Go much higher than the high jump man
Go for longer than the long jump can
All the girls will quiver and sigh
when I jump into the sky
Na na na na na na na, na na na na na na na

One day tried to better my best
Gave an exhibition for the public and press
All my admirers had the house on fire
To see me jump a telegraph wire
But I found I was not able
Hanging by ankle from a telephone cable

I am the Polevault Man, I will jump wherever I can
Go much higher than the high jump man
Go for longer than the long jump can
All the girls will quiver and sigh
when I jump into the sky
Na na na na na na na, na na na na na na na

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Aubrey Small - Aubrey Small (1971)

I'd previously became acquainted with an MP3 copy of Aubrey Small album from a not so great vinyl rip which I downloaded from a blog several years ago. Thanks to Record Collector Magazine and their great choice of records to release on their own label, I now have this rarely seen LP on 180 gram vinyl. A great job they've done with it too, sourcing the sound from the original master tapes. Although it doesn't come with the intended gatefold sleeve, it does come with a four page insert, which couples what would have been the inner gatefold with the song lyrics that would have came with the original vinyl. They've also included the 7" inch single as a bonus with Non-LP track The Loser b/w Maybe Tomorrow, previously unreleased song, not the same song as the one released by the Iveys. There were only 500 of these pressed, so you might want to get yourself a copy, pronto!

Aubrey Small wasn't a singer songwriter, as I originally thought, but in fact a five piece band from Portsmouth comprising of Peter Pinckney (lead guitar/vocals), Rod Taylor (keyboards/vocals), Alan Christmas (guitar/vocals), David Yearley (bass guitar/vocals) and Graham Hunt (drums/guitar/vocals). Those of you reading carefully will have noticed that all five members share the vocals, although not in a Beach Boys way. Production was handled by John Anthony (Rare Bird, Lindisfarne, Genesis) and engineered by EMI man Ken Scott (Beatles, Pink Floyd, Pretty Things) and was recorded at Trident Studios in Soho, London, UK.

Now, I know I overuse the Beatles/Badfinger comparisons on this blog (I can't help it, that's the music I like!) and there's no way I can get through this post without mentioning them at least half a dozen times. Musically, that's exactly where these guys' heads were at. Album opener "Country Road" is a slow burning, almost hypnotic, psychedelic beast with backwards sound effects complete with Ham/Evans-alike harmonies, perfect way to start a record. Next up is "Gardenia" and after one listen you'll hear where the Bread comparisons come from. "Trying To Find My Way" is may favourite cut on the LP, this is the sound that Rockin' Horse would master on their own album couple of years later. Mike Vickers is drafted in for some Moog action on "It's Morning" where the Abbey Road influence is at it's most obvious.
Aubrey Small (L-R Alan Christmas, Rod Taylor, Graham Hunt, David Yearley, Peter Pinckney)
Peter Pinckney's "Love On" opens side two and is a dead ringer for "She Sold Blackpool Rock" by the Honeybus which is no bad thing. Another key highlight on the album is "Born To Be" which has the full string and brass arrangements added courtesy of Richard Hewson, making this killer Macca/Wings-esque the Aubrey Small single that should have been. Some great production work on Graham Hunts Excorcist-alike "Smoker Will Blow", which evokes the Moody Blues and the darker moments on the Zombies' Odessey & Oracle masterpiece. The album closes with "Wonderful", a short and sweet little tune at one minute and forty seconds, half of which is a fade out.

An album of this quality had all the potential to find a bit of acceptance from the mainstream, but this was 1971 after all, a year that so much quality music was released, that records of this quality just slipped by the public without attention. Kudos to Record Collector for giving Aubrey Small another chance to shine.

For loads more info on the Aubrey Small, check out their excellent website here.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Trane (1971)

Trane were what appears to be a studio band, realising an E.P. and just the one single, both in 1971. There's not a lot of information on the internet about the band Trane so I'll just present you with the details (and my theories!) in the best way I can.

The first release, known as the Waggoners' Walk E.P. was released on the BBC Records label and contains four songs, taken from the Radio Two show of the same name. All four of the songs are great with sounding like a cross between Clifford T. Ward and a un-countryfied Cochise. The highlight for me is "Mansion Of Cards" which contains what could be described as psychedelic lyrics as well as some Moogy electronic sounds. This track turned up a few years ago on the first (and best) volume of the Mixed Up Minds compilation series. The production was handled by Brian Hodgson and Paddy Kingsland of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. The songs were composed by Brian Wade and Tony Cliff. The Discogs website states that the aforementioned chaps were all members of Trane but includes Delia Derbyshire in the band line up.

A comment on the 45Cat website lists the band members as Brian Wade (Vocals/Piano), Carolin Smith (Vocals), Victor Francis (Drums), Dennis Valerga (Bass) and Oswyn Salquero (Guitar). The lead vocals on "Ragged Bird" are female and it's more likely that it's provided by Carolin Smith rather than Delia Derbyshire. It's more likely that this was the actual band line up and Hodgson, Kingsland and Derbyshire were studio hands.

One thing that has been bugging me while writing this, is the Spanish picture sleeve for Trane's single "Still Burning Bright" b/w "Misty Lady". Only four members are present on the photo and after originally thinking the the person on the far left was a man (hard to tell in the 1970's), I'm now seeing a resemblance to Delia! Anyway, back to the single, a killer double sider of Macca/Emitt Rhodes melodic, piano pop. Released on Penny Farthing in the UK and Spain, where it may have had some success as Spanish copies turn up regularly on Ebay for pretty cheap. Anyone wanting a listen can hear "Still Burning Bright" on Mixed Up Minds Part 7 and "Misty Lady" on my own Bite It Deep Mix Vol.20.

One last thing I have to mention is whilst looking for info on vocalist Brian Wade, I found this really great kids TV theme that he wrote for a show from 1980 called Munch Bunch. A real bouncy tune, impossible not to like and will appeal to anyone who thinks "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" is the best song on Abbey Road! Have a listen for yourself here.