Friday, 27 April 2012

Bite It Deep Volume 1 (Mixcloud)

Whenever I get time, I'll be posting 45 minute mixes featuring music I love and that relates to this blog.
Enjoy Volume 1.....

Honeybus - How Long
Grapefruit - Another Game
PC Kent - After Dark
Los Brincos - Nobody Wants You Now
Harry Nilsson - Bath
Vaughan Thomas - Blue Movie Man
Stealers Wheel - Everything Will Turn Out Fine
Grisby Dyke - The Adventures Of Miss Rosemary La Page
Stackridge - Amazingly Agnes
Flying Circus - Old Enough (To Break My Heart)
Mortimer - Dedicated Music Man
Barnaby Bye - Marsha Mamaillia
Flying Machine - Flying Machine
Harmony Grass - Mrs Richie
We All Together - Beautiful People

Friday, 20 April 2012

Tranquility - Silver (1973)

Tranquility were the brainchild of Ashley Kozak, former Donovan manager turned record producer in the early 1970's.  His idea was to form a group that played a "hybrid of pop, rock and English folk music", (like Donovan then!).  So Tranquility were formed in 1971 based around the song writing talent of Terry Shaddick. The band went through many line up changes throughout their three year life span and members included Eric Dillon, Kevin McCarthy, Berkeley Wright, Tony Lukyn, Jim Leverton, John Perry and Bernie Hagley, all of whom had played in other psych and prog bands previously.

1972 saw the release of their first album "Tranquility" for Epic records.  A very mellow affair with a strong West Coast hippy vibe floating throughout the ten tracks. An album to listen to on a lazy summers day.  There is also a not too obvious McCartney influence that you might not pick up on the first listen as the record breezes along, notably on tracks "Lady Of The Lake" and "Black Currant Betty".  

It's easy to see why the Americans dug this band so much on their support tour of the states in 1972 and the demand for an extra two months worth of dates even before a record had been released over there. Tranquility were far more popular in the states than their home land where they couldn't get arrested. Comments left on YouTube prove that the band must have been a pretty good live act as fans are still leaving messages, reminiscing about their six part harmonies during those Byrds support concerts.

The band returned to London to record their second album "Silver" released again on Epic in 1973.  "Silver" follows on from their first album in a similar direction albeit more polished and tighter thanks to the extensive touring.  Some tracks bordering on lightweight funk (sounds bad but trust me, it works!) with clavinet and mellotron giving the tracks a more fuller sound than the previous album. The title track sums up the typical Tranquility sound, angelic vocal harmonies that drift around a good comparison would be the band America.  My personal favourite "Can I See You" sees the band playing the type of mellow, post-psychedelic goodness that I seem to be blowing all my wages these days. The Beatles influence turns up again on "Dear Oh Dear" and "Nice and Easy", both tracks chosen as leading single to promote the album in the UK where the where it flopped just like the first one did.  Even the hope of sales in the US never materialised.

One last attempt at success in the form of a single, "Midnight Fortune" b/w "One Day Lady", this time for Island records also failed to sell in numbers and so the band called it a day in 1974.  

Terry Shaddick would eventually find success as co-writer, along with Steve Kipner, of the Olivia Newton-John hit single "Physical" which I've just found out was originally intended for Rod Stewart.  Ya learn summat new every day!

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.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Gerry Morris - Only The Beginning (1973)

Gerry Morris started his music career as the bass player in The Cymbaline who's lifetime spanned the years 1965 to 69, releasing six great pop singles, none of which set the pop charts on fire, hence the lack album.  A real shame.  The Cymbaline are one of the last great British bands yet to receive the CD reissue treatment (there's got to be a CD's worth of unreleased tracks/demos etc?). I've never seen any of their singles anywhere except on ebay, and even then, they sell for big money.  My favourite single of the six is "Down By The Seaside", a great upbeat pop tune about a two week summer holiday, containing the brilliant lyric "Sit in your deckchair, looking funny in a floppy hat, use your bucket for a cricket bat, just roast like a piece of toast". Genius! Should've been a hit.

Following The Cymbaline split at the end of the sixties, Morris spent the early seventies as a songwriter/producer of various bands/projects, teaming up with producer Tony Atkins on a number of singles as Big Cherry, Boulevard, Blunderbus, Galahad and I'm sure there's more.  Check out Robin Wills' informative blog, Purepop which has covered some of these singles and are well worth hunting down if you've got the cash (...but like all of Morris' rarities, they don't come cheap!).

In 1973 Morris signed to the York record label who gave him the opportunity to release his first and only solo album "Only The Beginning".  Production duties were again handed over to his friend and collaborator Atkins.  I've never heard this album but I have heard a few songs and confirm that they are great.  Two of these songs "When It Come's To Love" and "See Through My Mind" have appeared on the later volumes of Jorgen Johannsen's fab Fading Yellow compilations and are of the ultra melodic, lush sounding pop type that we have come to expect from JJ's FY's!

O.k. so I've never heard the album. I do own a single though.  "Only The Beginning" b/w "Sunlover", both included on the album and both great.  "Only The Beginning" is a real heart warming tune with a neat slide guitar intro and is as good as, if not better than most of the stuff that was in the charts at the time.  B-Side "Sunlover" is a bit of a stomper sounding rather like George Harrison's "Savoy Truffle" with its stabbing brass riffs, makes me think that the album might be a bit of a mixed bad of styles.  If anyone out there has a copy of the album please get in contact an I'll upgrade this blog entry from a single to an album review!

The album didn't sell very well, hence its rarity and Morris went into production work, eventually striking gold with Amii Stewart's disco version of "Knock On Wood" before retiring from the music business shortly after.