Wednesday, 28 January 2015

The Cats - Magical Mystery Morning (1970)

Working your way through Dutch band, The Cats' back catalogue isn't much fun. My friend bought pretty much their whole 60's and 70's output only to find a few half decent tracks. With most of their music, not necessarily bad just not that interesting, it's a surprise that they could create such a killer song like "Magical Mystery Morning", which despite it's 1970 release date, sounds to me like British psychedelia at it's 1967 peak, think Billy Nicholls/Moody Blues. The B-side "I Walk Through The Fields" is ok too (...for the Cats!) kind of like Odessa era Bee Gees.

"Magical Mystery Morning" was a 7" single only release and can be found pretty cheaply. Mine cost one euro from Revolver Records, Barcelona.

Magical Mystery Morning

Mystery morning ride
Two lonely riders on the beach
Two black horses, one for each
Something threatening fills the air
Some rags of music came from nowhere, nowhere

Mystery morning song
Two million voices seem to weep
Down from the ocean, two miles deep
And when the sound blows in my ears
I see a little girl of two years, two years

Magical, magical mystery morning today
Am I alive or dead or sleeping in some way
Tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu
Mystery morning girl
Walking the sea down from the sun
Spreading her arms and start to run
Someone reaching out in vain
The girl is melting in the dawn rain, dawn rain
Magical, magical mystery morning today
Am I alive or dead or sleeping in some way
Tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu

Sunday, 25 January 2015

David Dundas - David Dundas (1977)

David Dundas along with song writing partners Roger Greenaway and Eddie Howell, knew how to write a catchy tune. Originally a writer of commercial jingles, it was was obvious that Dundas knew how to get a catchy hook in the head of the television viewer.

The Brutus Jeans advert was the one that started things off for Dundas, securing him a record deal with Air/Chrysalis in 1976. The full song re-write "Jeans On" went on to chart around the world, hitting number 3 in the UK, number 17 in the US and number 1 in Germany.

Another of Dundas' catchy advert tunes was the killer, "Come To C&A", which was re-written as "Where Were You Today" and included on his self titled album, released in 1977. Blue Mink recorded there own version, released in 1977 on the Target record label.

The album is full of strong well written songs, as you'd expect. Fans of 10cc, Pilot and Andrew Gold will find a lot to love on here, especially "New York Doll" (with Bridget St John on backing vocals), "Another Funny Honeymoon" which was the follow up single to "Jeans On". "Stick On Your Lollipop" is pure Abbey Road era McCartney, so twee that even Ringo would have refused to play on it!

In 1978, a follow up album "Vertical Hold" was released and would be Dundas's last. More polished but less catchy than it's predecessor, it's not without a few moments of greatness, especially "Never Surrender" which bears a strong resemblance to Electric Light Orchestra.

Following the lack of chart success of "Vertical Hold", Dundas returned to TV, radio jingles and film scores, including Withnail and I in 1984.

My David Dundas LP came with a press release insert. I've included it here at the end of the post as an addendum as it doesn't appear anywhere else online and is quite interesting if you'd like to know more about DD....

"I just try to write songs which people like to buy" says David Dundas.

 As a commercial songwriter, a tunesmith in the 'four-minute-verse-chorus-end' sense, Dundas is all too aware of resting on his creative laurels and is, by his own admission, still learning.  After all he's only recently had his second hit single, though his pedigree as a TV jingle writer is far more prolific. He's penned adverts for everything from Spanish holidays to orange barley. But it was his success with the Brutus jeans had that led to his Jeans On single hitting the charts and the beginning of David Dundas the pop singer.

Before that, and before Dundas the jingle writer it had been Dundas the TV actor, Dundas the movie actor, Dundas this stage actor and Dundas the aristocrat.

Born in 1945, David Paul Nicolas Dundas is the second son of the third Marquess of Zetland. After leaving Harrow school he went on the stage, graduated into films (including Prudence and the Pill with David Niven), into TV, back on the stage "standing about with spears and stuff" and finally into jingle land.

After turning the Brutus advert into a single Air/Chrysalis now handle Dundas the pop star. On May 1, shortly after the success of his second single "Another Funny Honeymoon", David releases his first album, co-written with Roger Greenaway and Eddie Howell.

"It's not as sophisticated, polished album" says David. "It's just a rough collection of songs with a feel, a beginning and an end". The album, simply called David Dundas took about two months to make. It was recorded at Air, RG Jones and Morgan Studios using a close-knit band of session men consisting basically of Alan Tarney, Trevor Spencer, Dave Marquee, Barry Morgan and David himself on piano.

"Around the end of January we realised that the album had to be ready in six weeks and it wasn't even written. So my wife Corrina and baby Daisy star went away for about three weeks and I sat with Roger and Eddie and more or less wrote the album.

"I like working fast. It doesn't give you time to start worrying or change your mind".

Since Jeans On was a hit in Britain it has always been a hit somewhere around the world and to date has sold 2 million copies which has kept the Dundas promotion machine in full swing. He still writes Tunes for commercials as well, as much for allegiance as for the exacting discipline they require.

"But", he points out "it's such a difficult thing writing commercials AND songs. I can't just sit down one morning and do a commercial and then start on a song. You've got to give yourself some room". 

Eventually David would like to get a band together for the road and record something of a concept album. "As I go on I'm going to get less commercial and more quality I hope. But I can't afford to indulge myself in the more obscure things at the moment after one or two hits".

David Dundas may still be learning but he is learning fast.

Friday, 23 January 2015

The Mixtures - The Mixtures (1971)

Between May and October 1970 a disagreement over a rise in royalties between the six largest Australian record labels and commercial Australian radio resulted in their refusal to play major label records from the UK and Australia. Struggling Melbourne pop band The Mixtures took advantage of the ban by releasing a cover of the current UK number one record, Mungo Jerry's "In The Summertime", which when released on the small label, Fable in July 1970, went straight to number one in the Australian pop charts.

The Mixtures' follow up single was an original tune, penned by vocalist Idris Jones and his brother Evan (not a band member). "The Pushbike Song" which, whilst being a bit novelty and totally derivative of "In The Summertime", is so catchy that it's impossible not to be sing along to and it comes to no surprise that it reached the number one spot in the Oz chart and number two in the UK, only to be beaten by George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord".

An album, "In The Summertime" was released in Australia on the Fable label shortly after the success of The Pushbike Song. It's a patchy affair with only a few good tracks, mostly orchestrated pop with strained vocals with the exception of "Never Be Untrue" which goes down the Crosby, Stills & Nash route, with it's slight country twang and three part harmony vocals.

The self titled, UK only album is much better. Released the following year when the band had relocated to the UK to record at IBC and Morgan Studios in London. It was produced by David Mackay (Nilsson, Twilights, Blue Mink, New Seekers) and Keith Potger and engineered by Robin Black, Mike Claydon, Andy Knight, Roger Savage and the legendary John Pantry. The band up at this point was Mick Flinn (bass), Don Lebler (drums), Idris Jones (vocals), Peter Williams (vocals,guitar).

"The Pushbike Song" and "Never Be Untrue" are both included on this album and the other tracks appear to be new compositions. "Travelling Song" written by Sulsh & Leathwood (aka Gary & Stu) sounds remarkably like a Pete Ham composition. "Daddy Brings Home The Bacon" bounces along much like the bands two big hits. A cool cover of Ron Davies' "It Ain't Easy" surpasses the original and would appeal to fans of Paul McCartney's first solo LP. "Oh, Mr. Jones" is a Manfred Mann-esque killer, written by Richard Hewson and Gordon Gray, whose only other song-writing credits I can find are "Colour Sergeant Lilywhite" by West Coast Consortium and "Holly Golightly" by Fluff (Mr Gray, why didn't you write more? You clearly had the knack!). Also included are the two other songs released as a-sides "Henry Ford" and "Captain Zero" which sounds like it should be a 1970's children's television theme.

So, definitely an album to keep your eye out for at the charity shops, car boots and bargain bins. Cheap, cheerful and unashamedly pop. Diggg...

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Cardboard Orchestra (1969)

Cardboard Orchestra were a British experimental pop band, hailing from Southend-On-Sea, Essex. Led by multi-instrumentalist Keith Bonsor, who had paid his dues in R&B band, The Essex Five. In 1967 Bonsor landed a job with US music publishers Shapiro Bernstein Music Ltd, a few months later opening his own studio in which a young Andrew Lloyd Webber would be employed as an arranger. Bonsor's creativeness was developing after spending many hours behind the mixing desk.

Joining forces with Vic Collins (bass), Mark Welsey aka Mark West (vocals), Roger (drums) and Bonser himself on vocals, guitar and keys, presented his new studio project to CBS who signed the band, christened Cardboard Orchestra. The lifespan of the group was a mere two singles, both released in 1969 and neither charting.

The first single "Zebedy Zak" is a killer jaunty piano pop tune and has been comped on Piccadilly Sunshine Volume 8 and A Trip To Toytown. It's a great effort given Sgt Pepper style production by Martin Wilcox. The b-side, "Mary Tell Me Why" is one for the Fading Yellow-heads, an orchestrated, flute laden (Mellotron?), gentle ballad reminiscent of Harmony Grass.

Has anyone got a group photo of Cardboard Orchestra?

The follow up single "Nothing But A Sad, Sad Song" is a heavily orchestrated ballad with psych tinges, not a bad tune that will appeal to Walker Brothers fans. For me, it's the flip side that is the real treasure. "Yes I Heard A Little Bird" is pure toytown pop perfection, with it's call and response vocals, continuous fuzz guitar (low in the mix, natch!) and twee lyrics; "yes I heard a little bird singing someone's name, sitting on an English garden gate, there it goes again". All of this is topped off with several key changes for the fade out! This single has become highly sought after by psych collectors over the years thanks to it's appearance on the Circus Days compilation.

Following the Cardboard Orchestra's lack of success, Keith Bonsor formed Zior, a Heavy Metal band known for their wild live performances and interests in Black Magic and Satanic Masses! Don't expect anything like "Zebedy Zak" on either of their albums!!