Wednesday, 31 July 2013

CD Review: Tom Robinson Band Anthology 1977-1979

Its fair to say that anyone who had a love of collecting every album single and radio session by their favourite artist back in the 1970s are probably jumping for joy now with the opportunity of new anthology sets.

Tom Robinson Band Anthology 1977-79 is no exception bringing together two albums, singles, EP tracks and several BBC Radio sessions as well as a DVD featuring a rare Granada TV documentary and a sprinkling of rare TV appearances and giving TRB a bit more depth than the usual representation of 2-4-6-8 Motorway. 

Of course 2-4-6-8 Motorway is the album opener (and is featured also as a few live versions) as is its B Side a fabulous rendition of I Shall Be Released.  From then on in its a cornucopia of live recordings, radio sessions and album tracks taking in raw but live renditions of Up Against The Wall and Don't Take No For An Answer. The aforementioned tracks as do many others make challenging statements about oppression within various cultures at the time and (Sing if) You're Glad To Be Gay (which probably raised more eyebrows back in 1977 than it would now) and Winter of 79 with it apocalyptic political overtones .

Tom Robinson Band Anthology 1977-79 timely reminder at what a great band the TRB were and that there social commentaries of the late 70s were just as valid as anything spun out by the likes of The Sex Pistols or The Jam.

Andy's Retrospace: Those Radio Times! (BBC TV and Radio Selections for July 31, 1968)

Today in 1968, the first episode of Dad's Army entitled The Man and The Hour was broadcast on BBC1, check out what else was going on that day on BBC TV and radio...

Andy's Retrospace: Those Radio Times! (BBC TV and Radio Selections)

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Retro Vinyl: George Melachrino - Stardust (Music For Pleasure, 1960s)

The George Melachrino Strings Stardust LP was originally released in 1960 (Regal REG. 1011) and is a collection of popular tunes from the era. Among them are the title track Stardust, La Vie En Rose (Take Me To Your Heart Again), Begin The Beguine and Diane (much later a chart topper for The Bachelors).

Melachrino himself was a musician, movie composer and musical director whom at one point held up with as high regard as Mantovani as far as light music output was concerned.

My version of Stardust was released by MFP (MFP1020)  in the mid 60s and according to the sleeve notes shortly after Melachrino's tragic death.

As far as a collection of light music numbers is concerned this album has some appeal. Once upon a time this type of melodic material was commonplace on the radio, so it was nice to hear melodies presented in such a manner once again and particularly well done.

The cover art is a starscape image from the California Institute of Technology.

Side 1
  1. Stardust                      
  2. Donkey Serenade                   
  3. They Didn't Believe Me                     
  4. Diane (I'm In Heaven When I See Your Smile)                    
  5. Tenderly                     
  6. Park Avenue Waltz        

Side 2 
  1. Begin The Beguine                
  2. Blue Room                 
  3. Why Do I Love You?            
  4. Indian Summer                      
  5. Kiss Me Again                       
  6. La Vie En Rose (Take Me To Your Heart Again)

Monday, 29 July 2013

Retro Books: Cliff Richard - The Way I See It (Hodder and Stoughton, 1968)

I was going through a few boxes in the loft yesterday and i came across a few titles I forgot I had, one such was Cliff Richard's The Way I See It written in 1968, although my edition is a 1970 reprint. Cliff has been known to produce many books over his career , many of which I suspect were ghost-written (After all how could someone as busy as Cliff find time to sit down and write books).

Anyhow this title came at a significant time in Cliff's life as he speaks a lot about his then recent conversion to the Christian faith as well as opinions on working with the Shadows, ongoing world events like Vietnam. drugs, sex,  and of course the church.

In the chapter My Favourite Book Cliff points out that although he used to say Wuthering Heights was his favourite book (and nearly three decades later he would star in a musical version of the story) he now tells the reader The Bible is his favourite book.

As for his films he states his favourite role was his most recent turn in the Billy Graham foundation funded Two a Penny even though he was playing an Atheist.

Undoubtedly The Way I See It captures Cliff at the beginning of a great personal journey, his observations are concise and forthright his thoughts on The Beatles for instance: "As entertainers I think they're great. I believe their first few records really changed pop music...  I'm not so keen on their later records, where they seem to have lost the idea of melody...

On his new-found faith he concludes: "We need Christ, and that includes me.. I know him because hes changed my life and I'd like to think you might get to know him too.."

Sunday, 28 July 2013

CD Review: An Introduction To The Undertones

As the Punk movement evolved into New Wave in the late 70s one of the groups to be embraced by adults and youngsters alike was Derry’s The Undertones.

John Peel may have declared Teenage Kicks as his all-time favourite record, yet it was undoubtedly the aggressive beat combined with comical lyricism on My Perfect Cousin that struck a chord in the playground when discussing new records.

This release recalls that era with raw energy  and passion, taking the listener through essential hits including Jimmy Jimmy, I Know A Girl and Here Comes The Summer from the Feargal Sharkey era of the band and a fabulous accompanying DVD recalling classic TV performances and a sentimental musical journey for John Peel.

Certainly has the edge on other compilations.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Red Red Wine, Jimmy Young and Top Of The Pops - Interview With Soul Star Jimmy James

Jimmy James
1960s Soul star Jimmy James is back on the road again next month with Drifters legend Ben E King for a string of dates across the UK.

I recently had a fascinating chat with Jimmy regarding his career which began quite by accident as a solo singer in his birth country of Jamaica back in the 1950s.

Teaming up with The Vagabonds, Jimmy came to the UK in the mid 60s. On arrival in the UK Jimmy and The Vagabonds gained a residency at London’s Marquee Club, “There was a guy there called Harold Pendleton who said "I like your sound, I'll give you a trial!"", remembers Jimmy, "We supported The Who on a Tuesday night and we did that for a couple of weeks. We started to build up our own following and then he said "I'll  give you your own spot on a Wednesday" and the whole thing just took off from there.”

Jimmy James and The Vagabonds recording of Red Red Wine

Jimmy James and The Vagabonds signed to Pye Records in 1966, becoming a big attraction on the tour circuit. When music journalist James Hamilton overheard the band recording the Neil Diamond composition Red Red Wine for their next album “He said “Hey! That is a single!, " remembers Jimmy, "We said “Don’t talk nonsense!,  No  DJ is going to play this!” It was so outside what was popular at the time, but the thing took off and it got to number 60 in the charts at the time we had a top 100 and to get to no 60 you were very lucky!”

How Jimmy Young got Jimmy James on Top Of The Pops

Jimmy and The Vagabonds parted company in 1970, but Jimmy kept on recording, ultimately teaming up with Indian producer Biddu to produce further hits Now Is The Time and I’ll Go Where The Music Takes Me.

“We were in Jersey doing cabaret;" says Jimmy, "I got the call from Biddu saying “You’re on Top of the Pops tomorrow”. I said “ Biddu how can we be? We haven’t got a record, he said “Oh yes we have, I’ll Go Where the Music Takes Me has charted!” 

"Jimmy Young had played it and everyone went out and bought it. We didn't even have suits. We went out to the outfitters in Jersey and got some suits for Top of the Pops. They sent a little private plane for us, flew us out, we recorded the thing and flew us back because we were contracted."

A Week In Pictures: Week Ending July 20 2013

My write up for Abertillery Blues festival got a page
in Monday's South Wales Argus.
Tom was very happy when I came home with some
Star Wars wall stickers a colleague at work had
given me for him.
Wrote a CD review for ZTT's Zambient One
Seren finds a way of cooling down in the
garden in the heat
Tom was guarding the front door the night before
my birthday
My lovely birthday presents from Rachel and
the children
Birthday cake!
Classic comedy vinyl find at Healthy Planet
Tom joining in the fun at St David's Hall Heroes &
Villains Welsh Prom with Barney Harwood
Further Reading:
Andy Howells' review of Heroes & Villains Prom, St David's Hall
Dad's Army Off Duty: Golden Hour Of Comedy LP

Friday, 26 July 2013

Retro Vinyl: Harry Roy And His Band (Music For Pleasure, 1970s)

MFP/Sounds Superb issue of
Harry Roy and His Band
Another discovery when a fresh batch of albums appeared in my local Healthy Planet bookshop a few weeks ago is this rather attractive self titled album by Harry Roy and His Band (MFP 50334) proclaiming the subtitle The Genuine Sound of The Thirties!

I must hang my head in shame to not knowing an awful lot about British dance band leader Harry Roy but as soon as I put the needle on the record I certainly found many of these tunes familiar.

What has surprised me however is how rocky and up tempo they are for the era they were recorded in.

Harry Roy - Musician Trailblazer

Clearly Harry Roy was a trailblazer for future generations of musicians, there are certainly elements  of his spirit, music and humour that later resurface in recordings by Kenny Ball and His Jazzmen and The Ray Ellington Quartet in The 1950s radio Goon Shows.

Bugle Call Rag gets the album off to a great start, a real lively piece almost rock in nature recorded at The Cafe Anglais with vocal refrain in 1933, some 25 years before Johnny and The Hurricanes recorded Reveille Rock over in the US, but still sounding as raw and energetic.

Roger St Pierre points out in his sleeve notes that at his peak Harry Roy would claim a £2,000 a week fee for a six month tour of South America which gives a strong indication to his popularity at the time.

Its understandable on hearing this album, he clearly had a taste for playing upbeat music and not afraid to be a bit naughty occasionally, the track She Had To Go And Lose It At The Astor is cheeky with a certain double entendre edge to it which is neatly nipped in the bud at the final chorus.

An earlier version of the album
on MFP
Somebody Stole My Gal and Nobody's Sweetheart would become favourites two decades down the line epitomised in song medleys performed by hit pianists Joe Henderson and Russ Conway but Harry Roy's versions seem less nostalgic and more energetic. Tiger Rag which begins with a musical recreation of a Tiger roar and Twelfth Street Rag featuring a piano duet, show that Roy was also keen to experiment with the sounds he created for record.

I wonder how many seeds Harry and his band actually sowed when small children heard his records in the 30s and 40s encouraging future musicians to play in the late 50s/early 60s?

This LP appears to have been a mid to late 70s reissue of an MFP album released in the 60s (MFP 1135) also called Harry Roy and His Band.

Side 1
  1. Bugle Call Rag
  2. Casa Loma Stomp
  3. The Roy Rag
  4. Alexander's Ragtime Band
  5. Canadian Capers
  6. She Had To Go And Lose It At The Astor

Side 2
  1. Tiger Rag
  2. Somebody Stole My Gal
  3. Twelfth Street Rag
  4. Nobody's sweetheart
  5. Porcupine Rag
  6. Temptation Rag

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Retro Comic Strips: Prisoner On The Moon

Comic strip: Prisoner On The Moon

Publication: The Hotspur

Year: 1970

Dateline: The Future

Story Intro Description: Falsely accused of treason. Sergeant Ken Courage of the Western Nations Space Frontier Police, had been condemned to life imprisonment in the robot guarded prison on the moon. Determined to escape, Courage and his friend, Alan Hobbs had followed underground tunnels to reach the rear of the robot control area where the essential air supply was kept. But the robots threatened to kill four of the prisoners unless Courage and Hobbs were found immediately...

Review: This four page Sci-Fi yarn sees Courage ducking and diving from robots all over the underground caverns of the moon prison.. Courage and his friend eventually put on the casings of deactivated robots so they can make their way to the moon surface... though God knows what they'll do when they get there!

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

CD Review: The Stranglers - The Old Testament The UA Studio Recordings (1977-1982)

Recent reruns of Top of The Pops from 1977 and 1978 have confirmed that few bands from the punk era broke into the mainstream music scene quite as effectively as the Stranglers.

Performing every other week in tee shirts, jeans and leather jackets , the Guildford quartet merged electric guitars, masterful keyboard playing and punk poetry with songs such as No More Heroes and a watered down version of the politically incorrect Peaches.

Whether it was intentional or not, their music became accessible. A gritty version of Bacharach and David's Walk On By which probably owed more to the style of The Doors Light My Fire became an enormous airplay hit. By 1982, they could do no wrong delivering classics such as Golden Brown and Strange Little Girl .

The Stranglers : The Old Testament - The UA Studio Recordings (1977-1982) encompasses album tracks, A Sides , B Sides,  a rarities disc and a cool accompanying booklet documenting their edgy rock beginnings through to pop classic connoisseurs and still standing up as edgy and powerful as when they first emerged nearly four decades ago.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Vinyl Finds: British Comedy, Glenn Miller and Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra

Golden Hour Of Comedy
Released on Pye's Golden Hour label this compilation from 1972 features extracts from four BBC TV and radio series, namely Round The Horne, Marty, The Frost Report and The World of Beachcomber. I'm assuming all these extracts were previously available on various albums.
Glenn Miller Orchestra - The Collection
Repackaged for the umpteenth time but still sounding brilliant, heres a double LP featuring the music of wartime band leader Glenn Miller released as part of The Collector Series in the late 80s.
Strings By Starlight
Music For Pleasure reissue of a Capitol album featuring favourite melodies of the classics performed in the late 1950s at The Hollywood Bowl - still a few years away from been conquered by the Beatles!

Monday, 22 July 2013

CD Review: Simple Minds - Celebrate

Perhaps not as in your face as fellow stadium dwellers Queen or U2, Simple Minds certainly knew how to knock out a memorable hit or two back in the 80s.

Indeed during the mid 80s Simple Minds releases were a welcome break in the charts if you were seeking an alternative from the latest one hit wonder or disco hit. Don't You Forget About Me (featured here on Celebrate) not only gave the band a much needed chart reboot in 1985 but also served as a great musical trailer for the film The Breakfast Club.

This deluxe collection features no less than 50 titles taking in the largely forgotten Someone (Somewhere) in The Summertime  and Up On The Catwalk alongside the more obvious but essential Promised You A Miracle (the studio and later live version both feature) and Alive And Kicking.

Early singles such as Life In A Day and The American  feature alongside later cuts See The Lights and She's a River taking in a variety of different approaches, some memorable, some equally forgettable, (unless you really have time to go back and revisit the lesser known material).

Undoubtedly their greatest moment remains 1988’s Belfast Childand Mandela Day, the last true double A sided number one and still epic in nature and delivery.

Dad's Army Off Duty: Golden Hour of Comedy LP

I've always loved tracking down vintage comedy albums and this release in a Healthy Planet bookshop was quite a good find for me on Saturday.

The Golden Hour Of Comedy originates from the early 70s and features extracts from The Frost Report, The World of Beachcomber, Marty and Round The Horne.

Among the stars featured on this album are Ronnie Barker, John Cleese, Ronnie Corbett, Marty Feldman, David Frost, Kenneth Horne, Spike Milligan and Kenneth Williams.

There is also a Dad's Army connection, Clive Dunn features in The World of Beachcomber sequence while Bill Pertwee features in the Round The Horne section.

Mozez Releases A Tribute To The Legendary Bruce Lee - Be Like Water

Singer/songwriter Mozez has written Be Like Water – A tribute to Bruce Lee commemorating the 40th Anniversary of his passing, capturing his key philosophies and outlook on life, and written with the blessing of Bruce Lee’s daughter, Shannon Lee. 

The release also coincides with another track - Broken Toy, which is featured on Mozez latest album The Absolute

Mozez recently spoke to me about the tracks:

You have recently completed work on the soundtrack for a documentary on Bruce Lee - how did that come about?
One of the managers of Bruce Lee Enterprise knew of my work and invited me to work on the project. Of course being a huge fan of Bruce Lee  I jumped at the opportunity.
Broken Toy - what was the inspiration behind that?
I was going through a period of difficulty in my personal life, and was very hard on myself  as we tend to do. I remember speaking with my Mom one dark moment and she said "life can  be a walk in the park depending on your expectation of yourself”; those were the words that inspired this song.
Broken Toy is about self-examination, encouragement and hope . It was written during  recession years.. the song became a sort of reality check for me, I hope it will be to others. 

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Robot Wars Still Rule at Newport Centre

3... 2... 1... Activate!

Its official! You can’t keep the concept of a classic TV series down as three heats of The 2013 Robot Wars UK championship at Newport Centre proved this weekend.

Robot Wars still has immense appeal both for those of us old enough to remember the TV Series and also to a new generation of fans, such as my children who weren’t even born when the final episode aired.

As the robots descended on the arena for the championship final on Sunday afternoon it was clear the excitement had been building up into frenzy from previous heats. Not only were the robots doing battle with each other, they were also facing their biggest foe in the shape of the battle arena that withheld a deadly flipper and a pit to render any unsuspecting robot deactivated. Anything could happen and literally did…

The robots however came in thick and fast and all with grand names. Thor, Ripper, Beast and Eruption took on the likes of Iron Ore 5, Toon Raider 2 and long standing competitors Behemoth.

Smaller robots such as the quaintly titled Cherub showed much in the way of flexibility and agility although took a bit of a bashing when snared against an arena barrier or the jaws of an oncoming clean up machine such as Matilda or Damage.

Light Weight and Heavy Weight battles commenced with Eruption taking on Behemoth in a final that was almost of Biblical comparisons to David and Goliath. What a show!

3...2...1... Cease!

A Week In Pictures: Week Ending July 13 2013

Cooking a barbecue on Sunday afternoon..

...while Andy Murray makes history and wins Wimbledon

A hot day and Jon gets ready...

Tom gets armed for a water battle
Henry's Funeral Shoe played a storming performance at
Abertillery Blues Festival on Saturday
Grainne Duffy (pictured with me) and her band
had been stuck on the motorway for 10 hours but made it
to Abertillery to deliver a great set
Grainne Duffy in action on stage
Marcus Bonfanti on Stage
My press pass for Abertillery Blues Festival
Deep in thought - travelling to the festival

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Vinyl Finds: Robert Irving, Harry Mortimer and Geoff Love

Robert Irving Presents Philharmonic Pops
Three further vinyl finds I discovered in my Healthy Planet store a few weeks ago. Here's another early MFP reissue from the 60s featuring Philharmonic Pops (MFP 2028)  as performed by the Sinfonia of London conducted by Robert Irving.  This features a groundbreaking recording (for 1959 anyway) of The Flight Of The Bumble Bee recorded on a harpsichord.

Massed Brass Spectacular
This is a copy of Harry Mortimer and Men O' Brass Massed Brass Spectacular (SX6202) on EMI''s Columbia label from 1967. I picked this up purely because I loved the cover. Its a blatant example of sexing up a particular music genre, but I love the concept of the quintessential 60s girl with this selection of Brass instruments. This album is the mono version.

Big Western Movie Themes
Geoff Love and his Orchestra  recorded a multitude of big movie theme albums for Music For Pleasure (MFP1328) in the 60s and 70s. Big Western Movie Themes was one of the earliest of Geoff's MFP recordings giving record buyers a chance to enjoy a collection of film themes on one album...

Friday, 19 July 2013

Retro Vinyl: Hits 67 (Music For Pleasure, 1967)

I wouldn't usually venture into the world of cover albums by anonymous artists but I was thumbing through vintage vinyl in my local Healthy Planet recycle store the other week when Hits 67 (MFP 1089) caught my eye.

I remembered seeing this particular release promoted in the inner sleeve of a vintage MFP album as a child and thinking what a great track-list it possessed The Beatles' Penny Lane, The Monkees A Little Bit Me, a Little Bit You and Englebert Humperdinck's Release Me.

One slight problem here Andy - it's not the original artists singing!

Hmmm but the sleeve of the album does have the question "Can you tell the difference between these and the original sounds?" So maybe these could be quite interesting!

The album kicks off with Edelweiss, that wonderful ballad from The Sound of Music taken to Number 2 by Vince Hill in 1967. The instrumentation on this version is pretty close to the original, while the vocalist doesn't do a bad version of the song. There are a few moments towards the end of the number where singer and music don't quite tally up.

Penny Lane is next. I have to say the vocals sound neither like The Beatles  or David Bowie (of who it has been suggested in recent times recorded this track). The singer doesn't do a bad job and the instrumentation is good especially the trumpet solo, but unfortunately the trumpet player seems to be totally out of sync with everybody else. A deliberate ploy perhaps to distinguish the cover from the original? After reading speculation that many seem to believe this is David Bowie I have to disagree, this doesn't sound anything like the guy who recorded The Laughing Gnome.

Simon Smith and His Amazing Dancing Bear does much better at attempting to emulate Alan Price's original imitating Price's piano skills and a pretty good vocal too.

Next up is A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You. This again sounds little like The Monkees original (or I'm sorry, David Bowie!), it is a good cover though and of the calibre I would expect to hear from a 60s inspired garage band.

Peek-A-Boo seems to play faithful to the style of The New Vaudeville Band as similarly does Memories Are Made of This to Val Doonican (complete with female vocal backing).

Side Two kicks off with a good version of Engelbert's Release Me, ballad brilliance which is equalled later by Green Green Grass Of Home, a Christmas 1966 Number One for Tom Jones.

A version of Whistling Jack Smith's I Was Kaiser Bill's Batman sounds like it was fun to make, while possibly the best anonymous cover here is Charles Chaplin's composition This Is My Song modeled on the Pet Clark version. The girl singer here even sounds like Pet Clark which must have been quite a scoop for the makers of this album. I wonder who she was?

There's a decent interpretation of I've Been A Bad, Bad Boy popularised by Manfred Mann's Paul Jones and the album closes on a high emulating the Georgie Fame sound with a version of Sittin' In The Park.

This was the first of many anonymous cover albums released by MFP (more famous are their Hot Hits series of the 70s) and was released in mono format only during 1967. It was produced by Bill Wellings who masterminded several anonymous cover version  releases for MFP and other record labels.

An interesting point of this album is that MFP made a huge effort to promote the release's budget nature by putting the price of 12'6 on the album cover. This was later upgraded to 13'11 causing the cover to be reprinted (or in some cases stickered). I actually found a sticker within my album that appears to have come away from the inner sleeve promoting the price change.

Anyway back to the albums original question. Can You Tell The Difference Between These And The Original Sounds?

My answer - yes! Definetely so on Edelweiss, Penny Lane and A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You for the reasons I list above although I might have been fooled on This Is My Song!

Not a bad covers album on the whole though and very 60s in feel!

Read more on this and many other MFP covers albums at The Hot Hits LP Tribute Site. Also an earlier Bill Wellings produced album that features tracks from this LP Bill Wellings life before MFP

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Retro Comic Strips: The Tiger Boy of Gandor (Hotspur, 1970)

Comic Strip: The Tiger Boy of Gandor

Publication: The Hotspur

Year: 1970

Story dateline: Second World War

Story Intro Description: Tami, a Burmese temple boy vowed vengeance against the Japanese invaders who destroyed his village, Gandor in World War II. His allies were the British forces - and his lifelong friend Kadu , the sacred tiger of the village temple.

Review: This instalment from The Hotspur No.561 dated July 18, 1970 sees Tami and Kadu framed for killing locals in a native village by Colonel Hashido, who had in turn destroyed Tami's village.

Tami and Kadu prove their innocence but not before wiping out a killer tiger, some Japanese soldiers and nearly the dreaded Colonel himself.

This serial runs over two pages makes gripping reading with a style reminiscent of the old black and white movie serials of  a few decades earlier in atmosphere.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Olivia Perry at Maindee Festival 2013

Olivia Perry uses a diverse range of instruments in her
set including a ukelele.
An unusual but welcome addition to
Olivia's set was an instrumental track

Another shot of Olivia displaying
her awesome guitar playing.
Olivia displays some intricate guitar playing

Here's a shot of Olivia 
I processed in Photoshop

Further to my photographs of ToyPOP! performing at Maindee Festival , I thought I'd include a few shots I'd taken earlier in the afternoon of Newport singer/songwriter Olivia Perry.

Olivia, 18, writes and performs songs on a variety of subjects including the predictability of real life scenarios, local disasters and annoying people. Frequently in demand as a live artist she has supported prestigious artists including Kids in Glass Houses, Keith Levene (ex Clash and PiL) and Ed Tudor Pole (Ten Pole Tudor) since her debut at 13.


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