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A February Chart

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  • A February Chart

    OK, I am about to attempt this newfangled DIY chart apparatus...

    Hmmm, all there but can't work out the moving the images thing. Do I have to type in the full thing by hand for each image, or is there a less laborious cut'n'paste way to do it? Oops, not very patient, am I? Anyway, images at the bottom in random order for the moment. Next time I might photoshop the titles out and offer a copy of the next James Last LP I find to the first person able to match all the sleeves correctly to chart entries

    Brooklyn Bridge: S/T (Buddah, 1968)

    I was very happy to stumble on unlikely candidates The Four Seasons’ sublime Genuine Imitation Life Gazette a year or so back, and have been equally chuffed with this set, which is pretty much in the same vein: soulful wall-of-sound harmony stuff from a band the sleeve-notes break down into four voices, two saxophones, a trumpet, guitar, bass, organ and drums. It’s a combination as perfectly suited to a brisk run through the old chestnut of Space Odyssey – 2001 as a version of Janis Joplin’s Piece Of My Heart, with Jim Webb numbers like Requiem and Which Way To Nowhere and a few originals marking some of the highlights. Basically, it’s brilliantly skewed blue-eyed psychedelic soul in The Association vein, and well worth checking out.

    Odyssey: S/T (MoWest, 1972)

    It’s been a good few months since I managed to pull this from a 50p box, and it gets a look in here first because I’ve been very slack on the charts front, and secondly because it’s still at the front of the racks after all this time. You’ll all know Our Lives Are Shaped By What We Love for the masterpiece it is, but this is far from a one-tracker. Battened Ships is almost as good, and Black Top Island (On The West) is no slouch either. Elsewhere things get more sunshine-poppy, but actually, I don’t think I’ve skipped a track on the LP yet – not even the slightly cheesy FM country things.

    Karen Beth: The Joys Of Life (Decca)

    A bit of a deceptive start here, as the opener, It’s All Over Now, has overdubbed horns that lead to poppier expectations than prove to be the case, but even so, it’s a strong calling card with a kind of folky Bobbie Gentry vibe to it. It’s on sparser material like the title cut that Karen Beth comes into her own though, and if you can get used to her undeniably slightly odd voice, this is well worth a hearing as yet another great late 60s femme-folk set. Bought on spec from a US website to make up the numbers in a package, and one of the most-played things in it.

    Colin Blunstone: One Year (Epic)

    Not exactly an obscurity, but an underrated and extremely beautiful LP by any standards. Like the postscript to The Zombies’ Odyssey & Oracle that it is, it’s a near-flawlessly arranged set of songs, courtesy of John Fiddy, Chris Gunning and Tony Visconti. Often reminiscent of Nick Drake’s first two LPs in its whispered vocals and autumnal mood, One Year does have highlights in tracks like Caroline Goodbye, Smokey Day and the ludicrously catchy She Loves The Way They Love Her, but it’s the whole sequence that really draws you in. One of those inexplicably cheap albums that simply blows away the big money pieces – if you don’t have it, get one before people start catching on.

    Liverpool Scene: Bread On The Night (RCA, 1970)

    Bit of an odd mix, as you might well expect from the late Adrian Henri’s improvising poetry’n’jazz outfit, so after making allowance for the usual 60s art-school indulgences, in-jokes and bits of period daftness, there’s still some pretty strong tracks on here. Andy Roberts’ The Raven is lovely folk, for a start, while Henri’s The Entry Of Christ Into Liverpool serves up just under 8 minutes of day-glo Scouse-beatnik raving and skronky jazz free-improvising to much more listenable effect than you might imagine. Come Into The Perfumed Garden Maud is a fetching long-form Arabic flavoured instrumental, which leads into Winter Poem, an atmospheric Henri recitation accompanied by beautiful acoustic effects that manage to sound uncannily Radiophonic, but aren’t. The back sleeve, incidentally, parodies one of those late 60s Radio Luxembourg Hits compilations, with (sadly) non-existent band-names: if only The Evans All-Weather Orchestra, The Spontaneous Rubbish Ensemble, The Raving Gingers and Guillaume And The Astronauts had actually made records…

    Sammy Davis Jr: Something For Everyone (Motown, 1970)

    I’m already a bit of a Sammy Davis fan, so even his Rat Pack balladry gets a hearing round these parts, but this is a whole other Sammy. It’s on Motown, for a start, and features the man’s very funky indeed takes on the likes of Hi-Heel Sneakers, In The Ghetto, Spinning Wheel and Wichita Lineman, which is impressive enough. But you don’t expect anyone to wring funk out of My Way, and the latter half of it on here does so very nicely. OK, the funky-ass schtick is often as cheesy as the sleeve (Sammy in a kaftan surrounded, Electric Ladyland-style, by adoring dolly birds and hippy-chicks) but you’re never looking to score a What’s Going On from an old Vegas trouper. Top marks, though, this is a pretty good effort all round, and one of my favourite LPs of the moment. Faux-funk is still funk, after all.

    Kenny Rankin: Mind Dusters (Mercury, 1968)

    Nice folky soft-psych pop, as recommended (on the sleevenote) by none other than Mr US Chatshow himself, Johnny Carson. Includes the very lovely Peaceful, a superbly unorthodox take on Mr Tambourine Man, and lots more besides. It’s hard to pick a standout track, as the whole LP sounds good. Every Passing Moment has a very slightly harder edge than some of the others, and Come Away Melinda is fast becoming a household favourite, but it’s the way it all blends so perfectly together that makes this one so rewarding.

    Kimiko Kasai/Cedar Walton Trio: Kimiko Is Here (CBS Japan, 1975)

    Can’t say I know anything about this, except to say it was a cheap punt in Rob’s that paid off very nicely indeed. Recorded live at Shibuya’s Pit Inn, it features Kasai doing a mix of lounge-bar piano standards and more uptempo material in the kind of piano/bass/drums setting that sometimes recalls the 60s Ramsey Lewis Trio. All nice, if you don’t mind your jazz straight, but it’s the likes of No Tears (In The End), Jazz Ain’t Nothin’ But Soul and Sad Song where a more R&B vibe starts to underpin the swing that grab most attention. A cover of Moondance more than passes muster, too.

    John Dankworth & The London Philharmonic Orchestra (Society, 1963)

    Intriguing hybrid drawing together works from 1958 – 60, pairing The Johnny Dankworth Band (including Dudley Moore) with the LPO under the baton of Hugo Rignold. Nothing remotely funky, it goes without saying, but both Igor Stravinsky’s Ebony Concerto and Dankworth’s own collaboration with Matyas Seiber, Improvisations For Jazz Band And Symphony Orchestra, are packed with moodily cinematic orchestral jazz in a kind of Hermann/Komeda meet John Barry 7 mode. Leonard Salzedo and David Lindup’s five-part Rendezvous on the other side, adds a touch of exotica to a similar mix, and altogether this is a pretty compelling set, well worth a cheap punt. Sound quality’s respectable, too, which is a first for a Society LP in my experience.

    Sonny Lester & His Orchestra: After Hours Middle East (Time Records)

    Last but by no means least, a quirky set of jazzed-up Israeli, Egyptian and Turkish tunes that has a good bit of the feel of the incidental music on the two Man From UNCLE LPs, and probably comes from around the same time. If you like those, then this is well worth picking up too. Twangy guitars meet brass, organ, piano and percussion on daft but impossible to dislike exotica-a-go-go instrumentals like Mocha Jazz, Rebecca From Mecca and Ali Baba Cake Walk. The most fun I’ve had for 50p in some time.
    Last edited by wayne; 05-02-2005, 02:04 AM.
    a giant steam-powered turntable in warwickshire plays six foot cement recordings of Prince Albert's speeches to the rejoicing populace