Posts Tagged ‘Island’

Georgie Fame

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

Daylight / Georgie Fame

Listen: Daylight / Georgie Fame
Daylight

I think this song may qualify as a bit of a guilty pleasure, as it is a touch schmaltzy, although my pal Phil, who has super taste in music, loves it. Then again, it was written by Bobby Womack and now a sought after hit on the Northern Soul circuit. Plus Georgie has such a great voice, and the whole idea that he perfected his sound doing all-nighters at the Flamingo Club on Wardour Street in London during the swinging 60′s alongside Chris Farlowe & The Thunderbirds and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, is, well, all I really need. Basically he always emulated Mose Allison and conventiently helped invent mod-jazz in the process.

As with some of his early hits like ‘Get Away’, this was produced by the great Denny Cordell. When I worked at Island in the early 90′s, Chris Blackwell brought Denny in to oversee A&R. Most everybody got their noses out of joint by his arrival but not me. I mean this was the guy who had produced The Move. He did the whistle sound, fingers to mouth, on ‘I Can Hear The Grass Grow’, helped start Deram and Regal Zonophone, and then Shelter. So we hit it off immediately, and I often think of the many great times and meals we had together. He was a serious cook. Plus he introduced me to so many people from the UK, all of whom would stop by to see him when passing through town. I remember when he brought Tony Colton into my office. He was the vocalist for Heads Hands & Feet who I became an instant fan of when seeing them open for Humble Pie. Tony had also produced a then obscure, now kind of appreciated gem: ON THE BOARDS by Taste. So this was a big deal to me.

Yeah, Denny was a great great pal….he produced this track as part of the 2nd album Georgie made for Island that the company then proceeded not to issue, still. Seriously, what hasn’t been released at this point? Island was a great place in many ways, but they had a very bad habit of making albums and not releasing them. I know of a few still in the vaults from Marianne Faithfull, and unfortunately countless others from The Smoke to Don Covay.

So this track, ‘Daylight’, and it’s B side, ‘Three Legged Mule’ came out in ’77 as 7″ & 12″ singles, and has finally been reissued as part of the ISLAND YEARS ’74 – ’76 anthology.

Burning Spear

Friday, November 28th, 2014

Listen: Lion / Burning Spear
Listen: Lion / Burning Spear

Most consider MARCUS GARVEY and the accompanying dub version, GARVEY’S GHOST, both from ’76, to be the ultimate introduction to Burning Spear. Not me. The ’77 followup, MAN IN THE HILLS, takes the prize hands down.

Blame it on the compilation THIS IS REGGAE MUSIC (Volume 3). Howard Thompson sent a copy with a bunch of Island punk and reggae releases in his very first mailing that began our friendship. It was known as a care package in those days, the kind you’d load a new pal up with when you worked at a record company. Just go over to the cupboard and pull one of anything remotely good, then ship it off. And the cupboards at Island were bursting with good stuff back then.

I dare call it life changing. Sure, that sounds way over dramatic. But no, it’s actually not. The records in that big box did just that, not only to me, but to my closest friends and Corinne as well. She for one, dove head first into a reggae addiction from the get go. Took her years to shake, to find a normal balance between it and everyday life, but not before up and going to London to see Burning Spear and Aswad at the Rainbow, with Karen. I think they had some unfinished Eddie & The Hot Rods business on that particular journey as well.

The box. Yes. I can still recall every record in it:

LP’s:
Various Artists THIS IS REGGAE MUSIC (Volume 3)
Eddie & The Hot Rods TEENAGE DEPRESSION
John Cale HELEN OF TROY
The Upsetters SUPER APE
Rico MAN FROM WAREIKA
Jah Lion COLUMBIA COLLY
Aswad ASWAD
Toots & The Maytals REGGAE GOT SOUL
The Heptones NIGHT FOOD
Derek & Clive LIVE
Max Romeo & The Upsetters WAR INA BABYLON
Bunny Wailer BLACKHEART MAN

45′s:
Eddie & The Hot Rods ‘Writing On The Wall’
Eddie & The Hot Rods ‘Wooly Bully’
Eddie & The Hot Rods ‘Teenage Depression’
Lee Perry ‘Roast Fish & Cornbread’
Dillinger ‘Cokane In My Brain’
Aswad ‘Back To Africa’
Aswad ‘Three Babylon’
Junior Murvin ‘Police & Thieves’
The Heptones & The Upsetters ‘ Sufferer’s Time’
The Heptones ‘Book Of Rules’
Justin Hines & The Dominoes ‘Fire’
Justin Hines & The Dominoes ‘Carry Go Bring Come’
Kevin Ayers ‘Falling In Love Again’
Sparks ‘Big Boy’
Sparks ‘I Like Girls’
Ultravox ‘Dangerous Rhythm’
Max Romeo & The Upsetters ‘One Step Forward’
Max Romeo & The Upsetters ‘Chase The Devil’
Trevor White ‘Crazy Kids’
The Dwight Twilley Band ‘I’m On Fire’
Fay Bennett ‘Big Cockey Wally’
Leroy Smart ‘Ballistic Affair’
J.J. Cale ‘Travelin’ Light’
The Jess Roden Band ‘Stay In Bed’
Rico ‘Dial Africa’
Agusutus Pablo ‘King Tubby Meets The Rockers Uptown’
Burning Spear ‘Lion’

Might as well get this over with now: the 7′s were all promo copies. Sorry.

Yeah, go ahead. Take a breather. I tell you what. There was no preparing for that package in real life either. I wasn’t expecting a box, maybe a few records, but not a box. Howard had rung me from his office shortly after receiving a letter I’d sent off to Island, written on WITR stationary. We talked for a bit, he filled me in on Eddie & The Hot Rods, who were my original reason for writing, suggested we trade some records and that we should stay in touch. Little did I know both his package and that phone call would change my life forever.

A week or so later, I just found this large box from Island Records UK in my apartment building’s lobby. Cost something like £40 to ship, a fortune in ’76. Hoisted it upstairs and into our place, could not open it fast enough. Fuck me, a shock to the system indeed, like my heart froze. Yet somehow I’ve lived to tell.

We poured over these records, the bunch of us, for weeks. You couldn’t wait for whatever was playing to end, so you could begin another. Corinne worked nights back then, and I vividly recall staying up until dawn, those first two days in a row, eating white crosses and just playing them, waiting for her to come home. Wow, what a fantastic flashback.

Every track on THIS IS REGGAE MUSIC became anthems to us, every one a badge of honor, knowing we’d found some of the best music of our lives, suddenly a whole new world opened up, and that album did it.

Burning Spear was little known to me at that point. Saw the US copies of those first two albums occasionally, but hadn’t heard either, or even tried to. Reggae had not entered my life. Once this compilation arrived, I became insatiable for it though.

‘Man In The Hills’, the title track, opened Side 2 of the comp. It was instant. Immediately tore through that pile of 7′s, sure I’d seen a Burning Spear single amongst them. The whole day was a blur, it was hard to process this all at once. Yes, there it was. ‘Lion’ / ‘Door Peep’ by Burning Spear

‘Lion’ defines my very favorite style of reggae, where the chorus keeps getting sung over and over and over. Just a lazy, hypnotic swirl that’s hard to fight. The genre has many a unique voice, but Winston Rodney’s, well it’s one of the greatest.

Eddie & The Hot Rods

Friday, December 13th, 2013

AT THE SOUND OF SPEED / Eddie & The Hot Rods:

Side 1:

Listen: Hard Drivin’ Man / Eddie & The Hot Rods
Hard

Listen: Horseplay / Eddie & The Hot Rods
Horseplay

Side 2:

Listen: Double Checkin’ Woman / Eddie & The Hot Rods
Double

Listen: All I Need Is Money / Eddie & The Hot Rods
All

There were few better live bands in the world than Eddie & The Hot Rods around the time of this EP. Depending on the moment, probably no better one.

They are seldom credited with putting the bpm’s back into sluggish radio rock, the type of poisonous stuff Lee Abrams was about to turn into a successful US format, proceeding to keep punk off of America’s airwaves for two decades. By then, bands several generations younger were glorifying or respectfully copying the original idea. Regardless, most of punk’s, and in the case of Eddie & The Hot Rods, pub rock/pre-punk bands never got the massive exposure they deserved.

AT THE SOUND OF SPEED EP followed it’s predecessor LIVE AT THE MARQUEE during the summer of 1977, almost exactly one year later. The former reintroduced the EP format to the UK singles charts after a solid decade, peaking at #43.

As a result, Island did a short series of EP’s at the time, including those with new music from by The Jess Roden Band and Michael Nesmith, as well as reissue four song jobs by Toots & The Maytals, Jimmy Cliff, The Spencer Davis Group and even Heads, Hands & Feet.

They’re a nice series to collect.

Millie

Monday, December 9th, 2013

MILLIE AND HER BOYFRIENDS / Mille:

Side 1:

Listen: Never Say Goodbye / Roy & Millie
Never

Listen: We’ll Meet / Roy & Millie
MillieWe_llMeet.mp3

Side 2:

Listen: Since I Met You Baby / Jackie & Millie
Since

Listen: I Don’t Want You / Owen & Millie
I

From age 13, in 1961, Millie, known also as Millie Small, had her first Jamaican #1, ‘We’ll Meet’ a duet with Roy Panton. The two remained together as a singing team, achieving a second #1 with ‘Never Say Goodbye’ before she left for the UK in ’63 and signing to Fontana. Her worldwide smash, ‘My Boy Lollipop’ was just around the bend.

Prior tothatr international breakthrough though, duets in homeland Jamaica were commonplace for her, releasing singles with both Owen Gray and Jackie Edwards, two of which are included on this MILLIE ABD HER BOYFRIENDS EP.

Jacke Edwards followed her lead soon afterward, successfully himself in London, writing hits for The Spencer Davis Group and Wayne Fontana plus recording under his own name as well.

Lindsay Hutton / Desmond Dekker & The Aces

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

Listen: 007 (Previously Unreleased Version) / Desmond Dekker & The Aces
007

Is the problem that the majors will sell anything, or that we’ll buy it?

God bless Lindsay Hutton. Seriously, there is no better human being alive. I love him. The guy will do more than anything for a friend. I know, because I’m one, as Joe once wrote.

Desperate for the Record Store Day reissue of Desmond Dekker & The Ace’s ’007′ single, which sold out before the plastic had hardened, Lindsay went on a mission to find me a copy. Make that two.

Now I had no idea this was an unreleased version. Yes, I was aware Universal’s sloppy team had flubbed the fact that ’007′ was originally released in ’67 on Island’s subsidiary Pyramid, and now had mistakenly reissued the single on the label’s red and white label also from that era. And that Universal proceeded to embarrass themselves further by housing the single in the wrong pink stock sleeve. Never was a red and white label single shipped in a pink company bag guys and girls.

But I wanted it regardless. Sorry, one more thing, the horrific 180 gram vinyl pressing. What that 180 gram nonsense is all about, I’ll never figure out.

So months later, Saint Lindsay uncovers not one, but two copies. Here is one to view and hear. This may be a different mix, but a different version…?

Compare it please to this original Pyramid ’67 pressing below:

Listen: 007 / Desmond Dekker & The Aces
007

The Pioneers

Saturday, November 9th, 2013

Listen: Long Shot Kick The Bucket / The Pioneers
Long

I caught the documentary bug this past week, uncovering several from the UK that I’d had no idea even existed. It all started with BBC 4′s PUNK BRITANNIA. Then noticing several other episodes in the series along the right hand column of the screen, well my free time suddenly evaporated. Each one so good, you almost want to speed them up a bit just to get onto the next.

The series’ producers coincidentally chose The Pioneers ‘Long Shot Kick The Bucket’ to open the REGGAE BRITANNIA edition. For me, it’s easily a song that time machines me right back to the day, or at least how I like to think it all was. Start watching this episode and trust me, you’ll be glued to the screen, much like the first time I recall hearing the record and being glued to the turntable just watching it spin. This was in ROCK ON, March ’77. The record was a common item at the time. And for 50p, it became mine.

Like several ska and reggae singles beginning in the late 60′s, ‘Long Shot Kick The Bucket’ became a UK hit, reaching #21 in ’69, then re-entering in’80 and peaking at #40.

In ’89, to celebrate 25 years of Jamaican Music, Island Records’ UK office compiled a seven LP box set, PRESSURE DROP, which included the track. ‘Long Shot Kick The Bucket’ was originally released on Island’s Trojan imprint in ’69, and as part of that 25 year celebration, it was one of four tracks chosen to promote the box via a 7″ EP on their reggae and world imprint, Mango. As part of Island’s normal policy, a Mango stock sleeve housed the vinyl inside a cardboard outer cover, both pictured above.

REGGAE BRITANNIA:

Charlie Whitehead

Saturday, September 28th, 2013

Listen: Love Being Your Fool / Charlie Whitehead
Love

Given that Charlie Whitehead was discovered and signed to Musicor by Charlie Foxx, well that’s all I ever needed to know. I was in.

At Musicor, a long musical partnership resulted with Jerry Williams. And when he, as Swamp Dogg, moved to Island, so too did Charlie Whitehead.

And for a change, a switch to Island meant a hit record. Yes, ‘Love Being Your Fool’ made the BILLBOARD RnB chart in ’75.

I never did find out who at Island was responsible for the label’s mid 70′s infatuation with the strain of Delta soul that brought, not only Charlie Whitehead and Swamo Dogg to the roster, but also Robert Parker, The Wild Tchoupitoulas, Jay Dee Bryant and Tyrone Taylor.

The Dorsets

Sunday, September 15th, 2013

Listen: Pork Chops / The Dorsets
Pork

RnB food songs, especially when used as risque double entendres, well they get me every time.

‘Pork Chops’, was originally issued in ’61 as the first of four releases on the little known Asnes Records, which according to the label’s address was located just down the street from The Apollo. And man does it capture the soundtrack of Doo Wop morphing toward RnB to my ears.

Fantasize a Sunday afternoon matinee at that great theatre, full of hopeful young vocal groups just like The Dorsets, collectively scraping together barely enough for a greasy fry-up somewhere nearby afterwards. All the while, angling for that big hit single breakthrough, a miracle very few would ever experience.

For some reason four years later, by now supposedly a bit out of step musically, Sue Records in the UK released “Pork Chops’, possibly down to a most authentic vocal and delivery. It’s all pretty impossible not to love.

Who was that singer? And where did he end up? Damned if I ever found out. I’ll probably never ever know.

Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

Listen: Brother, Can You Spare A Dime / Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance
Brother,

Remember the day when a major label would release a record like ‘Brother, Can You Spare A Dime’? Issuing such an off the wall track in England was one thing, but in the US, quite another.

With hindsight, many will agree the true spirit behind The Faces was indeed Ronnie Lane. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rod Stewart were to admit that thought.

Not sure exactly what those in the know would call Ronnie Lane’s loose-knit signature sound. The music press came up with a few suitables: rag-tag, rural plynth. Whatever, it certainly permeated all of his post Small Faces work, particularly those solo albums with Pete Townshend and Ronnie Wood.

Needless to say, this single got zero airplay, bar a few college stations, but is certainly nice to have, particularly in it’s promo only mono form.

For the UK though, airplay was not the intention initially. As the press release above wishfully indicates, the film, in which the record is heard during the closing credits, also spotlights the song as it’s theme. In somewhat sloppy fashion, said press release neglects to mention the actual name of the film. Revert to the label copy on the stock copy for that detail. In case you couldn’t guess, it’s called BROTHER CAN YOU SPARE A DIME.

Listen: Don’t Try To Change My Mind / Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance
RonnieLaneChangeMind.mp3

There were handful of followups from a handful of followup albums. ‘Don’t Try To Change My Mind’ was a double sided marvel. This A side being lifted from the album ONE FOR THE ROAD, I wouldn’t be surprised if it had been chosen wearing a blindfold and ear plugs. It’s that unobvious as a single, making the record all the more desirable.

Both the band and album were framed nicely by a genuine gypsy lifestyle from that period, whereby he and his family played out a downmarket version of Mad Dogs & Englishmen, complete with authentic costume and living accommodations.

Listen: Well Well Hello (The Party) / Ronnie Lane’s Slim Chance
Well

Quite possibly the real gem here is the single’s non-LP B side, ‘Well Well Hello (The Party). In itself a future template for many a Pogues single, I’m shocked this isn’t more widely sought after as an ultimate Ronnie Lane essential, or maybe it is. It’s sure to touch anyone’s weak spot with a bit of sadness.

The Heptones / The Upsetters

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

HeptonesBook, The Heptones, The Upsetters, Lee Perry, Chris Blackwell, Island

Listen: Book Of Rules / The Heptones
Book

Been digging out a lot of reggae stuff lately, combing through the shelves separated out specifically for the genre, well ska and blue beat are on them too.

A Burning Spear post from few years back details my initial introduction to reggae proper, basically via an unexpected crash course box full of seminal records from Howard Thompson when he worked at Island UK in ’76. Fast forward twelve years, I’m employed at Island New York and was given the task of assembling a promotional cd for the label’s reissue series encompassing most of their classic 70′s reggae titles. Both cd and campaign were called 96º IN THE SHADE. It was good fun, and honestly a piece of cake. So this is called a job?

I just started off with Jimmy Cliff’s ‘The Harder They Come’ and using the Island master printout which chronologically lists every single and album by catalog number, I picked out the gems. It was easy.

And I’m proud to say, the compilation got such good response from the shops that we renamed it GROOVE YARD, changed the cover, squeezed on a few more good ones, and released it commercially. The cd sold well.

Like the rest of the solar system, I don’t use cd’s much anymore. The Airbooks in the house don’t even have disc drives, so most of those compact discs are boxed and in storage, although some I do keep shelved for the car. I grabbed GROOVE YARD on my way out recently and found myself reliving the greatness of quite a few tracks from the era, as well as some sentimental memories of those times.

‘Book Of Rules’ is certainly one of my ten-ish favorite reggae 7′s. Fantastic song, nice clean vocal and lovely production by Chris Blackwell.

HeptonesBookDub, The Heptones, The Upsetters, Lee Perry, Chris Blackwell, Island

Listen: Book Of Rules (Version) / The Heptones
Book

Released as the single’s B side in ’73, ‘Book Of Rules (Version)’ seems to have preceded full on dub by a year or two, when instrumentals with decorative sound effects thrown in were still called ‘version’ and always used as B sides. I’ve always wanted ‘Book Of Rules (Version)’ to be a bit more exciting or something more moving but it basically isn’t. Regardless, it’s interesting to hear how dub was getting started.

HeptonesSufferers, The Heptones, The Upsetters, Lee Perry, Chris Blackwell, Island

HeptonesSufferUS, The Heptones, The Upsetters, Lee Perry, Chris Blackwell, Island

Listen: Sufferer’s Time / Heptones with The Upsetters
HeptonesSufferersTime.mp3

By ’76, Lee Perry is at the controls, The Black Arc in full swing and with The Upsetters doing the tracking, The Heptones were in tune with the times. Another classic, ‘Sufferer’s Time’, is basically perfect in every way. I never spin it just once. Can’t. I’ll even be late for something important to hear the song that one extra time.

The real fun bit here being that Island US, like the UK company, issued it as a 7″. I’m guessing there were pockets of Jamaican communities in some of the major US cities that would warrant say a 1000 or 2000 piece run. Those sales figures are again guesses, and as the manufacturing details were very sloppy at Island. I never could figure out a real number on this nor a few others that had been shockingly issued here on 7″, to my disbelief.

This I can tell you. There weren’t many pressed as I’ve never seen another US copy of ‘Sufferer’s Time’. Just happened to stumble on this while going through some deeply buried boxes in the Island New York mailroom, a process of completion that took a month or two, but I managed them them all and it was well, well, well worth the sleuthing, trust me.

UpsettersSufferersDub, The Heptones, The Upsetters, Lee Perry, Chris Blackwell, Island

UpsettersSufferersUS, The Heptones, The Upsetters, Lee Perry, Chris Blackwell, Island

Listen: Sufferer’s Dub / The Upsetters
UpsettersSufferDub.mp3

Not only is the A side a heart threatener, but by ’76, proper dub was in serious swing hence this monster example of it on the flip, aptly titled ‘Sufferer’s Dub’. Oddly credited only to The Upsetters despite many Heptones vocal drops, it makes for even more excitement. An American single by The Upsetters. Never been another.

I get very excited by records.

HeptonesParty, The Heptones, Lee Perry, The Upsetters

Listen: Party Time / The Heptones
Party

When ‘Party Time’ first arrived in the mail, dependably hot off the presses from Howard, I was mildly disappointed and that was very stupid of me. It’s a gem.

I had the original UK LP pressing too, but now find only the US Mango copy in my wall shelf. Somewhere in the black hole of unfiled records it does lurk.

Wayne Fontana / Jackie Edwards

Saturday, March 16th, 2013

Come On Home / Wayne Fontana

Listen: Come On Home / Wayne Fontana
Come

Wayne Fontana’s version of ‘Come On Home’ came on the radio during the summer of 1966 and it was an instant favorite.

Sixteen months earlier, he was the apparent leader of the first live band I’d ever seen, Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders. They opened for Freddie & The Dreamers. And so from my initial baptism into the live music world, I had a tendency to favor the support acts, especially if they were English.

By early ’66, they had split into two. It seemed like an eternity at the time. Both had several hits in the UK, with only The Mindbenders getting any real airplay here with ‘A Groovy Kind Of Love’ and ‘Ashes To Ashes’.

By that summer though, I was over anxious to finally hear a solo record from Wayne Fontana, having scoured the UK singles chart in BILLBOARD as part of my weekly ritual at Smith’s Records each Friday after school and seen one too many by him that had not entered my life.

Alas, ‘Come On Home’ got a few weeks worth of spins locally upon release, but then on the more mainstream leaning Top 40, WNDR, as opposed to the looser and much better WOLF. And yeah, I loved it immediately.

I recall mustering up the guts to shout it out at the London Palladium in April ’01. Along with Dave Berry, he was supporting Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich. Seriously, he was hysterically funny between songs and pretty great vocally as well. He ignored me when it came to my audience request although.

Listen: Come On Home / Jackie Edwards
Come

Little did I know at the time, ‘Come On Home’ was written by Jackie Edwards, the same guy who’d composed my early favorites by The Spencer Davis Group: ‘Keep On Running’, ‘Somebody Help Me’ and ‘When I Come Home’.

Years later, I discovered his history in ska, duets with Millie amongst others and several pop singles, many of which I’ve managed to obtain over time.

It was while digging through one of the seemingly endless storage cupboards at Island’s St. Peter’s Square office in London that I unearthed an unplayed promotional pressing of his ‘Come On Home’. I still experience a deja vu hot flash to that moment every time I hold this copy.

Fairport Convention

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

FairportSirB, Fairport Convention, Island

Listen: Sir B. McKenzie’s Daughter’s Lament For The 77th Mounted Lancers Retreat From The Straights Of Loch Knombe, In The Year Of The Lord 1727, On The Occasion Of The Announcement Of Her Marriage To The Laird Of Kinleanie / Fairport Convention FairportSirB.mp3

Although the song title earned the Guinness Book award for ‘longest ever’, Fairport Convention were guaranteed not to have a hit single because of it. Besides, this was oddly relegated to the B side. A last remnant of Richard Thompson’s days with the band, by the time of it’s release, he was gone.

I was desperate to own this single, not having been included on FULL HOUSE, their current album at the time. Far from being amongst the majority vote, I considered the new four piece lineup, sans Thompson, their best yet. And although the prior release, LEIGE AND LIEF got, and still gets, all the praise, it’s FULL HOUSE hands down that’s my favorite. Possibly due to it coinciding with my first ever Fairport Convention concert, supporting Traffic. A wondrous night that. I was spellbound.

FairportJohnLee, Fairport Convention, Island
FairportJohnLeePS, Fairport Convention, Island

Listen: John Lee / Fairport Convention FairportJohnLee.mp3

Less spellbound were the critics. Everyone missed Richard Thompson and Sandy Denny. Okay, I get it, but Dave Swarbrick and Simon Nicol were equally powerful, unsung frontmen. Tiny Dave in dark blue platform boots swirling around the stage, attacking his violin, and creating a whirlwind of sound and nuts-ness. Showmanship in addition to being a superb songwriter. It was Dave Swarbrick who wrote all of these A sides. What the fuck’s not to like?

Their next album, BABBACOMBE LEE, ruled my world. That tour was a special night out for us British music followers, being sandwiched between The Kinks and Lindisfarne. This my friends was heaven on earth, the absolute best place to be in the entire solar system.

‘John Lee’, one the the album’s two singles, still brings back that raging blizzard of March 1, 1972. We’d driven through blinding snow for well over an hour. Being pre-cell phone days, I was terrified of finding the show’d been cancelled once we arrived and approached Kleinhand’s Music Hall with a deadly pit in the stomach. Besides, this was my first date with Corinne, who finally agreed to accept an invitation out. Please God, make it all happen.

Miracle. The show went on as planned, thankfully. It was in the stars I guess.

Let me tell you about it: This was Lindisfarne’s first ever US date, though you’d never have known. ‘Fog On The Tyne’ made it clear this was going to be a very English night. Bring it on, we had waited long for this.

Not to worry, Fairport Convention, despite being of the folk rock classification, powered that stage the moment they hit. Straight into ‘Walk Awhile’, “Sir B. McKenzie’s…’, ‘The Journeyman’s Grace’, ‘Sickness And Diseases’, ‘Sloth’ and the above ‘John Lee’, Even the balcony was jigging in the aisles, or at least they thought they were.

Then came The Kinks. At this point, in their high camp era, Dave decked out in a tailored tangerine red suit and Ray with bright green velvet jacket and clown sized bow tie, perfectly sloppy, opening with ‘Till The End Of The Day’, then satiating us with ‘The Village Green Preservation Society’, ‘Victoria’, ’20th Century Man’, ‘Death Of A Clown’, ‘Apeman’, ‘Dedicated Follower Of Fashion’, ‘Holloway Jail’, ‘Autumn Almanac’, ‘Have A Cuppa Tea’, ‘Arthur’ and ‘Waterloo Sunset’. Sweet Jesus have mercy!

FairportRosie

Listen: Rosie / Fairport Convention FairportRosie.mp3

“Rosie’ is as vital a song and single in Fairport Convention’s history as any of the others, which by the way, seem to get all the name checks. It came to represent the beginning of a comradery amongst former members that eventually defined lineups ahead, whereby any or many would float in and out of the band.

For this one, it was Sandy Denny who guested on the call and response type chorus, hinting at the full time member she would return to be just a year or so down the road. For proof of the fantastic vocal clarity she could bring to any song, just listen to ‘Rosie’.

FairportWhitePS

FairportWhite, Fairport Convention, Island

Listen: White Dress / Fairport Convention FairportWhiteDress.mp3

Supporting the reunion album, RISING FOR THE MOON with another Anglophile crushing US package (Caravan and Renaissance), the horribly under attended September 24, 1975 stop in Rochester had to be a demoralizing, why-are-we-here moment. Unfortunately, the stark, vast theater seemed ironically fitting during ‘White Dress’, their most haunting track ever, and in some ways, most powerful simply via Sandy Denny’s ability to evoke chills so effortlessly.

As with her very own version of Elton John’s ‘Candle In The Wind’, a solo single from ’78, ‘White Dress’ can be overwhelming, and many times, still challenges my courage to play it all the way through.

Jethro Tull

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

Listen: Driving Song / Jethro Tull
Driving

Don’t confuse this early lineup of Jethro Tull with what came later. By album four, AQUALUNG, leader Ian Anderson had completely diminished their original swing and power by either eliminating founding members, or torturing them away with a softer, fussy sound, noticeably devoid of any jazz or blues influences.

The Clive Bunker / Glenn Cornick rhythm section were so integral to the swing the band had on THIS WAS and STAND UP, well it was almost criminal seeing it be destroyed at the time. ‘Driving Song’, the B side to ‘Living In The Past’, recorded just prior to the STAND UP sessions, remained a strong example of the live sound, even after adding John Evan on piano, around the time of third album BENEFIT. That was sadly the beginning of the end for their great initial period though, as both BENEFIT and the US dates to promote it began to show signs of the soft rock rot which inevitably came thereafter.

A timeless complaint theme of band being overworked by label/management/agent, ‘Driving Song’ probably felt completely throwaway to the voting members of the team, but in hindsight like anything pre BENEFIT, aged better than all further releases.

Basement 5

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

Listen: Last White Christmas / Basement 5
Last

My holiday contribution, but really just an excuse to post this, having weeded through the B’s this past weekend making room for a new bunch of James Brown UK presses, thereby stumbling on some neighboring singles. Been years since I’d played this, and unfortunately I never ever hear the record name checked nor credited. Almost like it never existed.

Although a pretty happening seasonal single in 1980 this one, complete with original Christmas wrapping paper sleeve. And what a marvel when cranked loud. ‘Last White Christmas’ may be one of the best holiday singles of all time, if I do say so myself.

Roger and I played this on the radio a lot that December. We particularly loved the “Ayatollah this and Ayatolla that” lyric. The whole affair unthreateningly meshed nicely with The Slits and Killing Joke. I guess no one informed Basement 5 they needed a non-stop drip of solid material. Given their encouraging beginnings, it was a surprise when the guys remained cold as soon as the snow melted.

Nonetheless, original intended punk/dub sonic onslaught generally accomplished.

The Anglos

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

Listen: Incense / The Anglos
Incense

Who doesn’t love a mystery?

For decades, speculation has surrounded the origins of The Anglos’ lead singer on ‘Incense’, many claiming it to be Stevie Winwood. The single was eventually released on UK Island proper in ’65. Having previously been issued a number of smaller UK and US labels, the confusion is most likely clouded by the Jimmy Miller production. He was working for Chris Blackwell and Island, involved with The Spencer Davis Group, having produced both ‘Gimme Some Lovin” and the ultimate ‘I’m A Man’ masterpiece.

But in fact, the voice here belongs to Joe Webster, from Virginia, as were The Anglos. Frankly, if you listen closely, it’s quite obviously not Stevie Winwood, although I wouldn’t be surprised if he wished it were him.

On a late night trip from London to his country house in Theale, where Chris Blackwell had invited Corinne and I for a weekend, conversation turned to The Anglos. Chris, driving his Rolls and playing the then unreleased Womack & Womack album for us, revealed in no uncertain terms it was absolutely not Stevie Winwood, but instead said fellow, Joe Webster.

We soon pulled up to the Theale cottage, whereby Chris apologized that Jim Capaldi had lazily left his clothes and shoes all round the guest room, assuring us the sheets were clean.

Fotheringay

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

Peace In The End / Fotheringay

Listen: Peace In The End / Fotheringay
Peace

Turning October Island pink in support of curing breast cancer, I’m reposting Fotheringay from April 6, 2009:

Remember in the very early 70′s Warner Brothers did those $1 and $2 samplers you could send off for from the back pages of ROLLING STONE? Well A&M did one too, and only one if memory serves me well. Titled FRIENDS, it was nicely full of UK bands like Blodwyn Pig, Free, The Move and Spooky Tooth to name a few. Fotheringay were on there, this song in fact. ‘Peace In The End’ was my first taste of the band, which I was well anxious to hear.

I’d loved Fairport Convention, and when Sandy Denny left to join up with Trevor Lucas in Fotheringay, well there was more of them all to love basically. Unlike most fans, my most memorable Fairport Convention period followed her departure. FULL HOUSE, ANGEL DELIGHT and BABBACOMBE LEE were and are hands down favorites. The lineups with Dave Swarbrick and Simon Nicol are just perfect for me.

I didn’t fall in love with the Fotheringay album, but I sure did fall in love with it’s only single, ‘Peace In The End’. I must have played this hundreds of times.

Years later, during that first London trip Corinne and I made together in ’77, Howard Thompson brought us round to the Island offices, where he did A&R at the time. In the back, there was an up and running company canteen which did hot food all day for staff and whoever was in the studio at the time. It was still operational ten years later when I joined the label.

What an experience that was. Just envision, growing up and living in upstate New York, and to then be suddenly transported to London for a two week vacation, meeting someone in Howard who would unknowingly change our lives forever, well we literally died and went to heaven.

Rico and his band were there rehearsing downstairs, Simon Kirke from Free eating with Jess Roden, various members of Eddie & The Hot Rods and Ultravox. Over in a corner were Trevor Lucas and Sandy Denny. She was very quiet, but extremely sweet when I approached her for a hopeful talk. Her voice as angelic when speaking as in song. ‘Peace In The End’ will forever remind me of her aura on that day.

Jah Lion

Sunday, October 21st, 2012

Listen: Soldier & Police War / Jah Lion
Soldier

Next time you scan a list or read an article spotlighting reggae’s masterpiece recordings, guaranteed you’ll find COLOMBIA COLLY by Jah Lion omitted. Despite being amongst Lee Perry’s most revered Black Ark productions during ’76 – ’77, along with albums such as The Congos HEART OF THE CONGOS or The Upsetters SUPER APE, it really is surprising this one is consistently overlooked.

My recollections of 4am listens, waiting for Corinne to get home from her night shift all those years ago, are as plain as day, or night, I suppose I should say. COLOMBIA COLLY was probably the most haunting record in my possession. At times, even in an only slightly paranoia state of pot and speed combination, my regular cocktail as a college kid, I’d seriously need to suddenly take it off the turntable. Combined with the eerie stillness coming through our un-air conditioned windows during those summer nights, the album occasionally gave me the creeps. It was, and still is, that powerful.

I was both shocked and thrilled when Howard Thompson included a newly released Jah Lion single in one of those early Island packages he’d regularly send from his London office. I mean, who exactly thought Jah Lion would sell singles? Chris Blackwell is my guess. God, those were the days, weren’t they?

So hot off the heels of the Lee Perry produced ‘Police & Thieves’ by Junior Murvin came this, his dub variation of that original track, retitled ‘Soldier & Police War’ and released as a British A side by Jah Lion.

But wait, there’s more. Island’s US reggae subsidiary, Mango, also issued this non-LP track as a single. Now this was surely not destined for big things on American radio, but instead released to serve the small but active Jamaican music buyers pocketed in various US cities.

In fact, I’ve never seen another domestic copy, bar the one pictured above, accidentally discovered in the New York Island mailroom amongst a long buried and very dusty 25 box of assorted US Island and Mango reggae 7′s during my years in A&R at the label, late 80′s. Yes, I froze in that discovery position for a good minute or two. And it wasn’t only this record that nearly had me leaving on a stretcher.

Apparently, for US consumers, the somewhat easier to remember title of ‘Police And Soldier’ was afforded it’s very own pressing.

In some ways though, this only further confused the situation, one whereby despite Lee Perry being pictured as the artist on the aforementioned COLOMBIA COLLY album, was indeed not. Jah Lion was actually Jah Lloyd, as Duane taught me. Apparently, as with artist identities, Lee Perry often shuffled songs titles as well.

Wally Badarou

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

Listen: Theme From Countryman / Wally Badarou
Theme

This single sits front of the 7″ soundtrack section in a wall shelf that I pass everyday of my life, when I’m in town that is. Suddenly it occurred to me, I had no idea what it sounded like. Well that’s all changed. If ‘Theme From Countryman’ had lyrics, I could sing you every last one at this point, that’s how many times it’s been on repeat. One of many lessons learned: never dump a record, you just can not predict know when it may become a cornerstone in your collection.

As an unofficial member of Level 42, Wally Badarou held little interest to me, and his endless studio involvements somehow the same. Boy, was I stupid.

Firstly, his accomplishments are an eye opener: a member of The Compass Point All Stars with Sly & Robbie, Barry Reynolds, Mikey Chung and Sticky Thompson, the in-house recording team of Compass Point Studios responsible for a long series of albums by Grace Jones, Joe Cocker, Black Uhuru, Gwen Guthrie, Jimmy Cliff, Gregory Isaacs, Robert Palmer, Marianne Faithfull, Herbie Hancock, M, Talking Heads, Melissa Etheridge, Manu Dibango and Miriam Makeba. Yeah, gasp.

Secondly, a gifted composer of incidental film music, possibly even harder to do well than calculating a Top 40 hit.

The single lead me to pull out the full length COUNTRYMAN double album soundtrack, thereby discovering, upon a typical credit scour, that Kwaku Baah played a big part in the musician lineup. Currently obsessed with his annoyingly under appreciated and extremely scarce TRANCE album from ’77, credited to Kwaku Baah & Ganoua, I rabidly advise finding a copy. And while you’re at it, both the COUNTRYMAN soundtrack and it’s accompanying 7″.

Marianne Faithfull

Monday, October 1st, 2012

Listen: Sister Morphine / Marianne Faithfull
Sister

Seeing Mark Miller Mundy’s name mentioned on a Facebook friend’s page today, combined with the chill of Fall setting into New York’s weather, brought on the idea of a BROKEN ENGLISH listen. Chris Blackwell once mentioned during a company retreat that Marianne Faithfull was the perfect example of an Autumn/Winter artist, siting Toots & The Maytals as being more adapted to Spring/Summer releases. The concept always stuck.

Fact is though, a thick UK 7″ pressing sounds better than any album, any day. Disagree? Don’t even. A/B ‘The Ballad Of Lucy Jordan’ or ‘Broken English’ against their album counterparts and see for yourself. Most of humanity probably wouldn’t notice but to me, it’s blatant. So over to the singles shelf I went, and in the process, realized it’d been way long since the Island version of ‘Sister Morphine’, re-recorded during those BROKEN ENGLISH sessions, had made it’s way out my speakers.

Okay, so this clearly didn’t stand up to the rest of that album, despite the obvious logic that it’s subject matter might perfectly fit. When you think about it, the song was always anchored by a clunky blues arrangement. God love The Rolling Stones, but they’re basically boogie woogie to the bone. So whether it be their version or Marianne’s original with them on backing, the songwriting blueprint was hard to shake.

Mark Miller Mundy clearly couldn’t find a way round it either and this was therefore relegated to the outtake mausoleum at the time. Luckily, the scorn in her delivery made it a worthwhile B side not long later, in ’82, when ‘Broken English’ got a UK re-release, thus providing the single with it’s own little corner of history. And the picture perfect sleeve didn’t hurt.

Scratch & The Upsetters

Monday, June 18th, 2012

Listen: Three In One / Scratch & The Upsetters
Three

Went through a pretty intense eBay trolling this Sunday. My Father’s Day present was to do whatever I pleased, with no pressure of attending to weekend chores and such. Therefore I became perfectly content settling into my storage garage, digging through boxes and doing some online record shopping. All the while being treated to a non stop supply of my favorite homemade food. A perfect day.

Except of course for all the stress brought on by hundreds of demos and dj pressings currently engulfing eBay. Several seriously hard to find items ended their auctions today and I was not a frequent winner. Some guy outbid my by one penny, no lie one penny, for the Joyce Bond SOUL AND SKA album. This was an original pink Island beauty. My top bid being £109.99. The bleeding thing sold for £110.00.

The one record that crushed me though was Scratch & The Upsetters’ 7″ of ‘Three In One’ from SUPER APE. You just do not see it on eBay. Not ever. Not until now. I’ve had this particular single on an automatic eBay search for years, and finally today there came a notification alert to my inbox. A copy had just listed with a 99p starting price. Could this moment truly be happening!?!

My world fell down upon clicking through to the listing. Disaster. The record’s center had been punched out. Fewer things can deflate my interest in a UK single more than this. I was devastated. Stared at the page for two or three minutes contemplating and then trying to justify a possible purchase. I’d deem it a starter copy only, which could always go straight to the jukebox. How will I pass this up? But, ultimately I decided against going for it.

Several hours later, when checking on my Lee Perry 7′s, just to make sure they were all safe on the shelf, I realized I had ‘Three In One’ this whole time.

It was like a miracle occurred before my eyes, given there isn’t a molecule of recollection about ever acquiring this copy. No idea where it originated from. Not a clue as to how long it’s been there either. Regardless, with all good stories there comes a happy ending. And this was officially a good story.

As Corinne said about my particular circumstance, “What a mitzvah”.