Saturday, August 01, 2020

Kursaal Flyers - 
Little Does She Know

Little Does She Know is an outstanding 4-disc box set from the Kursaal Flyers that collects their 4 studio albums and their 1977 live album recorded at The Marquee along with a handful of non-album tracks, live tracks and previously unreleased cuts.  Although they tended to be lumped in with the Pub Rock scene thanks to their association with Dr Feelgood, the Kursaal Flyers never really quite fit into that genre.  Early on they took bits of elements from that scene and added a more country roots rock vibe with banjo and pedal steel included in their instrumentation giving them a bit more of a sound reminiscent of their European touring mates The Flying Burrito Brothers.    Starting things off on disc one are their first 2 releases Chocs Away and The Great Artiste.  While songs on the debut like “Tennessee”, “Silver Wings”, “Cross Country” and the barn burning banjo-driven “Chocs Away” really showcased the country side, other great tracks like “Pocket Money” and “Hit Records”, with it’s R&B tinged swagger, showed the more pop side to their sound.  With their sophomore effort, The Great Artiste the band focused more on the country side with outstanding tunes like “Ugly Guys”, “Cruisin’ For Love” (which should‘ve been a huge hit), the infectious, quirky bounce of ”The Great Artiste” and a cover of Nick Lowe’s “Television” (a song Lowe would release himself 3 years later).

The second disc in this box contains The Golden Mile, the band’s third album and first for CBS.  Written by the albums’s producer Mike Batt and given a very over the top orchestral production, the opening track “Little Does She Know” became the biggest song of their career and a UK Top 20 track, but is also probably one of the most un-Kursaal Flyers song as well.  With a couple exceptions, most of the rest of the album finds them sticking closer to their country-tinged sound with standouts like the stomper “Drinking Socially”, “Street Of The Music”, “One Arm Bandit” and “Ready To Go”.  Closing out the disc are three B-sides including “Revolver”, which shows a more hard driving side to the band and the unreleased “The Questionnaire”, a really pretty country ballad that thankfully has now seen the light of day.

Disc three starts off with their live album Five Live Kursaals.  Recorded at The Marquee by legendary producer Vic Maile, Five Live Kursaals showcases the band’s high energy performance opening with a hard rocking new song “Original Model” and continuing through nine more cuts that are definitely amped up a bit more than their studio versions, before closing with 3 covers - Mike Berry’s “On My Mind”, Arthur Alexander’s “Anna (Go To Him)”  and The Easybeats’ “Friday On My Mind”.  The last four songs on disc three are tracks that were recorded with Muff Winwood producing for their next album Mods and Rockers, but before the album could be finished two members left the band and the project was scrapped.  These cuts definitely saw the band heading in a much harder direction with “Television Generation” edging close to punk.

After about a decade break, the original band got back together and recorded their fourth studio album, A Former Tour De Force Is Forced To Tour, which opens up the fourth disc of this set.  With A Former... the band seems to have honed in on what they were striving for on their previous albums.  The songs here are more focused and the album is their most cohesive with a more straight-forward country-tinged rock sound full of pedal-steel and strong vocal harmonies.  Closing out the disc are some non-album tracks, a few unreleased songs and a handful of radio sessions that include a couple swinging, countrified covers of “Route 66“ and a cover of “Foggy Mountain Breakdown”.

Little Does She Know is a highly recommended, all-inclusive trip through the history of this band and also includes a 24 page booklet full of pictures from the collections of a couple band members, a family tree of the band and an outstanding essay on the band written by band member and music writer Will Birch.

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