Thursday, August 31, 2023

Andrew Gold - The Fraternal Order of the All – Greetings from Planet Love

Andrew Gold was a multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter and producer who was best known for his hit songs "Lonely Boy", "Thank You For Being a Friend" and in the UK "Never Let Her Slip Away".  He was also the arranger and multi-instrumentalist for Linda Ronstadt on three of her albums, and along with 10cc bassist and guitarist Graham Gouldman, was half of the duo Wax (Wax UK in the US), who released four albums in the eighties and nineties.  In 1997 he decided to record an album that was a tribute to sixties psychedelic rock and released Greeting From Planet Love under the fictitious band name The Fraternal Order of the All.  Now, thanks to Esoteric Records, this out-of-print gem has been reissued on CD and limited edition 10" splatter vinyl.  With the exception of a few guest appearances on a couple of tracks, Gold played and sang everything and also wrote or co-wrote all but one song and produced all but two.  Throughout the twenty songs, which includes several short instrumentals and musical interludes, Gold presents an outstanding collection of tunes that do a fantastic job of re-creating the sounds and styles of that era.  Following the short, tripped out, largely instrumental title track that introduces the album, he heads into Beatles territory for the first time with the Sergeant Peppers era psychedelia of “Rainbow People”.  He also closes the album with another Beatles influenced track, “Tomorrow Drop Dead”, which is full of backwards guitar and brings to mind “Paperback Writer” meshed with “Tomorrow Never Knows”.  The psychedelic “Love Tonight” is very reminiscent of The Beach Boys along with “Time Is Standing Still”, a gorgeously produced Brian Wilson like track with layers of beautiful vocal harmonies, a chorus and other bells and whistles.  Amazingly, “Ride The Snake” is a dead ringer for The Doors, complete with organ and very Morrison-like vocals, and if you didn’t know any better you would think “Space and Time” really was The Byrds, with its incredible “Eight Mile High” like guitar work.  A couple of songs are an interesting meshing of styles and influences like “Mr Plastic Business Man”, a combination of psychedelic era Beatles with Dylan like vocals and lyrics, and “Wink of the Third Eye”, mixing the quirkier sounds of The Beatles with The Beach Boys.  Some of the other highlights include “Tuba Rye and Will’s Son / Balloon In The Sky”, a complex track that channels both The Beach Boys and some ELO with more strong vocal harmonies and carousel organ, and “Freelove Baby”, a funky freakbeat tune with great guitar along with some sitar and horns.  Ironically, quite possibly the best track here is “King Of Showbiz” (co-written with Gouldman), an extremely catchy song that brings to mind the best of mid-seventies power pop and therefore is a step away from the sixties psychedelia of the rest of the album.  Several of the aforementioned shorter interludes are also worthy of a mention including the swirling psychedelic “Swirl”, “It Has No Eyes But Sight” and “Groovy Party at Jimmy’s Magic Pad”, an instrumental with funk-tinged psychedelic guitar and sound effects that just like the title says, sounds like what you would hear in the background of a sixties era movie party scene.  Greetings From Planet Love is like a compilation album of some of the greatest hits of the sixties that you've never heard. 

Monday, August 28, 2023

Heinz - The White Tornado - The Holloway Road Sessions 1963-1966

The White Tornado – The Holloway Road Sessions 1963-1966, the new five CD box set devoted to the work of Heinz, is the first collection that is a deep dive into Joe Meek’s infamous Tea Chest Tapes.  Following a stint in the late fifties in his first band, The Falcons, in October of 1961 Heinz saw an ad from Joe Meek looking for two new guitarists for the band The Outlaws.  The Falcons made the trip to his studio at 304 Holloway Rd and while he wasn't really impressed with them, he was impressed by Heinz (rumored to be more for his looks than his musical ability).  Meek offered him the bass guitarist job in The Outlaws, as their previous bassist Chas Hodges was going to move to lead guitar, but when Hodges heard Heinz's lack of ability on the bass, he changed his mind and retained that job.  At this point Meek formed a new band for Heinz, The Tornados, and then in the mid-sixties he had a solo career that over a three-year period saw him releasing eleven singles, a couple EP’s and in 1964 the album Tribute To Eddie. Even though his output wasn't huge, due to the fact that Meek was taken with Heinz, they spent alot of time in the studio and as a result there were alot of his recordings found amongst Meek’s Tea Chest Tapes.  Due to this massive number of recordings, this box set contains 130 music tracks (over 100 previously unreleased), and not only contains his one album, but also single tracks, session recordings, instrumentals, backing tracks, alternate versions, demos, a live rehearsal and an interview.  It should also be noted that when they compiled the box set, they made the decision to only include material found in the Tea Chest Tapes.

Discs one and two are devoted to covering his solo album and starts with the version that was released in 1964.  Tribute to Eddie was largely just that, a tribute to Eddie Cochran.  Along with five cuts originally recorded by Cochran are the bouncy Meek penned title track, which has a bit of a Buddy Holly vibe (more on that later) and the UK number five single “Just Like Eddie”, an extremely catchy sixties pop tune with a strong dance beat and some great guitar from Ritchie Blackmore.  Blackmore had at one point been a member of The Outlaws and was also a session musician for Meek.  He may be on other tracks here, but Meek wasn’t very good at documenting who played what.  Although the version of “Summertime Blues” here is not too far removed from Cochran’s version, Meek’s experimental production is quite evident on the other four.  “Three Steps To Heaven” and the ballad “I Remember” are similar to the originals, but are more fleshed out, while “Cut Across Shorty” has a really cool galloping beat and a lot of effects and “Twenty Flight Rock” is a little slower with a really good beat and some great guitar.  The album contains a couple more covers with “(Sorry) I Ran All The Way Home”, which is much faster and more upbeat than originally recorded by The Impalas and is an infectious meshing of doo wop and rockabilly, while “Look For A Star”, is fairly close to Gary Miles’ version, but with more Meek tweaks and some great twangy guitar.  The remaining tracks include “Hush-A-Bye Baby”, with its edgy R&B groove and really tasty guitar, “Don’t Keep Picking On Me”, an upbeat Meek original with really cool backing vocals, “Come On And Dance”, some great early sixties rock and roll with a solid dance beat, and the hooky pop tune “My Dreams”.  This leaves “Rumble In The Night”, which is driven by a sixties garage rock organ.  It is completely different than the rest of the album and to me is the high point.  The remaining thirty-six tracks on the first two discs contain a fascinating array of original speed versions of many of the album tracks, which to me sound better than the released versions (Meek often sped up recordings to make singers sound younger), false starts, alternate takes, backing tracks and guide vocals.  There are also occasional snippets of studio chatter like Heinz stating, “One day I’ll get a compliment, I’m sure” before a take on “I Ran All The Way Home,” and a clip of Ritchie Blackmore practicing his guitar part before a run through of “Just Like Eddie”.  The original demos of “Tribute To Eddie”, with Meek on vocals, “Don’t Keep Picking On Me”, with Dave Adams and “Just Like Eddie”, with songwriter Geoff Goddard are other nice additions.  Back to the previously mentioned Buddy Holly feel to the title track, there is a demo of Meek’s “Bring Me Buddy Holly” (with him on vocals), which eventually evolved into “Tribute To Eddie”.   

Disc three and four are devoted to the singles and after starting off with a short interview, runs through various versions including rough mixes, sped up masters, original speed versions and various other takes.  Even though they aren’t the final released versions and there are a few weaker tracks, you can still hear just how many good songs he released on his singles and it’s fascinating to peak behind the curtain and hear them in their various stages of development.  “Dreams Do Come True” is a super infectious tune with a fast paced, galloping beat, and the bouncy “Talkin’ Like A Man” is driven by some great organ, although vocal take 2 is also included here and was before the organ was added.  The twangy “That Lucky Old Sun” has a great, thumping bass driven R&B country groove, and the laid-back shuffling “Lonely River” and “You Were There”, with its Merseybeat vibe, are a couple of solid ballads.  “Country Boy” is very reminiscent of Buddy Holly, while “Digging My Potatoes”, with its swinging, honky tonk piano, has an early Stones R&B groove.  “For Loving Me This Way”, with its organ and rapid-fire percussion, along with “She Ain’t Coming Back” and “Heart Full Of Sorrow” are three extremely earwormy pop tracks.  His take on Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” (a song that has been covered numerous times over the years and was a hit for Peter, Paul and Mary) is a great rendition that sticks to the folk sound but has a bit of a ragtime feel thanks to the piano.  Meek really showcases his experimental production touches on “Long Tall Jack” and “Big Fat Spider”, a couple of fun and quirky cuts that are also here in basic backing vocal versions.  While “I Get Up In the Morning”, an earlier single is more of a rock track, as he got to the later singles in his career you can hear things getting a little edgier and the guitar work (I’m assuming mostly Blackmore) getting more adventurous.  “Questions I Can’t Answer” borders on garage rock with a grittier vocal, while the guitar on “The Beating Of My Heart and all out rockers “Movin’ On” and “I’m Not A Bad Guy” find him doing a little shredding (there is also a rehearsal version of “The Beating Of My Heart” that’s a little more restrained).  One other track of note that really shows the intrigue of the Tea Chest Tapes is “Don’t Worry Baby”.  The original speed version here is a really catchy rock track, but then there is the writing session version, where you can hear them in action as they try to work the song out and at one point were considering it to be a ballad. 

Rounding out the box set is a disc devoted to demos, some unreleased tracks and some backing tracks that were recorded for Heinz, but never finished.  First up are the demos with Meek handling vocals on about a half dozen along with Geoff Goddard and Dave Adams on others.  Meek’s vocals are definitely all over the place and better at some times than others, but it’s interesting to hear these early versions of these tracks, often with incomplete lyrics, as they are being developed in their early stages.   The second half of the disc kicks off with a vocal take on Richie Valens’ “Come On Let’s Go” that is edgier than the original with some killer guitar work and Heinz going the gruffer vocal route, but it isn’t quite there.  “Forget Me Not” is a bouncy pop tune that sounds a little on the cheesy side and is way too busy with Meek’s use of effects.  The doo-wop tinged pop of “Easy To Dream” sounds ready to go, while his take on the ballad “Johnny My Johnny”, a song that was released by Johnny Leyton, sounds like it had potential, but the version here is not fully realized.  “Little Ship” is a really interesting track that has an infectious military drumbeat and some cool back and forth between the horns and guitar that should definitely have been given a chance.  The same can be said for his loose, high energy take on Ray Charles’ “I Got A Woman”, which is just an absolutely fun listen.  There's also his version of Jack Scott’s “Oh Little One”, which isn't too far removed from the original. The box closes out with a couple more could’ve been hits with “Tell Me” and the dreamy, easygoing “Voices In The Wind.”  As if the music wasn’t enough, the booklet is extremely informative with notes from the late Rob Bradford (editor of the Joe Meek Society’s Thunderbolt magazine) and curator Richard Anderson along with photographs and memorabilia.  This is a fantastic collection and a great start to this project, that has me looking forward to hearing what is still to come from the Joe Meek Tea Chest Tapes.  

(Cherry Red Records)

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Dead Or Alive - Let Them Drag My Soul Away – Singles, Demos And Live Recordings 1979-1982

In November of 1977, Pete Burns was working at Liverpool’s Probe Records, but his focus was on fashion not music (he and his girlfriend Lynne sold their clothing designs from the back of the shop).  Most of his nights were spent at Eric’s, a club down the street from Probe, and even though Roger Eagle, the founder of Eric’s, kept telling him he needed to be in a band he said he didn’t know anyone and had no desire to perform.  In spite of this, Eagle formed a band around Burns called The Mystery Girls.  They only played one gig at Eric’s on November 4, 1977, opening for Sham 69.  Amazingly, that band consisted of Burns, Julian Cope, Pete Wylie and Phil Hurst.  Shortly after that gig, Burns formed his first band Nightmares In Wax, with him on vocals, Martin Healy on keys, Phil Hurst on drums, Sue James on bass and Adrian “Mitch” Mitchley on guitar.  They signed a deal with Inevitable Records and released their debut EP Birth Of A Nation.  While there is a glimmer of what was to come with Dead or Alive, opening cut “Black Leather” has a dark, driving disco beat with a dirty, almost punk side, rock guitars, aggressive vocals and even a little bit of KC and the Sunshine Band’s “That’s The Way” in the middle.  “Girl Song” is disjointed with a jerky beat and synths that sounds like a somewhat twisted, disco carnival, while "Shangri-La" embraces a similar vibe, but is more upbeat and dancy (remixed versions of the latter two songs are also included here and while they aren’t that different, they do include some movie and tv samples that weren’t on the originals).  Shortly after the EP’s release Burns decided he didn’t like their name and with a new drummer in Joe Musker they released a couple more singles as Dead Or Alive.  First up was “I’m Falling”, a strong track that had less of a dance beat and was more goth with some really cool guitars and swirling keys. The flipside was “Flowers”, a dark and moody cut, with more swirling guitars, that actually sounded a lot like The Doors (Burns’ vocals have a very strong Morrison quality here).  The goth vibe continued on the follow-up with the throbbing bass and synths of “Number Eleven” and a live version of “Namegame”, with its chiming guitars and a sound reminiscent of what The Mission would be doing several years later. Another lineup change followed the release of those singles, with James and Mitchley out and Mike Percy joining on bass along with former Pauline Murray & The Invisible Girls’ Wayne Hussey (later of the Sisters of Mercy and The Mission) on guitar.  Along with a new lineup, their next release, the It’s Been Hours Now EP, was released on Black Eyes Records and kicks off with the title track, which is an interesting contrast of goth with tribal percussion reminiscent of what Bow Wow Wow was doing at that same time.  “Whirlpool” is a more upbeat track with a bit of a dance beat and swirling guitars that at times brings to mind Echo and the Bunnymen.  Driven by an infectious dance beat “Nowhere To Nowhere” is an interesting track highlighted with whipcracks and with Burns’ vocals once again bringing to mind Jim Morrison.  Closing out the EP is “It’s Been Hours Now 2”, a more stripped down version of the title track that sounds a little rawer and more demo like with less flourishes.  Closing out disc one is their second single for Black Eyes and the final chapter for this early era of the band as they moved on to a major label. “The Stranger” is kind of moody at first and is a little more laid-back and mellow with some nice guitar flourishes reminiscent of Hussey’s work with The Mission.  The flipside is “Some Of That”, another slower track built against a propulsive tribal beat.  It has a solid, laid-back goth vibe, but with a slight sense of tension.   

Disc two contains thirteen previously unreleased tracks starting with 4-Track demo versions of Nightmares In Wax’s “Black Leather”, “Girl Song” and “Shangri-La” along with the previously unheard “I’ll Turn Away”, a mellower track with an easygoing dance beat, an everpresent synth line and a driving percussion section.  There are also demo versions of several Dead Or Alive tracks that would appear on their major label debut Sophisticated Boom Boom including “Far Too Hard”, “Misty Circles” and “What I Want”, along with a demo and alternate early mix of “Selfish Side”, a track that was included on the 2007 reissue of the album, and demo of the unreleased “Give It To Me”, a very infectious dance track that definitely shows signs of what was to come.  The disc closes out with three instrumental tracks that are credited to Hussey and Percy and are actually closer to the electronic end of things.  While they don’t really sound like Dead or Alive tracks, they make for a nice addition.  

The band’s two Peel Sessions and a handful of live tracks can be found on disc three.  The first session was recorded at Langham Studios on February 4,1981 and opens with “Nowhere To Nowhere”.  It’s a good version of the track, but is a little lacking due the whipcracks being missing and the guitars don't have the ringing they have on the studio version.  Since a studio version was never released, it’s nice to have the opportunity to hear “Running Wild”, a big, epic sounding track that is strongly reminiscent of The Doors with his Morrison like vocals and organ. Their influence shows again on “Number Eleven”, which sounds a bit different than the studio version.  It’s a little less goth and has some nice spaghetti western guitar flourishes.  “Flowers” wraps this session and starts a bit faster and more aggressive with hard driving percussion before shifting closer to the studio version.  It makes for a powerhouse seven minute closer.  The second session was recorded on March 1,1982 at Maida Vale Studios and opens with “Number Twelve”, an absolute killer track that again sounds like Hussey’s future work in The Mission.  Following a take on “The Stranger” that sticks pretty close to the studio version, is “Misty Circles” and “Misty Circles Pt 2”, both of which are raw and stripped down and quite different from the disco-ed up version that would appear on Sophisticated Boom Boom.  Closing out the box are three previously unreleased live recordings.  "Gilded Splinters" and "Don't Tell Me" from Rotters Bar in Manchester on February 21, 1982 and "Flowers" from and unknown date and location.  These are audience recordings and are definitely not the best, but they do a great job and showing how good they were live.  I will admit that my knowledge of Dead or Alive prior to their major label days was very minimal, but after listening to Let Them Drag My Soul Away that has definitely changed.  This is an outstanding box that is well worth checking out.  

(Cherry Red Records)

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Interview with The Ritzy Kids

Australia's The Ritzy Kids got their start during the pandemic when Sean Frazer, who had been a solo singer-songwriter for over a decade, decided to pick up the electric guitar and play some punk music.  After initially recording a few tracks with his longtime producer, the project has evolved into a full-fledged four-piece.  Here's a recent interview I had with Sean. 

Can you give me a little background on the band and the band members?

Sure! I sing and play rhythm guitar, Andrew Renfrew is the backing vocalist and lead guitarist, Jarrod is on the bass and Scotty on the tubs. We’re all originally from the Central Coast, Scotty and I were in the same year in High School, Jarrod was a few years below us. Andrew is from the northern end of the coast.

You started the project at the end of 2020, which was right in the middle of the pandemic.  Was that much of a motivating factor in starting the band.  What kind of impact did covid have on things?

The pandemic is the reason for this band really. I feel like the band was born out of boredom. I bought an electric guitar during the first lockdown and started pumping out songs. Then I bought some recording gear. I just sat there for months in lockdown churning out music while trying to figure out how to record it. It was such a fun time and an incredible learning curve.

I listened to some of your solo stuff and really like it, but what I heard is definitely different from what you are doing today in The Ritzy Kids.  What motivated the change in direction?  Do you think you might ever incorporate some of that sound into The Ritzy Kids or even play any of those solo songs?

Thanks! I still love singing and playing the acoustic guitar. Those songs you’ve heard are still very close to my heart. Before The Ritzy Kids, I was a solo performer for over a decade. I love that singer-songwriter style, but I felt an itch to play punk music again and you can’t beat playing in a band with your best mates.

From what I’ve read it sounds like the four songs on the first EP were recorded without the band being in place. Is that correct or did they play on that as well as the new EP?

The first couple of songs were recorded with my longtime producer Mitch Willard. I sent him a few tracks that I'd written from home and helped shape them.

Do you still do all the songwriting or is it more of a group process now?

It’s mostly me but I’m open to collaboration!

“Wide Awake” on the first EP has a bit of a different vibe than the rest of the EP.  It’s slower and a little heavier.  Can you tell me a little about that track?

Yeah, ‘Wide Awake’ is more or less about my inability to keep still. The opening line “Waking up tired without sleep” sums that one up pretty well. Spending all night thinking of ideas and in the morning forgetting whether you got any sleep.

You released the song “High” last year and it’s not on either EP.  It has a touch of a power pop vibe to me that is different than any of your other songs.  Was that why you left it off the new release?

I think that one sits on its own. Although its similar to the other Ritzy Kids songs, sonically it sounds a little different. It's definitely more commercial.

This isn’t a question, but kind of a strange observation on my part.  I really like “Hollywood Famous” and while the song doesn’t remind me of The Police, for some reason the blasting guitar and really prominent bass line at a couple points kept reminding me of them.  Any thoughts on that observation?

[laughs] Well, I haven’t heard that about the song before. I will take it as a compliment though. The bass line in Hollywood is one of my favourite parts in any TRK song. Jarrod and Scotty create a really cool groove in that song.

“Hey Son” is another great song that has what sounds like some deeply personal lyrics.  Can you tell me a little about it?

Yeah, it’s a song about my Dad. We lost him five years ago. At the time I was writing the song, one of my brothers was going through a hard time, we spoke about the regrets and some of the things we didn’t get to do with Dad. I’m not religious at all, but the song is from Dad’s point of view, the things I think he'd like to say to my brother right now and how proud he is of him.

You have quite a few videos out there.  How involved are you in the creation of those?

The Ritzy Kids are the most DIY band of all time! [laughs] We’re doing EVERYTHING. I love videography and playing around with cameras and editing, so all of the videos are created by us. We’ve saved a mint!

Speaking of videos, “Dark Blue Sky” is another great track and has such relatable lyrics for so many people. The video for that song addresses it perfectly but in a humorous way.  The lyrics for the song “Medicine” have a great storyline for what could be another hilarious video.  Do you have any plans for a video for that song?

Funny you should say that. Scotty and I had a brainstorming session at the pub just recently and came up with a concept for the ‘Medicine’ video. We just need to get it into action and hopefully release it soon. It involves a hospital gown and a whole bunch of running.

You recorded a version of “Paradise City” for the Central Coast Mariners soccer team.  What can you tell me about that?

Yeah, we were approached by the club just weeks out from the 2022 season. We were asked to do our own rendition of the song. At first it was a little daunting, but we knocked it up quick smart and sent it off. It’s been incredible hearing that people have heard it down at the stadium, but even more so that we got that opportunity in a year where they WON the comp! I’m not saying we’re the Mariners good luck charm… but…

I also heard a really great acoustic version of Springsteen’s “Dancing In The Dark” that you played for a podcast.  Do you play any of the band songs acoustically and if so, how has that been?

We actually did that for 107.7 Triple M Central Coast. On Fridays they bring in local artists to play an original song and an 80s cover. I’ve always respected "The Boss" and I’ve always loved that song. That was the only time The Ritzy Kids have played acoustically. But we do have a show coming up at Wamberal Surf Club in December where Andrew and I are going to strip it right back and play an hour acoustic set.

Do you have any other covers up your sleeves?  

No not really at this stage.

How is the pop punk scene in Australia?

I think it's much better than it was say 5-6 years ago. The Australian Pop Punk scene really blew up in the late 90s and early noughties. Bands like Frenzal Rhomb, Bodyjar, Grinspoon and even local bands like One Dollar Short, Something With Numbers and Best Kept Secret were all blowing up at the same time. After that explosion I felt it went adrift, but I reckon it's on its way back, bigger than ever. Bands like Luca Bars, Dear Seattle, Sly Withers, Teenage Joans, Stand Atlantic have really put the genre back on the map.

What are your plans now that the new EP is out?

We have an EP release party coming up at the Link and Pin in Woy Woy on Friday, September 22 which we’re pumped for. After that we might go on a tour around the east coast, but nothing is in cement just yet.

You have a podcast called the Street Press Podcast.  Can you tell me about that?

Yep. It’s the highlight of my week! The Street Press is how I continue to learn about the music industry and stay connected to the scene. I started my journalism career interviewing bands and going to see gigs - the podcast allows me to continue this while talking to awesome guests each week. I’ve had the chance to speak to some of my heroes too; Frank Turner, Erik from Millencolin, and Darren from Kisschasy which has been a bonus!

Is there anything else you would like to share with readers?

Yeah, if you enjoy punk rock and a good time, come to a Ritzy Kids show! We make sure it's very inclusive and worth leaving the house for, who knows, you may even be called on stage to drink out of a shoe!

(The Ritzy Kids / The Ritzy Kids - Facebook)


Friday, August 11, 2023

Bangalore Choir - Center Mass

In 1991, not long after a short stint fronting Accept on their album Eat The Heat, David Reece formed the band Bangalore Choir.  While their 1992 album On Target received positive reviews, its release coincided with grunge taking over the music world and the band broke up a short time later.  Over the ensuing years he has had a solo career and also fronted numerous bands.  Bangalore Choir has also popped up a few times over that time with different lineups, releasing Cadence in 2010, Metaphor in 2012 and now Center Mass in 2023.  With a sound largely rooted in eighties and nineties metal, the album has plenty of variety but still manages to be a very cohesive collection of songs.  The album kicks off perfectly with the hard charging “Spirit Rider”, followed with “Back To Life”, a catchy track with just a hint of a funk groove in spots, that’s a throwback to nineties era arena rock.  The epic hair metal power ballad “I Just Wanna Love You” is good for what it’s worth and has a really strong vocal from Reece, but to me is a little dated today.  “Heat Of The Night”, which has a hint of blues and is driven by an extremely infectious guitar riff, and “Wind At My Back” are a couple of really solid, super hooky tracks that both could have been big radio hits back in the melodic rock heyday.  “Blame It On Me” is a nice, laid-back, soulful acoustic cut that is one of the album’s highlights, along with “Back 2 U”, an aggressive hard rocker with a really gritty edge, and the down and dirty “Downtime With The Devil”.  Following “Without You”, another infectious track driven by a very earwormy guitar lick, is the epic “While Bullets Fly”, another classic nineties sounding arena rocker that starts off slow and simple before kicking into full gear about halfway through.  “If The Good Die Young Part 2” is the follow-up to part 1 (although not titled that way then) that was found on their debut album, and unlike that track which was a ballad, part 2 is an edgy, balls to the wall rocker.  Closing thing out is a solid cover of Nazareth’s “Love Hurts” given a faster and heavier take.  Reece’s vocals are outstanding throughout the album and the musicianship is top-notch with plenty of great guitar solos.  The initial pressing of Center Mass also includes an eight song CD recorded live in Hamburg, Germany in 2022.  There aren’t a lot of details about this live set, but seven of the tracks are from the On Target album and the other is “Victim Of The Night”, a song from the band Razormaid that included two original members of Bangalore Choir. The recording is really good and the band sounds great, and it definitely makes a nice addition to the CD.

(Global Rock Records / Cherry Red Records)

Sunday, August 06, 2023

David John & The Mood - Diggin’ For Gold : Joe Meek’s Tea Chest Tapes

David John & The Mood’s Diggin’ For Gold : Joe Meek’s Tea Chest Tapes is one of the latest in an ongoing series of releases from Cherry Red Records, taken from the legendary collection of his tea chest recordings.  During their short time together, this British band only recorded seven tracks, three singles, two of which were produced by Meek, along with an additional song that was previously unreleased.  This CD is basically a complete anthology of their career including dubs of their singles, various alternate versions, backing tracks from the Meek tapes and a songwriter's acetate for their song “Diggin’ For Gold”.  Even though their time as a band was brief and their output was minimal, what they did release was very impressive and had me wishing there was more.  Their debut single was a ragged take on Bo Diddley’s “Pretty Thing”, which is produced by the legendary Shel Talmy and featured Mick Jagger on maracas.  The flipside is “To Catch That Man”, a punchy British Beat / R&B original that they actually credited to W.C. Charnley, which is the name of the street where their administrative office was and “W.C.” for water closet.  Although by no means a bad single, their debut was definitely not as good as what was to come from their work with Meek.  Interestingly, the catalogue number issued to the single by their label Vocalion was V 9220, while V 9221 was given to “Liza Jane”, the debut from Davie Jones with The King Bees (David Bowie), which led many to believe that since the sound and name were similar, and the numbers were back-to-back, that “David John” was actually Bowie.  During a conversation with the band The Puppets, who were being produced by Meek, it was suggested they should also try to work with Meek and after camping out at his door he gave them an audition and they passed.  For their next single they once again went to Bo Diddley, with their take on “Bring It To Jerome”.  Without losing any of the swagger of the original they give it an insanely infectious raw Merseybeat / R&B groove what will have you bopping your head and singing it to yourself for days.  The song is also notable for its unique Meek-influence percussive effect, that was basically a toilet chain dropped into a biscuit tin on the beat, which Meek then layered with echo.  Another band original, “I Love To See You Strut”, again credited to Charnley, was the b-side and is a great upbeat 60’s R&B track with a bit of an early Rolling Stones swagger.  The song for their final single "Diggin' For Gold" was an acetate sent to Meek as a songwriters’ demo that he then gave to the band to learn.  It is a hard-charging R&B rocker with a thumping Peter Gunn like bass, some great guitar work, and piano from Peter Cook (aka Peter London), who regularly played for Meek.  Driven by Cook’s driving boogie woogie piano, “She’s Fine”, the final “Charnley” song, was on the flip and is a rollicking rocker.  In addition to the six single tracks there is a cover of the Bobby Freeman song “That Little Old Heartbreaker Me” that was previously unissued and in their hands is similar to the slow, soulful original but much darker and moodier.  The release is rounded out by alternate versions and backing track versions of most of the songs that were also previously unissued. While for the most part not radically different than the actual releases, and not necessarily something you would listen to over and over, they are very interesting and if you pay attention, you can hear some of Meek’s tinkering, with things like songs being slightly sped up or slowed down.  The final track is the aforementioned songwriters acetate of “Diggin’ For Gold”, which makes for a nice addition to complete the collection.  Also included is a very detailed informative CD booklet detailing the band's history.