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)

No comments: