Weimar – Dancing On A Volcano

Weimar – Dancing On A Volcano

German Shepherd/Marlene’s Hat Records

CD

Out now

12 track debut album by the Manchester-based Art Rock/Post Punk combo Weimar. The band formed in 2016 and have previously released the three singles Joe Doe, Marvel To The State and The Girls Of LA. Ian Canty writes…

I first found out about Weimar through John Armstrong, the band’s bassist and also part of the mighty Speed Of Sound. Most of the other Weimar members keep themselves busy with other projects too, with singer Aidan Cross performing with Black Light Mutants and The Bacillus. Lead guitarist Stephen Sarsen also part of the latter band, as well as Frank Is Dead and Playground. Drummer Anthony “Eddy” Edwards completes the core of Weimar, with them being joined on this LP by multi-instrumentalist Johann Kloos (The Sandells).

Any thoughts that this plethora of outside involvements may give Dancing On A Volcano in any way the feel of something part time are quickly laid to rest. After the brief drum pattern of Prelude, we’re into the album proper with Soho Rain. This is where a reflective sound of guitar and the restrained vocal stylings Aidan Cross combine to make for a brooding atmosphere and the twisted but memorable story of a drug pusher in London emerges as the tension is smartly ramped up. Guest artist Finola’s sax kicks in towards the end of the piece to endow a further layer of melancholy and regret.

It’s an impressive, unique start that continues with The Sociopath, which sets out in an almost music-theatre fashion. The flood of words, exotic brass inflections and jangle of the guitar all guide the listener along, while they are no doubt trying to piece together exactly what is going on in the sound and words overload.

Next comes I Smashed The Looking Glass, which is more orthodox in structure but no less pleasing, making for an accessible, catchy as hell piece of odd Pop Music. You can hear the band’s Manchester Post Punk roots show through here, but the end result is never anything other than just Weimar themselves in approach and application and it is hugely enjoyable too.

It ends with a fast Punk coda and then comes the busy acoustics of The Hangers-On, the tale of the addiction to stardom that weighs heavy in 2022. Some considered and economic bass playing and drums play a great role on what is again a very different but accessible piece. The following track Arandora Star starts with a dusty Country/Blues inclination that hovers in the air, until the rhythm section snaps into action in the stamping refrain. Weimar sometimes employ a kind of woozy intensity on Dancing On A Volcano that has a lot happening at once for one to process, but they never do it at the expense of a good tune.

The thread of Polished Decay is old Punk and Biker city centre hangouts being redeveloped into glass and steel nightmares in the 21st century. It’s the story of history being buried under modern architecture’s repetitive quirks, with the upshot that everywhere starts to look exactly the same. Blues guitar and saxophone spin in and out, giving it a touch of Jazz weirdness that is allied to the unstoppable momentum of the beat. Slowing things down comes the mysterious meditative crawl of Hunter’s Moon, where it appears that something very strange is stowed in the protagonist’s suitcase.

A rumble of drums heralds Faded Queen Of The Night, a warped folk tune that details the “self-acclaimed glory” of the subject and Nights In Spanish Harlem cannily juxtaposes the R&B relentlessness in the rhythm to clarinet bursts and Cross’s vocal drawl. Heaven On High Street East’s sparseness provides the canvas for a picture of domestic life that is slowly disintegrating, while all the time attempting to pretend things are going swimmingly on social media.

The lyric really rings true as a picture of the emptiness of life in the 21st century and to round things off there’s a well-judged and unexpected guitar solo on this one too, plus a great big hook at the end. We then come to set closer The Tatterdemalions. This features Prelude’s drums as an intro and the sound of the old (Folk) and New (Post Punk) colliding head-on, which makes for a fitting end-piece.

In Dancing On A Volcano Weimar have delivered a record of true depth, sharp imagination and shot through with innovation. Here they put forward their own, sometimes bizarre, sometimes cutting but always clearly drawn world for the listener to explore and do so with a musical dexterity that is enviable. Dancing On A Volcano, in short, offers you a real experience that is both rare and precious.

You can secure a copy of Dancing On A Volcano here

Click here for Weimar’s website and here for their Facebook page</strong>

Slave, Steve Arrington & Aurra – The Definitive Collection

Slave, Steve Arrington & Aurra – The Definitive Collection

Robinsongs

3CD/DL

Released 12 August 2022

A 3CD compilation of Dayton, Ohio Funk outfit Slave’s finest that features the work of two of their off-shoots in addition. This means the set includes band member Steve Arrington’s two big solo UK hits that date from 1985. Ian Canty writes

From the fertile Funk breeding ground of Dayton Ohio, that also spawned The Ohio Players and Zapp among others, came Slave in the the middle of the 1970s. At first they were just an idea of the duo of trumpeter Steve Washington and Floyd Miller, but rapidly their ranks swelled as the band became a reality. The brass section was fleshed out with the addition of saxophonists Tom Lockett Jr and Orion “Bimmy” Wilhoite and singing drummer Tim Dozier enlisted too, with lithe-fingered bass playing ace Mark Adams joining him in the rhythm section. Guitarists Danny Webster and Mark Hicks, plus Carter Bradley on keys completed the initial Slave line up.

After a protracted period of rehearsal, Slave hit the Dayton live scene and cut a demo which found its way to Jeff Dixon, a radio programmer at the WNJR station. He was impressed by the demo and invited the band to record an album of material to shop around the record companies for a deal. Dixon was appointed the group’s producer and manager and in due course Cotillion offered them a recording contract. The Dixon tape underwent a remix and was then issued by the label as Slave’s self-titled debut album in early 1977.

The band were almost an instant success on signing for the Cotillion, with the Slide single making the US Top Forty and topping the R&B charts. It would remain their biggest hit. Benefiting from the single’s chart performance, the album was likewise a bit of a triumph, making number 22 in the US national listings. The first five tracks on The Definitive Collection are drawn from this debut long player. The LP version of Slide, with its extended Heavy Rock style guitar riffing, humourous feel and bass-driven, cool energy, is a real crazy Funk monster that kicks things off in style and its flipside/continuation Son Of Slide also is presented here.

Screw Your Wig On Tite keeps the fresh Funk coming with some very effective vocals and the supercharged R&B of Party Hardy benefits from Adams’ always fluid bass playing. You And Me is an upbeat number/jam and Separated ends the selections from Slave the album with another street-level and sassy Funk goodie. This early flush of success for Slave’s first records would be a milestone around their necks, as it proved a difficult act to follow. The next album The Hardness Of The World came out at the end of the same year, but sales and acclaim were hard to come by. Life Can Be Happy begins the items from this record included here, a good Soul/Pop song with a touch of Proto-Electrofunk and guitar pyrotechnics thrown in for good measure.

The Great American Funk Song is an intriguing confection and underlines the self-aware humour that ran deep in Slave’s work, with the repetition in the vocals representing something of a parody. Baby Sinister has a similar punning title and is an inventive instrumental dance groove which sadly failed as a single. It was outstripped commercially by The Party Song, even though that only made the lower reaches of the Hot 150. The latter was pretty much a re-working of Slide with more of a Jazz emphasis, but didn’t repeat its inspiration’s success.

Third album The Concept found Dozier replaced by one Steve Arrington. This was a pivotal moment for Slave, one that would herald a change in the band’s approach. Starlena Young also came in at around the same on vocals. A vocoder-vocalled Stellar Fungk was the album’s single and a US R&B chart hit. It found Slave delving deep into electronic sounds and the salsa-influenced drum patterns Arrington had brought with him, something the largely percussive Thank You Lord makes explicit.

The funky Drac Is Back referenced Slide and is an expansive dance item with plenty of the six string showing off that was a Slave trademark. The final two tracks on this disc come from 1979’s Just A Touch Of Love, where Arrington graduated to becoming the group’s main lead singer. The buzzing bass of title track finds the band presenting us with a lighter Disco tune, imbued with some well-judged female backing vocals. As a single it made a slight impact on the UK charts, Slave’s only showing here. Are You Ready For Love? has real energy and a good back and forth between the female and male voices, something that was developing nicely in Slave.

Over on disc two there are more numbers from Just A Touch Of Love. Funky Lady (Foxy Lady) saw release as a single and wasn’t too successful. But is a good Funk Pop effort with a dollop of slap bass thrills and the uplifting vocals make it a fairly appetising sound and the moody Shine is endowed with a freewheeling élan.

If the last two albums represented a step backward in terms of chart performance and critical reception, the next long player Stone Jam would mark an upturn in Slave’s fortunes. It was genuinely the sound of a band renewed and they were as a result awarded a gold disc in the US. That five tracks from it are included here shows its importance in Slave’s history.

An easy-going, sunny drive to Feel My Love shows Slave at their most accessible, which makes its failure as a single slight baffling. If Sizzlin’ Hot was also not a big hit, it is no reflection on the quality of its excellent groove, given power by Adams’ elastic bass and some nifty percussion work. The clubbing rhythm and catchy hook of Watching You was the final 45 extracted from the LP and deservedly reached number six on the R&B charts. A very Funky Never Get Away and the uplifting title track are also present.

1981’s Show Time followed up on its predecessor’s success, but would be the last Slave album with Steve Arrington. He formed his own band Hall Of Fame and later had solo hit singles in the UK. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Three Show Time numbers turn up on disc two, with Party Lites making the tail end of the third disc. Snap Shot was the first 45 from the album and it is a delightfully out together, if perhaps a bit too meandering for the Pop fans to pick up on. Wait For Me picks up the same rhythm, but the bass-heavy Jazz/Funk of Steal Your Heart shows more promise.

Back in 1980 the Slave splinter group Aurra put out their first records. They were originally a wheeze of Washington, who recruited singers Young and Curt Jones, the latter joining Slave a while back in one of their many line up reshuffles. Aurra issued a self-titled album and a 45 in When I Come Home in 1980. Though the latter is not included here, the next three Aurra single A sides are. This trio made sizeable dents on the US Dance and R&B charts, with Make Up Your Mind selling the best as it also made a minor showing in the mainstream Pop listings.

Aurra’s sound wasn’t radically different from Slave, but these singles all combined firm Pop/Dance appeal with R&B/Funk toughness. In The Mood To Groove finds the singers’ voices mixing perfectly and on Are You Single Young takes the lead vocal spot and makes it her own. But the very catchy Make Up Your Mind made the biggest impact of the trio.

The first post-Arrington Slave album was Visions of the Lite, which first saw the light of day in 1982. Two offerings from it are included on disc two. Intro (Come To Blow Ya Mind) breaks through with a real show of confidence and an Electrofunk pearl in I’ll Be Gone finishes off disc two.

More Aurra recordings open up the final disc of The Definitive Collection. 1982’s Checking You Out and Such A Feeling are both perfectly acceptable Pop/Soul singles, even if they didn’t quite measure up to Making Up Your Mind’s impact. Later on this disc we have the big UK hit duet You And Me Tonight, which reached as high as number twelve on the charts in Blighty during 1986.

We also have a trio of tracks from the penultimate Slave album mined here Bad Enuff. A down and dirty Steppin’ Out shows the band still able to spin out suggestive Funk at will and Turn You Out (In & Out) shows they could rival Aurra in the production of slick, catchy dance music too. Final Bad Enuff effort Shake It Up is restrained and commercial with a decidedly 1980s production feel.

Steve Arrington had been busy since his split with Slave. A 2006 remastering of a rather leaden effort You Meet My Approval comes first and the lighter and more agreeable Weak At The Knees, a single by his Hall Of Fame aggregation, follows. The flowing, likeable Feel So Real made the Top Five in the UK and a rhythmic Dancin’ In The Key Of Life very nearly repeated the trick. Actually it was a bigger hit in the US, doing very well in the Dance and R&B charts, while reaching number 21 here.

1984’s New Plateau found Slave exploring Electrofunk. Album track Jungle Dance is pretty neat and benefits from a tight and original rhythmic structure and the Ooohh single, which nearly cracked the R&B Top Forty, shows a band moving with the times to produce something of worth. Finally on this disc we have the very cool Party Lites and another 2006 remaster in Everybody Slide, where Slave standbys like guitar heroics, rubber basslines, witty touches and great vocals combine effortlessly. Though this compilation ends here, Slave kept recording regularly right through the late 1980s and early 1990s. But after a run of unsuccessful albums ending with 1995’s Masters of the Fungk, they split up.

Slave might not have made much of an impact in the UK, but they were a big noise in their homeland and yet more proof of how massive Funk was in the USA during the 1970s and 1980s. There’s plenty to enjoy here for anyone who likes a good dance number and the Aurra and Steve Arrington tunes flesh out the story well. The one thing this lacks is the kind of creamy ballads most bands like them indulged in from time to time. However, as more a fan of upbeat Funk this isn’t a big deal for me to be honest and it just proves how committed to it Slave were. In conclusion The Definitive Collection is a good Slave starter pack.

You can cop yourself the Slave, Steve Arrington Aurra The Definitive Collection here

Various Artists – Catch-A-Fire: Treasure Isle Ska (1963-1965)

Various Artists – Catch-A-Fire: Treasure Isle Ska (1963-1965)

Doctor Bird

2CD/DL

Released 12 August 2022

47 track collection taken from the Treasure Isle archive of Ska recordings cut during the years 1963 to 1965. Included are contributions from the likes of Stranger Cole, Eric “Monty” Morris and Tommy McCook. Ian Canty writes

By the time that the music on Catch-A-Fire was recorded, Duke Reid had gone from making his first steps into music in the 1950s as an ex-Police officer with a sound system playing Rhythm & Blues records imported from the US, to being one of the two most successful producers in Jamaica. His recording set up was now employed in pumping out the hits in the exciting, breakneck style of Ska, JA’s first Pop indigenous music. Possessing his own studio facility at the Treasure Isle store at 33 Bond Street Kingston meant he could crank out these quality items at a fearsome rate.

Catch-A-Fire is very much a companion piece to the recent Ska-La-Rama set (reviewed here). It delves back a few years further for its material, but there is a continuity as a similar brand of Jazz and Blues-influenced Ska is utilised. The reason for this was probably that the style enjoyed a great run of success until 1967 – so the principle of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” was applied.

Trumpeter and band leader Baba Brooks was key to Duke Reid’s and Treasure Isle’s operations at the time, providing backing for many artists and also cutting his own material. He and his band start Catch-A-Fire with the very danceable instrumental Donkey City Part 1. Baba’s Country Town hurtles along and the exotic sound of Melody Jamboree uses a gentle Ska tempo as the structure for some extensive brass riffing. Jelly Bean is another sharp rhythm that provided a structure so Baba could float with his trumpet above and a very jolly Boat Ride provides a dose of enchanting fun. This first CD ends with the second part of Donkey City.

Stranger Cole was one of Reid’s big stars of Ska and his recordings pepper this set. His third single/calling card Stranger At The Door showcases his confident vocal style and he pairs up with a young Ken Boothe for a gospel-influenced We Are Rolling aka East And West. Conqueror was another of Cole’s great offerings, a good demonstration of his wonderfully unhurried delivery. Lloyd Brevett and Tommy McCook join Stranger to add their instrumental guile to the love song with a hint of R&B and Mento Millie Maw, plus a mournful Nothing Tried and Out Of Many. The smooth and wryly performed Oh How I Need You and a cheeky Little Boy Blue close out Stranger’s contributions to disc one.

The taste for R&B tunes was still strong in Jamaican music despite Ska’s ascendance to the top and indeed Dotty (Reid) & Bonnie’s (Frankson) slowies Loving You Always and Darling When are pretty much straightforward examples of the genre. Their Summer Dry is more of a good Ska duet, even if their Your Kisses goes back to the Blues.

Saxophonist Tommy McCook hooks up with the Baba Brooks Band for some cool blowing on Spider and the title of fellow Skatalite Don Drummond’s JFK’s Memory demonstrates Ska’s quickfire responses to the issues of the day, something that would continue on through Rocksteady and Reggae. The substantially less well-known artists The Melody Enchanters released four singles in the Ska era, of which Enchanted Ball/Sailor Boy in 1964 on Duke Reid’s Duchess imprint was the last. Both sides are here, with the dual vocal attack of Enchanted Ball suggesting the band consisted of a pair of singers. Other than that, information on them is scant to non-existant.

Look Before You Leap by Glen Adams is a fine Ska parable and Words Of Wisdom by Eric Monty Morris find him dipping into the milieu as Rivers Of Babylon for lyrical inspiration. It also offers the salient advice that one should “keep your nose out of people’s business”.

On disc two of Catch-A-Fire we first encounter the warm sound of the title track by Baba Brooks. We catch up with many of the contributors to disc one again here and a few fresh names crop up too. Eric Morris returns with mid-paced and poised Mama No Fret and later posts a steady rhythm in Drop Your Sword and the easy charm of What A Man Doeth too. Stranger Cole reappears in duet with Patsy Dodd on a fast-paced Tom Dick And Harry and Miss B, where some sax from Tommy McCook plays a crucial role. Tommy also has his own fine offering My Business (though credited to Reid) on this disc and features strongly on The Skatalites’ groovy Around The World.

Stranger shows up solo with a touching He Who Feels It Knows It and Cherry May, where good vibes dominate and he’s in his element interpreting the emotion of the lyric in straight and then self-parodying comic ways. Corner Stone by Don Drummond is pretty much an instrumental Ska classic, with his Cool Smoke being a thick brew powered by that big band R&B/Jazz mixed with Ska sound, just ripe to work his trombone magic on.

Owen and Leon Silveras are featured with their big hit Fits Is On Me, which is a bundle of good-natured fun. Their second helping My Love For You though is pure R&B. Chuck Josephs and Joe White team up with the Brooks Band for the Proto-Rocksteady of Punch You Down and Bongo Man (Delroy) Byfield, who also recorded as King Rasta, is represented by his theme tune. Bongo Man is really a version of Sam Cooke’s Wonderful World, recast with plenty of bongo references. Gloria And The Dreamlets are another unknown quantity, but their Stay Where You Are is bursting full of life, a true rare jewel.

There is an outside chance that The Melodites, who sing a brassy winner in Vacation here, are the same outfit who released Travelling Home on the Calmac label in 1976, but the liner note puts forward the alternative notion that they may have been The Melody Enchanters from disc one under another moniker. A much bigger name in the form of Derrick Morgan puts in an appearance with the brisk and business-like Let Me Go and also is paired with Naomi Phillips for the rapidly-paced set closer Two Of A Kind.

It almost goes without saying is you will need to have an appreciation of old style Ska to get the best out of Catch-A-Fire. If so, you will have a whale of a time here. Apart from a few of the Dotty & Bonnie duets that were not really to my taste, it is pretty much wall to wall dancefloor-orientated greatness. Duke Reid had moved through the Ska era to a position of near-unchallengeable prominence and this collection shows him and his roster of top artists at their early to mid-1960s best.

Pick up a copy of Catch-A-Fire: Treasure Isle Ska (1963-1965) here

The Foundations – Am I Groovin’ You: The Pye Anthology

The Foundations – Am I Groovin’ You: The Pye Anthology

Strawberry Records

3CD/DL

Released 12 August 2022

3CD compilation sourced from Soul/Pop band The Foundations’ fruitful stint on Pye Records, including their three albums issued in the late 1960s and the big hits Baby Now That I’ve Found You and Build Me Up Buttercup. Ian Canty writes…

The Foundations’ rousing 1960s recordings are mainly forgotten these days, bar possibly their big hit singles Build Me Up Buttercup and possibly Baby Now That I’ve Found You. But in the later years of that swinging decade, they represented just the type of expertly-crafted, feelgood Soul/Pop that was danceable while at the same time chiming in with the zeitgeist. The band had a large, mixed race membership, something that arguably had an echo ten years on in Two Tone with The Specials and The Selecter. Sporting their own brand of good-time bonhomie, they provide a shot of highly enjoyable and infectious fun.

The band came together in London during 1965 as The Ramong Sound, headed up by singers Ray Morrison and Clem Curtis. Their cosmopolitan line up also included on keys Tony Gomez from Sri Lanka and a brass section that included two Jamaicans Pat Burke and Mike Elliott plus Dominican Eric Allandale on trombone. A British rhythm section of Pete Macbeth and Tim Harris, with another local in guitarist Alan Warner, completed the line up. Morrison left early on, which necessitated the name change to The Foundations in 1967. After Arthur Brown briefly figured as his replacement, Curtis became the newly rechristened outfit’s focal point.

A scary scrape with the criminal underworld resulted into the band moving their HQ from the Butterfly Club to an office a few floors above the venue. This, in turn, led to them being heard by Barry Class and Ron Fairway and the pair became The Foundations’ management team.

Through Ron they were introduced to Tony Macaulay, who was an A&R man at Pye and part of songwriting team with John MacLeod. Thus in one stroke The Foundations gained a record contract and a source of material. The latter was important, as they were that a band heavily reliant on Soul/R&B standards in their live set. A lesson in stagecraft gained by witnessing a performance from Edwin Starr helped the band to make their gigs become real events and soon they were ready to record their debut single for Pye, the Macaulay/MacLeod number Baby Now That I’ve Found You. This record took its time making an impact but was eventually a big success, charting high up in both the UK and US listings. An album was swiftly put together as a result.

The first disc of Am I Groovin’ You has that first album From The Foundations in mono and stereo mixes that sandwich six bonus items. Baby Now I’ve Found You gives the LP a flying start and although there are a few times when in classic 1960s fashion the single formula is adhered to, the overall effect is a blast of pure Pop sunshine. I Can Take Or Leave Your Loving wavers slightly during the verses, but the chorus pulls its through and a charming Hold Me Just A Little While Longer comes off as a graceful, stately 1960s Pop gem.

The raw R&B in the DNA of The Foundations helped swell the record to long playing length with versions of Joe Phelps’ cynical Love Is A Five Letter Word, Jerkin’ The Dog which was originally cut by The Mighty Hannibals and Joe Tex’s Show Me. Tony Hatch’s Call Me chant works rather well on the album and of the other Macaulay/MacLeod efforts, an elegant The Writings On The Wall is fine and Mr Personality Man hits the mark midway between The Kinks’ cutting character studies and tripped-out Soul Pop. It’s probably my imagination, but to my ears the stereo mix sounded just a touch more powerful.

The bonuses on this disc ensue with Back On My Feet Again, a smooth Macaulay/MacLeod tune that saw the band return to in the UK Top Twenty powered by a really smart keyboard and vocal combination. Then comes comparative failure Any Old Time (You’re Lonely And Sad), which barely charted. It is interesting in that Eric Allendale wrote the B side (We Are) Happy People, The Foundations first self-penned release and it’s a good one too.

Curtis had left by this time, seemingly unsettled by the Pop direction the band had taken and the troubles inherent with overnight fame. His replacement Colin Young was on hand to debut with Build Me Up Buttercup, the Mike D’Abo (Manfred Mann) and Tony Macauley’s composition that had massive hit written all over it. The single would restore them to the upper reaches of the both UK and US listings. Group-penned flip A New Direction had a title that seemed to say it all. With a dramatic, stepping rhythm, it is prime Soul vibes meeting Prog dramatics head on.

Prior to Curtis decamping, the band were caught in their element on stage. The 12 track Rocking With The Foundations LP emerged in 1968 and forms the first part of the third disc of this set. The record begins with a lively groove in Love Is Alright (The Horse) and like most live recordings it sounds like it has had a bit of studio refinement applied to it after the fact. Nevertheless you can tell The Foundations were cooking on the two dates in the North West the performances were taken from. Some nifty keys and brass feature in People Are Funny’s knockout punch and cool instrumental Comin’ Home Baby slows the hectic pace down nicely.

A plaintive Tomorrow follows and Barry/Russell’s Am I Groovin’ You, the title track of this boxset, finds Curtis in great voice and The Foundations stylish in accompaniment. The second half of the LP ensues with good versions of the two singles Back On My Feet Again and Any Old Time (You’re Lonely And Sad), but surprisingly Baby, Now That I’ve Found You isn’t present.

An odd version of The Look Of Love doesn’t seem a great fit for the band on the face of it. But the meandering, flute-led instrumental take of the Bacharach and David tune did give the audience respite from full-on Soul grooves and as the band hurtle into Edwin Starr’s Stop Her On Sight (S.O.S), they were probably glad of the rest. Allandale’s (We Are) Happy People seems like The Foundations’ manifesto and on the whole Rocking The Foundations does an excellent job of representing the band in the live context where they were most at home. A live version of Garage Punk standby 96 Tears with horns to the front from a French EP in 1967 crops up as a bonus.

If we go back to the start of disc two we have three offerings taken from the self-titled Marble Arch compilation that was released in 1969. These are high quality studio takes of the songs Am I Groovin’ You, Bob & Earl’s Harlem Shuffle and Tomorrow that featured in live form on Rocking With The Foundations, but the versions here arguably top them. They’re red-hot, tense and emotional renderings. Also coming from the same album is the Colin Young-voiced version of Baby Now That I’ve Found You, which crops up later on this disc.

After Give Me Love, a spirited flipside of the group’s last big UK hit In The Bad Bad Old Days (Before You Loved Me), we move onto the the main course here. Which is The Foundations’ second album proper, 1969’s Digging The Foundations. My Little Chickadee, the MacLeod/Macaulay number that paid a very brief visit to the Hot 100 in the US as a single, kicks off this long player and is followed by a testifying ‘Till Night Brought Day. The album was apparently recorded quickly between live dates, but still sounds pretty good. Young’s reflective A Penny, Sir, a funky I Can Feel It and Solomon Grundy both written by Allandale, plus Burke’s R&B instrumental A Walk Through The Trees demonstrate that the band had some in-built tunesmith skills in development.

The Foundations also finally cut Let The Heartaches Begin here, which was pitched to them by Macaulay at the same time as Baby, Now That I’ve Found You. The M and M team also provide the jaunty Pop of Take Away The Emptiness Too and That Same Old Feeling. The last section on this disc rounds up the remaining single sides, starting off with their final UK charting 45 Born to Live, Born to Die. It’s a shame that when The Foundations were at last permitted to write their own material, the record buying public turned their backs, because this was a very good single and it also sported a nifty flip in Tony Gomez’s Why Did You Cry.

An upbeat Baby, I Couldn’t See was the first record by The Foundations to miss the charts entirely, which isn’t a reflection of its good-natured brio. Take A Girl Like You, a Martin/Coulter number, followed. This was the theme to a film of the same name directed by Jonathan Miller, but that couldn’t help it do anything other than flounder as a single. This disc ends with three band originals, with the best for me being Young’s hard-edged I’m Gonna Be A Rich Man, though the lengthy Prog-Soul of Who Am I isn’t at all bad either. On the back of this run of flops though, the band split up.

Picking up the final disc again after the live LP mentioned above, we have Where The Fire Burns, which starts with a lengthy instrumental intro and stereo mixes of Build Be Up Buttercup, Back On My Feet Again and Any Old Time. Though these are good to have, next comes a more interesting section consisting of some of Clem Curtis’ solo work. A smart guitar sound heads up the intro to an impressive and catchy Mountain Over The Hill and if Time Alone Will Tell borders middle of the road, a thoroughly convincing I’ve Never Found A Girl (To Love Me Like You Do) stills any doubts.

Point Of No Return is good too, though a version of Stand By My Man is a bit of a curveball. The final two items on Am I Groovin’ You come from when Colin Young reactivated the group’s name as The New Foundations in 1975 for a 45 on Pye of two self-penned songs Something For My Baby and I Need Your Love. It’s a decent single with both tunes having a bit of the then-fashionable Philly sound about them, even if it is perhaps not truly The Foundations.

For a brief moment The Foundations were the kings of Soul Pop and listening to this collection quite rightly so. Even now, so many years on, these tunes really put a spring in my step and made me feel good. Which might seem like a small thing, but it is actually very important. Music that improves the mood must be valued highly and Am I Groovin’ You supplies us with oodles of items that are full of grace and charm. The albums all have their highpoints and there’s more than a few enticing curios aboard this set too. The Foundations burst through in The Summer Of Love and through the force of their uplifting spirit and talent made a real mark which shines on down the years.

You can catch up with the high Pye times of The Foundations by securing a copy of Am I Groovin’ You here

Various Artists – Reggae Masterpiece

Various Artists – Reggae Masterpiece

Doctor Bird

2CD/DL

Released 12 August 2022

Reissue of the classic Roots Reggae compilation from 1976, consisting of ten efforts drawn from the productions of Joe Gibbs and Errol Thompson. Also included are fourteen bonus tracks overseen by The Mighty Two, taken from the same timeframe. Ian Canty writes

1976 may have been the year of Punk in the UK, but it was also when Roots Reggae was at its height in Jamaica. Joe Gibbs was also in his element at around the same time, having built up a run of success after founding his Amalgamated label during the Rocksteady era. He had ridden every fresh wave in the Kingston music scene and, with the coming of the heavy Rasta-influenced Roots style and studio whizz Errol “E.T.” Thompson in his corner, Joe was all set to maintain his reputation as one of the producers at the very top of the class.

The Roots sound was powered by the Rastafarian faith that had took hold with many of the singers and players on the Kingston music scene. It also looked back to the cool tempi of Rocksteady and Folk’s storytelling songcraft for inspiration, welding that all together with state of the art Dub techniques. This Reggae Masterpiece LP found The Mighty Two i.e. Gibbs and Thompson working with some of big names, along with a few more obscure artists. The album is not by any means all Roots Reggae, as there is a balance applied between the tougher sounds and offerings that are somewhat lighter in message and performance.

Inner Circle singer Jacob Miller’s I’m A Natty opened the LP, actually cut to a Lee Perry rhythm for the song Soul Rebel that was originally recorded by Bob Marley And The Wailers. Odd electro squelches and synth washes have been added to update the backing, but all thoughts of who did what are put to one side as Miller’s cool vocal reads the song perfectly. Beverley Bailey’s 1975 single I Was In Love follows and seems like Proto-Lovers Rock. This is a thoroughly assured performance which makes one wonder quite why this appears to be her sole recording, with The Abyssinians’ 1972 dread classic Satta Amassa Gana providing the source material.

Horace Andy made his breakthrough in the 1960s, but truly came to prominence in the next decade. His Slave Drivers took its thrust direct from the Rasta faith and set it in an attractive, accessible context. At the other end of the scale, the multi-talented Lloyd Parks offers a cool version of The Temptations’ Ain’t Too Proud To Beg and he also dips into the Isley Brothers’ songbook later with For The Love Of You. After that reggae pop diversion we’re back to pure Roots with Sylford Walker’s Burn Babylon and No Man’s Land By Cornel Campbell. They both provide vital bulletins from the front line of Jamaica’s 1975 unrest and are damned listenable to boot.

David Scott, better known in musical circles as Scotty, pioneered the “singjay” style, but he doesn’t really employ it here on an update of Rocksteady totem Heptones Gonna Fight. Retitled We’re Gonna Fight, he actually does a great job singing sweetly on an appealing waxing. Am I That Easy To Forget seems an odd choice for a spot on Reggae Masterpiece, as the song was a MOR favourite penned back in 1958. Jimmy London performs the version here and it is very much in the “stringed-up” production style that was all over Reggae records hoping for the Pop charts back in 1970. As a result, it sounds a tad dated in this company.

Harry Hawks’ generally excellent liner notes don’t pin down exactly whether or not the Lone Ranger featured here on final track of the LP It Won’t Be Long is the famed DJ otherwise known as Anthony Waldron. As the set credits what is a good, rhythmic song to Waldron, we’ll have to take it at face value. In summary the Reggae Masterpiece album is a bit of an odd mixture of tough Rasta offerings seasoned with very Pop-orientated numbers, but the good stuff included is of high quality.

The bonus tracks added to this collection start with I Roy’s Knotty Knots, the very fun DJ cut of Jacob Miller’s I’m A Natty. Roy Samuel Reid, to give his full name, is really the star of these bonuses, featuring four times. He also gives us Fire Burn, cut over a Soul Vendors dub-wise rhythm and its flipside Sufferer’s Psalm ends this collection. His News Carrier takes the template of Leo Graham’s A Win Them (see below) and delivers a classy talk-over version.

The Cool Ruler himself Gregory Issacs comes next with a fine The End Of The World, set down on one of his rare visits to Joe Gibbs’ set-up. The song I Will actually dated from the early 1960s, despite its militant rhythm pattern. Jackie Brown uses the dog-eared material to put on a masterclass of romantic Reggae that perhaps isn’t really Roots but is very enjoyable. He just about works a similar trick with the even older Send Me The Pillow (You Dream On) later on. Shorty The President follows this one up with Big Man Bad, an impassioned DJ take.

Wally & Snuffy’s sole record was Dreader Mafia, originally released in 1975 on the Belmont imprint. A spoken word back and forth acts as a prelude to a nicely echo-laden DJ effort. Earth & Stone, actually a duo of Cliff Howell and Albert Bailey, for some reason went under the pseudonym John Toms for the organ-heavy and smart Natty Roots. The aforementioned A Win Them by The Bleechers’ vocalist Leo Graham has a delightfully rough sound, a great boast of a record. Later he is featured again with the energetic Not Giving Up, which sounds like it could have come out at the height of Boss Reggae. Which isn’t a criticism, because it is one of the best tracks on the set.

The Fantels, aka Leon Brown and Hal Lewinson, issued a slew of singles during the late 1970s and early 1980s. But their debut waxing Hooligan that is featured here is arguably their best, with the pair’s dual vocals working very well. Finishing up with have Gibbs’ bouncer Eno McLeod with a soulful and catchy I’ve Made Up My Mind and I Roy’s excellent DJ effort Sufferer’s Pain.

Overall this is a good set that highlight both the Roots and Pop sides of 1970s Reggae well. Gibbs and Thompson were at the height of their powers and had adapted to the Roots sound well. Their productions skills were well established by this time and with their backing musicians always right on the money, the artists had more than a good chance of coming up with something of worth. As Gibbs and Thompson could draw on singers of the calibre Miller, Andy, Graham and I Roy, success was more or less ensured.

Get Reggae Masterpiece here

Living Daylights – Let’s Live For Today: The Complete Recordings

Living Daylights – Let’s Live For Today: The Complete Recordings

Grapefruit Records

CD/DL

Released 12 August 2022

Mono and stereo version of Living Daylights’ previously unissued 1967 album, plus single sides. The band are best known for the title track, which was featured on The Psychedelic Snarl compilation LP. They were led by the Watt-Roy brothers Garth and Norman, with the latter going onto fame in the late 1970s with Ian Dury And The Blockheads. Ian Canty writes…

Coming straight out of Harlow a good ten years before Punk heroes The Newtown Neurotics, Living Daylights’ story centres around the two Watt-Roy brothers Garth and Norman, who arrived in the UK from India as children in 1954. First stop for the family was in North London, but they had moved to the new town of Harlow by the time the siblings had become interested in playing music. Older brother Garth opted for the guitar and Norman the bass, with the latter joining Garth’s already formed band The Guyatones after their novice bass player quit and left Norman his gear to use.

The Guyatones, with drummer Ron Prudence making up the trio, managed to carve out a decent reputation on the local Beat scene. After making a good showing but ultimately losing out in the 1965 Herts & Essex Beat Group Contest, they found themselves back on the Harlow circuit. The main band there were The Naturals, who had actually released records, but by the middle of 1965 that band had fizzled out. The Guyatones were also coming to an end, so Garth, Norman and Ron were joined by Naturals Dougie Ellis and frontman Bob O’Neale in a new outfit called Living Daylights.

Things moved quickly for this hybrid aggregation. They were signed to Dick James’ production company and sent to the studio with Caleb Quaye to record the debut Living Daylights single Let’s Live For Today, which was issued by the Phillips label. The song was originally penned by The Rokes, a band that was formed in Italy by British musicians. They had much success in their adopted home during the mid-1960s, being “Beat Johnnies” on the spot.

Let’s Live For Today was written originally as Piangi Con Me and Dick James had acquired the rights to the song. He got Michael Julien to tweak the lyric and subsequently Living Daylights released their version in April 1967. The Rokes got wind of the wheeze and quickly stuck out their own take of Let’s Live For Today in the UK. Having two singles to choose from for this song may have stymied any hope for British chart potential and although the song showed up in the Radio London Fab Forty, it never made the national listings. Further afield in the US they were gazumped by homegrown act The Grass Roots, who with their cut of the song reached the Billboard Top Ten.

Even so, somewhere along the line Living Daylights were given the green light to record for an album. This was probably around the time just before Let’s Live For Today was issued, with the Dick James mob sure of the single’s hit potential. A couple of tunes Cos I’m Lonely and Jane were released with the first single sides as an EP on the continent and a second 45 Baila Maria/Always With Him emerged on Phillips in October 1967. Sadly neither made any headway and Living Daylights barely made it into 1968 before splitting up. The Guyatones threesome stayed together to form The Greatest Show On Earth, where they gradually moved towards a Prog Rock sound. The Living Daylights album has remained unreleased, until now.

Grapefruit have pieced together an eleven song LP using the previously released single tracks, plus six unissued items recorded in mid-1967. It is presented in both mono and stereo mixes, with Let’s Live For Today’s B side It’s Real (aka I’m Real) being left off the stereo album. Finally there are US and Japanese edits of Let’s Live For Today and second single Baila Maria as bonuses.

All this gives the listener a fair idea of how Living Daylights must have sounded back in the Summer Of Love. Let’s Live For Today itself is more a haunting Beat Pop tune with some fashionable Psychedelic touches performed with vim than anything else, but it is jolly good. The flipside, an energetic It’s Real, shows the band’s abilities in the field of original material. Cos I’m Lonely from the EP again shows LD deftly marrying their Beat roots to something more spicy with drama and real skill, even if the sound quality is down a notch from the single tracks.

The feedback-enhanced Up So High is more obviously Psychedelic in form and a real goodie. A fuzzy version of Denny Laine’s Say You Don’t Mind, also new to release, is okay, but Watt-Roy’s ringing Psych Pop number Jane shapes up as a real winner. It is a bit of shame after such a good self-penned cut that we have three covers in a row. What’cha Gonna Do About It isn’t the same song The Small Faces made famous, rather a soulful Doris Troy tune and in Living Daylights’ hands it turns out pretty good. But the two Beatles covers Getting Better and I’ll Be Back, their inclusion seeming to be a result of them being published by Dick James, didn’t do too much for me.

Thankfully the album ends with two strong Watt-Roy songs in If I Had My Way and Always With Him. The former is a strident piece of Pop/Rock with nice harmonies in the vocals, but the latter really stands out. Wasted as the flipside to the naff Baila Maria (which comes next on the disc after the mono LP), Always With Him is an excellent rush of a tune. Perhaps it was too powerful for the charts, but by gum it’s good. Overall the album is an impressive enough demonstration of a band who didn’t really need so many covers to get through a long player. But even so, they always attack things with a gusto that got this listener onside.

It is good that Living Daylights finally get an album released and also making mono and stereo mixes available (my pick was the mono). Perhaps what is included stops somewhat short of being a “lost Psychedelic classic”, but there are enough good performances and material here to make this collection worthwhile. This set also serves to demonstrate how close a band could be to succeeding back then and despite their obvious quality, how fickle fate could turn against them at the last minute. Living Daylights didn’t get much luck, but it wasn’t for want of talent.

If you want to hear more, you can pick up Let’s Live For Today here

Anzahlung – What You Think Is All You’ve Got

Anzahlung – What You Think Is All You’ve Got

Advance Records/FOAD Musick

Download/Vinyl

New 13 track album by Electropunk/Doom Disco outfit Anzahlung, the follow-up to 2020’s I’ve Lost My Footing In The World. The band are a duo of The Cravats’ The Shend and Joe 91, forged when the world went into lockdown. Ian Canty writes…

Anzahlung set out their store very effectively with the I’ve Lost My Footing In The World album in 2020, with the pairing of The Shend and Joe 91 stepping out of The Cravats for what was an inspired detour into the Synth Punk netherworld. I reviewed it here as the LP showed the twosome successfully roughing up electronica for their own ends. The sound that emerging was as infectious, unique and stimulating as the lyrics were inventive, dreamlike and bizarre. A perfectly realised journey into the unconscious, the net result was one of the best long players of 2022.

Well now Anzahlung enter “difficult second album” territory with What You Think Is All You’ve Got. Here The Shend and Joe, unlikely but adept dancefloor fillers, seek to furnish us with more quality warped stories and beats. We embark on this new record with the distorted House pulse of Pet, which quickly gathers momentum through a baleful roar from The Shend. He almost croons phrases like “I own you, I caught you in my net”, as the song skilfully debates the double standards inherent in keeping animals as pets.

We then move onto Boneless Man, with a more pared-down but pacey rhythm. Eerie bells hover in the background of a song which is both a comical and cutting observation of people with a lack of anything to drive their lives, so they just coast along. The doubled up vocal in the chorus helps it hit home, a smart touch and this track is a prime example of how catchy, outré and accessible Anzahlung are. Then Too Famous has a kind of 1960s Punk/R&B riff pushing along the electronic attack, like something Marty Rev might have thought up on a good day, with The Shend in Redditch Elvis/preacher mode and some shivering keywork thrilling.

An irregular samba breaks out on Can Be Happy, before a clearer sound with weird choral voices in backing draws forth. This tune is the basis for reciting the story of a man called Doug “another slug with an ugly mug”. It comes with a typical serving of Anzahlung wit, as images flash by from a world like our own, whisked down a dark alley and shifted askew. There’s more than a whiff of danger too and it’s all a rum do for sure. But Can Be Happy quickly lodged itself in my brain and I was more than keen for it to do so. That’s the beauty of what Anzahlung do in a nutshell: an infectious and highly enjoyable touch of the damn strange.

Ghost follows, a brief and unsettling sketch of confused voice and percussive thuds and screeches, which is followed by Have You Any Ha Ha Ha. Upfront drum sounds beat out a pattern to a canter as The Shend’s charismatic voice shines through, sitting atop the pounding rhythm like a raven waiting to strike at its prey.

The longest effort on What You Think Is All You’ve Got is Junkers which follows. Deep bass electronics and a short and rough chant bringing us towards a clear Shend vocal set at a relatively sedate tempo. The tale of airplanes is given a fairly lush and pretty treatment, almost a love/pop song, well in structure anyway. Anzahlung excel here on a real masterwork, which actually manages to be really moving too. What a neat trick to pull off!

A scraping space sound heralds Fan Out, before Shend’s playful, echoing voice intones a twisted tale, with the hectic tempo of manically bouncing keys keeping the music racing along to its conclusion. Can’t Take It With You’s simple but exact riff plays a big role in the claustrophobic majesty of the number, economic blasts of sound bursting forth in something that could be classic Electropop, if dramatically plunged into a mysterious diversion. A keyboard rondo, electro handclaps and harsh guitar shards dominate in Cliff, an epic of redemption through confrontation with a false ending that caught me out for one.

This is followed by the atmospheric title track, where backwards voice and squiggles give way to a more upfront beat. “Diddlysquat a melting pot where you don’t belong” is the main lyrical message and The Shend is in brooding, imperious form here, with the music shaking and squealing in deft accompaniment. You Won’t Come Back follows, where an intro of an American voice sample is the prelude to massed vocal and rhythmic sound knocked out at a breakneck speed. The song’s tale is of life in something very like 2022 but not quite, where everything conspires to drag people down to their inescapable fate. Final offering Don’t Open The Door is full of awkward stops and starts and short passages of calm, before an extended sound of a creaking door like something out of a horror movie. It’s quite an ending to a record that is equal parts fun and fright.

What You Think Is All You’ve Got glides effortlessly past any difficult second album codswallop I alluded to above. This is a fitting follow up to I’ve Lost My Footing In This Word, but more than that it shows Anzahlung realising their ideas and sonic landscapes ever more vividly, while firmly establishing themselves as a distinct identity away from their parent band. What You Think Is All You’ve Got is a vital, enigmatic and exhilarating recording that could have well have one leaping around on the psychic dancefloor. This is a wild excursion through Anzahlung’s own very weird but accessible world and is one that should not be missed at any cost.

Anzahlung are on Facebook here

Pre-order a vinyl copy of What You Think Is All You’ve Got here and a download is available here

Maple Mars – Someone’s Got To Listen

Maple Mars – Someone’s Got To Listen

Big Stir Records

CD/Vinyl/DL

Out now

Brand new 10 track album by long-running LA quartet Maple Mars, their first in over ten years and also their debut for Big Stir Records. Ian Canty writes…

With a history that goes back to the dawn of the 21st century, LA’s own Psych-Poppers Maple Mars return on Big Stir Records with a new album Someone’s Got To Listen. It has been twelve years since their last collection Galaxyland in 2010 and their debut long player Welcome To Maple Mars emerged a whopping twenty one years ago.

Singer/Guitarist/Frontman Rick Hromadka works in a parallel career as a sound designer for many popular television shows and that has obviously taken up a fair bit of his time. But thankfully his full attention is now back on Maple Mars, where he is joined by bass player Joe Giddings (though Jeff Lecore plays on Teenage Dream and Sleepwalking), Ron Pak on drums and fellow guitarist Steve Berns. They each contribute to the band’s trademark harmony vocals and all things considered this is a combination that promises pure Pop/Rock thrills from the get-go.

Useless Information, Someone’s Got To Listen’s bright and impressive opening gambit, is a concise summation of all that Maple Mars do well rolled up in an eminently attractive and powerful parcel. Honeyed voices are welded to brash but tuneful guitars and a rock-solid rhythm on what is a dreamy coast of a tune, with a lyric that make some sharp points about modern life and technology. Thus announcing their reappearance after all this time in this agreeable and winning fashion, Maple Mars continue on with Glide, which also has been released as a single. Here a spacy keyboard-led intro feeds into the battering beat, replete with a golden hook and some prime six string work featuring strongly.

Goodbye California follows, offering a more mid-paced, elegant cruise. It’s a masterpiece of chilled Psych and the snap of Anchors Away that strikes out in its wake comes over as fresh as a daisy. There is also good tension and kick to the guitars, with the bass providing a bouncing and exuberant linchpin. A Psychedelic stormer in Someone Take The Wheel also throws a bit of Funk into the swagger of its rhythm, something which gives a solid base for the melody to pour forth in beautifully.

A short drum intro heralds Teenage Dream, one of the simpler items of Someone’s Got To Listen. While harking back to an old style R&B template, it is nonetheless both chiming and enchanting. Sleepwalking weaves a lyrical tale of mystery that leads the listener towards a tripped out mid-section, where crashing guitars float above the vocal before the tune busts out again. This juxtaposition works marvellously. After a short intro Silver Craft barrels in with a true Rock & Roll heart and vigour, until a more meditative acoustic feel takes centre stage. The loud/quiet/loud approach here helps to emphasis the sheer might of Maple Mars’ musicianship and also the depth of their vision.

Crooked Smile makes an immediate impression with just keys and vocal on the intro. This is the most laidback number on the album, a cool and sweet ballad with soaring guitar and gorgeously arranged singing. Here is a sweeping majesty is a joy to behold. The irresistible sound of an epic Redemption concludes the LP with panache and the feel that everything has been worth it on the long road home after a setback, or more pertinently, an extended spell in the doldrums. Also, it is a pretty apt title for Maple Mars to end Someone’s Got To Listen with, an album which sees such a positive resurgence from a band that has been away for a considerable length of time.

This is a record that thrives in part because of the excellent produced by Steve and Rick, giving MM complete clarity that their artistry, lyrical acumen and verve with a winning melody deserves. An album that is the sound of a band at the top of their game, making up for any lost time over the past decade or so with a gusto that is positively infectious. Someone’s Got To Listen, no change that to you should listen. You will missing out big time if you don’t.

Chase up a copy of Someone’s Got To Listen here

Maple Mars can be found on Facebook here and their official website is here