26 October 2016

The Size Seven Group - Where Do We Go From Here/ 'Til I Die

Label: Mercury
Year of Release: 1965

Well, where do we go from here? Is it down to the lake, I fear? No, don't be silly.

The Size Seven Group hailed from Corby in Northamptonshire and were at one time named by Burt Weedon as "the greatest semi-professional group in Britain". Consisting of six members, namely Alan Black on bass, George Cumming on piano and vocals, Billy Geary on guitar and harmonica, Brian Lynn-Dowell on vocals, Billy Nicol on drums and Jack Stewart on lead guitar, they were an extremely popular and successful group in the local area, and their first single "Crying My Heart Out" was issued by the local label Rendezvous. The lack of other releases from that particular label would suggest that it existed briefly and solely to give The Size Seven Group a leg up.

This was a successful move, and resulted in the group being signed to Mercury where they remained for a further three singles, of which "Where Do We Go From Here?" was the first. It's a nice little beat pop ditty which caused enough ripples in the UK to get the American branch of Mercury Records to issue the track stateside. It wasn't a proper hit on either side of the pond, however, and the UK-only follow-up singles "It's Got To Be Love" and "In Time" completely failed to register with the public.

The Size Seven Group aren't really a particularly collectible act, their locally released debut aside, and that's arguably because there's no real edge to anything they produced. They existed mainly to deliver slick, professional versions of harmony ballads and light pop, not garage rock, soul or psychedelia. That said, they're occasionally acknowledged as being a rather overlooked British band in the world of mid-sixties pop, and an exceptional live act for the period. 

23 October 2016

Paul Curtis - On The Move (Video 2000)

Label: Philips
Year of Release: 1979, at a guess?

"Video 2000! What were all that about then, eh?" are words which Peter Kay has almost certainly never, ever started any stand-up routine with. In the video recorder revolution, Video 2000 was the Oric Atmos to VHS's ZX Spectrum and Betamax's Commodore 64, or perhaps the Liberal Democrats to VHS's Tory and Betamax's Labour, or... oh, I don't know, why don't you think of some rubbish and poorly fitting analogies for yourselves?!

The simple fact is that I have never, ever met in my life anyone who owned a Video 2000 machine. I knew of their existence, but everyone owned either VHS or Beta machines, and rued the day they chose Beta when that format eventually bit the dust (my family, to their eternal regret, were relatively late Betamax adopters). Video 2000 machines may as well have been ghostly myths in my neck of the woods in Essex - I don't think I even saw a player for sale in the local Dixons or Currys. They were just something that didn't touch my world. Apparently they were superior to the VHS and Betamax formats in almost all ways, from sound to picture quality to tape durability, but this cut little ice with the buying public, and the format was junked in 1986 to precious few tears.

Still, this synthetic promotional single from the late seventies gives you some idea of the kind of excitement Philips wanted to generate around Video 2000. The sleeve appears to show the player arriving in a blur from outer space, like some kind of alien tech us privileged humanoids had managed to get our hands on. The single backs this image up with dramatic whooshing noises, hyperactive slapped basslines, and the kind of synthesiser melody favoured by the Channel 4 Testcard in 1982 and the opening credits of short-lived science fiction series (probably with the face of each actor freeze-framed as their name appears on screen). But above all else, it sounded like the FUTURE. Or at least, it did at that time.

"You can't beat the system, no no no!" sing some soulful ladies, before backing this up with an even more ecstatic line about the player's fantastic ability to record many more televisual hours than its boring VHS or Betamax rivals, and with a 16 day pre-record clock facility. Trouble is, Video 2000 couldn't beat the market system, no no, and indeed, no. For reasons of timing (it was launched after the other formats) and distribution, it just didn't capture the public's imagination, and it would have taken a lot more than a slightly funky promotional synth single to put that right.

Still, in a funny kind of way, I am glad this exists, just because everyone needs the space for one chirpy disco record about defunct recording technology in their lives.

19 October 2016

Offered With Very Little Comment - Prime Evil, Brian "No Chance" Green, Tommy Farrell, White Gold

Inevitably, digging through record crates and remainder bins and going on ebay to search for interesting looking vinyl can bring forth an embarrassment of riches and... well, an overload of "meh". Records which are neither awful or good, by artists of whom little is known, creating music which was typical for its era and not in any way groundbreaking or surprising.

When I started this blog I prided myself on having something to say about everything I created an entry about, but these four singles have been sitting on my "to upload" list for over a year now, and try though I do I really cannot think of any insights to offer. Nor for the most part have I been able to uncover much information about any of the artists. It seems as if the best way of dealing with the situation is to offer them up for listening whilst not exhausting my tired brain trying to come up with interesting ways of putting them into any sort of context.

"Why upload them at all?" you may ask, and the answer to that is simple: "I guarantee you someone, somewhere will have been looking desperately to hear one of these singles. And not just the singer's cousin, either".

I might do this again on occasions where there's not much else to talk about - or I may not. We'll see. For now, though, here's your discs:

Artist: Prime Evil
Song: King Kong, King Kong (Parts 1 & 2)
Label: Mainspring
Year of Release: 1976

Pounding, tribal, synth-infested novelty disco record describing the events in the King Kong film. Scott Walker, of course, also precisely described the events in a classic film when he recorded "Seventh Seal". It sounded absolutely nothing like this, though I suppose the vocalist is emoting quite powerfully here. 

Artist: Brian (No Chance) Green
Songs: Now You're Gone/ 'Tain't No Sin
Label: Fontana
Year of Release: 1967

Seemingly a slice of Trad Jazz issued on a major label at a point when most people in the UK had long since given up on Trad Jazz and it had become a seriously niche concern. The flip is nice and lively, but really not my bag.

Artist: Tommy Farrell
Songs: You Made Me Lie To You/ Soon
Label: Beacon
Year of Release: 1969

Super-scarce Beacon 45 which hardly ever turns up anywhere, but really isn't much of a collectible, largely due to the fact that it's a fairly run-of-the-mill ballad. 

Artist: White Gold
Songs: Cross My Heart/ I Will Always Love You
Label: Logo
Year of Release: 1978

Smooth and smoochy disco action, nicely constructed and produced. 

16 October 2016

Reupload - Money - Come Laughing Home/ Power Of The Rainbow

Label: Major Minor
Year of Release: 1969

"Stop wasting your time looking for obscurities," a rather pushy record dealer said to me a couple of weeks ago. "There's nothing out there that hasn't been compiled or DJ'ed with already, and even if you think you find a good record nobody's heard of, I guarantee you somebody out there has." 
"Ah yes, Mr Dealer, but what if they found a record, believed it to be crap, and wrongly put it to one side?" I replied. Well actually, I didn't.  I just nodded and smiled at him politely whilst those very thoughts ran through my head.

 Of course, he had a very good point.  It is indeed becoming a near-impossible mission to find anything new that's interesting, particularly from eras where the lucky dip has been well and truly picked dry.  Given the enormous array of blogs out there, the endless unofficial compilations of obscure material it's impossible to keep track of, and street-smart retro DJs with money to burn, you can never definitely state that you're the first person to be wowed by a track.  So naturally, when I say to you readers "This is a good record which appears to have been ignored", it should be taken with a tiny pinch of salt. It could be played weekly at your local popsike bop for all I know.

Obviously I'm leading up to the point that Money's "Come Laughing Home" is a really pleasant surprise, despite being rather tartly dismissed by a couple of other sources.  When you see a record label clearly stating that the tune is from a theatre production - in this case Keith Waterhouse's play of the same name - you tend not to expect more than a saccharine pop ballad with a gentle orchestra behind it.  This, on the other hand, introduces itself with some doomy organ chords, the repeated pleading refrain "Come home!" before launching headlong into a sweet and wistful piece of harmony-drenched popsike.  Reminiscent of a likable Roy Wood penned ballad and containing riffs which sound similar to fragments of "Dancing In The Moonlight" in places, the A-side is summery, breezy and chipper without being irritating.  I don't want to overstate the case here, but it's surprising that this one hasn't received a bit more attention from collectors.

Sadly, the flip "The Power Of The Rainbow" really isn't worth troubling yourselves with too much, being a rather dull pop ballad.

Money apparently hailed from Manchester, but information about them is otherwise hard to come by.  One more single entitled "Breaking Of Her Heart" was issued in 1970 before they disappeared off pop's map, and if you know who they were and what else they did, please do let me know.

(Since this blog entry was originally uploaded in July 2012, a few facts have come forward. Key players in the recording, Ray Teret and Mel Scholes, were apparently also DJs on Signal in Stoke. Something I should also have spotted first time around is that this is a Bill Kenwright production, who had a background in musical theatre and acting, and is of course these days is Chair of Everton FC. 

That seems to it, but if anyone knows anything more, please let me know. Somebody called Emma Tanton dropped me a line promising more information, but it was never forthcoming -if you want to get back in touch again, I'll be all ears). 

12 October 2016

Dee Eldridge - Joys Of Alicia/ Half As Much

Label: Major Minor
Year of Release: 1970

This is a very obscure and very late piece of girl-pop. Issued in 1970 but sounding incredibly like a mid sixties piece of work, little is known about the performer Dee Eldridge. The track itself contains everything lovers of the twee end of sixties pop enjoy - gentle, sprightly lyrical musing on the fate of a poor deluded unfortunate with a fey name, pounding drum-work, and bouncy catchiness.

Copies of this are difficult to come by now, and it hasn't really picked up a lot of love from popsike aficionados probably partly due to its relative lightness, and also partly due to its 1970 release date. However, it's deftly performed by Eldridge, and the chorus is worthy of the likes of Sandie Shaw. Nicky Welsh also does the usual solid job of arranging the track into shape.

It's unlikely to undergo a serious reassessment, but in a crate-digging world that tends to offer very little new finds of interest from this period, it's reassuring to know that there are still good singles out there worthy of fresh pairs of ears - and this, while not breath-taking, is certainly a cheering listen.