Monday, September 18, 2017

Men From S.P.E.C.T.R.E. - Claw

Men From S.P.E.C.T.R.E. - Claw
After 4 years Men From S.P.E.C.T.R.E. strike back with their new masterpiece album 'Claw'. This time they dive even deeper into the late 1960s and early 1970s groovy spy sounds and deliver with the quality of a Swiss made clock the ultimate Retro-Dance-Party album. The sound and music of 'Claw' is so mind blowingly authentic, you feel immediately taken on a trip by a time machine into the decade of Austin Powers spies, lies, and thighs. Hammond-sounds, 1960s Garage, Beat and Psychedelic Rock and a hard knocking rhythm section melt into fireworks of an awesome spy thriller of the imagination. Rather than trying to recreate the 60's mod sound, the men are now incorporating a more modern vision while staying true to the roots of the movement they further. Their songs are layered with multiple levels of sound, impeccable timing with sound effects that work with the music and don't stand out as cheap sonics, and the rhythms are both groovy and psychedelic at the same time. Way cool.
01. The Claw
02. Take Me To Your Leader
03. Planetarium I & II
04. Dive Into The Mathmos
05. Holy Smoke
06. Jungle Flood
07. Dirt Track
08. The End


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

On The Brink: Return Of The Instro-Hipsters

On The Brink: Return Of The Instro-Hipsters

On the Brink is a collection of 20 previously uncomped and absolutely superb UK instrumentals from the '60s and early '70s, assembled by legendary psych musician and Psychic Circle label-head, Nick Saloman (The Bevis Frond). Presenting session men discovering sitars, orchestras getting into the freaky side of things, hip theme tunes, Hammonds, fuzz and brass. Somehow sophisticated and cheesy simultaneously, these acts created their own musical world of Chelsea apartments, mini-mokes, dark velvet bespoke tailoring and the dolliest birds this side of Battersea Bridge. Welcome to the soundtrack of your own unmade Swinging London movie. Artists include: Mike Vickers, the Jim Sullivan Sound, the Shock Absorbers, Wynder K. Frog, Rita, Offside, the Les Reed Orchestra, David Smith, the Keith Mansfield Orchestra, the Dave Davani Four, the Fidd, Ken Woodman's Piccadilly Brass, the John Schroeder Orchestra, Trax Four, the Mike Cotton Sound, Lee Mason and his Orchestra, the Vic Flick Sound, the Chris Barber Soul Band, Brian Bennett and Stanley Myers.
From the mid-'60s to the early '70s, there were quite a few instrumental releases recorded in the U.K. that seemed geared toward the easy listening market. Or, if the intention wasn't quite as gauche, they certainly weren't meant for the average rock fan, who likely wanted something hipper with more vocals and guitars. Still, even if the limited audience for these might have been (at least in part) listeners who wanted to feel a little hip without getting too far out, the musicians nonetheless couldn't help but be influenced by the rock, soul, and jazz trends of the day. On the Brink: Return of the Instro-Hipsters is a 20-track compilation of cuts from obscure 1965-1973 releases in this mold, with Swinging London go-go-like organs and brass being perhaps the most common (though by no means only) ingredients in the arrangements. There are a few names here that will be known to serious British Invasion fans, like Mike Vickers (from Manfred Mann), Jim Sullivan (the numero uno British rock session guitarist before Jimmy Page eclipsed him), Wynder K. Frog, the Mike Cotton Sound, the Dave Davani Four, Vic Flick (famous for playing on "The James Bond Theme"), and British senior jazz statesman Chris Barber; others are known as top cats in the British easy listening arena and have already been honored by reissues of their own (Ken Woodman and John Schroeder).

While any compilation that takes such an unusual angle to such a heavily mined reissue field as British '60s pop is to be applauded, you'd have a hard time pushing all of this as essential listening, even within its narrow subgenre. A good deal of it really is kind of mundane background soul-rock instrumental music – something that could have worked satisfactorily on B-movie soundtracks of the era, but which doesn't stand too well on its own two feet. There are occasional psychedelic echoes on sitar and screeching fuzz guitar, but these sound more like cheesy appropriations to make the cuts seem more "with it" than they sound like outbursts of creativity. It's only occasionally that the tracks let rip with the groovy organ and devious spy guitar licks lots of curious listeners will really want to hear, as the Dave Davani Four's fine cover of the "Top of the Pops" theme and the Vic Flick Sound's "West of Windward" do on both counts. As for other gut-grabbers, Ken Woodman's Piccadilly Brass' "Mexican Flier" would have worked great as a '60s Bond-like thriller theme, and the Chris Barber Soul Band's "Morning Train" (from 1965) has to be the veteran jazzer's most effective stab at the pop/rock market, with some great Brian Auger organ and an edgy jazz-blues fusion that approximates (but doesn't quite match) the sound of the Graham Bond Organisation. Some worthwhile and fun stuff here, then, but there's a significant gap between the best of it and the rest of it.

Review by Richie Unterberger,

01. Mike Vickers - On The Brink (02:23)
02. The Jim Sullivan Sound - She Walks Through The Fair (02:44)
03. The Shock Absorbers - It's Your Thing (02:40)
04. Wynder K. Frog - I'm A Man (03:20)
05. Rita - Sexologie (03:17)
06. Offside - Small Deal (02:08)
07. The Les Reed Orchestra - Big Drum (01:58)
08. David Smith - See Me (02:32)
09. The Keith Mansfield Orchestra - Soul Thing (02:59)
10. The Dave Davani Four - Top Of The Pops (02:12)
11. The Fidd - Happy Walk (02:30)
12. Ken Woodman's Piccadilly Brass - Mexican Flier (02:35)
13. The John Schroeder Orchestra - Nightrider (02:55)
14. Trax Four - Moanin' (02:01)
15. The Mike Cotton Sound - Soul Serenade (02:42)
16. Lee Mason And His Orchestra - Deadly Nightshade (03:03)
17. The Vic Flick Sound - West Of Windward (02:59)
18. The Chris Barber Soul Band - Morning Train (02:28)
19. Brian Bennet - Tricycle (02:50)
20. Stanley Myers - Organ Fantasia in D Major (05:49)

Return Of The Instro-Hipsters, Volume 2

Return Of The Instro-Hipsters, Volume 2
Groovy Instrumentals From The UK 1965-1973
Nick Saloman of the Bevis Frond once again invites us to join him in the obscure pleasures of little-known pop, R&B, and jazz instrumental sides of the '60s and '70s with this collection. A number of the selections featured on Return of the Instro-Hipsters are so obscure that even Saloman isn't sure just who is responsible for them (though he offers some educated guesses on the artists behind such names as Sharks, Oliver Bone, and the Masked Phantom), but there are a good share of solid grooves and kicky melodies to be found here from a number of gifted little-knowns. If you went to the movies in the '70s, "Soul Thing" by Tony Newman will sound familiar, while flautist Harold McNair solos over a Dave Brubeck-influenced piano groove on "The Hipster," Jerry Allen demonstrates new uses for game calls on "Fuzzy Duck," Thunder Road's synthesized version of "Peter Gunn" beats Art of Noise's variation on the theme by more than 15 years, "The Brooke Bond Beat" by Cliff Adams may be the most swingin' tea commercial ever, and the Outer Limits serve up some tough, moody rock, appropriately titled "Black Boots." While there's a bit of "Space Age Bachelor Pad" ambience to this set, it's more a matter of evoking a period than obsessing over a particular sound or style; the disc doesn't wallow in camp for its own sake, with solid instrumental chops and strong songwriting the order of the day. Another solid offering from what's becoming one of the most consistently interesting reissue labels operating today.

Review by Mark Deming,

01. D Cordell's Tea Time Ensemble - A Quick One For Sanity (03:08)
02. The 4 Instants - Discotheque (02:42)
03. The Roger Coulam Quartet - Simba (02:05)
04. Harold McNair - The Hipster (04:41)
05. Music Through Six - Floppy Ears (02:38)
06. Sounds Sensational - Night Cry (02:19)
07. The Masked Phantom - Fried Scampi (02:33)
08. The Johnny Harris Orchestra - Lulu's Theme (02:28)
09. Tony Newman - Soul Thing (03:14)
10. The Tony Evans Band - Beach Bird (02:34)
11. Kenny Clare - Hum Drum (01:53)
12. Sharks - Funkology (02:22)
13. The Outer Limits - Black Boots (03:21)
14. Cliff Adams - The Brooke Bond Beat (02:22)
15. Oliver Bone - Jugger Tea (02:56)
16. Thunder Road - Peter Gunn (02:14)
17. Jerry Allen - Fuzz Duck (02:51)
18. Paraffin Jack Flash - Blue & Groovy (04:15)
19. The Helmut Zaccharias Orchestra - Ton Up (02:37)
20. Ning - More Ning (02:44)


Roaring Blue: Return Of The Instro-Hipsters Vol. 3

Roaring Blue: Return Of The Instro-Hipsters Vol. 3 
20 Groovy Instrumentals From The '60s & '70s
The seemingly bottomless record collection of Nick Saloman from the Bevis Frond has spawned the third in an ongoing series of albums collecting obscure instrumental tracks from the '60s and '70s, and while many of these songs support the popular notion that the hipper and more interesting rock artists of the day were fond of vocal numbers, there are some fun and exciting tunes to be found on this set. Roaring Blue draws its title from the lead-off track, a swinging dance tune by the Sound of Jimmy Nicol, featuring the drummer who briefly replaced an ailing Ringo Starr during a tour in 1964 (this may explain why Nicol's drums are so far up in the mix), while members of the long-running U.K. pop band Blue Mink appear on the track "Beat Party" under the pseudonym the Underground, and John McLaughlin adds guitar licks to "Trans-Love Airways" by Big Jim Sullivan. That's about it for star power on this volume, but the lesser known acts are in equally solid form here, with the Des Champ Orchestra delivering a slightly rocked-up arrangement of the theme from It Takes a Thief, Casey and the Pressure Group bringing some supper club funk to a cover of the Shocking Blue's "Venus," Okko Bekker's sitar and a whacked-out synth solo adding to the fun on "Santana," jazzman Shake Keane generating a fine Northern soul dance groove with "Make with Shake," and the Jim Doherty Trio making with some potent organ-based groove jazz on "Ladies Wear"." Many of the other cuts on board are uncomfortably generic sounding, and too many of these songs fit into the same faux-R&B template, making the set a bit tiring by the time it comes to a close. But the good numbers manage to outnumber the bad (just barely), and if you have a soft spot for the kitschy side of U.K. pop, Roaring Blue is just what the doctor ordered.

Review by Mark Deming,


01. The Sound of Jimmy Nicol - Roaring Blue (02:14)
02. The Des Champ Orchestra - It Takes a Thief (02:22)
03. Clubman - Round Up (02:46)
04. The Duke of Burlington - 30-60-90 (02:12)
05. Casey & The Pressure Group - Venus (03:01)
06. Okko Bekker - Santana (04:05)
07. The Keith Mansfield Orchestra - Boogaloo (03:44)
08. The Underground - Beat Party (02:44)
09. The 4 Instants - All About My Girl (03:40)
10. Rajah - Deadeye Dick (02:54)
11. Ram Inn Junction - Junction Blues (02:36)
12. Shake Keane - Make with Shake (02:41)
13. Monty Babson - My Friend Jack (03:03)
14. Johnny Howard Band - El Pussy Cat (02:57)
15. Electric Bird - Stoned Out (02:17)
16. The Jim Doherty Trio - Ladies Wear (02:57)
17. The Cyril Stapleton Orchestra - Theme from Department S (02:57)
18. Big Jim Sullivan - Trans-Love Airways (02:09)
19. The Stormsville Shakers - J.C. Greaseburger (04:02)
20. The New Dance Orchestra - Theme Number One (02:54)

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