Saturday, 12 May 2012

The Flame - The Flame (1970)

South African band The Flame was formed in 1963 by brothers Steve and Brother Fataar on guitar and bass respectively.  Originally named The Flames, various members came and went until 1967, when third Fataar brother, Ricky (drums) and friend Blondie Chaplin (guitar, vocals) completed the ultimate line up.

The band released several soul/pop covers albums in Africa and became one of the country's most popular acts.  In 1968 South Africa was becoming more segregated and made it impossible for the band to play to a white audience, so with Ricky still only 16 years of age, they left their home land, seeking success in the UK.

Whilst playing in London they were spotted by Beach Boy Carl Wilson (on a tip from Al Jardine) who liked the band so much that he signed them up to the Beach Boys new record label Brother.  The Flame would be the only band, other than the Beach Boys to release music on Brother. The band moved to LA to record an album, with Carl Wilson taking the role of producer.

The self titled LP was released in 1970.  The album opens with "See The Light", an up tempo rocker in the mould of the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and includes a killer George Harrison style guitar sound, especially on the riff during the outro. This track was chosen as the single to promote the album in the USA and UK.  "Make It Easy" wouldn't sound out of place on Badfinger's "No Dice", in fact, the whole album is comparable Badfinger at their best.  "Don't Worry Bill" and "High's and Lows" are pure Abbey Road, the latter includes some pretty neat Moog action too. The two ballads on the album "Lady" and "Dove" are tastefully played without any cheesiness or cringe worthy lyrics. "See The Light", again like Sgt Pepper, is reprised at the end of the record, this time slowed down with the guys really letting rip on the vocals.

I've owned this album for around ten years now and it's one I come back to time and time again and is one of those rare records that doesn't make me want to skip any track.  They're all good.  Power Pop fans wanting to check out the roots of the genre should track this album down asap and anyone with a quadraphonic hi-fi set up will also dig it as it was the first record (to my knowledge) to be released in quadraphonic sound.  The album even came with instructions on how to position your speakers!

Following the album's lack of big sales, Ricky Fataar and Blondie Chaplin were asked to join the Beach Boys replacing Dennis Wilson who had broke his hand putting him out of action for a while and Bruce Campbell who had just departed.  They are present on "Carl and the Passions" and "Holland" and contribute vocals and even songwriting credits on both albums.

Ricky Fataar went on the play the role Stig O'Hara in the Rutles then moved into session work playing with artists like Ian McLagan, Bonnie Raitt and Crowded House.  Blondie Chaplin released three solo albums and has played as a session guitarist with the likes of Rick Danko, David Johansen and the Rolling Stones.

For more information on The Flame check out Bas Mollenkramer's excellent website here.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Junior Campbell - Goodbye Baby Jane / If I Call Your Name (1971)

William "Junior" Campbell quit his band, the Marmalade, at the commercial peak of their career.  Not fancying a life on the road he decided to go solo. I'll be writing about the Marmalade in more detail in a later post.

Campbell released his first single as a solo act in October 1971. 'Goodbye Baby Jane' (Deram DM344) written solely by Campbell, sounds very similar to his later output with the Marmalade, particularly the song 'Rainbow' which had reached number 3 in the UK chart the previous year.  It is a great up tempo acoustic pop tune with harmonica and slide whistle(?) that starts off with with lyrics "When the dawn breaks and the birds wake, I get up and I'm feeling fine".  The B-side is even better. 'If I Call Your Name', another acoustic number, is lyrically a great contrast to it's flipside "If I call your name, will you look the other way? and if I call again, will you say 'another day' " and has a much moodier vibe to it.  It has always reminded me of Blue Oyster Cult's 'Don't Fear The Reaper', you can even hear a cowbell clunking away at the end of the song.  Forward thinking DJ's could get away with giving this a spin at a psychedelic night and it's still reasonably cheap to pick up.

The debut solo single didn't continue the success Campbell had with the Marmalade and failed to chart.  His next single "Hallelujah Freedom" did.  These sort of things always leave me puzzled wondering how people could possibly prefer it.  It's cheesy poo to my ears but everyone loved it and it reached to number 9 in 1972. The B-side "Alright With Me" is pretty good though and sounds a bit Badfinger, so it's definitely worth the 50p it usually sells for. It's a shame Campbell decided to sing like a horny bricklayer (I'm thinking Tom Jones!) from the second single onwards, but it sold by the shit load so fair do's.

The third single "Sweet Illusion" and album "Second Time Around" really aren't my cuppa tea and I've not dared to listen to anything beyond them, so if anyone knows if Junior redeemed himself, please leave a comment.

For now, enjoy his finest two and a half minutes...