Friday, 25 January 2013

Velvet Glove - The Last Day Of Summer / How Sweet Was My Rose (1974)

Velvet Glove's sole album, released on Philips records in 1974 is by no means a killer, but hidden amongst the record's twelve tracks are a handful of pop gems. So since nobody else seems to have written anything about them yet, I figured I should.

Velvet Glove were Ken Leray and Roger Spooner who had a massive European hit with "Sweet Was My Rose" in 1974 and were apparently "established stars" in France, Belgium, Portugal and Italy although they never did manage to crack their native UK charts despite considerable radio airplay. The album was produced by Shel Talmy who is best know for his work in the 1960's with the Who and the Kinks.

Are Velvet Glove related to Kasabian?
On the whole the album is a little bit over the top, orchestrated pop in the Walker Brothers mould. I've never been a big Walker's fan but if you are then you'll probably get more out of this album than I do. David Wells gave the LP a short review in the Galactic Ramble book, comparing it to the likes of Clifford T. Ward and John Pantry, and I can hear that resemblance. The songs I prefer though are the piano based songs which feel have more charm than showy ones. "Banbury Cross" stands out as one of the better songs, almost Honeybus like with the vocalist sounding very much like Pete Dello. "Master Will" is great Sgt Pepper-esque, toytown pop and will be included on one of my future Bite It Deep Mixcloud compilations. "Magical Balloon" is a Eurovision Song Contest style singalong tune that would've surely got "nil poi" had it been entered, but is welcome round here. If Mojo magazine ever publish an article called "The 50 Twee-est Songs Of All Time" then "The Rain Doesn't Rain In The Sunshine" will definitely make the top spot just above "I Think I'll Just Go Find Me A Flower" by Twinn Connexion! Album closer "Gerald" is also worth a listen if you like what you hear on the first Asylum Choir album.

So, I'll say it again, not a killer but the good tracks make it a justifiable buy. There are much worse records than this selling for three figures on ebay.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Ironbridge - Ironbridge (1973)

Now, here's an album that seems to have slipped under the radar of the Tapestry Of Delights, Galactic Ramble and everyone else for that matter. Anyone heard of Ironbridge? Recently released on CD by reissue label Flawed Gems, this album absolutely knocked me out on the first listen. It is an instantly loveable album filled with 12 unpretentious songs with a distinct power pop theme running throughout and is easily my favourite find of 2012. The only reason I left it so long to write about it was because I wanted my own vinyl copy before the word gets out about this band. I may be wrong, but I can see this record selling for large amounts of cash pretty soon. There are currently a few mint copies available from various sources and are selling for between $35-$60.

So what do we know about Ironbridge? Not a lot really. Flawed Gems didn't give much away with the CD liner notes other than that they were from Telford in Shropshire and released five singles (3 on DJM, 2 on Decca) between 1969 and 1972 under the name Fluff. None of the records charted but the band gained a reputation in France somehow. Their one and only LP was released in 1973 by EMI Columbia in France only. A Japanese issue is mentioned on but I've not yet tracked one down. The band consisted of Alan Millington (vocals/drums), Mick Skinner (lead guitar), B. Shattock & A. Phillips. First names and instruments are unknown for Shattock and Phillips. If anyone does know any more info on these guys, please get in contact.
Ironbridge posing in front of an iron bridge
The album itself starts as it means to go on,with a killer song, "Just A Bridge", sounding like a post-Graham Nash Hollies with George Harrison on slide guitar. The band had already won me over by the end of the first chorus. Next track "Back Room" starts off with a Leslie speakered electric guitar intro before turning into a chugging, Power Pop bison, parallel with Badfinger. "Hallelujah Days" is a straight forward yet joyous song with a similar sentiment to "My Sweet Lord", celebrating the simple things in life, fishing and drinking beer, "Down by the river, out in the sun, fishing in the water where the big fish run, oh lord hallelujah days!" goes the first verse which has been an earworm of mine on many occasions. Lush acoustic guitars, a Mellotron on flute setting and cello provide an ethereal aura on "Getting Older". Fans of the Fading Yellow comps with cream over this one. Next up, "Making It Hard" another Badfinger/Who like rocker, with still no dip in quality, by this point you'll be wondering how you've never heard about Ironbridge before, just like I did. "Show" is as progressive as this record gets with a few stop and start moments. Psych DJ's could get away with giving this tune a spin. Is that the sound of the band toking on a bong between each verse?

So far that's six out of six ace tracks. Is side two just as good? Pretty much, yes! "It's All Right" is another fab Power Popper and "Frost and Fire" resembles the Raspberries doing what they do best and would've made a killer single, although DJM records would disagree as this was the song that would lead to their contract being terminated back in the Fluff days. What were they thinking?!?! "Simple Man" justifies a late 60's Bee Gees comparison mixed in with the Hollies again with some more of that spine tingling slide guitar which turns up just at the right moments. Ironbridge seem to share lead vocal duties too which appears more obvious on the minute long "Glen" which sounds like the same guy who sang "Hallelujah Days". The singer really lets rip on the throat shredding "I Can Fly", a tune which out grooves the Flamin' Groovies. The band go for the epic finale with "Shanty" clocking in at six minutes forty three seconds, kind of reminding me of "Band on the Run" for the last two minutes when the song changes pace. The album fades out with multi layered vocal harmonies and Mellotron.

I don't know how well the album sold in France, neither do I know what the band did after it's release. I'm hoping someone will fill me in with more details. If that happens, I'll update this post in the relevant places. For the time being, dig this...

Peppermint Trolley Company - Trust (YouTube)

Here's a rare bit of footage from 1968 of the Peppermint Trolley Company performing "Trust". The band mime their way through the Roger Nichols & Paul Williams' classic, whilst wearing the trade mark stripy pants as seen on the sleeve of their self titled album. I particularly love the awkward ten seconds of silence at the end of the clip!

There is another ace version of "Trust" by Two Of Each on the most recent Bite It Deep Mix, Volume 8. Also another song by the Peppermint Trolley Co.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Bite It Deep Volume 8

Here's volume eight


The Wallabies - White Doors
Ray Dorset - Night Time
Procol Harum - She Wandered Through The Garden Fence
Two of Each - Trust
Twin Engine - The Time Is Now
Margo Guryan - California Shake
Fresh Air - Stop Look Listen
Gerry Morris - Universal Love
Cochise - Lost Hearts
Peppermint Trolley Co - Reflections
Jude - Morning Morgan Town
Johny Bromley - Lisa Lies
Chad & Jeremy - Pipe Dream
Wizzard - Dream Of Unwin
P.C. Kent - Little Baby Wont You Please

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Peter Noone (1971-1976)

If anyone ever deserved to record a solo album in the nineteen seventies then it has to be Peter Noone. One consolation though is that he recorded a string of fab pop singles between 1971 to 1976 and if you're a pop geek like me, you've probably already made your own DIY Peter Noone solo album out of the best of those songs.

Peter Blair Denis Bernard Noone (I bet he loves being called that!) split from Herman's Hermits around the end of 1970 shortly after being signed to RAK Records and releasing the "Lady Barbara" b/w "Don't Just Stand There" single as Peter Noone & Herman's Hermits. April 1971 saw the release of the first Noone solo single, "Oh You Pretty Things" penned by David Bowie who also plays piano on the song. The single made it to number 12 in the UK charts despite being unfairly criticized by the NME who stated it to be "one of rock & roll's most outstanding example of a singer failing to achieve any degree of empathy whatsoever with the mood and content of a lyric", they may have a point but it's a decent enough version, a little funkier and Beatlesy than the version that would appear on Bowie's Hunky Dory LP later that year. The b-side, "Together Forever" is pure pop, let down slightly by a Eurovsion Song Contest Style brass arrangement. It's got a sort of late sixties Donovan vibe to it and some ace Giorgio Moroder-esque Moog work too which makes this single a cool double sider and still cheap and easy to get hold of thanks to it's chart success.

Next single "Walnut Whirl" was written by Herbie Flowers and Sandie Tatham Banks (aka Sandie Shaw) and is popsike perfection. They don't come much better than this. The song is about an overweight girl (Noone's favourite type apparently!) who after a hard day of munching sweets goes to bed and makes love to a Walnut Whirl. They don't write them like this anymore! Check out the lyrics...

Peter Noone - Walnut Whirl (Lyrics)
(Flowers, Tatham-Banks)

She took the cream coated coconut candy coloured chocolate nut whirl
Honey pot and sugar snacks, she was just a very fat girl
But nice and warm and round

Jelly roll and toffee ice, coffee cup and fluffy ice flops
Marshmallow marmalade, Lime and barley lemonade drops
Work off another pound

Newspapers, magazines say that her chances seem slim
Keep a count of calories if you still want to be trim.
Take off another stone

Cause nothing quite seems to fit, lets out her skirt a bit more
Vows she'll never eat again then hears her hungry tum roar
Can't live on bread alone

Cause all she wants is one, someone to love and hold her tight 
but no one seems to care for a big girl
Takes her box of dairy chocs back to her bed
And sadly makes love to a Walnut Whirl

Disregard the slimming books cause I think cuddly women are fine
Stay as a welterweight, you will have a double great time
Get some outsize fun

I like my girls on the bigger side, if only all the other guys knew
Skinny girls are never fun, like their meat overdone too
You're twice as good as one

All she wanted was someone to love and hold her tight 
And now she knows I care for a big girl
Fill my box with dairy chocs and eat me up
I'll gladly try to be your Walnut Whirl

David Bowie lends a helping hand again, this time for the b-side "Right On Mother" which is very similar to "Oh You Pretty Things" with it's Martha My Dear piano and hand claps, a style that suits Noone down to the ground. An album full of songs of this standard would have been killer but never happened. The single failed to chart, the public failed to hear the masterpiece once again!

For Noone's next release, songwriters Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn provided another non-hit with "Shoo Be Doo Ah". Not the glam rock stomper you'd expect from Chinnichap but instead a softly sang ballad.  Noone tries his best on what is basically a weak tune from such great songwriters who barely put a foot wrong in the seventies. The single flip "Because You're There" is much better, composed by Noone with help from Graham Gouldman. Another acoustic ballad with some electric piano, reminiscent of his work with Herman's Hermits.

July 1972 saw the release of the fourth Peter Noone single and the last to be release on RAK. "Should I?" a nice acoustic guitar based tune, again sounding quite like Donovan's "There Is A Mountain" which may be down the Mickie Most production. B-side "Each & Every Minute" is reminiscent of Demis Roussos, bordering on sentimental slush, saved only by Noone's ace pop vocals. Another non-charter. Where's Bowie when you need him?

Peter Blair Denis Bernard Noone
There was an unissued single from RAK in 1973. "Green Green Rocky Road" an uptempo brassed up rocker b/w "I Do Believe (In Music)" a light orchestrated song with some cool double bass. This was the last time Mickey Most would produce for Noone and I can't imagine it being a hit had it been released.

Noone moved to Philips records for one single, released in November 1973. "(I Think I'm Over) Getting Over You" was a return to form. Written by Tony Hazzard, who amongst others, provided Herman's Hermits with their 1966 hit record "You Won't Be Leaving" and produced by Tony Atkins (mentioned in the Gerry Morris post last year), this Bee Gees style, orchestrated epic had hit record written all over it, Kenny Everett was a fan and plugged it on his breakfast show but again, no one cared. "All Sing Together", the flip,  is another pop winner and has that distinctive Gerry Morris songwriting vibe to it. It would fit nicely on side two of Moriss's own LP, "Only The Beginning" in fact. The composers credit is to G. Morris and M. Starr. Anyone know who M. Starr is? Google is giving me nothing again.

Next single "Meet Me On The Corner Down At Joe's Cafe" b/w "Blame It On The Pony Express" another one-off released by Casablanca records in November 1974 provided Noone with his first minor hit in the US since his time with Herman's Hermits. Not surprisingly the a-side has a Hermits flavour to it. Imagine "Mrs Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter" a decade on with over the top production and big band. Doesn't sound too great does it? It's not. "Pony Express" is better though. Written by Tony Macaulay and Roger Greenaway it had been a hit for Johnny Johnson and the Bandwagon four year previous in 1970.

The last single I'll mention is Noone's first of three for the Bus Stop record label. "We Don't Need The Money" b/w "Love Don't Change" both written and produced Mitch Murray and Pete Callendar who had scored hits for the Tremeloes, Vanity Fare and Cliff Richard to name a few. The a-side is okay enough, maybe owing a debt to Paper Lace, but the b-side is the superior track on this release. If seventies bubblegum, pop, soul is your bag then you'd better track down this little known obscurity.

Two more singles for Bus Stop records followed before Noone formed the New Wave act The Tremblers, whose sole album "Twice Nightly" sounds like a cross between Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and Cheap Trick but nowhere near as good of course. A solo album eventually appeared in 1983 entitled "One Of The Glory Boys" which I've not heard but I've read contains some slick West Coast AOR with Noone on the album cover looking like he's just walked off the set of Miami Vice. He then went on to host a show on VH1 and DJing on a radio station in the US. Most recently he has been touring with Herman's Hermits and mentoring singers on American Idol.

But back to the good stuff. Here's Peter Blair Denis Bernard Noone with the pure killer "Walnut Whirl". Diggg!!!