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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Belfast Gypsies (Them) - Belfast Gypsies (1967 uk, mighty garage psychedelic rock, 2003 rev ola release with bonus tracks)

The Belfast Gypsies' sole album was a very credible blast of British Invasion-styled R&B-rock. Released a year about after it was recorded and the produce by  Kim Fowley gives this rough-hewn R&B a manic, freaky edge on cuts like "People, Let's Freak Out," "Suicide Song," and "Secret Police." 

The Them-like atmosphere is heightened by singer Jackie McAuley, who's very much a Van Morrison-style vocalist ("Gloria's Dream" is a blatant cop of "Gloria"), though not in Morrison's league. Still, it's quite a solid effort, McAuley's organ pacing the band's brittle rock-R&B, with some decent originals and a diverse assortment of imaginative covers, ranging from Donovan to traditional folk to a tongue-in-cheek classical instrumental. 

Their tense version of "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" is one of the greatest obscure Dylan covers, and the magnificent harmonica on "Midnight Train" is a highlight. [In 2003, it was reissued on CD by Rev-Ola with six bonus tracks, five of them barely different EP and 45 mixes of songs from the original LP (though the French EP mix of "Midnight Train" seems to straighten out a varispeed flaw that had afflicted previous pressings). 

The other bonus track (and sole cut not to have appeared on the original LP), "The Gorilla," is a generic soul-rock instrumental with prominent organ that appeared on a French EP. Note, though, that while that recording did originally appear on a Belfast Gypsies release, it's not actually the Belfast Gypsies performing on the track, which was likely done by some or all members of Shotgun Express (particularly as two of them, including keyboardist Peter Bardens, shared in the songwriting credits).
by Richie Unterberger

1. Gloria's Dream (K. McLeod, M. Scott, J.J. McAuley, P.J. McAuley, R. Henderson, K. Fowley) - 2:13
2. The Crazy World Inside Me (McAuley, McLeod) -  3:02
3. Midnight Train (Traditional) -  3:31
4. Aria Of The Fallen Angels (K. McLeod, M. Scott, J.J. McAuley, P.J. McAuley) - 3:50
5. (It's All Over Now) Baby Blue (Bob Dylan) - 3:48
6. People, Let's Freak Out (K. McLeod, M. Scott, J.J. McAuley, P.J. McAuley) - 2:30
7. Boom Boom (John Lee Hooker) - 2:27
8. The Last Will And Testament (K. McLeod, M. Scott, J.J. McAuley, P.J. McAuley) - 4:51
9. Portland Town (Daryl Adams) - 3:19
10.Hey Gyp, Dig The Slowness (Donovan) - 2:05
11.Suicide Song (K. McLeod, M. Scott, J.J. McAuley, P.J. McAuley) - 4:13
12.Secret Police (K. Fowley, Hardesty, Walther) - 2:32
13.Portland Town (French EP Mix) (Daryl Adams) - 3:40
14.(It's All Over Now) Baby Blue (French EP Mix) (Bob Dylan) - 3:48
15.Midnight Train (French EP Mix) (Traditional) - 3:30
16.The Gorilla (French EP Mix) (P. Bardens, R. Henderson, J. Mooreshead) - 1:59
17.Secret Police (45 Mix) (K. Fowley, Hardesty, Walther) - 2:38
18.Gloria's Dream (45 Mix) (K. McLeod, M. Scott, J.J. McAuley, P.J. McAuley, R. Henderson, K. Fowley) - 2:14

*Jackie Mcauley  - Vocals, Keyboards
*Pat Mcauley - Drums
*Ken Mccleod - Guitar
*Mark Scott - Bass

Related Acts
1970  Trader Horne - Morning Way....Plus
1971  Jackie McAuley...Plus

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  1. Excellent album - recorded already without Van Morrison and released at how misleading the title ... Them - and under the name Belfast Gypsies. Very dynamic rhythm'n'blues / freakbeat from the admixture of early psychedelia style produced by the great rock and roll madman Kim Fowley. Great covers of Dylan’s It’s All Over Now Baby Blue, Donovan’s Hey Gyp and A Kim Fowley original, Secret Police are some of the highlights.
    The history of Van Morrison's legendary group Them has got to be one of the most convoluted in the annals of 60s rock. Them experienced a series of line-up changes, offshoots, and relocations, not to mention the all-important departure of Morrison himself in 1966. When Morrison broke the group to go solo, brothers Jackie and Pat McAuley-both former Them members at various points-formed a new group that would become The Belfast Gypsies, while another faction of Them relocated to the US and continued to record using that name. After enlisting new band members Mike Scott and Ken McLeod, the McAuley brothers met American musician/producer/impresario Kim Fowley in London, and soon made plans to record.

    Fowley took direction of the new group, christened them The Belfast Gypsies, arranged contracts with record labels, and began to market the band based on its connections with Them. Lead singer Jackie McAuley was adept at affecting Morrison's punky R&B snarl, and with organ and harmonica to the fore, The Belfast Gypsies wore the influence of their former band on their sleeves. The Gypsies released several records, culminating in a full-length album released only in Sweden in 1967. This recent release from Rev-Ola collects all these Belfast Gypsies recordings for the first time on CD. While comparisons to Them are inevitable and probably unflattering, The Belfast Gypsies do offer some interesting songs here. "Gloria's Dream", the A-side to the band's first release, is an energetic and rather engaging rocker clearly based around Them's legendary "Gloria".
    The sound is perfect and the music is fantastic!
    This is British Rhythm & Blues at its best - tough and uncompromising!

    "Midnight Train" sounds like what it is-a rip-off of Them's "Mystic Eyes"-but once that's acknowledged, the harmonica work is worth admiring. The Gypsies certainly do manage to break from their Them-copying for the slower, classically inspired instrumental "Aria of the Fallen Angels". And their buoyant version of Bob Dylan's "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" is strong and refreshingly different from the masterful, dramatic version which Them had released just a year or two earlier. "People, Let's Freak Out" packs a mighty R&B wallop and probably represents The Belfast Gypsies at their wildest. "Portland Town" is a simple but effective narrative which inexplicably morphed into the more innocuous "Flower Town" when recorded by US pop band The Rose Garden, appearing as the flip side to their hit single "Last Train to London". And "Secret Police" demonstrates some interesting pop songwriting, and its lyrical description of crime and paranoia is perfectly juxtaposed to the urgency of the two-chord backing.
    Three tracks at their own expense in February 1966 at KPS Studios in North London. While one of these tracks seems to be lost forever, the other two have just now been rediscovered on a ancient acetate. These two unheard nuggets are released here for the first time. And at last the full story of the Belfast Gypsies emerges from the memoirs of former band member Ken McLeod.

  2. A true classic ! Thanks a lot...

  3. Terrible album. Especially vocalist who is froggy version of Great Van Morrison.