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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Various Artists - Piccadilly Sunshine Part Two (1966-71 uk, pop psych and more flavours)

"British pop-psych" can be defined in so many different ways that one approaches judging the value of a compilation described as such with some trepidation. It's fair to say, however, that the 20 rarities here are not all that similar to what some listeners might think of as British pop-psych, whether they're thinking of giants like the Sgt. Pepper's-era Beatles, respected cult bands like Tomorrow, or even more pop-inclined exponents of the genre like the early Bee Gees. 

This is truly more pop at its core than psychedelic, and that might also be said of the early Bee Gees -- but, alas, the quality (and even the strangeness factor) is not on par with vintage Bee Gees. These items are more like late-'60s-era U.K. pop with some mild psychedelic dressing in the arrangements (often of the orchestral variety) and lyrics. Only this era could have generated a song titled "The Fantastic Story of the Steam-Driven Banana," to take the most egregious example represented on this anthology (on a 1968 single by Legay). 

That angle isn't necessarily a drawback, except that the material here is usually fairly mediocre, to be blunt, and below the standard even of the usual rarity CD comps on this theme, let alone the hits and cult classics of the genre. The lack of too-catchy tunes or overly clever lyrics can't compensate for the more imaginative and sometimes odd arrangements, but some of the more noteworthy tracks include Peppermint Circus' pleasing pop-soul-psych mixture on "Keeping My Head Above Water" (though this cut in particular seems not to have been transferred to CD at a consistent speed); the aforementioned "The Fantastic Story of the Steam-Driven Banana," which slightly recalls some of the wackier electric keyboard-driven pop-psychedelia of U.S. bands like the Mystery Trend; Alexander Bell's "Alexander Bell Believes," which is, even by this style's lofty standards, a quite fey and precious observational narrative based on a vintage historical character; and Bill Kenwright & the Runaways' fairly good cover of a little-known Motown song, "I Want to Go Back There Again" (originally done by Chris Clark). 

Collectors looking for obscure connections to stars might want to hear the Cat Stevens-penned, sardonic "Never Play a B Side" (a 1968 single for Sasha Caro); Perfect People's Manfred Mann-written 1969 single "A House in the Country"; and Bubblegum's 1968 45 "Little Red Bucket" (written by Harry Vanda and George Young of the Easybeats), though none of these songs is up to the caliber of the more renowned work of the composers. 
by Richie Unterberger

Artists - Tracks
1. K.G. Young - Spider - 2:52
2. Sasha Caro - Never Play A B Side - 2:48
3. Gentry - Sing Me A Sad Song - 2:44
4. Peppermint Circus - Keeping My Head Above Water - 2:38
5. Legay - The Fantastic Story Of The Stream-Driven Banana - 3:00
6. George Bean - The Candy Shop Is Closed - 2:32
7. Wishful Thinking - I Want You Girl - 2:39
8. Suspect - Belinda - 2:45
9. Perfect People - House In The Country - 1:58
10.Barbara Ruskin - Pawnbroker, Pawnbroker - 2:13
11.Chris McClure - Hazy People - 2:11
12.Bubblegum - Little Red Bucket - 3:11
13.Kool, The - Step Out Of Your Mind - 2:38
14.Alexander Bell - Alexander Bell Believes - 3:06
15.Roger Denison - She Wanders Through My Mind - 2:05
16.George Bean - Smile From Sequin - 2:23
17.Gervase - Pepper Grinder - 2:42
18.Bill Kenwright And The Runaways - I Want To Go Back There Again - 2:41
19.Mike Raynor And The Condors - Turn Your Head - 2:58
20.Zuider Zee - Provocative Child - 1:56

The Piccadilly Sunshine flavours 
1968-70  Piccadilly Sunshine Part 1

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Timebox - Beggin' (1967-69 uk, marvelous mod beat psych with jazzy soul drops, RPM bonus tracks release)

Timebox Beggin' album comprising essentially intelligent, genre-bending late '60s British Pop laced with a surreal sense of humor and regular flashes of maverick unpredictability. Mod Jazz/Pop outings and Blue Eyed Soul populate the first half of our complete overview, with Psychedelic nuggets and blasts of proto-Hard Rock (plus a few that defy categorization) inflecting the second - and all recorded within a two year span, with much of it unreleased at the time.

Timebox originally started at an art college in Southport when Peter Halsall, Clive Griffiths and Chris Holmes decided to swap their art for music. After trying out several vocalists, all of whom proved unsuitable, John Gee, manager of London’s famous Marquee Club, recommended, Mike Patto who was singing with the London Youth Jam Orchestra, a 24-piece big band at the club. Supposedly, Mike was asked to join the group after a jam session at the Playboy Club. Mike accepted the offer and started working with the band in mid 1967. They quickly became know as a "groups group", and their stage act garnered admiration from many of their contemporary musicians, who for obvious reasons are always the hardest to impress. This alone should attest to the musical skill and unique sound of the band's live performances.

In 1970 Patto was formed consisting of the remaining members of TimeBox, Mike Patto (vocals), John Halsey (drums), Ollie Halsall (guitars and vibes), and Clive Griffiths (bass), and was signed to the newly formed Vertigo label, they recorded their first album live in studio with producer Muff Winwood.

This release is actually quite similar in content to the 1998 collection The Deram Anthology, but with a crucial difference. Unlike that previous release, this includes both sides of their first two singles (both done for the Piccadilly label before they moved to Deram); the only track it's missing from The Deram Anthology is a cover of "Misty." It thus replaces The Deram Anthology as the most comprehensive Timebox compilation, including both sides of all seven of their singles, as well as a good 13 tracks that were unreleased in the '60s (though all of those previously appeared on The Deram Anthology).

The four Piccadilly cuts, unsurprisingly, are more oriented toward straight R&B-soul than their later work on Deram, including a blue-eyed soul number ("I'll Always Love You") and three instrumentals (among them a cover of Dizzy Gillespie's "Soul Sauce") with elements of soul, blues, Latin, and ska.

The other recordings show them, like many late-'60s British bands with similar roots evolving from soul-R&B roots to more progressive sounds that, if not quite all-out psychedelic, certainly showed the influence of the psychedelic era.

For all their reputation among audiences of the time and some collectors, none of this showed them making a leap to the fore as innovators in the way bands like, say, Procol Harum and Traffic with somewhat similar roots did. Their forte was heartfelt, wistful, blue-eyed soul-pop ballads; an attempt at Kinks-like whimsy ("Eddie McHenry") didn't work well, and their moves into harder rock-influenced directions weren't married to very memorable material.

That makes Timebox a talented but marginal part of the late-'60s British rock scene, but certainly there's never going to be more thorough documentation of their recordings than this anthology. 
by Richie Unterberger

1. I Wish I Could Jerk Like My Uncle Cyril (Timebox) - 2:04
2. I'll Always Love You (Holland, Dozier, Holland) - 2:58
3. Soul Saucen (Gonzales, Gillespie) - 2:58
4. Waiting For The End - 2:23
5. Save Your Love (Tew, Schroeder) - 2:39
6. Your Real Good Thing's About To Come To An End (Hayes, Porter) - 3:11
7. Come On Up - 3:08
8. A Woman That's Waiting (Zagni, McCarthy) - 2:57
9. Beggin' (Gaudio, Farina) - 2:50
10.Walking Through The Streets Of My Mind (Hess, Milrose) - 2:51
11.Don't Make Promises (Tim Hardin) -  3:11
12.Girl, Don't Make Me Wait (Huff) - 2:33
13.Leave Me To Cry - 3:18
14.Gone Is The Sad Man - 3:45
15.Eddie McHenry - 2:46
16.Barnabus Swain - 2:49
17.Baked Jam Roll In Your Eye - 3:23
18.Poor Little Heartbreaker - 2:45
19.Stay There - 2:50
20.Country Dan And City Lil (Halsall) - 2:17
21.Love The Girl - 2:21
22.Tree House - 2:55
23.You've Got The Chance - 3:52
24.Black Dog - 3:01
25.Yellwo Van - 2:51
26.Promises - 2:06
27.Timebox - 3:13
All songs by Mike Patto and Ollie Halsall unless otherwise written.

*Chris Holmes - Keyboards
*Clive Griffiths - Bass
*Ollie Halsall - Guitar, Vibes, Vocal
*John Halsey - Drums, Percussion
*Mike Patto - Lead Vocals

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