It’s odd to be thinking, coming out of a Zombies gig, about the songs they didn’t get round to.
Odd because the Zombies, in their original incarnation, didn’t even record enough songs to fill two CDs. Between 1964 and 1968 they released a decent album (Begin Here), a great album (Odessey And Oracle) and a handful of fantastic non-album singles. You’d think this wouldn’t be enough material to fill up a two-hour show.
But while the Zombies split up in 1968, the various members continued working together in various line-ups over the years, so for example Rod Argent and Chris White produced Colin Blunstone’s early solo albums, which were often backed by Argent (Rod Argent’s prog band) which White wrote for.
So when Colin Blunstone (the lead singer of the band) and Rod Argent (the keyboard player and one of the two principal songwriters) got back together again in 2000 and started touring as The Zombies, they didn’t just include Zombies material in their sets. Their sets instead are a history of both men’s entire careers, stretching from the R&B covers the band did prior to their stardom, through their early beat group hits and Odessey And Oracle, and into their post-Zombies careers.
What this means is that a show by Argent and Blunstone (backed by Jim Rodford, who is Argent’s cousin and was bass-player in Argent before going on to join the Kinks in the late 70s, on bass, Rodford’s son Steve on drums, and Tom Toomey on guitar) ranges through an extraordinary range of musical styles. There are very, very few groups who could cope with the level of stylistic variation needed to pull off a cover of Solomon Burke’s Can’t Nobody Love You and Argent’s ponderous stadium rock anthem God Gave Rock And Roll To You in the same set, but when you add in that the set also includes a jazz-waltz version of Summertime, Old And Wise — a song that Colin Blunstone originally sang with the Alan Parsons Project in the 80s, and the gorgeous delicate ballad A Rose For Emily, it seems positively ridiculous.
And so, amazingly, there wasn’t space for all their best songs. There was no Misty Roses, for example, and no The Way I Feel Inside, and while there were four songs from 2011′s Breathe Out, Breathe In, there was nothing from their 2001 or 2004 albums. There was no Friends Of Mine, Is This The Dream or I Remember When I Loved Her.
But what there was was a wonderful rush of sunshine pop, R&B, and 60s beat music, with occasional detours into blokeish stadium rock. The stylistic diversity works, though, because of the musicianship of everyone on stage, but particularly Colin Blunstone.
Blunstone has possibly the best voice of his generation, and unlike almost all his peers he’s managed to keep it intact — his voice is if anything stronger than it was in the mid-60s. And he knows how to use it — he is a great singer (a very different thing from having a great voice).
And he sings with such conviction that somehow a thudding stadium rock song like Argent’s Hold Your Head Up sounds like it fits with I Don’t Believe In Miracles (one of the greatest and most underrated songs of all time).
But none of it would matter if the songs weren’t so great. While I’m no fan of the Argent stadium songs, they do work wonderfully in a live performance. And as for the rest… the Zombies’ mid-60s catalogue may have been small, but it was perfectly formed. Can anyone think of a better set of songs than I Want Her She Wants Me, This Could Be Our Year, A Rose For Emily, Care Of Cell 44 and She’s Not There? When you add in the singles from that period — not all of them great songs, but all great singles — like Tell Her No, I Love You and Whenever You’re Ready, you end up with a setlist that is the equal of great contemporaries like the Beach Boys or the Monkees, despite those bands having released many, many more records than the Zombies ever did.
My only criticism of this show is that it was a tour in support of a new live album, Live In The UK. That’s not a problem in itself, but it is when of the ten songs on the live album, nine are on Live At Metropolis Studios, London, which came out last year. And on Odessey And Oracle Revisited, their live CD/DVD from 2008. And eight are on Live At The Bloomsbury Theatre , their 2007 live CD/DVD.
Releasing so many live albums in such a short period of time, with essentially the same repertoire on each, seems a little exploitative. Perhaps if they want to sell CD mementoes of their shows (understandably since that is no doubt where a good chunk of their income comes from), they should do what Squeeze did on their recent tour and have ‘instant’ CDs of each night’s show available at the end of the show.
But none of that’s really important — after all, you don’t have to buy the live CD. (I didn’t, though I did buy Blunstone’s Live At The BBC collection from the 90s…). These are wonderful musicians, performing wonderful music. Rod Argent, when talking to the audience, seems strangely defensive — having to say over and over that various music magazines put Odessey And Oracle in their best albums lists, or that Dave Grohl or Paul Weller or whoever like different songs. He shouldn’t feel like he needs to tell us those things. Just listening to the music is enough.
For those of you who are uninterested in my increasingly recondite ramblings on comics, continuity, canon, quantum physics and Doctor Who, here’s some music…
Incidentally, I lose track of what I have and haven’t included in these, but I hope there’s always enough new stuff to keep people interested…
Come To The Sunshine by Harper’s Bizarre is one of Van Dyke Parks’ early songwriting/production works, and a little soft-pop classic.
Soulful Dress by Sugar Pie Desanto is a Chess R&B track from the early 60s, about dressing up before going out.
Vox Wah Wah Ad by The Electric Prunes is just what it says it is – the Electric Prunes demonstrating the proper use of the wah-wah pedal.
It’s A Hard Business by Wild Man Fischer and Rosemary Clooney is… wait a second… let me say that again… by Wild Man Fischer and Rosemary Clooney. Yes, that Wild Man Fischer and that Rosemary Clooney. The homeless schizophrenic outsider musician and the jazz singer who starred in White Christmas and was George Clooney’s aunt. What will I find on Spotify next – Perry Como Sings Jandek?
Mrs Toad’s Cookies by Klaatu is from the last album by the Canadian band, who were most famous for writing Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft and for many people thinking they were the Beatles in disguise. I can *sort of* see the Beatles similarity here – especially McCartney – but to be honest it sounds like a collaboration between Jeff Lynne and Mike Batt. Which is no bad thing…
Wild Man Fischer and Rosemary Clooney?!
Ahem… Lighten Up, Morrissey by Sparks is a message I think we can all agree with…
Wagons West by The National Pep is another one by my own band, but again I do actually think it’s a good song. I wrote the music, my friend Tilt wrote the words. Tilt sings and plays drums, I play all the other instruments and Laura Denison also sings.
The Father, The Son And The Friendly Ghost by The Native Shrubs Of The Santa Monica Mountains is a soft-pop/bluegrass song about Casper The Friendly Ghost, Abraham Lincoln and Trotsky, a Beach Boys-esque waltz-time middle eight (with a tiny hint of Zappa in the changes in the end) contrasting with a common-time banjo-plucking verse.
Living In Sin by Janet Klein is another of her naughty covers of songs from the early part of the last century.
Wild Man Fischer and Rosemary Clooney?
Eleanor by Bob Lind is a great little track from someone who’s mostly only known for the one song Elusive Butterfly. This one’s very, very Lee Hazelwood.
Havana Moon by Chuck Berry is one of the earliest knock-offs of Louie Louie, performed solo by Berry on guitar and vocals.
Misty Roses by Colin Blunstone is one I’m sure I’ve included in a playlist before, but it’s also absolutely gorgeous. A Tim Hardin cover, with a fantastic string arrangement, this is one of those tracks that everyone should own.
Don’t Fear The Reaper by The Beautiful South is a cover version of the Blue Oyster Cult song. I used to live round the corner from Paul Heaton, and he used to go to our local pub on quiz nights, but after my sisters started coming and blatantly gawping at him he stopped going (unsure if it was coincidence…)
On Again! On Again! by Jake Thackray has the greatest opening line of any song – “I love a good bum on a woman, it makes my day/To me it is palpable proof of God’s existence a posteriori“. Anyone who can make bilingual puns in Latin while doing Carry On style humour is all right with me. This song got Thackray pegged as a misogynist by many, who couldn’t see that it was just possibly tongue in cheek (lines like “Please understand that I love and admire the frailer sex/and I honour them every bit as much as the next/misogynist” were probably not meant to be taken entirely seriously…)
And Go Back by Crabby Appleton is a great glammed-up powerpop track, produced I think by Curt Boettcher (it certainly sounds like his work – it sounds like his songwriting as well, actually)
WILD MAN FISCHER AND ROSEMARY CLOONEY?!
As those of you who are friends of mine (I wrote this in two chunks when my head was up to it, and coming back to this I can’t believe I wrote that and didn’t see the pun…) on last.fm will know, I’ve been listening to rather a lot of the Zombies’ music since I saw them live the other week, and so I thought I’d put together a brief guide to the music of one of the more overlooked bands of the sixties.
The Zombies were a five-member band, but really had three important members. Colin Blunstone is one of the great pop vocalists of all time, and Rod Argent and Chris White were both exceptional songwriters in their prime. Argent is also an extremely talented keyboard player, and both Argent and White were pretty good singers.
The band’s first album, Begin Here, is a very typical early-60s album, of the type you’d imagine from a band who wanted to be R&B but were from St Albans and had A-levels. There are three great Rod Argent originals – She’s Not There, the band’s first and biggest hit single, and two gorgeous ballads, I Remember When I Loved Her and The Way I Feel Inside, but the rest of the album is filler, including deeply unconvincing versions of Road Runner and Got My Mojo Working which remind me of Sonny Boy Williamson II’s comment on British beat groups of the time – “those white boys want to play the blues so bad… and they play the blues so bad!”
There’s nothing on there as cringe-making as Gerry & The Pacemakers’ version of Little Walter’s My Babe (which may be the whitest record ever made), and they even manage to do a couple of decent soul covers (Solomon Burke’s Can’t Nobody Love You and Ray Charles’ Sticks And Stones – neither of course matching the originals, but both perfectly competent) but even the expanded CD version, which includes the band’s second hit Tell Her No, another classic single, isn’t really worth getting on its own, other than for a handful of tracks.
The Zombies recorded many non-album singles over the next couple of years, which are available on a variety of compilations, and most of which are very listenable, especially their cover version of Little Anthony & The Imperials’ Goin’ Out Of My Head. If you want to hear the early beat-group era Zombies records, a compilation of these singles is definitely the way to go, rather than that first album. Look for a compilation which contains The Way I Feel Inside, I Love You, Goin’ Out Of My Head, I Remember When I Loved Her and Whenever You’re Ready as well as the big hits.
They didn’t get to record another album until mid-1967. That album, Odessey And Oracle, is so different from their first album that it’s hard to believe it’s by the same band. Made up entirely of originals (seven by Chris White and five by Argent), Odessey And Oracle is one of the very, very few albums ever recorded where every single track is a good one – there’s not a weak song on there, and if you only get one Zombies album, that’s the one to get. A perfect encapsulation of everything that’s good about baroque pop, it’s as if someone distilled everything good about both the circa-1966 Kinks and Beach Boys into one album. Really that good.
The band decided to split before recording O&O, but a year later one of the singles from the album, Time Of The Season, became a massive hit, and so the decision was made to release a ‘new’ ‘Zombies’ album, RIP, which was put together by taking some unreleased early tracks and adding orchestral overdubs, and then adding in a few Zombies-esque tracks by an early line-up of Argent and White’s new band, Argent. This album was never released, but a few tracks from it are bonus tracks on the most recent reissue of Odessey, and they’re definitely worth listening to.
All the Zombies’ studio material (including RIP), along with a ton of outtakes and BBC sessions, was released on the 1997 box set Zombie Heaven. The strength and weakness of this set are the same – it’s compiled by someone who can say things like “While most collections of demos and ‘works in progress’ can be testing for the listener, in the case of the Zombies that maxim does not apply, for they could literally do no wrong.”
In other words, it’s a four-CD box set that should really be a three-CD box, and would be better for it, but it does contain everything, so if you see it going cheap it should be the one you go for. It is definitely worth owning – many of the outtakes and sessions on it are well worth listening to – but a bit overlong.
Paradoxically, however, given those comments, I would urge anyone who likes O&O to get Into The Afterlife, a compilation mostly consisting on immediate post-Zombies work by Argent, White and Blunstone. Containing Blunstone’s solo singles as Neil Macarthur (including his remake of She’s Not There, some of the RIP tracks with just the vocals and string overdubs, and some songwriting demos by Argent and White for what was to become Argent, one would imagine it would be awful. In fact it’s the second-best ‘Zombies’ album.
After the split, Blunstone, White and Argent continued working together on Blunstone’s early solo albums – White and Argent producing and contributing songs (though Blunstone grew a lot as a songwriter himself), and Argent (the band) acting as backing musicians. The first of these solo albums, One Year, is one of the all-time great albums – even Holly, my wife, who’s not a Zombies fan, enjoys Blunstone’s early solo work. For most of the album, the only backing is a string quintet, and the arrangements are some of the best I’ve ever heard on a rock/pop album – more Bartok than anything else, and working in conversation with the vocals rather than just backing. Particularly extraordinary is the cover of Tim Hardin’s Misty Roses, with an extended break just for the strings, and the cover of Denny Laine’s Say You Don’t Mind was a big hit, but the whole thing is essential – in a just world it should be rated as highly as Pet Sounds or Astral Weeks
Blunstone’s second solo album, Ennismore was also produced by Argent and White, and while it’s a more conventional-sounding album, it’s still extraordinarily good, containing the minor hit Andorra, the wonderful Russ Ballard song I Don’t Believe In Miracles and Blunstone’s own How Wrong Can One Man Be? (VERY obviously influenced by Tim Hardin, but no worse for that). On CD, it’s paired with Blunstone’s third album, Journey, which was produced by White alone. While decent, this is nowhere near up to the standard of the first two.
Pretty much nothing the Zombies have done together or apart since Ennismore has been worth bothering with (though I’ve bothered with quite a bit of it), but it’s worth getting the live Odessey And Oracle (Revisited) DVD, the soundtrack of which those of you on Spotify can hear here.
Spotify doesn’t have any of the Zombies’ studio recordings, although it does have some Blunstone solo stuff (and Blunstone/Argent reunion Zombies stuff) mislabelled as the Zombies. It doesn’t have the first two albums, but there are a couple of Blunstone best-ofs (like this one ) which are made up almost entirely of tracks from the first three albums and should give you an idea of their quality.
The Zombies’ album Odessey And Oracle is one of the few ‘classic albums’ that happens to really be the best album of the band’s career. While many Beach Boys albums are at least as good as Pet Sounds, Revolver beats Sgt Pepper hands down, and Da Capo is half a better album than Forever Changes, The Zombies’ career was short enough that they only really made one proper album-as-statement, so it’s lucky that Odessey And Oracle, which was released in 1968, after they split, is as good as anything out there.
A few years back, two of the members of the Zombies, Colin Blunstone (the lead vocalist) and Rod Argent (the main instrumentalist – a wonderful keyboard player, who also wrote the band’s biggest hits) started touring together, firstly as “Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone of The Zombies”, but then the “Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone” started getting smaller on the posters and The Zombies getting bigger, and now their touring band just tours as The Zombies. I never managed to see them live, even though the Zombies were one of my favourite 60s bands, because there has always been some kind of scheduling conflict (for example when they played Liverpool in 2004, Brian Wilson was performing Smile in town on the same night), but the live recordings I’d heard of the touring band had been pretty good (though reunion album Out Of The Shadows was fairly poor, with only the decent Ray Charles-esque blues track Mystified being at all memorable, and even that badly produced).
However, last year the four surviving members of the Zombies (guitarist Paul Atkinson having sadly died a few years ago) got together for a handful of concerts in That London to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of Odessey & Oracle. In the first half of the shows, Blunstone & Argent’s touring Zombies played a normal set, while in the second half the four surviving members, augmented by touring guitarist Keith Airey and keyboardist Darian Sahanaja (who regular readers will have heard me rave about before) performed O&O from beginning to end. (A live album from those concerts can be heard here for those of you with Spotify, but the live DVD that came out this week is better, having more songs). After this, they announced that they would be playing four (and only four) UK gigs doing the same thing, and then never play the album live again. As one of those was the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester, I had to go, along with my 22-year-old brother who is only now starting to develop his musical taste.
The first half of the gig, by the current touring ‘Zombies’, was a mixed bag. The band themselves are the same kind of lineup you see when going to see any 60s group live these days – two original members (you’ll recognise these in any 60s group – they’re the ones with the mullets), a bass-player who used to be in a different 60s group (Jim Rodford, formerly of Rod Argent’s late-60s band Argent, and a member of The Kinks for 20 years), a guitarist who looks like he thinks he’s too good for this and insists on playing twiddly blues riffs all over everything (Keith Airey, who my brother said was ‘working out his mid-life crisis live on stage’, and looks like a clone of Roger Daltrey) and someone several decades younger than anyone else on stage who’s the son of one of the other members (drummer Steve Rodford).
Starting out with I Love You, the band stormed through the first half of the set. The early Zombies songs worked very well – the appeal of the Zombies early on was Blunstone’s voice and Argent’s keyboard, anyway, so the others weren’t too missed. Those early songs, while good of their type, were pretty much indistinguishable from other chart music of the time in their construction – most of their first few singles could have easily been hits for the Swinging Blue Jeans or The Merseybeats – but Blunstone’s breathy, gorgeous jazz-inflected vocals and Argent’s Hammond organ made the finished records sound like Mose Allison Goes Merseybeat.
Surprisingly, though, while the first set contained a few early Zombies songs, and one or two from the reunion albums, as well as songs like Sticks And Stones (a Ray Charles cover the Zombies used to do), a big chunk of the first set was devoted to Colin Blunstone’s solo records.
This is no bad thing. After the Zombies split, Argent formed the imaginatively-named prog band Argent, along with (as a non-performing writing/production partner) Zombies bassist Chris White, but Blunstone went on to make a couple of exceptional solo albums – One Year and Ennismore – before his later, more mediocre, solo work. One Year was produced by Argent and White, and so is effectively a Zombies album by any other name, and may even be the best of them.
Unfortunately, One Year was based around some gorgeous string arrangements which couldn’t be replicated live, but the Tim Hardin cover Misty Roses still worked wonderfully with just Blunstone’s vocal and Airey’s (remarkably restrained) acoustic guitar. Say You Don’t Mind worked less well, turned into a Status Quo-esque boogie (they said later that the Zombies used to play it that way live, but that didn’t make it any better). I Don’t Believe In Miracles, on the other hand, from Ennismore, is one of those songs it’s impossible to mess up, though it helps that Blunstone still has one of the most extraordinary voices in popular music.
Unfortunately, the sound in this first half was *appaling*, and the fault must be that of the sound engineer as the Bridgewater Hall has the best acoustics of any venue I’ve ever attended. Blunstone’s voice was almost drowned out for much of this first half, and the whole thing was a wash of reverb. The band played wonderfully, and Blunstone in particular sounded stunning – but it was a strain to hear him. I should have realised the sound engineer would be bad even before the start of the gig – the intro CD was an Otis Redding mono/stereo twofer, and when it turned into stereo, we could only hear one channel through the PA, so we were treated to minimalist bass-and-horns-only versions of Mr Pitiful, Satisfaction and so on…
However, despite this, the first half was very good, and the ‘new’ members acquitted themselves pretty well. The first set ended with Argent’s hit single Hold Your Head Up, which sounded far better (though still not all that great) with Blunstone singing lead.
The second half was what everyone had come to see, though. The Zombies had split up before Odessey And Oracle had ever been released, and so they’d never performed this material live. In fact Hugh Grundy, the drummer, and Chris White, the bass player, have not played live much at all in the forty-plus years since recording the album. But here were four of the original Zombies, plus Keith Airey on guitar, Darian Sahanaja on keyboards, the Rodfords on backing vocals and hand percussion and Chris White’s wife Vivienne Boucherat on backing vocals.
I was particularly glad to see Chris White on stage, as while Rod Argent wrote the band’s biggest hits, and some very very fine songs like A Rose For Emily, Chris White wrote seven of the thirteen songs on Odessey And Oracle, and I always found his songs to be more to my taste than Argent’s – songs like This Will Be Our Year and Friends Of Mine seem slightly less calculated than Argent’s rather intellectual, precise writing.
But actually one of the striking things about Odessey And Oracle is how unified Argent and White’s vision was. Normally if you have two non-collaborating songwriters in a band you end up with two very different styles – think of Lennon & McCartney, both equally good, but McCartney could never have written I Am The Walrus and Lennon wouldn’t have written For No One. By contrast, White and Argent have almost interchangeable styles – White slightly more folky and Argent more jazzy, but Argent could easily have written Butcher’s Tale or White I Want Her She Wants Me.
What’s even more amazing is how well the album stands up as a live performance. Usually, when watching one of these ‘classic acts perform their classic albums’ shows, there are one or two songs that just don’t work in a live setting – watching Brian Wilson do Pet Sounds live, for example, Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder) never really came off very well, even though on the record it’s by far the best song. By contrast, it was relatively weaker songs from Odessey And Oracle like Changes (only relatively weaker – O&O is almost unique as a filler-free album) that shone here – hearing those block harmonies (and the vocal blend was stunning, with Blunstone, Argent and White sounding just like they always did, and the other members only adding background touches that had been tracked in the studio) sent shivers down my spine.
Thankfully, the sound engineer had sorted the balance out for the second half, and every note was audible, and Airey had toned down his guitar histrionics, playing note-for-note the parts on the record. Blunstone was in stunning voice throughout – and he’s the only one of the great sixties vocalists whose voice hasn’t aged at all – and everything from the opening of Care Of Cell 44 through to the end of Time Of The Season was about as perfect as you can imagine. The record was replicated absolutely faithfully, but Blunstone’s vocals were if anything even better – I was open-mouthed in awe at his singing on the “she told me to be careful if I loved her” section of I Want Her She Wants Me, and every single song in the second half was just beautifully done, from the a capella folky chanting of Changes to the pastoral psych of Beechwood Park (the “Oh roads in my mind” section being another stunner) to the jazzy pop of Time Of The Season.
After this, there was an ‘encore’ which didn’t involve anyone leaving the stage, consisting of their two big hits, She’s Not There and Tell Her No, plus Going Out Of My Head, all augmented by the brass section who’d come along to play on This Will Be Our Year, and then a final real encore where they performed the Gershwins’ Summertime, the first song they ever recorded.
It was definitely a show of two halves, and I feel very sorry for everyone who didn’t get to see this (they say they’re never going to do this in the UK again, though I think they’re touring the US doing it) but I’d definitely still recommend going and seeing the touring band if you get the chance – the ‘new’ members aren’t the originals, but they’re good at what they do, and their half of the set was marred by factors out of their control. But this was one of the handful of shows (like seeing Brian Wilson premiere That Lucky Old Sun, or Richard Thompson doing 1000 Years Of Popular Music, or Pulp at Glastonbury in 1995) that will remain with me forever. My brother, who didn’t know the band’s music at all before going to the gig, came straight out and bought a copy of the live DVD of last year’s show, which should tell you something about the quality of the show.
Since summer appears to have started, alas, this week’s spotify playlist is a little more upbeat and summery than previous ones, though I’ve still included a couple of blues tracks, just because. You can play this one from here . It’s fifteen tracks.
Oh My Love The Wackers is a cover of the Lennon solo track by the classic Canadian pop band. As you might expect from their name, the Wackers were very Beatles-influenced, and this track was a deliberate attempt to do the song as it would have sounded had the Abbey Road-era Beatles recorded it. Gorgeous little track.
Product by Glenn Tilbrook and the Fluffers is from the new album Pandemonium Ensues, which is musically the strongest thing Tilbrook has ever done, drawing from a far broader palette than he ever did in Squeeze (though lyrically he still misses Difford enormously). This one actually worked better live, where it sounded very Jobim-esque – here the John Barryisms in the chorus sound a little cliched. But there’s still some very interesting stuff going on here, and bassist Lucy Shaw’s vocals are great.
Riot In Cell Block #9 by The Robins (the band who later became the Coasters) was written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, and is an obvious precursor to their later Jailhouse Rock, but this is by far the better song.
As it’s Easter Monday, I thought I’d add in the best religious song ever written, the lovely Country Boy by Jake Thackray. Over a melody which is strongly reminiscent of Heroes & Villains, Thackray sings about Jesus’ ministry in the down-to-earth Yorkshire Catholic way he had – referring to a prostitute as “living her life between the scandalised fist and the beckoning finger” and a thief being crucified as “clinging to life with hands that had always been empty”. It’s an expression of a very humanistic Christianity, and is in its own way as great a religious artwork as Bach’s St Mathew Passion or the Sistine Chapel – that sounds an exaggeration, but I truly think it’s the case.
Give Me A Pig’s Foot And A Bottle Of Beer by Bessie Smith is there for pillock, who asked about this one last week, but also because it’s a great early blues track.
Surf’s Up by The Beach Boys is one of the two greatest songs ever written. Both, according to most sources, were written by the same two men, Brian WIlson and Van Dyke Parks, on the same night (the other is Wonderful, Rufus Wainwright’s version of which I linked the other week). If this had been released in 1966, as part of Smile, as intended, rather than five years later, it would have been as important a record as A Day In The Life. But it’s still a better one.
You’re No Good by The Swinging Blue Jeans is one of the best Merseybeat singles ever. I always think it a shame that the Swinging Blue Jeans are ignored while even The Searchers get some respect now – You’re No Good and their version of Don’t Make Me Over are classic pop singles I could listen to all day.
Directly From My Heart To You by Little Richard is a song I first learned from Frank Zappa’s cover version. In both versions it’s a wonderful piece of greasy blues. Why Little Richard isn’t absolutely worshipped, I don’t know – the man was one of the greatest vocalists who ever lived.
Someday Man by Paul Williams is a version by Williams of a song he wrote with composer Roger Nichols for the Monkees. Williams and Nichols are possibly the least cool songwriting team ever, having written Rainy Days and Mondays and Rainbow Connection, but this song, Trust and To Put Up With You are as good as soft pop gets. This one reminds me of Neil Diamond, but less smug.
Candombe by Los Shakers is what you get when an Argentinian band that started out as a clone of moptop-era Beatles goes psychedelic.
Sport (The Odd Boy) by The Bonzo Dog Band is a rare full collaboration between Neil Innes and Viv Stanshall, and manages to be hilarious, an accurate attack on British schooling *and* parenting, and musically unusual, combining cod-Elizabethan woodwind, waltz-time harpsichord and mass chanting.
Three Hours Past Midnight by Johnny Guitar Watson is one of the greatest electric blues records ever made. In particular, the guitar playing on here is pretty much the template for all Frank Zappa’s playing throughout his career.
I Want A Pony by Candypants is my favourite stompy pop song of all time. “Mom, I wanna be the king of pop/buy me fans, hurry up/I just wanna be a millionaire/You’d die and leave me money if you really cared/…I want a pony, I want a pony, I want a pony, I want a pony now!” Lisa Jenio is my favourite songwriter of the last few years, and I wish she’d release some more albums of her own material.
Say You Don’t Mind is not, as Spotify thinks, by The Zombies, but is actually a solo single by lead singer Colin Blunstone, a cover of a Denny Laine song. Blunstone is a great vocalist (and I’m looking forward an unreasonable amount to the Zombies’ Manchester gig next week) but what really makes this for me is the fact that they’ve chosen to back him with *only* a small string section, playing in a chamber music style. It turns what would otherwise have been an average 70s pop-rock singer-songwriter track into something very different. And that last note just blows me away every time.
And finally, Cups And Cakes by Spinal Tap is a wonderful gentle pisstake of English pastoral psychedelia, while fitting the genre perfectly.