Thursday, May 9, 2013

Various Artists – What's Shakin' (1966 us/uk, excellent, blues psych folk rock)

 
 
 Throughout the 1960’s, rock music went through a turbulent period of transition. As bands like The Who and Cream steered the music industry toward album-based efforts and away from the singles-oriented business model, many bands found their musical catalogues re-arranged, distorted, and occasionally lost beneath the wheels of change. The most high profile causalities of this innovation were the Beatles, who, to the frustration of fans, were forced to arrange different tracks for British and American album releases (thus creating overlap and paradoxical phenomena, like two Rubber Souls).
 
Yet it was out of this chaos that emerged perhaps one of the best kept blues-rock secrets of the 60’s. Resulting from a series of back-room deals and compromises, 1966 saw the release of What’s Shakin’, an Elektra compilation featuring a loose collection of early recordings from a number of notable blues-rock acts- including a Paul Butterfield Blues Band fresh from of their groundbreaking debut, a yet-to-be famous Lovin’ Spoonful, and an Eric Clapton in the early stages of forming Cream (complete with a certain Mr. Jack Bruce on bass).
 
Though the album is fairly obscure to the public at large, these early blues cuts are anything but. Fans of Al Kooper will be quick to recognize the alternate version of “Can’t Keep from Crying, Sometimes", which in itself is a fantastic find. And those acquainted with the Bluesbreakers repertoire will be not fail to pick up on the take on “Steppin’ Out", a version that rivals in quality Clapton’s tenure with John Mayall. (And yes, that is Stevie Winwood on vocals).
 
Remarkably, the album only slows down really in one place (chiefly “I’m In Love Again"). Aside from this, the album soars. The Lovin’ Spoonful keep up their melody end, Eric Clapton remains faithful to his Southern delta roots, and The Butterfield Band are on fire with quality leads and a grooving beat. But what makes this album, whose concept is flimsy at best, work so well?
 
The secret is in the total absence of self-indulgence. The lack of a central artistic ego negates any bad effects that pop up on countless other records- leaving only a band that wants to play the blues. Clapton especially seems to have taken this stance- one gets the impression that Eric is purifying himself before his long tour-of duty with Cream. Case in point: no solo on “Crossroads"
 
For those who crave blues, this back-to-the basics experiment will not fail to please you. If you’re willing undertake a small online search, you’ll find that What’s Shakin’ is quite possibly the best low-key compilation of the 60’s. It is every bit as refreshing as a shot of Jack Daniels, yet is guaranteed never to make you black out. Who else can say that?
by L. Jackson Weisberger
Artists - Tracks
1. The Lovin' Spoonful – Good Time Music - 3:06
2. The Lovin' Spoonful – Almost Grown - 1:50
3. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band – Spoonful - 2:55
4. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band – Off The Wall - 2:02
5. Al Kooper – Can't Keep From Crying Sometimes - 4:30
6. Eric Clapton And The Powerhouse – I Want To Know - 2:14
7. Eric Clapton And The Powerhouse – Crossroads - 2:32
8. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band – Lovin' Cup - 2:35
9. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band – Good Morning Little Schoolgirl - 2:20
10.Eric Clapton And The Powerhouse – Steppin' Out - 3:12
11.Tom Rush – I'm In Love Again - 2:04
12.The Lovin' Spoonful – Don't Bank On It Baby - 1:52
13.The Lovin' Spoonful – Searchin' - 3:13
14.The Paul Butterfield Blues Band – One More Mile - 3:30

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The Allusions - Anthology (1966-68 aussie, pretty beat rock with garage sparkle)

 
 
 
 The Allusions was a Sydney-based quintet that burst out of nowhere in 1966, scoring a couple of major hits in Sydney. Although they disappeared into obscurity after their short career ended, this is a band that deserves much more recognition.
 
The Allusions formed in late 1965, its members drawn from several other accomplished Sydney groups, and boasting four singers. Their leader, singer-guitarist-composer Mike Morris, had previously played with Dennis & The Dellawares; Terry Hearne had been the bassist in popular instrumental group The Dave Bridge Trio, led by ace gutarist and Joy Boys founder-member Dave Bridge. Terry Chapman and Kevin Hughes had both been members of the early '60s Sydney surf band The Midnighters.
 
Within a short time of forming, The Allusions were signed to Robert Iredale's Leopold Productions, one of Australia's first independent record production companies (which had also recently signed Max Merritt & the Meteors) and their recordings were issued on EMI's Parlophone label. It's possible that their rapid signing came about because Robert Iredale was already familiar with Morris' talent -- it's known that The Dellawares provided backing for The Bee Gees on some of the trio's early recordings, which Iredale had produced.
 
The Allusions shot to prominence in early 1966 with their captivatingly melodic version of the old Rick Nelson hit "Gypsy Woman", backed with "Fever (Burns My Brain)", a Mike Morris original. The single proved a disc-jockey's dream, securing solid airplay on Sydney's 2SM and 2UW, registering impressive sales and peaking at #12. The Allusions' reading in turn inspired The Saints to record the song as a single B-side in 1981.
 
With this hit under their belt, the group was given the opportunity to record two original songs (both penned by Morris) for their mesmerising follow-up. "The Dancer" / "Roller Coaster Man" developed the polished sound and strong harmonies of their debut, and echoed The Beatles' "I'm Happy Just To Dance With You". The A-side, the song for which they are best remembered, fared even better than their debut, making the Sydney Top Ten (#9) and giving great hopes for this 'mysterious' outfit among punters and pundits alike. However, because of the parochial nature of radio and the pop scene at the time, The Allusions' chart success was limited entirely to Sydney, and their Singles made no impact whatsoever in Melbourne.
 
Morris' impressive songwriting ability and the success of the two singles persuaded Iredale to finance the recording of a full album -- a comparitively rare occurrence at that time for a new and relatively unproven group. The original LP is now a sought-after rarity, with copies changing hands for as much as $50; copies with the older-style black Parlophone label are particularly sought-after. Happily all the tracks from this rare gem of mid-Sixties OzPop have been included in the complete Allusions Anthology, recently released by Canetoad Records (see below).
 
The LP contains a variety of material, mixing originals by Morris with covers such as Smokey Robinson's "Shop Around". Some commentators have been rather critical of the album, reserving particular scorn for the song "I Believe", but Chris Spencer opines that "it's not as bad as some make us believe, and doesn't sound out of place on this collection".
 
Terry Chapman quit the band in July 1966, not long before their third single was recorded, apparently unhappy with the Beatles-ish direction in which Morris was taking them. He went on to join one of Australia's first psychedelic groups, The Knack, which included drummer Craig Collinge, formerly of The Librettos and later of Procession. Chapman's replacement was Bruce Davis, who had worked with Morris in The Dellawares.
 
Their third single "Looks Like Trouble" (Oct. 1966) didn't chart, although the follow-up "Roundabout" (another Morris original, released in March 1967) managed to scrape into the bottom of the Top 40. An EP, The Dancer, followed in April, compiling the A-sides from the first three Singles, plus "Roller Coaster Man".
 
According to Vernon Joyson, some time during 1967 The Allusions also recorded as the (uncredited) backing band for Digger Revell on his LP To Whom It May Concern. Another Allusions curiosity from this period is a promotional single -- which the group recorded under the pseudonym The Telemen -- the A-side of which was a version of the theme from the popular TV sitcom My Name's McGooley, What's Yours?.
 
The Allusions released two more Singles, "Seven Days Of Rain" (July 1967) and "Mr Love" (February 1968), but neither was successful. Between these two releases, Mike Morris left the band in late 1967, and he was replaced by John Spence. The Allusions continued as a four-piece until October 1968, when Terry Hearne quit to join Digger Revell's backing band. Mike Morris then rejoined, to raise money for an overseas trip, but by this time the momentum of their early success had dissipated, and in the face of changing trends they split for good in early 1969.
 
Not much is known about what happened to the members after their brief spell in the limelight; what little we have gleaned comes from Vernon Joyson's entry on the band in his book. Mike Morris worked with a number of local country-rock bands after returning to Australia. Terry Hearne was reported to be still playing with Digger Revell in the 1990s, although that was presumably ended by Digger's arrest conviction on charges of marijuana cultivation and trafficking, and his subsequent incarceration. Sadly, drummer Kevin Hughes committed suicide in 1975.
 
The Allusions left behind a fine batch of records that are highly sought after by collectors of quality sixties Aussie pop. The evidence we have is that they could indeed "rock out" -- exemplified by the spirited cover of The Kinks' "I Gotta Move" on the LP, which arguably rivals the original -- along with strong similarities to other early beat-boom merchants like The Zombies and The Searchers. They used "I Feel Fine"-style guitar feedback too, before it was remotely de rigeur.
 
If this band will be remembered at all though (and they should be), it would be for their extremely tight and inventive sound, those complex vocal harmonies, and their mastery of the three-minute beat-pop single idiom.
by Paul Culnane
Tracks
1. Gypsy Woman - 2:19
2. Fever (Burns My Brain) - 2:29
3. The Dancer - 2:02
4. Roller Coaster Man - 2:12
5. Looks Like Trouble - 2:41
6. Ninety Seven Cigarettes - 2:23
7. Roundabout - 3:10
8. I'll Be Home - 2:13
9. Seven Days Of Rain - 1:58
10.Two Of A Kind - 2:43
11.Mr Love - 2:40
12.And She's Mine - 2:35
13.I Gotta Move - 3:36
14.Blue Tomorrow - 1:59
15.In My Solitude - 2:43
16.Shop Around - 2:42
17.Lady Of Leisure - 2:12
18.Out Of Order - 2:06
19.I Believe - 2:23
20.Theme From 'My Name's McGooley' - 2:00
21.Stop Gently - 1:52

The Allusions
*Terry Chapman - Bass, Vocals (1965 - July 1966)
*Bruce Davis - Bass, Vocals (July 1966 - Early 1969)
*Terry Hearne - Lead Guitar, Vocals (1965 - Oct 1968)
*Kevin Hughes - Drums
*Michael Morris - Rhythm Guitar, Vocals (1965-Late 1967, October '68 - Early '69)
*John Shaw - Piano, Organ, Vocals
*John Spence - Guitar Late (1967 -)

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