Posts Tagged ‘Island Records’

Universal Music will, in November, issue Mental Train: The Island Years 1969-1971, a new six-disc Mott The Hoople box set which delivers everything the band recorded during their time at Island Records including many bonus tracks and unreleased material.

Mental Train includes the four albums – Mott The Hoople(1969),Mad Shadows (1970), Wildlife (1970) and Brain Capers (1971) – each of which include eight or nine bonus tracks, including A-sides, B-sides, demos, rehearsals and alternate takes.

The fifth CD includes more unheard and unreleased music from the Island archive while the final disc features live material recorded at Fairfield Hall, Croydon on 13th September 1970 and a BBC Radio One In Concert from the Paris Theatre, London on 30th December 1971.

The studio albums have all been remastered from the original tapes (where available) by Andy Pearce and this set comes in what looks like the familiar Universal ‘shoebox’ package (Tears For Fears, Simple Minds etc.) with a a 50-page booklet designed by Phil Smee with sleeve notes by Kris Needs.

6CD box set • Island albums + bonus tracks • disc of unreleased outtakes

For a band lasted a little over five years, the British hard rockers Mott the Hoople managed to squeeze in two golden eras: the one everybody knows, which kicked off in the summer of 1972 when David Bowie handed them a 45 rpm lifeline with the glam-revolution anthem “All the Young Dudes”; and the one that too few people know, a fury of progressive-rock ideas, brass-knuckled application and Ian Hunter’s working-class English-Dylan vocal attack over four albums in the three struggling years covered by this box set.

Named and produced by the lunatic studio savant Guy Stevens, the original Mott guitarist Mick Ralphs, organist Verden Allen, bassist Overend Watts, drummer Dale “Buffin” Griffin and Ian Hunter, the last to join on piano and guitar made luminous trouble, arming the jump and innocence of early rock & roll with the exotic afterburn of psychedelia and the looming force of metal on the late-1969 U.K. debut Mott The Hoople and the swift 1970 followup Mad Shadows. 

As the main writers, often in collaboration, Hunter and Ralphs combined brawny menace and bracing melodicism, blessed with an engine room at once taut and relentless. Some of the tracks across this span got on FM radio in America: the serial explosions of “Thunderbuck Ram” on Mad Shadows; Ralphs’ bright U.S.-tour memoir “Whiskey Women” on 1971’s Wildlife; the dark side of the hippie era that Hunter brought to the Youngbloods’ “Darkness Darkness” on ’71’s Brain Capers. The ones that didn’t get on air still astound: the brawling-Stones rush of “Walking With a Mountain” on Mad Shadows; the fast, feral glee in “The Moon Upstairs” on Brain Capers with its immortal lines, “We ain’t bleeding you/We’re feeding you/But you’re too fucking slow.” New York punks the Dictators used to cover that one live .

The two-plus hours of live and studio bonus material that enrich this telling run from the very beginning (a fragment of Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone,” Hunter’s audition piece when he first sang for the others in 1969) to early versions of songs they carried to their Bowie-triggered resurrection — “One of the Boys”, a prototype of “Momma’s Little Jewel,” both with more formative snarl. On the eve of what Hunter assures will be the last-ever Mott tour — with the surviving members of his ’74 glam gang, guitarist Ariel Bender and pianist Morgan Fisher — it is worth taking a step back to this incisively written, brilliantly detonated mayhem. The best rock & roll stories have glorious endings. Here is one with a roaring, enduring start.

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Traffic - John Barleycorn Must Die front

1969 was a tremulous year for the band Traffic. After a successful tour in the US following their second album, Steve Winwood left the band for the short-lived super group Blind Faith. In the meantime Island Records released the album “Last Exit”, a mishmash of leftover studio cuts and live performances Traffic recorded in 1968. Blind Faith recorded one excellent album but broke up shortly after, leaving Winwood then free to start working on a solo record suggested by Island Record’s manager Chris Blackwell.

The plan was for Winwood to play all the instruments using tape overdubbing techniques in the studio. Winwood is a fine multi instrumentalist who could certainly perform such a feat, but he found the process difficult: “I began trying to make music all on my own with tape machines and overdubbing and stuff. It was a very good way of writing, but it was a weird way of making music. The whole thing that makes music special is people. I was getting to the point that I needed the input of other people. It seemed inhuman to make records just by overdubbing.”

Steve Winwood started calling on his friends from Traffic to help him in the studio. First to join was Jim Capaldi who helped writing some of the songs and contributed drums and percussion tracks. Next was reed man Chris Wood who brought his jazz and folk influences, and the three worked for a few months on the album. It became clear that the solo album, with the planned title name of “Mad Shadows”, was really a Traffic record.

Chris Wood was influenced by the folk revival that swept the British Isles in the late 60s. One song he suggested to the group was John Barleycorn, which he heard on the 1965 Watersons record Frost and Fire. The Watersons’ version, like most of their material from that period, was an unaccompanied vocal group performance.

Winwood applied himself to the song and played a wonderful guitar part on it. Capaldi added tasteful and sparse percussion parts and more importantly a brilliant vocal harmony starting on the fifth verse. Wood’s flute accompaniment is the icing on the cake on this great take on the song, which has been performed by many British folk artists over the years including Martin Carthy and John Renbourn. The Mainly Norfolk site has a good page chronicling many of the song’s covers. It is interesting that amidst the great activity that took place at the time in the British folk rock scene by bands like Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, Fotheringay and many others, one of the most memorable songs remains this performance of John Barleycorn by Traffic, wnot considered a folk rock band.

The album was engineered by Andy Johns, younger brother of Glynn Johns. Between them the two brothers recorded classic rock’s royalty. Before working with Traffic, Andy Johns recorded Jethro Tull (Stand Up, Living in the Past), Spooky Tooth and Blind Faith. After Traffic his career soared with Led Zeppelin (II, III, the legendary IV, Houses of the Holy, Physical Graffiti) and the Rolling Stones (Sticky Fingers, Exile on Main Street). Quite a resume, and this is just within a span of 4 years.

Johns had a deep respect for Steve Winwood. In an interview he mentioned an experience he had when working on the Blind Faith album: “I came back from a lunch break one day and the soundproof door was cracked a little bit, and I could hear him playing the Hammond. He’s playing both manuals and the bass pedals and he’s singing. I look at him and he’s looking at the ceiling. Not only is he playing the top manual, the lower manual, the bass pedals, and singing, but he’s also thinking about what his old lady’s going to make him for dinner. So he’s doing four or five things at once and the music was just stunning. I hate to use the word genius, because it’s bandied about so much, but that guy, in the end of his little finger, has more than a whole tribe of musicality— he really does. It’s just unfair.”

When you first listen to the song you may think that you landed in the midst of a Middle Ages inquisition session. The lyrics describe all kinds of brutal methods inflicted by three men upon a poor fellow named John Barleycorn. However a closer look reveals that the distressing lyrics are actually a metaphor to the process applied to barley in order to produce beer and whiskey. While it has its roots in old folklore tales about the Corn God and religious symbolism, it is really a satire on legally prohibiting the production of alcoholic beverages while still needing the drink to get on with everyday life, as revealed in the last verse:

The huntsman, he can’t hunt the fox,
Nor so loudly to blow his horn,
And the tinker he can’t mend kettle nor pot,
Without a little Barleycorn

In short, John Barleycorn is a drinking song. Maybe the best of them all.

Steve Winwood performs a solo acoustic version of Traffic’s John Barleycorn (Must Die).

Image of Spooky Two - 0 of 5

Spooky Tooth was formed in 1967. Among the players forming its heavy sound were organist Gary Wright, who in the mid-1970s had a massive hit, “Dream Weaver.” Spooky Tooth’s second album in 1969, “Spooky Two”, was their best album, full of deep cuts (i.e., “Lost In My Dream,” “Evil Woman,” “Better By You, Better By Me,” and “That Was Only Yesterday” among them) that still received FM radio in the early 1970s.

Spooky Two is the second studio album by the English rock band Spooky Tooth. It was originally released in March 1969, on the label Island Records in 1969 , “Spooky Two” is this British blues-rock band’s pièce de résistance. All eight of the tracks compound free-styled rock and loose-fitting guitar playing, resulting in some fantastic raw music … their smooth, relaxed tempos and riffs mirrored bands like Savoy Brown and, at times, even the Yardbirds … Although Spooky Tooth lasted about seven years, their other albums never really contained the same passion or talented collaborating by each individual musician as Spooky Two.

It was Spooky Tooth’s misfortune to be sandwiched between Led Zeppelin and Free’s turbo-charged, all-pervasive ascents. A couple of years later and the band’s thoughtful but solid style would have found room to grow. Keyboard player Gary Wright shares vocals with Mike Harrison, a strong, complementary pair of voices, and also writes most of the songs including the memorably catchy Better By You Better Than Me, later rescued from oblivion by Judas Priest. The tracks on their second album are an eclectic bunch, blending the blues with folk, country, gospel and even prog. And they sound better now than they did then.

Spooky Tooth’s lead vocalist, was Mike Harrison, was serviceable, although not in Rodgers’ league. His shortcomings were evident when he tried to hit high notes with a weak falsetto. Yet for most of the material, Harrison’s voice was just what their music needed. Subsequent to the release of the album, Greg Ridley left the group, to join Humble Pie

Everything goes back to Mott the Hoople. After Ralph’s departure, Hunter poached Luther Grosvenor (who left Spooky Tooth in 1970) from another fondly remembered British one-hit wonder Stealers Wheel (the hit was “Stuck in the Middle With You”), whose leader Gerry Rafferty quit and Grosvenor replaced him for a tour. Used to the fill-in role, Grosvenor adopted the “Ariel Bender” moniker for contractual reasons when Mott toured in 1973 and 1974 and recorded their seventh album The Hoople.

Mott the Hoople reformed in 2009 and 2013 for British tours with the original lineup. But in the summer of 2018, Hunter, now 79, brought back Ariel and Hoople keyboardist Morgan Fisher for a series of European dates.

  • Mike Harrison – keyboards, vocals
  • Luther Grosvenor – guitar
  • Gary Wright – keyboards, vocals
  • Greg Ridley – bass
  • Mike Kellie – drums

Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, people standing, people sitting, mountain, outdoor and nature

The Island Book of Records (#IBoR) project documents the analog age of the coolest label on the planet.

It comprises of 12 volumes – each 12”x12” (vinyl-sized) hardback edition detailing (approx.) 100 LPs, all sequentially presented by catalogue number – that means (as just an example) Vol 3 will start with ILPS 9200 the first Roxy Music album and close with ILPS 9299 which was Swamp Dogg‘s one and only Island LP called Have You Heard This Story?

Each LP is fully illustrated with scans of every front and back cover, inside sleeve, labels, inner bag or other inserts plus, where relevant cover variations (and there were a few of those).

Island Records The Island Book Of Records book UK ISDBKTH476026

Within each volume, the LP / gig and tour adverts play an essential illustrative role – in many instances, these ads are long-forgotten pieces of art in their own right. Included are teaser / ¼ page / ½ page / full or double-page as survive from the likes of Melody Maker, NME, Sounds, ZigZag, International Times, The Face, Q Magazine etc and UK editions of Rolling Stone together with trade adverts from Record Retailer before it morphed into Music Week – as well as relevant shop display posters particular to an album’s release.

For the first time ever, accurate in-store dates will be appended to all releases. And, where known, LPs that were scheduled, yet for one reason or another, weren’t issued, are also included.

The text is edited by Paul Rees – a former editor of Q Magazine whose work has also appeared in The Sunday Times Magazine, The Telegraph and The Independent as well as Classic Rock. He is the author of the acclaimed Robert Plant biography published by HarperCollins in 2014.

The text comprises of the stories behind the albums told by those who were actually involved in the making of them  be they the artists themselves / graphic designers / photographers / producers / musicians / engineers or record company personnel of the time.

Already considerably over three years in development, Volumes I, 2, 3 and 11 are now well advanced. To outline the scale – Volume 1 is currently at nearly 300 pages while Volume 2, with all those gatefold sleeves, is presently running at over 660 pages.

IF this archive isn’t collated as it should be and IF the recollections of those who were at the coalface at the time aren’t collected now, they probably never will be and a crucial span of music history will not be preserved for future generations. As time passes, there really is only a relatively narrow window for this to be done.

Neil Storey, HiddenMasters

Last month they shared the track ‘Animal’, now Spring King have aired another new track from the forthcoming album ‘Us vs Them’.

“I never thought much about the old haunts and memories until now. Reliving moments gone, and seeing how much life has changed. Now I really see the way in which time has passed, and where I stand today is the consequence of everything I once did. I can feel my whole world changing, softly in the morning sun,” says guitarist Pete in relation to the muscular, scuzzed-up, coming-of-age anthem, where reflective lyrics meet skyscraper-sized riffs.

The band have also announced details of their second album, the follow-up to 2016’s ‘Tell Me If You Like To’, along with a September UK tour with September 26th NOTTINGHAM Rescue Rooms.

‘A Better Life’ is arriving on August 17th, with Tarek Musa in the production hot seat.

We are proud to announce we are releasing a new album this year. For everyone who has supported us, come to see us play, and made this journey so exciting and memorable up to now, this is for you.

We hope you can share this far and wide, with everyone you think would love this record. We hope you can join us for the next step in the world of Spring King.

Your boys...Tarek, Pete, James and Andy x

reDiscover ‘Mott The Hoople’

The 1970s heyday of Mott The Hoople is well remembered and reported, and has been in the forefront of their fans’ memories following the sad death of  drummer Dale “Buff” Griffin. Less often recalled are the early albums the band made on the Island Records label, before their departure to CBS, their 1969, self-titled debut LP. Remembered primarily as early 70s rockers that struggled for commercial success until they were saved by David Bowie, who donated to them their most iconic song and convinced them that they could be pop stars if they wanted it enough, the story of Mott the Hoople is considerably more subtle and complex than most realise.

Mott’s geographical origins in Hereford, just 15 miles from the English border with Wales, may have been something of a disadvantage given that the West Country music scene of the mid-1960s was rather less obviously prosperous than those in London, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle.

The band came together from the ranks of local outfits the Anchors (Griffin and Peter ‘Overend’ Watts), the Buddies (Mick Ralphs and original vocalist Stan Tippins) and the Inmates (Terence Verden Allen). They coalesced in the Doc Thomas Group, who worked the local clubs in 1966 and ’67 but found more success in Milan, where they even recorded an album for a small label.

Back in the UK, they headed for London and famously auditioned, unsuccessfully, for  The Beatles new Apple label. Then they became the Silence, opened for the still-obscure reggae singer Jimmy Cliff. But some good did come of it, because the Silence were noticed by Guy Stevens, a DJ, A&R man and a flamboyant mover and shaker who was instrumental in the formation of the Island label.

“I was doing eight months for possession of drugs,” Stevens later recalled, “and I read this book called Mott The Hoople by Willard Manus. I wrote to my wife and said ‘Keep the title a secret.’ She wrote back: ‘Are you joking? ‘Mott The Hoople.” That’s ridiculous.”

It may have sounded so, but when he regained his freedom, Stevens managed to persuade the members of the Silence that this would be their new name Although Steven’s signed Silence he had two ultimatums, a change of name for the band, and a change of lead singer in favour of someone with more stage presence. for frontman Tippins, who decamped to Italy to make the best of the band’s popularity there. He returned in the increasingly celebrated and long-lasting role of the later band’s road manager. With extensive auditions. Enter 29 year old Ian Hunter, a veritable veteran of the music scene who’d had a similar lack of luck over the years. He had an odd voice and was perhaps was not what they were looking for visually, but he could write songs and had that undefinable something about him that everyone that they had auditioned before just hadn’t. Stevens signed him up to Mott The Hoople and booked two weeks of studio time in which to produce what became their debut album.

mott-ian

Released in November 1969 on Island in the UK and Atlantic in the US, it was preceded by the single ‘Rock and Roll Queen.’ Stevens sent Mott back to Italy for their first gig under their new name, then they returned for support dates on a UK college tour by the rising King Crimson.

Mott The Hoople showcased the group’s robust, Rolling Stones-influenced rock sound in which Hunter’s Dylanesque vocals and narratives came to the fore, on his own ‘Backsliding Fearlessly,’ songs by Ralphs and some notable covers. The album opened with an instrumental version of the Kinks’ ‘You Really Got Me’ and also sported a remake of ‘Laugh At Me,’ the solitary 1965 solo hit by Sonny Bono of Sonny & Cher.

Mott enhanced their reputation with tireless work on the UK live circuit, in venues such as the Roundhouse, the Marquee and local clubs such as the Greyhound in Croydon and Friars in Aylesbury. An extremely modest breakthough was reached when the album spent one week on the chart at No. 66, six months after release, in May 1970.

Far greater recognition would eventually arrive, but Ian Hunter  remembered these as halcyon days. “The buzz was in the air,” he later said. “We were green as grass, not too good, but enthusiastic. It was fun, nothing to lose.”

Hunter was not the only great songwriter that Mott the Hoople had in their ranks. Prior to the Bowie produced “All the Young Dudes” album, guitar player Mick Ralphs was at least co-leader of the band, a capable songwriter in his own right and one of those guitar heroes who stood apart from the rest. Several of the band’s most enduring early rockers were written by Ralphs, with the most impressive being early live favourite “Rock and Roll Queen” from their self-titled debut, and “Thunderbuck Ram” from the band’s dark and moody second album Mad Shadows.

Following the relative failure of Mad Shadows to build on Mott the Hoople’s modest success and a difficult time for Hunter, Ralphs temporarily steered Mott the Hoople away from the influence of Guy Stevens and towards a sound more rooted in country rock for their third album, Wildlife. Despite the evolution of the band’s sound, Wildlife was only just slightly more successful than the band’s first two albums and the standout track was arguably Hunter’s devastatingly emotional “Waterlow”. The failure of Wildlife must have been something of a blow to Ralphs, and follow up album Brain Capers returned Mott the Hoople to the guidance of Guy Stevens and had much more of a collaborative sound and as such returned Hunter once more to the forefront of the band. It still didn’t sell well though.

Thus was Mott the Hoople formed. Over the next five years they would record four studio albums for Island, three for CBS, as well as a live album. They became one of the UK’s most in demand live acts, boasted a dedicated fan base, but for the first few years, that didn’t translate into record sales until the band effectively broke up and bass player Peter ‘Overend’ Watts made a fateful phone call to a rising star known as David Bowie

Joining Mott the Hoople in 1969 in his late 20s was something of a last chance for Ian Hunter to make it in the music industry. He’d been in various bands since the late 50s, but none had delivered the level of success he deserved. On joining Mott the Hoople Guy Stevens advised Hunter to never remove his sunglasses and since then photos of Hunter without sunglasses have been few and far between as they became a trademark that Hunter has retained to this day. Stevens also encouraged Hunter to develop as a songwriter, something which he launched himself into with great relish. Initially stuck behind a piano at the side of the stage, Hunter eventually emerged center stage to become Mott the Hoople’s iconic frontman and one of its primary songwriters, writing some of the band’s greatest songs on their first four albums like “Backsliding Fearlessly”, “Walking With a Mountain” and “The Journey”.

Hunter’s voice has always been an immediately recognisable rasp, part Bob Dylan, part Sonny Bono. Although not a note-perfect vocalist, Hunter could always write a song which suited his vocal style, that you just couldn’t imagine anyone else singing. It was this approach which gave Hunter’s songs an oddly authentic common touch and depth of emotional character – he didn’t seem to come across as your usual unrelatable rock and roll star, he was just a normal guy who happened to be the singer in a rock band. That was Hunter’s great strength and perhaps one of the reasons why, when punk came along Mott the Hoople was one of the few old bands that the British punks would sing the praises of.

When Bowie offered Mott the Hoople “All the Young Dudes”, he also offered to get his manager to lever them out of their record deal with Island, away from the influence of Guy Stevens and produce their next album, which would ultimately be named after their first hit single. Perhaps even more crucially Bowie encouraged Hunter to take sole control over the direction of Mott the Hoople.

Bowie and his management left Mott the Hoople to their own devices having guided them through the transition from becoming hard trying rockers to a more fashionable glam rock sound and Hunter took it upon himself to cement the band’s future and prove that the success of “All the Young Dudes” wasn’t down to Bowie’s involvement alone. Rising to the challenge Hunter wrote a string of glam rock hit singles that became staples of the genre, as well as writing more mature material for the band’s albums.

Mott single

Having finally obtained the success he had craved for so long in his early 30s, it had an interesting effect on Ian Hunter. He didn’t seem to get as easily distracted by the trappings of rock and roll stardom as many of his rock star contemporaries were being, perhaps partly down to the fact that success for him came slightly later in life, so not only did he maybe appreciate it a little bit more, but he was also more wary of the downside of success. As a reaction to it he wrote the rock memoir Diary of a Rock and Roll Star, which recorded life at the rock and roll coal face in often hilariously mundane detail.

After the departure of guitar player Mick Ralphs from the band after the “Mott” album, the pressure was on Hunter as the primary songwriter in the band. Other band members sometimes shared co-writing credits, and sometimes whole songs (Overend Watts’ punky “Born Late 58” being the best), but the spotlight was very much on Hunter and such was the pressure that following the well received The Hoople album, the cracks started to show. Ralph’s replacement Ariel Bender was shown the door in favour of former Spider from Mars Mick Ronson. With the rest of the band having only recently re-calibrated their expectations around Ian Hunter being the creative fulcrum of the band, Ronson’s arrival in the band caused waves and following the brilliant, but only modestly commercially successful “Saturday Gigs”, Hunter quit Mott the Hoople.

Hunter went on to forge a solo career with occasional assistance from Mick Ronson, releasing great albums like his self-titled debut and You’re Never Alone With a Schizophrenic. Hunter had a relatively quiet 1980s, though Barry Manilow’s cover of his song “Ships” did big business. Both Hunter and Ronson were featured as part of the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in 1992, however Hunter wouldn’t remerge again until after Ronson’s sad passing in 1993, first with his Dirty Laundry album in 1995 and then more notably with The Artful Dodger in 1999, which features Hunter’s heartbreaking eulogy to Ronson, “Michael Picasso”.

Since the start of this century, Hunter has re-established himself as a significant creative force, at first with his well received 2001 album Rant, then with 2007’s Shrunken Heads, 2009’s Man Overboard and 2012’s When I’m President. Hunter remains a well respected and much loved veteran of rock music well into his 70s .

mott6914

A Mott The Hoople concert poster from late 1969

Mott enhanced their reputation with tireless work on the UK live circuit, in venues such as the Roundhouse, the Marquee and local clubs such as the Greyhound in Croydon and Friars in Aylesbury. An extremely modest breakthough was reached when the album spent one week on the chart at No. 66, six months after release, in May 1970.

Far greater recognition would eventually arrive, but Hunter  remembered these as halcyon days. “The buzz was in the air,” he later said. “We were green as grass, not too good, but enthusiastic. It was fun, nothing to lose.”

For their first four albums, Mott the Hoople were a great rock band trying to find their way, but that’s not to mean that they didn’t produce any good material during this period of their career. There’s an embarrassment of riches on their Island albums and it is not for want of trying that they failed to connect with a large audience. From driving hard rock riffs and extended jams, to beautifully reflective acoustic ballads and country rock, Mott the Hoople were a curiously flexible and adaptable act that pleased their live audience, but for whatever reason they just didn’t sell the amount of albums that they deserved to.

 

While their commercial fortunes swung dramatically throughout Mott the Hoople’s career, their reputation as a crowd-pleasing live act remained throughout. While on album and single, the listener could be forgiven for assuming that drummer Buffin Griffin, organ player Verden Allen and Overend Watts were little more than talented sidesmen, on the live stage there was no arguing with the fact that on the live stage, each member of the band were given space to make their mark on their audience.

mott-trees

In 1971, Island Records released a double sampler album called El Pea. This compilation cost the princely sum of £1.99 and featured many fledging artists who would go on to become household names,this album was a revelation, and changed my attitude to music forever.

Island Records started out with a catalogue of Jamaican music but the charismatic founder, Chris Blackwell, soon diversified into an eclectic stable of contemporary acts. Some didn’t make it, some did, but all of them appeared on one or other of the samplers Island Records released in the early 1970s.

The appeal of the samplers was clear. Punters got a chance to hear some of the best new music at a heavily discounted price, whilst the record company got to promote music that did not readily lend itself to radio or TV airplay. Some of the compilations were classic recordings in their own right, and Island Records probably came out with the classiest.

El Pea was released in the UK in 1971, but it has an enduring appeal. This was probably the folkiest of the Island samplers, with the inevitable influence of Joe Boyd. However it had its heavier moments, a touch of prog and a little reggae to make for a heady brew. The album cover was hardly arresting and probably played too much on the pun in its name – a long-playing double LP called… El Pea,  However the slapdash artwork disguises a classic album. They couldn’t even get the track listing right – you might be pleased to see Nick Drake on the album but the track listed as “One Of These Things First”, is actually the even better, astonishing, “Northern Sky”. Another track worth the purchase price is by McDonald and Giles, previously of King Crimson fame, and the album from which the track comes is one of those forgotten gems you won’t regret checking out.

You can’t get El Pea on CD, but all of the tracks are available on subsequently released CDs. Additionally a number of compilation CDs have come out over the years to reprise the glorious days of the Island sampler.

With selections ranging from much-anticipated new albums by superstars Traffic, Free, and Cat Stevens; cult demigods Mott the Hoople and Quintessence; and a handful of names that might well have been new to the average browser: Mike Heron, slipping out of the Incredible String Band with his Smiling Men With Bad Reputations debut; Nick Drake, still laboring away in absolute obscurity; and so on.

There was also a spotlight shone on Emerson, Lake & Palmer, the so-called supergroup whose own eponymous debut was still awaited with baited breath, and the choice of the virtuoso “Knife Edge” over any of the album’s more accessible tracks further confirms El Pea’s validity. Any other label would have gone for “Lucky Man,” knowing that no one could resist its plaintive charms. “Knife Edge” let the ingenue know precisely what to expect from Emerson, Lake & Palmer.

And so it goes on — from Jethro Tull to Blodwyn Pig, from Fairport Convention to Sandy Denny, 21 tracks spread across four sides of vinyl serve up one of the most generous and alluring label samplers you will ever lay your hands on

Side A

A 1 – Traffic – Empty Pages
A2 – Sandy Denny – Late November
A3 – Alan Bown – Thru The Night
A4 – John And Beverley Martyn – Auntie Aviator
A5 – Fairport Convention – Lord Marlborough

Side B
B1 – Jethro Tull – Mother Goose
B2 – Quintessence – Dive Deep
B3 – Amazing Blondel – Spring Season
B4 – McDonald & Giles – Extract From Tomorrow’s People – The Children Of Today
B5 – Tir Na Nog – Our Love Will Not Decay
B6 – Mountain – Don’t Look Around

Side C
C1 – Free – Highway Song
C2 – Incredible String Band – Waiting For You
C3 – Cat Stevens – Wild World
C4 – Bronco – Sudden Street
C5 – Mike Heron – Feast Of Stephen

Side D
D1 – Emerson Lake & Palmer – Knife Edge
D2 – Nick Drake – Northern Sky
D3 – Mott The Hoople – Original Mixed-Up Kid
D4 – Jimmy Cliff – Can’t Stop Worrying, Can’t Stop Loving
D5 – Mick Abrahams – Greyhound Bus

bumpers up front

“Bumpers” was a double sampler album from Island Records, released in Europe and Australasia in 1970; there were minor variations in track listings within Europe but the Australian release was fundamentally different. The title refers to the training shoes which can be seen on the front of the album cover but there may also be a less obvious reference to the meaning “unusually large, abundant or excellent”.

The album is left to present itself; there are no sleeve notes, the gatefold interior consists of a photograph showing publicity shots of the featured acts attached to the bole of a tree, without any identification. This image is flanked by the track listings, but even there, the information given is unreliable. Unlike its predecessors You Can All Join In and Nice Enough To Eat, there are no credits for cover art (the cover art was by Tony Wright, his first sleeve for Island), photography or design. The impression is left that the album’s production was rushed, presumably to leave enough lead-time to promote the albums featured. The English version of the album came out in two pressings, one with the pink label and “i” logo, the other with the label displaying a palm motif on a white background and a pink rim, each version with some minor variations in the production of individual tracks.

In the late sixties British record labels started to release a selection of their artists’ material on records known as samplers. These were not intended as anthologies or compilations – the purpose was to allow listeners the opportunity to sample a range of acts at a reduced price, showcasing in particular those for whom there was not a conventional singles market and hence little opportunity for radio airplay in the UK. Columbia’s ‘The Rock Machine Turns You On’ and Liberty Records ‘Gutbucket’ .   Island Records produced a series of gems from ‘Nice Enough to Eat’ and ‘You Can All Join In’ in 1969, to ‘Bumpers’ in 1970 and ‘El Pea’ in 1971. ‘Bumpers’ was, as it’s name would suggest, the pick of the crop, with an eclectic yet cohesive collection of music across two 33rpm vinyl discs. Priced at actually 29/11 cover price . The album came out in two pressings, one with the pink label and “i” logo, the other with the label displaying a palm motif on a white background and a pink rim.

Side One

  1. “Every Mother’s Son”  – Traffic (from John Barleycorn Must Die (ILPS 9116)) (7:06)
  2. “Love”  – Bronco (from Bronco (ILPS 9134))  (4:42)
  3. “I Am the Walrus”  – Spooky Tooth (from The Last Puff (ILPS 9117)) (6:20)
  4. “Jesus, Buddha, Moses, Gauranga”  – Quintessence (Live version of track, not released elsewhere at the time, but available as ‘bonus’ track on CD version of album Quintessence (REPUK 1016) (5:15)

Side Two

  1. “Thunderbuck Ram” – Mott the Hoople (from Mad Shadows (ILPS 9119) (4:50)
  2. “Nothing To Say”  – Jethro Tull (from Benefit (ILPS 9123)) (5:10)
  3. “Going Back West”  – Jimmy Cliff (from Jimmy Cliff (ILPS 9133)) (5:32)
  4. “Send Your Son To Die” – Blodwyn Pig (from Getting To This (ILPS 9122)) (4:35)
  5. “Little Woman”  – Dave Mason (no source listed)  (2:30)

Side Three

  1. “Go Out And Get It”  – John & Beverley Martyn (from Stormbringer! (ILPS 9113)) (3:15)
  2. “Cadence & Cascade” – King Crimson (from In the Wake of Poseidon (ILPS 9127)) (4:30)
  3. “Reaching Out On All Sides”  – If (from If (ILPS 9129)) (5:35)
  4. “Oh I Wept”  – Free (from Fire and Water (ILSP 9120)) (4:25)
  5. “Hazey Jane” – Nick Drake (from his album to be released Autumn ’70) (4:28)

Side Four

  1. “Walk Awhile”  – Fairport Convention (from Full House (ILPS 9130)) (4:00)
  2. “Maybe You’re Right”  – Cat Stevens (from Mona Bone Jakon (ILPS 9118)) (3:00)
  3. “Island”  – Renaissance (from Renaissance (ILPS 9114)) (5:57)
  4. “The Sea”  – Fotheringay (from Fotheringay (ILPS 9125)) (5:25)
  5. “Take Me To Your Leader”  –Clouds (intended to be on their Chrysalis album to be released Autumn ’70) (2:55)

 

 

“You Can All Join In” was a budget priced sampler album, released in the UK by Island Records in 1968. It was priced at 14 shillings and 6 pence (£0.72), and reached no. 18 on the UK Albums Chart that year

It was arguably instrumental in breaking world-class bands such as Free, Jethro Tull and Traffic to a wider audience. It represented one of the most unexpected marketing triumphs of the age — an (admittedly budget-priced) gathering of underground unknowns riding the label’s own reputation for keeping its finger on the pulse, and out-performing many of the era’s bona fide superstars. Wynder K. Frog, Art, Tramline, Clouds these were not names one normally expected to find hogging the number 18 slot on the chart.

Yet, place familiarity (or the lack thereof) aside, and You Can All Join In is one of those seamless compilations that simply cannot be improved upon. A dozen tracks highlight the best — and that is the best — of Island Record’s recent and forthcoming output, from much-anticipated debut albums by Jethro Tull, Free, and Spooky Tooth to the sophomore effort by Fairport Convention. There’s also a healthy taste of the label’s most-successful-so-far signing, Traffic, as a leaf from Steve Winwood’s back pages — the Spencer Davis Group’s “Somebody Helps Me” joins Tramline’s cover of “Pearly Queen” and Traffic’s own “You Can All Join In” (yes, indeed, this collection’s title track). one of those seamless compilations that simply cannot be improved upon. A dozen tracks highlight the best – and that is the best – of Island’s recent and forthcoming output, from much-anticipated debut albums .

The early ’70s were the golden age of British record-label samplers, with Island themselves following through with three, Vertigo weighing in with the legendary “Suck It and See”, and CBS’ redoubtable Fill Your Head With Rock ranking among a myriad others. None, however, echoed either the success or the resonance of You Can All Join In. 

The Cover Designed by Hipgnosis and although not as imaginative as some of their later work, the front cover photograph was taken in Hyde Park and is said to feature “every single one of the Island artistes … bleary eyed after a party. The rear cover consists merely of a track listing and monochrome images of the covers of eight of the sampled albums .

  1. Clive Bunker, 2 Neil Hubbard, 3 Gary Wright 4 Glenn Cornick 5 Bruce Rowland 6 Martin Barre 7 Mick Weaver 8 Ian Anderson 9 Patrick Campbell-Lyons 10 Ashley Hutchings  11 Alex Spyropoulos 12 Chris Wood 13 Richard Thompson 14 Ian Matthews 15 Steve Winwood 16 Ian A. Anderson 17 Jim Capaldi 18 Mike Harrison 19 Martin Lamble 20 Simon Nicol  21  Harry Hughes 22 Rebop Kwaku Baah 23 Chris Mercer 24 Simon Kirke 25 Paul Rodgers 26 Billy Ritchie  27 Andy Fraser 28 Ian Ellis 29 Sandy Denny

It was combined with the follow-up, Nice Enough To Eat for a CD Re-release in August 1992 entitled Nice Enough To Join In (Island Records IMCD 150).

Side One

  1. “A Song For Jeffrey”  Jethro Tull – (Alternative mix, original version from This Was) (ILPS 9085)
  2. “Sunshine Help Me”  Spooky Tooth – (from It’s All About Spooky Tooth) (ILPS 9080)
  3. “I’m a Mover” Free – (from Tons of Sobs) (ILPS 9089)
  4. “What’s That Sound” Art – (from Supernatural Fairy Tales) (ILP 967)
  5. “Pearly Queen” Tramline – (from Moves of Vegetable Centuries) (ILPS 9095)
  6. “You Can All Join In”  Traffic – (from Traffic) (ILPS 9081T)

Side Two

  1. “Meet on the Ledge”Fairport Convention – (from What We Did on Our Holidays) (ILPS 9092)
  2. “Rainbow Chaser”  Nirvana – (from All of Us) (ILPS 9087)
  3. “Dusty”  John Martyn – (from The Tumbler) (ILPS 9091)
  4. “I’ll Go Girl”  Clouds – (from Scrapbook) (ILPS 9100)
  5. “Somebody Help Me”  Spencer Davis Group – (from The Best of the Spencer Davis Group) (ILPS 9070)
  6. “Gasoline Alley”  Wynder K. Frog – (from Out of the Frying Pan) (ILPS 9082)

Flyte are Will Taylor (vocals, lead guitar), Nick Hill (bass, vocals), Sam Berridge (keyboards, guitars, vocals) and Jon Supran (drums, vocals).
The band spent the first months of 2017 in Australia putting the finishing touches to their debut album with ‘Courtney Barnett’ producer Burke Reid, a collaboration that delves deep into new sonic territory to create a modernist but timeless sound that revels in coming-of-age nostalgia, cinematic synth melodies and prolific storytelling themes of life, love and death.
One of the great treasures of 2017 came in the form of British act Flyte’s debut album The Loved Ones and I don’t know that anyone else seemed to notice. It’s a god damn shame, as it’s a wonderful album that is stripped down to just the core elements of pure songwriting bliss that it’s almost way too good for present-day consumption. I’ve been following the band throughout the years releasing singles, seeing them evolve from releasing 80’s sounding slices of Brit-pop to this more refined 60s sound that feels timeless and essential. The band went into the recording of the album not set on making a big single or moment, but rather making an album that flowed seamlessly with each track as important as the last. It’s fitting on this list that they end the album in old-school fashion, with a cover of Alvvays’ “Archie, Marry Me.”
Last year, vocalist Will Taylor and keys player Sam Berridge got drunk and uploaded a cover of Joni Mitchell’s ‘River’ to their Facebook page. The slap-dash DIY charm and heart-wrenching voices started a Flyte-movement. Racking up over 1M streams, fans wanted more sessions, and Flyte began carefully curating covers in London landmarks with towering acoustics, earning a reputation for their trademark four-part harmonies, as well as their live sound. Pulling on all their resources, the band also started a successful sell-out club night Chasing Heaven, where friends were invited to play at intimate London venues.

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Accomplished songwriters Will, Sam, Nick, and Jon have released a flurry of alternative-indie anthems including ‘We Are The Rain’, ‘Closer Together,’ and ‘Light Me Up’ over the past few years and have amassed over 1.5M Spotify streams. Evolving together as a band and great friends.