Various Artists - Gathered From Coincidence: The British Folk-Pop Sound of 1965-66 - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Various Artists - Gathered From Coincidence: The British Folk-Pop Sound of 1965-66

by Jeff Penczak Rating:8 Release Date:2018-06-29
Various Artists - Gathered From Coincidence: The British Folk-Pop Sound of 1965-66
Various Artists - Gathered From Coincidence: The British Folk-Pop Sound of 1965-66

As compiler/annotator David Wells’ self-deprecating, apologist liners make clear, this 3CD set owes its existence to the immeasurable influence of one Robert Zimmerman who broke down the barriers that heretofore send folk and pop music purveyors to separate corners. “Suddenly everything was grist for the mill and musical cross-pollination was almost de rigueur.” Launched by perhaps “the first folk-rock hit”, The Animals’ 1964 reimagining of ‘The House of The Rising Sun’, the two years covered by these 79 tracks represent the pinnacle of Britain’s attempt to emulate the success of Dylan (about a dozen are Dylan covers), The Byrds, and the girl group sounds across the pond. [For example, considering there were nearly 80 tracks to choose from, I think it was a missed opportunity to title the box after a Dylan lyric rather than one of the included performers. Also, Wells intentionally avoids the “Folk-Rock” moniker in order to differentiate the sounds within from the late ’60s scene best exemplified by the likes of Fairport Convention, Lindisfarne, Steeleye Span, et. al. (his choices). Finally, the timeframe is rather arbitrary, as right out of the gate Wells acknowledges that “The Searchers’ pioneering brand of jingle-jangle folk-beat-pop peaked prior to our timeframe”, raising questions and eyebrows as to the intention behind the restrictive 65-66 bookends.]

It’s a mixed bag, by design, with many household names being represented by one-off toe-dips that contraindicate their typical output while shining spotlights on the usually overlooked brilliance and influence of nose-turn-ups like The Searchers. And, presumably, that old licensing bugaboo prevents Wells from including any of the Beatles’ “folk-pop” experiments, so you’ll have to settle for The Silkie’s hit version of ‘You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away’. The short-lived boom introduced its fair share of no-hit wonders whose careers lasted shorter than their 7” forays included herein, so 3 discs may be stretching matters, but there are quite a few surprises to keep you smiling throughout more than three hours of the jolly frivolity that bridged the musical cavern between the beat/R&B boom and the approaching storm of psychedelia.

The aforementioned Searchers’ opener, ‘Take Me For What’ I’m Worth’ has all the earmarks of composer P.F. Sloan’s similar-sounding previous hit ‘Eve of Destruction’ minus the political grandstanding. Peter & Gordon’s little-known B-side (to Top 10 novelty hit ‘Lady Godiva’) ‘Morning’s Calling’ is an affecting slice of jangly, Byrdsian pop that gets a well-deserved unearthing. By now most Marianne Faithfull fans have discovered her overlooked and underappreciated early ’60s “folk period” and Jackie DeShannon’s ‘Come and Stay With Me’ is a representative gem and her biggest hit.

The Searchers’ former vocalist Tony Jackson released a few solo singles, the best of which may be his group’s spot-on Monkees-styled pop ditty ‘Follow Me’, while the first of many surprises is The Kytes’ nostalgic, string-laden weeper ‘Frosted Panes.’ Twinkle was mostly known for the novelty hit ‘Terry’, but ‘Golden Lights’ shows she was more than a pretty face, her Leslie Gore-ish chirping perfectly suited to the ditched girl-next-door tale and being one of the better attempts to hop on the girl group bandwagon racing up the charts in America. Another charmer emanates from The Caravelles whose ‘Hey Mama You’ve Been On My Mind’ is a brilliant slice of ’60s girl group loveliness that is just screaming for Tracy and The Primitives to give it a go. And trivia fans may recognize one of the Caravelles, Lynne Hamilton, who later relocated to Australia and had a massive Top 3 hit over here with ‘On The Inside’, the theme to the Prisoner: Cell Block H cult soap opera!

Lindisfarne completists will enjoy Alan Hull’s early Beatle-ism in The Chosen Few’s ‘I Won’t Be Round You Anymore’, but a chosen few, indeed will be able to stomach The Factotum’s boring sleepwalk through the first of several Dylan covers on offer, ‘Absolutely Sweet Marie’, an odd choice that clearly had no chance of success.

A kinder, gentler Zombies flex their folk muscles on the melancholic ‘Don’t Go Away’ and The Beatmen continue the morose side of folk with the tender, mournful ‘Now The Sun Has Gone’ which matches the Zombies, teardrop-for-teardrop. Marc Bolan released a couple of folk singles before adding Steve Peregrine Took to form Tyrannosaurus Rex and the flip of his late ’65 debut, the short and sweet ‘Beyond the Risin’ Sun’ telescopes the ensuing frilly-frocked fantasies that Peelie loved so much.

Jackie DeShannon’s pen returns to launch the career of 17-year old perty, perky Olivia Newton-John, whose effervescent ‘Till You Say You’ll Be Mine’ is much more pop than folk, but signaled the “Lovely Livvy” had quite the bright future ahead of her. Sadly, the same cannot be said for The Mirage’s ‘Go Away’, presented here in a dodgy demo format notable only for Graham Nash’s strained vocals. DeShannon pops up again for the Epics’ bubbly ‘There’s Just No Pleasing You’, although by now Wells seems to have jettisoned his “folk” remit and reaches for straight pop fluffiness. The band was the breeding ground for greatness, rechristening themselves Acid Gallery to back Roy Wood’s perennial pogo stick popper ‘Dance Round The Maypole’ before several members formed Christie and topped the charts with radio staple ‘Yellow River’. [Trivia fans take note, Epics/Christie drummer Mike Blakley was the brother of Tremeloes’ guitarist Alan, who originally turned down ‘Yellow River’ and gave it to his kid brother!]

And while we’re at it…yup, Jackie again – this time with the brilliant ‘Splendor In The Grass’, although Wells chose the decidedly inferior Gullivers People [sic] version over Jackie’s own collaboration with The Byrds, a highlight of both their early careers. The Foresters just sneak into the box set’s 65-66 remit with the pleasant Herman’s Hermits sound-alike ‘Mr. Smith’, which must be the only “folk-pop” tune with an extended, fuzzed wah-wah solo!

Disc Two opens with a real rarity, the Swedish-only release by The Other Side featuring cult legend Mac MacLeod. Their one-off ’66 trashing of ‘Like A Rollin’ Stone’ [sic] is a shambolic, punky mess that has nothing to do with “folk” or “pop” or MacLeod’s subsequent folky career, but is nice to own for nostalgists and collectors. But wait, there’s more! If that’s not enough of a headscratcher, how about giving a listen to 17-year old Barbara Ruskin’s ‘Well, How Does It Feel?’ Familiar lyric, innit? In fact, she simply took Dylan’s chorus, wrapped it in a few words of her own, and voila! Dylan on a merry-go-round!

David & Jonathan are actually legendary songwriters, the Rogers Cook and Greenaway would go on to pen unforgettable hits for everyone from The Fortunes, Hollies, and Hillside Singers (everybody’s favourite Coke commercial, ‘I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing’) to Cliff Richard, Cilla Black, White Plains, and, er, Engelbert Humperdinck, but their own ‘Lovers of The World Unite’ is an unabashed stomper, a rousing singalong in the style of the Kingston Trio, as is Folk Blues Incorporated (FBI)’s Dylan cover ‘When The Ship Comes In’. Donovan’s original ‘Catch The Wind’ single (much different from the original album and Greatest Hits re-recordings) is unabashed Dylanesque folk: brilliant, of course, but decidedly not pop and hence a curious inclusion here.

Novelty tunes never go out of style and seem almost criticism-proof, weaving as they do throughout the world of pop, folk, et.al. So Alan Klein’s blatant cash-in, the undisguised ‘Eve of Destruction’ rip-off ‘Age of Corruption’ will bring a smile to anyone’s lips. Key lyric: “Let’s jump on the bandwagon, my friends”. And like Barry McGuire, he always seems on the verge of coughing up a lung! Alongside Klein, Micha’s ‘Protest Singer’ is another impersonation of the obvious title character, although, frankly, Paul Simon does him one better on ‘A Simple Desultory Philippic’! (Not included here, of course!) The good-natured jesting continues on several more tunes on Disc 2, including The Sorrows’ derisive ‘Don’t Sing No Sad Songs for Me’, Tommy Yates’ heartbreaking ‘Rattle of A Toy’ and the more obvious needling courtesy harmonica-wielding John Cassidie’s previously unreleased ‘Talkin’ Denmark Street’ which itself sounds like an outtake from Dylan’s debut.

First Gear are remembered, if at all, for the three sides they cut with Jimmy Page wailing akimbo. The other track was the fine harmony folk strummer ‘Gotta Make Their Future Bright’ that feels like it is about to break into a rousing chorus of ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ at any moment. The little-known Hollies stomper ‘Very Last Day’ is a welcome addition to the set, while cult hero Bill Fay’s previously unreleased 1966 demo ‘Sometime Never Day’, a haunting ballad with unusual acoustic solos throughout only adds to his legend.

Of course, there are no Slades or Brothers in the Slade Brothers, but their invigorating singalong ‘Don’t You Cry Over Me’ has a strident Dubliners’ vibe that’s definitely worth a few spins. Murray Head namechecks just about every town in South Wales throughout the (properly pronounced!) ‘Bells of Rhymney’. It’s no night in Bangkok and he’s apparently not too fond of it, but it makes for an interesting addition to your collection of covers by the likes of Cher, Dylan & The Band, Robyn Hitchcock, and Ralph McTell. Jonathan King’s ‘Don’t Talk To Me OF Protest’ may be one of the most sincere bandwagonesque attacks of the likes of Dylan and P.F. Sloan, while another cult folkie Mick Softley chipmunks his way through the penetrating protest put-down ‘That’s Not My Kind Of Love’. Sadly, Softley passed away last year at a Nursing Home in his adopted home in Enniskillen in Northern Ireland. Disc 2 ends with Ian Campbell’s Folk Group’s rousing shout-along rendition of the master’s ‘Times They Are A-Changin’’.

Disc 3 starts promisingly with an obvious, but worthwhile ringer, courtesy The Silkie’s faithful reckoning of John’s attempt to out-Dylan Dylan, the US Top 10 ‘You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away’, admittedly one of the Beatles’ better folk-pop entries. Macca and Harrison’s participation (and Lennon’s production) certainly helped its commercial success. The Kinks’ ‘Wait Till The Summer Comes Along’ from their “folk EP” “Kwyet Kinks” is, alas, a strong argument for letting Ray handle the songwriting/vocal duties, as brother Dave’s nasally mumble doesn’t do the rather pedestrian tune any favours.

A couple of American covers follow and both are pale imitations of their originals, from Peter Nelson’s dull take on Tim Hardin’s as-yet-unreleased ‘Don’t Make Promises’ to Adam Faith’s unnecessary attempt to improve upon Bob Lind’s legendary ‘Cheryl’s Going Home’. Let’s bodyswerve the Manfred’s equally unnecessary trawl through ‘If You Gotta Go, Go Now’ (not only because The Liverpool Five just handled it two weeks earlier!) and slide over to late legend Davey Graham’s hootenannied, Buck Owens-styled rave-up of Macca’s ‘I’m Looking Through You’.

One of the box’s biggest surprises to this writer is the snappy, bluesy jazz toe-tapper ‘Night Comes Down’ from future superstar Jon-Mark (Sweet Thursday, John Mayall, Mark-Almond). If you close your eyes, you’d swear Bert Jansch just entered the room. Girl singers were all the rage in the early ’60s and once Marianne Faithfull scored successes with several early singles, EPs, and LPs, every pretty young thing who could half carry a tune was ushered into the studio. Most failed, and two wannabes included here, Liverpudlian hairdresser Greta Ann and Dana Gillespie illustrate why, although Jimmy Page’s exploding fuzzbox solo on the latter has resulted in more attention than necessary. Same holds for the all-star lineup backing Beverley Kutner on her previously unreleased, pre-marriage (to John Martyn) single ‘Picking Up The Sunshine’ (actually, Donovan’s ‘Bert’s Blues’). How anyone can fail to hit with Jimmy Page, John Renbourn, Nicky Hopkins, John Paul Jones, and Andy White in your “backing band” is as puzzling as Kutner’s strained vocals that aren’t quite blues or jazz or anything else resembling listenable. Sarah Jane, on the other hand, actually CAN sing and her wistful, whispered, faithful Faithfull knock off of the Herman’s Hermits’ B-side (courtesy go-to songsmith Graham Gouldman) ‘Listen People’ is arguably the best version and should have led to future success, which, alas, eluded the lovely Sarah Jane.

The Moodies’ completists will certainly need Justin Hayward’s debut solo single (that’s right, from 1966 no less!) ‘Day Must Come’, an elegantly orchestrated B-side with a strident and dramatic vocal that augured bigger things (and fatter wallets!) There are so many Dylan copyists here, it makes sense to drag in the Welsh Dylan, Meic Stevens, whose ‘Clown In The Alley’ is a swaying-yet-haunting tearjerker with Peter, Paul & Mary- / Kingston Trio styled acoustic accompaniment and a memorable, Dylan-worthy lyric (and harmonica break), although Donovan may have been closer to home (geographically and stylistically!) Props to The Frugal Sounds’ stirring ‘I’m On Your Side’ (B-side, that is!), one of the set’s better coed folk harmony pop tunes. The Pretty Things are certainly not the first band to come to mind when you say “British Folk-Pop”, but their rendition of Donovan’s ‘London Town’ is an agreeable anomaly in an extensive, and impressive discography. Dick Taylor’s ringing guitar soloing is tops as well.

Wistful also describes Chad & Jeremy’s lovely, flute-driven soft-folk version of Ian Tyson’s ‘Four Strong Winds’. I’ll have me pipe and slippers now, m’dear. Joe Meek protégé, Heinz (Burt) doesn’t quite get the respect he deserves, as many of his post-Tornados’ solo cuts are quite enjoyable. Buried in Meek’s typical wall-of-marshmallow production, his jaunty two-step shuffle through ‘Don’t Think Twice (It’s All Right)’ is surely worth a few spins. The set officially ends with The Seekers’ chart-topper ‘The Carnival Is Over’, one of several anthemic folk/pop chestnuts that (if one’s to believe Wells’ liners) led them to the crown of “biggest selling UK act of 1965”!

I say “official” because Cherry Red have tucked a surprise bonus track at the end of the set, but even the most stalwart UK folk-pop collector may not be able to identify this swarming, swelling, and rather swell instrumental. Cheeky bastards!

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