Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Spanky And Our Gang - The Complete Mercury Recordings (1966-70 us, lovely jazzy sunny folk, 2006 four discs box set)



Although the original LPs have been out of print for decades, Spanky & Our Gang's Complete Mercury Recordings (2005) are once again available thanks to the audio archivists at Hip-O Select -- located online at www.hip-oselect.com. Featured in this thorough and comprehensive four-CD anthology are the contents of the albums Spanky and Our Gang (1967), Like to Get to Know You (1968), Anything You Choose b/w Without Rhyme or Reason (1969), the compilation Spanky's Greatest Hit(s) (1969) -- notable for a few alternate and extended versions of familiar favorites -- and the combo's posthumous Spanky and Our Gang Live (1970). Hardcore enthusiasts will be even more impressed with the seven never-before issued rarities and an entire disc devoted to monaural mixes of every song released on 45 -- including their fall of 1966 debut 7" single with non-LP covers of the Beatles' "And Your Bird Can Sing" b/w "Sealed with a Kiss," which had been a hit for Brian Hyland in 1962.

Although there was the occasional personnel shift during their three-year (1966 -- 1969) run, the aggregate originated with the quartet of Spanky McFarlane (vocals), Malcolm Hale (guitar/trombone/vocals), Nigel Pickering (guitar/vocals) and Oz Bach (vocals). John Seiter (drums), former percussionist for Odetta was next to join, followed by Pickering's one-time bandmates Kenny Hodges (bass/vocals) and Lefty Baker [aka Eustace Britchforth] (banjo/vocals). As the latter were appreciably seasoned, their contributions to Like to Get to Know You and Anything You Choose take the unit's musicality to a whole new level. Spanky & Our Gang gained a deserved reputation as consummate harmonizers with a penchant for light and slightly psychedelic pop fare. All told, they turned in five respective Top 40 entries and their earliest, "Sunday Will Never Be the Same," was also their highest charting side, landing at a lofty number nine. However their eclecticism, coupled with a comparatively off-the-wall sense of humor is exposed on the lesser-known cuts from Spanky and Our Gang.

The tricky pro-pot "Commercial," the enchanting "5 Definitions of Love" -- containing lyrics lifted verbatim from a dictionary -- as well as the indescribably tasteful takes of John Denver's "Leaving on a Jet Plane" and E.Y. "Yip" Harburg's popular early 20th century standard "Brother Can You Spare a Dime" are but a few recommendations, while "Distance" and "Come and Open Your Eyes (Take a Look)" shouldn't be dismissed either. Like to Get to Know You adopts a motif of Americana, as each track provides a distinct slice of life -- ranging from the cocktail party atmosphere and ambience incorporated into "I'd Like to Get to Know You," the lazy "Sunday Morning" and low-down "Prescription for the Blues." The final studio title Anything You Choose b/w Without Rhyme or Reason is arguably the sextet's best. The pieces are linked together, resulting in an intricate yet cohesive multi-movement suite. Perhaps no song depicted the dichotomy of America in the late '60s like "Give a Damn," which was used as part of a memorable public service advertising campaign for the New York Urban Coalition and in politically and socially disparate regions of the United States, banned for explicit content.

Other standouts include the pop-ish "And She's Mine," the stunning and insightful "Yesterday's Rain" and the coupling of the spoken introduction "But Back Then" to "Mecca Flat Blues," both with Little Brother Montgomery. Spanky & Our Gang disbanded in late 1968 after the death of co-founder Malcolm Hale. Greatest Hit(s) (1969) is notable for the extended rendering of "Sunday Morning," while "Like to Get to Know You" and "Give a Damn" are offered without the sound effects that are heard on the original LPs. Spanky and Our Gang Live was recorded prior to the addition of Seiter, Hodges and Baker, which accounts for the lack of any later era charting selections. What listeners are treated to, though, is an excellent batch of tunes, reflecting the musicians' unique tastes. The set boasts the sublime bluegrass-inspired "Nagasaki," "Amelia Earhart's Last Flight," plus the Gordon Lightfoot compositions "Steel Rail Blues" and "That's What You Get for Lovin' Me." The audio quality is unrivalled thanks to thorough digital remastering, while the oversized 24-page booklet contains an historical essay from Richard Barton Campbell, rare pictures, reproductions of memorabilia and a discography.
by Lindsay Planer
Tracks
Disc 1
Spanky And Our Gang 1967
1. Lazy Day (George Fischoff, Tony Powers) - 3:05
2. (It Ain't Necessarily) Byrd Avenue (Michael Peter Smith) - 2:35
3. Ya Got Trouble (In River City) (Michael Peter Smith) - 4:36
4. Sunday Will Never Be the Same (Eugene Pistilli, Terry Cashman) - 2:56
5. Commercial (Michael Peter Smith) - 1:30
6. If You Could Only Be Me (Carl D'Errico, Roger Atkins) - 2:03
7. Makin' Every Minute Count (John Morier) - 2:38
8. 5 Definitions Of Love (Bob Dorough) - 2:20
9. Brother Can You Spare a Dime (E.Y. Harburg, Jay Gorney) - 3:46
10.Distance (Joe Renzetti, Ray Gilmore) - 2:32
11.Leaving On A Jet Plane (John Denver) - 3:38
12.Come And Open Your Eyes (Take A Look) (Jo Mapes) - 2:18
Like To Get To Know You 1968
13.The Swingin' Gate (Geoffrey Meyers, John Ferrell) - 2:14
14.Prescription for the Blues (Little Brother Montgomery, Red Saunders) - 3:07
15.Three Ways from Tomorrow (Lefty Baker) - 3:25
16.My Bill (Bob Dorough, Daniel Greenburg, Monte Ghertler) - 2:28
17.Sunday Mornin' (Margo Guryan) - 3:54
18.Echoes (Everybody's Talkin') (Fred Neil) - 3:10
19.Suzanne (Leonard Cohen) - 3:51
20.Stuperflabbergasted (F. Summers, R. Bruce, Carlos Bernal) - 1:10
21.Like to Get to Know You (Stuart Scharf) - 2:15
22.Chick-A-Ding-Ding (Stuart Scharf) - 2:23
23.Stardust (Hoagy Carmichael, Mitchell Parish) - 3:32
24.Coda (Like to Get to Know You) (Stuart Scharf) - 1:00
Disc 2
Anything You Choose B/W Without Rhyme Or Reason 1969
1. Anything You Choose (Stuart Scharf) - 2:53
2. And She's Mine (Kenny Hodges) - 2:39
3. Yesterday's Rain (Eustace Baker) - 3:34
4. Hong Kong Blues (Hoagy Carmichael) - 3:47
5. Nowhere to Go (Stuart Scharf) - 0:51
6. Give a Damn (Bob Dorough, Stuart Scharf) - 3:36
7. Leopard Skin Phones (Eustace Baker, Kenny Hodges) - 2:57
8. But Back Then (Spoken) (Little Brother Montgomery) - 1:09
9. Mecca Flat Blues (Little Brother Montgomery, Elaine McFarlane) - 3:23
10.Without Rhyme or Reason (Bob Dorough, Fran Landesman) - 2:32
11.5-8 (Pedagogal Round #2) (Bob Dorough) - 1:12
12.Jane (Stuart Scharf) - 3:15
13.Since You've Gone (Stuart Scharf) - 4:37
Spanky's Greatest Hits 1969
14.Sunday Will Never Be the Same (Eugene Pistilli, Terry Cashman) - 2:57
15.Makin' Every Minute Count (John Morier) - 2:33
16.Lazy Day (George Fischoff, Tony Powers) - 3:05
17.Commercial (Michael Peter Smith) - 1:31
18.It Ain't Necessarily Byrd Avenue (Michael Peter Smith) - 2:35
19.Everybody's Talkin' (Fred Neil) - 3:16
20.Sunday Mornin' (Margo Guryan) - 6:12
21.Like to Get to Know You (Stuart Scharf) - 3:18
22.Give a Damn (Bob Dorough, Stuart Scharf) - 3:36
23.Three Ways from Tomorrow (Lefty Baker) - 3:21
24.And She's Mine (Kenny Hodges) - 3:26
25.Yesterday's Rain (Lefty Baker) - 2:37
Disc 3
Spanky And Our Gang Live 1970
1. Nagasaki (Harry Warren, Mort Dixon) - 1:13
2. Amelia Earhart's Last Flight (Dave McEnery) - 4:20
3. Waltzing Matilda (Banjo Paterson, Marie Cowan) - 3:50
4. Brother, Can You Spare a Dime (E.Y. Harburg, Jay Gorney) - 4:30
5. Steel Rail Blues (Gordon Lightfoot) - 3:05
6. Oh Daddy (Little Brother Montgomery, Elaine McFarlane) - 3:22
7. Dirty Old Man (Unknown) - 2:07
8. The Klan (M. Smith) - 4:40
9. That's What You Get for Lovin' Me (Gordon Lightfoot) - 2:20
10.Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives to Me (Carey Morgan) - 2:21
11.Wasn't It You? (Gerry Goffin, Carole King) - 2:54
12.You Got Trouble (From The Music Man) (Meredith Willson) - 4:50
Previous Unreleased Rarities
13.Crying (Unknown) - 3:02
14.Chick-A-Ding-Ding (Mono Mix) (Stuart Scharf) - 2:23
15.Give a Damn (Stereo Single Mix) (Bob Dorough, Stuart Scharf) - 2:56
16.Yesterday's Rain (Stereo Single Mix) (Lefty Baker) - 2:37
17.Anything You Choose (Stereo Single Mix) (Stuart Scharf) - 2:53
18.Everybody's Talkin' (Echoes) (Stereo Single Mix) (Fred Neil) - 3:16
19.Give A Damn (Public Service Announcement) (Bob Dorough, Stuart Scharf) - 1:02
Disc 4
The Mono Single Mixes
1. And Your Bird Can Sing (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) - 1:48
2. Sealed With a Kiss (Gary Geld, Peter Udell) - 2:03
3. Sunday Will Never Be the Same (Eugene Pistilli, Terry Cashman) - 2:56
4. Distance (Joe Renzetti, Ray Gilmore) - 2:232
5. Making Every Minute Count (John Morier) - 2:38
6. If You Could Only Be Me (Carl D'Errico, Roger Atkins) - 2:03
7. Lazy Day (George Fischoff, Tony Powers) - 3:05
8. (It Ain't Necessarily) Byrd Avenue (Michael Peter Smith) - 2:35
9. Sunday Morning (Margo Guryan) - 3:00
10.Everybody's Talkin' (Echoes) (Fred Neil) - 3:10
11.Like to Get to Know You (Stuart Scharf) - 2:15
12.Three Ways from Tomorrow (Lefty Baker) - 3:25
13.Give A Damn (Bob Dorough, Stuart Scharf) - 2:35
14.The Swinging Gate (Geoffrey Meyers, John Ferrell) - 2:14
15.Yesterday's Rain (Lefty Baker) - 3:20
16.Without Rhyme or Reason (Bob Dorough, Fran Landesman) - 2:29
17.Anything You Chose (Stuart Scharf) - 2:46
18.Mecca Flat Blues (Little Brother Montgomery, Elaine McFarlane) - 3:21
19.And She's Mine (Kenny Hodges) - 2:34
20.Leopard Skin Phones (Eustace Baker, Kenny Hodges) - 2:56
21.Echoes (Everybody's Talkin') (Fred Neil) - 3:10

Spanky And Our Gang
*Elaine "Spanky" McFarlane - Vocals
*Malcolm Hale - Lead Guitar, Trombone, Vocals
*Nigel Pickering - Guitar, Vocals
*Paul "Oz" Bach - Vocals
*John "The Chief" Seiter - Drums
*Kenny Hodges - Bass, Vocals
*Lefty Baker (Eustace Britchforth) - Banjo, Vocals
With
*Artie Schroeck - Organ, Piano
*Donald McDonald - Drums
*Richsrd Davis - Bass
*Bill LaVorgna - Drums
*Chet Amsterdam - Bass
*Walter Raim - Twelve String Guitar
*Little Brother Montgomery - Piano, Vocals
*Hal Blaine - Drums
*Larry Knechtel - Bass
*Mike Deasy - Guitar
*Red Rhodes - Steel Guitar
*Lee Katzman - Trumpet

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4 comments:

  1. Hi Marios many thanks for the good job!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm sure I'm staring right at it, but... what is the password?
    Thanks in advance,

    ReplyDelete