Friday, November 16, 2012

The Flame - The Flame (1970 south africa, wonderful psychedelia, produced by Carl Wilson)

As the Flames, brothers Ricky. Steve ('Brother') and Edries Fataar, together with Blondie Chaplin, were one of South Africa's most popular 60s bands. Playing soulful cover versions with exotic touches that hinted at their Malaysian heritage, they had a string of local hits between 1964 and 1968, including a 14 week run at number one with a cover of Jerry Butler & The Impressions' For Your Precious Love. 

When their ambitions began to stretch beyond South Africa, however, they decamped to the UK. where their LP Bunting Soul appeared on Page One in 1968. It failed to sell, but they still spent the next few months playing London club dates. The future seemed uncertain, until one night (probably in July 1969) Beach Boys guitarist AI Jardine happened to see them play Blaise's nightclub (where they had a residency). 

Duly impressed, he brought fellow band member Carl Wilson along to see them the next night, and he promptly offered to produce an album for them, to appear on the Beach Boys' planned Brother Records imprint. The Flames gladly accepted, and later that summer they flew to California, where Carl rented them a beautiful house overlooking Sunset Boulevard. Work permits were slow to materialise, however, which allowed them not only to immerse themselves in LA's hedonistic atmosphere, but also to move away from the cover versions that had defined them thus far, and start honing their own material under Wilson's encouraging supervision. 

The songs they came up with combined the punch of their live performances with the melody and craft of Paul McCartney - who, incidentally, name-checked them as one of his favourite groups around this time. Sessions finally began in October 1969 and. without the constraints of a tight studio schedule (a benefit of being produced by a superstar), they were given free rein to perfect their arrangements. Recording of the LP was completed the following July, and they embarked on a promo tour to support its October 1970 release (under the name 'Flame', to avoid confusion with James Brown's 'Famous Flames'). 

Heavily trailed in the music press, it came complete with a lavish poster and was the first album ever to be available in compatible quadraphonic sound. However, despite favourable reviews and having a minor hit (See The Light I Better  Get Your Mini! Made Up) which reached #95 on the Billboard chart in November 1970) – it sold badly. They undertook a support slot on a Beach Boys' US tour, but a second single (Another Day Like Heaven I I'm So Happy) also flopped. 

The band soldiered on to make another LP, reportedly with fuller string and horn arrangements, but it was never released and, frustrated, they disbanded shortly afterwards. Ricky and Blondie promptly joined the Beach Boys, appearing on their Holland LP and touring extensively with them in the mid-70s. Ricky also went on to appear in the cult favourite Beatles parody The Rutles, as well as appearing as a sideman to Bonnie Raitt, Joe Walsh, Crowded House and others. 

Blondie, meanwhile, became an in-demand session player, appearing on the Rolling Stones Bridges To Babylon album in 1997 and touring with them to this day. Edries and Steve found it harder to sustain careers in music, however. Steve now lives back in Durban, where he is still active in the local music scene, but Edries died tragically young in 1978, as did Carl Wilson (who succumbed to cancer in 1997). 

Despite their lack of contemporary success, however, power pop aficionados and Beach Boy completists have always kept the Flame flickering, and it is to be hoped that this CD reissue will spread awareness of their superb music wider than ever before.
1. See The Light - 3:06
2. Make It Easy - 3:06
3. Hey Lord - 3:49
4. Lady - 3:28
5. Don't Worry, Bill - 3:17
6. Get Your Mind Made Up - 4:08
7. Highs And Lows - 4:49
8. I'm So Happy - 3:17
9. Dove - 2:18
1. Another Day Like Heaven - 5:42
11. See The Light (Reprise) - 1:28
All songs Fataar, Chaplin, Fataar, Fataar

The Flame
*Blondie Chaplin - Guitar, Vocals
*Steve Fataar - Guitar, Vocals
*Edries 'Brother' Fataar - Bass, Vocals
*Ricky Fataar - Drums, Vocals

Free Text


  1. Is one of those rare records that doesn't make that to skip any track. They're all good. Power Pop fans wanting to check out the roots of the genre should track this album down asap and anyone with a quadraphonic hi-fi set up will also dig it as it was the first record (to my knowledge) to be released in quadraphonic sound. The album even came with instructions on how to position your speakers!

    It truly is a long-lost pop gem “The Flame” is for anyone who enjoys the harder edge of late-period Beatles or Beach Boys, or the power pop magic of Badfinger. So to elevate this minor masterpiece to the posthumous status it deserves.

    These guys definitely knew how to play and the harmony vocals are quite superb. The Flame arrived in the US with a string of South African hits under their belt; one notable single (`68) being a hammond-heavy cover of “You Keep Me Hanging on”. A cover however of the psych-tinged Vanilla Fudge version, not The Supremes!

    South African band The Flame was formed in 1963 by brothers Steve and Brother Fataar on guitar and bass respectively. Originally named The Flames, various members came and went until 1967, when third Fataar brother, Ricky (drums) and friend Blondie Chaplin (guitar, vocals) completed the ultimate line up.

    The band released several soul/pop covers albums in Africa and became one of the country's most popular acts. In 1968 South Africa was becoming more segregated and made it impossible for the band to play to a white audience, so with Ricky still only 16 years of age, they left their home land, seeking success in the UK.

    Whilst playing in London they were spotted by Beach Boy Carl Wilson (on a tip from Al Jardine) who liked the band so much that he signed them up to the Beach Boys new record label Brother. The Flame would be the only band, other than the Beach Boys to release music on Brother. The band moved to LA to record an album, with Carl Wilson taking the role of producer.

    The self titled LP was released in 1970. The album opens with "See The Light", an up tempo rocker in the mould of the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and includes a killer George Harrison style guitar sound, especially on the riff during the outro. This track was chosen as the single to promote the album in the USA and UK. "Make It Easy" wouldn't sound out of place on Badfinger's "No Dice", in fact, the whole album is comparable Badfinger at their best. "Hey Lord” propel the album’s sensitive hard-rock mood with relentless multi-tracked guitar riffing. "Don't Worry Bill" and "High's and Lows" are pure Abbey Road, the latter includes some pretty neat Moog action too. The two ballads on the album "Lady"( reveals a Harry Nilsson influence) and "Dove" are tastefully played without any cheesiness or cringe worthy lyrics. On tracks like “Get Your Mind Made Up” and “Highs and Lows” you can hear similarities to artists as diverse as Frank Zappa and Ernie Graham. "See The Light", again like Sgt Pepper, is reprised at the end of the record, this time slowed down with the guys really letting rip on the vocals.
    Thx Marios!

  2. Always loved their work with the Beach Boys, so thanks for this!

  3. Thanks for this wonderful album!

  4. Another great post, really love their sound. Thanks for the illumination Marios.

  5. Hello Plain and fancy
    Can you re up please?

  6. thanks a lot Marios!