Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Various Artists - Swinging London A Trunk Full of 60's Pop Exotica The Accidental Genius Of Saga Records (1968-70 uk / italy / germany, fascinating beat psych, 2007 remastered sounds)

In the late 1960s and early '70s, the British budget label Saga recorded numerous albums designed to cash in on U.K. pop/rock-psychedelic trends. The LPs were quickie exploitation jobs, but as is often the case with such productions, some reasonably genuine stuff couldn't help sneaking through and finding status among serious '60s collectors decades later. This quite unusual compilation gathers 25 tracks that were scattered across numerous Saga releases, the common denominator being that all of them were plugged into British mod rock and psychedelia to some degree. It almost goes without saying that none of these songs were hits, and that very few of them are known even to veteran British '60s collectors, though some might be familiar with the Five Day Week Straw People, the Magic Mixture, and the Blackbirds (the last actually a German group whose material Saga managed to issue for the U.K. market). 

A few recognizable musicians do pop up here and there, even if the culprits most likely wouldn't mind having these relics buried deep within their résumés, including Mungo Jerry's Ray Dorset (here part of Good Earth), future Fairport Convention bassist Dave Pegg (as part of the Dave Peace Quartet), and original Fleetwood Mac bassist Bob Brunning (as part of Five's Company). As you also might expect, the actual music's not nearly as interesting as it is rare, since much of it's either heavily derivative and/or obviously trying to latch on to fashionable Swinging London-type grooves and the lighter side of psychedelia. Approached with the right level of expectations, however, that doesn't mean there aren't some fun or at least amusing moments along the way, if you're a fan of those genres and have at least a little irreverent humor about the styles' excesses and naïveté. 

A good number of the tracks are fairly groovy in different and sometimes off-the-wall ways. Those cuts would include the Blackbirds' downright creepy "She," with its horror movie organ and Dracula-like vocals; the Dave Moses Group's cool, Latin-tinged, organ-based go-go lounge instrumental, "Quite Fast"; Linda & Noel's quite accomplished slice of toy town psych pop, "Mr. Bantam's Fair"; New World's strange heavy psych adaptation of "Scheherezade"; Shake 26's hard-charging instrumental "Underground Set," which bisects mod rock and heavy psychedelia; Five Day Week Straw People's ridiculously echo-smothered "Sunday Morning" (not the Velvet Underground song!); and Magical Mixture's dreamy "Moon Beams," perhaps the one cut on the CD that can hold its own as a legitimate first-rate piece of U.K. psychedelic buried treasure. Others are just OK, or generic or even subpar, though sometimes in a manner that lovers of kitsch might appreciate. Stefan Granados' lengthy liner notes dig up more information about these obscure budget releases than anyone would have thought possible. 
by Richie Unterberger
Artist - Track - Composer
1. First Impression - Swingin' London Scene (John Britten) - 2:06
2. Five Day Week Straw People - Five Day Week Straw People (David Montague, Guy Mascolo) - 3:27
3. The Magical Mixture - I'm So Sad (Terry Thomas) - 4:13
4. Katch 22 - There Ain't No Use In Hanging On (Junior Campbell, Thomas McAleese) - 2:10
5. Good Earth - That's The Life (Colin Earl, Dave Hutchins, Ray Bowerman, Ray Dorset) - 2:40
6. Blackbirds - Girl I'm Wondering (Werner Breinig, Hubert Koop) - 3:00
7. Dave Moses Group - Quite Fast (David Moses) - 2:58
8. The Graham Walker Sound - Young Scene (From The Big Match) (Keith Mansfield) - 2:30
9. Katch 22 - Thoughts On A Rainy Day (Martin Wayne, Paul Bonner) - 1:54
10.The Magical Mixture - New Man (Terry Thomas) - 3:00
11.Underground Sound - Arcipelago (Gianfranco Reverberi) - 3:20
12.Dave Peace Quartet - Couldn't Bear The Sight (Dave Peace) - 2:20
13.Blackbirds - She (Werner Breinig, Hubert Koop) - 4:28
14.Five's Company - If This Is Love (Eddie Broadbridge) - 4:44
15.Family Affair - Someone Is Calling Your Name (Noel Cream, Viktor Fernando, Patrick Herbert) - 2:38
16.First Impression - All Lead Back To You (John Britten) - 2:20
17.Herbie And The Royalists - Lost Voyage (Brian Cooper, Denis Lascelles, Herbie Hunte, Ian Miller, Steve Field) - 4:42
18.Katch 22 - Don't Listen (Martin Wayne, Paul Bonner) - 1:49
19.Linda And Noel - Mr. Bantam's Fair (Noel Cream) - 3:31
20.The Graham Walker Sound - Crossroads (James Horner) - 3:23
21.New World - Scheherazade (Rimsky Korsakoff) - 3:15
22.Herbie And The Royalists - My Life Has Just Blown A Fuse (Brian Cooper, Denis Lascelles, Herbie Hunte, Ian Miller, Steve Field) - 3:05
23.Underground Set - Shake 26 (Gianfranco Reverberi) - 2:44
24.Five Day Week Straw People - Sunday Morning (David Montague, Guy Mascolo) - 4:21
25.The Magical Mixture - Moon Beams (Terry Thomas) - 4:06