When the venerable Goddard Lieberson, President of Columbia Records, announced the ascendancy of Clive Davis to a veep position at the label in 1965, the promotion of the younger man heralded for a new sound at Columbia. Lieberson had made Columbia the leader in the fields of classical and Broadway cast recordings, and was looking to position the label at the vanguard of rock, too. A number of new signings followed. Among those acts signed to the industry leader was The Cryan’ Shames, favorites on the Chicago live scene. The Shames – Tom “Toad” Doody on lead vocals, Jim “J.C. Hooke” Pilster on percussion, Dennis Conroy on drums, Jerry “Stonehenge” Stone on rhythm guitar, Jim Fairs on lead guitar and Dave “Grape” Purple on bass – released their Columbia debut, Sugar and Spice, in October 1966. It’s recently been reissued by Now Sounds in an edition which premieres the album’s original mono mix on CD. Now Sounds’ Sugar and Spice (CRNOW51) follows the label’s 2014 mono reissue of the Shames’ sophomore effort, A Scratch in the Sky.
Whereas A Scratch in the Sky was in large part inspired by the sunshine pop sounds emanating from California, Sugar and Spice was straight-ahead rock and roll with a decidedly British Invasion-esque bent. The LP was named after its straightforward revival of Tony Hatch’s “Sugar and Spice,” a hit for The Searchers three years earlier. “Sugar,” a local Chicago hit which reached the top 50 of the national Billboard pop chart, was one of seven covers to populate the album. Both it and its B-side, Jim Fairs’ original “Ben Franklin’s Almanac,” were initially released on the small Destination label and picked up by Columbia for inclusion on the band’s first long-player. Another cover from the Destination sessions was the band’s rendition of George Harrison’s “If I Needed Someone.” The Shames had heard the Beatle tune on the U.K. release of Rubber Soul and planned to give it a U.S. debut, but someone in Harrison’s camp got wind of it, and the single was scotched. Columbia rescued it for inclusion on Sugar. (Another Fab track here is The Shames’ rendition of Lennon and McCartney’s “You’re Gonna Lose That Girl,” first released on the 1970 various-artists compilation Early Chicago released on the Happy Tiger label and included as a bonus track.)
The Fabs, like the Shames, found inspiration in the music of Motown, and so a brisk, muscular run through Martha and the Vandellas’ hit “Heat Wave” also was included on Sugar and Spice. The rave-up “Hey Joe” shows the band’s garage-rock roots. Dame Vera Lynn’s 1939 anthem “We’ll Meet Again,” on first blush appears to be an odd choice from the Great British Songbook, but it had gained popularity among the younger set thanks to its inclusion in director Stanley Kubrick’s bitingly satirical 1964 film Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. The Shames recorded it with a spot-on Byrds-style arrangement; of course, Roger McGuinn and co. recorded it on their own Columbia debut album, Mr. Tambourine Man. (The Turtles were another notable pop act to record the standard.) The Shames never hid their affection for their Columbia label mates, hence the equally strong cover of Gene Clark’s “She Don’t Care About Time,” the B-side to The Byrds’ hit “Turn! Turn! Turn!”
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While the energetic covers on Sugar and Spice reveal the group’s inspirations, the four original songs penned by Jim Fairs point their way to the direction the band would soon take. Best of all is “We Could Be Happy,” an immediately transporting slice of dreamy harmony-pop. Not far behind is the irresistibly catchy, proto-bubblegum of “I Wanna Meet You” and the wistful “July.” Another side of Fairs’ developing songwriting talent was heard on “Ben Franklin’s Almanac” which places strong harmonies atop a solid garage-rock rave-up.
Sugar and Spice concludes with a faux live take on Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil’s “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” on which the fairly spare studio track is questionably enhanced with audience screams and Tom Doody’s goofy British-accented introduction. It’s not the strongest ending, but Now Sounds has rectified that with the inclusion of six bonus tracks. All six of these tracks first appeared on Sundazed’s 2002 CD reissue of Sugar and Spice. (The album was in stereo on that release, though all the bonus tracks save “You’re Gonna Lose That Girl” were in mono.) Though most don’t quite fit into the time period of the album proper, they’re still welcome inclusions. There’s a strong country-and-western influence in the songs penned by Lenny Kerley, who replaced Jerry Stone in the line-up when Stone was drafted. You’ll hear an early version of Kerley’s twangy “Bits and Pieces” which was the B-side of 1969’s single “Rainmaker” and the tougher, country-funk-by-way-of-The-Beatles outtake “The Road.” Both sides of a 1967 Columbia single are also here: Jim Fairs’ similarly country-esque “Georgia,” with its barroom piano, and the muscular Fairs/Kerley composition “Mr. Unreliable” which was also included on A Scratch in the Sky. The bonus material is rounded out by a fine cover of David Gates’ ballad “It Don’t Matter to Me,” which Jim Pilster is said to have heard on Bread’s 1969 debut album.
As on A Scratch in the Sky, Scott Schinder provides the terrific and informative liner notes, and Alan Brownstein handles the exemplary remastering from the original tapes of the bold mono sound. Producer Steve Stanley designs with his usual attention to detail and period-perfect sensibility. Following Sugar and Spice, The Cryan’ Shames continued to shift and evolve. A Scratch in the Sky found Purple and Stone out of the band (replaced by Isaac Guillory and the aforementioned Lenny Kerley), and for 1968’s Synthesis, Conroy and Fairs were absent; Alan Dawson and Dave Carter took their place. Despite – or perhaps, because of – the various line-up changes, The Shames remained one of the most stylistically eclectic, if largely unknown, groups on the sixties pop scene before disbanding in 1969. (An iteration of the Shames, featuring surviving original members Pilster and Doody, still exists today.)
Take our word for it; you could be happy revisiting Sugar and Spice on this sparkling new mono edition!
- Sugar and Spice
- We Could Be Happy
- Heat Wave
- We’ll Meet Again
- Ben Franklin’s Almanac
- She Don’t Care About Time
- Hey Joe
- If I Needed Someone
- I Wanna Meet You
- We Gotta Get Out of This Place
- You’re Gonna Lose That Girl (from Early Chicago, Happy Tiger LP 1017, 1970)
- Georgia (Single Version) (Columbia single 4-44037, 1967)
- It Don’t Matter to Me (from Sundazed CD SC 6186, 2002)
- Bits and Pieces (Version One) (from Sundazed CD SC 6186, 2002)
- The Road (from Sundazed CD SC 6186, 2002)
- Mr. Unreliable (Single Version) (Columbia single 4-44037, 1967)