Cherry Red’s RPM label continues to trawl the deepest vaults for truly rare gems in the realms of pop, rock, and R&B. Part One of this two-part RPM Round-Up focuses on three rarities-packed collections from the mid-to-late 1960s!
Despite releasing eighteen singles and one album between 1965 and 1972 in his home of the U.K., James Royal never achieved stardom while he was recording. But the blue-eyed soul man’s stellar body of work began attracting fans on the northern soul and mod revival circuits, leading to the release of Call My Name: Selected Recordings 1964-1970 – a veritable “best of” from his time on the Parlophone, Decca, and CBS labels. This set captures Royal with and without his onetime band, The Hawks – with whom he picked up second place on a Ready! Steady! Go! competition. (Jimmy Royal and The Hawks lost to The Bo Street Runners – another group recently anthologized by RPM.) Call My Name traces Royal from his garage-style R&B roots, with prominent organ, through his more heavily-produced, “orchestrated soul” period. The contrast is crystal clear by the inclusion of two versions (1965 and 1967) of the rocking “I Can’t Stand It.” Less than two years separate the recordings, but Royal had kept up with the times.
Between 1967 and 1970, Royal would release eleven singles and a full-length album for CBS. Alan “Hawk” Hawkshaw filled the organ role, Keith Mansfield was on hand as arranger, Mervyn Conn was credited as producer, and songwriter Ralph Murphy was a mainstay. Session players included future Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones, Albert Lee, and Herbie Flowers. Though Royal wasn’t a songwriter, he had access to prime material as well as a keen sense for covers. Murphy’s moody “Call My Name” was his most successful recording, a hit in France and Brazil, though hit status eluded the single in the United Kingdom and in the United States, where Columbia issued it. It was backed with a strong cover of Ashford and Simpson’s imploring “When It Comes to My Baby.” Subsequent singles featured tracks by Van McCoy (“I’ve Lost You”), Guy Fletcher and Doug Flett (“Send Out Love”), Les Reed and Barry Mason (“I’ve Got Something on My Mind”), The Rascals (“You’d Better Run”), and Jimmy Webb (“Which Way to Nowhere”). Though he was at home with big, belty R&B numbers, the Webb song proved that Royal was well-suited to more dramatic fare, as well. Mansfield and Murphy’s atmospheric “House of Jack,” one of Royal’s most beguiling tracks, also warranted a U.S. release, backed with the dramatic “Which Way.”
There would be further recordings on Carnaby in the U.K. (receiving release on Capitol in the U.S.) in the early 1970s, but Royal soon retired and relocated to Australia. He returned to performing in the U.K. for a special gig in 2015. Call My Name, remastered by Simon Murphy and annotated by Ian Grinham, captures the all-too-unknown singer at his versatile peak.
Jon-Mark’s Sally Free and Easy is in a very different vein: a previously unreleased album, expanded with bonus cuts to offer a full overview of the artist’s work at this time. Best known as one half of the folk-rock-jazz duo Mark Almond, Jon Mark began his music career under the auspices of Shel Talmy (The Kinks, The Who) at Decca. Under his real name of John Michael Burchell, he and his then-musical partner Alun Davies recorded a 1963 album of sing-along-style folk songs, Relax Your Mind (credited to Jon and Alun). His acumen on the guitar was earning him a reputation, and he soon took his place among London’s session elite. Having split with Davies, the young musician followed Talmy to his new Orbit-Universal company to record as a solo artist. He also began an affiliation around this time with Marianne Faithfull, with whom he would collaborate on the majority of her 1964-1966 recordings.
In January 1965, Jon Mark’s debut single “Baby I Got a Long Way to Go” (featuring Jimmy Page on electric guitar) b/w “Night Come Down” was issued in the U.S., with a release in the U.K. shortly thereafter. Though the single wasn’t successful, Talmy believed in Mark, and pressed forward with plans for a full-length album. The flavor and mood of his new recordings were darker, and auguring for the folk-rock revolution. Sessions were completed in July and August, with songs including “Sally Free and Easy.” The track featured Jon Mark playing sitar, one of the earliest examples of the instrument on a U.K. recording. But for reasons lost to time, the haunting collection of largely acoustic folk songs was never released.
Mark returned to the studio with Talmy one more time in November 1965, for a remake of the album’s “Paris Bells” b/w the original “Little Town Girl.” But the mainstream pop approach of this single might have felt uncomfortable for the singer; the session outtake of Jackson C. Frank’s “Blues Run the Game” was much more in the vein of his unreleased LP. When Orbit-Universal’s contract with U.S. Decca ended in early 1966, Jon Mark’s contract was not renewed. He reunited with Alun Davies in Sweet Thursday (recording an album for U.S. label Tetragrammaton) and then joined John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers before forming Mark-Almond with fellow Bluesbreaker Johnny Almond. Another solo album would follow in 1974, and after the breakup of the duo in the early 1980s, Mark reinvented himself in the world of new age music.
Sally Free and Easy presents the unreleased Talmy-produced LP in its intended order, and the original never-used liner notes are even included in this deluxe collection. The package is rounded out by outtakes from the Talmy productions and the single “Baby I Got a Long Way to Go” b/w “Night Come Down.” Compiler Alec Palao has provided the new essay and also transferred and remastered the tracks from the original master tapes obtained directly from Shel Talmy. This set of beguiling folk-rock represents the ground floor of the Jon Mark story.
Another treasure from the Shel Talmy vaults has been given top-notch treatment from Palao and RPM. Wild Silk released just four singles in the U.K., but their “(Vision in A) Plaster Sky” (b/w “Toymaker”) became a pop-psych classic through the lens of collectors. The 24-track compendium Visions in a Plaster Sky contains not only that lustrous, harmony-drenched gem, but every one of the group’s released singles, the never-before-released complete Wild Silk album, and various outtakes – all helmed by Shel Talmy – as well as tracks cut with Talmy collaborator Hugh Murphy late in 1969.
William Slaney, Barry Beasley, and Danny Maidment formed The Vivas in the early 1960s, and were joined by a revolving door of lead singers until Allan Davies entered the picture. The charismatic Davies, late of the group Beat Six, solidified the line-up, and soon The Vivas became Tramline. Playing pop and Motown hits, Tramline caught the ear of U.S. expatriate producer Shel Talmy. The band signed with Talmy in 1968, who envisioned the group as a U.K. answer to the burgeoning U.S. sound of sunshine pop. He presented them with a fully-arranged version by James Royal associate Keith Mansfield of The Tokens’ lush ballad “Poor Man” (from their It’s a Happening World LP). When it was released, the band’s name became Wild Silk. The material selected by Talmy for Wild Silk was light years away from the electric storm of The Who or The Kinks: tunes by Neil Sedaka and Carole Bayer Sager (the lovely “The Girl I Left Behind Me,” popularized in the U.S. by The Monkees), Curt Boettcher (Sagittarius’ “Another Time”), Randy Newman (“Let’s Burn Down the Cornfield”) and even Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields (the venerable standard “The Way You Look Tonight”). Talmy was aiming the group at the U.S. charts, with a dash of that inimitable British spirit. Session vets like Clem Cattini, Big Jim Sullivan, Nicky Hopkins, and Herbie Flowers all played on their sessions – despite the fact that the band had been playing onstage for years.
Talmy arranged for singles to be released in America. Kapp issued “Jessie,” a cover of a Harpers Bizarre tune co-written by Bread’s James Griffin, b/w Allan Davies’ “Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.” GRT released “Plaster Sky,” albeit under the name of “Basil” – perhaps not to compete with the Kapp single. Though the songs weren’t hits, they did give the group an aura of mystery when the sides were erroneously credited to The Kinks’ Ray Davies! Ironically, Wild Silk had recorded a Ray Davies song: a cover of “Tired of Waiting for You.” Not one, but two, versions of that song are included here. Talmy assembled a projected album derived from the group’s summer 1968 recordings, but not including the singles. A final U.K. single, “Help Me” b/w “Crimson and Gold,” was released in August 1969, but didn’t reflect the group’s changing sound. Wild Silk was pursuing a heavier direction, and Talmy encouraged Hugh Murphy to produce the band for a self-contained album. The commercially-minded producer, however, did bring the band a song that he had previously cut with Amen Corner: the infectious “At Last I’ve Found Someone to Love.” Among the songs from Murphy-led sessions in late 1969 and early 1970 was a rendition of Jon Mark’s Sweet Thursday song, “Laugh at Him.” The band rechristened itself Little Big Horn, but their lone Polydor single (“Another Man’s Song” b/w “Just a Game”) in the hard rock style failed to chart. An alternate mix of the latter is included here, though the A-side is absent.
A Little Big Horn LP was quietly released, and oddly, a U.S. single of “Tired of Waiting for You” appeared on the Bell label credited to “Cotton Socks.” But creative differences had torpedoed the group, and in 1971, they split. Visions in a Plaster Sky is a fascinating listen, with its embrace of sounds as diverse as sunshine/harmony pop, psychedelia, and heavy rock. Alec Palao has remastered and annotated this essential collection.
All three RPM titles are available now at the links below! Watch this space for Part Two!
- She’s About a Mover
- Black Cloud
- Work Song
- I Can’t Stand It
- I’m Leaving You
- Call My Name
- When It Comes to My Baby
- Green Days
- Hey Little Boy
- I’ve Lost You
- Send Out Love
- Thru’ the Love
- A Woman Called Sorrow
- Time Hangs on My Mind
- I’ve Something Bad on My Mind
- She’s Independent
- You’d Better Run
- A Little Bit of Rain
- I Can’t Stand It
- House of Jack
- Little Red Wagon
- I’m Going Home
- And Soon the Darkness
- Which Way to Nowhere
- Sitting in the Station
Tracks 1-2 from Parlophone R 5290, 1965
Tracks 3-4 from Parlophone R 5383, 1965
Track 5 from Decca LP LK 4634, 1964
Tracks 6-7 from CBS single 202525, 1967
Track 8 from CBS single 2739, 1967
Tracks 9 & 12 from CBS single 3450, 1968
Tracks 10-11 from CBS single 4463, 1969
Track 13 from CBS single 3624, 1968
Track 14 from CBS single 3797, 1968
Tracks 15-16 from CBS single 4139, 1969
Tracks 17 & 21 from Call My Name, CBS LP 63780, 1969
Tracks 18-19 from CBS single 2959, 1967
Track 20 from CBS single 3915, 1969
Tracks 22-23 from CBS single 5032, 1970
Track 24 from CBS single 3915, 1969
Track 25 from CBS single 3232, 1968
- Sally Free and Easy
- Paris Bells
- Blues for Hobbits
- I Was Born in Winter
- Going Down the Road
- Love from Afar
- Gotta Make Their Future Bright
- The Vulture
- Buddy Can You Spare a Dime
- What Will You Do When I’m Gone
- Portland Town
- Baby I Got a Long Way to Go
- Night Comes Down
- If You’re Gonna Leave Me
- North Country Fair
- Once I Loved a Girl
- Black Girl
- You Don’t Know My Mind
- The First Time
- Sally Free and Easy (Acoustic Guitar Version)
- Baby I Got a Long Way to Go (Acoustic Guitar Version)
- Stagger Lee
- Room Service (Blues Run the Game)
Tracks 1-12 planned as Jon-Mark LP, previously unreleased
Tracks 13-14 from U.S. Decca single 31732/U.K. Brunswick single 05929, 1965
All other tracks previously unreleased.
- (Vision in A) Plaster Sky
- Another Time
- Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday
- Break Down Juanita
- Tired of Waiting for You
- Help Me
- The Sad Thing (You’re Leaving Me)
- Stop Crying
- Burn Down the Cornfield
- Poor Man
- High Horse
- The Way You Look Tonight
- The Girl I Left Behind Me
- Crimson and Gold
- Tired of Waiting for You (Early Version)
- At Last I’ve Found Someone to Love
- Just a Game
- No Need to Explain
- Laughed at Him
- The Man Who Knows
Tracks 1 & 5 from Columbia (U.K.) single DB 8534/GRT (U.S.) single 3, 1969 (as Basil)
Tracks 3 & 13 from Kapp (U.S.) single 974, 1969
Tracks 6 & 19 from Bell (U.S.) single BLL 1143, 1971 (as Cotton Socks)
Tracks 8 & 17 from Columbia (U.K.) single DB 8611, 1969
Tracks 10 & 12 from Polydor (U.K.) single 56256, 1968
Track 20 from Polydor (U.K.) single 2058 042/Fantasy (U.S.) 650, 1970 (as Little Big Horn)
All other tracks previously unreleased.