Periodically this month, we’ll be looking at titles released in the latter part of 2018 that we either didn’t cover, or only covered briefly, the first time around! We hope you enjoy this look at “some nice things we’ve missed”…
Cherry Red’s Grapefruit imprint has recently released a pair of 3-CD box sets touching on two very different aspects of the sixties British music scene.
One of the fathers of the British blues boom, Alexis Korner (1928-1984) has been celebrated on Every Day I Have the Blues: The Sixties Anthology. This handsome set brings together 69 tracks from the influential bluesman originally recorded between 1961 and 1969 and released on the Oriole, Parlophone, King, Decca, and RAK labels, among others. It fascinatingly documents the music that inspired The Rolling Stones, Free, and Led Zeppelin, from the man who admittedly wasn’t much of a singer or songwriter and was even limited in his musical skills.
Inspired by Jimmy Yancey as a young boy, Korner – the Paris-born son of an Austrian Jewish father and a Greek mother – began playing guitar when he was called for England’s National Service in 1947. (After time spent in France, Switzerland, and North Africa, his family moved to London in 1940.) Soon, Korner was playing in various bands and even replaced Lonnie Donegan in Tony Barber’s band when Donegan was called for his own service. By the mid-1950s, Korner was performing skiffle as a solo artist and then as one-half of a duo with Cyril Davies. Eager to abandon skiffle for pure blues, the pair established The London Blues and Barrelhouse Club.
Joined by Terry Plant on bass and Mike Collins on washboard, Alexis Korner’s Breakdown Group recorded first for Doug Dobell’s 77 label and then for Decca’s Tempo imprint in 1957. Decca initially insisted on billing them as the Alexis Korner Skiffle Group but they were soon reinvented as Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated. Though the original Blues Incorporated was short-lived, Korner and Davies reunited in January 1962. They resuscitated the Blues Incorporated name, launching the influential and informal group which welcomed such talents as Long John Baldry, Jack Bruce, Dick Hecktall-Smith, Charlie Watts, and Ginger Baker. But after becoming a hot attraction (and drawing fans like the young Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart, Eric Burdon, Brian Jones, Keith Richards, and Mick Jagger), Korner wanted to take the band in a more jazz-oriented direction while Davies preferred a raw Chicago-style sound. Davies left by year’s end to form The Cyril Davies All-Stars and was replaced by Graham Bond, who subsequently departed with Bruce and Baker to found The Graham Bond Trio/Quartet/Organisation.
The earliest tracks on Every Day I Have the Blues predate and overlap with the Blues Incorporated days, with nine tracks culled from the band’s album R&B at the Marquee Club. The first disc chronicles Korner’s career through 1964 including multiple recordings not issued until decades later. The second disc, covering 1964-1967, includes live material, singles for the Parlophone label, and nine tracks from the band’s Sky High LP, still an ultra-rare item in its original pressing. The third disc (1966-1969) boasts BBC live cuts, eight songs from Korner’s Liberty album A New Generation of Blues, and renditions of songs by William Bell, Curtis Mayfield, and Joe Tex. All three discs feature some of the finest musicians and vocalists ever to play the blues, all of whom flocked to Korner’s many band line-ups. Robert Plant, Duffy Power, and Long John Baldry are among the boldface names on this collection.
The clamshell case contains a 24-page color booklet with a lengthy essay penned by compilation curator David Wells. No remastering engineer is credited. While it would take a far larger box to collect all of Korner’s incendiary ’60s work live and in the studio, Every Day I Have the Blues paints a full and compelling picture of the epochal music that inspired so many future classic rock heroes.
On the opposite end of the gritty blues spectrum is the music contained in Come Join My Orchestra: The British Baroque Pop Sound 1967-1973. As David Wells puts it in his introductory notes, the box “covers British baroque pop’s formative years and its integration into a wide variety of genres.” Those genres include folk, progressive rock, art rock, jazz, and various combinations thereof such as folk-rock. What unifies the 80 tracks on these three CDs is their shared ambition and willingness to incorporate diverse and often classically-inspired instrumentation. The specters of The Beatles and The Beach Boys, too, loom largely over many of these intricate productions originally released on various labels, large and small.
A number of familiar names pepper the track listing including Gilbert O’Sullivan (his debut single “Disappear,” credited only to “Gilbert”), The Strawbs (“Poor Jimmy Wilson”), Genesis (“Am I Very Wrong?” from their first, pre-Phil Collins and Steve Hackett line-up), The Searchers (“Popcorn, Double Feature”), Barclay James Harvest (“Mother Dear”), Mike Batt (“I See Wonderful Things in You”), Procol Harum (“Luskus Delph” with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra), Donovan (“Winter in the Sun”), The Zombies (“A Rose for Emily”), The Move (“Mist on a Monday Morning”), and The Spencer Davis Group (“Time Seller”). Colin Blunstone of The Zombies appears, too, under his pseudonym of Neil MacArthur with “Don’t Try to Explain.” There are plenty of cult favorite artists here, too, including the Harmony Grass (“Mrs. Richie”), Honeybus (“Do I Figure (In Your Life)”), Piccadilly Line (a.k.a. Rod Edwards and Roger Hand, a.k.a. Edwards Hand, also heard here on the George Martin-produced “If I Thought You’d Ever Change Your Mind”) and folk favorites like Bert Jansch (“Woe is Love, My Dear”) and Bridget St. John (“Yep”).
Listeners will recognize the stamp of songwriters and producers like Tony Hazzard (with his own “The Sound of the Candyman’s Trumpet”), Mark Wirtz (The Matchmakers’ “Sandy”), and Billy Nicholls (“This Song is Green”). The influence of The Left Banke is felt throughout Come Join My Orchestra, and The Rockin’ Berries went so far as to credibly cover the group’s “Barterers and Their Wives.” Paul Simon and Bruce Woodley’s ethereal “Cloudy” gets a fine treatment from The Factotums, and the group known as Deep Feeling even reinvented Berry Gordy’s Motown staple “Do You Love Me” in harmony pop style.
The stories behind these fascinating curious are divulged in the thick and colorful 40-page booklet featuring track-by-track notes from David Wells. Simon Murphy has remastered all tracks.
Both Alexis Korner’s Every Day I Have the Blues and the collection Come Join My Orchestra are available now at the links below!