Today, we're looking at two recent sets from the vaults of United Artists Records courtesy of Cherry Red's Esoteric Recordings imprint.
Singer-songwriter Colin Scot (1941-1999) only recorded three albums in his too-short lifetime. While none of them dented the charts, all three revealed a talented singer-songwriter in the folk-rock vein. Esoteric has reissued Scot's first LP, from 1971, in an expanded edition that's actually a repress of the 2006 release on the Eclectic Discs label.
In the Netherlands, the LP was released by United Artists as Colin Scot with Friends. It's not hard to see why, as those friends included Robert Fripp, Brinsley Schwarz, and Davey Johnstone on guitars; Rick Wakeman on keyboards; and Jon Anderson, Peter Gabriel, and Phil Collins on background vocals. Richard Hewson provided the string arrangements. Matt Watkinson's liner notes (reprinted from that 2006 release) attest to Scot's eclectic tastes; while a singer-songwriter himself, he would pepper his live sets with tunes from Buddy Holly and contemporaries such as Don McLean. Reflecting that, Colin Scot includes his own songs as well as those of others including Johnstone (the hauntingly pretty "The Boatman," also included on Johnstone's 1973 solo LP Smiling Face), Neil Innes ("Lead Us," from The World's 1970 album Lucky Planet), Mickey Newbury ("Baby in My Lady," from 1968's Looks Like Rain), Harvey Andrews ("Hey! Sandy"), and Martin Hall ("Do the Dance Now, Davey," "You're Bound to Leave Me Now," and "Here We Are in Progress"). The LP takes in folk, rock, pop, and country influences on both its stately ballads and rousing uptempo songs. Innes' "Lead Us" recalls early Elton John while "Do the Dance Now, Davey" conjures Genesis of the period, and Scot's "My Rain" is strong country-pop. Also from Scot's pen, "Nite People" is a slice of psychedelically-tinged singer-songwriter.
Esoteric's reissue has the same four bonus tracks from the Eclectic edition: the outtake "Long Time Gone" and alternate takes of "Do the Dance Now, Davey," "My Rain," and "Nite People." Colin Scot is housed in a four-panel digipak with a 12-page booklet featuring affectionate remembrances from Davey Johnstone, Rick Wakeman, and others who knew and played with the artist. Scot moved on from United Artists to record two albums for the U.K. arm of Warner Bros. in 1973 and 1974. He later moved to Amsterdam and quietly retreated from the music industry. Esoteric's expanded edition of his debut is persuasive evidence of his distinctive, if largely unheralded, talents.
The British band Gypsy (not to be confused with an American group of the same name from the same era) also recorded for United Artists for 1971-1972. The band even shared one key player with Colin Scot, string arranger Richard Hewson. Hailing from Leicester, Gypsy might be best-known today for playing the 1969 Isle of Wight Festival alongside such headliners as Bob Dylan, The Who, The Moody Blues, and The Band. Gypsy only released two albums, and both of them have been collected by Esoteric on the 2-CD collection Comes a Time: The United Artists Recordings. (In the U.S., Gypsy was known as English Gypsy.)
With roots in a Leicester beat group known as Legay, Gypsy was formed by Robin Pizer (vocals/guitar), Moth Smith (drums/percussion), Rod Read (vocals/guitar), David McCarthy (vocals/bass), and John Knapp (vocals/guitars/keys). While the American band concurrently known as Gypsy was in a progressive mode, the U.K. group was inspired by the psych rock sounds coming out of the U.S. from the likes of H.P. Lovecraft and Moby Grape as well as Southern California rockers Buffalo Springfield. After performing at the Isle of Wight, Gypsy was signed by UA and came into the studio with almost all of their repertoire already honed live onstage.
The band self-produced 1971's Gypsy with manager Peter Swales, primarily recording at Olympic Studios. The album reflected the aforementioned influences as well as Crosby, Stills, and Nash ("I Don't Care, Do You Mind") and solo Neil Young ("Turning Wheel"). While every aspect of the LP from the musicianship to the songwriting was solid, Gypsy couldn't help but pale in comparison to those artists from whom they took inspiration. John Knapp tells Malcolm Dome in the liner notes that the LP didn't adequately capture the band's power onstage. Both sides of a non-LP single have been appended to the album presentation here including the hard-rocking A-side "Changes Coming" which earned Gypsy a slot on Top of the Pops (on the same episode with Carole King, Diana Ross, The Supremes, and Curtis Mayfield) and, eventually, a ban by the BBC for the song's lyrics which were perceived as politically incendiary. Influential DJ John Peel was one who spoke out for Gypsy. Tensions led to a personnel shift, though, and Rod Read was replaced by Ray Martinez on vocals and guitar.
United Artists greenlit a second album which became 1972's Brenda and the Rattlesnake. Producer John Anthony was enlisted to helm the LP which was recorded at Rockfield Studios in Wales. Despite the change of venues and producers, Gypsy remained largely true to their own sound but expanded it with horns arranged by Chris Hughes and strings by Hewson. "Brand New Car," with its blasting brass and slicker harmonies, and the driving "Let's Roll" were strong pop-rockers while "Change Your Mind," "Universe," and "Comes a Time" showcased the band as balladeers. The SoCal country-rock flavor still permeated tracks including "Midnight Fighter." But Brenda never coalesced, and a third album recorded by the band with John Anthony was shelved by United Artists.
That third album has never been released; John Knapp explains to Malcolm Dome that the band doesn't have access to a releasable source. Three more outtakes from the same session as "Changes Coming" - "What a Day," "It Don't Bother Me," and "Don't Cry on Me" - have been released on CD (on 2004's Romany Collection) but are not included in this package.
Comes a Time has been remastered by Paschal Byrne from the original stereo tapes. The six-panel digipak includes a 20-page booklet with notes, photos, memorabilia, and images of those tapes. Knapp candidly observes that "we sounded like a covers band compared to [Moby Grape and the others we emulated]...They were from the West Coast of America, whereas we were from Leicester. And in this musical style, we just couldn't compete with them. We should have stayed sounding resolutely English." While that might be true, Gypsy's two albums are an enjoyable listen for fans of that late '60s/early '70s sound.
Both Colin Scot and Gypsy's Comes a Time: The United Artists Recordings are available now at the links below.
- Do the Dance Now, Davey
- My Rain
- Take Me Away
- Baby in My Lady
- Lead Us
- You're Bound to Leave Me Now
- The Boatman
- Nite People
- Hey! Sandy
- Here We Are in Progress
- Long Time Gone
- Do the Dance Now, Davey (Take 3)
- My Rain (Take 1)
- Nite People (Take 2)
Tracks 12-15 first issued on Eclectic Discs ECLCD 1036, 2006
CD 1: Gypsy (United Artists LP UAS 29155, 1971) plus bonus single
- What Makes a Man a Man?
- Keep on Trying
- I Don't Care, Do You Mind?
- Turning Wheel
- Feel About the Country Fine
- Standing Alone, Feel So Bad
- I Want to Be Beside You
- Please Don't Stay
- Let Me Take You Home
- Pony Ride
- Changes Coming (from United Artists UP 35272, 1971)
- Don't Cry on Me (United Artists UP 35272, 1971)
CD 2: Brenda and the Rattlesnake (United Artists LP UAS 29420, 1972)
- Brand New Car
- Midnight Fighter
- Who's Cheating
- Without You
- Change Your Mind
- Let's Roll
- You Know Better Than Me
- Comes a Time