There have long been many misconceptions about White Plains, the British harmony-pop group most famous for "My Baby Loves Lovin'." Foremost among those misconceptions: White Plains wasn't a real band. (Truth: It was, despite its unorthodox origins, and had four consistent members between 1970 and 1974.) Another one: White Plains was a one-hit wonder. (Truth: the group scored five U.K. hits and a pair in the U.S., too.) White Plains was a vehicle for the ubiquitous voice of session singer Tony Burrows. (Truth: Burrows' participation was limited to the group's earliest recordings.) Cherry Red's 7T's imprint last took an interest in White Plains in 2015 with the release of The Deram Records Singles Collection. Now, 7Ts's has gone one step further with White Plains: The Collection, a 3-CD set bringing together the group's two albums and many rarities. It's out tomorrow in the U.K. and next Friday, October 29, in North America.
White Plains rose from the ashes of The Flower Pot Men ("Let's Go to San Francisco"), a studio outfit spearheaded by John Carter and Ken Lewis initially featuring Tony Burrows as well as Pete Nelson, Robin Shaw, and Neil Landon. (Jon Lord of Deep Purple was among the musicians who supported The Flower Pot Men on tour.) By the time a song called "My Baby Loves Lovin'" was recorded at an October 1969 session for the group, The Flower Pot Men consisted of Burrows, Shaw, Nelson, and Ricky Wolff. The catchy pop nugget was the work not of Carter and Lewis, but of Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway, one of Britain's premier songwriting duos ("You've Got Your Troubles," "Something's Gotten Hold of My Heart," "Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress"). As The Flower Pot Men's time on the charts had passed, Dick Rowe of Deram parent Decca suggested that the brassy and breezy "My Baby Loves Lovin'" be released under a new group name.
Tony Burrows was the voice of many studio outfits - think The Brotherhood of Man ("United We Stand"), The Pipkins ("Gimme Dat Ding"), The First Class ("Beach Baby"), and Edison Lighthouse ("Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)" among them. Greenaway, too, was involved with The Brotherhood of Man and The Pipkins. On "My Baby Loves Lovin'," Burrows and South African vocalist-guitarist Ricky Wolff shared vocals, and with the success of the single - it went Top 10 in the U.K. and No. 13 in the U.S. - the technically-disbanded Flower Pot Men had the hit they'd been craving. And so White Plains was born, for real, with Nelson (vocals/keyboards), Shaw (bass/vocals), and Wolff (vocals/keyboards/guitar) joined by Robin Box (guitar/vocals), Julian Bailey (drums) and Brian Johnson (keyboards). Roger Hills, formerly a touring member of The Flower Pot Men, joined White Plains in 1970, and apart from the departure of Wolff in 1971, Nelson, Shaw, Box and Hills remained consistent for the duration of the group's initial life. Burrows, never a touring member, departed after the early recordings.
Rogers Cook and Greenaway, in addition to producing all of the tracks on 1970's White Plains (on CD 1) and its 1971 follow-up When You Are a King (on CD 2), also supplied much of White Plains' strongest material - usually as a duo but sometimes with other songwriters. (Greenaway even fronted the group on television performances when Wolff was unavailable.) The "Cookaway" team brought sheer melodic pop to the table, with a dash of American R&B rhythm and soul, on such White Plains tunes as "I've Got You on My Mind" (and "A Moment of Madness," the latter first issued under the Flower Pot Men moniker. The more unusual, American Civil War-themed "Today I Killed a Man I Didn't Know" and a cover of "You've Got Your Troubles" hailed from the same session as "My Baby Loves Lovin.'" While Greenaway and Cook dominated the LP with both old and new songs including "Sunny Honey Girl," later a hit for Cliff Richard, Ricky Wolff supplied one original composition (the sing-along "Show Me Your Hand") and the single-named hitmaker Oliver supplied the lush, shimmering "Young Birds Fly" which was also covered by The Cryan Shames.
When You Are a King made no attempts to change the formula. Greenaway and Cook supplied boisterous numbers such as "Lovin' You Baby" in the familiar style of "My Baby Loves Lovin'" but without as strong a hook. The Pete Nelson-led "I've Got You on My Mind," a U.K. Top 20 hit, and "Every Little Move She Makes" were sturdier examples of the Cookaway magic. Tony Macaulay, another Brit pop tunesmith par excellence, co-wrote "Every Little Move..." which, furthering confusion about White Plains, was recorded by Tony Burrows solo at Bell Records. Macaulay produced Burrows' solo recording while Cook and Greenaway helmed White Plains' version, but both were arranged by Lew Warburton. "Carolina's Comin' Home" (by Cook, Greenaway, John Goodison and Tony Hiller, from 1971) could have been an A-side, and in fact was for Vanity Fare and later, Shaun Cassidy. It boasts a buoyant "bubblegum" melody that sticks to the brain. White Plains also turned in a credible version of Cook, Greenaway, and Macaulay's "Home Lovin' Man," a U.S. and U.K. hit for Andy Williams.
One of the non-Cookaway songs on the King LP, Tom Bahler's "Julie, Do Ya Love Me," is best known in the U.S. in its recording by Bobby Sherman; Pete Nelson took the lead on White Plains' competing version which isn't radically different from Sherman's take and made the U.K. top ten. "When You are a King," from the team of John and Roger Hill (no relation to White Plains' Roger Hills), proved a low-key departure from the usual White Plains style, a captivating little gem of a song. Frank Renshaw and Paul Young's "I'll Go Blind" likewise surprises with its "Starman"-era folk-rock David Bowie feel in its vocals. ("Starman" itself was recorded in early 1972.)
While When You Are a King proved to be White Plains' final studio album, Deram continued to release singles from the group. These non-LP sides have been appended to the respective albums here. On many of the 45s, Cook and Greenaway attempted to mold the group to reflect the changing styles on the airwaves. The Hills' country-flavored "I Can't Stop" (1972) was graced with lilting harmonies clearly modeled after Crosby, Stills, and Nash. Its flipside, the more typically bouncy "Julie Anne," was plucked from When You Are a King and would be reprised as an A-side later. The Hills' third consecutive A-side, the moody ballad "Dad, You Saved the World," boasts baroque orchestration and lush harmonies. Ron Reynolds, then White Plains' keyboardist, wrote the retro-leaning, clap-along-and-boogie rock-and-roll of "Does Anybody Know Where My Baby Is" (1973) with its Phil Spector-inspired introduction and Beach Boys harmonies.
The Crosby, Stills, and Nash influence continued to be felt on 45 RPM with "Look to See," a 1973 B-side that's "Marrakesh Express" crossed with "Love the One You're With." White Plains even tried on the flavor of psychedelia with the sprawling (at least by the group's standards) "Beachcomber." The final single here, "A Simple Man," is most notable for its riff which apes the Pomus/Shuman classic "I Count the Tears."
White Plains came to its natural end in mid-1974 but this collection goes a bit further on its third disc. Upon the dissolution of the group, Pete Nelson, Robin Box, and Ron Reynolds formed Zenith. Four sides written by Reynolds and Nelson were issued on two singles by Pye Records subsidiary Dawn in 1975. The melodic "A Face You Won't Forget," produced by Tony Hiller (Brotherhood of Man), is very much a continuation of the White Plains sound at its most "bubblegum." It was backed with the sweetly romantic "Just the Two of Us in Mind." The second and final Zenith 45 featured the uptempo and ever-so-slightly glam "A Fool That Was in Love" b/w "Silent Words," a propulsive number barely hinting at disco. While the tracks were undeniably infectious, all sounded far too much like 1971 rather than 1975 - an eternity in music; Zenith disbanded as quietly as it had formed.
For completeness' sake, an earlier splinter group is represented, too. Though Ricky Wolff left White Plains in 1971 to pursue a solo career, Roger Cook persuaded him to merge his project with some solo tracks being developed by bandmate Robin Shaw. The result was the short-lived Crucible, represented here by four songs which originally appeared on the Deram soundtrack to the 1972 documentary Extremes. Despite Cook's ever-commercial instincts and the participation of Robin Box and Roger Hills, none of the songs sounded much like White Plains. All are in a harder, guitar-heavy vein with Shaw's "Box Man" the strongest of the quartet with its Beatles-circa-White Album overtones.
Finally, White Plains: The Collection presents the three tracks recorded by Pete Nelson and Robin Box under the band's name in 1978 and 1979. (A 1976 lineup bore no relation to the original group and as such, the Bradley's Records single "Summer Nights" isn't included here.) The three bright tracks, released on PVC Records, once again refashioned White Plains' sound - this time in a retro rock-and-roll direction. The instrumental "Plains," released as the flip to both singles, was a more contemporary slice of breezy soft rock.
7Ts' set is housed in an eight-panel digipak also containing a 28-page booklet with comprehensive liner notes from Phil Hendriks and copious memorabilia images (labels, picture sleeves, sheet music). James Bragg has mastered all tracks which have been cross-licensed from BMG, Universal, and Roger Greenaway. Fans of harmony-pop, bubblegum, and melodic rock would do well to give The Collection a spin and discover much more to the group than "My Baby Loves Lovin'." You'll find the order links and track listing below!
CD 1: White Plains (Deram LP SML 1067, 1970) and Bonus Tracks
- I've Got You on My Mind
- When Tomorrow Comes Tomorrow
- Taffeta Rose
- Summer Morning
- To Love You
- In a Moment of Madness
- My Baby Loves Lovin'
- Today I Killed a Man I Didn't Know
- You've Got Your Troubles
- Show Me Your Hand
- Young Birds Fly
- Sunny, Honey Girl
- I Need Your Everlasting Love (Deram single DM 315, 1970)
- Gonna Miss Her Mississippi (Deram single DM 340, 1971)
CD 2: When You Are a King (Deram LP SML 1092, 1971) and Bonus Tracks
- When You Are a King
- Lovin' You Baby
- Home Lovin' Man
- Julie Anne
- Carolina's Comin' Home
- Sunny, Honey Girl (Version 2)
- Every Little Move She Makes
- An Eye for the Main Chance
- Julie, Do Ya Love Me
- I'll Go Blind
- Noises (In My Head)
- The World Gets Better with Love
- I Can't Stop (Deram single DM 348, 1972)
- Dad, You Saved the World (Deram single DM 365, 1972)
- Beachcomber (Deram single DM 365, 1972)
- Step Into a Dream (Deram single DM 371, 1973)
- Look to See (Deram single DM 371, 1973)
- Does Anybody Know Where My Baby Is? (Deram single DM 388, 1973)
- Just for a Change (Deram single DM 388, 1973)
- Ecstasy (Deram single DM 415, 1974)
- A Simple Man (Deram single DM 415, 1974)
CD 3: Rarities
- Box Man - Crucible
- Hit It - Crucible
- We Gotta Watch Out - Crucible
- Elvish Man - Crucible
- A Face You Won't Forget - Zenith
- Just the Two of Us in Mind - Zenith
- A Fool That Was in Love - Zenith
- Silent Words - Zenith
- Dance with You - White Plains
- Plains - White Plains
- Wanna Fall in Love - White Plains
Tracks 1-4 from Extremes, Deram LP SML 1095, 1972
Tracks 5-6 from Dawn single DNS 1095, 1975
Tracks 7-8 from Dawn single DNS 1112, 1975
Tracks 9-10 from PVK single PV 10, 1978
Track 11 from PVK single PV 19, 1978