Cherry Red's Grapefruit imprint, dedicated to the psychedelic and garage eras, has concentrated in recent months on various-artists anthologies exploring different aspects of the pop-rock scene of the mid-to-late 1960s through the mid-1970s. Today's Grapefruit Round-Up looks at a quartet of those recent releases.
The 3-CD anthology High in the Morning: The British Progressive Pop Sounds of 1973 is focused on the twelve-month period in which the look and sound of glam rock made ripples through the U.K. even as progressive bands and artists were adapting their sound to radio - and radio was adapting to them. Compiler David Wells notes in his introduction that so-called "album acts" were turning to three-minute singles; folk-oriented singer-songwriters were incorporating flourishes of pop; and the influence of David Bowie was being keenly felt up and down the charts. All of this activity is well-represented on High in the Morning. It's appropriate that the set opens with Mott the Hoople and the album version of "All the Way from Memphis;" the Ian Hunter-fronted band benefited from being in Bowie's orbit even as they carved out their own musical identity. Spirogyra's "The Sergeant Says" and Fantasy's "The Award" both built on the Bowie style and sound. Dana Gillespie, a member of the MainMan stable alongside the chameleonic superstar, sang lead vocals on Libido's "Hold On to Your Fire." Of the eclectic group of singer-songwriters here, Al Stewart was still three years away from "Year of the Cat." But his "Terminal Eyes" showed the historically-minded singer-songwriter moving towards accessible pop. ELO co-founder Roy Wood followed his own retro muse, too, on such tracks as "Forever" which he dedicated to Neil Sedaka and Brian Wilson.
Other veteran artists were finding their new niche, too. Manfred Mann had moved on from "Do Wah Diddy Diddy" and "The Mighty Quinn" to founding his Earth Band, heard here with "Joybringer." Badfinger was starting a new post-Apple chapter at Warner Bros. with "Love Is Easy" while The Kinks had moved onto RCA with such theatrical endeavors as Preservation Act I from which "Sitting in the Midday Sun" has been culled. With 55 tracks and over four hours of music, High in the Morning adds up to a fascinating snapshot of a musical landscape in happy flux. It's housed in a clamshell case and includes a 48-page booklet.
Grapefruit has also delivered a second volume of Bubblerock Is Here to Stay. Subtitled The British Pop Explosion 1970-1973, this 3-CD, 79-track survey dives further into what the label described as "the faceless studio creations, ubiquitous session musicians and carefully nurtured pop idols" of the period. Instead of focusing on progressive rockers and iconoclastic singer-songwriters, these are the tunes that were made for radio by backroom songwriters and producers including some of the biggest names in that realm. Among these pop nuggets is The Pipkins' "Gimme Dat Ding," a manufactured piece of goofiness from writers Albert Hammond and Mike Hazelwood and singers Tony Burrows and Roger Greenaway which reached the top ten on both sides of the Atlantic. Burrows and Greenaway also sang on The Brotherhood of Man's infectious "United We Stand," going top ten in the U.K. and top twenty stateside. Another Pipkins tune from the Cookaway team (Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway), "Sunny, Honey Girl," is heard not in their original version but in a cover from Shropshire group Fluff. Cookaway teamed with Hammond/Hazlewood for Blue Mink's "Good Morning, Freedom," another song epitomizing the blend of bubblegum pop and soul that put both teams on the map. Covers proliferated in the "Bubblerock" genre, and there's no shortage of interesting ones here including Grateful Dead's Uncle John's Band from the post-Pye discography of The Montanas; Birds of a Feather's take on the Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter;" The Paper Dolls doing The Angels' "My Boyfriend' Back;" Dave Newman's revival of The Tokens' "The Lion Sleeps Tonight;" and more. This bright, bouncy collection also finds room for the charming "No Matter How I Try" from Gilbert O'Sullivan, "Alright" from The Bay City Rollers, and "Right Wheel, Left Hammer, Sham" from sixties hitmakers The Tremeloes among its treasures. The three discs are housed in a slipcase, and a 48-page booklet has David Wells' detailed track-by-track liner notes.
Artists from both High in the Morning (Badfinger, Sutherland Brothers and Quiver, The Kinks) and Bubblerock Is Here to Stay Vol. 2 (Slade, Marmalade, The Tremeloes) are featured on Miles Out to Sea: The Roots of British Power Pop 1969-1975. While power pop conjures the notion of melodic, guitar-heavy pop rock and there's plenty of that on this 3-CD, 74-song compendium, Grapefruit's set casts a wide net. As David Wells writes in his introduction, "It's not a retrospective attempt to posit the likes of Barclay James Harvest or Budgie as power-pop progenitors, because that would simply be ludicrous, but simply a chance to show that great pop music was being made in Britain in the early seventies." And so, among the kinda-sorta power pop gems here, the set presents tunes from Stealers Wheel ("Go As You Please") and its frontman Gerry Rafferty ("Where I Belong"), pub-rockers Brinsley Schwarz (Nick Lowe's classic "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding") and Schwarz producer/Lowe's Rockpile bandmate Dave Edmunds ("When Will I Be Loved"); and The Who ("In a Hand or a Face"). The latter is particularly apropos as Pete Townshend is said to have coined the term "power pop," and numerous bands in that genre have sought to emulate The Who's crunchy, tight style. The Beach Boys inspired countless power pop artists, too, hence the inclusion of The First Class' pastiche "Beach Baby" from the John Carter/Jill Shakespeare team which went to the top 20 in the U.K. and the top 5 on the U.S. chart. Where would any power pop compilation be without the influence of The Beatles? Miles Out to Sea gives us Iain Matthews' originally-unreleased recording of George Harrison's "So Sad (No Love of His Own)" as well as Rupert Holmes' deliciously biting answer to a certain Beatles classic. "I Don't Want to Hold Your Hand" was acknowledged as a favorite of none other than George Martin! The clamshell package houses the by-now-obligatory 48-page booklet, packed with comprehensive notes.
The final title in our Grapefruit foursome spotlights a single label. Before the Day Is Done: The Story of Folk Heritage Records 1968-1975 moves away from pop and rock into the realm of folk for a 68-track deep dive into the vaults of Alan Green's Folk Heritage Records. Green established his label in 1968, serving as both producer and engineer from his home in Cheadle Hulme, about 7.5 miles outside of Manchester. Most of the groups and artists he signed were fixtures on England's northwest folk club circuit, and his pressings were extremely limited (as high as 2,000 copies, as low as double digits). Unlike most of the other Grapefruit anthologies, none of the artists here made the big time or received major label contracts, but the original Folk Heritage albums did become highly prized items among collectors. Green was successful enough to set up ancillary labels including Westwood, Midas, Real, and Sweet Folk & Country, but by 1975 (when this set concludes), he had largely begun to concentrate on his Country Music Recordings label focusing on that genre. Before the Day Is Done is a compelling journey though the Folk Heritage family and a mini-history of the once-thriving "underground" U.K. folk scene. In addition to the traditional acoustic material, there are touches throughout of psychedelia and folk-rock; some familiar names crop up including Joni Mitchell when the duo Penny Wager covered "Marcie" from her debut LP; Leonard Cohen, whose "Hey That's No Way to Say Goodbye" was surveyed by Manchester's own Blue Horizon; and Paul Simon, via The MacDonald Folk Group's lovely "April Come She Will." The liner notes reveal that Close to It All from the group known as Saraband - they had previously recorded for Decca as The Honeydew - was Folk Heritage's most successful LP; their original song "Retrospect" is reprised here as well as their rendition of the Melanie-penned "Close to It All." It's clear that Green saw folk as an all-encompassing genre and he took chances on groups of all sizes and shapes, including The Young Folk, a teenaged ensemble whose oldest member was 15 at the time of recording. David Wells' liner notes here are particularly impressive as he sheds light on these all-but-unknown artists, giving them a well-deserved moment in the sun. Before the Day Is Done is packaged in a clamshell case. It's been remastered, like the other three titles here, by Simon Murphy at Another Planet Music.
Look for all four Cherry Red/Grapefruit collections at the links below.
High in the Morning: The British Progressive Pop Sounds of 1973 (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada)
Click here for tracklisting.
Bubblerock Is Here to Stay Vol. 2: The British Pop Explosion 1970-1973 (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada)
Click here for tracklisting.
Miles Out to Sea: The Roots of British Power Pop 1969-1975 (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada)
Click here for tracklisting.
Before the Day Is Done: The Story of Folk Heritage Records 1968-1975 (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada)
Click here for tracklisting.
Justin Cole says
I am a big fan of Grapefruit's releases and have been listening to "Before the Day is Done" for a few weeks now. This set fits in well with their other UK folk collections such as "Dust on the Nettles".