Having cut his musical teeth as Lead Vocalist and Keyboard Player in the British Blues Band JELLYBREAD (they did two albums for the Blue Horizon label), Pete Wingfield then went into touring (Van Morrison and The Hollies) and session work. He contributed to B.B KING'S "In London" in 1971, KEEF HARTLEY'S "Seventy-Second Brave" in 1972 and one of my favourite LPs of the Seventies "Let The Days Go By" by BRYN HAWORTH in 1974 (see separate review). He then finally realized a lifetime dream by signing to Island Records (there's a Sue single on the left side of the album sleeve as a homage), which brings us to this dinky little October 2008 CD reissue - which centers around his only album and hit single for that world-famous and much loved label.
Here's the breakdown (79:15 minutes):
Tracks 1 to 9 are the album "Breakfast Special" (minus its last track "Shining Eyes") issued September 1975 on Island ILPS 9333 in the UK
Tracks 10 to 18 are the previously unreleased never issued follow-up album "Love Bumps & Dizzy Spells" in its entirety (no ILPS catalogue number allocated)
The band consisted of:
PETE WINGFIELD on Keyboards and Vocals
JOE "JAMMER" WRIGHT on Guitars
DeLISLE HARPER on Bass and GLEN LE FLEUR on Drums and Percussion
(The above were THE OLYMPIC RUNNERS minus MIKE VERNON)
The Guests included:
CHRIS MERCER of THE KEEF HARTLEY BAND who played Horns and Brass on "Kangaroo Dip", "Same Old Thing Goin' On" and "Scratchy 45s".
NEIL HUBBARD of KOKOMO who played Guitar on "Eighteen With A Bullet" and "Hold Me Closer"
ANN O'DELL of the Progressive Outfit CHOPYN who did String Arrangements on the lovely "Lovin' As You Wanna Be" and other songs as well
The 16-page booklet has witty, informative and self-deprecating liner notes by Wingfield himself (a level-headed assessment of the highs and lows). There's session player photos, 7" singles pictured, sheet music, album artwork, press adverts from 1975 - all of it really well done.
Superbly recorded and engineered at Chipping Norton Studios in the UK by BARRY HAMMOND in the first place, the original master tapes have now been remastered by NICK ROBBINS at Sound Mastering in London - and the results are beautifully clear - every instrument warm and present - a top job done. It really is fantastic just how good these tracks sound. I had "Eighteen" on a 2CD set out of the USA in 1987 called "The Island Story" just to have the song - and the sound quality here is one-hundred times better compared to that - the Doo-wop intro as clear as a bell. 10 out of 10 for SOUND.
The material is a mixture of good and bad as you can imagine - the standout tracks given an airing on seven-inch releases. "Breakfast Special" spawned three singles - the first was the biggest and is Wingfield's signature tune to this day. "Eighteen With A Bullet" b/w "Shadow Of A Doubt" was issued on Island WIP 6231 in the UK and Island IS 026 in the USA - it went to Number 7 in the UK charts in June 1975 and climbed to 18 on the American charts in October 1975 (yes that's right - 18 with a bullet!). I remember it being hugely popular throughout the whole of that summer and was played at every dance everywhere - Derrick Harriott even did a reggae cover of it in late 1975 on Trojan 7973, which scraped the low end of the UK chart. The follow-up was the fabulously catchy "A Whole Pot Of Jelly (For A Little Slice Of Toast)" b/w "Anytime" on Island WIP 6245 in the UK and IS 065 in the USA - but it inexplicably failed to chart in either country. I've always loved this completely forgotten funky little gem and is one of the reasons why I wanted this CD - the remaster of it is fantastic. The USA tried one more time for a follow-up hit with "Lovin' As I Want To Be" b/w "Please" on Island IS 051, but again it failed to chart.
Which brings us to the unreleased album, which Island claimed wasn't 'produced' enough to release. Despite their reservations about the sound, they placed two of its songs - "Making A Good Thing Better" with OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN and "Eyes In The Back Of My Head" with PATTI LABELLE - sizable hits for both of them. The USA even issued a very popular tune with New Orleans audiences called "Scratchy 45s" on Island IS 065 in 1976, which sounds like - and name-checks Dr. John - a very cool little tune. In truth though, his falsetto vocals (similar to Alan Gorrie of the Average White Band) could wear after a while - and were focused on too much. And worse - the songs all had that 1976 clutter about them that seemed to dominate so much music of that year. Still, it's nice to hear them after all these decades - good and bad - and all of it sounding polished up and spiffing.
Wingfield's been a busy boy ever since - contributing to Stephen Bishop, Chris Farlowe, Roy Harper, The Lighthouse Family, Nine Below Zero, Justin Hayward of The Moody Blues, Colin Blunstone of The Zombies, Chris Rea, Richard & Linda Thompson, The Beautiful South, Mica Paris, Lonnie Donegan, John Miles, Phil Everly, Lindisfarne, Billy Fury, Buddy Guy and even Paul McCartney (he's on the "Run Devil Run" album in 1999). His production credits are equally impressive too - from Dexy's Midnight Runners to The James Taylor Quartet.
Hopefully this carefully put together and superb sounding release will bring his tunes to the attention of a wider audience. Some of it has dated for sure, but there's also a lot on here that's 'so' good. A rather cool little reissue really.