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Mark Morris (Belfast)

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The Smile Sessions
The Smile Sessions
Price: 13.25

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hey, we were in Japan a year ago..., 4 Nov 2011
This review is from: The Smile Sessions (Audio CD)
In 2004 I bought and fell in love with Brian's newly released version of this album, as I am sure the majority of people buying this album did. That was the first version of the album I had heard, and as far as I was aware at the time the original recordings amounted to nothing. I was shocked when I first heard Purple Chick presents SMiLE at how close to being finished the album was!

This boxed set obviously doesn't claim to be the finished album, but it does a great job at laying it all out. It is not unlike the bootlegs, but there are some surprises and the sound quality is a bit better. I have really enjoyed listening to the bonus material on the second disk, particularly some of the vocal sessions. It really is unbelievable how effortless these guys make it seem to sing these complex harmonies. I also find it a bit surreal to hear the band talking to each other during the sessions, not realising that the whole thing was about to fall apart. You can almost sense the tensions starting. There are also some classic lines such as "Do you guys feel any acid yet?" and the slightly random "Hey, we were in Japan a year ago".

Anyway, if you are reading this having never heard anything from any version of this album, I highly recommend it. It's a hugely creative, unique, ambitious and ultimately rewarding album. The myths surrounding it for me only making it all the more fascinating to listen to. I do however think that this was made for serious beach boys fans and fans of the BW presents SMiLE, and if you are unfamiliar with SMiLE you are probably better starting with the 2004 version, doing so will make this boxed set much more interesting!

We Are Ever So Clean: Expanded Edition
We Are Ever So Clean: Expanded Edition
Price: 14.78

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Someone's got a train set and that's a thing I'm for..., 14 Aug 2009
We Are Ever So Clean is the stunning debut album by the band Blossom Toes. The album is one of the finest example of psychedelic pop that Britain produced. It has such a quintessentially British charm to it, much like The Village Green Preservation Society, with songs about alarm clocks, tea, hot air balloons and budgerigars. There is also a strong comedy element to the album, it has quite a whimsical sense of humour, especially the short spoken introductions to each track. It is that wonderful sense of humour that makes this album such a pleasure to listen to, it is certainly one of the happiest albums in my collection!

The band started out in 65/66 as The Ingoes, playing R&B music, until they were snapped up by Giorgio Gomelsky, renamed as the more psychedelic Blossom Toes, and signed up to his new Marmalade label. Jim Cregan and Brian Godding were the two main songwriters in the band, but it was Gomelsky who was responsible for sending them in a more psychedelic direction, bringing in session musicians to add overdubs to the basic tracks recorded by the band. The band apparently weren't too keen on this, but I think the results speak for themselves!

The album opens with Look At Me I'm You, which has a very interesting opening, I think it involves piano notes being played backwards and xylophones. There's something very disjointed sounding about the song, but it works so well, as does the backwards guitar breaks and flutes in the background. It is definately "psychedelic", and not a conventional pop song! I know I said that this was a very happy album, but the lyrics in this song are actually fairly bleak, with lyrics like "The air is black with coal dust from smokey chimney pots", and "poor old johnny, he was poorly" and so on. It keeps you on your toes (no pun intended) with little interludes including a nice acoustic section and towards the end the song drops out and a brass band start playing (very British!). A very interesting opener!

The glorious I'll Be Late For Tea comes next. It is a lot more upbeat that the opening track, and is essentially a song about someone who is running late for a tea engagement. The vocals on this track are sublime, especially the harmonies which are perfect. The rythm section is actually pretty heavy, in contrast to some of the overdubs that Gomelsky has added which features gentle flute and trumpet. Overall this juxtaposition works really well, and the tracks is one of my favourites!

The bizarre The Remarkable Saga Of The Frozen Dog comes next, it is a very very odd song, which may have been the result of taking too much LSD. The guitars certainly sound like they are on acid, as do the bizarre background vocals (which consist of odd noises rather than singing)! The track is possibly my least favourite on the album, I think it is a bit too odd for my tastes!

The next track Telegram Tuesday is a nice upbeat pop song, again featuring a strong rythm section and some lush harmonies, along the same lines as I'll Be Late For Tea, although it is not quite as good. It is follwed by Love Is which is quite a slow and sombre love song, featuring great orchestration containing vibes, chello, harp and flutes. I don't think slow ballads were the groups forte, but it is not a bad song.

The whimsy returns in full force with the excellent What's It For?. The production on this track is fantastic, the chello works so well as do the latin sounding trumpets. The lyrics are certainly whimsical "What's it for, the mere existence of a door, is something to be grateful for". It's a good, upbeat track, well worth a listen!

The whimsy goes up a level on the next track, The People of The Royal Parks. This song is yet again very British, the lyrics are all about park keepers and parliament and the Sunday papers. I don't know if words can do this song justice, it is just fantastic. I actually have goosebumps listening to it right now! Its an upbeat singalong song with a great rythm, lovely harpsichord, oboes, strings and a blaring brass section, and towards the end it erupts into a Mellow Yellowesque party! It's definately one of the best tracks on the album, and indeed one of the best psych pop tracks of all times surely!

What On Earth is another great track, and the lyrics contain the albums title; "We are ever so clean, cleaner than the top of a washing machine". There is once again wonderful orchestration and great harmonies. It is another wonderful track, the bass sounds very interesting, almost like a wobble board in fact

.My favourite song of the album is next, easily equalling the whimsy of The People of The Royal Parks, it is the smile inducing Mrs. Murphy's Budgerigar. This song feels like a warm blanket around me when I listen to it, I don't know where to start talking about it. The backing track is fantastic, starting with guitar, bass, drums and harpsichord in a great bouncy rythm, but eventually building up to include strings, oboes, and brass (there is a great trumpet solo towards the end). The vocals are great, featuring some of their best harmonies. The lyrics are great too, the song has a very toytown feel to it, it covers the topics of lost budgerigars, trainsets and buying bicycles. It is an utterly fantastic song, worth the price of the album!

I Will Bring You This And That is another upbeat bouncy sort of song, it seems to have escaped the overdubbing however, as it consists of simply guitar, drums and bass. It works very well however, and the harmonies once again sound wonderful. The lyrics are very odd indeed; "I will bring you plastic flowers, you can play with them for hours".Mister Watchmaker is the next track, another slow, sombre track. It's quite lovely however, featuring plenty of orchestration in the background. I really like the melody, particularly in the bridge section. It is interesting to compare the song to Mr. Small the Watch Repairer Man by Kaleidoscope. Perhaps they are singing of the same person? Who knows.

The next track is When the Alarm Clock Rings is a pretty good song, the bass playing in it is great, and the little bits of orchestration which have been added work really well. Overall there is a feeling of urgency to the song, which is fitting I suppose as it is a song about time.

The Intrepid Balloonists Handbook, Volume 1 is another odd track, definately displaying their sense of humour! The track features a lot of accordian ond organ, and is sang with an exaggerated British accent, and is about hot air balloons. It's all very Monty Python! It ends with "Really, you're going ever so high Felicity, we'll never be able to reach you now!".

You is a great track, very upbeat, great vocals, and lovely production. For some reason it never stood out much for me on the album, but as I listen to it, it's definately a good song! It just lacks the character and charm of some of the previous tracks.The original album closes with Track For Speedy Freaks (Or Instand LP Digest), it isn't a proper song as such, just an amalgamation of the previous songs, all played over each other at once producing this cacophony of sound. Experimental for its time, and perhaps it sounds good when you are high.

The Sundazed reissue adds several bonus tracks to the album. The best of these are the LP out take Everybody's Talkin which is a really good upbeat pop song with really good vocals, probably dropped from the album in favour of one of the more wacky tracks! Their non LP single is also included, a cover of Bob Dylans I'll Be Your Baby Tonight, which is very good, and prominently features some odd sounding metallic instrument that I can't quite work out! It's a very interesting cover all the same! We Are Ever So Clean is a very fun album, I can't recommend it enough to 60s pop fans. The songwriting is excellent, and the vocals are very distinctive throughout. It for me epitomises the comic, funloving side of British psychedelic pop, as much as Piper At The Gates Of Dawn represents the cosmic side, Tangerine Dream represents the fairytale side and World of Oz represents the childlike side. It is a must have album, it will surely put a smile on your face!

Around Grapefruit
Around Grapefruit
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: 9.60

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars She wanted someone else that I couldn't be..., 14 Aug 2009
This review is from: Around Grapefruit (Audio CD)
One of the greatest crimes in the history of man is that this album and the band that made it are so unheard of. They formed in 1967 and were signed to the Beatles' Apple label, and were dubbed "Grapefruit" by John Lennon. The chief songwriter was a Scotsman called George Alexander Young, who came from a very musical family (brother George was in The Easybeats, and brothers Angus and Malcolm were in AC/DC!). George Alexander was an incredibly gifted songwriter, his songs are very whistful and romantic. Around Grapefruit is psychedelic/baroque pop at its finest. The production (by Terry Melcher) is incredible, with mellotrons, flutes, organ, phashing, weird sound effects and full, rich harmonies galore! What more could you ask for?

Another Game starts us off, an upbeat bass heavy song with some exquisite flute sections and an excellent chorus. The highlight of the song is the bridge which hints towards some of the other songs to come, with its whistful vibe and melancholy lyrics; "Living in a cave can be so lonely...". Excellent start to the album, great vocal effects too!

Yesterday's Sunshine follows on very well from Another game. Its got the same melancholy feel to it, and the flutes at the start tie the two songs together well. There are some amazing background vocals on it too, they have some strange effect on them that makes them sound like they are underwater or something, very trippy! The lyrics are very poetic and again a touch melancholy. It's just so damn well written, I love the chord changes during the last half a minute of the song, very emotive! What a track!

Elevator comes next, its not one of my favourites on the album but its still a very good psych pop song. It was released as a single from the album. It is much more upbeat and poppy than the first couple of songs, and it lacks their lush orchestral feel. There are some interesting effects on the song too, I cant work out if they are guitars or what they are! The next song is called Yes, and it is similar to Elevator, another upbeat poppy effort. It in fact was released with Elevator as a double a side. I much prefer Yes, but it again lacks the sort of production given to other tracks on the album. Definately worth a listen though! I love the bass playing in it. Sounds vaguely like Honeybus to me actually.

The next song is a bit odd, its a cover of The Four Seasons song C'mon Marianne. It was actually released as a single and was a small hit in the UK. I personally love it to bits! Its amazing. It contains some of the best harmonies on the album, and the addition of a brass section works so well (a bit like Touch Me by The Doors). Its such a great sing along song too. Man I love it, its swingin', thats the word for it. Swingin'. And the high pitched oo's at the end, how does he do it? I have wrecked my voice so many times singing along to that in the car.

Another great song follows up, taking the album back into the territory of the first couple of tracks. It is the beautiful dreamlike Lullaby. Its a very delicate song (as you would expect), with beautiful vocals and subtle but extremely effective orchestration, including oboe and flute. The oboe parts work very well, oboes and 60s pop go very well together it seems (check out I Can't Let Maggie Go!). This is quintessential British Psychedelic pop, it sounds quite like a Paul McCartney tune at times (I believe this was the song that got The Beatles interested in them in the first place!).

The next song is to me a very special song. I would say that it is one of my favourite songs, certainly one of the best songs to come out of late 60s britain, but maybe thats just a personal opinion because I don't think that it's even widely acknowledged to be one of the best songs on the album! But anyway, it's called Round Going Round, and it alone is worth the price of the album! It starts you slow with some great bass and Harpsichord, then takes you on a swirling psychedelic journey! Round going Round is a perfect title for it, because throughout it you just feel like you are spinning! Its a very upbeat, joyous song, it ALWAYS cheers me up when I listen to it. I think the lyrics are beautiful, its essentially a love song mixed in with some trippy, dreamlike lyrics, a winning combination it seems:

Round Going Round in a multicoloured haze
Now I can fly round the world, I can see the milky way
And the cold December turns to early May
For she promised all her loving for tomorrow today

The melody is perfect, the harmonies are perfect, the production is perfect, and the best surprise comes in at the end of the song when everything just drops out and it all comes crashing back to reality. Please listen to this song!

Im sure after listening to this for the first time I was in a state of shock after Round Going Round, but that wasn't enough for old George Alexander! Oh no, he had to once again blow us away, this time with Dear Delilah, their most famous song, and a top 20 hit back in 1968. Why it wasn't a top 10 hit I will never know! It starts off in a hauntingly beautiful fashion with just voice and a churchy organ. I love the way this song alternates between the melancholy/whistful verse with is lyrics of lost love and heatbreaking string backing, and the uptempo singalong chorus complete with phased drums (a-la The Small Faces). Just after the chorus there is a really beautiful sort of bridge with a gorgeous melody which one of the highlights of this track (and album), complete with sorrowful lyrics "she wanted someone else that I couldn't be". Then there's another round of the chorus, and THEN theres this little woodwind interlude (which reminds me of the hobbit, strangely) which just comes out of nowhere but is so fitting and it just adds so much to the song. Anyway, words cannot express how beautiful this song is, its just a very special song.

Following up Dear Delilah was no easy task, but George again rises to the challenge with the flute and strings driven This Little Man. Another hauntingly beautiful track, with a very fragile and delicate feel. Once again the oboe is prominent, with a very well realised oboe solo! The lyrics are amongst the best on the album too; "it's not easily seen that the heart of a man/ in a world without love can be cruel". This gentle song almost reaches Dear Delilah territory but falls just short. I very much love it though.

Ain't It Good comes next, another great track, quite rocky compared to the rest of the album. It's quite quitar heavy, but it again has its moments of beauty, especially the bridge when the flute makes a welcome return. This song is follwed by the unusual "Theme For Twiggy". It's an instrumental track consisting of a wah wah guitar playing a melody over mellotron and harpsichord. It's a very relaxed song, but I get the feeling when listening to it that it's the backing track to a song that vocals were never added too. It could possibly have been great with vocals given the standard of the songwriting elsewhere on the album. As it stands it is quite a haunting track, very mellow, and somewhat pretty.

The album closes with another haunting song, Someday. It's another lovely song, up there with This Little Man. Its got quite an ethereal quality, possibly due to the reverb effects on the vocals. There is quite a surprising saxophone break towards the end. Really, theres not much too the song, but I do think its quite a majestic way to end the album...... That is unless you have the extra track Dead Boot, which was the B side of Dear Delilah. An odd song about an unwanted item of footwear (although its actually probably a metaphor or something...). Its not at all a bad song, but not up to the standards of some of the rest of the album.

So there you have it! That is Around Grapefruit. Unfortunately after this the band veered away from pop and moved into more rocky territory with their next album Deep Water, and they lost a lot of their appeal. The band then split up in 1969. They did leave behind some excellent BBC sessions which I may review at some point though! Around Grapefruit is (in my humble opinion) a masterpiece in its genre, and one of the most essential pieces of 60s pop that Britain produced, and definately in my top 5 favourite albums. It is criminally under-appreciated, and if you enjoy The Beatles, Tomorrow, Kaleidoscope, The Hollies, The Zombies, The Beach Boys, you MUST go and get this album.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 21, 2011 9:56 PM BST

Price: 10.44

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really and sincerely I tried..., 14 Aug 2009
This review is from: Horizontal (Audio CD)
Horizontal is the second album by the Bee Gees, and is the second album that they made in 1967 (being released in January 1968). The second album is always meant to be a difficult one for bands, especially when they had such a strong start, but they manage to deliver another brilliant and fascinating set of songs.

The album opens with a clattering of bass, guitar, piano and drums which abruptly stop and open into the gorgeous piano/mellotron/vocals chorus of World. It's an absolutely first class song. It is somewhat unconventional what with multiple stops and starts and frequent tempo changes. The mellotron which drifts in and out gives the song a haunting quality, possibly the best use of mellotron in a pop song? The lyrics are fantastic too, and typical of the obscure stuff they were coming up with at the time. I must say, the melody is spot on too, what a great opener.

And the Sun Will Shine is the first of the very sort of depressing songs on the album. It's not one of my favourites, but I do love the orchestral arrangement to it, especially the oboes. The melody is pretty enough, and the lyrics again are great.

Lemons Never Forget brings the album into Rock territory, allegedly it is about the Apple corporation and the problems they were having. It continues the sombre and ominous mood started by the previous song. It's not one of the standouts for me, I think the guitar in the background annoys me a bit, but I do enjoy the chorus.

Ending the depressing succession of songs is Robin's Really and Sincerely. I used to hate this song with its annoying accordian and very whining vocals, but I have actually come to love it, based mainly on the fantastic chorus which I never fail to sing along to loudly. It is a very emotional song about Robins involvement in a train crash (he was a passenger).

Birdie Told Me comes next, I think it was the first song I latched on to when I initially listened to the album. It's such a pretty song, pretty lyrics, pretty harmonies, pretty music.... it's just great. I was actually just about to say that after repeated listenings I have grown sick of it, but listening to it now I find that that is not the case. Those strings are fantastic.

With the Sun in My Eyes I think is the weakest song on the album, consisting mainly of organ and vocals with a bit of orchestration coming in half way through.

The beautiful Massachusetts, the bands fist #1, comes next. They did a really good job on this song, the vocals are so spot on. I love the driving rythm section combined with the sweeping strings and the glockenspiel (if that's whats making that noise!). Just a beautiful track.

Their song about a fictional racing driver, Harry Braff comes next. Very up tempo compared the rest of the album, quite catchy, great harmonies, it reminds me of Holiday Maker by Kaleidoscope. It's a decent track, definately stands apart from the rest of this album. Would have probably been more at home on their first album.

Day Time Girl is yet another soft and sombre track, it is quite delicate and beautiful, but not one of the stand out tracks for me. Maybe there is a bit of overkill on the lilting heartbreakers on this album, although to be fair they do do them well.

One of the best named songs in my music collection comes next, The Earnest of Being George. It's a great track, very rocky, fantastic bass playing from Maurice, and some great lead guitar work from Vince. I really love all the stops and starts during this song, it is not unlike The Little Girl I Once Knew by The Beach Boys.

The Change Is Made is not unlike the previous track, heavy on the bass and with some powerful soulful vocals from Barry, who really shows what is voice is capable of here. Not quite as good as the Earnest of being George, but still good. You can tell Vince was in his element playing the lead guitar on this.

The album closes with Horizontal, which is similar to World. A good way to close the album, it is a very ethereal song thanks again to the mellotron. It is an optimistic sort of song, the lyrics make me feel all warm inside ("You are a good friend/friendly as good friends should be"). A good way to end the album if you ask me.

The glorious Rhino reissue provides a wealth of bonus material, some of which actually far surpasses some of the material on the album! It actually could have been an album in itself. The highlights include Out of Line which is one of my all time favourite Bee Gees tracks. That bass playing is phenomenal, and their harmonies never sounded better. I think it should have been on the album in the place of The Change is Made, but surprisingly was totally unissued!

Another highlight is the B-side to Massachusetts, called Barker of the UFO, easily their most experimental song. It consists of a backwards drum track, a tuba and a xylophone with Barry singing his heart out over it. I would describe it as "Bouncy", never fails to put a smile on my face.

The beautiful Words is also present, which has been covered to death over the years. Also present is the B-side to World which is called Sir Geoffrey Saved the World, a fantastic example of "toytown pop", full of the brothers' glorious warbling vocal harmonies. The brilliantly entitled Mrs. Gillespie's Refridgerator is another highlight.

I must admit I have become encompletely enamoured with the Bee Gees lately. They rarely (if ever) dropped the ball in the 60s as far as I am concerned, releasing album after album of gold. It really puts the record industry today to shame to consider the volume of work produced by this band in a 3 year period. Anyway, this is a fantastic album overall, I highly recommend the spectacular Rhino reissue of this and the other 60s Bee Gees output. I will leave you with a quote from Horizontal;

I have been lying, under a pillow of dreams
And feeling moments of swimming in cream

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