Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Another Sunny Day on Caff

Bob Stanley released singles from a few of my indie heroes, and here is one of the biggest of that bunch. From 1988 to 1990, as Another Sunny Day, Harvey Williams produced some of the best singles Sarah Records ever released. During this prolific period, Caff put out this one-off 7" of early demos... and covers at that. Here's a portion of what Mr. Stanley had to say in the insert:

...[H]ere's another archive goodie, this time from Penzance's titan of teen pop, Harvey "Festive" Williams (as he was known in his baseball days). Both "tracks" were "cut" on a now deceased portastudio Stamfordbrook, W. London. 'Gen Eng' was a 1983 single by OMD which appeared later that year on their seminal 'Dazzle Ships' album. Says Harvey: "That LP was a perfect combination of submarine noises, anguished vocals, thrashed guitars and Czechoslovenke radio. I accept no substitute." 'Kilburn Towers' meanwhile is from a 1968 Bee Gees LP called 'Idea'. Over to Festive: "'Kilburn Towers' is a typical, beautiful late sixties Bee Gees ballad. Strings and mellotron to the fore, atmos melody, Barry's chestwig. Without the Bee Gees I could not live." Until the Spring has sprung, Bob

Thought for the day from Ronnie Corbett: "Jesus sounds remarkably like cheeses."

There are three of these 7" singles from Another Sunny Day available on Discogs, ranging from about $64 to $114. Both of these songs are also available as bonus tracks on the Cherry Red reissue of 'London Weekend,' one of my favorite albums from the era. Without further adieu, here's CAFF 7, the label's first release of 1990.

Another Sunny Day - Genetic Engineering
Another Sunny Day - Kilburn Towers

Saturday, August 23, 2014

New Songs From the June Brides

It was a banner day when I got this news in my inbox yesterday. The followup to the brilliant single "A January Moon," from the reunited June Brides, will be out in September. As before, the "She Seems Quite Free" EP is a joint 7" between Occultation Recordings in the United Kingdom and Slumberland Records in America.

Below you'll find our first listen to one of the three tracks. "Being There" and "She Seems Quite Free" are penned by Phil Wilson, and guitarist Simon Beesley concludes the trio with "I'm Undone." In case you're late to the party, original members Frank Sweeney and Jon Hunter round out the classic lineup. Did you ever think you would hear that trumpet again? Wonderful. On drums this time is Steve Beswick. He played with the Wild Swans on 'The Coldest Winter For a Hundred Years," truly one of the best albums of this or any decade. Arash Torabi is on bass. Fans of Phil Wilson's 2010 solo album 'God Bless Jim Kennedy' will remember his name.

If you pick up this 7" from one of the aforementioned labels, gifts abound, including a special full-color insert and badge. So, you know what to do. Enough of me, already. Please listen. "Everything changes... as love rearranges us all." Interesting words, Mr. Wilson.

Update: I'm rubbing my eyes in disbelief. The band has shared another song. Here's "She Seems Quite Free."

And Yet Another Update: It's a trifecta! Here is Mr. Beesley's "I'm Undone." Now we can hear the entire EP.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Orchids on Caff

Clearly, Bob Stanley was a strong supporter of Sarah Records. As a music writer, he championed the label on paper. Check out his review of 'Lyceum.' As the head of Caff Corporation, he released three one-off singles plucked from Sarah's talented stable. When you consider there were only 17 singles on Caff, three is a pretty hefty number. CAFF 11 comes from the Orchids, and this 7" was released when the Scottish band was at the top its game. It was September of 1990. 'Lyceum' had been out for about a year, and the fantastic single "Something for the Longing" had hit the shelves about six months earlier. I didn't realize until many years later, when 'Lyceum' was reissued by LTM in 2005 with this single as part of the bonus tracks, that "An Ill Wind That Blows" and its flip side were actually demos that the band recorded in 1987. Even though the Orchids was in its infancy, just that it wasn't evident these were early rudimentary recordings are a testament to the quality. Sarah always had a reputation as music for sad sacks. "An Ill Wind That Blows" certainly feeds into that label, but I think it's wonderful.

As I write this, there are three copies of "An Ill Wind That Blows" on Discogs... ranging between $40 and $100. If that's too rich for your blood, the 'Lyceum' reissue is still in print.

The Orchids - An Ill Wind That Blows
The Orchids - All Those Things

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Claim on Caff

Do you remember Jon Favreau's 'Dinner For Five' that used to be on IFC? If I ever hosted a program like that, one of my first guests would be Bob Stanley. One of the myriad of reasons why I would have no audience, however, is that I'm not sure I would even ask him about Saint Etienne. He's a first-rate writer and chronicler of music, and he is known to have an incredible vinyl collection. How could I possibly get around to the importance of 'Fox Base Alpha' during the 30 minutes... including commercials? I'm sure I would be able to hear everyone's remote controls click as I stare at Stanley with starry eyes and spend an entire segment asking him about his days running Caff Records while the other guests pick at their food and curse their agents under their breaths.

For the next few posts, I thought it might be fun to listen to a few songs from the legendary label. Caff's run was quite short, from 1989 until 1992, but the 17 one-off releases, all on 7" and limited to 500 copies each, have certainly left a mark. A quick look at ebay shows prices range from $30 to $130 for one of these pieces of vinyl. Perhaps singles by Manic Street Preachers and Pulp will be the ones the masses will remember most, but those aren't the ones that first pop into my mind.

Let's start with CAFF 8. Ah, the Claim. Here's a bit of what Stanley had to say about the lads. I lifted this from the liner notes to 'Black Path,' the band's retrospective put out by Rev-Ola in 1995: "The Claim: hopelessly obscure but with enough melodic clout, character and charm not to let it worry them unduly. It's very English, not in a whimsical 'village green' way but in a kitchen sink, fish and chips way... Until this urgent, honest, heart-warming pop becomes fashionable again, the Claim will have an audience limited to those who can appreciate good music without any hype, dogtags or slogans."

More because of geography than anything else, the Claim are often compared to the Dentists, but I have always heard more of the band's love for the Jam (not as much on this single, however) and their heroes the Jasmine Minks. While you give this a listen, read a recent piece Stanley wrote for the Guardian that every record collector is sure to enjoy.

The Claim - Birth of a Teenager
The Claim - Mike the Bike (featuring Vic Templar)

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Early Takes From the Bluebells Answer the Bell

The liner notes to the just released 'Exile on Twee Street,' a collection of early recordings made before the band signed with London Records, is an extended Q&A with band members. The closing question gets to the meat of the matter. "Some of the songs were later reworked on London with a proper recording budget. How do you think these early prototypes compare with the 'proper' versions which followed?" Lawrence Donegan nailed it with his succinct reply: "It is a truth universally acknowledged that the demos are always better than the 'proper' recordings."

Unlike the usual odds-and-sods packages that seem to be just for die-hard fans, these 20 tracks could actually win a legion of new listeners. For those who were always confused about why "Everybody's Somebody's Fool" was slated to be 81-12 on the list of releases from Postcard Records, three minutes into this album it becomes crystal clear what Alan Horne heard back then. The lo-fi sound really suits Bobby Bluebell and the lads, and there is no way with this lot you could associate them with the "wimpy" label they would become saddled with a very short time later. In fact, you can really hear the influence of Edwyn Collins and his crew on some of these recordings, and the Bluebells go into great detail in the liner notes about how Orange Juice helped them on and off the stage during this period.

I assumed I would enjoy these first stabs at the songs I already knew, such as "Some Sweet Day," "Happy Birthday" and "Forevermore," but the real surprises were with the songs I never knew existed before 'Exile on Twee Street.' Cheers to Cherry Red for releasing these gems and putting to rest why it was the Bluebells were such an integral part of the Glasgow scene during the city's most exciting period for music. This one is sure to show up near the top of my year-end list of best reissues.

For the benefit of American readers, order this one on the UK version of Amazon. I know it saved me a ton of dough.