Writing about music is like dancing about architecture

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Exploito # 11 - John Bunyan's Progressive Pilgrims - Apricot Brandy and Albatross

Times move on, even in the world of exploitation records.
By 1969 Beatles, Stones and soul rip-offs weren't going to cut it anymore (although that didn't stop a lot of records in that vein being released!).
As the title of this group indicated, 'progessive' was where the music was going.
A Whiter Shade of Pale (itself much covered), Beck's Bolero, Rondo and America by the Nice, Soft Machine and Jethro Tull - it was this kind of music that was making the charts.
Organs were becoming more prominent, classical allusions were suddenly acceptable, songs were becoming longer. The kids were 'freaking out'. Although the mop-topped band playing to mini-skirted go-go dancers was a typically 'square' choice of cover image.
And somehow, the guys at Alshire were able to catch some of that on this record.
Against all the odds, this is good, with some really great moments that lift it far above the usual exploito slop. But, compared to any of the bands listed above it suffers from poor production, a certain lack of polish no doubt the result of a lack of money for extra takes, and a strange choice of songs. But when its good, its really good.
There's no point trying to figure out who was in the band. As with the majority of the Alshire catalogue I would guess the identity of the band has been lost. Although if you know,  please tell us! There is part of me that would like this to be a Jerry Cole/ Paul 'Mustang' Griffin collaboration.
Proceedings kick off well with a cover of Fleetwood Mac's Albatross. It stays reasonably close to the original and does nothing to upset.
The same could be said for the cover of Rhinoceros's Apricot Brandy. Is there something about Rhinoceros's success in California that I don't know? Why cover a song that only just made it into the US top 40? Again, if anyone can shed any light I'd be grateful.
Next up we have the Sabre Dance by Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian. Its been covered by many rock and jazz bands over the years. I always file it as being slightly in the exotica camp myself, no doubt because of Les Baxter's version. Here it gets the full crazed organ work out which reminds me of The Nice's America. Truly wild stuff, particularly from an exploito record. Cheekily the credits on the record say 'Arr. Al Sherman'. More money in the pocket of exploito king Sherman!
But for the really wild, over the top, in a world of its own, organ mayhem you have to listen to the next track, Mozart's Dilemma. Guaranteed to get your parents hot under the collar, this is exceptional stuff. If I have one criticism it is that the track starts wild, gets wilder and then has nowhere left to go. Great stuff nonetheless. The writing credit on the record for this track attributes it to Martin Huckridge who produced Astro Sounds, as well as a large number of other 101 Strings records.
After that Spaced Out starts in a slightly familiar way. Where have I heard that fazing before? Could it be on the Astro Sounds Beyond the Year 2000 record? I guess Martin brought some of his old tricks with him. This track does just what it says on the tin and sounds like a guitar firing into space.
Side 2 starts of with Hot Shot which is a pedestrian organ, guitar work out which could happily sit alongside any number of early 60s tracks on any number of exploito records, until the guitar solo which is distorted in a wonderfully aggressive way. Shame the backing track isn't better.
Summertime Blues is pretty woeful, so I suggest you don't spend too much time there.
Winter Draws On is a kind of blues thing that, I think, would love to be something along the lines of A Whiter Shade of Pale but just can't. There are some very nice and weird noises in the background, no doubt from Mr Huckridge.
Song Without Words seems familiar somehow. Can anyone help me out?
Finally Peccadillo follows in the footsteps on its predecessor to close the record with some organ guitar bluesy workout action.
As far as exploito records go, this is one of the best and that's not hype!

3 comments:

  1. Funny,
    interesting,
    cool and
    helpful also... THANX!

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