In September 1983, a young man from Southampton made his first appearance on Top of The Pops. Armed with a then state of the art synthesiser, huge pineapple shaped haircut and a visual aid in the form of a bendy mime artist, he requested we “throw off our mental chains” and made an instant impression with many teenagers watching. That man was Howard Jones. His debut hit single ‘New Song’ was at the cutting edge of the synth pop movement and his gift for a catchy chorus quickly set him apart from hundreds of other potential electronic pop stars. With the help of subsequent hits ‘What Is Love’ and ‘Pearl In The Shell’, Jones became one of the biggest stars of the following year.
For many listeners, Procol Harum’s legacy centres around their first three albums (1967’s ‘Procol Harum’, 1968’s ‘Shine On Brightly’ and 1969’s ‘A Salty Dog’) and the evergreen classic single ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’. Indeed, that would have been enough to secure them a place in the rock history books, but the ever prolific band released a further six albums between 1970 and 1977. While these albums were destined to only be heard by the more faithful fan, each one provided a selection of highlights, and while 1975’s ‘Procol’s Ninth’ doesn’t seem too inspirational in terms of either title or sleeve art, it is certainly no exception.
Greenslade’s self-titled debut from February 1973 introduced the world to an intricate world of double keyboard led prog, peppered with occasional elements of jazz fusion. It was by no means a perfect record – some of the tracks seemed over complicated for the sake of it and the production wasn’t as crisp as it could’ve been – but it gave the band something solid on which they could build, and just nine months later they returned with a follow-up. Released in the November, ‘Bedside Manners Are Extra’ is superior at almost every turn. Keyboard player/singer Dave Lawson mightn’t have the best voice in the world and occasionally the lack of guitar can be jarring, but the arrangements throughout the album are enough to make it stand up. Decades on, it’s easy to see how ‘Bedside Manners’ is a landmark recording for Dave Greenslade and really helped to make a name for the band in progressive rock fan circles.
The UK’s most celebrated reissue label Cherry Red are running a fairly decent Black Friday promotion. It’s easy to sneer about the UK hijacking what was essentially only a US calendar event, but it means that music fans can grab some very cool savings.
For lovers of classic rock and prog – which covers a good proportion of Real Gone’s readership – the sale is decent, with deluxe titles and box sets by Anthony Phillips, Tony Banks and Graham Bonnet available with a hefty discount.
Between 2016-2018, Grapefruit Records released three excellent box sets exploring the nooks and crannies of the British psychedelia movement. The three anthologies featured in excess of over two hundred tracks and even included items which even the more devoted psych obsessive hadn’t heard before. Having almost exhausted that particular avenue, the same label’s ‘Come Join My Orchestra: The British Baroque Pop Sound 1967-73′ from November 2018 provides an interesting side-step. In the wake of numbers like The Beatles’ ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and ‘For No One’ and the Stones’ ‘Lady Jane’, baroque pop became in vogue and all manner of artists – obscure or otherwise – turned to applying strings and flutes a-plenty. Not quite straight pop, but never as ostentatious as prog rock would make the orchestra, the seven year stretch bridging the two decades turned up all kinds of treats. While often favouring the singer songwriter over the pop bands, ‘Come Join My Orchestra’ is a great celebration of these sometimes forgotten musical experiments – and with seventy eight tracks ranging from the cult classic to genuinely obscure, there’s a lot here to take in.