Between a world of cancelled and postponed gigs and time spent in lockdown, 2020 has been a troubled year, but nevertheless, time marches on. Unbelievably, we’ve reached December and our traditional countdown to Christmas has begun.
The inaugural release from Strawberry Records, ‘Halcyon Days’ aims high in terms of 60s entertainment. Bringing together a great selection of mod, soul and freakbeat sides, it presents famous names alongside forgotten heroes; places cult floor fillers, deep cuts and a few genuine rarities among fantastic (and sometimes very interesting) covers of well known tunes. Across nearly 90 tracks, it sets itself up as a varied and comprehensive listen. It’s very much the kind of set tailor made for those who’ve worn out the more bog-standard mod comps and are looking for a world beyond The Action, The Creation and those much-loved Spencer Davis Group hits.
The sounds of psychedelia’s peak from 1967 and going into 1968 have been well documented. Whether delving into the classics of the era or digging for obscurities, there are a wealth of great tunes to be found within an eighteen month period. By 1969, the musical tide was very much turning; British whimsy and three minute pop gems about myriad cups of tea and talking gnomes had largely been pushed aside for harder rock sounds. Various bands clung on for dear life, of course, and even well into 1969 there were bands across Britain knocking out various 7” pieces of plastic for the psychedelic cause. In another volume of musical history, Grapefruit Records have dug deep to bring three discs of interesting cuts from the year. The results are quite often less gaudily coloured, but you’ll still find a few bands sticking to familiar formulae. While at least half of the material gathered here is more of the well-honed pop/rock variety than flat out psych, the journey is one that’s still more than worth taking. Covering over seventy tracks in all, such a box set could seem daunting, but the curators have included at least ten familiar names, which actually adds to the commercial appeal without detracting from the potential obscurities and rarities.
A prolific songwriter and member of Los Angeles’ I See Hawks In LA, Robert Rex Waller, Jr puts his mark on 2016 with a covers project ‘Fancy Free’. Named after the Oak Ridge Boys hit that has pride of place midway through his thirteen track journey through the past, his choice of title could also refer to the decrease in pressure that comes from having material already written.