Music Week's round-up of the latest album reissues and catalogue releases. This week we take a look at Wynder K Frog, a Motown compilation and the latest in Demon’s 100 Hits series…
Wynder K Frog
Shook, Shimmy And Shake: The Complete Recordings 1966-1970 (RPM RPMBX 540)
Later to become a popular and busy session man, Bolton keyboards player Mick Weaver cut a trio of interesting but largely unsuccessful albums for Island Records between 1966 and 1970 as Wynder K Frog, fronting a band of the same name. All three of those albums are included in Shook, Shimmy And Shake, alongside miniature cardboard replica sleeves and an information-packed 28 page booklet, within the confines of a sturdy clamshell box. Debut album Sunshine Super Frog – presented here in mono, as no stereo recording was made – sets the template for what follows, with Frog’s Hammond organ front and centre of proceedings, as he leads his band through a set of funky jazz/rock instrumentals, most of them covers. They are either heavily redolent of their time or dated, depending on your point of view. I am going with the former, choosing to enjoy Frog’s imaginative interpretive skills and pleasing dexterity. With Spencer Davis Group producer Jimmy Miller fulfilling the same role on this album, it is no surprise that it includes a pleasing version of their hit Somebody Help Me. Another highlight, Donovan’s Sunshine Superman, provided the inspiration for the album title. 1968 set Out Of The Frying Pan contains two excellent originals – Gasoline Alley and Harpsichord Shuffle – but a suitably stomping version of the Rolling Stones’ Jumping Jack Flash is marginally better. Into The Fire was released only in America in 1970, and it’s a pity it didn’t have wider currency, as it contains more originals and takes some interesting turns along the way. It is supplemented by nine previously undocumented acetates, which include interesting takes on The Four Tops’ Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever and The Beatles’ We Can Work It Out.
Baby I’ve Got It! – More Motown Girls (Ace CDTOP 1524)
It is less than four months since Motown Unreleased 1967 – a low key digital release whose main purpose is to secure copyright protection on hitherto unreleased recordings that might otherwise fall into the public domain – made available for the first time 89 recordings from 1967, including excellent tracks from Marvin Gaye, The Four Tops and The Temptations, amongst others. But the company’s apparently inexhaustible fund of archive recordings has already been raided again, this time for Baby I’ve Got It!, a further collection of rare treats from Motown’s female roster. 16 of the 24 tracks gathered here are previously unreleased and, although you’d think the barrel had been scraped long ago, yet again they are largely excellent, and thoroughly deserved to see the light of the day. Cover stars The Marvelettes are represented by a previously unreleased and punchy version of Playboy, and by their version of The Chiffons’ Sweet Talkin’ Guy, which is pleasant but slightly inferior to The Chiffons’ hit version. Gladys Knight & The Pips open the set in fine style with their very first Motown recording, the superb In My Heart I Know It’s Right, which was co-penned by Marvin Gaye, and has been bootlegged many times but finally goes legit some 52 years after it was first recorded. A lot of the tracks here, however, are by lesser known Motown acts, including Ann Bogan, who makes an excellent job of There Are Things, using the same backing track as a previously released Tammi Terrell version of the song; LaBrenda Ben, whose feelgood version of Curtis Mayfield’s It’s All Right is slightly more sprightly that the original but otherwise very similar; and Keep Away, a typically smacking uptempo Motown track superbly sung by Little Lisa, aka Lisa Lewis. Like Union Gap’s Young Girl, it is a song that wouldn’t be recorded today without an outcry. With a voice beyond her years, Lisa was just 11 when she cut the song – about a mutual attraction for a boy – for which her mother and aunt provided both tune and lyrics. Overall, an excellent album with both sound quality and liner notes reaching Ace’s usual high standards.
100 Hits: The Best 80s Groove Album (Demon DMGN 100212)
100 Hits: The Best Country Album (DMGN 100215)
100 Hits: Sing (DMGN 100214)
Demon’s enormously popular, low-priced 100 Hits series returns with a trio of simultaneously released additions to its massive range, all of which adhere to its new stripped back digipack design, and all of which probably go beyond their genre-specific briefs. We’ll concentrate our attention on The Best 80s Groove Album which, as you might expect, provides a home for Tom Browne’s Funkin’ For Jamaica, Herbie Hancock’s Rockit and Daryl Hall & John Oates’ I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do). However, I’m a little surprised to find it also houses Modern Talking’s gentle hi-NRG/Eurobeat romp Brother Louie, Phyllis Nelson’s smoochy No.1, Move Closer and Wham!'s eponymous Wham Rap (Enjoy What You Do). It is, as you can see, a broad church but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, and it is nice to see tracks like Rising To The Top (Keni Burke), Show Me The Way (Regina Belle) and Shake It Up Tonight (Cheryl Lynn) getting an outing. At just pence per track, it will undoubtedly be a roaring success.