Music Week's round-up of the latest album reissues and catalogue releases, including Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Darts and The Climax Blues Band...
LEE ‘SCRATCH’ PERRY & FRIENDS
People Funny Boy (Trojan/BMG TJBOX 005)
Sales of vinyl have increased for more than 10 years in a row, and sets like this one – a rare chance to purchase faithful reproductions of the first 10 Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry-produced singles in the UK, all dating from 1968, in a deluxe box set alongside an illustrated, annotated and informative inlay – come along rarely. The first thing to notice is that, as iconic and vital to Perry’s catalogue as they are, not one of them made any impact on the chart. Three of the singles are credited to The Mellotones, two to Val Bennett, and one each to David Isaacs, Danny & Lee, The Upsetters, Burt Walters and Perry himself. Val Bennett is not, as the uninitiated might expect a female vocalist, but a male tenor sax player of some distinction whose rocksteady take on the Ben E. King hit Spanish Harlem is one of the highlights here. The naggingly infectious What A Botheration is fine by Perry’s house band The Upsetters but actually better – taken at a faster clip, and altogether more uplifting – as a flipside in a version by The Mellotones. Also worth checking out are David Isaac’s gently undulating version of Stevie Wonder’s 1967 hit A Place In The Sun, and Honey Love, Burt Walters sweet take on a suggestive 1954 Drifters song that accentuates the track’s already tropical flavour.
The Albums 1977-81 (7T’s GLAMBOX 172)
The most successful doo-wop revivalists of their time, Darts are already the subject of 7T’s 2013 compilation, The Magnet Singles Collection (GLAMCDD 145), which clearly sold sufficiently well to prompt the release of this considerably more comprehensive clamshell box set, which includes 73 tracks across 4 CDs, and anthologises their first three Magnet albums – 1977’s Darts, 1978’s Everybody Plays Darts, 1979’s Dart Attack and their rare US-only 1981 release Darts Across America. Darts’ stock-in-trade was feelgood versions of 1950s American fare, although they occasionally strayed into the 1940s and 1960s. Comprising nine members, their vocals usually centred around Griff Fender and Rita Rey, and they racked up a dozen hits in a hitmaking career of three years. All are here, including remakes of Daddy Cool, Duke Of Earl, Reet Petite and a rocked-out version of White Christmas. Although they never had a No.1, their peak came early, with a trio of consecutive No.2 hits inside seven months in 1978 with covers of Sonny Miller’s Come Back My Love and The Ad-Libs’ Boy From New York City plus It’s Raining, their first original hit penned by Fender. Showing that they could actually have been rather more self-sufficient their next two hits were also excellent originals written by different band members – George Currie’s dramatic ballad Don’t Let It Fade Away, and the more lively Get It, penned by Horatio Hornblower. Both made the Top 20 but future singles, most of them covers again, fared less well. This box set includes several other original album tracks which could have prolonged their career had they been released as singles, as well as some excellent, fun covers, and many bonus tracks that are making their CD debuts.
THE CLIMAX BLUES BAND
The Albums 1969-1972 (Esoteric ECLEC 52679)
This initially earnest but polished band from Midlands town Stafford eventually pursued a more commercial direction, and had much success in America as befits their nomenclature. A second box set issued in July anthologises their four 1973-1976 releases, while this one boxes and expands their first five, which were released in the comparatively short timespan of three years. They were called The Climax Chicago Blues Band for their excellent eponymous first album, from 1969, which contains their incendiary blues rock renditions of tracks from the likes of Big Bill Broonzy, Sonny Boy Williamson and Howlin’ Wolf and a less expected but pleasant version of Scott Joplin’s Sting theme The Entertainer played as a solo piano piece by Arthur Wood. Played On, also released in 1969, included more original material, albeit in a style that invoked the original blues era with a modern twist, and provided the band’s first of nine US chart albums (they had but one here), despite a cricket-themed sleeve. Becoming more and more proficient, with Derek Holt’s insistent bass, George Newsome’s reliable drums and Colin Cooper’s soulful vocals, A Lot Of Bottle (1970), Tightly Knit (1971) and Rich Man (1972) saw them becoming more confident and successful, with the latter album’s Mole On The Dole – a serious but melodic and anthemic track about surviving – being their most complete and commercial cut to that time, and a forebearer of what was to come.