Music Week's round-up of the latest reissues and catalogue releases.
The Albums (7T's WGLAMBOX 165)
A hitmaker as bassist and singer with The Merseybeats and The Merseys in the 1960s, Billy Kinsley was the prime mover behind the formation of melodic pop/rock group Liverpool Express, who released a few memorable singles and a trio of albums for Warner Bros. between 1976 and 1979, all of which are contained - alongside bonus tracks and an informative 20-page booklet - in this 3-CD box set. Their best known tracks were the stirring ballads You Are My Love and Every Man Must Have A Dream. The former - their first and highest charting hit, reaching No.11 in 1976 - opens quietly but soon picks up the pace and develops into a haunting and fragile ballad which really gets into gear with the introduction of psychedelic swirls and counter-harmonies in its latter stages. Every Man Must Have A Dream has an epic, lofty feel from the start, with softly chiming piano chords giving way to full orchestral sweeps which, along with intensifying vocals, raise it to a majestic peak. Other tracks of note include the significantly snappier Hold Tight! - another hit - that sounds rather like a track by Scots band Pilot both vocally and instrumentally; and the charming Margie, which has a 1920s/1930s feel to it, although with Eleanor Rigby-style strings.
Sounds Of The Unexpected (Ace CDTOP 1505)
An eclectic, eccentric and enjoyable selection of 'weird and wacky instrumentals from pop's final frontiers', as the artwork boasts, Sounds Of The Unexpected was also, sadly, the final album compiled for Ace by Vicki Fox, a label stalwart for 30 years, who succumbed to cancer before it could be released. Apparently drawn from her own record collection, it certainly lives up to expectations, with two dozen tracks of varying degrees of strangeness. Better known in Dick Dale's surf rock incarnation as featured in Pulp Fiction, Miserlou is strangely beguiling and sounds suitably Middle Eastern in flavour in exotica kingpin Martin Denny's version; Music To Watch Space Girls By is the Andy Williams hit in orbit with spacey effects and cooing wordless female vocals despite a Leonard Nimoy artist credit; and Funky Me is a flipped-out flip from Timmy Thomas. Belgian keyboards player Andre Brasseur also excels with Mad Train, which does indeed evoke rail travel with a walking bass, jazzy flute and percussive elements all helping to create the required effect. With Bo Diddley, Gabor Szabo and The Ventures also featured, musicianship is high throughout, and a chunky booklet provides all the background information and illustrations one could desire.
Spellbound (SoulMusic SMCR 5163D)
Perhaps best remembered for Every Little Bit Hurts - a US Top 20 success in 1964 - and as co-writer of Blood, Sweat & Tears' hit You've Made Me So Very Happy, Brenda Holloway recorded a substantial number of titles for Motown in the 1960s but her lack of sustained success meant that many tracks she completed were simply left in the vaults. Some of them have emerged digitally in recent years and they - alongside other rare recordings which have not previously surfaced in any form - comprise, Spellbound, a double CD of 33 tracks, the majority of which date from 1964. When listening to these tracks, it is apparent that Holloway was an under-rated vocalist, and deserved more prominence. Take, for example, the early Jimmy Webb composition, This Time Last Summer. The backing track used for Holloway's recording has also served Motown for released versions of the song by Danny Day and Blinky - but it is Holloway who makes the most of the track, with superior phrasing and an altogether more soulful vocal. The Lonely Heart And Lonely Eyes Of Lonely Me is a new song to me, but is a superb Ivy Jo Hunter composition and production with a naggingly insistent beat and some sweet little flourishes from Holloway. Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong's I'm The Exception To The Rule is another great song superbly sung. Adding further insight to what is a thoroughly worthwhile collection, Holloway herself provides background information for liner notes penned by Motown expert Sharon Davis.