Various:  I Love To See You StrutVarious: I Love To See You Strut – album review

Strawberry

3CD/DL

Released 25 February 2022

Subtitled “more 60’s mod, r&b, brit soul and freakbeat nuggets”, this 3CD is a follow up to the Halcyon Days collection from 2020 and forms part of an ongoing series that was started with RPM’s Looking Back. Among the contributors here are Dusty Springfield, The Graham Bond Organisation, The Pretty Things, David Bowie and The Creation. Ian Canty thinks he is swaggering, when everyone else knows he’s stubbed his toe…

Some people reading this may know the format anyway, but for the uninitiated I Love To See You Strut follows a long line of RPM compilation sets like Looking Back, Keep Looking (read more here) and Night Comes Down (read more here). The change to the Strawberry imprint yielded Halcyon Days (the review can be seen here) in 2020, supplying a similar but ultimately satisfying brew of mid-1960s action, with famous acts playing mostly their lesser-known material rubbing up against some complete obscurities.

This time around the three discs could be broadly tagged as soul/r&b, mod/beat and the early of signs of psychedelia respectively and work from 1964 to the end of the decade, though this is far from rigidly enforced. For example, The All Night Workers’ soulful Tell Daddy, which features on disc one, was recorded at the relatively late stage of 1969.

If you take the sometimes sliding timeline to one side, disc number one of I Love To See You Strut concentrates on tunes that would or could have gone down a storm on modernist-inclined dancehalls. Using the ploy that a lot of these type of sets adhere to, we begin with some big guns, in this case Dusty Springfield and Georgie Fame And The Blue Flames. Dusty’ Live It Up is a handclapping gem with a true sense of joy de vivre in its swing and a brassy Last Night (which in another form ended up as the theme tune to Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson clobbering each other senseless in the tv series Bottom) is solid enough fare from Fame, who shows up later in this set with the snotty attitude of No Thanks.

Jimmy James & The Vagabonds and Geno Washington & The Ram Jam Band vied for the title of hottest live act on the mod club scene in the mid-60s, so it is only just that they are paired up here. JJ’s cover of the Clarke/Wylie number Ain’t Love Good, Ain’t Love Proud is endowed with a good-time party atmosphere and Geno’s self-penned and thoroughly enjoyable (I Gotta) Hold On To My Love gives the lie to commentators who try to write the man off as a purely live phenomenon. A pre-Kung Fu Fighting Carl Douglas fronts The Big Stampede on the frantic and fab Something For Nothing and Carlisle beat group The V.I.P.s, with a heritage which encompasses Spooky Tooth (who feature on disc three with the rhythmic and danceable Love Really Changed Me) and The Only Ones, cut a goodie with their version of Jimmy Miller’ Straight Down To The Bottom.

You couldn’t really reflect the jumping live circuit of the mid-1960s without including The Graham Bond Organisation. They are present with the self-explanatory blues frug of Harmonica, taken from the frankly bizarre movie Gonks Go Beat. Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band were another required presence and their moody effort The Cat ably demonstrates just why their stock as an on stage draw was so high. Harrow boys The Bo Street Runners rev up blues standard Messin’ With The Kid by way of a great piano sound and The ‘Takers, aka Wallasey’s The Undertakers fronted by the talented Jackie Lomax, impress on Think.

A big r&b feel of Bumper To Bumper by Johnny (Gustafson, who would join Roxy Music in the 70s) & John flows swimmingly and the goodtime sound of What More Do You Want by Phillip Goodhand Tait & The Stormsville Shakers is chock-full of vigour. Then the two of the three previously unreleased items on this disc come in a row from The Trendbender Band and The Fingers, with a cool Unchain My Heart by the former having the edge on the latter’s beat ballad-style of Something You Got.

The final stretch of disc one of I Love To See You Strut is enlivened by a dazzling performance by Laris McLennon on her own Turn Me Loose, a groovy I’m So Clean by American ex-pat Ronnie Jones and the crunchy title track of this set, rendered excellently by David John & The Mood. The SW4, a band including Paul Brett on guitar, have their neat previously unreleased 1964 beat r&b offering No Matter What You Do featured and a bluesy I Still Want You by Mickey Finn & The Blue Men ends this section of the set. This first disc is full to brimming with golden dance stompers which provide a breezy, pretty much non-stop fun listening experience. If pumping Hammond organ workouts, wildness and the joy of pure soul power are your thing, there is a fair chance you’ll find something to love here.

Changes are on the cards with the second section of I Love To See You Strut, with the explosive art pop sound that acted as a prequel to psychedelia being profiled. Fittingly enough we start with The Who’s Run Run Run from their second LP A Quick One and a heady take of Come On Children, from a French extended play by The Small Faces. The wonderful, grimy thud of The Pretty Things’ Come See Me is fantastic and fellow brit blues travellers The Downliners Sect amiably skitter through the Rufus Thomas song All Night Worker. In between those two comes the punky I Need You by The Kinks, of course a big hit single for the band and afterwards The Artwoods cook up a hot soul/garage dish on I Feel Good.

David Bowie’s first solo single Do Anything You Say had the very bright pop of Good Morning Girl, which features here, as its b-side and The Riot Squad, a band young Dave briefly joined in 1967, are represented by the self-penned, Joe Meek produced bustle of Working Man, cut a year earlier. Ealing’s The Eyes have become firm freakbeat favourites over the years, despite their Mercury recordings not selling much at the time of release. They turn up here with You’re Too Much, a real proto-psych pounder. The Herd are caught just before their elevation to pin-ups with the addition of Peter Frampton and their This Boy’s Always Been True is really good, benefiting from some stinging guitar work.

Alan Bown and his Set may have more logically sat on disc one with I Really Really Care, but that doesn’t make it any less ace and the always excellent Misunderstood motor along with the manic psychedelia of Find The Hidden Door. The Voice’s sole single The Train To Disaster is a thing of wigged-out beauty and the same band crops up just a few songs later as The Profile with the relatively restrained soul of Got To Find A Way.

The Rutles’ Barry Wom aka John Halsey was behind the kit for Timebox’s gentle pop-sike of Walking Through The Streets Of My Mind, which dovetails nicely with Hatfield’s The Favourite Sons’ groovy cover of Smokey Robinson’s First I Look At The Purse. Their drummer Brian Glascock later played with Iggy Pop on the Kill City album. Them, under their Belfast Gypsies pseudonym, kick into some garage punk on Hey Gyp! Dig The Slowness and Australian outfit Ray Hoff & The Offbeats follow in similar fashion on a lively Tossin’ And Turnin’. Another consistently strong platter without anything at all duff in sight concludes with Colin Cook smashing through the standard Riot In Cell Block Number 9.

With the first two discs of I Love To See You Strut being of a high quality, the final section has a bit to live up to. We move here to the end of the 60s (with a couple of songs even going over into the next decade), when psychedelia came to prominence, before being usurped in 1968/1969 by more progressive sounds. Kicking things off is the groovy organ drive of Indian Rope Man by the always great Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity and they are followed by Sydney’s own Easybeats with their very exciting Good Times single.

Steve Ellis’ Loot was from the uneven Joe Orton film adaptation and didn’t actually see release until the middle of 1970, but as it is such an attractive offering, I will let it slide. I knew Tammy St John through her insane 1964 version of Boys, here though she is in slightly more restrained mode on a deliciously funky Concerning Love. Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera give us a stormer in the form of their tune Flames, which mixes a frantic dance rhythm with psych elements. This process towards the lysergic is continued on Eric Burdon & The Animals’ raging Ain’t That So and Brum The Move’s purposeful self-titled number.

Eddie Phillips’ band The Creation were “state of the art” when it comes to mod beat turning into psychedelia and they are featured with the languid cool of Through My Eyes. It covered by The Pistols early on and they even resurrected quite well at the otherwise very hit and miss Crystal Palace gig on one of their many reformations. Mod heroes The Action are shown mid-transformation to Mighty Baby on a burning take of Follow Me and Plastic Penny successfully marry harmony pop appeal to some nimble keys on It’s A Good Thing.

Contemporaries of The Beatles at the Cavern Club The Remo Four put in an appearance with the eerie, “Doors gone r&b” sound of Sing Hallelujah and Southampton’s psych specialists Fleur De Lys give us the brooding and riff-tastic Liar. Terry Reid’s take of Donovan’s Superlungs, Supergirl is furnished with pure soul, with a very spirited I’m Gonna Be A Rich Man by the Foundations proceeding at a hectic rate in an arresting fashion.

Instant Whip by The Tremeloes might surprise anyone who had wrote them off as just a run of the mill beat band. It presents itself as a James Brown-like hollering, funky tour de force and The Birds (not Ron Wood’s mob, but a couple of that band’s roadies pretending to be them down under) hammer through the oddly titled Dust In My Pants, a late in the day freakbeat zinger. Linda Hoyle’s Black Crow, recorded in 1971 (naughty, naughty says Mr Pedant) ends things as barrelling piano and wah wah help to form something of a pop plum.

In summary I Love To See You Strut is one of the better of these kind of sets I’ve heard in recent years. It does have some well-known tracks and there are a few weaker moments. To be totally honest disc three does not quite reach the standard set by the first two selections, but even the lesser moments don’t disrupt the flow of the collection and the questionable entries (i.e. ones not released until post 1970) are of a sound enough mettle. After the extensive mining of the 1960s for compilations over the past twenty years, one might expect the quality to have dropped way down by now. I Love To See You Strut manages to steer clear of this potential pitfall, providing instead a diverting and thoroughly enjoyable trip back to those swinging times that is a joy to hear in 2022.

All words by Ian Canty – see his author profile here

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