Salient: Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Vol. 32, No. 2. 1969.
Records — Normal Arthur Brown
Normal Arthur Brown
Until recently P. P. Arnold was condemned to being a "musicians' artist". She received praise and publicity from practically everyone in English show business but was ignored by the public, Fortunately recent reports indicate that her popularity is growing Her first LP Kafunta (Immediate IMSP 017) is one of the best solo discs I have ever heard She has an extremely unusual voice, a Frenetic mixture of soul, gospel, blues and anything else that's going; it varies From a well modulated crooning in the lower register to a high shriek that is wild enough to make the Crazy World of Arthur Brown sound quite normal!
P.P.'s approach to her material is completely individualistic, Five of the ten tracks are well-known hits, but on this disc they receive unique interpretations. Barry Gibb's "To Love Somebody" loses much of the schmaltzy character of the Bee Gees recording; "Eleanor Rigby", "Yesterday" and "As Tears Go By" have become so hackneyed that it is marvellous to hear fresh, interesting versions, However, as good as these tracks are, the highlight is her own song "Dreamin", a soft, soulful ballad with plenty of tune and a good, strong vocal line.
If this is not enough recommendation, the orchestral arrangements by ex-Shadow Tony Meehan are outstanding with effective use of horns, piano and harpsichord. A very good stereo recording.
It is no fault of Bobbie Gentry's that she sounds rather pallid after P. P. Arnold. Her style of singing is completely different, she has ironed out the rough edges obvious in "Ode to Billy Joe" days and now specialises in ballads, giving them an attractive country and western flavour. On her third LP Local Gentry (Capitol ST 2964) she sings everything from the Beatles ("Fool on the Hill", "Eleanor Rigby" and "Here, There and Everywhere) and ex-Weaver Fred Heller-man's "Come Away Melinda" to Jamie Horton's "Papa's Medicine Show" and three of her own compositions.
The recording techniques used are very interesting. Bobbie has a soft, husky voice which is consistent enough to stand close scrutiny and producer Kelly Gordon has been able to capture an extremely life-like sound by recording her very close to the microphone. This method has shown up many lesser talents very badly. The orchestral work is good with excellent accoustic guitar work by a studio musician who doesn't even rate a mention on the sleeve.
When psychedelic music hit America one of the most obvious aspects was the large number of groups who merely imitated the proponents of the style but still managed to have their lacklustre efforts recorded. The same thing has now happened with the West Coast Rock sound. There are only a few groups putting out interesting music— the Grateful Dead, Moby Grape, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Doors and until their recent split, the Buffalo Springfield. One of the frustrations is that terrible LPs such as H.P, Lovecraft and the Blues Magoos are released in New Zealand because they are in the catalogue of a major label, yet none of the Springfield's worthwhile LPs have been pressed out here.
HMV (NZ) Ltd have recently issued Quicksilver Messenger Service (Capitol ST 2904). This group mightn't approach the same standard as Big Brother etc. but at least they don't wade through a mass of repetitive cliches. Lead guitarist John Cipollina doesn't match the Dead's Jerry Garcia but he plays within his limits and produces a good individual sound. The vocals are a little weak but this is not that important because they are mainly used to back up the instrumental work.
The Dave Clark Five put out a marvellous LP a year ago—You've Got What It Takes, 30 minutes of brash, bouncing rock numbers with an excellent recording. They have followed this up with Everybody Knows (Columbia SCXM 5027 Stereo) which is one of the worst records I have ever heard. To my mind the best features of this group have been the big brassy backings and the Mike Smith's earthy vocals. On this disc the backings have become boring, the instrumentation hardly varies from one track to another, every song is dispatched mechanically at the same speed with Clark's stereotyped drumming behind everything, in the good old Tamla Motown style. Poor Mike Smith hasn't got a chance considering the atrocious material he has to work with:
In the darkness of the city
there'll be someone waiting for me tonight . . .
. . . at the place where we always meet
I'll say how much I love her then we'll kiss
at the place we always meet.
This sort of crap is strictly for the thirteen year olds.
To make matters worse, the recording (produced by Dave Clark) is incredibly bad and not at all what I would have expected to come out of the Columbia studios. There is hardly any bass, distortion in the treble, messy stereo definition and fuzziness in the vocal reproduction. It sounds more like one of the 45s produced in the Auckland outhouse-type studios. Finally one more grouch, total playing time is a mere 24 minutes, rather ridiculous for a disc that costs $4.50.