Casbah’s Top Four ‘Unhip’ Albums That We Love

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This month sees the publication of an excellent new book entitled 100 Unhip Albums That We Should Learn to Love. Seeking to reappraise formerly ignored or derided albums, it makes the case for the unfashionable with examples from Van der Graaf Generator to David Essex, 10CC, Wings, and beyond. A refreshingly new idea, we thought, so by way of tribute, here are some of our choices ripe for critical makeover!

1. Cat Stevens – Foreigner

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Upon it’s release in 1973, Foreigner was greeted by the critics with a mixture of polite indifference and outright hostility. The NME’s Roy Carr called it “one of the worst pieces of maudlin tripe pop music has had to suffer”. Harsh words indeed as, listening to it now, it has blossomed and has a great deal to offer. Four albums of mainly acoustic catchy folk-pop had set the template for success both artistically and commercially. But when Stevens announced that the next album would be recorded without regular producer Paul Samuel Smith, with sessions musicians, and in Jamaica, alarm bells began to ring! Upon its release, sales peaked and began to fall away as the new intense and serious style was not what the people were used to. Cat wasn’t quite as cuddly anymore! However, the music is played superbly by crack session players including Bernard Purdie & Phil Upchurch, and it has a free, loose, funky vibe, much in keeping with its Jamaican backdrop. Standout tracks ‘Sweet Blue Love’ and the finale, ‘Heaven Must Have Programmed You’, would have graced any of his previous works. Image result for cat stevens foreigner With the next album Buddha and the Chocolate Box, Stevens went back to the tried-and-tested set-up and with it gained the expected commercial success, but Foreigner is at least a pleasant interlude, and at best a brave artistic statement. Just for a moment, he was a honky cat that was a funky cat!

2. Linda Lewis – Woman Overboard

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When the Raft label folded in the early 70s, it left Linda Lewis high and dry and without a contract. Three albums of charming folk-soul-pop had given her a loyal following and critical acclaim but ‘Rock-a-doodle Doo’ apart, they achieved modest commercial success. So, when Arista got Lewis to sign on the dotted line, they were determined to market her as a pop-disco diva with her high vocal range as her gimmick. This meant Lewis’s own songs were pushed into the background, onto B sides, in favour of cover-versions of soul classics and newly written pop fayre. Woman Overboard was released in 1977 and was very much a compromise between Lewis and the label: plenty of silky-smooth soul, pleasant though not particularly inspiring. What it does have are three outstanding songs, all completely distinct, which makes it a must-have for fans! First up is ‘Bonfire’, written for her by ex-squeeze Cat Stevens, which sadly only just dented the top 30. Next, there’s a beautiful version of ‘The Moon and I’ from Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado. This girl could handle opera with the best of them, and even though it’s a slightly less formal rendition, it’s not going to cause Arthur Sullivan any swivels in his coffin! The standout for me is her version of Family’s ‘My Friend, the Sun’. It’s a sweet autumnal acoustic, a shimmering masterpiece that still gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling inside. So if you see this album, with its sexy 70s disco diva cover, languishing in a bargain bin, do yourself a favour – liberate it and give it a home immediately!

3. Eric Clapton – There’s One in Every Crowd

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The follow-up to Eric’s bestselling comeback LP, 461 Ocean Boulevard, came as something of a disappointment to ‘Slowhand’ followers, who thought the new laidback Clapton was but a parting phase. This is about as laidback as it gets without actually falling over! After the opening two gospel-flavoured tracks, one of which, ‘Swing Low Sweet Chariot’, was rendered in a relaxed cod-reggae style, listeners could be forgiven for not pressing ahead with much enthusiasm. But Side 2 reveals three of Clapton’s most endearing compositions from this period: ‘Better Make it Through Today’ is a touching, heartfelt prayer to self-preservation, presumably inspired by the recent therapy and cure of his heroin addiction. Next up, ‘Pretty Blue Eyes’ and ‘High’ are vintage badge-esque melodic, bluesy pop songs that Clapton excelled at writing during the late 60s and early 70s. It’s not a masterpiece by any stretch but does contain some absolute gems and is definitely worth reinvestigation. Plus, it’s got a very cute dog on the cover…

4. Rod Stewart – Smiler

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I don’t know what it is about 1974 but this seemed to be the year that established artists delivered albums that the critics dismissed as not up-to-scratch. Prime example was Rod’s Smiler. It has all the ingredients of previous smash hit sellers: ‘Every Picture Tells a Story’ and ‘Never a Dull Moment’ with the (or most of the) Faces backing him up, a ‘Maggie May’/You Where it Well’-style single & co-write with Martin Quittenton in ‘Farewell’, and some cracking cover versions in Sam Cooke’s ‘You Send Me’, Berry’s ‘Sweet Little Rock ‘N’ Roller’, the obligatory Dylan cover (which is better than the original) ‘Girl From the North Country’ and a couple of top-grade, top-mates contributions in Elton’s ‘Let Me Be Your Car’ and ‘Mine For Me’ from Sir Lord of Macca! What it also has, however, is a slightly dodgy sleeve design with Rod resplendent in his 19th-century silks and satins facing out from an antique mirror laid on top o f a tartan cloak. A bit too Scottish for most of us (especially as he was from North London…). That apart, there’s much vintage Rod to enjoy here, so ignore the sleeve art and dig in!

23rd March 2020 – Takeaway Service Compulsory!

Sad to say that for obvious reasons we now feel compelled to shut the shop as of this evening for an indefinite period (hopefully not for too long!). We will be loading as much stock as we possibly can onto our Discogs page, including new releases and plenty of new additions to our vintage vinyl as well- so please keep checking out our facebook page for our top picks! If you see anything you like then you can buy directly from our Discogs [https://www.discogs.com/user/CasbahRecords], or get in touch with us and pay by paypal or card and we will post it out to you. When the sun does rise again, we’ll see you all again in person. In the meantime, please keep buying our records, because we are nice people!

Black Friday RSD event!

Hey there pop pickers! We’ll be stocking a cool selection of limited releases for the Black Friday mini Record Store Day event. Here’s a run down of some of the artists we’ll have:

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SLIPKNOT, LOU REED, ALICE COOPER, THE DOORS, THE JB’S, THE HOLD STEADY, HERBIE HANCOCK, MILES DAVIS (two different titles), NAS, EDAN (U.S 60’s psych/soul), KINGS OF LEON, PEARL JAM, ELVIS, JEFF BUCKLEY, BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, HENDRIX, JOE SATRIANI, ARCADE FIRE, U2, THE COMET IS COMING, JAMES BROWN, PAUL McCARTNEY, ROYAL TRUX, ALBERT HAMMOND JR, BUFFY SAINT MARIE, NICK LOWE, T. RUNDGREN, FREDDY KING, BILL EVANS, STEPPENWOLF, WILLIE COLON, IAN & SYLVIA.

COMPILATION TITLES/VARIOUS ARTIST TITLES include: ‘More Oar’ , ‘Jingle Workshop’, ‘ File#733: U.F.O’ Motown Rarities compilation’, Daptone label’s ‘Rhythm Showcase’.

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We’ll open at 10.30am as usual. Same rules as RSD proper apply (first come first served, one title per person, etc.). We’ll also have a poster in the window with the above and how many copies we’ve got of each. If you want more detailed info on the titles released you can go to the RSD website here (https://recordstoreday.co.uk/news/posts/2019/record-store-day-black-friday-to-take-place-29th-november/). Also, unfortunately the Zappa and the Madonna titles have been cancelled as they were not going to be ready in time.

See you down at the front, eager pop pickers!!

Ten Films That Inspired Tarantino’s ‘Once Upon A Time in Hollywood’

In honour of the ‘Once Upon A Time in Hollywood’ soundtrack to the Tarantino film, which was released last week, and in celebration of our new window display inspired by the film, here we have collected our pick of the Ten films that inspired ‘Once Upon A Time In Hollywood’… Enjoy!

1. Cactus Flower

Frothy Rom-Com featuring Walter Matthau’s straight, middle-aged man romancing and seeing life anew from Goldie Hawn’s fresh, flower child perspective. She also happens to work in a groovy local record store (which is, from our point of view, worth watching for this fact alone)!

2. Easy Rider

All-time great hippie outsider film that spawned a thousand biker films in its wake… and probably the most popular wall-art of the decade! With an absolute killer soundtrack, it explores some of the darker aspects of American Sixties society. Featuring two standout performances by Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper.

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3. Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice

Classic film from 1969, set in amongst California’s professional class turmed swinger circle, featuring Elliott Gould, Robert Culp, Dyan Cannon and Natalie Wood.

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4. Wrecking Crew

Third and probably the weakest of the Matt Helm trilogy, starring Dean Martin’s over-the-top macho spy and adventurer. Quite a lazy film, luckily saved by Sharon Tate’s sparky character, which features her fight scene as curated by then marshal arts coach Bruce Lee.

5. Model Shop

One groovy soundtrack, featuring the band Spirit! Portraying the seedier side of Sixties Los Angeles. Directed by French legend Jacques Demy, who also directed the ground-breaking films ‘Umbrellas of Cherbourg’ and ‘Lola’.

6. Hammerhead

One of the few British films that have made it onto Tarantino’s list of name-checked movies, and for good reason. A tough and gritty British thriller with an international conspiracy theme, featuring a host of British stalwarts including Judy Geeson, Diana Dors and Peter Vaughan. A hard one to track down and rarely screened, but worth the effort as it is a real gem!

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7. Enter The Dragon

Bruce Lee was catapulted from Hollywood TV star/fight coach to stardom with this marshal arts classic! Need we say more…

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8. The Valley Of The Dolls

Probably Sharon Tate’s best acting performance! The film depicts three women who are all trying to make it in show business. When they finally do, they discover that it is not all that it is cracked up to be, with Tate’s character resorting to making porn in order to make ends meet. An exposé on the pitfalls of the Hollywood dream.

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9. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

All time classic Spaghetti Western by Sergio Leone, with Clint Eastwood’s poncho-wearing hero shifting cigars from one side of his mouth to the other in every other close-up, all whilst dealing with a host of Mexican bandits and wrong-uns out to get him. Featuring the classic Morricone score (the essence of which seems to crop up in most of Tarrantino’s films) and epic, nerve-crunching shoot-outs.

10. Beyond The Valley of The Dolls

Similar in theme but a million miles away in style and content from the Valley of the Dolls! This is a story of a girl band travelling out to California to make it big on the Pop scene, journeying through the highs and lows of sixties counterculture. Featuring some amazing clips with The Strawberry Alarm Clock and a host of quotable lines, not least “this is my happening, and it freaks me out!”

It’s All In A Name

Hard to imagine it these days, but back in the late Sixties and early Seventies many artists had a cushy little sideline performing hits of the day for compilations on budget labels such as Top Of The Pops, Saga, Rediffusion and Hallmark. There was also a craze for making uncredited guest appearances on friend’s records, mainly due to record company rules at the time. Was that not Mick Jagger in the background on Carly Simon’s ‘You’re So Vain’? Isn’t that Rod singing lead on ‘In A Broken Dream’ by Python Lee Jackson? John & Paul sang on the Stone’s ‘We Love You’; Clapton played guitar on the Fab Four’s ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ and George returned the compliment by playing on Cream’s ‘Badge’. Lynsey (sugar me) De Paul did the sexy voiceover for Mott The Hoople’s ‘Roll Away The Stone’.

Roy Wood of Wizzard was, at the time of his huge hit ‘See My Baby Jive,’ dating TV and pop singer Ayshea Brough. Ayshea sang backing vocals and performed with them on Top Of The Pops, (sadly now wiped by the BBC). Roy then wrote, played on and produced what was essentially a Wizzard track for Ayshea called ‘Farewell’. Even the dream combination of Wood, Harvest Records and Pan’s People couldn’t get her a hit though!

The bubblegum pop song ‘You’re Ok With Us’ that accompanied the TV commercial for ‘Us’ underarm deodorant was sung by David Essex. This was released as a single before Essex-mania well and truly took hold.

All this led to much debate in the school playground, especially when it became known that certain popular superstars had been moonlighting in their pre-fame days and earning a few extra quid by doing session work for covers LP’s. These records were hugely popular, since they usually came in at under a pound and had twenty-or-so hits that sounded pretty similar to the original- if a little lifeless. The sleeve designs normally displayed scantily clad women in seductive poses with tag lines such as ‘today’s hits sung by original artistes’ (not ‘artists’, you see!)

Elton John was the king of the cover version around 1970, before ‘Your Song’ hit the charts. There are some fabulous versions of songs like ‘Spirit In The Sky,’ ‘Yellow River’ and ‘Baby Loves Lovin’’ to be found on Top Of The Pops and the Chartbusters labels. These records are much sought after by Elton fans and can still be found at boot sales and charity shops for pennies, if you know which ones are which (the internet will provide the less patient collectors with all the details). It was even rumoured that David Bowie got in on the act with a cover of Penny Lane on Music For Pleasure’s 1967 Hot Hits compilation. It does sound remarkably like Bowie doing the Beatles in a Tony Newley style and I’d love it to be true, but sadly it is but an urban myth!

This trend continued in the Rock underground scene, too. Thin Lizzy made a whole album of Deep Purple covers under the name of Funky Junction. Sixties Freakbeat band The Eyes made a tribute to the Rolling Stones on the Wing label under the nom de plume of The Pupils (get it?). The budget album of Raga pop by Sagram, ‘Pop Explosion Sitar Style’ on the Windmill label, was in fact the Acid folk band Magic Carpet. They, along with singer Alisha Sufit, went on to make a much sought after self-titled album on the Mushroom label.

Space Rock band Hawkwind did their super-fan sci-fi writer Michael Moorcock a big favour by recording an album with him called ‘The New Worlds Fair’ under the name of Deep Fix in 1975 when they were huge! The film version of Moorcock’s novel ‘The Final Programme’ did originally contain a scene featuring Deep Fix but sadly it didn’t make it to the final edit and hasn’t appeared on any DVD extras either.

There’s real joy to had from digging around the world of budget labels and ‘Junk-shop Glam,’ as they call it. I always enjoy seeing the raised eyebrow of a dealer when you fish some ‘Hot Hits’ record out of their cheap box and gleefully hand over a quid. “What’s he buying that for?” You can see them wonder behind their bemused expression. “This, mate, is pure gold” would be my retort of preference. Always very satisfying to unearth a little gem that not many other people are aware of! It’s fun and in most cases inexpensive, which is an ideal combination. Exciting and easy on the pocket! The quest continues… Happy exploring!

“The Ones That Got Away”

Jessie Baylin, ‘Strawberry Wind’

New West Records, 2018.

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I’m as guilty as anyone of letting Strawberry Wind slip under the radar! It should have been in my albums of the year, without a doubt. I was playing it through the other day and it’s an absolute gem of a record. Full of hooks and great melodies. Tracks like ‘In The Summertime’ and ‘Dream Catcher. invoke a woozy classic Sixties pop mixed with easy/bacharach style. The general vibe is of childlike wonderment at the world and if you appreciate Carole King, The Carpenters, sunshine pop you’ll absolutely love this!

 

“I Can’t Believe We’ve Still Got These!”

Here we celebrate some cult underground gems and some plain old classics, which for some inexplicable reason are still around…

The Sallyangie, ‘Children Of The Sun’

A must have for any fans of British acid folk from the halycon days of the late Sixties. Recorded by brother and sister Sally and Mike Oldfield, this LP has some stunning melodies and guitar playing. Sally Oldfield’s vocals are beautifully sung in a ‘she could only be from England’ style and the guitar playing from brother Mike, indespersed with some lovey flute garnishes, are as exceptonal as you’d expect!

Not available on CD at the moment, so even more reason to snap this one up on glorious gatefold vinyl.

We have a UK original gatefold laminted sleeve on the Transatlantic label, 1969 issue. The sleeve is in excellent condition with just some light creases and foxing. The record plays great and only has a very minor bit of background noise on the quieter moments. Dreamy!

Here’s a taster of the record!

Steve Tilston, ‘An Acoustic Confusion’

Some lovely period artwork draws you into this album straight away. Looks great and itdoesn’tdissapoint. The songs are acoustic and melodic in a wistful folky style. Steve’s vocals are not a million miles away from Nick Drake and Al Stewart, particularly the latter. Any fans of those two should be keen as mustard to pick this one up.

We have a UK original pressing from 1971 on the Village Thing label. The sleeve and record are in near mint condition. A fab copy!

Here we have “I Really Wanted You”, one of the tracks from the LP:

 

Giles Farnaby’s Dream Band, ‘Giles Farnaby’s Dream Band’

You can’t fail to be intriged by the stunning artwork and by the cult Argo label- anything on Argo is at worst incredibly interesting! This is very much in the Trad/medieval folk rock genre. A really unusual sound. It was put together by a combination of music ensembles: St George’s Canzona (a Derby-based folk band), The Druids and Trevor Crozier’s Broken Consort. Add some seasoned Jazz players to the mix and what could go wrong!

I’ve never seen it for sale or sold this album in my thirty-odd years of buying and selling, so it’s a real rarity.

We have a UK original from 1973 on the Argo label. Sleeve in excellent condition as is the vinyl. Dreamy!

 

Here’s “Past Time With Good Company”, for a taste of Giles Farnaby’s Dream Band!