This month's choice cuts...
1. Manfred Mann - "Ain't That Love" (1964)
The Manfreds had such an embarrassment of riches around this time (Paul Jones era) - both in well chosen covers and originals - they couldn't find space to release this group composition until the 1990s. Had it been a 45 it'd be a mod club dancefloor staple today. Just listen to that flute.
2. The Action - "You'll Want Me Back" (1965)
Recorded as part of their audition for Decca on 31 May 1965, and only available now thanks to Top Sounds' new 4 track EP - this interpretation of an Impressions B-side gives even more evidence (if any were needed) of what a magnificent group The Action were. Reggie King always rightly gets the plaudits, and his lead vocal here is superb, but Alan King and Pete Watson's harmonise in a way no other British beat group were doing, or could even dream about doing as well. This recording is like being in a room with a band on the verge of something very special. Decca said no.
3. Duffy Power - "Leaving Blues" (1965)
As British Blues singers go, Duffy Power was up there with the very best of them. In fact, listening to the material he cut during 1965 it's difficult to think of anyone who had more natural feel. Record companies though could see any commercial value so a whole album sat on the sleeve gathering dust until Transatlantic put it out under the title Innovations in 1971.
4. Cleveland Robinson - "Love Is A Trap" (1965)
I've never owned this song in any shape or form - not as a single, on a compilation LP, CD or even homemade tape, yet can sing you every word (should you be unlucky enough to be in earshot) and it's guaranteed to get me dancing as anyone at the 6T's Rhythm & Soul Society Christmas Party the other week can testify. If I trod on your foot, apologies; but who can resist a record that sounds like a one-man Drifters colliding with the theme from the Generation Game?
5. Ollie Jackson - "Gotta Wipe Away The Teardrops" (1966)
Back when I first started attending all-nighters ("during the war...") this was played all the time and was typical of the style popular then: big voice, mid-tempo, sparse arrangement. Still hard to beat.
6. Alice Coltrane - "Journey In Satchidananda" (1970)
The whole Journey In Satchidananda LP is deep, mesmerising and otherworldly trip.
7. The Undisputed Truth - "Ball Of Confusion" (1971)
"Get me more wah-wah and phasing on the kitchen sink in the left speaker goddammit". The Undisputed Truth was the result of Motown producer Norman Whitfield's stratospheric ego. Nowhere is this clearer than on the ten and half minute version of "Ball Of Confusion". Cheers Norm.
8. Young-Holt Unlimited - "Pusher Man" (1971)
Eldee Young and Redd Holt cut an album in 1971 entitled Young-Holt Unlimited Plays Super Fly. Four of the ten cuts were tracks taken from Curtis Mayfield's soundtrack and played in a cool laid-back instrumental jazz style.
9. Manic Street Preachers - "Mausoleum" (1994)
Twenty years since release and the final gigs with its main architect Richey Edwards, Manic Street Preachers played their masterpiece The Holy Bible live in its entirety this month. Thanks to the generosity and thoughtfulness of others I was fortunate enough to catch two of the shows at the Roundhouse. The second in particular was excellent (the first slightly hampered by James Dean Bradfield's lurgy) - truly gripping - and despite the intensity of the material and the extreme emotional baggage the band appeared relatively relaxed and even appeared to enjoy the experience; a far cry from the infamous Astoria gigs of December '94 when I was certain it would be the last time I'd see them. That, of course, only turned out to apply to Richey. Gone but never forgotten,
10. Gang Starr - "Jazz Thing" (1990)Not sure it had a name but following rare groove and then acid jazz there was "a scene" around the late 80s and very early 90s where jazz and funk and hip-hop and, for want of a better term, "modern dance music" were all thrown into a pot from which loads of great records were cooked. Gang Starr's "Jazz Thing" is a classic example and the opening track to the first volume of The Rebirth of The Cool compilation series which boldly announced "The nineties will be the decade of a jazz thing".