Sitting next to albums by the Beatles and the Stones, your Rock N Roll Dentist has a crazy collection of music that most folks ignored or barely noticed when it was first released. It has been heartening over the years that great neglected albums such as Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake – The Small Faces, Odessey and Oracle – The Zombies, #1 Record – Big Star, etc. have been rediscovered and given another chance to find an audience. You can thank the digital age for much of that with CD reissues of seemingly everything ever recorded plus the internet to spread the musical word via youtube and blogs. There are still a plethora of fine albums (some by major artists) that deserve to be noticed. This post, in no particular order, is an attempt to expose my readers to some goodies from my collection (mainly in the late ’60s) that deserved more recognition. I love progressive rock music but it won’t be part of this list. The style of these albums is mostly guitar based pop music with a memorable tune so don’t expect any avant-garde jazz, etc.
1.The New Society – The Barock Sound Of…
Randy Sparks was the man behind the creation of successful ’60s folk act The New Christy Minstrels plus their ‘farm team’ The Back Porch Majority. In 1966 he created this seven member act that included Del Ramos the younger brother of Larry Ramos of the Association – a group with which The New Society shared at least vocal lushness with. With gorgeous arrangements by heavy hitters Lincoln Mayorca, Jack Nitzsche & Mort Garson plus great songs they deserved better. Several of those songs such as “Of You” and “(I Prithee) Do Not Ask for Love” were tried out by the Monkees later that year, but were never given an LP release till the Missing Links compilations. The New Society’s sound may have been too clean to make it – sort of like an Anita Kerr Singers of rock plus RCA Victor never had much luck breaking acts (witness The Astronauts or The Liverpool Five). Interestingly, today you can download their music on major sites which means it is likely easier to buy their music today than it was in the late ’60s.
2.Gary Lewis – Listen!
Gary Lewis (with the Playboys) was a great singles artist, but his albums were pretty lame being fjlled with so-so covers of hits from the day. This 1967 solo album was by far his strongest album filled with psychedelia (“Don’t Make Promises”, “Jill”), sunshine pop (“New Day”, “Small Talk”) and wall-of-sound production (“Happiness”). The presence of arranger Jack Nitzsche was responsible for the great sound here just as Snuff Garrett had been for Gary’s early hits.
3.Gary Wright – Extraction
Spooky Tooth (formed in 1967) was four Brits and one Yank (Gary Wright). Their 1969 LP Spooky Two is worth looking for. In 1970 Wright attempted a solo career with this A&M LP his first release. The songs are all hard edged catchy rock with instruments supplied by Hugh McCracken (guitar), Klaus Voormann (bass) and Alan White (drums) along with Wright’s keyboards. He didn’t find success till 1976 with “Dream Weaver”.
4.Fanny – Fanny Hill
Recorded at Abbey Road Studios with the Beatles’ engineer Geoff Emerick handling the sound and production by Richard Perry (Carly Simon, Nilsson), this album came out in early 1972 on Reprise. As an all-female band, many viewed them as a novelty act but they could play, sing and wrote most of their own material so deserved more success than they saw. This, their third album, had more edge to the sound than their first records and included a hard rockin’ slide-guitar version of Marvin Gaye’s “Ain’t That Peculiar” which charted at #85.
5.Fat Mattress – Fat Mattress
This was Noel Redding’s band after leaving The Jimi Hendrix Experience (first formed as a side project while playing bass in that band). The idea was to give Redding more chance to play guitar and sing than he had with Hendrix. Needless to say, your young pre-Dentist was expecting more heavy guitar based rock and roll when he slit open this Atco LP in 1969. Hearing mostly pastoral pop music, I can still recall my shocked disappointment by this album as mellow was definitely NOT a music style heard in my bedroom at that time (sorry mom and dad). Used record stores didn’t exist back then and my buddy Dan Campbell wasn’t going to be tricked in to trading me something good for it so it sat idle in my collection for several months … but then something weird happened – playing it again I actually liked it. The jazzy “Mr. Moonshine” is catchy, “How Can I Live” is a heartache in song and “Bright New Way” is a nice acoustic song sung by main vocalist Neil Landon.
6.Peter & Gordon – Hot, Cold & Custard
This last Peter & Gordon album from late 1967 had touches of psychedelia (backwards drums, odd orchestrations), but no chart hits which meant very little success. Having heard the salacious “You’ve Had Better Times” on the radio (before it was sanitized on single), your’s truly wanted the album which turned out to be pretty good. There were other goodies like “Greener Days”, “I Feel Like Going Out”, “The Quest For The Holy Grail” and “Cos You’re A Star”. …And then there was no more band as Peter Asher was off to help out with the Beatles new label Apple.
7.Bobby Darin – If I Were A Carpenter
Bobby Darin isn’t given enough credit for the talent that he had. If anything he is remembered as a Sinatra wanna-be on songs like “Mack The Knife” and “Beyond The Sea” or and early rocker with “Splish Splash”. This 1966 Atco album was a huge change from his previous album of Broadway tunes which likely had something to do with it charting at only #142. The songs were mostly low key folk including John Denver’s “For Baby” and Buffy St. Marie’s “Until It’s Time For You To Go”. Of the eleven tracks, five were by Tim Hardin including the title track – a big hit for Darin. “Reason To Believe” was arranged similarly to the hit while “Red Balloon” was more spare. The album has unfairly been given short shrift in reviews which is a pity. He died too young (of a heart ailment at age 37), but left some great music.
8.Chicken Shack – Accept
During the late ’60s there was an explosion of long-haired white blues bands mostly from England. Fleetwood Mac, Savoy Brown, Ten Years After, etc. Stan Webb led the group Chicken Shack which early on included Christine Perfect (who would marry John McVie and become a star after jumping ship to Fleetwood Mac seeing that band into a pop vein). For this 1970 Chicken Shack album (their fourth), Webb branched out from the blues a bit. “Tired Eyes” was a dreamy string-laden song that sounded like something from the early 1900’s while “Some Other Time” almost sounded baroque. There is also good rock on the LP including “Diary Of Your Life” and “Telling Your Fortune” which hinted at the much harder direction of their next excellent album Imagination Lady which easily could be on this list too.
9.The Searchers – Take Me For What I’m Worth
Music styles changed so rapidly during the British Invasion ’60s that a group like The Searchers could chart eleven singles in ’64-’65 then fade rapidly. The P.F. Sloan composed title track from this fine LP was their 12th hit though it only charted #76 in early ’66. “Does She Really Care For Me” could be The Walker Brothers while “Each Time” has the distinct wall-of-sound like a Phil Spector hit (they even cover his “Be My Baby”). “Too Many Miles” is folk while “Don’t You Know” has a Byrdsian country feel (all with great 12-string guitar). The Searchers were always seen as a singles band anyway and with musical styles moving away from the U.K. Invasion this album didn’t stand a chance in the U.S. You could easily include their two great Sire comeback albums (’79/’81) on this list as well.
10.Spring – Spring
Having read a glowing review of this United Artists album back in 1972 in Phonograph Record Magazine and knowing that Brian Wilson had produced it, the young me picked up a copy of it at his local Budget Tapes & Records. The LP at it’s best definitely sounds like an early ’70s Beach Boys album with female lead vocals. The artist is now listed as American Spring to avoid confusion with a U.K. band. The Rovell sisters (Marilyn & Diane) originally were 2/3rds of The Honeys who in the early ’60s released non-charting Brian Wilson productions and sang backing on The Beach Boys single “Be True To Your School”. Marilyn became Mrs. Brian Wilson and raised daughters Carney and Wendy while working on this album which flopped at the time, but is now sought after for the Brian Wilson connection. Apparently Brian was in such bad shape that he couldn’t handle production for much of the record, but his sound is pretty apparent on tracks like “Forever” and “Good Time”. The latter song was originally recorded for the Sunflower album (1970), but shelved at the time so Spring recorded their lead vocals over the original Beach Boys track and did some production additions. The Beach Boys would later release the song on their 1977 LP Love You.
11.The Beau Brummels – Triangle
Target back in the early ’70s had a huge blow-out sale of old albums that were out of fashion – something like 59 cents each. Oh that this starving Colorado University student would have had more money and musical knowledge to have picked up more than a handful of rarities for pennies. Having remembered great singles like “Laugh Laugh” and “Just A Little”, this LP was purchased and plunked down on the old GE. Whoa, gentle psychedelia, country and folk – not pop rock. Warner Brothers in the late ’60s and early ’70s was at a creative peak thanks to folk like Lenny Waronker with great if non-commercially successful releases like this plus Van Dyke Parks, Randy Newman, etc. There isn’t a bad song on this record. Nine of the eleven tracks were originals including “Are You Happy” and “The Keeper Of Time”. The covers were a folky take on Merle Travis’ “Nine Pound Hammer” and Randy Newman’s “Old Kentucky Home”. At the time it could only manage a #197 placement on the charts, but has been acclaimed over the years as a masterpiece (though their follow-up Bradley’s Barn might be better remembered).
12.The Kinks – Something Else
It was hard to decide between this album or Arthur (Or the Decline And Fall Of The British Empire) as both are fantastic albums. This one wins out as the bigger loser as it only hit #153 on the U.S. charts (plus none of the singles managed to chart here). It may be unfair to include this as it has become an acclaimed album, but it is hard not to salute The Kinks as perhaps the most cruelly overlooked of the upper echelon of British Invasion bands. Perhaps this album was too British for U.S. tastes which is the only explanation for a great song like “Waterloo Sunset” to never chart in the U.S. There is not a weak cut on the whole record with excellent music like “Tin Soldier Man” and “Afternoon Tea”. Ray Davies even let’s brother Dave get in to the act with fine songs “Death Of A Clown” and “Love Me Till the Sun Shines”.
13.The Music Explosion – Little Bit O’ Soul
The hot punky 1967 title track hit #2 (a cover of a U.K. single by The Little Darlings), but the equally fine album could only scrape in at #178 indicating that few kids heard nifty tracks like “Patches Dawn” and “Can’t Stop Now”. Other Kasenetz-Katz productions like “Yummy Yummy Yummy” and “1, 2, 3, Red Light” would make ‘bubblegum’ a musical term, but this album was more garage rock in sound. Lead singer Jamie Lyons may have been the only band member on the records. Two songs were even recycled backing tracks including “Love Love Love Love Love” (Terry Knight & The Pack) and “One Potato Two” which with different lyrics was “Little Black Egg” by The Nightcrawlers.
14.The Everly Brothers – Two Yanks In England
Alan Clarke and Graham Nash have acknowledged how much the harmonies of The Everly Brothers inspired The Hollies sound so this album was a bit of debt repayment. Eight of the twelve tracks were written by Clarke, Nash & Tony Hicks plus backing on most tracks was by The Hollies as well (along with session players like Jimmy Page). Back in the summer of 1966 The Stones had “Paint It Black”, The Beatles had “Paperback Writer”, Donovan had “Sunshine Superman” so The Everly Brothers continued to be seen as a relic from the early days of rock. Fine songs on the album include “Hard Hard Year”, “Somebody Help Me” and “Don’t Run & Hide”. You could rightly call most of their ’60s album output to be neglected as virtually none of it charted (including the great Roots album from 1968).
15.The Hollies – Moving Finger
It seems only fair to follow up the last album with one by The Hollies themselves. This was a re-titled and reorganized version of the 1970 U.K. album Confessions Of The Mind. Sandwiched between the huge hits “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” (1969) and “Long Cool Woman In A Black Dress” (1972), this album could only get as high as #183 without a U.S. hit single. “Gasoline Alley Bred” and “Too Young To Be Married” were worthy of chart action while the Hicks written “Confessions Of A Mind” was a bit of an epic. It should be noted that Terry Sylvester had replaced Graham Nash by this point.
16.Cat Mother & The All-Night Newsboys – Albion Doo-Wah
After their Jimi Hendrix produced 1969 debut album The Street Giveth… And The Street Taketh Away (including the hit “Good Old Rock ‘N’ Roll”), your’s truly assumed that the next album would be similar rock and roll. It was a shock when the album turned out to actually be more along the rustic sound of The Band. It took time, but it grew on me. Tracks like “Turkish Taffy”, Riff Raff” and the title track still sound good plus the album cover is pretty distinctive.
17.The Move – Shazam
The A&M label could generally be counted on to release great U.K. product back in the day (Procol Harum, Fairport Convention) so when this album showed up in 1970 I decided to take a flier on it. This began my love affair with the music of Roy Wood who has never had the U.S. success that his music deserves. From “Flowers In The Rain” to “Are You Ready To Rock”, he has never disappointed. Cheap Trick deserve kudos for their great covers of his music (“California Man”, “Blackberry Way”), but you really need to hear the originals. This album had only six tracks. Side one was originals like the ballad “Beautiful Daughter” while side two is my favorite with covers of “Fields Of People” and “The Last Thing On My Mind”. This was their last album with Carl Wayne as lead singer. Wayne and his more theatrical voice left to be replaced by Jeff Lynne who would form Electric Light Orchestra with Wood (who then quit to form Wizzard).
18.Freddie & The Dreamers – Do The Freddie
Scoff all you want – heap your scorn, but this reviewer stands by the fact that this was a great album of British Invasion pop. Freddie Garrity was goofy and sang a bit too earnestly for some, but the songs were all catchy and well-played by the cream of U.K. session musicians. This was one of the first albums I ever got (from the Columbia Record Club) plus they headlined the first rock concert I ever attended (1965 in Denver with The Beau Brummels and The McCoys – thanks Mr. Steele for taking me and Rick!). “Things I’d Like To Say”, “Over You”, “Just For You”, etc. were catchy album tracks. The hit single “Do The Freddie” plus the excellent “A Little You” were highlights as well.
19.Mary Hopkin -Earth Song, Ocean Song
This was quite the departure from her 1968 hit “Those Were The Days” and her 1969 hit “Goodbye” which was more ‘produced’ in sound. This 1971 album (her second on Apple) was a very gentle folk album with covers of Cat Stevens (“The Wind”), Ralph McTell (“Streets Of London”) and Gallagher & Lyle (“International”). This was more the direction she wanted her career to go than the hits.
20.Family – Entertainment
It was tempting to put their classic debut Music In A Dolls House instead of this album just to play the brilliant “Peace Of Mind”, but that album does get a fair amount of acclaim while this their second album (1969) has been forgotten it seems (at least here in the U.S. where it never charted). As opposed to the psychedelia of their debut, this was more straight-forward. Rockers like “Second Generation Woman” stood beside gentler songs like “Dim” and “Observations From A Hill”. Bassist Rich Grech left after this album to join Eric Clapton in Blind Faith which is a pity as he had a fine voice and compositional skills. This track is sung by sax-man Jim King, but the main singer was Michael Chapman who has one of the oddest voices of any lead singer ever. Listen to his style of their signature song “The Weaver’s Answer”.