Car Boot Vinyl Diaries

Car Boot Vinyl Diaries

Friday, 13 February 2015

Little Box Of Horrors - Part 4

Welcome to the fourth and final part of Little Box Of Horrors, where I delve into a long forsaken box of deplorable discs found in the cupboard under the stairs, that once belonged to my partner's late parents. I think you'll agree after checking out this post that I've definitely saved the worst until last. Previous posts can be found here, here and here.

Firstly, let's take a look (and unfortunately a listen) to Carry On Cutler!

Adge Cutler & The Wurzels - Carry On Cutler! (1969)

Former roadie for Acker Bilk (among other things) Alan John Cutler found himself in need of a backing band in the mid sixties when he decided to make a go of a career in music. Friend John Miles managed to secure him a contract with EMI, helped assemble the band and became their agent and manager.

Adge and co. made a type of pub-singalong music peculiar to the West country which came to be known as 'Scrumpy & Western', and which Adge describes in the sleevenotes to this album as "good time folk...I write songs so that people can sing them." A string of singles, EPs and albums followed, and after Adge's death in 1974 in a road accident the Wurzels carried on releasing records with various lineups, and indeed continue to do so today.

Like many of their albums, Carry On Cutler! was recorded live in a Somerset country club (with some additional recording at the White Buck Inn, Hants.) before a noisy and appreciative audience where the beer and cider were evidently flowing. The songs are either covers or re-workings of folk songs which reference rural stereotypes in a humourous, bawdy manner. Titles include their first single Drink Up Thy Zider which was the one half of a double A side that the BBC didn't ban, The Chewton Medip Love-In, Riley's Cow Shed and Down On The Farm. I think you get the picture. If not, here's a taste. (You may find it helpful to get hammered on cider first):

Ironically their biggest hit came after Adge's passing, with 1976's no.1 hit Combine Harvester, a remodel of Melanie's Brand New Key. They played Glastonbury a couple of times and made a covers album in 2002 called 'Never Mind The Bullocks, Ere's The Wurzels' which includes songs by Oasis and Blur as well as the Gina G Eurovision entry re-titled Ooh-Arr Just A Little Bit - still available on CD if you're tempted. Oh, okay.

Here they are with The Kaiser Chiefs' Ruby from the follow-up 'A Load More Bullocks':

The final lousy long player to be unearthed from the Box is this ear-numbing offering from Don Estelle & Windsor Davies:

Don Estelle & Windsor Davies - Sing Lofty (1975) (MFP reissue)

Before his acting career took off, 4'9" Estelle had pursued his dream of becoming a successful singer. Indeed he had a pleasant, powerful tenor, but his diminuitive stature ruled out a future as leading man or pop idol. After a minor part in Dad's Army he landed the role of Lofty Sugden in the 1970s sitcom It Ain't Half Hot Mum opposite Windsor Davies' BSM Williams, and together they enjoyed a no.1 single (Whispering Grass) taken from the 1975 cast recording.

Here we have a fairly dull, though not unpleasant, bit of club-singer crooning from Estelle through the usual easy listening suspects. Sadly, Davies crops up far too often to liven things up with his 'comic' interjections, which wear very thin very quickly. He even treats us to an entire monologue on final track A Message From Battery Sergeant-Major Williams, which on this copy of the LP is mostly incomprehensible thanks to a fortuitous series of scratches. A little light relief is provided on Paper Doll and I Don't Want To Set The World On Fire by the soothing tones of the Mike Sammes Singers (mentioned here in Part 3), but the highlights for me are the sound effects employed during Three Coins In The Fountain, which due to their unique nature should have warranted a title change to Dropping The Kids Off At The Pool:

I pride myself in being able to get through most terrible records in the name of research, but these last two albums really took some effort and I couldn't manage more than one play for either. In short: NOT recommended.

Well, that's it for the Little Box Of Horrors series. All of the repellent recordings are back where they belong in the cupboard under the stairs and Car Boot Vinyl Diaries will resume looking at records I actually invited into my home, i.e. rockin' and poppin' boot sale and chazza finds.

Ta-ta for now xx

Monday, 2 February 2015

Little Box Of Horrors - Part 3

This third part of Little Box Of Horrors is a bit later than intended due to a bout of the lurgi that absolutely floored me. So much so that I had zero desire to listen to any kind of music for a couple of weeks, and certainly not the type found in the scary Box. So, with strength now returned - and boy did I need it for this next record - let's resume.

First out was this rather dog-eared and much Sellotaped copy of 12 Tops - Today's Top Hits:

12 Tops - Today's Top Hits (1972)

Stereo Gold Award was founded by budget label giant David Leonard Miller, who was previously responsible for the gigantic 101 Strings series in the late 50s and early 60s, as well as other mega-cheapo releases that undercut the prices of the bigger labels. The 12 Tops series ran from 1972-76 and used cheesecake covers and a 50p price tag to sell exploito albums featuring hits of the day (much like Hallmark's TOTP albums, but even worse).

This particular record is the fourth volume in a series that put out an album every month or so during its run. You can see all 30 and read more about them here: (the site as a whole is well worth perusing, too).

It's complete dross of course; songs ruined by sub-standard sessioneers include the Bee Gees' Run To Me, Bill Withers' Lean On Me and Procul Harum's Conquistador.  The worst though are a horrible version of Rod's You Wear It Well, the singer apparently chosen for his husky voice but not his vocal ability (he sounds like he's being made to sing from beneath a thick blanket whilst suffering from acute asthma), and an atrocious Too Busy Thinking About My Baby that I'm sure even I could improve upon at karaoke.

This kind of trash sold by the truckload in the 1970s, which just goes to show that sex sells, as do pocket-money prices.

If you see it on your travels for pennies it's almost worth getting for the spiffy version of Popcorn, but otherwise best avoided.

Next out of the box was this offering from The Mike Sammes Singers:

The Mike Sammes Singers with Orchestra -
Love Is A Happy Thing (1968)

During the 1960s musician and arranger Mike Sammes, along with his troupe of trusty singers, was one of the most (if not the most) in-demand and prolific musicians of the period. They  appeared on countless pop songs, radio jingles and advertisements, TV themes and film soundtracks, most notably the Captain Scarlet and Thunderbirds themes, The Beatles' I Am The Walrus and many Disney albums. The Mike Sammes singers were also the voices of Pinky & Perky and Ken Dodd's Diddymen. According to  "Virtually every "doo-doo-doo" to be heard on a pop recording made in the UK between 1955 and 1975 came out of the mouth of Sammes and his colleagues".

Singers in the group varied over time, but there were six core members (three guys and three gals) as well as Mike himself, and they specialised in delivering perfectly polished harmonies to order. Although they were terribly busy working for others (often putting in 6-day weeks with several sessions a day), they found time to make 7 albums under their own name.

Love Is A Happy Thing is chirpy easy listening of the best kind; a mainly up-tempo mixture of covers and originals, with a little bossa nova, pretty strings, a dash of big band swing and of course those oh-so-smooth vocal harmonies. It's the kind of record you'd be sure to find in the collection of Austin Powers. Have a listen to the irresistible title track to hear what I mean (I couldn't find it on youtube so digitised and uploaded it myself):

The record also features a lovely version of Up, Up And Away plus a far-out Summertime. Although it's from the Box Of Horrors, it's actually very enjoyable if you're a fan of the groovier end of easy, and if you are, you'll also love the neat album cover. Daddio.

Part 4 of Little Box Of Horrors is due shortly, but in the meantime if you missed the first two installments they can be found here:
Part 1:
Part 2: