❉ Have a drink and a drive with Mungo Jerry, take a joyride with Rick Derringer, and go motor bikin’ with Chris Spedding.
Cherry Red Records’ ‘collected albums’ box set series – rounding up an artist or outfit’s LPs under one roof in one affordable package – is a great way to upgrade from scratchy vinyl to pristine digital the works of acts whose output has hitherto been neglected from the repackage-reissue cycle. Past examples that we’ve drooled over at We Are Cult have included punk misfits Radio Stars, glam-lounge act Fox and teen combo Hello, and Cherry Red now welcome a similarly diverse assortment to their poptastic catalogue: This month, we have a drink and a drive with Mungo Jerry, take a joyride with Rick Derringer, and go motor bikin’ with rock’s Zelig Chris Spedding…
Mungo Jerry – ‘The Dawn Albums Collection’
A five-disc Mungo Jerry album collection, rounded off with 22 – count ‘em! – B sides and radio edits, is testament to Cherry Red’s dedication to leave no stone in the rockery of ‘70s pop unturned. For anyone born under a certain age, it is hard to remember a time before they first heard In The Summertime – a massive hit for the band in summer 1970, it’s one of pop’s hardiest perennials, to the summer months what Slade and Wizzard’s festive bangers are to the Yuletide season, and briefly gained a different kind of currency when pressed into service for a 1990s public information film warning of the dangers of drink-driving. It also epitomised the ‘Mungo Jerry sound’, labelled by some “gypsy rock”, a largely acoustic blend of blues, skiffle and jug-blowing.
Across the five albums released on Pye’s folk/jazz/blues imprint Dawn, bandleader Ray Dorset (he of the impressive afro/muttonchops combo and toothy grin) rarely deviated from this sound, although for their fifth album Long Legged Woman, a harder, rock and roll sound made its presence felt. That said, there’s a rambunctious rock’n’roll and boogie woogie component to all their albums, which – together with the ‘live in the studio’ party atmosphere – evokes a ‘pub rock’ ambience so strong you can almost smell the fag ash and real ale.
No doubt, when these albums were released into the wild, year by year, they were fun diversions, party-friendly palate cleansers, but listened to back to back in this collection, the Mungo Jerry sound becomes tiresomely formulaic, and changes of tone and style such as In The Summertime’s mournful, string-led tragic ballad Tramp and Electronically Tested’s Memoirs of a Stockbroker, a nostalgically minded Brit psych number reminiscent of Keynsham-era Bonzo Dog (Doo-Dah) Band with its Urban Spaceman-esque descant recorders and phased spoken interjections, are few and far between. Dorset’s devoted following will lap up the opportunity to replace their worn-out LPs with this collection, though.
❉ Mungo Jerry – ‘The Dawn Albums Collection’ (GLAMBOX 166) is out now from 7T’s Records/Cherry Red Records, RRP £23.99
Rick Derringer – ‘Joy Ride (Solo Albums 1973-1980)’
Nowadays his name’s associated with InfoWars, as one of Alex Jones’ most high profile cheerleaders, but Rick Derringer has had a long and distinguished rock career – serving his apprenticeship as teen frontman of the McCoys, best known for the impossible-to-dislike Hang On Sloopy and the original version of Sorrow (a #3 hit single for David Bowie in 1973), Derringer was in the thick of it in the ‘70s American rock scene, working alongside everyone from Edgar Winter, Todd Rundgren and Alice Cooper (A formidable guitarist, Derringer contributed the wild guitar solo for Under My Wheels) to Suzi Quatro and Patti Smith, and it’s during this purple patch that his streak of solo albums – All-American Boy, Spring Fever, Guitars And Women and Face to Face – made him something of a teen sensation across the states.
As you might expect from the array of collaborators named above, Derringer’s solo sound epitomises ‘70s FM rock – slickly produced, melodic and guitar-driven, with sugar-rush teen-friendly power pop anthems showcasing his razor-sharp, lick-friendly guitar style whose influence is audible on a host of ‘80s stadium metal bands, interspersed with polished radio-friendly ballads, not unlike the sound Bob Ezrin and Alice Cooper crafted on the Coop’s solo albums From the Inside and Lace & Whiskey, although Guitars & Women belies its cliché’d title, as an album that is Todd Rundgren’s Utopia in all but name.
The only notable omission from this package, which benefits from an informative booklet by heavy metal journalist par excellence Malcolm Dome, liberally sprinkled with insightful commentary from Derringer himself, is 1977’s Live In Cleveland, where he repaid the compliment of Bowie covering Sorrow with a barnstorming, sweaty take on Rebel Rebel that’s remarkably faithful to the original in its energy.
❉ Rick Derringer – ‘Joy Ride (Solo Albums 1973-1980)’ (HNEBOX090) is out now from HNE Recordings/Cherry Red Records, RRP £19.99.
Chris Spedding – ‘The RAK Years’
If you’re one of those music lovers who scrutinises the sleeves of every album and memorises the names of every player, engineer and producer, the name Chris Spedding will be a familiar one, even if you don’t own any albums under his name. Spedding was to the ‘70s British rock scene what pre-Led Zep Jimmy Page was to the previous decade; a gun for hire whose fingerprints can be found on many a rock classic, notably John Cale’s Helen of Troy (the fulcrum of the Welsh wizard’s Island trilogy), Bryan Ferry’s Roxy-by-proxy album In Your Mind, and Elton John’s Madman Across The Water – not to mention one of the decade’s biggest acts, Mike Batt’s Wombles (easily identifiable on TOTP appearances by his Gibson Flying V). Spedding also bridged the glam/artrock and punk eras by producing the first demos of a little-known band called the Sex Pistols. Whatever happened to them?
Spedding had already stepped out of the shadows for two solo albums on Harvest – Backwoods Progression (1970) and The Only Lick I Know (1972) – but these made little impact. By 1975, in which time he’d proved himself as the in-demand hired hand, he signed up with Mickie Most’s RAK label, itself enjoying a profitable spell as the home of Suzi Quatro and Mud, and was rewarded with a hit single in the form of the ‘Too Fast To Live’ Kings Road boutique-quoting classic Motor Bikin’, which was bested by Jasper Carrott’s parody Funky Moped. It’s this period, covering the albums Chris Spedding, Hurt, Guitar Graffiti and I’m Not Like Everybody Else, that’s the subject of this box.
The four RAK albums depict Spedding as an unshowy solo artist – despite his reputation, he eschewed drawn-out guitar solos – but adept at moving with the times without slavishly aping them: 1976’s Chris Spedding was described by its creator as “typical Eddie Cochran/garage rock” but to these ears, is equally sympatico with the shit-kicking, balls-out sound of the Flamin’ Groovies, then a major influence on the emerging pub rock sound of London that begat Kilburn and the High Roads, the 101ers and Dr. Feelgood.
The follow-up, Hurt, finds Spedding adjacent to the punk and new wave movement he had a hand in founding as the Pistols’ first producer, with the Pistols’ eventual producer Chris Thomas manning the mixing desk, and a lively collection of tracks kicks off with a fine version of Wild In The Streets, a proto-punk anthem by John Cale’s friend Garland Jeffreys, later covered by Circle Jerks. Around this time, Spedding gave punk another helping hand by bringing The Vibrators to RAK after sharing the stage with them at the 100 Club Punk Festival, and the gesture was repaid when the band joined forces with Chris on a version of punk-tribute-cum-novelty Pogo Dancing, a bonus track on the disc.
After a brief hiatus from the scene (“I couldn’t even get arrested in England… So I thought, I’m not having any more of this. I’m off!”), Spedding’s last two albums, Guitar Graffiti and I’m Not Like Everybody Else, date from 1979 and 1980 respectively, and transition from Hurt’s power pop into a new wave sound evocative at times of XTC (never a bad thing in this reviewer’s book).
This is a nifty little package that sheds some light onto the talents of one of British rock’s stalwarts, a man whose place in rock’s hall of fame is already assured but whose solo career is worthy of a closer look.
❉ Chris Spedding – ‘The RAK Years’ (WGLAMBOX164) is out now from 7T’s Records/Cherry Red Records, RRP £19.99