❉ Lounge funk, Philly soul, yacht rock and gauzy glitz from the mid to late ’70s.
One thing you can always count on during uncertain, often terrifying times is that nothing gets in the way of Ace Records putting out lovely, expertly-curated compilation albums. The ongoing series of blinding themed collections from Saint Etienne’s Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs always stand out amongst these and are regular highlights of year end polls – with Stanley’s solo compilations like Tea And Symphony as welcome side trips. A rare effort from all three of the band, Saint Etienne Present Songs For The Fountain Coffee Room is a sweet sniff of the kind of summer we may not see for some time. A series of lounge funk, Philly soul, yacht rock and gauzy glitz from the mid to late ’70s, it’s instantly evocative of better times.
It’s sometimes soulful, opening on a one-two punch of Bill Quarterman’s nagging Only Love and Marvin Gaye’s sweetly libidinous Where Are We Going. It takes us via yacht rock belters from Box Scaggs, Ned Doheny and Seals and Crofts to the pop kitsch of Leo Sayer, ending with the chirpy Hawaiian disco sweep of Sunshower by Dr Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band
There’s a lot to get lost in. Millie Jackson’s House For Sale is both moody and upbeat, while Delegation’s Oh Honey is where Teddy Pendergrass meets Barry Gibb.
Old favourites play deliciously against type: The slightly over-wrought Lilly Are You Happy by the putative Hall and Oates is a banger from their blue-eyed soul days, while Utopia’s uncharacteristically poppy and un-noodly Love Is The Answer sees Todd Rundgren briefly back in FM Overlord mode.
Best of all is Bobbie Gentry’s Thunder In The Afternoon, a killer cut from her brief ’70s stint at Warners. Ten years adrift from the imperial Southern Gothic oddness of her Capitol days, Bobbie is recast as a breathy sex bomb against a subdued yacht-soul backing. It should have been a huge hit, but instead it’s buried treasure from the most mysterious part of her career.
Hats off, Bob, Pete and Sarah. It sounds like a great lounge to visit.
❉ Various Artists – ‘Saint Etienne Present Songs For The Fountain Coffee Room’ (CDCHD 1575) is released 31 July 2020, by Ace Records. RRP £11.50. Pre-order from Ace, free delivery in the UK
❉ Martin Ruddock has written for ‘Doctor Who Magazine’, ‘Shindig! Magazine’, the ‘You And Who’ series, and is a regular contributor to We Are Cult.