A Surprising 60s Album is Reissued


Chris Payne

I can remember when I heard this record in 1967 that I was bowled over! Four lads from, er, well various places around the country, had put together a jazz album featuring covers of some of the Fab Four's songs. The album was produced at a time when anyone and everyone thought they would have an instant hit by covering a Beatles song. I'm not saying that these four lads thought that, but far from racing up the charts, the London Jazz Four's single of Norwegian Wood fell into obscurity. Similarly, this album. Sadly, many jazz and light music fans around the country missed out on discovering what must surely be a typical example of very talented musicians who should have been famous. How did I find out about them? Simply that a girl I knew, Barbara, went to Sydenham High School for Girls, and the group's leader, Mike McNaught was a teacher there!

So why is the album so special? At a time when modern jazz was being heard on BBC radio, (and even on TV!), we were listening to the likes of the Dudley Moore Trio, Sounds Orchestral, the Lou Levy Trio, Oscar Peterson and many others. One of the significant aspects of this album is that many of the tracks don't sound like Beatles covers at all! Each one has a character of its own. The lesser-known 'Rain', stands out on its own and unless you know the original, you wouldn't guess it was a Beatles cover. Even the ones that are immediately recognisable, have a totally fresh viewpoint that will please any hardened, or even non-hardened, jazz fan or just someone who likes decent music. One of my favourites is 'Please, Please Me', which includes an interesting nod to pianist Errol Garner.

As a big fan of the Modern Jazz Quartet, I was excited to find another group that included vibes and piano. Brian Moore's bass playing is so in tune that it's hard to believe that someone can do what he does, (as Steve Race alludes to in his sleeve notes), and I had always wondered what the MJQ's bassist, Percy Heath, would have made of it! On several tracks, the bass is not just rumbling away at the bottom end, but is actually a very significant voice in the arrangement. Witness the superb 'From Me To You'.

I won't be selling my original vinyl, but I shall be playing it more frequently now that I have been reminded of this treasure from 1967. I bet there are hundreds of others out there that we've forgotten about. Time to power-up the turntable again.

© Chris Payne 2005

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