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EVOLUTION

Another short-lived independent label which ran for a couple of years in the late 60’s, with a few records which might be of interest to soul collectors. An early Otis Redding recording, She’s Alright/Tuff Enough, was the second single on Evolution. This is an early R & B rocker in typical Otis style. The Fashions’ I.O.U came out on Evolution just a year after it’s original release on Stateside. It’s a pleasant enough girl group dancer. Finally, The Black Abbotts were a four piece comedy/music group from Merseyside who’s members included a certain Russ Abbott who went on to fame a decade later as a TV ‘comedian’. Their single The Painter was an East Coast spin at one time but is appalling.

The label was dark blue in design with logo at the top and an ‘E’ symbol on the center, silver lettering. Later releases changed to an unusual mix of light blue and brown background with black lettering.

E 2442 OTIS REDDING She's alright / Tuff enuff 8

/102444 FASHIONS I.0.U. (a lifetime of love) / He gives me love 6/8

3004 BLACK ABBOTTS The painter / Love is alive 8/12

EMBER

The famous composer/arranger John Barry was a producer/a & r man for this independent label which was based at York House, Empire Way, Wembley. It ran from the very early 60’s up until the late 70’s and utilised at least five different label designs. The first was a striking gold and red affair which lasted until around 1963. Then came the best known Ember label, bottom half yellow, top half red with the label’s name inside a large black circle in the top left of the label. Demos of this particular design are unfortunately very basic, just a simple outline A on the top side, with the B side being identical to an issue - bad new for owners of Brothers Grimm - Looky Looky! In 1968 the design changed to an all pale-blue design with the black circle still in place. In-between all of these designs, an Ember International label came along, featuring a mauve and grey design with the logo on the far left. This may well have replaced the first, gold and red design label. The design changed once more in 1971, this time to an all black label with it’s name in multicoloured letters. By this time I believe that Ember had become part of Ed Kassner’s President label set up.

As far as soul content goes, you have to look very hard to find authentic black American soul. The early years saw releases for The Platters, The Five Royales, and a split single from Jackie Wilson & Clyde McPhatter - all of which are very rare today. Red/yellow label items to look out for are as follows:

211 Values - Return to me - ancient-sounding but pleasant enough doo-wop styled dancer.

219 Jewel Akens - Wee Bit More Of Your Loving - another early, almost rock & roll sounding number in the style of, say H.B. Barnum’s It Hurts Too Much To Cry. Notable for only lasting for around 100 seconds.

222 Brothers Grimm - Looky Looky - A late 80’s biggie from a band who previously recorded for Decca as Mel & The Brothers Grimm. Indeed, my demo copy had the words "Mel &" written alongside Brothers Grimm, as if to suggest that whoever originally owned the record was either a) a fan who knew the band’s real name or b) a disgruntled Mel himself who wanted top billing and had to add it himself! As for the record, it’s a plodding, stomping version of a much recorded Ashford - Simpson - Armstead number and is famous - or infamous, as the case may be - for utilising the wailing voice of what sounds like a banshee over the top of the male vocals. The flip side, A Man Needs Love, is also from the prolific pen of the aforementioned Chicago threesome and has picked up a bit of interest in recent years. An unissued, uncredited version of the same song surfaced a publishers demo a few years back and is owned by Ady Croasdel.

229 Fading Colours - Just Like Romeo & Juliet - Worst of the several versions but probably the least known.

231 Ray Singer - What’s done has been done - A very obscure record, known to but a handful of collectors. A real curiosity; the verses are performed in a mock-garage style with a very muddy production, but they make way for a very commercialised sing-a-long chorus. Ray Singer hailed from Brighton and was backed on this particular number by Bern Elliott’s backing band, The Fenmen. He later became a member of Nirvana’s backing group (that’s the 60’s Nirvana, not the 90’s one).

232 Lou Lawton - I Am Searching. This is probably the best Ember release and is still hotly persued by collectors. This excellent dancer originally surfaced on US Capitol, on which label it still fetches around 15. The scarce UK release was part of a short lived licensing deal with Capitol which also saw the release of Glen Campbell’s seminal Witchita Lineman, which has nothing to do with soul but is a great record all the same! Lou Lawton also had a UK release on a label closely associated with Ember, Speciality, entitled Wrapped In A Dream, and this uptempo number also has a following amongst collectors. You can find both sides of this Speciality 45 on Embers’ ‘A Drop Of The Hard Stuff’ album.

239 Twiggy - Beautiful Dreams - Recorded at the real peak of her popularity, this, the first of her two Ember singles, was released in January 1967 in a very attractive picture sleeve. And would you believe it, it’s actually a very good record, prime cover-up material. It has a stomping beat, several stop/start breaks, and some wonderful oboe playing which adds a hint of mystery to what is a truly sparkling record. The vocal performance is also excellent. This is one occasion where you should ignore the pedigree of the artist and concentrate on the music. An alternative version to this single was issued on an early 70’s album entitled ‘Twiggy & The Girlfriends’, which was issued to cash in on Twiggy’s success in the Ken Russell movie ‘The Boyfriend’. This features the four tracks released on Ember in ‘67, plus a plethora of ragtime instrumentals to pad things out. The version of Beautiful Dreams included on this compilation features a noise which sounds remarkably like a theramin (a rare Russian electronic instrument) overdubbing the existing track. It’s very strange.

241 Casinos - That’s The Way - A release which only really came to light in the late 80’s, this midtempo number recorded for US Airtown is quite scarce on Ember.

245 Bobby Johnson & The Atoms - Tramp - Not a lot known about this artist who was, I presume, an American residing in the UK. This is a good version of the Otis/Carla number but is notable for including the most audible recording fault of all time. After 10 seconds of the intro, someone turns the volume up a couple of notches! How quality control didn’t spot this, I’ll never know - maybe they didn’t have time for a retake.

311 Fork In The Road - I Can’t Turn Around - A real mystery record which for a long time was thought to only exist in the minds of befuddled UK collectors. At the time of writing, under 10 copies have now surfaced, utilising the black 70’s design label. However, one collector has a copy on the pale blue label with hand written details. I would presume that the record was manufactured for release and then withdrawn and presumably scrapped. This must be where the black issues come from because, as always, a handful always escape - look at John’s Children’s ‘Midsummer Nights Scene’ single for instance - release scrapped, so the band gave them away at their club. Result? The rarest ever UK 45 valued at 2500.

312 Mr. Flood’s Party - Compared To What - A popular Torch spin which was forgotten and then revived at Wigan and reissued on another President subsidiary, Bulldog, in 1975. This is a funky, organ and brass led dancer with very ‘right-on’ lyrics, and was at one point covered by Ray Charles. The Bulldog release, incidentally, is an alternate take.

EMBS 198 LYNN HOLLAND And the angels sing / I can’t read your writing (for my tears) 4/5

211 VALUES Return to me / That’s the way 15/20

219 JEWEL AKENS A wee bit more of your lovin’ / Dancin’ Jenny 4/6

222 BROTHERS GRIMM Looky looky / A man needs love 40/50

222 MEL & BROTHERS GRIMM Looky looky / A man needs love (Unissued)

229 FADING COLOURS (Just like) Romeo & Juliet / Billy Christian 6/8

231 RAY SINGER What's done has been done / Won’t it be fine 8/10

232 LOU LAWTON I am searching / (Doin’) the philly dog 20/25

235 CHECKMATES LTD Do the walk / Glad for you 8/10

239 TWIGGY Beautiful dreams / I need you hand in mine (picture sleeve) 10/15

240 SONNY CHARLES & CHECKMATES Mastered the art of love / Please don’t take my world away 15/20

241 CASINOS That’s the way / Too good to be true 25/35

245 BOBBY JOHNSON & the ATOMS Tramp / Do it again a little bit slower 8/10

290 TONY & TYRONE Everyday fun / Whip your lovin’ on me 5/8

311 FORK IN THE ROAD I can't turn around / Skeleton in my closet 150/150

312 MR. FLOOD'S PARTY Compared to what / Unbreakable toy 10/15

321 ALBINO GORILLA Shake me wake me / Going to a gogo 4/5

 

FAB

A reggae label dealing mostly with Prince Buster releases which ran from around 1967 into the 70’s. Again, only one release of note here, and once again it’s the ubiquitous Errol Dixon who gives us two raucous r & b dancers, Need Somebody To Love Me/I Want, a coupling originally released on Rainbow 104. This has a prefix ‘EP’ and a mauve label, whereas the majority of other Fab releases have a ‘FAB’ prefix and are pale blue (though a rogue P.J. Proby release not only has a gold label but also a picture sleeve).

EP 1 ERROL DIXON Need someone to love me / I want 7

FONTANA

Fontana is another excellent and interesting label for UK collectors, featuring some very rare and also high quality soul cuts. The label was part of the Philips group and ran from around 1958 until 1970/71, when it became part of the Phonogram group. The handful of early Motown releases, issued between December 1961 and March 1962, are amongst the most collectable 45’s ever issued in the UK, the product of a very short licensing deal with Motown before they switched to Oriole.

Demos where all-white until 1962 when they stopped altogether. Following that, all Fontana demos consist of a yellow stamp saying ‘Sample not for resale’ on one side only. These are not aesthetically pleasing! Demos reappeared in 1968 when they were white with black lettering and a black logo at the top, and the customary red A.

Issues are blue with silver top and silver lettering.

Highlights From Fontana

Screaming Jay Hawkins legendary I Put A Spell On You saw it’s first release on UK Fontana, but on 78rpm only.

Karol Keyes is quite well known for her version of One In A Million on Columbia, but her Fontana release, a cover of Mary Wells’ You Beat Me To The Punch (517) is a lesser known which stands up well.

Earl Preston (406) is a Merseybeat cover of Bobby Parker, whilst Wayne Fontana (497) and The Boomerangs (507) cover Major Lance and The Contours respectively.

The rarest, and many would say best, Northern Soul release on the label is Sandy Wynns’ magnificent A Touch Of Venus (550) which always fetches a 3 figure sum nowadays.

Fontana issued quite a few US Vee Jay recordings including class items from Betty Everett, Jerry Butler, The Ad Libs, Fred Hughes and The Dontells.

Incense by The Anglos (589) was originally issued on the tiny Island offshoot Brit Records and was subsequently reissued on pink Island in 1968 after a scheduled issue on Sue in 1967 was cancelled. The group consists of Stevie Winwood on vocals plus session musicians.

Alex Harvey was a Scottish screamer with a great live act, his ‘soul’ band cut a fair cover of Edwin Starr’s Agent 00 Soul (610) which is very collectable.

All of the Spencer Davis Group singles are good dancers from the mid-60’s club scene, mostly writen by Jackie Edwards apart from Trampoline (739) which is an organ dominated Mod instrumental.

Jimmy Cliff’s version of Bobby Bland’s Call On Me (641) is disappointing, while The Merseybeats’ version of Tony Colton’s I Stand Accused is an uptempo pop stomper. Elvis Costello made an almost note for note copy of this version for his Get Happy LP. The Merseybeats thought that they were getting the Jerry Butler song of the same title to record!

Kiki Dee signed to Fontana when she was around 15 years old. Look out for her version of Tami Lynn’s I’m Gonna Run Away From You (669) and the still very in-demand On A Magic Carpet Ride (983) which was originally played at Yate covered up as Chris Clark - Touch The Sky. Kiki also did a version of Paul Anka’s When We Get There on a Fontana LP.

Mirwood Records licensed a few items to Fontana including the original release of Jackie Lee’s The Duck (646) and a couple of smashing cuts from The Olympics (678/778).

By 1967/68 most of Fontana’s releases were UK produced, examples being Dudley’s own Jenny Wren’s rare one-off Chasing My Dream All Over Town (672), Birmingham based Sight & Sound with a dreadful cover of Our Love Is In The Pocket (927), and Harlem Jonns Reshuffle’s version of Adams Apples’ You Are The One I Love (970).

Lastly, in the ‘they coulda been contenders’ bracket comes a single from Manchesters’ Playboys (presumably named to avoid confusion with other Playboys of the Gary Lewis and O’Hara’s variety), whose I Feel So Good (745) is a wonderful Brit-Northern stomper of the old school. Although only having the one release in the UK, these Playboys secured an EP in France on the Barclay label featuring 4 tracks and a nice picture sleeve. Anybody got a copy?

270 109 VOLUMES I love you/Dreams 25/35

H 299 H.B. BARNUM Lost love / Hallelujah 10/15

355 MARVELETTES Please Mr. Postman / So long baby 20/90

384 MIRACLES What’s so good about goodbye / I’ve been good to you 45/100

386 MARVELETTES Twistin’ postman / I want a guy 35/80

387 EDDIE HOLLAND Jamie / Take a chance on me 160/300

TF 443 KIKI DEE That's right, walk on by / Miracles 8

465 JACKIE EDWARDS Little princess / Sea cruise 8

507 BOOMERANGS Don't let her be your baby / Rockin’ Robin 15

517 KAROL KEYES You beat me to the punchNo one can take your place 10

520 BETTY EVERETT Getting mighty crowded / Chained to a memory 6

522 DON COLE & ALLEYNE Gotta find my baby

/ Something’s got a hold of me 6542 ALAN HAVEN Image / Romance on the North Sea 5

550 SANDY WYNNS The touch of venus / A lover’s quarrel 150

561 ANGLOS Incense / You’re fooling me (unissued)

566 DONTELLS In your heart (you know I'm right) / Nothing but nothing 25

571 SPENCER DAVIS GROUP This hammer / Strong love 7583 FRED HUGHES Oo wee baby I love you / Love me baby 15

584 AD LIBS Neighbour neighbour / Lovely ladies 25

588 JERRY BUTLER I can't stand to see you cry / Nobody needs your love 10

589 ANGLOS Incense / You’re fooling me 12

691 MILLIE My street / Mixed up, fickle, moody, self-centered spoiled kinda boy 5

600 JOHNNY CARR Give him a little time / Do you love that girl 10

606 VINCE EVERETT Til I lost you / Bless you 5

610 ALEX HARVEY Agent 00 soul / Go away baby 25

632 SPENCER DAVIS GROUP Keep on running / High time baby 5

641 JIMMY CLIFF Call on me / Pride and passion 8

646 JACKIE LEE The duck / Let your conscience be your guide 10

667 BOBBIE GRAHAM Grotty drums / Skin deep 15

668 BLUESOLOGY Mr. Frantic / Time’s getting tougher than tough 200

669 KIKI DEE Why don't I run away from you / Small town 8

672 JENNY WREN Chasing my dream all over town / A thought of you 40

678 OLYMPICS We go together (pretty baby) / Secret agents 15

679 SPENCER DAVIS GROUP Somebody help me / Stevie’s blues 5

684 WAYNE FONTANA Come on home / My eyes break out in tears 4

693 GOLDIE I do / Think about the good times 6

716 CHANTS Come back and get this loving baby / Love light 5

739 SPENCER DAVIS GROUP Trampoline / When I come home 6

745 MANCHESTER'S PLAYBOYS I feel so good / I close my eyes 35

762 SPENCER DAVIS GROUP Gimme some lovin' / Blues in F 5

769 ED E. LYNCH Hurt on love / Little child 6

770 WAYNE FONTANA Something keeps calling me back / Pamela Pamela 5

778 OLYMPICS Baby do the philly dog / Western movies 15

779 CALIFORNIA IN CROWD Happiness in my heart / Questions and answers 22

795 LOWEL FULSON Tramp / Pico 20

823 JOHNNY CARR You've got me baby / Things get better 15

835 ALAN HAVEN Image / Romance on the North Sea 5

879 LOVELACE WATKINS You can’t stop love / I apologise baby 8

885 NITE PEOPLE In the springtime / Summertime blues 5

915 VINCE EVERETT Every now and then / Barbarella 10

927 SIGHT & SOUND Our love (is in the pocket) / Ebenezer 12

951 BUDDY GUY Mary had a little lamb / Sweet little angel 10

967 ROBERTA REX I can feel it / Joey 6

970 HARLEM JONNS RESHUFFLE You are the one I love / Good lovin’ 9

974 JOHN O’HARA Show me / I started a joke 5

983 KIKI DEE On a magic carpet ride / Now the flowers cry 40

1004 HARLEM JONNS RESHUFFLE Let love come between us / Everything under the sun 6

1031 MORRIS VAUGHAN My love keeps growing / Make it look good 10/15

1051 RUBYJAMES Getting mighty crowded / Don’t play that song 8/10

267428 ALAN HAVEN Image / Romance on the north sea 5

6007 040 BRIAN BENNETT Chase side shoot up / Pegasus 4

G.S.F.

Cult 70’s New York label which somehow found itself with a UK imprint via EMI in 1973. The label’s big Northern sounds were all discovered at the same time in late 74/early 75; The Skullsnaps (two incredibly hard funk-Northern dancers, I’m Your Pimp and My Hang Up Is You), The Anderson Brothers floater I Can See Him Loving You, a record way ahead of it’s time; and the dreadful Blanche Carter - Halos Are For Angels which was very big for around a month in 1976 before a bootleg pressing put paid to it’s dancefloor exposure. Only one of the above was issued in the UK - The Skullsnaps’ My Hang Up Is You - and apart from that, the only release worth picking up is Lloyd Price’s double sider Love Music (same number as Sergio Mendes) b/w Just For Baby.

Other artists on UK included Eddie Holman and Connie Francis!

The label was fawn with black lettering, with the logo at the top in purple and orange over black. Demos are identical except for the legend ‘Demo record not for sale’ on the cntre along with the release date.

GSF 5 LLOYD PRICE Love music / Just for baby 5/6

7 SKULLSNAPS My hang up is you / It’s a new day 15/20

12 JOE QUATERMAN & FREE SOUL Thanks Dad

/ Part I 3/4

GO

A short-lived subsidiary of CBS Records which ran thru 1966/1967 then disappeared. Most collectable release is easily Tic Toc/Gypsy by The Scots Of St.James, a very rare psych disc from the band who went on to become Hopscotch. Carl Douglas recorded two singles for the label, both dancers. Amazingly, a couple of these tracks appeared on US Okeh! Apart from a decent Sugar Simone single, that’s about it apart from Samantha Juste’s If Trees Could Talk, which, although very twee, is a jaunty little pop stomper which had a bit of turntable action in the 70’s. Samantha was the resident disc spinner on TV’s Top Of The Pops and was engaged to The Monkees Mickey Dolenz at the time of the records’ release.

Issues are mint green on a white background with a white logo at the top. Demos are white with green A and black lettering. Not too many demos of this label about though.

AJ 11401 CARL DOUGLAS Crazy feeling / Keep it to myself 8/12

11402 SAMANTHA JUSTE If trees could talk / No one needs my love today 8/12

11408 CARL DOUGLAS Something for nothing / Let the birds sing 10/15

11409 SUGAR SIMONE It's alright / Take it easy 6/8

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Copyright M Fitzpatrick
mickfitz@koan.de