A Core Collection: British 60s R&B

Post by Peter Viney - Around and Around

You could go further back in exploring British R&B albums. Try Chris Barber’s The Blues Legacy: Lost and Found  on CD … four volumes of it. Chris Barber’s trad jazz band invited the likes of Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Muddy Waters and Champion Jack Dupree to tour with them, and the trad jazz band backed them, and persuaded most of them to do When The Saints Go Marching In.  However, the lead voices are the real thing so I’ll ignore them, as well as British bands like The Animals and The Yardbirds backing Sonny Boy Williamson.

The idea of this series was just ten examples. This has twelve. I couldn’t eliminate any. Well, personally I’d have eliminated two of the most popular … Five Live Yardbirds and Bluesbreakers but they have to be in.

1 R&B At The Marquee – Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated, 1962, Ace of Clubs

R&B At The Marquee – Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated, 1962, Ace of Clubs

The 1962 original is on the mid-price Decca series Ace of Clubs, and will now be a three figure purchase in near mint condition. It was re-issued several times and is available on new vinyl. It’s one all the teenage R&B bands owned, but let’s be honest, we all bought it AFTER we bought The Rolling Stones. Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated was a loose affiliation … Korner on guitar, Dick Heckstall-Smith on sax, Keith Scott on piano, Cyril Davies on harmonica and vocals.  Johnny Dankworth’s bass player, Chris Barber’s drummer. Long John Baldry sits in on three songs. When the tape recorder wasn’t running, several Rolling Stones sat in with this band too. It’s studiously authentic too. Cyril Davies was so renowned as a white blues player that his 45s were released on Pye International next to their Chess originals. The band can bring in an older jazzy almost Louis Jordan feel to songs like Keep Your Hands Off Her. Got My Mojo Working and Hoochie Coochie really do sound as if they were recorded in Chicago a few years earlier, so less “rock” than most of the material here. P.S. It’s really good. Later drummers included both Charlie Watts and Ginger Baker. Zoot Money (see below) was also a member.

Available: LP, CD

Sample Tracks: Keep Your Hands Off (Cyril Davies), How Long, How Long Blues (Long John Baldry)

2  The Rolling Stones: The Rolling Stones, 1964, Decca

The Rolling Stones: The Rolling Stones, 1964, Decca

The most important R&B album of them all. No singles or B-sides. An album as an album. You must get the British versions of 60s Stones albums which for most mean original vinyl. The CDs are mainly American versions padded out with singles to make extra albums. A couple come in both versions. Mick Jagger is one of the few Brits who can sing “y’all” and get away with it. Every 60s band would announce ‘Um, er, this is I’m A King Bee … er, we learned from this Slim Harpo …’ while hoping fervently that no would shout, ‘Piss off! It’s the sixth number from The Rolling Stones LP you’ve played in a row.” There’s the first Jagger-Richards song, Tell Me and a couple of dubious instrumentals like Now I’ve Got A Witness which is Can I Get A Witness without words.  They were the best Chuck Berry interpreters of all as Carol and Route 66 prove.

Available: original LP, or ABKCO CD / LP which loses Mona in favour of the single, Not Fade Away.
Sample: I Just Want To Make Love To You, I’m A King Bee

3 Rhythm & Blues At The Flamingo: Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames, 1964 Columbia

Rhythm & Blues At The Flamingo: Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames, 1964 Columbia

Organists were where it’s at … Georgie Fame, Zoot Money, Graham Bond. This is another album everyone had, and Fame fronted one of the most proficient bands of the era too with Big Jim Sullivan on guitar. It was recorded in 1963, released in January 1964. He did three songs associated with Mose Allison … Work Song, Parchman Farm and Baby Please Don’t Go (which Mose Allison had covered). Mose Allison Sings was one of the most influential American albums for these bands. His version of Night Train was one any band would be expected to cover.

Available: LP and CD

Sample tracks: Work Song, Night Train

4 Alex Harvey & His Soul Band, 1964, Polydor

Alex Harvey & His Soul Band, 1964, Polydor

According to Discogs these were German releases. If so, they were around a lot in Britain. Alex Harvey was recorded live in Hamburg in October 1963, and the backing band turns out to be Kingsize Taylor & The Dominoes, not Harvey’s band as we all thought. It has live effects, but almost certainly these were fake. I Just Wanna Make Love To You was the single, but may be better known by The Sensational Alex Harvey Band later. Harvey does it more urgently than Mick Jagger did and nicks writing credit. Framed also stayed in his live act. Let The Good Times Roll is a notable version. I Got My Mojo Working is obligatory on these albums.

Available LP, the 1988 reissue is common. CD with many bonus tracks
Sample tracks: I Just Wanna Make Love To You, Framed

5  The Animals: The Animals, 1964, Columbia

The Animals: The Animals, 1964, Columbia

Another album that eschewed putting hit singles on, and another selection of R&B classics with Eric Burdon’s soulful voice to the fore. They’d just moved from Newcastle to London with a well-honed club act. Alan Price’s organ was what differentiated them from other bands.

Available: seek out an original LP, otherwise it’s compilations on CD or vinyl, but The Complete Animals (2 CDs / 3 LPs) has most of it, but all mixed up in order.

Sample tracks: Boom Boom, Story of Bo Diddley

6  The Five Faces of Manfred Mann: Manfred Mann, 1964, HMV

The Five Faces of Manfred Mann: Manfred Mann, 1964, HMV

Long before his Radio Two blues programme, Paul Jones was explaining R&B to audiences. Manfred Mann were based around Portsmouth, and featured in a brief late night series on Southern TV where Paul Jones would explain the origins of a song, then they’d play it.  I never missed one. They’re still touring as The Manfreds (without Manfred Mann himself). Note they do songs that are on the Alexis Korner album Got My Mojo Working and Hoochie Coochie Man. Paul Jones has won awards as best R&B harmonica player. He is. The piano on Got My Mojo Working is outstanding in rhythm and tone. They can also take on a female vocal standard It’s Gonna Work Out Fine and do it justice.

Available: LP and CD (also in a 5 CD budget box)

Sample tracks: It’s Gonna Work Out Fine, Smokestack Lightnin’

7  Long John’s Blues: Long Baldry & The Hoochie Coochie Men, 1964, United Artists.

Long John’s Blues: Long Baldry & The Hoochie Coochie Men, 1964, United Artists.

Long John Baldry has to be in here. I really wanted Steampacket, just about the best band I saw in the era. Brian Auger on organ, Long John Baldry in the middle flanked by Julie Driscoll on one side and Rod Stewart on the other. They never did a studio album, and there are multiple versions under multiple titles of live Steampacket tracks, which were a rehearsal demo with The In Crowd, Can I Get A Witness, Don’t Do It, Cry Me A River, It’s Alright. All of the releases are years after the era. So go for Long John’s Blues, recorded a year earlier which was a studio album. Guess what? It has Hoochie Coochie Man, Got My Mojo working, Dimples and My Babe.

Availability: LP the United Artists one is much sought after, but it was reissued on the budget label Hallmark in 1968 as Long John Baldry & The Hoochie Coochie Men. Downside: Hallmark pressings aren’t  great.

Sample tracks: Times Are Getting Tougher Than Tough, Hoochie Coochie Man

8  Five Live Yardbirds: The Yardbirds, 1964 Columbia

Five Live Yardbirds: The Yardbirds, 1964 Columbia

They took over The Rolling Stones’ residencies, and toured backing Sonny Boy Williamson. This was recorded at the Marquee in March 1964. Eric Clapton was the guitarist in this incarnation and sang Good Morning Little Schoolgirl. It’s another album with Smokestack Lightin’ on it. They covered the Isley Brothers on Respectable with booming bass drowning the vocals a tad, and throughout the sound is messy … but it sounds live.

Available: CD, LP

Sample Tracks: Respectable, I’m A Man

9 The Sound of 65: The Graham Bond Organization, 1965, Columbia

The Sound of 65: The Graham Bond Organization, 1965, Columbia

It’s a toss up between this and There’s A Bond Between Us, a few months later. We have Graham Bond on organ, Ginger Baker on drums, Jack Bruce on bass and Dick Heckstall-Smith from Alexis Korner’s album on saxes.  The Sound of 65 is the third album here with both Hoochie Coochie Man and I Got My Mojo Working and it has the incredible Wade In The Water. Jack Bruce was a better singer than Bond but gets fewer tracks, though immediately he’s not doing the R&B imitation vocal. Baby Make Love To Me and Early In The Morning depart from the standard groove and are all the better for it. They were a far better live band than The Yardbirds too.

Available: LP, CD “double” on BGO and you get There’s A Bond Between Us  too. One for the CD for me.
Sample tracks: Wade In The Water, Early In The Morning

10  It Should’ve Been Me: Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band, 1965, Columbia

It Should’ve Been Me: Zoot Money’s Big Roll Band, 1965, Columbia

Zoot Money & The Sands Combo was a band I saw every week in 1963 at Bournemouth Pavilion (Tony Blackburn and The Rovers were the support act). It’s still the best version of Raindrops (sung by Tony Head) I’ve ever heard. At least in memory. Zoot introduced me to the Ray Charles songbook. They moved to London as The Big Roll Band., with Andy Somers on guitar and Paul Williams on bass, as the alternative vocalist with Zoot. It Should’ve Been Me is the story of his life. Zoot never achieved the stature he deserved.

Available: LP, CD, You get a lot of bonus tracks on the CDs, but the LPs are collectable.  If you can’t find it, the next album Zoot! Will do.
Sample tracks: It Should’ve Been Me, I’ll Go Crazy

11  Their First LP: The Spencer Davis Group, 1965, Fontana

Their First LP: The Spencer Davis Group, 1965, Fontana

The same songs appear on these albums … It’s Gonna Work Out Fine, Dimples, My Babe. This has Stevie Winwood on vocals. Millie guests on I’m Blue (The Gong Gong Song). They were a superb live band, and this LP caught them just before they discovered Jackie Edwards and Keep On Running and Somebody Help Me.

Available: LP, CD
Sample Tracks: Jump Back, Every Little Bit Hurts

12  Bluesbreakers: John Mayall with Eric Clapton, 1966, Decca

Bluesbreakers: John Mayall with Eric Clapton, 1966, Decca

The “Beano” album. This forces its way onto any list for the guitar playing from Eric Clapton. John McVie on bass, Hughie Flint on drums. Mayall on vocals, harmonica, organ. I saw John Mayall several times, and it’s a long way from a personal favourite … I’d take the 1969 “drummerless” band on Empty Rooms every time. However, any Clapton fan would need this on the list.

Available LP/ The CD has both mono and stereo versions.
Sample tracks: All Your Love, Steppin’ Out.