Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Alan Bown! - 1967 - Outward Brown

The Alan Bown! 
Outward Brown


01. Toyland 2:34
02. Magic Handkerchief 3:16
03. Little Lesley 2:10
04. All Along the Watchtower 3:09
05. Sally Green 3:19
06. Penny for Your Thoughts 3:39
07. Storybook 3:15
08. Technicolor Dream 2:55
09. Love Is a Beautiful Thing 3:32
10. Violin Shop 3:01
11. You're Not In My Class 3:34
12. My Girl the Month of May 2:48

Alan Bown – Trumpet
Stan Haldane - Bass, Vocals
Jeff Bannister - Keyboards/Vocals
John Helliwell – Sax
Robert Palmer – Vocals
Vic Sweeney – Drums
Tony Catchpole – Guitar
Jess Roden – Vocals
Gordon Neville – Vocals
Andy Brown - Bass, Vocals

The Alan Bown Set was formed mid-1965 with the following personnel: Alan Bown - leader/trumpet, Dave Green - sax/flute, Jeff Bannister - organ/lead vocals, Stan Haldane - bass guitar/vocals, Pete Burgess - guitar/vocals and Vic Sweeney - drums/vocals. Green, Haldane and Bannister had previously been in The John Barry Seven with Alan Bown, whom John Barry had appointed as leader.

After signing a deal with Pye Records, The Alan Bown Set recorded their first single, which featured Jeff Bannister on lead vocals. ‘Can’t Let Her Go’ was nominated the A-side with the Curtis Mayfield song, ‘I’m The One Who Loves You’ on the B-side. ‘I’m The One’ was a much livelier track and had previously been part of The John Barry Seven’s repertoire thus sounding more honed. Preferring this track, Tony Hatch, the producer, suggested it should be the A-side, but a record company decision outvoted him. ‘Can’t Let Her Go’ was released in September 1965.

In January 1966, Dave Green left the band and was replaced by John Anthony Helliwell. Soon after, in February 1966, lead vocalist Jess Roden joined the band and his vocals were featured on the next single, ‘Everything’s Gonna Be Alright’ followed not long after with the more successful single, ‘Headline News’.

In July 1966, The Alan Bown Set appeared on ‘Ready Steady Go’ and two days later, made their debut at The Windsor Jazz Festival. These events were interspersed with appearances at the famous Marquee Club in London.

In September1966, the band recorded ‘London Swings Live at the Marquee Club’, a live album with The Alan Bown Set featured on one side and Jimmy James and The Vagabonds on the other. In November, Pete Burgess was replaced by Tony Catchpole.

Early in 1967, Jacques Loussier commissioned The Alan Bown Set to record a soundtrack for the film ‘Jeu De Massacre’. This was premiered at the1967 Cannes Film festival, which the band attended and whilst in the area made an appearance on Monte Carlo TV.

Later in 1967, the band dropped the suffix ‘Set’ and became The Alan Bown! Another prestigious Windsor Jazz Festival followed and further singles, ‘Toyland’, ‘Story Book’ and the first album, ‘Outward Bown’, were released.

During 1968, the band made several television appearances. ‘All Systems Freeman’, ‘The Simon Dee Show’ and ‘Eamonn Andrews Today’.

In August 1968, the band appeared on ‘Top of the Pops’, performing the single ‘We Can Help You’. Already at number 26 in the national charts, it was assured a higher place the following week but then the pressing plant for the record label MGM went on strike and halted production. By the time the dispute was resolved, the single had lost crucial potential sales and disappeared from the charts.

Soon after this debacle, the band appeared on a major TV spectacular hosted by Jack Good, entitled ‘Innocence, Anarchy and Soul’.

In 1969, two more singles were released, ‘Still as Stone’ and ‘Gypsy Girl’. A new album was issued on Deram, simply entitled ‘The Alan Bown!' Immediately after recording the album, Jess Roden announced his departure. Alan Bown then recruited Robert Palmer who re-recorded the vocals on the album prior to its release.

Island Records signed the band early in 1970 and a new album entitled ‘Listen’ was released, featuring Robert Palmer. An appearance followed on BBC TV’s Disco 2 (a forerunner of the Old Grey Whistle Test). Robert Palmer decided to leave the band as soon as the new album had been completed. In mid-1970, Gordon Neville re-recorded all the vocal tracks on the album and Robert departed in October.

A new single, featuring vocalist Gordon Neville, was released in November 1970 on Island records entitled, ‘Pyramid’. In December, long serving bassist Stan Haldane left and his replacement was Andy Brown. A new album for Island Records followed, entitled ‘Stretching Out’.

In March 1971, the band made its second appearance on BBC TV’s Disco 2. In July 1971, Jeff Bannister left the band to pursue a solo career. The band decided to continue without a keyboard player. Andy Brown left in September 1971 and was replaced by Dougie Thompson and during the following month, Tony Catchpole also left. His replacement was Derek Griffiths.

This line-up continued until the demise of The Alan Bown! in February 1972. Alan then reformed the band for one last tour with Dave Lawson on keyboards, Tony Dangerfield on bass/lead vocals, Frank White on guitar and Alan Coulter on drums, but no recordings with this line-up were released. The last appearances of this band were in July 1972.

More information can be found in the book ‘The Alan Bown Set – Before and Beyond’ by Jeff Bannister, published by Banland Publishing Ltd.

Like many others, Alan Bown apparently pursued success by following trends; however – and I’m ready to admit this is just a personal opinion - there’s like a sense of mission in the commitment that fuels the projects he was part of which, although those groups were never really groundbreaking or chart-breaking, makes the body of work they left behind really worth exploring;

“Outward Bound” is the group’s  sole album after they had dropped the “Set” suffix, with which they’d been part  of London Swings: Live at the Marquee Club, and had been joined by lead vocalist Jess Roden – whose vocal talents and outstanding expressivity which would turn him into a cult figure among Rock aficionados are extensively showcased throughout- ,and flexible guitarist Tony Catchpole who, unlike Roden who’d soon abandon due to the band’s lack of success, would become a key pillar of the band’s sound up until their final implosion; the face-lifting obviously  corresponded to a shift in musical identity, which saw them abandoning the Soul and Black influences and setting  the coordinates of their new direction within Flower-Pop approved parameters; yet the fluidity of the genre’ s boundaries allied to their genetic urge to experiment would guarantee this is not just a brainless, silly quest for banal Chart’s acceptance.

They do certainly occasionally sound like Bee Gees clones, and the album does includes all the Singles they’d had been releasing in the hope of making some waves; but while the decision of making a cover of (UK’s)Nirvana’s “We Can Help You” might have derived from despair, there was sufficient songwriting talent inside the group to pen material of similar strength as for instance that Singles’ flip side, the quasi-anthemic “Magic Handkerchief”, or the Beatles-esque, sing-along “Mutiny” certify, a strength further showcased on elaborated, and multiparted Psych-Pop tunes such as “Story Book” or “Violin Shop” all of which gained immensely from the rich tonal palette the seven men strong line-up ( which also included Jeff Bannister keyboards, Bown trumpet and flugelhorn, John Helliwell sax, clarinet and recorder, Stan Haldane bass and Vic Sweeney drums) could generate, with harpsichords, mellotrons and strings being used with taste and moderation alongside brass and woodwinds .

On other occasions the band reverts to covers and let their Soul roots resurface with brass power and Small Faces like style on “Love Is a Beautiful Thing”, or with Psych-Rock inflections on “My Girl the Month of May”; also noteworthy is their take, at Roden’s suggestion, on Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower”, a live act favorite which admittedly Chas Chandler was so famously impressed with that he suggested Hendrix should cover it too; yet, this harder edge is also found on the Bown/Bannister original “Penny for Your Thoughts”, as the ultimate proof of the broadness of their horizons and as a hint at future developments.

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