Friday, January 22, 2010

Well, wobble me Bunch! No. Don’t!

After the lethargy of the Christmas holidays and the recent snow, which limited movements somewhat, it’s been good to get out in the field again and trawl the charity shops and second hand stores. And this year, like last year, I’ve had some early successes, which have set up the rest of the year very nicely. For the next few week at least I will have an extra spring in my step as I do my rounds of the charity shops.

For 50p I couldn’t leave The Who’s “Tommy” in the rack. That was quickly followed by a white label copy of The Brilliant Corners' “Somebody Up There Likes Me”. The Brilliant Corners were a band from my home town that released a number of albums in the 80s to some critical acclaim. Back then their brand of breezy indie pop wasn’t really to my taste but the album was worth a punt simply because they were a Bristol band. On playing it I was pleasantly surprised, it sounded really fresh. A good few of the tracks sound to me like a jaunty Smiths. Now there is another band I have only very recently come to appreciate.

The really good scores happened earlier this week. One lunchtime I had to pay an emergency visit to the bank to pay a wedge of cash in to prevent our son incurring some probably eyewatering charges (the banks have to find the money to pay those bonuses somehow don’t they?). Almost as an afterthought I quickly popped into our local branch of Cancer Research. They often have some interesting albums but usually ask too much for them. They obviously have someone pricing up the records who thinks they know what they’re doing – no fun. The latest visit found them running true to form, they were asking £15 for a copy of an early Dusty Springfield album and £30 for Ike & Tina Turner’s “River Deep..” album. But for every overpriced (or at least priced out of my range) album by a well known artist there is often something less well known that is more than reasonably priced (their expert isn’t so cute after all). And so it proved this time. For only £2 each I picked up The Gil Evans Orchestra “Out Of The Cool” on a UK Impulse reissue and also the album featured here – “It’s Just Begun” by The Jimmy Castor Bunch. Not particularly rare or in demand albums, but quality. I’m glad to have them and they are certainly worth more than the asking price.

Both albums are in excellent shape and I am confident the “Bunch” is an original 1972 US issue. Confident for two reasons: one - the back cover is pasted paper on card, and two - it’s a Dynaflex disc. RCA issued Dynaflex pressed LPs in the 70s. My copy of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” is a Dynaflex disc so I knew what to expect. But, trust me, if you have never come across one before the first time you handle a Dynaflex disc you will utter the words “what the ****?”. They are alarmingly thin and floppy. Never mind a needle and turntable, I’m sure Rolf Harris would be able to get a good sound out of them!

I had always been intrigued with my “Space Oddity” disc and my latest purchase prompted me to see what I could find on the internet about Dynaflex. It turns out it has it’s own Wiki page. Dynaflex was manufactured and used by RCA for LPs throughout the 70s. I also found a news item about its launch in a January 1971 edition of Billboard. Be sure to follow the article onto Billboard page 66 where you will see somebody folding a Dynaflex disc in half! Ouch! There is no way I’m going to try that on my new purchase.

The jury seemed to always be out on the merits of Dynaflex. It was apparently free of trapped air bubbles and imperfections in the manufacturing process and also less susceptible to scratching resulting in a long life without surface noise – something I would agree with on my limited experience. But equally people felt that bass response and dynamic range was not as good – something I can’t make my mind up on.

Enough rambling. Let’s hear something from “It’s Just Begun”. Issued in 1972 the title track has belatedly become relatively well known following numerous samplings. Another track on the album is “Trogoldyte”, something of a novelty funk tune, a favourite of mine I remember getting radio plays back in the day, and it brought a smile to my face again. Most of the other tracks are very redolent of the early 70s – heavy rock-influenced guitar fuelled percussive funk workouts with a pinch of early Funkadelic, and a wonderful open sound to the horns that remind me of the feel achieved on early Earth, Wind & Fire albums.  

The Jimmy Castor Bunch – L.T.D (Life, Truth, Death) 1972      

The Jimmy Castor Bunch – You Better Be Good 1972

Buy It's Just Begun/Phase Two on CD

Hey Rolf, don’t get any ideas – my Jimmy Castor Bunch LP is not a wobble board, ok!

(By the way, I am spending way too much time reading old copies of Billboard on Google books. For instance in this Jan ‘71 edition I noticed that Walter Brennan sang Clive Dunn’s “Grandad” for the US market. Also, I noticed that Led Zeppelin III was listed in the Top 100 Soul Albums).  


davy h said...

And just think, Rolf's Stylophone's on 'Space Oddity' too!

Darcy said...

If I knew that I had forgotten! Also I have just read that Bowie's Stylophone was a present from Marc Bolan.