Here Comes The Weekend Again
Itís good to see John Carney give props to The Carpenters again. The first LP I can remember owning was a Carpenters album. Now And Then was a birthday present that I picked out of the racks in the local Woolworths. I would have been maybe nine or ten years old, and I really wanted it because of the Ferrari on the sleeve. When you are nine or ten these things matter.

Iím not sure that owning a Carpenters album when you are nine or ten is such a great idea, but then again, why not? Iíd be lying though if I said that Now And Then made a huge impact on my life, and Iíd be lying too if I said that album is safely stowed in my record boxes in the corner of the attic. Instead it languishes in my parentís house, although I do look forward to being reunited with the CD reissue that even as I type is winging its way to me courtesy of those fine people at Amazon.

Since weíre on the subject of the Carpenters, I need to draw your attention to the exquisite The Last Word collection by Chuck and Mary Perrin. Another sublime brother and sister act, Chuck and Mary made a couple of albums for their own Last Word label at the tail end of the Ď60s, and it's these two albums that make up this Rev-Ola collection that is guaranteed to blow your mind. The first album. Brother and Sister, is a glorious folk record with a hefty helping of delicious covers rubbing shoulders with original Perrin compositions. Of the covers, itís inevitably their peach of a version of John Sebastianís ĎA Younger Generationí that catches my attention, and do you know, Iím almost tempted to say I prefer this to the original Loviní Spoonful recording and thatís saying a hell of a lot. And how can you resist their take on Donovanís ĎCircus of Sourí or the very beautiful ĎViolets of Dawní?

The Next of Kin album that follows has more Perrin originals and a full band and is a masterful example of soft pop-folk that holds too many treasures to name. Ardent connection spotters can trace a direct line from Chuck and Mary to Nirvana (and yes I do mean the ones of the teen spirit and not the ones who did French TV with Salvador Dali) through Next Of Kin, but most will be content to recognise that really Chuck and Mary were making records that presaged the whole singer/songwriter trend of the early í70s. Thereís even a delightful William Carlos Williams poem in there. Oh, and should you need recommendation from sources higher then me, bear this in mind: Karen Carpenter herself was a fan, and wrote them saying that if they had more control over their careers then they would surely cover one the Perrinís songs. Chuck rightly cherishes that letter to this day. Well, who wouldnít?

Naturally Iíve been digging a lot of other Rev-Ola releases recently too, although none reach the heights of the Chuck and Mary collection. Liz Damonís Orient Express comes closest, being a great example of that laid back Ďloungeí style that was in vogue in the early Ď70s and that made a comeback in the second half of the Ď90s. Is it still in vogue anywhere? With the way culture is so fragmented these days it probably is, and thatís only got to be good news if it means records like this can find a slot on the record store shelves. Not that Iíve ever seen this or other Rev-Ola delights on the record store shelves in Exeter, but you know what I mean.

Nearly as sunny as the Liz Damonís Orient Express album is their White Whale Records label mates Triste Janero. Meet Triste Janero conjures images of Brazilian tinged soft pop, although there were actually no band members of Latin origin. Not that it matters, of course. Playing this now helps me forget the cold, makes me remember that maybe Spring isnít too far away after all.

Doing a similar job is Intercourse by The Tokens. Amazingly, given the Tokensí track record (massive number one with ĎThe Lion Sleeps Tonightí in 1961, nine more top 100 singles in the following seven or eight years, producers of the Chiffons and Tony Orlando and Dawn, not to mention the fact that Neil Sedaka started out in the TokensÖ) only about 200 copies of this album were pressed in 1969. Guaranteed mythic status as a result, the Rev-ola crew have managed to finally salvage it for a full CD release. Given itís time of recording, itís natural that Intercourse is suffused with a West Coast feel that recalls Pet Sounds Beach Boys (important to recall too that it was doo-wop groups like The Tokens who so inspired the Wilson clan in the first place). Mitch Margo said that he wanted to make Intercourse an Ďaudio antidepressantí and in that he certainly succeeded. With the winter spreading its fingers so far into the year, itís just what we need.

So Rev-Ola continues to delight, maintains its impressive output of magical time capsules of intriguing and overlooked glories of Pop wonder. And I havenít even mentioned the releases by Twin Engine, The Everpresent Fullness and Hearts and Flowers that have also been spinning around my head of late. And with the Jasmine Minks collection due at the end of March in what will no doubt be another burst of Rev-Ola activity, my bank manager had better watch out again.

© 2004Alistair Fitchett

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