- Released: June 17, 2009
- Label: Fantastic Voyage
Liner Note Author: Spencer Leigh.
This album kicked around LP cut-out bins in the United States for years before being recognized as the musical artifact that it was. It is a fraud in one vital respect -- none of it was cut in the presence of an audience. It was recorded at the Cavern, however (with deejay Bob Wooler's contribution and the crowd noise added later), and it features three acts that represent something of the range of the typical Liverpool "beat" act of the time. And one of the three, Michael Allen, who was 17 at the time he cut these sides, went on to a pop/rock career in the '70s, including U.S. releases on the MGM label. But for the other two, Earl Preston's Realms and the Richmond Group, the five sides that each recorded appear to be the sole surviving testament to their talent. There's nothing groundbreaking from anyone here, Earl Preston's Realms opening the album with a pair of rock & roll covers, of Marvin Gaye and Fats Domino material, that were spirited and entertaining but nothing special; and one somewhat diverting original, "Missing You," that shows they were listening to Billy J. Kramer's records, especially his covers of Beatles songs; another claimed original, "Nobody But You," comes perilously close to the Drifters' "Nobody But Me." Michael Allen is a surprisingly charismatic presence in this company, covering "Telegram" (a number associated with Georgie Fame) and the brooding, moody "Evenin'" (a Jimmy Witherspoon number that Denny Laine of the Moody Blues could have done wonders with); and his rendition of "Trains and Boats and Planes" is worth hearing. The third act here, the Richmond Group (referred to simply as "the Richmonds" by Wooler), is a stomping rock & roll outfit typical of the pre-Beatles era. They do very good things with Bo Diddley's "Cops and Robbers," and sound as though they might have had a good album or EP in them. Their one apparent original here, "I Won't Let You Down," is a surprise, a brooding, soulful ballad that somehow anticipates some of the tone of the Kinks' "Rosie Won't You Please Come Home," as well as showing the influence of the Rolling Stones' "Play with Fire" -- that they close with their own take on the Stones' "I'm Alright" shows how closely they listened to the latter band. None of these three acts reveal any earth-shattering greatness in the music at hand, but one wouldn't have minded hearing a complete LP by any of them, based on the evidence here. The audio quality is, surprisingly -- given that this is a licensed release, taken from original master tapes -- still a little shaky in spots, but head and shoulders above the LP editions of this material. The annotation is thorough, though not as well researched as it might have been, and the whole package is a bargain, at least for fans of British Invasion-era rock & roll or the Merseybeat sound. ~ Bruce Eder