Friday, April 9, 2010

Calling All You Ravers!

British Invasion - Small Faces from Naxos of America on Vimeo.

The above is a trailer for the Small Faces documentary, All or Nothing, which is a part of the brilliant new set that also includes docs on Dusty, Herman's Hermits, and Gerry & The Pacemakers.

This excellent review by the well-respected Gene Sculatti was passed on to me by Mr. Bob Merlis:

The British Invasion
Gerry & the Pacemakers, Dusty Springfield, The Small Faces and Herman’s Hermits
Reelin’ In The Years/Voyage Digital Media
By Gene Sculatti
Well, as F. Zappa put it at one time or another, this is a tasty little sucker. Available as four individual volumes (on Dusty Springfield, Gerry & the Pacemakers, the Small Faces and Herman’s Hermits) or as a deluxe box set (which adds a fifth, two-and-a-half-hour disc), it’s a welcome addition to the documentation of mid-’60s music. If its scope is limited--let’s hope for additional volumes--this set is a giant leap forward from the usual fare, which has tended to be thin on footage and way too long on a short list of talking heads. Indeed, British Invasion’s chief assets are the abundance and quality of its visuals (all full performances, from vintage TV appearances) and the insights and brevity of its commentaries (from artists and associates; no critics).

Watching these, it’s hard to dispel the notion that the Invasion’s first wave was its freshest splash, that after the Summer of Love the waters got overly roiled. Supporting evidence: the Pacemakers set, It’s Gonna Be All Right 1963-1965 and the Hermits’ Listen People 1964-1969. If “Ferry ‘Cross the Mersey” still sounds drippy, Gerry’s pop-rockers (most of the 17 clips) are alive and kicks-filled: “I Like It,” “Shot of Rhythm and Blues,” “I’m the One,” “Pretend.” As for the Hermits, admittedly the stories about producer Mickie Most and how the band came to cut stuff like “I’m Henry VIII, I Am” are as interesting as some of the tracks themselves, but the Shindig, Ed Sullivan Show and other-sourced performances of “I’m Into Something Good,” “Wonderful World,” “Dandy,” “There’s a Kind of a Hush,” etc. convey perfectly the innocent joy of the era. In footage from a 1964 Cavern Club performance of “Fortune Teller,” Peter Noone looks like, and dances about as well as, Jagger did at the same stage.

The Small Faces obviously rate as a more important outfit than Herman’s or Gerry’s. For Steve Marriott’s singing and guitarring alone, All or Nothing 1965-1968 is essential. This is also the most music-dense volume, packing 27 performances into its set list. “Watcha Gonna Do About It,” “Sha La La La La La Lee” and the impossibly great “All or Nothing” burn, as do “Here Come the Nice” and “Itchycoo Park,” but the nine primitively psychedelic clips from 1968’s Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake tend to run on. Still, such footage retains an edge, a real go-for-broke adventurousness that was the later 60s’ defining quality, and it’s something the merely pop-leaning Pacemakers and Hermits clips conspicuously lack.

No such distinctions mar Dusty Springfield’s Once Upon a Time 1964-1969. She’s on target throughout the period, singing superbly and, just as crucial, selecting her material with unerring instincts. Here the former Mary O’Brien is seen in almost two dozen TV performances (a great “All Cried out” from a ’66 Sullivan show, a ’65 “I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself”) and amply analyzed--by herself in a 1978 interview and in a recent sit-down with Burt Bacharach. Once Upon a Time may be The British Invasion’s most consistently enjoyable view. Dusty also occupies the lion’s share of the box set’s bonus disc: 10 more TV performances (including “I Only Want to Be with You” and “24 Hours from Tulsa”) and additional Australian interview footage. The Hermits pop in for seven more performances (all from 1967), and there are 90 minutes of interviews with Noone, Marsden, Bacharach and various Faces (including the last filmed Q&A with Ronnie Lane). Two thumbs up. Now, how about volumes on the rest of the armada--Kinks, Zombies, Animals, Hollies and let’s not leave out the Pretty Things--for starters?

— 03/05/2010

Stay tuned for more information about this set, which is also featured in the latest Goldmine and the next Ugly Things!

The scans above are from the August 1966 issue of Rave, the '60s music and fashion magazine.