Sunday, April 26, 2015

Simon Dupree & Big Sound - Without Reservations (UK 1967)

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Simon Dupree & the Big Sound's sole LP was, oddly, recorded and released prior to their one big British hit, the psychedelic pop single "Kites." It's in much more of a blue-eyed soul vein than "Kites" (or some of their other subsequent work), with hints of ska and pop, though its brassy American-styled soul-with-organ that carries the day. As far as such British acts went, Simon Dupree & the Big Sound were neither the best nor the worst; they were pretty driving and soulful, actually, but not too innovative or creative. 

Too, this kind of blue-eyed soul was just starting to pass out of fashion in the U.K. by the time it came out in 1967, though the LP did edge into the British Top 40. Still, this has some pretty fair soul-rock cuts, like their version of the Five Americans' "I See the Light," their cover of a young Albert Hammond's "Reservations," and "Love," a pretty cool exuberant number penned by Jackie Edwards, who'd written hits for the Spencer Davis Group. Some of their original tunes and attempts at heavier, more serious soul, however, are more plodding and not nearly as inviting. 

Simon Dupree and the Big Sound were a British psychedelic rock/psychedelic pop band formed by three Scottish brothers, Derek Shulman, born 1947 (vocals), Phil Shulman, born 1937 (vocals, saxophone, trumpet), and Ray Shulman, born 1949 (guitar, violin, trumpet, vocals); also known for their later prog rock band, Gentle Giant.

They started as The Howling Wolves and then became The Road Runners, playing R&B around the Portsmouth area, home of the Shulman brothers, becoming Simon Dupree and the Big Sound in early 1966. Making up the rest of the group were Peter O'Flaherty (bass guitar) (born 8 May 1944, in Gosport, Hampshire), Eric Hine (keyboards) (born Eric Raymond Lewis Hines, 4 September 1944, in Portsmouth, Hampshire), and Tony Ransley (drums) (born Anthony John Ransley, 17 May 1944, in Portsmouth, Hampshire). 

Those early group names aside, their repertory was focused a lot more on the 
songs of Wilson Pickett, Don Covay, and Otis Redding, than on the Howlin' Wolf or Bo Diddley. 'Simon Dupree and the Big Sound' came about in the course of their search for a flashy name.

The group were signed to EMI's Parlophone label, under producer Dave Paramor. Their first few singles, notably "I See The Light" (1966), failed to chart, then in October 1967, the group's management and their record label decided to try moving Simon Dupree and the Big Sound in the direction of psychedelia.

Simon Dupree And The Big Sound - France Single 1968
They broke through at the end of 1967 with the psychedelic "Kites", a Top 10 hit in the UK Singles Chart. Regarding themselves as blue-eyed soul brothers, they hated it as it was so unrepresentative of their usual style. The follow-up, "For Whom The Bell Tolls", was only a minor hit, and a subsequent single "Broken Hearted Pirates", featuring an uncredited Dudley Moore on piano, made no headway at all.

A then unknown keyboard player by the name of Reginald Dwight was hired to fill in for an ill Eric Hine and he joined them on a 1967 tour in Scotland. They were asked to allow him to stay on, and he was almost recruited as a permanent member. They politely rejected the chance to record any of his compositions (although they did ultimately record "I'm Going Home" as the B-side of their final (contractually obligated single), and laughed when he told them he was adopting the stage name of Elton John. On 5 April 1968, Simon Dupree and the Big Sound appeared alongside Amen Corner, Gene Pitney, Don Partridge and Status Quo at The Odeon Theatre, Lewisham, London, on the first night as part of a twice nightly UK tour. 

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In early 1969 they were booked to appear at the Lanchester Polytechnic in Coventry, but did not turn up. Their support act Raymond Froggatt played the entire evening.

The group released one studio album; Without Reservation, on Parlophone Records (1967), and a compilation Amen (1980). A more recent set, Part Of My Past (2004), includes all their singles, album tracks and previously unreleased material prepared for their second album, release of which was cancelled at the time.

In late 1968, they released a single "We Are The Moles (Part 1)/(Part 2)" under the moniker The Moles. Released on the Parlophone label, the single did not give any hint towards the identity of the artists, claiming that both songs were written, performed and produced by The Moles. Rumours began to spread that it was an obscure output by The Beatles, who also were under contract at Parlophone, with Ringo Starr on lead vocals. When interest began to rise concerning the release, Syd Barrett stated that Simon Dupree & The Big Sound were the faces behind The Moles. Confronted with this, the band admitted.

Frustrated as being seen as one-hit wonders being pushed by their record label as a pop group rather than the soul band they had always intended to be, they disbanded in 1969 and the Shulman brothers went on to form the progressive rock group Gentle Giant.

01. Medley: 60 Minutes of Your Love, A Lot of Love
02. Love
03. Get Off My Bach
04. There's a Little Picture Playhouse
05. Day Time, Night Time
06. I See the Light
07. What Is Soul
08. Teacher, Teacher
09. Amen
10. Who Cares
11. Reservations

1. Link
2. Link


Rocking--Byrd said...

I had the chance to see them perform at the Locarno Ballroom in Glasgow, Scotland in the summer of 1967, and they were excellent.

Anonymous said...

Thanx a lot!

Anonymous said...

I saw them in a theatre whose name I have forgotten. They were supporting the Beach Boys just after "Good vibrations" came out. If I remember correctly, Helen Shapiro was third on the bill. I certainly remember they played "Day Time, Night Time" and Derek Shulman doing this magnificent leap which nearly crossed half the stage.