Friday, 24 January 2014

The Studio 68! 'Portobellohello' Album review by Paul Hooper-Keeley

The first time that I saw Studio 68 play was when they supported my band, The Threads, in Hamburg in April 1988. This was a time when the old guard of early/mid-eighties Mod bands, such as Makin’ Time, The Moment, The Prisoners, The Risk, The Threads, The Rage, The Gents etc. were breaking up and giving way to the new generation of bands on the scene like The James Taylor Quartet, The Clique, The Aardvarks and The Studio 68!

Although great ‘live’, Studio 68 suffered the fate of many of our bands back then of never getting enough recorded output released (in those pre-iTunes days you really did need the backing of a record label as self-releasing vinyl was very expensive from a band’s perspective, particularly after the cost of those studio recordings).

However, in this MODern world we live in, we do have the benefit of those masters of the archives, Detour Records, to search out (un)known recordings that have never been released as well as putting together some great anthologies (it was thanks to Dizzy & Tania that The Threads very own anthology, ‘Step Back In Time’, went through the process of digital re-mastering to see the light of day on CD and iTunes). And they have done it again with the ‘Portobellohello’ 16-track release (on the Paisley Archive imprint) by The Studio 68! on CD (just 200 copies so get your order in quickly) and on iTunes.

Legend has it that this was an album recorded in 1992 but the master tapes were lost for 20 years. Until now!!!

The first track, ‘Windfall’, really feels like a curtain raiser and is a good opening track. This is followed by the excellent ‘Goodbye Baby and Amen’ with combines organ and guitar to great affect and could easily have been the A-side of a 7” single back in the day. ‘Afternoon Sun’ starts in a more mellow way and soon builds up into another cracking number. ‘The Other Me’ has a real freakbeat vibe whilst ‘Death of a Poet’ is a thoughtful, well written song and really rather good. ‘In A Broken Dream’ is a fabulous instrumental which gives the Hammond a great work-out and is right up my street, and this is followed by the chunky ‘Rollin’ Machine’ and ‘Mrs Choudhrey’. ‘Just Say The Word’ heads into Britpop territory and suggest what could have been (timing is everything, unfortunately) whilst the title track, ‘Portobellohello’, is more floaty, slower paced and experimental in terms of sounds and textures.

The stonking ‘Get Out Of My Hair’ is next up, with its pacey Motown beat and hook-line that makes this another A-side candidate. And just when you think it can’t get any better, it does – ‘Doubledeckerbus’ is a huge song that will have your feet moving before you know it. This is a top, top tune. ‘Lighthouse’ has a very 66/67 feel to it and is another favourite of mine. Heading towards the end of this album we get the fab & groovy ‘Pop Star’s Country Mansion’, the late sixties feeling ‘He’s My Sister’, and finally the finale of ‘How To Succeed In The Music Business’ which is like a Hammond powered spy thriller them tune with the title vocalised 1 minute and 30 seconds into this 2 minute track. A fabulous finish to a magnificent album.

Well done Detour, well done The Studio 68!, and well done to those of you who now go and pre-order this 10th March release before the limited numbers of copies have all gone!!!!!!!

Paul Hooper-Keeley

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