The Innocents, a harmony trio from Sun Valley, California, scored four quick hits – twice in their own right with ‘Honest I Do’ and ‘Gee Whiz’, and twice with Kathy Young (‘A Thousand Stars’ and ‘Happy Birthday Blues’) – on the mysterious Indigo label of Los Angeles. Following its collapse in 1962, the cool trio went on to record equally strong material for Reprise, Decca and Warner Brothers, all of which is heard here, together with previously unissued masters from the same period in stunning stereo. None of this – even the tunes originally released on 45s back in the 60s - has ever appeared on CD before. Better still, the cache of unissued Warner Brothers and Reprise material is worth the price of the CD alone. Also included are two versions of the Innocents’ superb rogue 45, ‘Tick Tock’. A couple of the guys later moonlighted as the Sugar Beats on an A&M single, and that’s here too.
“Classic Innocents” serves as a companion volume to Ace’s previous “The Complete Indigo Recordings”, to this day, a popular catalogue item. The new CD contains a substantial (8000 word) narrative describing the trials and tribulations of the three all-American boys, interlaced with rare personal memorabilia from surviving members Jim West and Al Candelaria. The mastering, as you’d expect, is state-of-the-art.
(If you are wondering why a couple of the tunes, ‘Honest I Do’ and ‘In The Beginning’, appear on both CDs, that is because they are quite different versions. The earlier CD inadvertently featured an outtake of ‘Honest I Do’ missing the bass and brushes heard on the actual 45. This CD includes the correct Indigo single master. Similarly, ‘In The Beginning’ is the correct 45 version not the substantially different take heard on “The Complete Indigo Recordings”.)
Lead tenor West was a truly exceptional vocalist, easily the equal of better-known contemporaries, and one who was able to transcend time and fashion – he later fronted a rock band who recorded forAtlanticin the 1970s. Among some solo demos he recorded, we found ‘Time Ain’t Been Wastin’’, a gem of a song and performance that begged inclusion. Just before Indigo folded in 1962, Jim West recorded a rare solo single for the label as Bobby James and that too has been included, neatly squaring the circle by making the Innocents’ entire recorded output available on Ace.
By Rob Finnis