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Rock It To Mars (MP3), MP3 (£7.99)
Flushed with the gratification of reviewing the "Rama Lama" (CDWIKM 240) I'm back to take a shake at ROCK-IT-TO MARS, the second CD in the Rocky Sharpe & the Replays Ace trilogy. You'll have to wait a little longer for the third in the series - SHOUT! SHOUT! - but in the meantime let me tell you something about this new CD.
Martian Hop charted in the UK and Europe back in 1980 and had been chosen to follow the success of the wild and weird Rama Lama Ding Dong and Imagination. Importantly for me I got to sing "Papa hum meh meh" for pretty much the whole song. Don't try it at home alone without oxygen available.
But while Martian Hop was another hit, the "novelty" tag was a hard one to carry for a band that knew that it had more to offer. It was time to go on the road and that prospect meant putting a band together - The Topliners, featuring the budding tenor talents of Joe Vivaldi aka Tim Sanders of the Kick Horns. In addition to touring the band stopped off at Chipping Norton Studios with the Replays to lay these tracks down.
The choice of tracks reflects the schizophrenia that follows chart success. How else could the Hollywood Flames' Buzz Buzz Buzz hold company with Pet Clark's You're The One or the Clovers' Love Bug join Little Peggy March's I Will Follow Him? Come to think of it how does Martian Hop fit with anything?
The best way to explain the choices was simply that we could. The four individual Replays reflected different aspects of a diverse musical era and the fun was exploring that diversity. There were no rules and who was to say what was right or wrong? Hit or miss? For the most part we succeeded in bringing something different to familiar tracks and we rediscovered some lost treasures. In retrospect not everything worked but I admit to a deepening cynicism that comes with age and unwanted responsibility. Perhaps we could have used the first take - maybe we should have done whatever. I might even question why anyone might want to drag old songs into a new light. The simple answer is pleasure. It is a pleasure that Ace customers know only too well.
The thrill of singing a great song and making it your own is deeply satisfying. Some songs you can steal, others you might only borrow but you don't know which until you try. For the Replays this CD stands at a threshold. It is an exploration, an expression of fun. Listen very carefully to the intro on (I'm Afraid) The Masquerade Is Over on long loan from Clyde MacPhatter. The song was chosen to highlight Eric Rondo (aka producer Mike Vernon) with a bass lead. As with many songs the lyrics on the original were not fully intelligible so we obtained the sheet music to check. Nether Clyde's version nor even the Blenders' 1950 version included the intro that was written on the score that opened with the words "My blue horizon is turning grey". If you are ahead of me you will have noted that Mike's blues label from the 60s just happened to be called Blue Horizon. Irony? The discovery of the intro was pure magic and had us stitches. It had to be included but it sounded a little miserable. So with the aid of a small chicken - I said listen carefully! - and every saucepan from the studio kitchen we added our own 'Spike Jones' effect. The intro stayed in.
Just as my memory starts to home-in on these sessions I spy the end of this review approaching so I had better mention the bonus tracks which you will note are three original songs plus your chance to copy Rocky or try your own Ran-Dells squeaky vocals on Martian Hop. You've Gone Away brings in a New Orleans-flavour from Helen. Happy New Year and Have a Good New Year were the B-side of a Christmas EP. You do remember EPs? I had nearly forgotten. Anyway, I confess to having some part in writing Happy New Year and while it may have stretched the Replays beyond our self-imposed restraints it was nevertheless chosen for broadcast by a Spanish TV show. I still have odd dreams about the troupe of female dancing Santas that cavorted behind us and often wonder what the audience made of Rocky's entire head being covered in spray-on silly-string by the end of the song.
Well that's it! Buy "Rock-It To Mars" and enjoy its diversity, its fun and, as my 16 year old son added as he read this over my shoulder, its nuttiness.
By JAN PODSIADLY