Wednesday, June 13, 2007

London All Stars

Le London All Star - British Percussion Barclay BB-86 (1965)

It's always nice to share a rare record but what about an album that many cite as not existing at all!

Picture the scene, February 1965 and Eddie Barclay, the millionaire playboy owner of Eddy Mitchell's label, the eponimous French Barclay asked Bob Graham, the most prolific and often uncredited session drummer to emerge from the UK pop scene, to produce an album for the French market. Credited to Le London All Star, "British Percussion", released in September 1965, was a stereo showcase, and featured a stunning array of British musicians.

The higher calibre of studios and musicianship in London attracted many acts from abroad. The French pop star Eddy Mitchell was a regular visitor, recording at least eight EPs in London. For Mitchell's releases the session men were dubbed "The London All Stars". Graham recalls: "Charlie Katz rang - 'please be at Pye records, don't ask who the artist is'. I plodded along there, said to (engineer) Bob Auger 'who is it tonight?' - 'Eddy Mitchell', 'who the hell is Eddy Mitchell?". Every record on the Barclay label credited to The London All Stars features Graham, Jimmy Page and Big Jim Sullivan. Other French acts like Francoise Hardy, Michel Polnareff, Eric Saint-Laurent and Sylvie Vartan would also record in London.

Graham used his session colleagues - guitarist John McLaughlin, bassist Alan Weighell, drummers Andy White and Ronnie Verrall. Jimmy Page's contribution was significant. He played lead on every track and co-wrote three with Graham. Before the album's release, Barclay offered Graham a job. "I was taken on as the head of Barclay Records UK. I didn't speak much French, I had an interpreter with me all the time. My job was to produce English artists for the French market. When I joined Barclay I began to stop playing, I just got so tired from the work load. I was tired of playing music I didn't like. Clem Cattini took on a lot of the drumming when I moved from session work".

Finding English language acts for the French market was a somewhat random process. "We put ads in the trade papers - 'artists wanted for auditions'. I produced the In-Betweens (the precursors of Slade) for Barclay at Pye Number 2. I also produced an EP from the singer from Billy Gray and the Stormers, he was called Le Frizzy One. That was Carter, Lewis and Jimmy Page". Ultimately, the French didn't take to the British acts: "You could not get anything English off the ground in France. I got pretty fed up flying backwards and forwards twice a week and I decided to call it a day with Barclay".

But what of the music I hear you ask. Well, it's a joy from start to finish. A bombastic blend of mod groovers that's hard to match - a supreme and swinging blend of jazz and R 'n' B. Banks of trumpets, trombones and french horns blare to the incessant "Mohawk" meanderings of Kenny Salmon's organ. Not only do we have Led Zep's Page on lead but an early outing for John McLaughlin on rhythm guitar makes this an important date. Mr.Page himself once stated,”No such record was made”, and numerous other collectors have also declared this record as myth.

Recorded in Pye Studios, London in a single session - this is history in the making. Their version of 'Image' is perhaps the finest I've ever heard. The real sound of "Swingin' London".

1) Stop The Drums
2) Mexican Shuffle
3) Coming Home Babe
4) Drum Stomp
5) Watermelon Man
6) More (Theme from Mondo Cane)
7) Beefeater
8) Image
9) Night Train
10) Spanish Armada
11) Lord Byron Blues
12) Salvation


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