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The Bats - The Bats Turn You On
 

The Bats - The Bats Turn You On

Price: $250.00 currently not available     
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Genre: pop
Rating: 3 stars ***
Title:  The Bats Turn You on
Company: CBS
Catalog: ASF 1395
Year: 1969
Country/State: South Africa/UK
Grade (cover/record): VG/VG+
Comments: South African pressing; minor wear to cover, crinkles along right corner
Available: 1
Catalog ID: 289
Price: $250.00


I've had a longstanding interest in '60s and '70 South African bands, but the genre's hard to locate in the States and expensive when you can find it. So with that backdrop, I have to admit I don't know a great deal about The Bats. Drummer Eddie Eckstein and multi-instrumentalist Barry Jaman seemingly met in the late-'50s when they were playing at a resort outside of Johannesburg. Discovering a mutual interest in popular music they set about forming a band. By 1964 they'd recruited ex-The Vikings keyboardist Paul Ditchfield and were performing as The Bats. They quickly added English singer/guitarist Jimmy Dunning to the lineup and began rehearsing, scoring a demo with CBS which promptly signed them to a contract.

Following a brief and unsuccessful attempt to make it on the British music scene (they even had a 45 release in the US), The Bats returned to South Africa in 1969. Having lost Dunning (he decided to return to the UK), the band recruited former 004's singer/guitarist Pete Clifford, releasing 1969's Johnny Boshoff produced "The Bats Turn You On". Offering up a mixture of band-penned originals and American and English cover tunes, I've got to tell you everything about this album looked and sounded amazingly dated. The band's clothing and demeanor, large segments of the music - it all sounded way more 1967 than 1969 and would have been equally dated back in 1969. I'm not a political science major and my knowledge of apartheid-era South Africa is pretty limited, but my guess is that much of that cultural and musical "lag" was a result of the cultural, economic, and political embargo slapped on South Africa. Kind of hard to be cutting edge when you don't have a clue what's going on in the rest of the world. That's not to imply these guys weren't talented (after all they were known as the South African Beatles ... I'm not making that up). Assuming they played their own instruments (and I have no reason to doubt it), they were easily as good as most of their British and American contemporaries. I'd also underscore the fact the four band originals were all top-notch; way better than most of the lame cover tunes. Shame they weren't given the chance to showcase more original material.

- 'Melody Fayre' was a decent slice of toytown-styled pop-psych. Very tuneful with, acid-tinged lyrics, tons of harmony vocals, and a super commercial melody, it may have been released in 1969, but had a very 1967 feel to it. As mentioned above, guess apartheid slowed everything down in South Africa including musical tastes. rating: **** stars
- Musically their cover of 'Build Me Up Buttercup' didn't differ all that much from The Foundations hit version, but unlike the original, their performance had all the excitement of an empty beer bottle. Hard to believe they managed to take a great pop song and make it boring. rating: ** stars
- Wonder how The Fab Four felt about a South African band covering one of their tunes; not that they could do much about it ... 'Ob La Di - Ob La Da' was another cover that didn't stray too far from the original, but once again, the performance was flat and lifeless so the end couldn't come soon enough. rating: ** stars
- 'Rickshaw Riding' was truly bizarre and kind of cool because it was so strange ... structurally it sounded like they'd simply appropriated a kiddy nursery rhyme, setting it to music; added strumming guitars and assorted sound effects (weirdly tuned banjo, handclaps and police whistle). rating: **** stars
- I don't know if had something to do with having to sing in English rather than Afrikaans, but their cover of Jimmy Webb's 'Wichita Lineman' was another strange offering. The Glen Campbell version was pretty mellow, but their xylophone propelled cover was positively sleep inducing. rating: ** stars
- I still have no idea what 'The Rock Machine' was about. It opened up with a spoken word segment that I guess was suppose to be funny and then shifted into a pop-segment, before ending with some Segovia-styled guitar and a seemingly endless section that melded the title chant with some squealing female vocalists. Why CBS tapped this one as a single is a complete mystery since it sounded like a chewing gum ad than a real song. rating: *** stars
- Stripping off the song's original psychedelic edge, reduced their cover of 'Dizzy' to a pleasant pop excursion. Giving kudos where due Ditchfield's keyboard fills were fun. rating: *** stars
- I guess their must have been a certain degree of irony having a white South African band cover a tune recorded by a black British band .... Maybe not. I will tell you that while their cover of The Equals' 'I Get So Excited' didn't come close to matching the Eddy Grant and company original, it made for the album's best cover tune, especially when added some un-credited snippets of Stevie Wonder's 'Uptight' and The Rolling Stones' 'Satisfaction'. Some punchy horn charts didn't hurt the medley. rating: **** stars
- Another band original, 'Love in the Fire' was interesting for incorporating some local sound into the mix (check out the funky backing guitar and Jarman's bass). One of my picks for standout performance. Wish they'd done more of this stuff and less of the pop covers. rating: **** stars
- Unfortunately a cover of Paul Revere and the Raider's 'Mr. Sun, Mr. Moon' found them back in the covers business. Forgettable. rating: ** stars
- The pop track 'Taking Chances' was a perfect example of how much better their original tunes were than the covers. With some killer guitar fills, this was the one I would have tapped as a single. rating: **** stars
- The album closed out with the set's hardest rocker - a rote cover of Gun's 'Run with the Devil'. Nice enough (drummer Eckstein got a moment in the spotlight), but why would you want to hear this over the original ? rating: *** stars

As mentioned, the album was tapped for a South African single:



- 1969's 'The Rock Machine' b/w 'Sun Will You Shine' (CBS catalog number SSC 1003)

Completely unknown outside of South Africa (and probably not even that well known in South Africa), needless to say, this one's pretty hard to score.

"The Bats Turn You On" track listing:
(side 1)1.) Melody Fayre (Bromley) -
2.) Build Me Up Buttercup (Tony Maccauley) - Michael D'Abo)
3.) Ob La Di - Ob La Da (John Lennon - Paul McCartney) -
4.) Rickshaw Riding (Paul DItchfield - Pete Clifford - Eddie Eckstein - Barry Jarman) -
5.) WItchita Lineman (Jimmy Webb) -
6.) The Rock Machine (Paul DItchfield - Pete Clifford - Eddie Eckstein - Barry Jarman) -

(side 2)
1.) Dizzy (Tommy Roe - Freddy Weller) -
2.) I Get So Excited (Eddy Grant - Derv Gordon) -
3.) Love in the Fire (Paul DItchfield - Pete Clifford - Eddie Eckstein - Barry Jarman) -
4.) Mr. Sun, Mr. Moon (Mark Lindsay) -
5.) Taking Chances (Paul DItchfield - Pete Clifford - Eddie Eckstein - Barry Jarman) -
6.) Race with the Devil (Adrian Guvitz) -
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