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Staccatos - Hear and Now
 

Staccatos - Hear and Now

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Title:  Hear and Now
Company: NEM
Catalog: NEMS 300
Year: 1968
Country/State: Johannesburg, South Africa
Grade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+; South African pressing

I don't believe in apartheid. I've never been to South Africa. I'm not particularly adventuresome. That said, for some reason I've always had a thing for 1960s and 1970s South African bands.

The Staccatos (not to be confused with the Canadian Staccatos who morphed into Five Man Electrical Band), are an outfit I'd actually like to know more about. I know the original line-up featured singer/rhythm guitarist Brian Le Gassick, lead guitarist John Leach, drummer Ian Miller, and bassist Willie van der Walt.

Inspired by British rockers, the band was formed in Johannesburg, South Africa 1961 and in 1964 scored a contract with the Parlophone label, where they released a series of three singles:
- 1964's 'Skinny Minny' b/w 'Ain't That Just Like Me' (Parlophone catalog 45 PD 322)
- 1965's 'Will Ya or Won't Ya'' b/w 'She's Gone' (Parlophone catalog 45 PD 347)
- 1965's 'Darlin'' b/w 'She's My Girl' (Parlophone catalog 45 SPD 3??)

In 1965 they moved to RCA Victor releasing the album "Come Back Silly Girl" and a single 'Come Back Silly Girl' b/w 'My Mom' (RCA Victor catalog 41.811)

The next year they were signed to PYE which resulted in a sophomore album "The Second Sin" and a string of five singles

- 1966's 'Bless You' b/w 'Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye' (PYE catalog number PY 69)
- 1966's ' Sounds of Glory'b/w 'Thou Shalt Not Steal' (PYE catalog number PY 115)
- 1967's 'Spicks and Specks' b/w 'Everybody Knows' (PYE catalog number PY 143)
- 1967's 'New York Mining Disaster' b/w 'All the Winds' (PYE catalog number PY 156)

By 1967 the only remaining original member was rhythm guitarist Le Gassick; the rest of the line up featuring bassist Eddie Boyd, drummer Gary Chaplin, lead guitarist Richard Crouse, and lead singer Steve Lonsdale. The revamped band recorded a cover of Bert Berns' 'Cry To Me' for the soundtrack to the South African film "Katrinka". They also had a cameo appearance in the film. The song began to attract considerable attention, with the small NEM label electing to release it as a single.

1968's 'I'll Take You Where the Music's Playing' b/w 'My Girl' (NEM catalog number TOS 3001)

The single's surprising success saw (it was reportedly one of the all time biggest sellers in South Africa), NEM finance a supporting album in the form of 1968's "Hear and Now". Produced by Billy Forrest (Terry Dempsey and Graham Beggs each handling one song), the album featured a standard mix of popular pop and soul hits, with a couple of quality originals thrown in the mix. Though some of the songs were a bit on the MOR side ('Cry To Me' and 'A Place In the Sun'), the overall sound was quite enjoyable and impressive. Their influences were pretty obvious - American R&B and soul (quite a daring commentary given the country's official apartheid policy), British pop, and while nothing here was particularly original or startling, the performances were uniformly impressive. Lonsdale was a surprisingly accomplished singer capable of covering blue-eyed soul, pop, and rock, while the band itself was far better than you would have expect. Lead guitarist Crouse was particularly impressive - check out his work on the band's lazing cover of Elmore James' 'Shake Your Money Maker'.

- You probably won't throw out your Solomon Burke version of the song, but I've got to give the guys credit for turning in what may be the best blue-eyed soul cover of 'Cry To Me' I've ever heard - they simply shred Mick Jagger and the Stones cover of the track. Lonsdale turned in one of his best performances on this one. Featured in the soundtrack to the film 'Katrina', the song was released as a single, providing the band with a big regional hit. rating: **** stars
- Maybe it's just me, but I found it interesting to hear them record Dylan's 'My Back Pages'. Dylan probably had a heart attack knowing that a South African band covered the tune, but you have to give The Staccatos a nod for being willing to cover the song. Given the activist lyrics, they certainly risked having apartheid officials come after them. As for the song, well they didn't venture too far from The Byrds version. Nice, if nothing particularly original. (Mindless piece of trivia; when The Byrds toured South Africa in 1968 (shame on them for violating the apartheid ban), The Staccatos were one of their opening bands). rating: *** stars
- While I always liked Stevie Wonder's original version of 'A Place In the Sun' (bet he would have had a fit knowing about this cover), The Staccatos managed to turn it into a wimpy slice of MOR pop. The first disappointment ... rating: ** stars
- Kicked long by some first-rate blues guitar from Crouse, the band turned in a blazing cover of Elmore James' 'Shake Your Money Maker'. I never would have expected to hear such a impressive cover of a song that has literally been covered to death ... my only complaint was the song's rather abrupt ending ... rating: **** stars
- Another South African single, 'Why Care About Today' sounded like something Michael Nesmith might have written for The Monkees. A catchy country-rocker, this one had a catchy melody and another tasty Crouse jangle guitar solo. rating: **** stars
- Tapped as the first of three singles from the album, 'I'll Take You Where The Music's Playing' was a nice slice of orchestrated '60s pop. Imagine something that Tom Jones might have recorded circa his 'Delilah' successes and you'll get a feel for this one. Yes, it had a MOR feel, but not to the point of being nauseating. rating: **** stars
- 'Butchers and Bakers' was one of my picks for standout performance. Terry Dempsey wrote and produced this one (as well as the original by The Chocolate Frog/Les Fleur De Lys). So the overall feel isn't all that different, though I'd give the nod to the original, though only by a small margin. Classic 1960s pop-psych ... rating: **** stars
- 'You Ain't Going Nowhere' offered up one of the best Byrds-do-Dylan jangle-rock covers I've ever heard. Simply fantastic 1960s jangle rock that would have made Roger McGuinn and company smile with pride. rating: ***** stars
- With the exception of Aretha Franklin, anyone covering Otis Redding's 'Respect' would seem to be setting themselves up for failure ... Guess what? The Staccatos turn in an amazing horn-powered version. Lonsdale's blue-eyed soul vocal was stunningly good ! rating: ***** stars
- While I'm a big Joe Tex fan, their cover of 'Hold On To What You've Got' was a bit slow and plodding. Actually, it stuck pretty close to the original. I will admit that if you heard the song without any background information; never in a million years would you have guessed it was five white guys from South Africa ... rating: ** stars
- The first time I heard 'I Get So Excited' I kept thinking it was a Tommy James and the Shondells track. Sporting one of those instantly hummable melodies that buried itself in your head and wouldn't let go, this one had everything needed to have been a massive radio hit. Amazing it wasn't copied by some English, or US band. rating: ***** stars
- Another Rouse original, 'Imitations of Love' was my pick for favorite performance. A near perfect blend of commercial pop and pop-psych moves, this one was easily as good as anything being pumped out by better know American and UK bands. Simply a fantastic song and a dynamite performance. rating: ***** stars
The album included the earlier hit and two follow-on South African singles:



- 1968's 'I'll Take You Where the Music's Playing' b/w 'My Girl' (NEM catalog number TOS 3001)
- 1968's 'Butchers and Bakers' b/w 'Imitations of Love' (NEM catalog number TOS 3002)
- 1968's 'Cry To Me' b/w 'Why Care About Today) (NEM catalog number 3003)

I suspect that had these guys been English, rather than South African, they would have enjoyed a far bigger audience. Regardless, it's a great album that is well worth the effort to locate.
"Hear and Now" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) Cry To Me (Bert Russell) - 4:05
2.) My Back Pages (Bob Dylan) - 2:57
3.) A Place In the Sun (Miller - Wells) - 2:58
4.) Shake Your Money Maker (Elmore James) - 3:21
5.) Why Care About Today (Richard Crouse - Arletti) - 3:05
6.) I'll Take You Where The Music's Playing (Jeff Barry - Ellie Greenwich) - 2:27

(side 2)
1.) Butchers and Bakers (Terry Dempsey) - 2:45
2.) You Ain't Going Nowhere (Bob Dylan) - 2:38
3.) Respect (Otis Redding) - 1:55
4.) Hold On To What You've Got (Joe Tex) - 3:43
5.) I Get So Excited (D. Gordon - E, Grant) - 2:06
6.) Imitations of Love (Richard Crouse - Arletti) - 2:17
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