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Blue Mink - Real Mink
 

Blue Mink - Real Mink

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Title:  Real Mink
Company: Philips
Catalog: PHS 600-339
Year: 1970
Country/State: UK / US
Grade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+
Comments: promo white label

For a brief moment in the early 1970s Blue Mink were the British 'it' band enjoyed massive publicity and a string of top-40 successes. In contrast, they couldn't buy the time of day in the States.

The band came together in 1969 under the auspices of sessions keyboardist Roger Coulam. The original line up featured fellow sessions players Herbie Flowers, Barry Morgan, and Allan Parker. The quartet began recording demos, but decided they needed more vocal firepower, adding singer Madeline Bell and singer/keyboard player Roger Cook to the line up.

For some odd reason the band's second LP "Our World" (Philips catalog number 6308 024) was repackaged and re-titled prior to being released in the States.

Released domestically as "Real Mink", it featured the same songs and track order, making you wonder why Philips went to the trouble. In hindsight the added irony is that today the 'fur' cover would be more controversial than the original group photo. As for the music, if you liked the debut, then you were liable to enjoy this one just as much. With most of the members contributing to the writing chores, the sound was highly commercial - call it an early stab at the kind of power pop that would come to dominate British charts in the mid-1970s, though that comparison wasn't perfect since this set was far more diverse than the stuff folks like Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman would soon start to churn out. In fact with four of the six members contributing material, the album bounced all over the musical spectrum including touches of country (Good Morning Freedom''), light jazz ('You Walked Away'), pure pop ('I Lose the Game'), one of the first reggae songs to be covered by a European band ('Gimme Reggae'), and soul ('Silk What?').

- Opening up with a touch of Parker wah-wah guitar, 'Good Morning Freedom' unexpectedly took a country-oriented turn. The song retained a pop orientation, but to my ears its chirpy edge and uplifting lyric was an ongoing source of irritation made worse by the fact it was so infectious. rating: *** stars
- 'Bang, Bang Johnny's Gang Is After Me' was one of those bubblegum storyteller tunes that was so popular in the early and mid-1970s. As far as the genre goes, this one was somewhat odd in that it lacked the instantly recognizable hook that characterized the genre. That said, this one served as a nice platform for spotlighting Bell and Cook's dueting. I guess they were intended to sound like bullets, but the opening sound effects actually sounded like a UFO backfiring. rating: *** stars
- Showcasing Bell's pretty voice, 'You Walked Away' was a stark, jazz-influenced ballad;. Basically Bell surrounded by some acoustic guitar and percussion (oh yeah there were also the weird truck airbrakes sound effects), in theory it shouldn't have been that impressive, but Bell really did turn in a nice performance on this one. Haunting would be a good summation. rating: **** stars
- 'Penned by Coulam, and showcasing his keyboards (along with a great bass line from Flowers), 'Silk What?' was an atypical soul tinged instrumental. It certainly sounded out of place here, but was nevertheless quite good. rating: *** stars
- The bluesy rocker 'Mind Your Business' served as another showcase for Bell and Cook's suitably rugged voices (and Coulam's Hammond B-3). Funny how some voices just seem to fit together well and this was a perfect example with a killer chorus to boot. Surprisingly funky and one of the album standout performances. rating: **** stars
- 'Can You Feel It Baby' started out as a breezy, but somewhat anonymous ballad, but when the pounding chorus kicked in the song simply exploded into another dimension. Easily the best Bell-Cook performance on the album and the song that should have been tapped as a single ... rating: ***** stars
- 'Gimme Reggae' routinely gets slammed, but folks don't acknowledge this was released in 1970 - at least five years before most Americans had even heard the word. Yeah, this sounded like the kind of reggae-lite that Boney M might have recorded in the mid-1970s, but give Blue Mink credit for doing their part to promote the genre. Besides, it was lightweight pop fun. Love where Bell tells Cook not to call her a yank. rating: *** stars
- Strumming twelve strings and mandolin ... I was a fan from the opening chords. 'I Lose the Game' was a classic pop tune with a melody and hook that would have been perfect for a group such as ABBA. Hard to believe this one wasn't tapped as a single. rating: ***** stars
- With Parker turning in his best Steve Cropper imitation and Coulam mimicking Booker T. Jones, 'Sweet & Sour' was a great Stax-flavored instrumental. rating: *** stars
- With it's pro-environmental lyrics and interesting melody, 'Our World' was one of the band's biggest UK hits. The song was actually quite entertaining and when it hit the chorus, revealed its full glory, but it was also easy to see why it didn't provide the band with an American hit. rating: *** stars

The album also included a pair of top-20 UK hits:

- 1970's 'Good Morning Freedom' b/w 'Mary Jane' (Philips catalog number BF 1838)
- 1970's 'Our World' b/w 'Pastures New' (Philips catalog number 6006 042)

Excellent early-1970s UK pop that deserves to be rediscovered by American audiences.

"Real Mink" track listing:
(side 1)
1.) Good Morning Freedom (Roger Greenaway - Roger Cook) - 2:52
2,) Bang, Bang Johnny's Gang Is After Me (Roger Coulam - Roger Greenaway - Roger Cook) - 3:52
3.) You Walked Away (Allan Parker - Madeline Bell) - 3:33
4.) Silk What? (instrumental) (Roger Coulam) - 3:54
5.) Mind Your Business (Allan Parker - Madeline Bell) - 3:08

(side 2)
1.) Can You Feel It Baby (Roger Greenaway - Roger Cook) - 4:28
2.) Gimme Reggae (Black Fox) - 3:11
3.) I Lose the Game (Roger Cook - Roger Coulam) - 3:00
4.) Sweet & Sour (instrumental) (Allan Parker) - 2:29
5.) Our World (Herbie Flowers - Pickett) - 3:26
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