Fantastic Voyage 2009
In 1960 Ember joined the small number of indies trying to compete in a market dominated by the four major record companies. That it survived until 1979 is testament to the acumen of founder Jeffrey Kruger, who had made waves in the fifties music scene with his London jazz club, The Flamingo, and his interests in publishing. Hit records proved hard to come by, but by spotting opportunities ahead of the pack and catering for specialist audiences, Kruger was able to run a flourishing record label.
By 1962 the first evidence of what became known as beat music was emerging, most famously with The Beatles’ “Love Me Do”, charting that October. A couple of the acts featured on this, the first of three compilations devoted to Ember beat 1962-1967, were no strangers to the label. In an arrangement similar to that enjoyed by The Shadows with Cliff Richard, The Sunsets (who included guitarist Pete Dello, later of Honeybus of “I Can’t Let Maggie Go” fame) had released instrumental records in their own right and also backed vocalist Grant Tracy. Their two muscular contributions to Ember Beat Vol. 1 first surfaced on the label in 1963, but are redolent of the pre-Beatles rock’n’roll instrumental group scene.
Carter, Lewis and The Southerners had one Ember single under their belt before issuing “Tell Me” in 1962. Engineered by the legendary Joe Meek and written by his regular collaborator Geoffrey Goddard, “Tell Me” was backed with a Carter/Lewis original. Individually and collectively, Carter and Lewis were to go on to considerable success, ultimately dropping their performing roles and concentrating on songwriting and management.
With the advent of producer/composer/arranger John Barry, Ember definitely moved up a gear. Barry came to Ember with an impressive CV: in-house arranger for EMI, leader of hit instrumental combo The John Barry Seven, and composer, arranger and conductor on the first UK soundtrack album (to the Adam Faith vehicle Beat Girl). Ember released several Barry soundtracks, including Zulu, which had one side of soundtrack recordings, and a second side which we have plundered for classy beat instrumentals by the stellar John Barry Seven. Barry also introduced pop duo Chad and Jeremy to Ember. The pair had just one domestic hit with debut Yesterday’s Gone, but were massive in the US as part of the British Invasion. Initially produced by Barry, and then by Shel Talmy and ultimately Jimmy Haskell, the duo recorded diverse repertoire, ranging from folk to show tunes. For the Ember Beat series we concentrate on their beat-ier, pop material.
Kruger leased several of Chad and Jeremy’s singles to United Artists. Likewise the John Barry-produced group A Band Of Angels was signed to UA, for a pair of singles, which were the earliest commercial recordings of Mike D’Abo, who later succeeded Paul Jones as singer with Manfred Mann, as well as penning Handbags And Gladrags and many other hits. Marcus Tro’s solitary A-side was a cover version of early Jagger/Richard composition Tell Me, produced by emerging talent Mark Wirtz. The Washington DC’s released one single on Ember. Further material by the group surfaced on an album released to gain more mileage from a pre-fame Dave Clark Five single (the rights to which, alas, have subsequently reverted to Dave Clark). We also round up a B-side by Brighton group Count Downe and The Zeros, and both sides of a single by singer/guitarist Ray Singer (later, briefly a member of psych-pop group Nirvana).
This is the first coherent survey of Ember’s releases from the beat era. Many of the original singles are highly collectable (mint copies of Carter, Lewis and Count Downe going for £50 and £35 respectively). Subsequent volumes will carry the story through to 1967, with collectables by The Couriers, The Brothers Grimm, The Clockwork Oranges and The Fadin’ Colours. The series will be complemented by compilations devoted to pre- and post-Beat pop and rock from the Ember vaults. Recordings will be mastered from tape, where available, and booklets illustrated with sleeve and label shots.
Savoy Club Stomp (The Sunsets)
Tell Me (Carter, Lewis & The Southerners)
My Broken Heart (Carter, Lewis & The Southerners)
Mountain King (The Sunsets)
Yesterday's Gone (Chad Stuart & Jeremy Clyde)
Zulu Stamp (The John Barry Seven)
Monkey Feathers (The John Barry Seven)
Like I Love You Today (Chad Stuart & Jeremy Clyde)
Don't Shed A Tear (Count Downe & The Zeros)
Kisses Sweeter Than Wine (The Washington DC's)
Where Did You Go? (The Washington DC's)
High Grass (The John Barry Seven)
Big Shield (The John Barry Seven)
Me (A Band Of Angels)
Not True As Yet (A Band Of Angels)
A Summer Song (Chad Stuart & Jeremy Clyde)
It's Gotta Be (Ray Singer)
Hey, Who? (Ray Singer)
Gonna Make A Woman (A Band Of Angels)
She'll Never Be You (A Band Of Angels)
If She Was Mine (Chad & Jeremy)
Now And Forever (Chad & Jeremy)
Tell Me (Marcus Tro)
Monkey Feathers (take 1) (The John Barry Seven)
Yesterday's Gone (stereo, no guitar overdub) (Chad Stuart & Jeremy Clyde)