Britten: Les Illuminations Immediate Pleasure Review

BBC Review

The Fleur De Lys' cover of the Who's 'Circles' (featuring a young Gordon Haskell on...

Chris Jones 2002

Pub discussion topic time: What made the charts of the sixties different from today's formularised fodder? Answer: variety. You may have noticed that genres are infinitely more fragmented these days, with hard house, handbag, techno, garage, indie, r'n'b, hip hop, old skool and a million other labels vying for chart action, while what your radio really plays is dance, rock or puerile pop. When the music on this album was made it was all just pop, and what a broad church it was too. Andrew Loog Oldham's Immediate label was the sixties incarnate; an independent with a commitment to no particular type of music, just a wish to be "part of the industry of human happiness" as the Rolling Stones manager, himself, said. Not until the days of Tony Wilson's Factory was this mission again so perfectly encapsulated. This double CD tells the gloriously checkered story to ample effect, hits misses and total flops included. Every aspect of the ambitious reach of the swinging sixties chart scene is represented, from freakbeat to soul via blues and psychedelia.

Oldham and partner Tony Calder had an uncanny knack for picking the distinctive stuff that a more discerning audience demanded in those heady days. The first release was the McCoy's "Hang On Sloopy" and while it was a good ten months before the label really got on a roll, the slew of early releases now stands as a body of work that contains some of the true legends. John Mayall's Bluesbreakers first single ("I'm Your Witchdoctor", featuring the young blues-purist Eric Clapton), appears here, as do fab waxings which still echo in today's derivative cattle market of pop ephemera. PP Arnold (" Angel Of The Morning") and Chris Farlow (" Handbags and Gladrags") both saw their career highs in the house of Immediate. Jimmy Page (numerous sessions), Keith Emerson (in the Nice), Rod Stewart (with PP Arnold and solo), Nico (the admittedly inappropriate "I'm Not Sayin'") and Andy Fairweather Low (Amen Corner's "If Paradise Is Half As Nice") all experienced their first (albeit fleeting) chart glory under Oldham's banner. It was all pop music in those days.

Even the obscure cuts have an irrepressible optimism that speaks of groovier times. The Fleur De Lys' cover of the Who's "Circles" (featuring a young Gordon Haskell on bass!) just brims with puppy dog energy that has yet to be tarnished by the jaded era about to unfold.

Finally, if you're still unsure, this mighty compilation contains two of the greatest singles EVER released. Fleetwood Mac's doleful "Man Of The World" was released while the band were caught between contracts and still stands as their finest chart entry. The Small Faces were, for a time, Immediate's top house band. Several of their finest moments are preserved here but among them is "Itchycoo Park"; two minutes and forty six seconds of pure psychedelic perfection. They never topped this moment and its summery vibe still most definitely contributes to the industry of human happiness. It's all too beautiful.

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