vineri, 13 februarie 2009

Honeybus - Story (1970)

The story of Honeybus is almost a cautionary tale. Considering that most have never heard of them, it's amazing to ponder that they came very close, in the eyes of the critics, to being Decca Records' answer to the Rubber Soul-era Beatles. The harmonies were there, along with some catchy, hook-laden songs and usually tastefully overdubbed brass and violins. The pop sensibilities of Honeybus' main resident composers, Pete Dello and Ray Cane, were astonishingly close in quality and content to those of Paul McCartney and the softer sides of John Lennon of that same era. What's more, the critics loved their records. Yet, somehow, Honeybus never got it right; they never had the right single out at the proper time, and only once in their history did they connect with the public for a major hit, in early 1968. Their best known lineup consisted of Pete Dello (vocals, keyboards, guitar), Ray Cane (vocals, bass, keyboards), Colin Hare (rhythm guitar, vocals), and Pete Kircher (drums, vocals), with Dello and Cane writing most of their songs. Dello and Cane, songwriting partners and ex-members of various minor early-'60s rock bands, most notably Grant Tracy & the Sunsets, were the prime movers behind Honeybus.
In March 1968, "I Can't Let Maggie Go" b/w "Tender Are The Ashes" became the third Honeybus single and the one which would ensure their place in the history books. "Maggie" captures the Honeybus ethos perfectly with it's baroque arrangement and fragile harmonies. Dello wrote both sides with "Tender" continuing the series of harder flip sides.The single hit number 8 in the UK and became a huge hit in dozens of territories but the resulting merry-go-round of gigs, press and TV conflicted with Dello's vision. He saw Honeybus as essentially a studio project and had had enough of life on the road during the early 60's. With a record in the top ten, the record company screaming for a follow-up and album and widespread adulation, Pete Dello quit his own group.Such a blow would have signalled the end for most bands but the remaining members of Honeybus were more resourceful than that. First, they recruited Jim Kelly on vocals and guitar, then set about recording a follow-up to "Maggie". Before Dello's departure, both "I'm A Gambler" and live favourite "Francoise" had been mooted, but his compositions were now unavailable.It was six months until Cane's "Girl Of Independent Means" b/w the group composition "How Long" featuring Kircher on lead vocals was released. A great upbeat single featuring brass and an insistent hook, "Girl" nevertheless failed to sustain the group's success. The song was probably too far removed from it's predecessor and was released too late to register.Next, Cane came up with "She Sold Blackpool Rock" which appeared in May 1969 with Colin Hare's first recorded composition "Would You Believe" on the flip. "Blackpool" is a charming, string-laden piece which possibly tries too hard to emulate "Maggie". The single flopped in the UK but sold well in Europe, prompting the recording of an Italian language version.The band had virtually called it a day by summer 1969 but at Terry Noon's insistence the sessions continued and soon they'd completed an album's worth of new material. Pete Kircher left the group during the sessions to join Englebert Humperdinck's touring band and was replaced by Lloyd Courteney and old friend Bob Henrit, now with Argent.The album was eventually released without promotion in February 1970, by which time Honeybus was no more. Rather confusingly titled Story it remains a classic of the era, twelve shining gems written mostly by Cane with a couple from Hare. Blending Beatlesque pop ("She's Out There"), folk ("He Was Columbus"), country ("Ceilings No 1" and "Ceilings No 2", the same song played at different tempos), baroque pop ("She Said Yes") and gentle psychedelia ("Under The Silent Tree").

1. Story
2. Black Mourning Band
3. Scarlet Lady
4. Fresher Than The Sweetness In Water
5. He Was Columbus
6. Ceilings No. 1
7. Under The Silent Tree
8. She's Out There
9. She Said Yes
10. I Remember Caroline
11. How Long
12. Ceilings No. 2

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