Saturday, 7 May 2011

Velvett Fogg: Velvett Fogg (1969)

heres one of my VERY favourite albums, one that i wanted to post for a long time. the original vinyl was quite difficult to get, i was observing ebay auctions for a while and noticed that even canadian pressings of this (originally british) lp changed hands for some money. so i was pretty happy to get this original uk pressing for less than fifty quid.
if youve already heard of the group named velvett fogg than you do know the album too and maybe just stop reading here. if NOT, you MUST read on! so lets start with the track that makes this album so incredibly fantastic, the unbelievably awesome opening track ‘yellow cave woman‘. seven-minute psychedelic brain eruption on the repetitive beats of doom, the organ from minds rock bottom. this song is such a blast, it still is too short and im sad every time its over. it may take several times listening to it until you like it, but dont give up, its awesome as hell. heres what fogg-songwriter keith law has to say about this great song:

I wrote this song and it’s guitar riff back in 1967. It was about a girl who was an artist, with long yellow blond hair. My mother thought she looked like a cave woman.
There had to be a song there somewhere!! It was ideal for The Fogg, and with Paul Eastment’s guitar playing on my riff and Frank’s vocal’s making it the great recording it is.

two other tracks are well worth mentioning, even though both of them are cover version. first there is the second track on the a-side, ‘new york mining disaster 1941‘, originally written, recorded and released by the bee-gees in 1967 on the album ‘bee gees 1st’. in this song the miners are trapped in the ground and are speculating if the people above are still trying to rescue them or already have given up. one of them has a photo of his wife with him, which is the only thing to keep their hope alive. a very sad song, velvett fogg has electronically enhanced the bee-gees melancholic ballad and doing so have made a good effort.
the first track on the b-side is ‘come away melinda‘ by tim rose. in every version this song was recorded (by uriah heep as well), it gives me goosebumps and a cold shiver everytime i listen to it. melinda is a little girl who found an old picture book which she shows to her father. it turns out that the pictures show her mother who died in the war and who melinda doesnt seem to recognize, because she is so young that she has no memories of the times before the war. she just knows the stories her daddy tells her about those times and that they must have been careless and happy times, and so she keeps asking him why things cant be like they were before the war – like they ought to be, but like she has never known them. this song is a very sad ballad, and just as in the case of new york mining disaster 1941 velvett fogg “psychedelized” it for their record. the result is surprisingly good and the song doesnt lose any of its wistful, grievous mood and keeps its emotional depth and graveness. heres another comment by keith law:

Apart from my own songs of course, this is my favourite on this album. I just love the way Frank had the the psych sound on his Hammond organ.
The shared and eerie vocals of Frank Wilson and bassist Mick Pollard, were just genius and magic. This must be one of the best covers of this song.

another interesting fact about this album ist that the liner notes were written by no one else but john peel. mr peel though didnt have any information about the group when writing these notes, so ill add it here. velvett fogg were a psychedelic underground band from birmingham, most notably for having later black sabbath guitarist tony iommi among their members. they were founded around 1968 and had keith law, former member of jardine, as their songwriter in the background. he was not an official member of the band, but responsible for all the self-written material on the fogg album. as you will read below john peel says “remember Velvett Fogg you will hear the name again.” – it was not to be though. the band disappeared from the surface around 1970 and the self-titled velvett fogg remained their only album. the only official recording of theirs we miss here is the a-side of their only 45, a cover of joe meeks ‘telstar‘, which is not included on the lp, but its not a great loss as this track is almost as trashy as the original.
however, let the man speak – heres john peel (have a look at how he changed the spelling of his name according to the bands name!):

   Inscrutable Oriental by Appointment to the Peel Foundation, Vincent Tseng, and a certain Joan Ferguson who makes Robin Hood jackets for the uncrowned heads have just told me that they like the name Velvett Fogg. It is a goodly notion perhaps – recollection of very foggy evenings spent wandering through Everton, around Great Homer Street, listening to the sounds of the unseen in small, cramped, friendly homes since torn down to make way for crumbling blocks of impersonal flats. Not very velvetty foggs those perhaps but with a great strength and a rough beauty. Perhaps not as irrelevant then to this LP.

   Actually producer Jack Dorsey of Pye Records and his secretary brought me this record as I huddled in my mean bed wracked with jaundice with the unoccasional, long-suppressed flicker of pain crossing my boyish features. They left the record, saying they needed the notes that I’m typing by Monday. It’s now Saturday night, tomorrow’s “Top Gear” and I’ve listened five or six times to the Velvett Fogg, likink them more with each hearing. However I forgot to ask anyone for details about the members of the group – in fact I don’t even know how many there are within it. Perhaps that information will be elsewhere on this sleeve. I don’t know their names, what they play, when they were born, the colour or not of their eyes, hair, teeth. I have never heard even the faintest rumour about their taste in breakfast foods, furniture, musicians or girls. So would you care to stroll with me through this LP if I promise to keep my hands to myself. Forward.

   Side One. (Track 1). “Yellow Cave Woman” (7:00). It takes courage to start a first LP with a seven minute track. This gives all the members of the group an opportunity to flex their musical muscles (a spot of clever alliteration for the literary) and reminds me slightly of the sort of things the Velvet Underground do which seem at first hearing repetitous but later reveal endless, shifting variations of emphasis and shading. (2) “New York Mining Disaster 1941” (2:55). You may disagree but I think the best things the Bee-Gees have written are those on and around their first LP and this was one of the best of those songs. Many people have recorded these too but seldom better than this. (3) “Wizard of Gobsolod” (2:57) has some really beautiful little bell-like noises, explains that beauty is in the eye of the beholder (or that’s what I heard there). Generally speaking a number of almost hamsterian delicacy and refinement. One of my favourite tracks and I hope one of yours too. (4) “Once among the trees” (5:39) is the story of a chase with strong sexual overtones. Stand by for sensational revelations in the Sunday horror-comics. I spend a lot of time listening to new groups because I think that is what disc-jockeys should be doing and it’s rather embarrassing that a group as fine as this has evaded my notice and that of the people who write and tell me about good things. (5) “Lady Caroline” (2:23). I hoped this might be a tribute to the lamented Radio Caroline but it’s not. Actually it’s a sort of modern equivalent of the ancient murder ballads that travelled from Britain and became a part of the folk-traditions of the Appalachian region of the United States. A story of seduction, jealousy, murder, pillage and dry-cleaning set in medieval Fulham – or something.

   Side Two. (Track 1). As listeners to “Top Gear” and such may know Tim Rose is a good friend and one of my favourite singers. He is well-known for “Hey Joe” and the harrowing “Morning Dew”. However this song “Come Away, Melinda” is perhaps the song that is most important to him. Please listen to the lyrics which are self-explanatory and ponder them before it’s too late. This version by Velvett Fogg would please Tim too – it’s as strong as his version with underlying electronic sounds which, for once, blend with the music as effectively as those used by the United States of America or the Beatles in the “Yellow Submarine” tracks. He’s full of lively information and penetrating analysis this O’Peel. (2). “Owed to the Dip”. 1968 seems to have been a year in which the organ, in the hands of people like Brian Auger, Keith Emerson, Gary Wright, Rick Wright and others, seems to have come somewhat more into it’s own. The organ is featured prominently and excitingly on this 6:07 instrumental. One of those jazz-tinged things that are appearing on LPs now.

   (3) is “Within the Night” (4:47) which catalogues the achievements of what would appear to be a rather splendid evening. Sitting in bed typing, with “The Hot Vampire from the Cenapod Planet” blaring out from a flickering, hired television envy bubbles in the recesses of the heart. Medical advice should be sought if it bubbles elsewhere. It is gratifying that record companies in the alledgedly United Kingdom should be prepared ot launch unknown groups with LPs because groups like Velvett Fogg have more to give listeners than can be imparted by a single 45. Finally there is “Plastic Man” (4:47) which seems to sum up everything that can be said about politicians and their revolting parasites. There are no ways left for us to escape them now.

   There is a lot of good music on this record, remember Velvett Fogg you will hear the name again.

Love and Peace,
   Johnn Peell

interesting links:
keith law official website
velvett fogg on rateyourmusic
velvett fogg on
the entire keith law INTERVIEW at psychedelic baby – with lots of photos and many interesting details

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1 Comment

  1. avatar JohnMcKeagGLIMPSES said:

    Thanks! :-)

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