WEST COAST CONSORTIUM Mr. Umbrella Man (WHCD019)

1. Amanda Jane

2. Willow Wood

3. One Day The Train Never Came

4. To Please Louise

5. Elastic Band

6. We All Love You Baby

7. Oh! What A Feeling

8. Ginny Stop (Don't Go 'Way)

9. Rings And Things

10. Mr. Umbrella Man

11. House Upon A Hill

12. Aimie (Sing Your Song For Me)

13. Santa Monica Bay

14. When The Day Breaks

15. Cindy In Love

16. Come On Into The Warm

17. Rest Of Your Life (Down Lonely Street)

18. Cynthia Serenity

19. Take A Round Trip

20. Fairground Playboy

21. Money Matters

22. Windmill Hill

23. All The Love In The World

24. What Are They All Singing About Today?

25. Whatever Became Of Emily Jane?

26. One Six Two

27. Copper Coloured Years

 

West Coast Consortium's late 1960s singles were sophisticated, lavishly-orchestrated close harmony pop affairs. Underneath the strings and things, though, they were at heart a garage psychedelic pop band - as can be heard on Mr. Umbrella Man, which assembles the pick of the four demo albums that they made between 1967 and 1969. Now gathered together for the first time, this astonishing cache of recordings reveals that, left to their own devices, West Coast Consortium experimented wth Mellotrons, fuzz guitars, Vox Continental organs, wah-wah pedals and myriad studio effects, while hitherto unreleased nuggets like "Santa Monica Bay', "Aimie (Sing Your Song For Me)' and "Mr. Umbrella Man' show a parallel debt to the lo-fi, DIY approach of the Beach Boys circa Smiley Smile and Friends.

"Very enjoyable… some nice psychy guitar and Mellotron in places and great vocals throughout... everything on here is well recorded and highly listenable. A perfect companion to Sanctuary's 2003 WCC anthology Looking Back." (Shindig!)

"If you didn't know better, you'd have to assume this whopping collection of soft garage sounds originated from the US West Coast. The clue's in the name, right? These cats most often sound just like The Beach Boys playing one-handed (in other words, like The Association or The Free Design) with liberal dashings of fuzz guitar, Mellotron and sassy underlying attitude underlining the harmony pop. The story gets steadily stranger. This is the best of four entire LPs' worth of demo material recorded by the West Coast Consortium in the room above their bassist's dad's undertaker's shop. Not on the West Coast at all, but in Shoreditch, in London's East End. Throughout this period, the band were actually also recording and releasing cabaret pop that's nowhere near as groovy. They even hit the UK chart in 1969, as Consortium. "Our demos were always better than the records", bassist John Barker nails it. There's also a Castle singles compilation, with just five day-job songs overlapping this collection of Doctor Jekyllish experimentation. You know which one to buy." (Record Collector)

"Upon securing a singles deal with Pye in 1967, North London outfit X-IT were rechristened West Coast Consortium, and over the next few years recorded a number of harmony pop singles for a series of producers, eventually cracking the UK charts in February 1969 with 'All The Love In The World'. During this time they also recorded an amazing four LPs' worth of song demos, for the most part in bassist John Barker's bedroom (located, colourfully enough, above his dad's undertakers shop). A few of these songs would make it to vinyl in orchestrated, mainstream-pitched form, but, astonishingly, many were never even submitted to either their publisher or the label. Castle's 2003 West Coast Consortium singles anthology, Looking Back, first aired a number of these demos; Mr. Umbrella Man features a whopping 27 tracks, only five of which appeared on the earlier CD. Overall, this splendid collection offers both multicoloured, late '60s British pop escapism of the highest order, and ample evidence that Geoff Simpson, who wrote everything here, is a gifted songwriter well worthy of wider recognition. Harmony work was the group's stock in trade, and their vocal arrangements are consistently stunning, from the Beach Boys-influenced 'To Please Louise' and 'Come On Into the Warm' to the quirky 'Rest of Your Life (Down Lonely Street)' and the sublime 'What Are They All Singing About Today?' Equally clever are the musical arrangements. Although lucky enough to have access to a Mellotron, which they employ to great effect on their demo of 'All The Love In The World' and the gorgeous 'Amanda Jane', their Vox Continental supplies most of the sweetening. Ultimately, though, it's Geoff Simpson's imaginative guitar work that really fills things out, whether on ballads like 'Aimee (Sing Your Song For Me)' or rockier numbers such as 'Elastic Band' and 'Windmill Hill'. Simpson is an exceptional lyricist as well, equally adept at shrewdly-observed character pieces ('Fairground Playboy'), pocket narratives ('One Day The Train Never Came') and poignant vignettes ('One Six Two'). With a well-illustrated booklet featuring sleeve notes from Geoff Simpson and John Barker, Mr. Umbrella Man is already in the running for reissue of the year as far as I'm concerned." (Ugly Things) 

 

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