“You Can All Join In”

YOU CAN ALL JOIN IN – “Various” (Island IWPS 2) April 1969

A recent £2 purchase in my local Scope charity shop. I must admit being supremely surprised to find this in a box of forlorn albums, rubbing shoulders with fodder such as Perry Como, Val Doonican and the Kids From Fame.

Whenever I see albums like this in charity shops my mind switches to it’s origin. Who bought this in 1969 and where are they now? The likelihood is that it’s from a house clearance after some old rocker / hippie type died.

It’s not a particularly rare record but at £2 I was never going to let it linger in pain amongst those square records. “You Can All Join In” is a wonderful collection of late ’60s (mostly) psychedelic rock from the Island label.

The front cover shows their artists gathering in a park somewhere. They all look bitterly cold and dressed for the weather. The album was released in April 1969 so I’m thinking that the photo dates from the Winter months of ’69.

Side one

  1. “A Song for Jeffrey” (Ian Anderson) – Jethro Tull – (Alternative mix, original version from This Was) (ILPS 9085)
  2. “Sunshine Help Me” (Gary Wright) – Spooky Tooth – (from It’s All About Spooky Tooth) (ILPS 9080)
  3. “I’m a Mover” (Paul Rodgers, Andy Fraser) – Free – (from Tons of Sobs) (ILPS 9089)
  4. “What’s That Sound”[4] (Stephen Stills) – Art – (from Supernatural Fairy Tales) (ILP 967)
  5. “Pearly Queen” (Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi) – Tramline – (from Moves of Vegetable Centuries) (ILPS 9095)
  6. “You Can All Join In” (Dave Mason) – Traffic – (from Traffic) (ILPS 9081T)

Side two

  1. “Meet on the Ledge” (Richard Thompson) – Fairport Convention – (from What We Did on Our Holidays) (ILPS 9092)
  2. “Rainbow Chaser” (Alex Spyropoulos, Patrick Campbell-Lyons) – Nirvana – (from All of Us) (ILPS 9087)
  3. “Dusty” – (Martyn) – John Martyn – (from The Tumbler) (ILPS 9091)
  4. “I’ll Go Girl” (Billy Ritchie, Ian Ellis, Harry Hughes) – Clouds – (from Scrapbook) (ILPS 9100)
  5. “Somebody Help Me” (Jackie Edwards) – Spencer Davis Group – (from The Best of the Spencer Davis Group) (ILPS 9070)
  6. “Gasoline Alley” (Mick Weaver) – Wynder K. Frog – (from Out of the Frying Pan) (ILPS 9082)
Someone else’s review re-posted here. My choice from the collection is the track from Free. This number has killer psychedelic lead guitar pulsating away and weaving ’round Paul Rodger’s wired vocals. The drums pound like industrial hammers and the bass is vibrant and loud. “I’m A Mover” is my kinda scene.

On a cold day, bleary-eyed following a wild party, the marketing men at Island cruelly assembled their stable’s finest in Hyde Park for a photo shoot that was to grace the cover of one of the earliest Progressive music compilations ever, following the success of CBS in this field with their two “Rock Machine” samplers.

A veritable deluge of Progressive music compilations was to follow – notably from CBS (despite the appalling cover featuring the then unknown Arnold Schwarzenegger, “Rockbusters” is one hell of a great collection!), but also from the other “progressive” labels, such as Harvest and Vertigo, but also Decca, who had a string of “Progressive World of…” albums.

On the cover can clearly be seen all the artists that featured on this album – Ian Anderson unmistakable at the back, Sandy Denny at the front extreme right, the guys from Clouds in the middle near the front – I’m fairly sure that’s Billy Ritchie with the silly hat…

This album is absolutely packed with bands that made it (Tull, Free, Traffic), bands that should have made it (Nirvana, Clouds, Tramline), great bands that became greater bands (Art, Spencer Davis Group) and bands and musicians that were colossally influential on the development of Progressive Rock (that’ll be all of them);

Jethro Tull start the proceedings, with “A Song For Jeffrey”. A catchy little blues number augmented by Anderson’s trademark flute, this one is positively driven by the harmonica, with a strong Bluesbreakers feel. Anderson’s peculiarly processed vocals are a little uncomfortable, but convincingly delivered.

The intro is quite striking, with the flute/bass duet creating a unique Tull-style atmosphere. When the harmonica kicks in, it’s a bit of a culture shock, and when Anderson’s vocals hit, we know we’re listening to something a bit experimental – even if the experiment isn’t 100% successful. What is majorly successful is Anderson’s wizardly (but sadly short) flute solo. The rest of the piece comprises these sections alternating, with an interesting burn-out.

Spooky Tooth are up next, with the deliciously crunchy “Sunshine Help Me”, sounding remarkably like Traffic in places, thanks to the Jimmy Miller production.

This is a wondrously Prog-flavoured psychedelic song, powerfully driven by the Hammond, which contrasts nicely with the more delicate keyboard sound, and some of the most gut-wrenching soulful vocals around – on a par with the great Stevie Winwood and Chris Farlowe – not to mention some of the silliest falsetto you’ll ever hear.

Like Winwood, Spooky Tooth feature twice on this album – the second time is in their previous incarnation, Art.

The excitement doesn’t let up, with an offering from the mighty Free – to my jaded ears, a tad on the lugubrious side, but a strong head-nodder, if not a banger, with some superlative pre-Zeppelin riffing and soloing.

Art‘s cover of the Buffalo Springfield number transforms the opening riff into “You Sexy Thing” by Hot Chocolate, and for me at least, is a more exciting performance than the Free number, and a nice’n’heavy interpretation of a strong song, successfully combining the popular heavy blues and Northern Soul styles.

The excellent Tramline follow this with a less than excellent song; the Jim Capaldi (later of Traffic!) “Pearly Queen” is altogether average, and performed as if by session musicians – ie no feeling whatsoever. Still, it fits the overall sound and style of this album, and, as a weak number, isn’t too shabby at all.

Traffic themselves close side 1 with the song that gives this compilation its title. Sadly, this is a bit of a marketing gimmick, as the song itself is not one of Traffic’s best, with strong flavours of the Benny Hill theme tune, and super-cheesey lyrics.

The absence of Mr Winwood in the vocals and keyboard depts really hurts this number too, turning it into a C&W-flavoured square-dancing happy dirge, and making the rest of this collection sound more like Traffic than the band themselves do!

Side 2 kicks off with a folk-flavour, underlining the fact that this truly is one of the very first Prog Rock compilations – almost all the various influences are represented! Fairport Convention‘s “Meet on the Ledge”, with it’s anthemic chorus is not one of my favourites, but a sure crowd-pleaser, and a reasonably strong start to the second side.

In its’ favour is a strong bassline, the haunting vocals of Sandy Denny, and an interesting piano-driven instrumental arrangement. On the down side is an unbearably repetitve song and some over-loose drumming.

Fortunately, it’s onwards and upwards from here, with the original Nirvana‘s swirly psychedelic masterpiece “Rainbow Chaser”, which uses the phasing/flanging effect found in The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows”, “Jimi Hendrix’s “Bold as Love”, “The Small Faces’ “Itchycoo Park and Status Quo’s “Pictures of Matchstick Men” throughout the song, mainly on the piano, to create the psychedelic swirling.

While this is an obvious case of “tarting up”, it has to be said that the song has exactly the right flavours of British psychedelia to put it on a level with Kaleidoscope and the Zombies – but not quite with Pink Floyd or the Beatles of that era.

John Martyn puts in a fine performance with “Dusty”, a fabulous folk-flavoured song with intertwining flute, reminiscent of later Jethro Tull, and dead-pan vocal delivery very similar in style to Roy Harper.

Next we have a track from The Clouds, another largely overlooked and forgotten-about band – and this sounds like it was added about 10 years after everything else on the album. It wasn’t, of course, but the quasi-classical piano opening and balladic delivery of the opening lines belie the swift and complex harmonic progression, packed with modulations and adventurous key relationships.

The strong chorus carries strong hints of the Righteous Brothers and songs from the early 1960s – but the immediately catchy opening stanzas hide the complexity of the following lines of the chorus; You simply forget that you’re listening to a song and get swept away into the music – or, more likely, it suddenly becomes background, as the rush of sonic information becomes a bit too much.

After the second chorus, advanced harmonic progressions are topped with Matt Bellamy-alike vocals, and this section begins to sound like something from “Origin of Symmetry”. The music completely changes direction, key and suddenly we’re back into the verse and chorus. The coda section is absolutely packed with exciting material to end the piece – there is so much happening in this song that it’s hardly surprising that the band got overlooked at the time and still get overlooked now.

It’s the personal, relationship-oriented lyrics and strong pop-oriented melody fragments that put this song right at the edge, into an unchartered realm of Progressive Pop rather than Progressive Rock – there’s simply not enough jazz, folk or blues for it to have made much of an impact on the emerging Prog Rock scene, but this is a piece that should be of great interest to any fan of Prog music. The trick is to listen past the catchy fragments of melody and follow the rest of it – if you can!

Steve Winwood puts in his final appearance on this album next in the monster groover “Someboy Help Me”, with his pre-Traffic fellows, the Spencer Davis Group. The distinctive (and progressive) sound of this group with the awesome fuzz guitar, fat bass – and of course, Mr Winwood’s glorious vox, is all over this catchy pop/rock song penned by the superb Jamaican singer/songwriter Jackie Edwards.

To wrap things up, we have the Booker T – alike sound of Wynder K Frog with an amusing version of “Gasoline Alley”, propelled by his Hammond B3. In all fairness, the great Wynder (AKA Mick Weaver, who co-incidentally replaced Winwood when he left Traffic – as well as playing with some of the greats, including Joe Cocker, Keef Hartley and Taj Mahal) has a far raunchier, dirtier sound than Booker T – it’s just that the overall style is remarkably similar… all very good, though!

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