England - Full Moon 214 - 02/15/14
'Don't let the boys grow into men!' is the message of the final song "Regeneration"
of July's new album, the band's second effort, released late last year. And the boys in the band do their very best. The album is fresh
and sounds as if the musicians are closer to 17 than 67. In fact July's self titled debut album was released in 1968 and the band folded
the following year. The album is one of the great gems from the original British psychedelic era that was released on a label that went
bankrupt soon after, was met with ignorance in its present time, but gained almost legendary status later on. It has been relaunched
several times since the 1980s. We might notice that The Lemonheads recorded a version of one of July's finest moments "Dandelion Seeds"
on their 2009 covers album Varshons. Our boys teamed up again under the July banner around the same time. These kinds of resurrections
tend to turn into big mistakes and disappointments. July certainly is an exception.
The resurrected July includes Tom Newman (guitar, sitar, lead vocals), Allen James (bass), Chris Jackson (drums, keyboards) and Pete
Cook (guitar, vocals). This is in fact identical with a line-up of the rhythm'n'blues combo The Tomcats, a forerunner of July from around
1964-65. Pete (not identical with the British comedian, renowned from Derek and Clive along with Dudley Moore) was never a member of the
original July but wrote quite a few of the early July songs along with Tom around 1966-67. The last two members of latter-day Tomcats/original
July were lead guitarist Tony Duhig and percussion, flute and keyboard player Jon Field. The two of them formed Jade Warrior after the
demise of July, had some success with albums on the original legendary Vertigo label in the early 1970s and the Warrior keeps going still.
Tony passed away in 1990 and Jon seem too busy with Jade Warrior to be involved in contemporary July. Tom Newman set up The Manor as the
studio for Richard Branson's Virgin Records in the early 1970s, was involved as house engineer and/or producer of several of the early
Virgin albums including the very first one, Tubular Bells by Mike Oldfield. He also pursued a solo career but had more success as
producer throughout the 1970s, 80s and 1990s, including several more albums by Mike Oldfield, other Virgin artists and even some postpunk
bands like Doll By Doll and The Adverts. Enough said about the history; let's concentrate on the present.
'Don't wake me up right now, 'cause I'm dreaming' is the opening line of the first song
"Dreams" of the new album over an elegant light guitar riff. It sets the standard for most of the album. Light and elegant British psychedelia,
but with some sharper edges here and there. The dream is not always pleasant. Both the song and the album include great guitar work throughout,
spiced with a bit sitar here, well crafted keyboards there, small details and discreet percussions that lifts the songs even higher. The vocals
sound great, too, being treated with psychedelic effects on most of the tracks. The pop-psychedelic songs dominate and work very well. The
aforementioned "Dreams" is only one example. "I Like It" with sharp verses and softer choruses is another. The two songs penned by Tom Newman
(all the others by Pete Cook) "All The Hours There Are" and "Magical Days" are both delightfully dreamy, mellow, melancholic (the former)
and nostalgic (the latter).
There are a few songs closer to the kind of r'n'b stuff that The Tomcats probably had on their set lists. "Counting The Minutes" and
"A Day To Remember" are the most standard ones and the weakest of the album if you ask me. The first of them sound like a not too memorable
song The Who might have recorded at the time they were contemporaries of The Tomcats. The second starts in the same vein but especially
the vocals develop into something like a Bob Dylan wannabe. "I'm Talkin' To You" works somewhat better; it doesn't sound as standard,
includes very dynamic guitars, ditto keyboards and a more relaxed chorus.
The tracks that are most original and work best to my ears are the ones that seem to be patchworks of several shorter segments, not
necessarily in a deliberate way initially, but it works very well all the same. "Can I Go Back Again" is the ultimate highlight. It starts
with a swirling and exotic sitar before the steady guitars begin to move the melody forwards. The song comes to a halt and starts again
with calm harmony vocals before the steady guitars get going again accompanied by a few fascinating bongo beats. Then a new stop with a
little bit of sitar again until a piano starts the real song after about three minutes with a couple of more themes. As elegant as can
be! "Heaven Or Hell" works in a similar way, about a pig meeting up with the monkey man, in an arch-English manner. "Linear Thinking" is
somewhere in between the former two and the more pop-oriented psychedelic songs with a funny fun fair interlude and the closest to a
sing-along chorus of the album, if only there had been less distortion on the vocals. The album is rounded off with the earlier quoted
"Regeneration", a steady rocker with blistering guitar work and ditto harmonica solo.
For the chosen few, it's nice to notice that the vocal effects of today's July sometimes sound very similar to the ones by our Norwegian
psychedelic heroes Dog Age. On the other hand, Dog Age is one of the few bands that has been heavily
influenced by the original July.
So there we are. Will July finally find justice and be acknowledged in their own time? I'm afraid not. Not yet, at least. The CD is
released on a very small label and, as far as I know, only available from the home page of Griffiths
Clothing that mainly sells vintage kind of mod clothes and effects, it seems. The wrapping of the album is rather simple and includes
very little information about the band and the songs. I've heard rumours about a possible vinyl edition, though. I sincerely hope so and
demand that it includes a thick booklet with lots and lots of information about the July boys from the 1960s onwards, everything about
the recording of Resurrection, lyrics and so on. In the meantime I urge everyone slightly interested in British psychedelia to
check out the CD version. Despite insufficient wrapping it was the greatest psychedelia album to be released in 2013 and one of the very
best so far of this millennium. No doubt!
Copyright © 2014 JP