Folk rock means different things to different people. In particular, Brits and Americans have different definitions. I know this to my cost, having sent our esteemed editor Bill a lovingly compiled cassette of British folk rock, he responded with a "What the hell is this? It bears no resemblance to the Byrds or the Turtles or whatever." And indeed it did not. British folk rock, especially in the mid 1960s, was performed more often than not by upper class well spoken young ladies wearing short dresses, knee high boots and strumming guitars. (Editor's note: I don't think that was my actual response...)
This British compilation CD captures the genre well. American friends will recognise perhaps certain names. The Caravelles, a winsome duo; Nico (yes, that Nico), who did some recording in England; or Twinkle, an early singer-songwriter whose cheeky version of Sloan-Barri’s "What am I doing here with you" is one of the highlights of this album.
And of course Jackie DeShannon’s influence is stamped all over the CD. Jackie came over to London, did some recording, met Jimmy Page, wrote some songs, and set trends by the dozen, for others to follow. Following Marianne Faithfull’s recording of Jackie’s lovely "Come and stay with me", Jackie and Jimmy together wrote "In my time of sorrow" for Marianne, well covered by Gay Shingleton, a pop music-show hostess and actress, whose London-recorded 45 was strangely only released in the US. Gay’s recording is on this CD, as is another DeShannon-Page rarity, Judi Smith’s "Leaves come tumbling down". Judi was apparently a model who decided that she wanted to make a record. A situation not unknown today. Using show-biz contacts is another well-known technique used by budding recording artistes, and for Caroline Carter to know Marianne Faithfull’s brother was enough to get her into the studio to record Jackie’s marvellous "The Ballad of Possibilities", formerly known to its writer as "You could break my heart".
Some of the tracks on this CD are more folk than rock and are high on the winsome quotient. There’s an early version of "The first time (ever I saw your face)" by one Leonore Drewery, for example. And then there’s the cult heroine Vashti, a lot of other young ladies without surnames (Angelina, Trisha, Greta Ann and still counting……..) and a highlight for me is a painfully moving 1968 recording of "87 Sundays" by Ruth, a track which just makes you stop and say Wow.
And then we have track 4. The guitar riff tears into you, and that untamed southern-states vocal leaves you weak at the knees. In all its glory, we have a crisp immediate super-hi fidelity Jackie DeShannon and "Don’t turn your back on me", her greatest English moment. Yes, you’ve heard it before, but just listen to it again. I cannot understand why this 45 did not top the charts here back in 1964. Definitely not upper-class. Definitely not winsome. But fundamentally Jackie roaring through a beautifully constructed song at the height of her vocal powers.
I unreservedly recommend this CD. For those who like the sound of 60s British girls-with-guitars, for those who like Brit folk-rock, for collectors of rare performances of DeShannon compositions, or those who just like 70 minutes or so of listening fun. (http://www.rpmrecords.com/)