Monday, October 1, 2012

Juicy Lucy ... should you feel sorry for the fruit ?

Though they were never well known in the States, the Anglo-American Juicy Lucy is worth acknowledging for a couple of reasons, including the fact they're still an active enterprise some four decades after their start.   

In an early example of multi-nationalism, the band's roots trace back to Riverside, California where steel guitar player Glenn Ross Campbell was a founding member of The Misunderstood.  The group managed to release two independent 1966 singles before taking up an offer from fan and UK DJ John Peel to relocate to the UK.  Unfortunately the American draft grabbed lead singer Rick Brown and in short order most of the other members ran afoul of personality clashes and British immigration regulations.  By 1969 the only remaining original member was Campbell with The Misunderstood having taken on a decidedly British flavor with a lineup featuring drummer Guy Evans, singer Steve Hoard, guitarist Tony Hill, former Graham Bond Organization guitarist Neil Hubbard, keyboardist/sax player Chris Mercer, and bassist Nic Potter.  At that point Campbell decided to rename the group Juicy Lucy - depending who you want to believe, the band name was inspired by a band groupie, or from a character in Leslie Thomas' novel Virgin Soldiers (in case anyone cared the character is a Malaysian prostitute).

Signed by Vertigo, the group debuted with a 1970 cover of the Bo Diddley chestnut 'Who Do You Love?' b/w 'Walking Down The Highway' (Vertigo catalog number V1 6059 001).  Their version sold quite well throughout the UK and Europe, eventually going top-20 and generating quite a bit of interest in the parent LP - 1969's cleverly-titled "Juicy Lucy".  Produced by Nigel Thomas musically the set had quite a bit going for it.  With every late-1960s British band seemingly interested in showcasing their American blues roots, thanks to Campbell these guys came off as one of the more authentic sounding outfits.  They were certainly gifted with some amazing players.  Owen's effortlessly achievied that '70 year old back guy' sound that others like Eric Burden could only long for.  Check out his grizzled performance on the country-blues number 'Just One Time'.  Guitarist Neil Hubbard and the rhythm section of Donbson and Ellis all deserved special mention.  All of that said, the results were still immatative - after all these were a bunch of British guys trying to sound like an American blues band.  If you were looking for true authenticity you probably wanted to check out The Allman Brothers.  

LP inner sleeve   

- Propelled by Owens sandpaper voice the album started out with a blazing blues-rocker 'Mississippi Woman'.  Musically it wasn't the most original number you've ever heard, but it served as a nice platform for introducing you to the band's influences - no progressive pretense here.  It also gave Neil Hubbard a chance to showcase his nifty slide moves.   
- Probably the most commercial track, they turned in a fantastic cover of Bo Diddley's 'Who Do You Love'.  Mean as a snakebite, this version must have served as the inspiration for the cover and George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers churned out a co uple of years later.  Only complaint was that it ended too soon.  
- The rocker 'She's Mine, She's Yours' effectively served as a showcased for Hubbard's screaming guitar.  That was actually a good thing given the track saw Owens struggling to keep it together in a register that was simply too high for his comfort zone. 
- Normally country-blues numbers don't do a great deal for me, but the haunting 'Just One Time' was an exception and may have been the most stunning track on the album.  I think Campbell handled the vocals on this one, turning in what was simply a mesmerizing performance with Mercer's psychedelic horn flourishes adding a nifty background. 
- Sporting another Campbell vocal, side two's 'Chicago North-Western' was a fantastic country-rocker.  Great melody, cool lyric.  Totally unexpected and nice change of direction with a funny not to Neil Young. 
- A fairly conventional rocker, 'Train' showcased some tasty Mercer horns and Hubbard's always classy guitar.  Unfortunately the song found Owen's displayed his higher register singing voice which wasn't nearly as impressive as his lower ranges.   
- It was passable, but yet another cover of Chuck Berry's 'Nadine' wasn't really a necessity. 
- Starting out as an acoustic country piece, 'Are You Satisfied?' morphing into a surprisingly catchy hippy rhetorical sing-along ...    

Not the perfect album, but a hundred times better than most of their late-1960s competitors.  Shame the follow-on efforts didn't match this one.

Ah, now lets talk about the infamous cover.  Clearly concerned about American consumer sensibilities ATCO management elected to give the album's US release somewhat toned down packaging.  The US cover was certainly racy for the late-1960s, though nowhere near as attention drawing as the UK original which featured a somewhat haggard looking exotic dance by the name of Zelda Plum spread out on a bed of fruit.  The funny thing is that what was clearly intended as an erotic cover came off as anything but ...  Personally I've always felt bad for the fruit.  Seemed like a massive waste of good produce.  Shame on the band for exhibiting such poor tastes.  

US cover  

UK cover - Vertigo catalog number VO 2 / 847 901

"Juicy Lucy" track listing:

(side 1) 
1.) Mississippi Woman   (Juicy Lucy - Ray Owens) - 3:45 
2.) Who Do You Love?   (Ellis McDaniels) - 2:49 
3.) She's Mine, She's Yours    (Keith Ellis - Nigel Thomas) - 5:43 
4.) Just One Time   (Neil Hubbard - Glenn Ross Campbell) - 4:31   

(side 2)

1.) Chicago North-Western  (Neil Hubbard - Glenn Ross Campbell) -4:02 
2.) Train   (Buddy Miles - Hern Rich) - 5:49 
3.) Nadine   (Chuck Berry) - 2:46 
4.) Are You Satisfied?   (Pete Dobson - Chris Mercer - Nigel Thomas) - 6:13

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