Last year, Record Store Day was notable for the subtle re-issue of several curious, obscure -- and in some circles -- very collectible records largely by bands that never really had any hits and for the most part disappeared. For the most part, these reissues had one common thread: they were all put out back in the day on the UK subsidiary of EMI Records, Parlophone (part of the catalog which was acquired by Warner Brothers in 2012, by the way, a company that owns Rhino Records, the legendary label renown for its great archival releases).
Fans of The Beatles will know the label of course as the home to the Fab Four. But for the most part, most music fans, especially here in the United States, have little to no idea about the label and its fascinating history that includes old jazz and comedy recordings by the likes of The Goons (the influential troupe that included Peter Sellars, major influences on not only the Beatles but the entertainers to be who would become known as Monty Python's Flying Circus).
I had heard rumors that the reissue of The Yardbirds' Little Games album (on Parlophone) was on rather spiffy colored vinyl, so I grabbed one of those sight unseen (yes, this was one of the better known groups on the label beyond the Beatles). Someone while waiting online to get into the store told me to check out the band -- and album of the same title -- called July, which I'd never heard of before so I grabbed one of those too (reported on here on Audiophilereview last year).
The one I wanted most was The Birthday Party by The Idle Race, the first album by Jeff Lynne who later became famous as leader of The Electric Light Orchestra and one of the world's most successful pop music producers -- it was released on super cool metallic gold vinyl. (And yes, I also reviewed that one too!)
Anyhow, preparing for this year's Record Store Day festivities, one of my music buddies who works in a local music shop told me to keep an eye out for the latest Parlophone reissues. True to form, there were several, most of which I had again personally never heard of before -- I guess I'm not that "deep" of a rare psych pop collector as I thought I was! When I got inside 1-2-3-4 Go Records here in San Francisco, there indeed were several Parlophone labels, all not marked as to the colorful contents within...
One of them I grabbed was by The Rainbow Ffolley, an album called Sallies Forth. This lighthearted slice of British flavored paisley-tinged flower-power-rainbow colored music turns out to have a charming story that involves no celebrities past, present or future. From articles I've read on the Wiki and other places on the web, in short this was a case of some students getting together to make some music, cutting some demos, and having the good luck of getting the songs in the hands of someone who actually listened and liked said demos. The band was asked for more songs to consider so they whipped up some rough demos sketch ideas. Before they knew it, the label was preparing to release these demos as the group's first album, much to their chagrin as these recordings were never really intended to be released in that manner.
And therein lies the charm of The Rainbow Fflolley's lone release: it has a wonderful lightness of being, an off-the-cuff freshness that captures a moment in time, without any real pretense.
Indeed, the underlying humor of the band's name is not lost on this writer: Folly is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as:
-- the lack of good sense or judgment
-- a foolish act or idea : foolish behavior
-- a very unusual or fancy building that was built in a garden for decoration or amusement in the past
Sallies Forth is all that and more wrapped up in the technicolor dream-coat of the Summer of Love ...
One track called "No" is sort of like soft rock version of The Seeds ("Pushin' Too Hard"). "The Sighing Game" is a lysergic folk-rock twist on The Beach Boys, replete with pedal-steel styled solos and a hushed mix this side of The Velvet Underground's third album. "I'm So Happy" is a jaunty piece of vaudeville styled pop that even name checks The Small Faces' "Itchykoo Park" that hippy-hops along the same Rudy Vallee-inspired garden path as Tiny Tim's "Tip Toe Through The Tulips" and The Beatles 'You're Mother Should Know."
I can see why this album became so revered in pop psych collectors circles. Its really very nice and enjoyable.
Like The Who's Sell Out opus from 1967, The Rainbow Ffolley uses mock radio advertisements as well as other audio-verite sound effects and dialogue -- including periodic announcements from the captain of the "ship" called The Rainbow Ffolly -- as links between the diverse tracks. Album closer "Come and Go" sounds like Jonathan Richman's Modern Lovers doing a Mose Allison styled tune but sung by a singer more like Micky Dolenz of The Monkees.
And it goes on like this.... with songs about fine yellow balloons ... and then the song "Drive My Car" sounds like a rockabilly twist on early Simon & Garfunkel ("Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine") by way of the once and future Rutles' Archeology collection. "Goodbye" is a lovely folk - jazz tune that would have fit perfectly on a mid-60s Peter Paul and Mary record, with very Beatle-esque harmony touches.
"Hey You" could be an out-take from The Dukes of Stratosphear's Psonic Sunspot collection by way of Guided By Voices Bee Thousand collection of lo-fi indie rock. "Sun Sing" sounds like a Cowsills outtake by way Syd Barrett's first solo album.
The sound on the album is quite nice for music that was recorded as rough demos. The pressing is on thick, probably 180-gram, dead quiet and well centered vinyl. Oh, and in keeping with last year's Record Store Day releases, The Rainbow Ffolley comes on beautiful multi colored rainbow splattered vinyl that totally complements the album's charming hand drawn psychedelic cover art.
So, there you have it: The Rainbow Ffolly is a bit of charming, lighthearted, spur-of-the-moment psychedelic indie pop. Highly recommended.