Thursday, 31 January 2013


Live it down
There's a lot of us been pushed around
Red, yellow, black, white and brown
With a tear of their own
Oh, can't you see
While you're pickin' on society
That the leaves on your family tree
Are callin' you to come home

You're the keeper of the castle
So be a father to your children
The provider of all their daily needs
Like a sovereign lord protector
Be their destiny's director
And they'll do well to follow where you lead

In your head
You don't believe what the good book said
You're gonna strike out now instead
'Cause the world's been unkind
Through thick and thin
Whatever shape your heart is in
You only have one next of kin
Better keep 'em in mind

You're the keeper of the castle
So be a good man to your lady
The creator of the sunshine in her day
Tend the garden that you seeded
Be a friend when a friend is needed
And you won't have to look the other way

[from the lyrics of "Keeper of the Castle"]

One of Motown's most consistent hitmakers and its longest lived lineup (over four decades), the Four Tops were the most stable vocal groups to emerge from the label in the '60s, charting with scores of upbeat love songs featuring Levi Stubbs' rough hewn lead vocals.

The Four Tops were a product of Detroit's North End: Levi Stubbs and Abdul "Duke" Fakir sang together in a group while attending Pershing High School. Renaldo "Obie" Benson and Lawrence Payton were boyhood friends and attended Northern High together in Detroit too. At the insistence of their friends, they performed at a local birthday party and decided to remain together christening themselves The Four Aims.

Roquel "Billy" Davis, who was Lawrence Payton's cousin and sometimes sang with the group as the fifth Aim, sent a demo tape to Chess Records in Chicago. They were sent bus tickets and invited to audition.

It seems that Chess was more interested in Davis' writing skill than the group. However Davis' persistence ended up with them being signed to Chess Records. In 1956 they changed their name to Four Tops to avoid confusion with the The Ames Brothers, another well-estabilished vocal group.

Over the next seven years, the Tops endured unsuccessful tenures at Chess, Red Top, Riverside Records and Columbia Records. Without any hit records to their name, they toured frequently, developing a polished stage presence and an experienced supper club act. In 1963, Berry Gordy, Jr., who had worked with Roquel Davis as a songwriter in the late '50s, convinced the Tops to join the roster of his growing Motown record company.

Gordy had them record "Breaking Through" for his experimental Workshop Jazz subsidiary. Later that year they were finally directed toward contemporary soul. Under the wing of Motown's top production and recording team, Holland-Dozier-Holland, the Four Tops were launched with "Baby I Need Your Loving", which went to #11 in 1964.

Over the next eight years The Four Tops appeared on the charts almost thirty times, and Levi Stubbs became an international star and an influence on singers from the Sixties to the present time.

After scoring their first #1 hit, the often-recorded and revived "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)" in June 1965, the Four Tops began a long series of successful hit singles. Among the first wave of these hits were the Top 10 "It's the Same Old Song", "Something About You", "Shake Me, Wake Me (When It's Over)", and "Loving You is Sweeter Than Ever".

"Keeper of the Castle" original ABC/Dunhill Records innersleeve

Like many other Motown acts, the Four Tops became popular in major nightclubs around the world. In 1967 they had hits with "Bernadette", "7-Rooms of Gloom" and "You Keep Running Away". By now, the Tops were the most successful male Motown act in the U.K. ( the United States, they were second to The Temptations...), and began experimenting with more mainstream pop hits.

They scored hits with their versions of "If I Were a Carpenter" and "Walk Away Renée". These singles and the original "I'm In a Different World" were their last hits produced by Holland-Dozier-Holland, who left Motown in 1967.

Without Holland-Dozier-Holland, the quality of the Four Tops' output began to decline, and hits became less frequent. The group worked with a wide array of Motown producers during the late 1960s, including Ivy Hunter, Nickolas Ashford & Valerie Simpson, Norman Whitfield and Johnny Bristol, without significant chart success.

Their first major hit in a long time came in the form of 1970's "It's All In the Game", produced by Frank Wilson. Wilson and the Tops began working on a number of innovative tracks and albums together, echoing Whitfield's psychedelic soul work with The Temptations.

"Keeper of the Castle" original insert (front)

Their 1970 album "Still Waters Run Deep" was an early ancestor to the concept album. It also served as an inspiration for Marvin Gaye's 1971 classic album "What's Going On", the title track of which was co-written by "Obie" Benson.

In addition to their own albums, the Tops were paired with The Supremes for a series of three albums: "The Magnificent Seven" was released in 1970, "The Return of the Magnificent Seven" and "Dynamite!" followed in 1971. While the albums themselves did not do well on the charts, "The Magnificent Seven" featured a Top 20 version of Ike & Tina Turner's "River Deep - Mountain High", produced by Ashford & Simpson.

In early 1972 the Four Tops recorded "Nature Planned It" with producer Frank Wilson, it was their last Motown album for more than twenty years. This release was the subject of a previous post on Stereo Candies, just have a look here if you're interested.

During that year, Motown started relocating to Los Angeles and all its artists had to move as well. Many of the older acts opted to stay in Detroit, including The Funk Brothers backing band and the Four Tops. The Tops departed Motown for ABC/Dunhill, where they were assigned to songwriters-producers Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter. "Keeper of the Castle" was their first Pop Top 10 hit since "Bernadette" in 1967, with "Ain't No Woman (Like the One I've Got)" also entering the Top 10 in a short time...

"Keeper of the Castle" original insert (back)

Here's an excerpt from the liner notes written by Stu Hackel that are part of the big booklet included on the "Fourever" box-set released by Hip-O Records in 2001:

«In mid-1972, Rolling Stone magazine carried the note that "the Four Tops have left Motown (!) intact (!)  to join ABC/Dunhill". Steve Barri, the label's A&R head, had admittedly tried to imitate the Motown Sound witch acts like Three Dog Night and the Grassroots. Now he had a chance to work with the genuine article.

Barri assigned them to his hottest songwriting team, Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter, who had composed hits like Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds' "Don't Pull Your Love" and the Grassroots' "Two Divided By Love". They still had to do some convincing, though, as Lambert recalls with a mixture of excitement and awe their first meeting in Los Angeles.

"They huddled around our piano", he says, "and I was singing away and Brian was hanging on the top of the piano with his ring. That was the moment of truth for us with the Four Tops - when they'd turn around to the company president and say, 'This shit isn't happening', or give us the vote of approval". Lawrence pulled Lambert aside, telling him, "You know, we've stood around the piano in our day with some pretty talented people, and the stuff you played today stands up the best stuff we've ever heard."

The relationship blossomed, Lambert recalls. "Brian Botter was English and about as straight as you could be; I was a New York Jewish guy; Steve Barri was a transplanted New York Jewish guy brought up in Los Angeles, but there were never any issues about it. We were like a family."

Recording in L.A. differed from Motown. Without the hubbub of being home and the late-night recordings, the Tops worked in the afternoons and evening, relaxed in fine hotels and ate at great restaurants. With Lambert playing the Andantes' role as an uncredited back-up singer, the Tops leaned even harder on group harmonies. "And when the album was complete, it was as good as any we'd ever done.", says Duke, "We were excited again."

The first single, "Keeper of the Castle", carried a strong message about the role of the black male. "We were hoping to make a record with some deeper things to say." recalls Lambert, "I remember having the discussion very openly. I said 'We're working on a song with a pretty heavy message, about the Black man being the true centerpiece of the family, and historically the weak link in the Black family. Would you sing something that speak to that issue?' And they said yes - in theory. Then they heard it and loved it."

"Keeper of the Castle" ended the Four Tops' five-year absence from the Pop Top 10. The black radio jumped on "Ain't No Woman (Like the One I've Got)" and it was pulled off the album as a single. Levi's heartfelt delivery and the Tops' expert harmony helped make it their first certified million seller, a song many listeners still mistake for a Motown classic.

Years later, when Barri worked at Motown, Gordy strolled into his office for a chat, casually carrying a golf club. Spying the gold record for "Ain't No Woman" on the wall he asked jokingly, "Do you mind if I smash this?"

The "Keeper of the Castle" LP had other potential smashed on it, like "Remember What I Told You To Forget", but ABC declined to release more singles. "Today," Barri says, "you would have milked that LP and probably sold a lot more records.

Four Tops as they appear on the cover of the mid-price version of "Keeper of the Castle" released by Music For Pleasure/EMI in the U.K. in 1976

Here's a couple of original reviews about the album:

Billboard, November 11, 1972

The message-filled title track (also a single) penned by producers Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter serves as the spotlight of the group first album for the label. "Love Music", "Ain't No Woman (Like the One I've Got)" and "Remember What I Told You To Forget" are among the other eleven powerful tunes. With Levi Stubbs upfront on most cuts the sound material is tops.

Phyl Garland on Ebony, March 1973

Let's give four cheers for some of the finest ensemble singers on the boards. Since departing from Motown, where they were cast in the shadows of the Temptations, these gents have come up with a winner of a record. Their voices have the rich mellowness of a fine pipe tobacco and the blend is outasight. The material is loaded with "messages" while the backgrounds are arranged with just enough oomph and bounce to appeal to dancers. On the slow number they are sweeter than sweet. Standouts include: "Turn On the Light of Your Love", "When Tonight Meets Tomorrow", reminiscent of Marvin Gaye's recent compositions, "The Good Lord Knows" and the title song. Let the Tops keep on Spinning.

"Keeper of the Castle" contains the following tracks:

01. Keeper of the Castle (2:58)
02. Ain't No Woman (Like the One I've Got) (3:05)
03. Put a Little Love Away (3:03)
04. Turn On the Light of Your Love (3:43)
05. When Tonight Meets Tomorrow (3:44)
06. Love Music (3:38)
07. Remember What I Told You To Forget (3:50)
08. (I Think I Must Be) Dreaming (2:57)
09. The Good Lord Knows (4:05)
10. Jubilee With Soul (3:20)
11. Love Makes You Human (4:38)
12. Keeper of the Castle (Reprise) (1:40)

All tracks were remastered in January 2013, they are available as a single FLAC lossless format file or high-quality 320 Kbps MP3 file. Both formats include complete printable artwork as PDF files.

Before you burn this album on CD-R using the provided CUE file you will need to convert the original files to WAV format using an appropriate software. Here's an option for FLAC to WAV conversion and one for MP3 to WAV conversion.

As usual, please have a look at the comments for the download links.

Note: most of the songs on the original vinyl album have longer fade-outs and sometimes a slightly different mix than those published by Motown on the 1987 CD release (cat. number MD08046MD) in my possession. On this release the albums "Keeper of the Castle" and "Nature Planned It" have been squeezed on one CD and many songs were edited for time purpose; the 12th track "Keeper of the Castle (Reprise)" was omitted completely. Sadly, the other Motown CD version in my possession (cat. number 3746354282) offers the same edited tracklist described above. The "Fourever" box-set released in 2001 by Hip-O Records (cat. number 314 556 225-2) includes four remastered tracks presumably taken from the original masters and it's a pity that the complete album is still not available in a fully remastered version. Anyway, my remastering work tries to offer the most faithful representation of the original album using both vinyl and CD as sound sources.

"Keeper of the Castle" was released by ABC/Dunhill with catalogue number DSX 50129 in early November 1972; it was Four Tops' 18th full-lenght release. As already mentioned, the album was produced by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter, who also penned about half of the tracks.

The album opens with the title track, a strong social commentary on men's roles in relationships. "Keeper of the Castle" was also the first choice as a single and it was released on October 13, 1972; it peaked at number 10 on the U.S. Pop Chart and number 7 on the R&B Charts. The song also peaked at number 18 on the U.K. Pop Chart. In 2006 it was sampled by New York rapper Da Inphamus Amadeuz on his track "Come On Home".

"Ain't No Woman (Like the One I've Got)" was chosen as the second U.S. single and was released on January 15, 1973, backed with "The Good Lord Knows" on the flip side of the domestic version. The song had originally appeared in early 1972 on "Hallway Symphony", an album by the singing trio of Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds. The song was led by Levi Stubbs and included special co-lead spots by Lawrence Payton, Renaldo "Obie" Benson and Abdul "Duke" Fakir, in that respective order during the song's chorus. The song was later covered by The Mamas & The Papas, The Friends of Distinction, Johnny Mathis and many others; it was also reinterpreted by Jay-Z and Foxy Brown in their 1996 hit, "Ain't No Nigga".

The album continues with "Put a Little Love Away", a mellow slow number fully orchestrated by Jimmie Haskell. I think I hear a sitar playing here and there, but this instrument is not mentioned anywhere on the credits... Anyway, the song was also included on Side B of the U.K. version of "Ain't No Woman (Like the One I've Got)" and was later covered by Sergio Mendes & Brazil 77 in a bossanova-tinged version featuring singer Bonnie Bowden.

"Turn On the Light of Your Love" was written by Stubbs / Benson / Fakir along with Len Perry, an alias for Lawrence Payton. The song features lead vocals by Renaldo "Obie" Benson and horns arrangement by Jimmie Haskell; it is one of the funkiest tunes on the album and benefits of a synthesized bass-line played on the Moog by Haskell himself, definitely a favourite of mine!

The soulful "When Tonight Meets Tomorrow" was written by Renaldo Benson and Lawrence Payton - once again hidden under his Len Perry moniker - along with famous songwriter Al Cleveland, an author who is best remembered for his co-writing on "I Second That Emotion" (Smokey Robinson & The Miracles) and "What's Going On" (Marvin Gaye).

Side One ends with "Love Music" a track that is infused with latin vibes and loaded with strings and horns, with Tony Terran taking care of the trumpet solo that is featured halfway through the song.

Side Two starts with "Remember What I Told You To Forget", written by Lambert & Potter and arranged by Jimmie Haskell. In 1974 the song was a success for Tavares and was included on their second album entitled "Hard Core Poetry" produced by Lambert & Potter.

"(I Think I Must Be) Dreaming", another Lambert & Potter tune, was released as a single in the U.K. on February 16, 1973, backed with "The Good Lord Knows" which comes next in the album sequence. The song has an Adult Contemporary feeling which is also spreaded here and there on other tracks of the album, like "Put a Little Love Away", for example.

"The Good Lord Knows" was written by Renaldo "Obie" Benson and Lawrence Payton and offers lead vocals by Benson himself. The Fender Rhodes piano intro/bridge of this song was sampled by a plethora of artists working in the Hip Hop field.

With its Funk sourced from Blues roots "Jubilee With Soul" is another favourite of mine; Levi Stubbs and Renaldo Benson share the lead vocals on this number written by Benson along with his then wife Valaida and guitarist Joe Smith. The song appeared on Side B of the domestic version of the single "Keeper of the Castle".

"Love Makes You Human" was written by Valaida Benson along with her husband Renaldo and Lawrence Payton who also delivers the lead vocals. This tune allows the musicians to improvise, adding a strong Jazz touch to the flying beat; it offers an organ solo by Chip Crawford and a sax solo by Jerome Richardson. The song's opening sequence will re-appear later on "Catfish" in 1976.

The album ends with a reprise of the title-track which serves to reaffirm the concepts already expressed.

The following videos offer a preview of the remastered album; for this purpose I chose the two funkiest tracks: "Turn On the Light of Your Love" and "Jubilee With Soul", enjoy!

Here's the credits and personnel list of "Keeper of the Castle" as they appear on the insert included with the album:

Keeper of the Castle
Lead vocal: Levi Stubbs, Jr.
Strings arranged by Jimmie Haskell

Ain't No Woman (Like the One I've Got)
Lead vocal: Levi Stubbs
Electrig guitar: Larry Carlton
Woodwinds and strings arranged by Dennis Lambert and Don Hockett

Put a Little Love Away
Lead vocal: Levi Stubbs
Woodwinds and strings arranged by Jimmie Haskell

Turn On the Light of Your Love
Lead vocal: Renaldo "Obie" Benson
Horns arranged by Jimmie Haskell

When Tonight Meets Tomorrow
Lead vocal: Levi Stubbs
Piccolo solo: Jerome Richardson
Strings and horns arranged by Gil Askey

Love Music
Lead vocal: Levi Stubbs
Trumpet solo: Tony Terran
Horns and strings arranged by Dennis Lambert and Don Hockett

Remember What I Told You To Forget
Lead vocal: Levi Stubbs
Strings and horns arranged by Jimmie Haskell

(I Think I Must Be) Dreaming
Lead vocal: Levi Stubbs
Strings and woodwinds arranged by Jimmie Haskell

The Good Lord Knows
Lead vocal: Renaldo "Obie" Benson
Horns and strings arranged by Gil Askey

Jubilee With Soul
Lead vocal: Levi Stubbs and Renaldo "Obie" Benson
Horns arranged by Gil Askey

Love Makes You Human
Lead vocal: Lawrence Payton
Organ solo: Chip Crawford
Sax solo: Jerome Richardson
Strings and horns arranged by Gil Askey

Keeper of the Castle (Reprise)
Lead vocal: Levi Stubbs
Strings arranged by Jimmie Haskell

Produced by Steve Barri, Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter

Engineer: Phil Kaye
Assistant: Howard Gale

Recorded at the ABC Recordings Studios, Los Angeles

Musicians include:

Drums: Paul Humphrey
Bass: Wilton Felder, Ronnie Brown
Guitars: Larry Carlton, David Cohen, Joe Smith, Richard Bennett
Keyboards: Chip Crawford, Dennis Lambert
Percussion: King Errisson, Gary Coleman, Vic Feldman, Brian Potter
Moog: Jimmie Haskell

Concert master: Sid Sharp

All background vocals by The Four Tops: Lawrence Payton, Abdul "Duke" Fakir, Levi Stubbs and Renaldo "Obie" Benson

Musical coordination: Lawrence Payton

Album design by Ruby Mazur

From left to right: Abdul "Duke" Fakir, Renaldo "Obie" Benson, Brian Potter, Dennis Lambert, Steve Barri, Levi Stubbs and Lawrence Payton, 1972

In the following article, published on the May 5, 1973, issue of Billboard, Bob Kirsch offers an insight into Lambert & Potter's collaboration with the Four Tops on the "Keepers of the Castle" album.

Lambert & Potter disclose Tops' new strategy success

Los Angeles - When the Four Tops left Motown last year after a long tenure to go with ABC/Dunhill, the task of helping guide their new career fell to the young but seasoned songwriter-production team of Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter.

The last several years the Four Tops spent at Motown were far from their most successful. Since coming to ABC they have enjoyed a top chart LP with two top 10 hits, "Keeper of the Castle" and "Ain't No Woman (Like the One I've Got)" both written and produced by Lambert & Potter.

The team has been involved in the music business for more than a decade. The British-born Potter played drums in a number of rock bands in the early '60s, worked with the Lionel Bart organization for several years and wrote the first English hit for the Small Faces as well as "199 Flops".

Lambert is a native New Yorker who started in show business at the age of five as a performer, moved into writing and producing in 1964 (writing "Do the Freddie") and worked with acts such as Mary Wells and Jerry Butler as well as several British groups, which is when he first met Potter.

The two teamed up in 1969 when both moved to Califomia. Working with the short-lived Talent Associates label, they produced and wrote "One Tin Soldier" (later taken as the theme for the movie "Billy Jack") as well as a number of other hit singles.

Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter

Two years ago they entered into a deal with ABC/Dunhill in which they are basically co-owners of everything they produce. They have their own publishing firm, Soldier Music, Inc., and their own production firm. They co-publish their tunes with ABC, sign acts to the production company, produce the product (with Steve Barri) and ABC distributes it. "It's like a label deal," Lambert says, "but we don't have our own label per se."

"We heard through company sources the Four Tops might be coming to us," Lambert said, "and since we had always been fans, we started working on a few songs aimed at them." The group had always relied on the song as a vehicle for their success, primarily using the Holland-Dozier-Holland team who were the greatest exponents of marrying a song to an artist.

"After the signing," Lambert continued, "we talked to the group at great length about what they wanted to do and say, which is when we came up with 'Keeper' as a concept for the LP. The song was meant to represent something philosophical, but it's still a pop song and nothing is going to make it anything else."

What has the team done differently with the group that might account for their rapid return to the charts? "It's hard to pinpoint anything specifically different," Lambert says. "One thing we did was help gather some of the songs they had written and let them record them, which was a somewhat new experience for them. We worked with them in building their abilities as writers. We also let the group become totally involved with the vocal arrangements, hoping to give them something to say rather than making them victims of the chorus."

"At one time," Potter continues, "there was a definite Four Tops trademark, a sort of grinding, chugging beat in four-four time. 'Standing in the Shadows of Love' was this kind of song, and we tried to get away from this."

Lambert adds, "Many writers feel if you have a hit you can do the same thing sideways and upside down and have three more hits. We think this is a certain road to disaster. We try to stay as far away from a song we've been successful with as possible. This is why 'Ain't No Woman' is more traditionally soul than 'Keeper'."

ABC-Dunhill president Jay Lasker, far right, introduces (left to right) Brian Potter, Abdul "Duke" Fakir, Dennis Lambert and Steve Barri at a meeting in Los Angeles (September 6, 1972)

"I think that through most of the Motown years, the group was thought of as a great lead singer with three guys yelling in the background," Potter says. "But they are really a consumate vocal group. This is why we have three of them singing lead at various points and all singing together on many cuts." Lambert agrees: "Levi is a fine singer and we tried to put songs back into realistic non-screaming keys for them and move them away from their formula sound. And we wanted to avoid the monotony of one guy doing all the singing."

The duo has applied a number of their basic rules of thumb to the Tops. "We like to keep songs broadly based," Lambert says, "and keep our personal point of view out. We try for relatively uncomplicated material that everyone can relate to. We try to create an image for an artist who doesn' t compose all his own tunes. Both of us do lyrics and music, but our method is probably not much different from other writers."

Potter added, "We've always followed the simple rule that most hits by artists with any kind of long-standing success are simply good, well recorded songs. Forget stage appearance and everything else. Elton John or Carole King, for example, write good material."

The team will be writing the title song for the upcoming "Shaft in Africa" with the Tops doing the singing. They also work with Dusty Springfield, who they feel has proven herself in every musical bag. "It's just a question of her building up some continuity with a writer, producer and label." Lambert says.

Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter

In early 1973 the Four Tops recorded three playbacks for the American musical variety TV show Soul Train: "Ain't No Woman (Like the One I Got)", "(I Think I Must Be) Dreaming" and "Keeper of the Castle". The original clips broadcasted on February 17, 1973, are available here below courtesy of YouTube, and are followed by a live rendition of "Ain't No Woman (Like the One I've Got)" performed for NBC's The Midnight Special in 1978, which benefits of an introduction by Aretha Franklin, wow!

More information about "Keeper of the Castle", Lambert & Potter and the Four Tops is available here:

If you have any other useful information about the Four Tops and "Keeper of the Castle" - especially corrections and improvements to this post - or if you spot any dead links, please get in touch with me at stereocandies [at] hotmail [dot] com or leave a comment in the box below, thank you!

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

PANCY LAU (劉鳳屏) "水長流" (1968)

Pancy Lau (Lau Fung Ping, 劉鳳屏 or 刘鳳屏, also referred to as Liu Feng Ping) was born sometimes in the late 40s / early 50s in a family of musicians; her father Lau Bak Lok (劉伯樂) - also known as Tin Ngai (天涯) - was a well-known Cantonese Opera Star. He was her very first music teacher, and guided her through the entertainment world.

Her career started when she was around 8 or 9 years old singing Cantonese Opera. As a teenager she transitioned to singing songs she enjoyed: Pop music. During the early 60s she participated two times in the Sing Tao Daily Singing Competition in Hong Kong with no significant results. In 1965 at last she won the Mandarin section of the 6th edition of the contest with the song "三年" (Three Years). Upon winning the competition, she became a resident singer at the prestigious Golden Crown Night Club (金冠).

Television Broadcasts Limited (電視廣播有限公司), commonly known as TVB, commenced broadcasting in Hong Kong on 19 November 1967. Pancy Lau was one of the first musical artists who participated in the popular show "歡樂今宵" (Enjoy Yourself Tonight), which was the longest running variety show in Hong Kong's television history.

In 1968 Fung Hang Records released her debut album entitled "My Heart Is Beating - 我的心蹦蹦跳". It was the first in a long series of recordings that continued for more than fifteen years.

"水長流" ("Water Flows Long"), the EP which is the subject of this post, was also released in 1968 and features four songs that were later included on Pancy Lau's second and most successful album entitled "快回頭望一望" ("Quickly Take a Look Behind").

For a more detailed biography of Pancy Lau I suggest that you read a previous post I dedicated to her here on Stereo Candies: "The Very Best of Pancy Lau Volume 1 [1968-70]".

Here's the track list for this 7" single:

01. 水長流 (3:35)
02. 不如不嫁了 (2:18)
03. 姑娘的心意 (2:00)
04. 我的心裡有個他 (2:09)

All tracks were remastered from the original vinyl release in January 2013 and are available in FLAC lossless format, along with scans of the complete original artwork.

As usual, please have a look at the comments for the download link.

All music on this release is played by 太陽神樂隊 (The Apollo), an Hong Kong prolific studio band that reached a cult status in the region during the late 60s / early 70s. Their name has probably been borrowed from the Teisco / Kawai manufactured Apollo model guitar from that time period.

They recorded a lot of instrumental albums, a few of them for New Wave Record Co. (新風) and most of them for Life Records (麗風); they were also featured as a backing band on countless releases by popular singers like Teresa Teng (鄧麗君), Frances Yip (葉麗儀), Stella Chee (奚秀蘭) and Pancy Lau, of course.

Here's what I discovered searching information about the songs included on this release; the translations of the song titles are approximate in most cases, but anyway...:

01. "水長流" (Water Flows Long) originated from a 1959 Japanese song entitled "大川ながし" by 美空ひばり (Misora Hibari, available here). It was later translated into a Taiwanese song in 1967, "快樂的農家" and recorded by 陳芬蘭 (Chen Fen Lan, available here). The song was also recorded by 鄧麗君 (Teresa Teng, available here), 姚蘇蓉 (Yao Su Rong, here) and many others.

02. "不如不嫁了" (How About I Don't Get Married) seems to be an original composition and I wasn't able to find any other information about it, except the name of its authors: music by 曹嘈 and words by 馮美葆.

03. "我的心裡有個他" (There Is Somebody In My Heart) was adapted from a Japanese song recorded by 翁倩玉 (Judy Ongg, available here) in 1967; it was also recorded by 鄧麗君 (Teresa Teng).

04. "姑娘的心意" (A Maiden's Heart) is another adaptation of a song imported from Japan. The original was popularized by 美空ひばり (Misora Hibari, available here - the song begins at about 2:00); the Mandarin version was also successfully performed by 張露 (Chang Loo).

Pancy Lau, circa 1970

The following clip offers a preview of the remastered single: "水長流" ("Water Always Flows"), enjoy!

More information about Pancy Lau is available here:

I'm currently trying to compile a Pancy Lau exhaustive discography, my work-in-progress is available here.

All my posts dedicated to Pancy Lau on this blog are available here.

In the next months I will post more Hong Kong/Taiwan/Singapore/etc. Pop/Instrumental records released in the late-60s / mid-70s. As usual, I would like to provide information about these releases and their authors.

Unfortunately the Internet doesn't offer much information - written in English - about these artists and this is the reason why I need help: if you can translate from Chinese to English please get in touch with me at stereocandies [at] hotmail [dot] com or leave a comment in the box below, thank you so much!

It's been difficult to obtain these vinyls, some are not in the best conditions and I'm currently working hard to properly master them. It seems that these artists and their music are poorly known in the West, of course it's a real pity because they made stunning releases: I'd like to share them with you with a proper presentation, hope that someone will be able to help.

Friday, 18 January 2013


Sheep Records was a Swiss underground label specialized in Garage-Rock, Surf, Lounge and other Rock'n'Roll oddities. Run by Christian Müller from Zürich, along with friends Andi Frick and Andreas Egi, it was active from 1996 to 2004 and published about 30 releases, mostly on 7" vinyl singles.

In october 2006, after about two years of hiatus, all the contents of the now defunct Sheep Records website were deleted from the Internet, and replaced with a blank page announcing that "Der Kebab ist gegessen" ("The kebab is eaten"), a last goodbye and a reference to the label's cataloguing system that included the prefix "kebab" for vinyl releases and "gigot" for CD releases.

The ninth Sheep Records release was the one and only official 7" by Charlotte's Bionic Blimp, a side-project created by Colette and Jason Savall and co-produced by Jordan Tarlow. Both Tarlow and Savall are ex-members of the mighty Garage-Rock band The Fuzztones.

The single was released in September 1998, it was limited to 300 copies on purple transparent vinyl and 700 copies on black vinyl, for a total of 1.000 copies. It came in a nice artwork designed by David Burns.

Here's the optimistic Sheep original short press-release:

"Potentially the 1st chart breaker for Sheep! Charlotte's Bionic Blimp (featuring Jason Savall of the Fuzztones) from L.A. perform a New Wave influenced version of the Prince classic '1999'. 'Here We Go Again' on the flip is a beautiful pop song with a lovely female chorus. This might be their only release before getting very big."

It seems that the band lasted at least until 2001, and they often played live concerts in the Los Angeles area with an extended lineup that included a bassist and a drummer. During their short lifetime they were often compared to the B-52's, the Sparks, The Cars and Stereolab.

They shortened their name to Bionic Blimp and in 1999 they debuted on CD with "Exploring Automatic Rhythms", released on their own imprint TGTBT Music. This release seems to be quite rare and I wasn't able to find a single copy available for sale on the Internet; rest assured that the search will go on and you'll be notified if I'm successful...

Here's the track list for this 7" single:

01. 1999 (3:01)
02. Here We Go Again (2:41)

Both tracks were remastered from vinyl in January 2013 and are available in FLAC lossless format or high-quality 320 Kbps MP3 files, both formats include scans of the original item in PDF format. Please have a look at the comments for the download links.

Charlotte's Bionic Blimp at the Jack's Sugar Shack in Los Angeles (December 18, 1998)

The following video offers a preview of the remastered single: "Here We Go Again"!

More information about Sheep Records, Charlotte's Bionic Blimp and The Fuzztones is available here:

The Sheep Records story will continue in the next months. All your inputs are more than welcome, if you want to get in touch please write to stereocandies [at] hotmail [dot] com or leave a comment in the box below, thank you!

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