The “Listen Again” series went over well enough here in the L.A. area that your favorite rockin’ record reviewer decided to follow the lead of some Los Angeles TV executives and do a spin-off. In this series we once more peruse previously-released albums but the platters we shall peruse in this particular series will be (Rolling Stone magazine) five-star albums. This edition we discuss Thunderclap Newman’s Hollywood Dream.
For those of you not up on your music history, Thunderclap Newman was a Brit band born in early 1969. The group was founded by The Who’s and manager Kit Lambert in order to promote the talents of songwriter John "Speedy" Keen (lead vocals, drums, percussion, acoustic guitar, conga, glockenspiel, gong and maracas), Andy "Thunderclap" Newman ( piano, organ, soprano saxophone, bass saxophone, oboe, tin whistle, glockenspiel, cor anglais, Bengali flutes, Japanese battle cymbal, hand bell, Indian finger cymbals, sleigh bells, Chinese temple block and vocals) and Jimmy McCulloch (later of Paul McCartney and Wings on acoustic guitar, electric guitar, maracas, wood block and backing vocals). (Bassist Jim Pitman-Avory and drummer Jack McCulloch would be brought on later only to augment live performances.)
They scored one number one hit in the UK in 1969 titled “Something in the Air". Townshend, under the name Bijou Drains, played bass on the track. Ian Green wrote the string arrangement. In the US it reached number 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It was also included in the soundtrack for the 1969 motion picture The Magic Christian which starred Peter Sellers and then-Beatle Ringo Starr.
The success of the single inspired the group to return to the studio and record an album. Townshend produced the album and was credited for playing bass on the album under the previously-mentioned alias (although later re-releases would drop him from the credits). The 12-track album opens on the noteworthy, near-titular track "Hollywood #1" which was the first of Keen’s compositions.
The second selection was also written by Keen. It’s titled “The Reason” and is one of his most enduring tracks ever. It’s followed by an exceptional cover of an obscure Bob Dylan tune “Open the Door, Homer".
"Look Around" is the next number. He band introduces guest artist Chris Morphet who adds his harmonica to this memorable mix. Morphet also encores on "Accidents". While this is a bit lengthy at just short of ten minutes, the music somehow makes the cut seem not so much long as long-lasting.
Also included here are the oft’times overlooked "Wild Country", the thoughtful "When I Think", the forgotten classic "The Old Cornmill" and "I Don't Know" which has a certain je ne sais quoi. They all also serve to demonstrate not only Keen’s songwriting skills but also indicate the band’s abilities to blend the genres of art rock, prog rock and psychedelic pop.
The instrumental "Hollywood Dream" follows. Co-written by Jack and Jimmy McCulloch, it’s highlighted by some exceptional guitar work by Jimmy. The album also includes a critically-acclaimed reprise of “Hollywood” aptly named "Hollywood #2". An assortment of interesting instruments is included here including a Chinese temple bloc, glockenspiel, a Japanese battle cymbal, sleigh bells and soprano saxophones.
The closing cut is an album version of their only hit single "Something in the Air". Why the single was included is no surprise although its use as an album end-note is perhaps questionable. Nevertheless, it was the song for which the band is best known (and remains so to this day).
With a running time of almost 48 minutes, Hollywood Dream was released in the US in October of 1970 (originally) on Atlantic Records and in the UK on Track Records. The group released three other singles off the LP: "Accidents", "The Reason" and "Wild Country." A few years later, the platter would be reissued in the US by MCA Records complete with alternate cover art.
The album refused to be forgotten. In 1991 it would be reissued as a Polydor Records CD with the hit song “Something in the Air" as the lead-in. Six bonus tracks were also added including the single version "Something In The Air", the single versions of "Accidents" and "The Reason" and the three non-album B-sides: “I See It All” by the McCullochs and Newman’s "Wilhemina" and "Stormy Petrel". This bolstered the running time to nearly 69 minutes.
Thunderclap Newman’s Hollywood Dream/MCA 354 a rather remarkable one-shot recorded by some of the strangest rock and roll minds of the 1960s. Their one-shot wonder single, "Something in the Air", is still in demand for TV commercials, movie soundtracks and various compilations further ensuring their rightful place as an indispensable part of any truly comprehensive collection.
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