Marmalade Fine CutsMarmalade deserve re-appraisal and Fine Cuts is a rounded legacy of which they can be justifiably proud.

Label: Salvo

Time: 45 Tracks / 153 minutes

This double-pack of 45 tracks has one disc for 'The 60s' and one for 'The 70s,' but the complete set only covers six years. They were clearly very productive.

This compilation is like a tour through a very pivotal moment in music. The two 1966 tracks sound very much of their time, with jangly guitars and falsetto harmonies (try listening to "Wait a Minute Baby" without hearing "Let's Go to San Francisco" in your head). The type of brass arrangements in "Can't Stop Now" have only returned since in pastiches. It was a stage when bands tried harder to sound like the era itself than define their own musical personality.

They grow up considerably by the 1967 tracks. Graham Nash was clearly a big influence: the very fine "I See the Rain" shows echoes of The Hollies, while Crosby, Stills and Nash-style harmonies abound throughout the collection.

It is no accident that "Lovin' Things" sounds like Love Affair's "Everlasting Love." When producer Mike Smith offered Marmalade the latter, they turned it down, preferring to release their own material. After Love Affair took the song to number one, Marmalade got some of the action back by using a copycat arrangement on their recording of "Lovin' Things." It reached the top six.

By 1968, their professionalism is even more developed, so that when they cover classics like "Hey Joe," while they plainly lack Hendrix's dynamic spark, they acquit themselves decently, as they do on "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "I Shall be Released." However, their 1971 account of "Stay with Me Baby" (helped by some orchestration added in the mid-'90s) has all the drama, soul and tenderness that the song deserves.

Many of the pieces that work well are their own: "Kaleidoscope" succeeds as fine psychedelia; singles like "Cousin Norman" and "Reflections of My Life" were Marmalade compositions; and "Just One Woman" is a superb song passionately sung.

There will be always be some duds among 45 songs ("Rainbow" remains lacklustre, despite being arguably their most successful track, reaching the top seven in both the UK singles chart and US Adult Contemporary) but there are way more pleasant surprises than disappointments across this collection.

With Salvo you normally get a top notch package, but this time the sleeve notes should have been re-edited. Junior Campbell's exclamation marks average 23 per short page covering the years when he was in the band, falling to a meagre eight after he had left. However embattled they may have felt outside theatres, I suspect that the band did not really fall victim to "fan warship" either.

But the music is what matters most and singing along to "Chains," I could almost smell the Dansette and see the 45 spinning around. The band is far better than "Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da" and "Rainbow" suggest. Sometimes it is the songwriting, sometimes the production and arrangements, and at other times the quality of their harmonies and musicianship – the band were musical journeymen, who demo'd "Congratulations" for Cliff Richard as one of their session jobs. Special mention must go to Dean Ford, who co-writes many decent songs and consistently performs them well.

Marmalade deserve re-appraisal and Fine Cuts is a rounded legacy of which they can be justifiably proud.


Derek Walker