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22 Nov 2016

Les Fleur De Lys “Reflections” 1965-69 UK Psych Mod Fuzz














Les Fleur De Lys  “Reflections” 1965-69 UK  amazing  Psych Mod Fuzz
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Although several of their singles are coveted by collectors of ‘60s British rock, Les Fleur de Lys remain obscure even by cult standards. That’s partly because they never came close to getting a hit, but also because their furious pace of lineup changes makes their history very difficult to trace, and also precluded any sense of consistent style or identity. The group did release a number of fine singles in the mod-psychedelic style that has become known as “freakbeat,” with more of a soul music influence than most such British acts. 

Les Fleur de Lys changed lineups about half-a-dozen times during their recording career, which roughly spanned 1965-1969. Drummer Keith Guster was the only constant member; some of the musicians passing through went on to commercial success with Journey and Jefferson Starship (keyboardist Pete Sears) and King Crimson (bassist Gordon Haskell). At the outset, they recorded a couple of singles for the Immediate label that were produced by Jimmy Page (there remains some controversy about whether he played guitar on these as well). A cover of the Who’s “Circles” featured the fluid, slightly distorted guitar lines that would become Fleur de Lys’ most distinguishing characteristic. The 45s made no commercial impact, however, and Fleur de Lys helped sustain themselves in the late '60s by backing relocated South African singer Sharon Tandy. 

Sprawling 24-track comp of the rare recordings of this enigmatic band. Includes 14 songs issued under the Les Fleur de Lys name, singles that they issued under the Rupert’s People, Chocolate Frog, and Shyster pseudonyms, and releases on which they backed Sharon Tandy, John Bromley, and Waygood Ellis. It goes without saying that such a manic hodgepodge is geared toward the hardcore collector market. 

But if you like mid-to-late '60s mod-psych, it’s a decent item to have around, with some sparkling (occasionally crazed) guitar work, unusually constructed tunes that sometimes meld soul and psychedelia, and nice harmonies. “Circles” and “Mud in Your Eye” are first-rate pounding mod guitar tunes; “Gong With the Luminous Nose” is pop-psych at its silliest; “Reflections of Charlie Brown” is pop-psych at its most introspective; and Sharon Tandy’s “Daughter of the Sun” is a lost near-classic with witchy vocals and sinister psychedelic guitar. 
by Richie Unterberger………. 

Les Fleur De Lys long and complicated story starts off in Southampton, England. It was there were Fleur De Lys started out as a beat combo with the original line up of Frank Smith (guitar/vocals), Alex Chamberlain (Organ), Gary Churchill (Bass) and Keith Guster (Drums). Already an established local act, the band were signed to Immediate in 1965 after catching one of their live shows in a London gig. This line up then recording the only single they would, a beat version of Buddy Holly’s Moondreams backed with Wait For Me with a young Jimmy Page in the producer’s chair. The single, however, did not do too much on the charts and this lineup disbanded leaving only drummer Keith Guster to continue on. He would, incidentally, be the only member to survive all the personnel changes. Teaming up with some musicians he met in London, Les Fleur De Lys went back into the studio to record what is probably their best track, Circles. With Jimmy Page producing again, this second single knocks the socks off the original version recorded by The Who. New members Gordon Haskell (bass), Pete Sears (keyboards) and Phil Sawyer (guitar) rock out on this single but as it achieved recognition only with the pirate stations, the single flopped. The band then decided they needed a front man/lead vocalist and found Chris Andrews, who had been a child actor and worked in the 1964 production of Oliver in London. With the lineup augmented, Polydor took interest in the group and signed them in the summer of 1966. Unfortunately, the unreliable Pete Sears was fired and guitarist Phil Sawyer left right after and Fleur De Lys was down to a three-piece. They did the Mud In Your Eye single with new guitarist Bryan Haworth. It was around this time when the band met producer/manager Frank Fenter and this association led to working with a young girl singer Sharon Tandy. With Tandy, the band went off to tour Holland (with Aretha Franklin), the band also backed Issac Hayes and recorded an album with Barney Kessel. By Spring 1967, Fleur De Lys joined the ever growing psychedelic bandwagon and did a single with friend and guitarist Rod Lynton under the name Rupert’s People. Chris Andrews went on with the band, releasing the Procol Harum influenced Reflections Of Charles Brown on Columbia, which was a hit all over Europe but soon after, Rupert’s People disbanded. The intrepid Fleur De Lys became a three-piece once again when losing singer Andrews. The went into to studio to back Sharon Tandy with a remake of Rupert’s Peoples’ Hold On and a new composition, Daughter Of The Sun. It wasn’t until September 1967 that a new Fleur De Lys single appeared. With Bryn Haworth on vocals, I Can See The Light/Prodigal Son was released and around the same time, a single under the name Shyster appeared called Tick Tock. In October 1967, the band did a Top Gear show with Sharon Tandy and teamed up with the Vanilla Fudge, recording material that has yet to surface. Another single immediately followed this time, Gordon Haskell’s take on a nonsense poem by Edward Lear, Gong With A Luminous Nose in 1968. The band also started recording an album for Polydor, but those tapes (containing several cover versions from Ray Charles to The Young Rascals) have seem to disappeared into the bottomless filing cabinets at Polygram. The three-piece continued to provide backing for several artists, most notably backing Donnie Elbert and John Bromley for their albums. Also a single under the name Waygood Ellis appeared which also featured the Lys. Gordon Haskell left at this time and two new members joined, singer Tony Head and bassist Tago Byers. A new single with the new lineup appeared in June 1968 and was a complete commercial/STAX groove track called Stop Crossing The Bridge backed by a mediocre pop song, Brick By Brick. Fortunately, the saved something better for their next single. Liar shows what the band was really all about with it’s psychedelic guitar and layered chorus. The B side was another superb slice of rock, One City Girl has a pounding bass line and some tight drums and nice wah guitar. Previous to this last single, the band released a single under the guise of Chocolate Frog! However the band didn’t get to the seventies, and disbanded after yet another personnel shift- Bryan Haworth who left to the US West Coast, replaced by Graham Maitland. This lineup didn’t get as far as recording any more singles and called it a day…or a decade…….. 

As Britain’s “other” major Atlantic seaport, Southampton might have been expected to produce a stream of pop and rock successes to rival Liverpool during the Golden Years, but it didn’t happen. Probably the highest-profile outfit to emerge from the south coast seaport during this period was Les Fleur De Lys, certainly the only such with a grammatically-incorrect French name. Like their near-neighbours, Brighton’s Mike Stuart Span, they enjoyed a chequered history involving half–dozen lineups, dabbling in half-a-dozen genres, sporadically releasing a dozen or so singles and finally fragmenting in frustration after half-a-dozen years (1964-1970). Again like the Span, they never contrived to issue an album in their lifetime, but the present CD is a compendium of all their singles from their earliest Beat Boom days through their freakbeat, blue-eyed soul, harmony-pop, psychedelic and nascent prog-rock phases. Their legacy remains a handful of classic freakbeat and psych A-sides, and their other main claim to fame is as a launch pad for guitarist Bryn Haworth’s subsequent career; he would morph into perhaps Britain’s finest electric slide player and thence become a doyen of Christian rock music in which field he remains very active. 

The Fleurs could in fact boast some pretty substantial musicianship throughout their various incarnations. Drummer Keith Guster, the only ever-present member, could hold down a metronomic funky beat whilst bassist Gordon Haskell, who would move on to King Crimson, had formidable rock and soul chops. Haworth’s predecessor Phil Sawyer was also a fine player in a reckless Jeff Beck style, whilst Haworth himself boasted a fluid bluesy technique and a distinctive, piercing Stratocaster/AC30 sound. They were a top live draw around Swinging London, acting as backing band live and on disc for singer Sharon Tandy and supporting such esteemed and varied visiting headliners as the Beach Boys, Isaac Hayes and Aretha Franklin. In an attempt to break through chartwise they also recorded under various pseudonyms including Shyster, Waygood Ellis, Rupert’s People and Chocolate Frog (!). Several of the early singles were produced by one Jimmy Page, no less. 

The twenty-four tracks of the present compilation include the A’s and B’s of all seven singles issued under their own name, the Tandy sides and all the sides released under the fake monikers. The early Beat-era stuff and the soul-based tracks are pretty disposable; the Fleurs were no Young Rascals, nor despite the presence of a couple of competent organists in the early lineups were they anyone’s Procul Harum. However the Page-produced freakbeat cover of Pete Townshend’s “Circles” and its follow-up “Mud In Your Eye” forefront Sawyer’s fine manic lead guitar licks, whilst “Gong With The Luminous Nose” and “Liar” are fine examples of Brit psychedia and guitar-led prog respectively with Haworth’s exemplary Hendrixoid fretwork to the fore. The two Sharon Tandy sides “Hold On” and “Daughter Of The Sun” are rip-roaring rockers, with the powerful backings complementing Tandy’s steely vocal and Haskell’s bass work on “Hold On” a revelation. On the rock and pop tracks the instrumentation and vocals are more than competent but the songwriting is passable at best and sometimes mediocre. The result is a fascinating 24-track collection of historical interest to Sixties rock completists, but which would have made a really good “best of” if reduced to sixteen cuts. 

Originally issued on CD by Blueprint in 1996, the present Gonzo budget reissue has the same track listing but a different cover photo. The typo-strewn track listing and historical perspective in the booklet notes are not exactly academic masterpieces, but better ones can be found….Rising Storm review…. 

Singles 
Moondreams/Wait For Me 
1965 - Immediate IM 20 

Circles/So Come On 
1966 Immediate IM 32 

Mud In Your Eye/I’ve Been Trying 
1966 - Polydor 56124 

I Can See A Light/Prodigal Son 
1967 - Polydor 56200 

Gong With The Luminous Nose/Hammer Head 
February 1968 - Polydor 56251 

Stop Crossing The Bridge/Brick By Brick 
1968 - Atlantic 584 193 

You’re Just A Liar/One City Girl 
February 1969 - Atlantic 584 243 


Les Fleur De Lys 
*Frank Smith - Guitar, Vocals 
*Alex Chamberlain - Organ 
*Gary Churchill - Bass 
*Keith Guster - Drums 
*Gordon Haskell - Bass 
*Pete Sears - Keyboards 
*Phil Sawyer - Guitar 
*Chris Andrews - Vocals 
*Bryn Haworth - Guitar, Vocals 
*Tony Head - Vocals 
*Graham Maitland - Guitar 
*Tago Byers - Bass 

Members 
Keith Guster (drums), Frank Smith (guitar, vocals, 1964-66), Alex Chamberlain (organ, 1964-66), Danny Churchill (bass, 1964-65), Gordon Haskell (bass, 1965-68), Phil Sawyer (guitar, 1966), Chris Andrews (vocals, 1966-67), Pete Sears (keyboards, 1966-67), Bryn Haworth (guitar, vocals, 1966-69), Tony Head (vocals, 1968-69), Tago Byers (bass, 1968-69), Graham Maitland (guitar, 1969) 

Tracks 
1. Circles - 3:06 
2. Mud In Your Eye - 3:04 
3. Going With the Luminous Nose - 2:37 
4. Sugar Love - 2:08 
5. Hold On (with Sharon Tandy) - 3:13 
6. Prodigal Son - 2:01 
7. One City Girl - 2:47 
8. Daughter of the Sun (with Sharon Tandy) - 3:56 
9. Tick Tock - 2:46 
10.I Can See the Light - 3:01 
11.Liar - 3:20 
12.I Forgive You (as Chocolate Frog) - 2:41 
13.So Come On - 1:53 
14.Hammerhead - 1:31 
15.Stop Crossing the Bridge - 2:04 
16.I Like What I’m Trying To Do - 2:17 
17.Hold On (as Rupert’s People) - 3:31 
18.Butchers and Bakers (as Chocolate Frog) - 2:55 
19.Wait For Me - 2:24 
20.Reflections of Charlie Brown (as Rupert’s People) - 4:16 
21.Brick By Brick - 2:30 
22.I’ve Been Trying - 2:45 
23.Moondreams - 2:30 
24.So Many Things - 2:18 

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