Black Velvet

Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1969-71)  

- Brian Clarke -- vocals

- Clinton Creary -- bass

- Peter Nelson (aka Maurice Nelson) -- organ

- Lyndon Steel -- drums


  line up 2 (1971-74)  

- Mark Arthurworrey -- bass

- Brian Clarke -- vocals

- Michael Fletcher --

- Peter Phillips (aka Pete Phipps -- drums

- Ron Thomas -- guitar





- Body, Soul & Spirit (Peter Nelson)

- Brian Clarke (solo efforts)

- The Coloured Raisins

- The Raisins





Genre: soul

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  This Is Black Velvet

Company: Beacon

Catalog:  BEAS 16

Country/State: London, England

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: --

Price: $100.00



Even though they recorded three albums and a handful of singles, there just isn't a great deal of information out there on the London-based Black Velvet.

Black Velvet can trace their roots back to the mid-'60s and the London based band The Coloured Raisins.  The band featured West Indies transplants Brian Clarke (vocals), brothers David and Keith Gamport on guitar, keyboard player Peter Nelson, and drummer Lyndon Steel.  With the addition of Honey Darling, Earl Green and King Ossie on vocals, they became a popular live entity on the London party and club scene and even released a couple of singles.  By 1967 they'd shortened the name to The Raisins and over the next year and a half released an album heavy on US soul numbers - "The Raisins 14 Great Tracks" (Major Minor catalog number MMLP 20).  They also released a string of six 45s for various labels.  


-1967's 'Ain't That Lovin' You (For More Reasons Than One)' b/w 'Stranger Things Have Happened' (Major Minor catalog number MM540)

- 1968's 'I Take It To My Baby' b/w 'Kock On Wood' (Stone catalog SX-732)

- 1968's 'Searching For My Love' b/w "When a Man Loves a Woman' (His Master's Voice catalog number JON 150)

- 1968's 'Search for My Love (Buscando a Mi Amor) b/w 'Ain't That Lovin' You (For More Reasons Than One)' (Sonoplay catalog number SN-20.134)

- 1969's 'Insecure' b/w 'Don't Go Down, Down' (De-Lite catalog number 521)

- 1969's 'I Thank You' b/w 'Don't Leave Me Life This' (Major Minor catalog number MM 602)



By 1969 The Raisins had morphed into Black Velvet with a line-up consolidated around singer Brian Clarke, bass player Clinton Creary, keyboardist Peter Nelson, and drummer Lyndon Steel.  Signed to Milton Samuel's EMI affiliated Beacon Records, the band made their debut with a stunning, reggae tinged 45.  Unlike anything in their soul flavored Coloured Raisins/Raisins catalog, the tune should have been a massive hit.:

- 1969's 'African Velvet' b/w 'Whatcha'Gonna Do Bout It (Beacon catalog number BEA 129)


Produced by Don Lawson (label owner Milton Samuel credited as executive producer), 1969's "This Is Black Velvet" was clearly intended to appeal to rock audiences, but the "progressive rock group" label described in the liner notes was a pipe dream.  Instead, exemplified by original material like 'Thought I Had Me a Good Thing Going', 'Love Makes the World Go Round' and 'The Door You Closed To Me' these guys came off as a pop and soul band in the same musical niche as Eddy Grant and the Equals.  By coincidence the album included a cover of Grant's 'Peace and Love Is the Message.'  Espousing that prototype summer-of-love hippy vibe, their Grant cover was one of the three standouts and far better than many of the Clarke - Nelson originals.  That wasn't to say these guys weren't without talent.  The other highlights were the hypnotic 'Coal Mine' and the lysergic tinged 'Clown.' Who knows why, but for some reason the earlier 'African Velvet' wasn't included on the album.  Shame since it was far better than anything else on the collection. Clarke had a nice voice - dry and somewhat raspy.  Nelson was a clearly talented keyboardist and the Creary - Steel rhythm section was thoroughly professional and rock solid.  Curiously the band lacked a lead guitar player.


"This Is Black Velvet" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Thought I Had Me a Good Thing Going   (Brian Clarke - Peter Nelson) -   rating: *** stars

As mentioned, there aren't a lot of reviews of this one out there, but based on what I read, I wasn't expecting the album to open up with a slice of orchestrated pop.  I certainly liked Brian Clarke's dry, raspy voice and the un-credited little country-rock guitar fills on this one. The tale of broken love wasn't particularly original, but was still worth hearing.  The tune's always reminded me a little of Eddy Grant and The Equals school of top-40 pop.  The track was released as a single in the UK and Holland:

- 1969's 'Thought I Had Me a Good Thing Going' b/w 'Love Makes th World Go ROund' (BEacon catalog number BEA 170)

2.) Natural Grown Man   (Don Lawson - Brian Clarke - Peter Nelson) -   rating: **** stars

Dropping the cloying pop orchestration, 'Natural Grown Man' put the spotlight squarely on Clarke's awesome voice; Peter Nelson's rousing Hammond B3 and Clinton Creary's melodic bass line.  A propulsive pop-rocker, this one would have been a better single than 'Thought I Had Me a Good Thing Going.'

3.) The Door You Closed To Me   (Spooner Oldham - Dann Penn) -   rating: *** stars

Most folks familiar with this tune will know it as a result of Alex Chilton and the Box Tops having recorded it on their "Cry Like a Baby" LP.  Powered by Nelson's organ, Black Velvet's arrangement upped the song's Gospel feel (kind of a Solomon Burke vibe) and while Clarke may not have been Alex Chilton, his crisp, Caribbean-tinged soulful delivery was well worth hearing.

4.) Coal Mine   (Brian Clarke - Peter Nelson) -   rating: **** stars

Built on a hypnotic Nelson piano riff with the rest of the band falling into lockstep, 'Coal Mine' found the band drifting towards a blues sound.  Once again Clarke's gruff voice proved a perfect match for the song's driving beat.  One of the album highlights.

5.) Love Makes the World Go Round   (York) -     rating: ** stars

Straight-forward soul track that would have been far stronger were it not for Don Lawton's horrible orchestration.  Lawton all but drown the band.


(side 2)

1.) Peace and Love Is the Message   (Eddie Grant) -    rating: **** stars

True it sounded like they'd recorded the track in a London subway station, but 'Peace and Love Is the Message' was album's standout performance.  Complete with squealing lead guitar, chirpy female and backing singers, the track effortlessly nailed the "summer of love" vibe that was already largely passe at the end of the '60s.  The track was released as their debut 45 and even saw a US release on the Ember label:

- 1969's 'Peace and Love Is the Message' b/w 'Clown' (Beacon catalog number BEA 137)

- 1969's 'Peace and Love Is the Message' b/w 'Clown' (Ember catalog number EM 702)

2.) Clown   (Brian Clarke - Peter Nelson) -    rating: **** stars

Opening up with some intense Nelson keyboards, 'Clown' was the album's heaviest performance; actually psychedelic in sound and performance.  Trippy organ and disturbing lyrics (it was about clowns for goodness sakes) the track was far better than their more pop-oriented offerings.

4.) John Henry   (Brian Clarke - Peter Nelson)    rating: *** stars

Normally I'm not a big blues fan, but powered by Clarke's nifty delivery and Nelson's jazzy Hammond B-3 moves, 'John Henry' was surprisingly impressive.




The band also recorded a couple of non-LP singles supporting other acts:


  Credited to Black Velvet with Ram Jam Holder

- 1969's 'Goodwill To All Mankind' b/ 'Goodwill Sermon' (Upfront catalog numnber UPF 2)


  Credited to Tony Roland & the Black Velvet

- 1969's 'Take a Letter Maria' b/w Rock and Roll Woman' ( (Movieplay catalog NSN 20.284)




Perhaps an effort to capitalize on the minor publicity surrounding the release of their debut album, in 1970 a Coloured Raisins single was released in the UK and several other markets.  Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers and previously recorded 'One Way Love' while the flip side was a cover of a track The Beltones had recorded a couple of years earlier, it was interesting as an earlier reggae tune.

- 1970's 'One Way Love' b/w 'No More Heartache' (Trojan catalog number TR-7700) 



The band has two more LPs in its catalog.  


- 1972's "People In the World" (Pye catalog number NSPL 18293)

- 1973's "Can You Feel It" (Sun catalog number SUNLP 1) Feel It" 


Curiously several of the songs from the debut LP reappear in subsequent releases.