Charlie


Band members                               Related acts

  line up 1 (1970-70)

- Ray Bulloch -- bass 

- Nicco McBraine -- drums

- Martin Smith -- guitar

- Terry Thomas -- vocals, guitar

 

  line up 2 (1970-73)

NEW- John Anderson -- bass, backing vocals  

  (replaced Ray Bulloch) 

NEW - Steve Gadd (RIP 2013) -- drums, percussion 

  (replaced  Nicco McBraine)

- Martin Smith -- guitar

- Terry Thomas -- vocals, lead guitar 

 

  line up 3 (1973-75)

- John Anderson -- bass, backing vocals

NEW - Julian Colbeck -- keyboards (replaced Martin Smith)

  - Steve Gadd -- drums, percussion

- Terry Thomas -- vocals, lead guitar 

 

  backing musicians:

- Richard Burgess -- percussion
- Geoff Leach -- keyboards
- Graham Quinton-Jones -- keyboards
- Martin Smith -- guitar
- Peter Zorn -- saxes

 

  line up 4 (1975-79)

- John Anderson -- bass, backing vocals

- Julian Colbeck -- keyboards

- Steve Gadd (RIP 2013) -- drums, percussion 

NEW - Eugene Organ -- lead guitar, keyboards, bass, backing vocals

- Terry Thomas -- vocals, lead guitar 

 

  backing musicians:

- Andy Duncan -- percussion
- Pete Zorn -- sax

 

  line up 4 (1979)

- John Anderson -- bass, backing vocals

- Julian Colbeck -- keyboards

- Steve Gadd (RIP 2013) -- drums, percussion 

NEW - Shep Lonsdale

- Eugene Organ -- lead guitar, keyboards, bass, backing vocals

- Terry Thomas -- vocals, lead guitar 

 

  backing musicians:

- Ray Cooper -- percussion
- Lawrence Feldman -- tenor sax
- Arnie Lawrence -- alto sax
- Victor Paz -- trumpet
- David Potts -- flute
- Pete Thorns -- trombone
- Phillip Todd -- flute

  line up 5 (1979-80)

- John Anderson -- bass, backing vocals

- Steve Gadd (RIP 2013) -- drums, percussion 

NEW - Bob Henrit -- drums (replaced Shep Lonsdale)

- Terry Thomas -- vocals, lead guitar 

NEW - John Verity -- vocals, guitar (replaced Eugene Organ)

 

  line up 6 (1981)

- John Anderson -- bass, backing vocals

- Steve Gadd  (RIP 2013) -- drums, percussion 

NEW - Bob Henrit -- drums

- Terry Thomas -- vocals, lead guitar 

NEW - John Verity -- vocals, guitar

 

  backing musicians:

- Andy Clark -- keyboards

- Julian Colbeck -- keyboards

 

  line up 7 (1983-84)

- Terry Slessor -- vocals

- Terry Thomas -- vocals, lead guitar 

 

  line up 8 (2009-)

- Terry Thomas -- vocals, lead guitar, bass, keyboards

 

  backing musicians:

- Steve Alexander -- drums, percussion

- Charlie Barratt -- bass

- Andy Bloom -- guitar
- Julian Colbeck -- keyboards

- Janne Jarvis -- bass

- Martin Cruz Smith -- slide guitar

 

  line up 9 (2015)

- Steve Alexander -- drums, percussion

- Charlie Barratt -- bass

- Andy Bloom -- guitar

- Abu Coleck -- vocals

- Julian Colbeck -- keyboards

- Martin Smith - lap steel guitar

- Elliott Thomas -- lead guitar

- Terry Thomas -- vocals, "everything else"



 

 

- Axe (John Anderson and Terry Thomas)

- Back Street Crawler (Terry Wilson-Slesser)

- The Kinks (Bob Henrit and John Verity)

- The Magic Mixture (Terry Thomas, aka Jim Thomas)

- Phoenix (Bob Henrit and John Verity)

- Woody Woodmansey's U-Boat (Martin Smith)

 

 

 


 

Genre: rock

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  Fantasy Girls

Company: Columbia

Catalog: PC-34081

Year: 1976

Country/State: London, UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/ VG+

Comments: includes lyric insert; white label promo copy; timing strip on front cover (not shown in photo)

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 4769

Price: $9.00

 

It only took Charlie multiple line-up changes and three years to record their first single and an additional three years to record an album ...   credit them with persistence and a sense of confidence for being willing to tough it out.

 

Originally know as Charlie Cuckoo (quickly modified to the abbreviated Charlie), the original band showcased the talents of bassist Ray Bulloch, drummer Nicco McBraine, guitarist Martin Smith, and former Magic Mixture singer/rhythm guitarist Terry Thomas.  Within a matter of months both Bulloch and McBraine were gone, replaced by bassist John Anderson and drummer Steve Gadd.  Several years on the club scene eventually caught the attention of Decca Records which signed them to a contract, eventually resulting in the release of their 1973 debut:

 

 

 

 

 

 'I Need Your Love' b/w 'I'm so Happy' (Decca catalog number F 13451)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The single disappeared without a trace and even though the band recorded additional material for Decca, the label effectively dropped Charlie from its recording roster.  Back splitting their time between conventional day jobs and the club circuit, in 1975 Polydor signed them to a contract, agreeing to finance an album.  Columbia subsequently acquired US distribution rights, releasing the collection with different (but equally appalling) cover art and a modified track listing   

 

Under the impression they would be working with producer Roy Thomas Baker, the band were surprised to discover Baker wasn't available for the project and his 19 year old studio engineer Mike Stone would be behind the mixing boards.  Recorded in a week, 1976's "Fantasy Girls" served as a showcase for Thomas who wrote almost all of the material, handled lead vocals, and lead guitar.  With those credentials Thomas was clearly the band's main draw.  Kind of flat, dry, and raspy, from a strictly technical standpoint Thomas didn't have the greatest voice you've ever heard, but it was instantly recognizable and to my ears a very interesting instrument.  He also had a knack for penning highly commercial material that effortlessly straddled the line between top-40 pop and harder rocking FM rock.  Being surrounded by a top notch band, including guitarist Martin Smith certainly didn't hurt the proceedings, nor did the band's ability to generate some of the sweetest harmony vocals I've ever heard.  True, nothing here was particularly original, but Thomas-penned numbers like the title track, 'Prisoners' and 'Summer Romances' were enthusiastic and energetic which was more than could be said for much of the top-40 competition.  In spite of Bill Imhoff's lackadaisical cover art and slightly muddy sound (this was producer Stone's first project), it made for one of the better debut LPs I've come across.  

 

"Fantasy Girls" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Fantasy Girls   (Terry Thomas) - 4:31

'Fantasy Girls' stood as a classic example of Charlie's pop-rock sound.  Kicked along by Thomas' instantly recognizable dry and craggy voice, the song featured a catchy guitar-powered melody that found a nice niche between pop commerciality and a harder FM rock sound. Add in the band's sterling backing vocals and one of those sly hooks that snuck into your head and you had the makes of a radio hit.  'Course even though it was tapped as a UK single, it did little commercially.  I'm not a prude, but I suspect the porn-oriented lyric "I buy magazines o look a lewd scenes of girls in their teens ..."might have had something to do with radio's reluctance to embrace the track.   The song was tapped as a UK single: 

 

- 1976's 'Fantasy Girls' b/w 'Miss DeLuxe' (Polydor catalog number ???)

rating: **** stars

2.) Don't Let Me Down   (Terry Thomas) - 2:24

Upping the rock quotient, 'Don't Let Me Down' demonstrated Charlie could hold their own against conventional rockers.  Almost funky, kudos to Martin Smith for providing some tasty slide guitar.  Only complaint here was that the song faded out just as they were starting to shift into overdrive.   rating: **** stars

3.) T.V. Dreams   (Terry Thomas) - 3:03

Occasionally disconcerting, Thomas had a penchant for stitching together up tempo rockers with slower segments and that was aptly displayed on 'TV Dreams'.  Interestingly the song was tapped as a Japnese single:

- 1976 'T.V. Dreams' b/w 'First Class Traveler' (Polydor catalog number DP 4019)   rating: *** stars

4.) Prisoners   (Terry Thomas) - 5:56

Exhibiting another Charlie tendency, 'Prisoners' started out as an atmospheric guitar powered ballad before abruptly shifting gears into an out-and-out rocker.  Stark, but very enjoyable and when it shifted gears the song took no prisoners ...   rating: **** stars

5.) First Class Traveler   (Terry Thomas) - 2:50

Tapped as the leadoff single, 'First Class Traveler' was probably the album's most conventional and commercial pop song, but to my ears it was also one of the least interesting numbers.  Cloaked in a bouncy melody with multi-tracked lead vocals,  I'll admit the song had a catchy hook and Smith turned in some nice guitar, but the overall effect was just too cute for my tastes.   Polydor tapped it as the leadoff UK single:

- 1976's 'First Class Traveler' b/w 'TV Dreams' (Polydor catalog number 205 8683)  rating: *** stars

 

(side 2)
1.) Greatcoat Guru   (Terry Thomas) - 5:09

Exemplified by 'Greatcoat Guru' Steve Gadd (not the US sessions player), may have been the band's secret weapon.  Not a particularly flashy drummer, Gadd nevertheless kept the rest of the band firmly grounded - check out the way he effortlessly switched gears on this one.  No sure if it was Thomas or Anderson, but one of them contributed some fantastic rhythm guitar to the track.  Sounded like some of the band's fans may have left a bad taste in Thomas' mouth.   rating: *** stars

2.) Please Let Me Know   (Terry Thomas) - 4:00

'Please Let Me Know' was the album's prettiest ballad with a wonderfully melodic Thomas guitar solo.  Thomas vocal was also interesting in that for a brief second he sounded a bit like Pete Townshend.    rating: **** stars

3.) Miss Deluxe   (Terry Thomas) - 3:57

I've always loved the full bodied sound Thomas got out of his guitar (anyone know what effects he used ?) and it was on full display in the rocker 'Miss Deluxe'.  Maybe it was just me, but Thomas sounded a bit irked by the young lady ...   rating: *** stars

4.) It's Your Life   (Terry Thomas) - 5:50

Another pretty ballad, 'It's Your Life' applied some interesting echo effects to Thomas voice.  The song also sported some of the album's best guitar work.    rating: **** stars

5.) Summer Romances   (Terry Thomas - John Anderson - Martin Smith - Steve Gadd) - 5:04The lone group composition, 'Summer Romances' was another album standout - a thumping rocker, with a catchy hook.   Yeah, the lyric was a bit disturbing, but I guess many guys have similar tales of woe.   rating: *** stars

 

For its part Columbia didn't bother with a US single.

 

So, here's another one where I seem to be in the minority.  To my ears it was a pretty impressive and enjoyable debut.  I certainly wouldn't characterize it as soft rock (no I'll readily admit it ain't no Zeppelin), but at least half of the songs had staying power and overall it served as a nice introduction to a sound that would see them come very close to breakout success.   That massive success never really happened ...  but Charlie sure gave it a try.

 

 

Polydor catalog number 2383 373

 

As mentioned above, the original UK Polydor release featured different cover art and a modified track listing:

 

"Fantasy Girls" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Fantasy Girls   (Terry Thomas) - 

2.) Miss Deluxe   (Terry Thomas) - 

3.) TV Dreams   (Terry Thomas) - 

4.) Prisoners   (Terry Thomas) - 

5.) First Class Traveler   (Terry Thomas) - 

 

(side 2)
1.) Greatcoat Guru   (Terry Thomas) - 

2.) Please Let Me Know   (Terry Thomas) - 

3.) Don't Let Me Down   (Terry Thomas) - 

4.) It's Your Life   (Terry Thomas) - 

 

SUMMER ROMANCES

 


Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  No Second Chance

Company: Janus

Catalog: JXS-7023

Year: 1977

Country/State: London, UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+

Comments: includes lyric insert

Available: 2

Catalog ID: 4769

Price: $15.00

Cost: $1.00

 

Having found a copy of this album in a Goodwill store in Salisbury, Maryland !!! I jumped on it. It's not exactly rare (though it was probably the only copy ever sold on the Eastern Shore), but the album brings back fond youthful memories.  I first heard this album in 1977 having just moved to Belgium with my family. 'Johnny Hold Back' was one of the first songs I ever heard on another recently discovered treasure - Radio Caroline.  The day after I heard the song I took the bus to the local PX looking for the song only to discover nobody in the music department had a clue as to who Charlie were.  Luckily I found a local music store that carried the album, along with an amazing array of music that was unknown to a kid raised on Grand Funk Railroad and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

 

This little known London-based outfit actually started out back in 1971. Frontman Terry Thomas had been in a number of bands including Ax and The Magic Mixture (with the late guitarist Jimmy McCullough).  Originally named 'Charlie Cuckoo' (inspired by a racing horse) , the original line up consisted of bassist Ray Bulloch, drummer Nicco McBraine, guitarist Martin Smith and singer/lead guitarist Terry Thomas.  Bulloch and McBraine were quickly replaced by John Anderson and Steve Gadd and the updated line up  wisely elected to shorted the name to Charlie.  

 

Two years on the club circuit generated a word of mouth buzz that eventually caught the attention of Decca Records which signed them to a contract in 1973.  The band promptly recorded a pair of singles for the label, though only 'I Need Your Love' b/w 'There's Another Place I Can't Go' ever saw daylight.

 

Released in the States by the small Janus label (with an updated cover), 1977's 'No Second Chance" was co-produced by Anderson and Thomas.  Like the debut, the material was again largely written by Thomas and similarly managed to combine gorgeous group vocal harmonies with a hard rock sound that still had a distinctive commercial sheen.  Propelled by Thomas' instantly recognizable growl, imagine a pub band like Ace deciding they liked rock guitar and you'll get a good feel for tracks like ''Johnny Hold Back, 'Pressure Point' and 'Guitar Hero'. Sure it isn't perfect - they can be a little too sappy for their own good ('Lovers'), but to my ears this is simply classic mid-1970s rock.  The fact this set tanked while disco ran rampant and Fleetwood Mac sold millions makes you wonder ...  Technically the album wasn't a flop in that it managed to hit # 85 on the US charts.  The original UK release featured different cover art and a slightly different track listing.    

Polydor catalog number 2383 422                           

 

"No Second Chance" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Johnny Hold Back   (Terry Thomas) - 4:18

As a 17 year old American living in Belgium there were times when I felt kind of isolated.  One of the saving graces was listening to Radio Caroline. 'Johnny Hold Back' was literally one of the first songs I heard on that station and  I can remember  rushing to the local base exchange; discovering they didn't have a clue who this band were, and then dashing to a local Belgian music store to buy a copy.  Still sounds fresh after all these years.

 

 

- 1977's 'Johnny Hold Back' b/w 'Love Is Alright'' (Janus catalog number J-272)

2.) Turning To You   (Terry Thomas) - 3:03

I graduated high school in 1977 (yes, I'm now an old man), and this was one of the songs that was in constant rotation on my stereo.  The rest of my dorm seemed to be into Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Frampton, etc. and while I loved all of those bands, this silken mid-tempo ballad struck me as being better than anything those bands released in '77.   The tune was also tapped as a single:

- 1977's 'Turning To You' b/w 'Turning To You'  (Janus catalog number J-270)    rating: **** stars

3.) Don't Look Back   (Terry Thomas) - 4:29

4.) Pressure Point   (Terry Thomas)- 3:40

5.) Thirteen   (Terry Thomas) - 6:18

Wonderful guitars throughout, though the lyrics were a bit heavy handed ...  rating: *** stars

 

(side 2)
1.) No Second Chance   (Terry Thomas) - 4:44

Classic Charlie tune that effortlessly combined a rollicking rock melody (love the crunchy guitar sound on this one), with Thomas' instantly recognizable voice and those stunning harmonies ...  Another tune I remember hearing on Radio Caroline.  I must have played this tune 100 times.  And yes, it was released as a Dutch single:

- 1977's 'No Second Chance' b/w 'Guitar Hero' (Polydor catalog number 2058 875)     rating: **** stars

2.) Lovers   (Terry Thomas) - 6:27

3.) Love Is Alright   (Terry Thomas) - 3:57

4.) Guitar Hero   (Terry Thomas) - 7:49

 

 

In addition to the different cover art, the UK release featured a slightly different running order:

 

(side 1)

1.) No Second Chance   (Terry Thomas) - 4:44

3.) Don't Look Back   (Terry Thomas) - 4:29

4.) Pressure Point   (Terry Thomas)- 3:40

2.) Turning To You   (Terry Thomas) - 3:03

5.) Thirteen   (Terry Thomas) - 6:18

 

(side 2)

2.) Lovers   (Terry Thomas) - 6:27

1.) Johnny Hold Back   (Terry Thomas) - 4:18

3.) Love Is Alright   (Terry Thomas) - 3:57

4.) Guitar Hero   (Terry Thomas) - 7:49

 

 

Nice Charlie website is found at:  http://www.charlie-music.de./

 

 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Lines

Company: Janus

Catalog: JXS-7026

Year: 1978

Country/State: London, UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: includes lyric insert

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5756

Price: $10.00

 

Even though it didn't stray far from the band's now-patented AOR formula, as good as 1977's "No Second Chance" was, 1978's "Lines" was even better.  Self-produced, singer/guitarist Terry Thomas was again responsible for the majority of material, though this time out keyboardist Julian Colbeck and drummer Steve Gadd co-wrote several numbers.  Powered by Thomas' instantly recognizable snarling vocals and the band's mesmerizing harmonies, every one of these nine tracks had commercial potential.  The album also introduced new lead guitarist Eugene Organ, whose country-flavored fills gave the band a somewhat fuller sound.  Mind you there's nothing particularly original on the album, but to my ears the album's always filled the gap in my collection and tastes that existed between mindless heavy metal and vapid throwaway pop.  Certainly won't be to everyone's liking, but some three decades after I first heard it, I still like it and the sultry model with an amazing pair of legs (whoever she was) remains a stunner.  Can't say the same things about many things in life !

 

"Lines" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) She Loves To Be In Love   (Terry Thomas) - 4:23

A catchy pop track, I enjoyed the melody and will admit it took a friend to highlight the song's hysterical lyrics 'she doesn't care if your not there, this thing's her own'.  I'll leave it ad that.

2.) No More Heartache   (Julian Colbeck - Terry Thomas - Steve Gadd) - 3:44

One of three group compositions, 'No More Heartache' was a nice pop song, though perhaps a touch too lightweight for some folks.  The shrill female backing chorus didn't do much for me.

3.) Life So Cruel   (Terry Thomas) - 4:38

Starting out with some great acoustic 12 string guitar and John Anderson's simple bass pattern 'Life So Cruel' was a great mid-tempo rocker.  It also happened to sport one of the band's best choruses.  Very commercial and catchy and should have been a major hit.

4.) Watching T.V.   (Julian Colbeck - Terry Thomas) - 3:30

A non-too-subtle stab apparently intended to underscore American culture's impact on England, 'Watching T.V.' was hysterical.  Nice reggae nods to boot, though it hurts me to admit that I'm old enough to remember most of the shows that were named.

5.) Out of Control   (Terry Thomas) - 4:33

On the surface 'Out of Control' wasn't anything special.  Kind of a standard, anonymous rock song that dozens of bands could have slapped together.  The funny thing is the chorus snuck into your head and when least expected you found yourself humming 'out of control' wondering where the he*l did that come from?  Nice lead guitar from Organ.

 

(side 2)
1.) L.A. Dreamer   (Julian Colbeck - Terry Thomas) - 4:38

Side two's 'L.A. Dreamer' came off as kind of a 'Johnny Hold Back' sequel.  Nice tune, but the social commentary lyric was not nearly as impressive as the first time around.  

2.) No Strangers In Paradise   (Terry Thomas) - 4:33

With the exception of the wonderful harmonies 'No Strangers In Paradise' didn't have a great deal going for it.  The band got to stretch out a little, but the results were a bit too cocktail jazzy for my tastes.

3.) Keep Me In Mind   (Terry Thomas) - 5:31

The album's big ballad, 'Keep Me In Mind' got off to a slow and mournful start. Luckily patience was rewarded with a wonderful hook that made the song one of the prettiest they'd ever recorded.  Pete Zorn also turned in a mesmerizing sax solo.

4.) I Like To Rock and Roll   (Terry Thomas) - 6:20

And for folks who didn't think these guys could really rock the album ended with 'I Like To Rock and Roll'.  Don't let the sophomoric title put you off as this was six and a half minutes of rock joy.  

 

In the US a pair of singles were released, though 'She Loves To Be In Love' was apparently only a released as a promo:

 

     

 

- 1978's 'Watching T.V.' b/w 'Out Of Control' (Janus catalog number J-275)

- 1978's 'She Loves To Be In Love' b/w 'She Loves To Be In Love' (Janus catalog number J-276)

 

In Germany the single was:

 

 

- 1978's 'She Loves To Be In Love' b/w 'Out Of Control' (Polydor catalog number 2059 037)

 

Taken it with a grain of slat, but in my humble opinion this was the last consistently great Charlie record.  Latter releases had their moments, but failed to live up to this one. 

 

 

 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: ** (2 stars)

Title:  Fight Dirty

Company: Arista

Catalog: AB 4239

Year: 1979

Country/State: London, UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: includes original inner sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5758

Price: $10.00

 

Having signed with Arista in the States, the band appeared poised for massive commercial success.  Unfortunately things rapidly went downhill.   Having completed work for their Arista debut  tentatively entitled "Here Comes Trouble" the company refused to released the set without additional new material.  The band's British label Polydor refused to finance more recording sessions.  Caught in the middle without any financial support the band effectively fell apart with keyboardist Julian Colbeck and guitarist Eugene Organ tendering their notices.

 

The business logjam eventually came to an end with the release of 1979's "Fight Dirty".  For an album recorded in the midst of so many problems the results weren't half bad.  Most bands would have probably just thrown in the towel ...  The album certainly wasn't a major change in direction, but if anything Terry Thomas and company seem to have redoubled their efforts to come up with a blend of their trademarked sound and a commercial edge.  At the same time band seemed to haphazardly bounce from their more rock oriented roots to a disconcerting lightweight pop orientation.

 

"Fight Dirty" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Killer Cut    (Terry Thomas) - 6:08

Perhaps their creative highpoint, 'Killer Cut' had it all - this one should have been a massive radio hit.  Yeah the cheesy synthesizers sound a little dated today but with a fantastic hook, cynical insider lyrics, chunky guitars and instantly recognizable vocals this one was irresistible.  To my ears it sounds as good today as the first time I heard it.  YouTube has a great video of the song; yeah it looks like they were lip synching, but so what ...  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_UMi3m8e8w&feature=fvsr

2.) Fight Dirty     (Terry Thomas) - 6:21

Released as the first of two singles the title track found the band showcasing a bluesy side.  A mid tempo rocker with a mild jazzy feel (shades of early Steely Dan), the glorious harmony lyrics were still there as was Thomas knack for crating a wonderful hook.  Probably my favorite song on the album and I can remember trying to copy John Anderson's pounding bass line.  If only they hadn't added the hideous cocktail jazz sax solo to the end.

3.) Don't Count Me Out     (Julian Colbeck - Eugene Organ - Terry Thomas) - 4:00

After two great songs, 'Don't Count Me Out' came off as a lame, disco-flavored pop song.   The chorus provided a nice vocal hook, but even that couldn't save the song from being forgettable.  

4.) Heartless     (Julian Colbeck - Terry Thomas)  - 3:58

'Heartless' sported another nice vocal hook, but again couldn't make up for a song that was overly commercial.  Worth nothing that Thomas shared the lead vocals with bassist John Anderson and lead guitarist Organ.

5.) Too Late    (Julian Colbeck - Terry Thomas) - 3:44

Time for a big ballad - 'Too Late'.  Showcasing Colbeck's piano, the song was pretty, but instantly forgettable.  The extensive orchestration didn't exactly improve the track.

 

(side 2)

1.) So Alone     (Julian Colbeck - Terry Thomas) - 4:36

Side two started out with 'So Alone' - another pure pop effort that included some surprisingly enjoyable horn charts.  Another track that could have been a nice single ...

2.) Just One More Smiling Face     (Julian Colbeck - Terry Thomas) - 6:21

'Just One More Smiling Face' was the ultimate groupie song.  

3.) California     (Julian Colbeck - Steve Gadd - Eugene Organ - Terry Thomas) - 5:10

Other than the fact it started out sounding like a Survivor song, 'California' wasn't a bad rocker.  Not the most original lyrics, but the multi-part harmonies were glorious.

4.) The End Of It All     (Jon Anderson - Julian colbeck - Eugene Organ - Terry Thomas) - 3:31

Lots of reviews slap a jazz label on Charlie and I seldom get the description, but here's one of the isolated cases where that would be an appropriate tag - 'The End Of It All' was simply too mellow for my tastes.

5.) Runaway    (Terry Thomas) - 3:14

'Runaway' was another rocker that came close to being excellent, but ultimately fell short of the mark based on dumb life-on-the-streets lyrics.

 

And of course there was the added bonus of another attractive cheesecake cover.  

 

Arista also tapped the album for a pair of singles:

- 1979's 'Fight Dirty' b/w 'The End Of It All' (Arista catalog number) 

- 1979's 'Killer Cut' b/w ' The End Of It All' (Arista catalog number) 

 

 

 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: ** (2 stars)

Title:  Good Morning America

Company: RCA Victor

Catalog: AFL1-4137

Year: 1981

Country/State: London, UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 4770

Price: $9.00

 

Continuing their corporate wanderings, 1981's "Good Morning" found the band signed domestically by RCA Victor.  This time the album was co-produced by Terry Thomas and former Argent/Phoenix singer/guitarist John Verity.   Verity and former Phoenix drummer Robert Henrit supposedly brought in to 'toughen up' the band's sound and ended up joining the line-up on guitar and drums.  Verity also handled lead vocals on 'Roll the Dice' and 'Heading for Home'.  Partnering with a big label should have opened the door for mega success ('course the deal with Arista should have done that), but as is often the case, it didn't happen.  In fact, this was the first Charlie effort that I'd describe as a major disappointment.  While the band's sound remained instantly recognizable, this time around Thomas and company seemed to have opted for a more AOR attack with an occasional shot of new wave angst (the group-penned 'I'm Angry with You').  While it may have been a right marketing move and was clearly intended to break the band in the States, the unfortunate result was that material like 'I Can't Get Over You' (with a strange reggae undercurrent), 'Heading for Home' and 'Saturday Night' was competent, but largely forgettable.  If I had to pick a favorite track - well none of them were great, but at least the title track (featuring Thomas' dry humor), and All My Life' had some nice harmony work.  To be honest, Thomas and company seem to have simply run out of creative steam.  Perhaps not a major shock given the amount of material they'd churned out over the past five years, or recent problems on the business end.  

 

RCA released a single off the album though it didn't do anything commercially:

 

      

 

- 1981's 'Fool for Your Love' b/w 'Fool for Your Love' as a single (RCA catalog JH-13025)

 

I'll also admit that playing the album for the first time in several years it wasn't nearly as bad as I recalled.  Not the same caliber of the first four sets, but certainly serviceable.

 

"Good Morning America" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Good Morning America   (Terry Thomas)  - 5:23

2.) I Can't Get Over You   (Terry Thomas)  - 3:40

3.) Roll the Dice   (C. Couchois - P. Couchois - M. Couchois) - 3:58

4.) Heading for Home   (Terry Thomas) - 4:11

5.) Saturday Night   (Troyer - Brown) - 3:18

 

(side 2)
1.) All My Life   (Terry Thomas ) - 3:43

2.) Fool for Your Love   (Terry Thomas) - 4:11

3.) My Perfect Lover   (Terry Thomas) - 3:34

4.) I'm Angry with You   (John Anderson - Steve Gadd - Bob Henrit - Terry Thomas - John Verity) - 3:04

5.) Just One More Chance   (Terry Thomas) - 3:46

6.) The Girl Won't Dance with Me   (Terry Thomas) - 3:43

 



Genre: rock

Rating: ** (2 stars)

Title:  Here Comes Trouble

Company: Polydor

Catalog: 2383 625

Year: 1982

Country/State: London, UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: German pressing 

Available: 1

Catalog ID: --

Price: $15.00

 

 

In the wake of the strong sales 1979's "Fight Dirty" enjoyed, Charlie should have been on the fast track to international success.   Didn't happen.   The band went into the studio recording material for their planned next album, but in the bizarre world of record label economics, Charlie found themselves caught in a tug-of-war between competing interests across their US and English labels.  The end result was an album that was completed and then promptly shelved with the band subsequently breaking up.  

 

Bassist  John Anderson , drummer Steve Gadd, and singer/guitarist Terry Thomas joined drummer Bob Henrit and guitarist John Verity in a late inning version of the band Phoenix.  The Phoenix nameplate was quickly dropped and the resulting tracks were released as Charlie's 1981's "Good Morning America".  

 

The following year the previously shelved tapes were acquired and released as a German-only album - "Here Comes Trouble".   

 

"Here Comes Trouble" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Jealous  (John Anderson - Julian Colbeck - Steve Gadd - Terry Thomas) - 3:47

'Jealous' got the album off to a shaky start - a rather anonymous slice of AOR that could have been mistaken for countless other early-'80s hair bands. Surrounded by a dated mix of bouncy synthesizers and crunching guitars, Thomas may have been trying to sound ominous, but came off as bored and cynical.   rating: ** stars

2.) There You Go Again   (Terry Thomas) - 3:21

Sad to hear how bland this wonderful band had become.   rating: ** stars

3.) Five Years   (Terry Thomas) - 2:29

Thomas had such a distinctive voice and he's always sounded amazing on the band's slower, ballad-oriented tunes.   Lovely melody with some beautiful band harmonies.  rating: **** stars

4.) Writing On the Wall  (John Anderson - Julian Colbeck - Steve Gadd - Terry Thomas) - 3:45

One of three group compositions, lacked a killer melody, but showcased the band's impeccable group vocals - few bands sounded as good as Charlie.   rating: *** stars

5.) Literacy Love  (Julian Colbeck - Terry Thomas) - 3:37

On one of the better Charlie albums 'Literacy Love' would have been relegated to also ran status, but surrounded by this set's disappointing offerings, it was actually one of the better performances.   Bouncy, if anonymous pop-rock.   rating: *** stars

 

(side 2)
1.) Take the Money
   (Terry Thomas) - 3:43

For some reason Thomas seems to have lost his melodic sense on this album, with tracks like 'Take the Money' trying to coast power rather than quality.    rating: *** stars

2.) Don't Stand In My Way   (Terry Thomas) - 3:22

Mindless arena rock with Thomas turning in some of his worst ever singing.   Geez, who would have ever thought REO would be preferrible to a Charlie album ?     rating: ** stars

3.) Only Dreaming   (Terry Thomas) - 3:46

Thomas and company at their most straightforward commercial ...   and its damn impressive.   rating: **** stars

4.) Mind Your Own Business -  (John Anderson - Julian Colbeck - Steve Gadd - Terry Thomas) - 3:38

Well, I liked John Anderson's funky bass line, but Thomas screechy vocal and the Chipmunks backing vocals were pretty tough to take.   rating: *** stars

5. Zero  (Julian Colbeck - Terry Thomas) - 3:15

 

 

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Kitchens with Distinction

Company: Voiceprint

Catalog: VP495CD

Year: 2009

Country/State: London, UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: CD format

Available: not for sale

Catalog ID: --

Price: not for sale

 

Having made quite a name for himself as a producer including handling a post-Paul Rodgers Bad Company, Foreigner, Styx's Tommy Shaw, Telsa, etc., some two decades after the release of the last Charlie album, Terry Thomas got the itch to record again.  That decision certainly came as a surprise to me given the ugly way Charlie seemingly came to an end back in 1986.   Even for a big Charlie fan, 1986's "In Pursuit of Happiness" clearly reflected a band that had run out of creativity and energy.  It was an album that Thomas probably wished he'd never recorded.   Against that backdrop, I wasn't quite sure what to make to Thomas' decision to reactivate the Charlie nameplate via the release of 2009's "Kitchens of Distinction".    The resulting album was apparently intended as a Thomas solo effort, but contributions from keyboardist Julian Colbeck and other studio players gave the album a distinctive Charlie sound and in the end Thomas decided to release it as a Charlie effort.  Regardless, most comebacks are a disaster, and you were left to wonder what could Thomas bring to the table after this long layoff ...   Well, the good news was the Charlie comeback was an exception to the rule.  Thomas' return to the recording studio found him reinvigorated and full of piss and frustration - yeah all the ingredients necessary for a good Charlie album were here ...   And in case you didn't pick it up from some of the subtle song titles ('Shit TV', 'Blue Sky Bullshit'), boy was Thomas steamed with the state of affairs.  Vocally he sounded as good as ever and how could you not love an album that took on mindless commercialism (the title track) and the all consuming pursuit of fame which included a nasty little nod at Simon Cowell ('Shit TV'). As mentioned, that instantly recognizable Charlie sound remained intact, but this time around Thomas seemingly tried to avoid some of the earlier pop leanings.  Thomas' DNA simply wouldn't allow him to craft a song without some commercial edge, but on a song-by-song basis, the result was Charlie's hardest rocking collection.  Doubt that comment then check out the blazing 'Alcohol' which would put many grunge bands to shame, or the equally rockin' 'Never Be The Same''.   

"Kitchens of Distinction" track listing:
1.) Get a Life   (Terry Thomas) -     rating: **** stars
Capturing the classic Charlie sound (Thomas' melodic lead guitar was instantly recognizable), 'Get a Life' was one of the album's most mainstream selection.  Thomas' dry, rugged voice seldom sounded as good and their instantly recognizable harmony vocals were a treat to hear again.
2.) Kitchens of Distinction   (Terry Thomas) -     rating: **** stars
The lyric wasn't particularly subtle, but it was clever and heartfelt making 'Kitchens of Distinction' one of the album's standout performances.  The song's nifty jazzy lead guitar also underscored Thomas' overlooked talents in that realm.    
3.) Popstar   (Terry Thomas) -     rating: **** stars
Easily the album's most commercial song, with the insidiously catchy chorus "is Robbie Williams gay ..." 'Popstar' was also the snarkiest performances ...   Clearly inspired by the former Take That member's life, you were left wondering if Thomas was just being mean spirited in targeting Williams.  That did nothing to diminish the song's commercial edge.  
4.) Shit TV   (Terry Thomas) -     rating: **** stars
In case you were wondering how Thomas really felt about celebrity, 'Shit TV ' found him singling out a long list of American and UK minor celebrities (David Dickinson ...) for abuse.  You didn't want Robbie Williams to feel all alone did ya' ?   
5.) Don't Let Go   (Terry Thomas) -      rating: **** stars
Turning his anger inward, the snarling mid-tempo ballad 'Don't Let Go' was the kind of song Tears for Fears' Roland Orzabel always wanted to write.  Dark, embittered, and highly catchy it climbed in your head and simply wouldn't leave !!!   Another album highlight.  
6.) Alcohol   (Terry Thomas) -     rating: *** stars
Probably the hardest rocking track in the entire Charlie catalog, 'Alcohol' was a take-no-prisoners slice of grunge rock with a set of lyrics that were equally brutal.  Thomas slapped a killer guitar solo onto the end of the track.   
7.) Cars   (Terry Thomas) -    rating: *** stars
Belying the song's pretty and breezy melody and another hysterical lyric (when's the last time you heard a song that included references to Ferrari, Lamborghini, Massarati, and Porsche), 'Cars' biting anti-consumerism stance should make you think twice about buying your dream car ...   maybe a second hand Jeep is good enough after all.  Maybe it was just my ears, but this one had a distinctive Donald Fagen and Walter Becker vibe ...
8.) Blue Sky Bullshit   (Terry Thomas) -     rating: **** stars
Maybe I'm just getting old and increasing cynical, but I have to admit that 'Blue Sky Bullshit' struck a chord with me.  I don't think I've ever heard a rock song that managed to aptly tag all of those self-congratulatory poseurs trying to tell the rest of us how to lead our lives ...   Wonder if this was inspired by anyone in particular ?  If so, that person better hope that Thomas doesn't catch them alone in a dark alley.   
9.) The Art of Cool   (Terry Thomas) -     rating: **** stars
Kicked along by Martin Cruz Smith's stinging slide guitar, 'The Art of Cool' managed to destroy wannabe upper class pretense in under four minutes.  This song should routinely be piped into every Starbucks as a warning that coffee is a drink, not a lifestyle.   Mr. Thomas - a job well done.  
10.) West Coast Thing   (Terry Thomas) -     rating: **** stars
As a middle aged white guy, I have to laugh every time I listen to 'West Coast Thing'.  Sonically this one nailed the classic Charlie sound (ah, Julian Colbeck on Fender Rhodes) with some of Thomas' most searing lyrics taking on an American lifestyle I've never experienced and will never understand.   For goodness sakes, I don't even understand stay-at-home moms so what chance do I have of understanding a young L.A. babe ?   Come to think of it, what would a middle aged, pale English white guy know about a young L.A. babe ?
11.) Never Be The Same   (Terry Thomas) -     rating: **** stars
In his songs Thomas has always exhibited a penchant for making bad relationship decisions and the searing rocker 'Never Be The Same' documented another series of bad choices.     
12.) It's Not Enough   (Terry Thomas) -     rating: ** stars
With a pseudo-grunge feel, the closing rocker 'It's Not Enough' was catchy, but came off as simply piling on ... Thomas had made his points earlier and more effectively.  The album's first real disappointment.  'course I was also the last song. 

Simply one of the best comebacks I've heard in years and probably the best thing Terry Thomas has ever done.  Can't wait to hear the next one !!!


For anyone interested, there's a nice Charlie website at: http://charlie-music.com/

 

 


Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Elysium

Company: Floating World

Catalog: FREES5057

Year: 2015

Country/State: London, UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: CD format

Available: not for sale

Catalog ID: --

Price: not for sale

 

I figured 2009's "Kitchens of Distinction" was going to be it for Terry Thomas and Charlie.  Luckily six years on Thomas had a couple more things to get off his chest - the result being 2015's "Elysium".   Even better, Thomas has always been at his best when angry and frustrated and judging by these 14 tracks, life in 2015 seemed to offer up plenty of targets for his strychnine laced pen.   And that might be an issue for some folks ...  if you were looking for a collection of upbeat, mindless party music, then chances were this album was going to pose some real problems for you.  Thomas' take-no-prisoners commentary on a wide range of economical, political, and social issues wasn't the kind of light-hearted party music you wanted to play on a Friday evening.  Targets for his rage included the music industry ('Hey Dude'), the internet generation ('YouTube Girl'), B-list celebrities ('The Ballad of Kerry Katona'), Western culture ('Make It Real'), the "me" generation ('I Want a Maserati'), the wealthy ('The Super Rich'), Western economics ('Clutching At Straws'), Britain's class structure and politicians ('Call Me Dave'), the evils of consumerism ('Sad'), etc., etc.    Nobody got out of this album intact.  In fact, one of the most ominous performances was one of the few tracks without any social commentary - the blazing 'Thinking of You'.    Mind you, virtually every one of these tunes was wrapped in a first-rate melody, tunes like the title track and 'I Want a Maserati' rocking even harder than the previous album.  It wasn't an album you were going to play all the time, but when the mood was right (your stock portfolio just dropped 200 points; your C-Class needed $1,500 in brake repairs, your wife just went over the credit card limit), then this set was going to sound pretty good.

 

Even though the liner notes left the impression this was the final Charlie release, it  would be a major shame if Thomas abandoned the Charlie platform as an opportunity for recording increasingly rare rock and roll with an adult orientation.  Nobody in music can come close to casting a disapproving eye on mankind's shortcomings with as much insight and fury, while wrapping it in a killer tune.

 

As an added note, included in the liner notes, Thomas' short Charlie biography was simultaneously funny and heartbreaking.  Anyone with visions of musical glory should read these couple of pages.

 

"Elysium" track listing:

1.) YouTube Girl   (Terry Thomas) - 4:30    rating; **** stars

Thomas has to be at least ten years older than I am, but I can share some of his cares and concerns about the current internet generation.  Package it in a roaring rock melody with a refrain you won't be able to shake; Thomas at his snarling best, and Steve Alexander's drums sounding like they were going to explode your speakers or headphones and you had a fantastic opener.

2.) The Ballad of Kerry Katona   (Terry Thomas) - 5:12     rating; **** stars
I've always been a sucker for burping bass lines and Thomas' criminally overlooked lead guitar.   Interestingly, though she's virtually unknown to American audiences, there is an English singer (former member of the group Atomic Kitten) /television personality by the name of Kerry Kotona.  Not sure Thomas wrote the song in her honor, but the general plotline would seem to echo her dysfunctional professional and personal life (multiple divorces; five kids, multiple bankruptcies, medical issues, etc..  If she was Thomas' inspiration, about all you could say is, he didn't hold the woman in very high esteem ("she has the IQ of a snail").   Regardless, his snarling commentary was packaged in a wonderful rock melody.  

3.) Virus   (Terry Thomas) - 6:12  rating: *** stars

The virulent 'Virus' was one of the tunes that came the closest to replicating early Charlie.  Dark and haunting, I'll admit that Thomas' treated vocals were an acquired taste.  

4.) Make It Real   (Terry Thomas) - 5:33    rating; **** stars

One of the album's heaviest tunes, 'Make It Real' found Thomas unloading his full fury on the full swath of popular culture ...  Guess he wasn't a big fan of American reality television.  LOL   

5.) Elysium   (Terry Thomas) - 8:03     rating; **** stars

I had to look it up - "the afterlife that developed over time and was maintained by some Greek religious and philosophical sects and cults. Initially separate from the realm of Hades, admission was reserved for mortals related to the gods and other heroes. Later, it expanded to include those chosen by the gods, the righteous, and the heroic, where they would remain after death, to live a blessed and happy life, and indulging in whatever employment they had enjoyed in life."   Opening up with a news clip reporting on the nightmarish famine conditions in Korum, Sudan the title track was even darker than normal, though it certainly made you think about what was important in life - Elliott Thomas was responsible for the blazing guitar solo ...   

6.) I Want a Maserati   (Terry Thomas)  - 3:35  rating: *** stars

The album's toughest rockers with a bit of AC/DC edge to it.   I think we all know folks who fall in the lifestyle category covered by 'I Want a Maserati' ... they are hardly  one of mankind's finest moments.    

7.) Thinking About You   (Terry Thomas) - 5:07     rating; **** stars

One of the few songs without a shred of social commentary, 'Thinking About You' found Thomas turning his attention to personal relationships.  Kicked along by Steve Alexander end-of-time drums, the results managed to combine those patented Charlie harmonies with a dark and ominous vibe that made for the album's standout performance.   Should've been a massive single for Thomas and company ...   

8.) Call Me Dave   (Terry Thomas) - 4:40    rating; **** stars

Propelled by Thomas' lead guitar, 'Call Me Dave' was the album's prettiest number ...  though it included some of his most cutting lyrics, apparently aimed at British class society and politicians.   Guess he wasn't a big fan of either group.  When the rest of the band chimed in with the 'call me Dave' refrain ...  what a great song.    

9.) Clutching At Straws   (Terry Thomas) - 6:35     rating; **** stars

Opening up with a clip of an English Prime Minister spewing mindless political rhetoric, 'Clutching At Straws' may not have been the most subtle slice of political, economical, and social commentary you've ever heard.   That said, Thomas framed it in a rollicking hard-rock melody that had staying power.  Another album highlight for my ears.  

10.) Hey Dude   (Terry Thomas) - 5:40

Given his experience with music labels, you had to wonder which music industry leader Thomas had in mind when he wrote this caustic tune - "the man who made the music die" (David Geffen ?).   Nice guitar solo ...   rating: *** stars

11.) Abandon Ship   (Terry Thomas) - 8:20    rating: ** stars

So if anyone in your family, or circle of friends suffers from depression make sure you DON'T play this one for them.    The album's longest tunes; the album's most depressing tune; the album's least memorable performance.

12.) The Super Rich   (Terry Thomas) - 4:09     rating; **** stars

Yeah, the breezy country-rock melody was momentarily disconcerting, but when Thomas seething vocals kicked in you knew you were back on firm ground.  Screw-the-rich ...  Damn, how do they come up with those amazing harmonies ?  

13.) Sad   (Terry Thomas) - 5:34     rating; **** stars

How could you not like a tune that opened up with a tasty wah-wah solo, immediately launching into one of the funniest anti-consumerism rants you'll ever hear?   Makes me what to go around the house and throw out about two thirds of the crap we've accumulated.    

14.) Talking Heads   (Terry Thomas) - 5:13     rating; **** stars

Hum, I can only guess Thomas wasn't a big fan of television ...  At least he packaged his diatribe in a bouncy tune.  Kudos again to Alexander for that gigantic drum sound.   

 

 

 

 

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