Junco Partners


Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1964-66)

- John Anderson -- vocals

- Ronnie Baker -- vocals, harmonica

- Charles Harcourt -- vocals, guitar

- David Sproat -- bass

- Peter Wallis -- keyboards

- John Woods -- drums, percussion

 

  line up 2 (1964-70)

- John Anderson -- vocals

- Ronnie Baker -- vocals, harmonica

- Charles Harcourt -- vocals, guitar

- Robert Sargeant -- vocals, keyboards

- David Sproat -- bass

- Robert Sargeant -- vocals, keyboards (replaced Peter Wallis)

- John Woods -- drums, percussion

 

 

  line up 2 (1970)

- Charles Harcourt -- vocals, guitar

- Robert Sargeant -- vocals, keyboards

- David Sproat -- bass

- Peter Wallis -- keyboards

- John Woods -- drums, percussion

 

  line up 3 (1970)

- Robert Sargeant -- vocals, keyboards

- David Sproat -- bass

- Charles Harcourt -- lead guitar, vocals

- John Woods -- drums, percussion

 

  line up 4 (1971)

- Robert Sargeant -- vocals, keyboards

- David Sproat -- bass

- John Woods -- drums, percussion

 

  line up 5 (1977-81)

- John Anderson -- vocals

- Kenny Barker -- lead guitar

- Ronnie Baker -- vocals, harmonica

- Neil Perry -- sax

- Robert Sargeant -- vocals, keyboards

- David Sproat -- bass

 

  line up 6 (1981-99)

- John Anderson -- vocals

- Kenny Barker -- lead guitar

- Ronnie Baker -- vocals, harmonica

- Charles Harcourt -- vocals, guitar

- Neil Perry -- sax

- Robert Sargeant -- vocals, keyboards

- David Sproat -- bass

 

  line up 7 (1999)

- John Anderson -- vocals

- Kenny Barker -- lead guitar

- Ronnie Baker -- vocals, harmonica

- Charles Harcourt -- vocals, guitar

- Justin Radfort-- sax (replaced Neil Perry)

- Robert Sargeant -- vocals, keyboards

- David Sproat -- bass

 

 

 

 

Bell + Arc (John Woods)

- Mick Abrahams Band (Robert Sargeant)

- Jackson Heights (Charles Harcourt)

- Jody Grind (John Woods)

- Lindisfarne (Charles Harcourt)

- Vinegar Joe (John Woods)

 

 

 


 

Genre: rock

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  Junco Partners

Company: Philips

Catalog: 6308 032
Year:
 1970

Country/State: Newcastle, UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: --

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 5374

Price: $150.00

 

Genre: rock

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  Junco Partners

Company: Barclay

Catalog: 90005
Year:
 1970

Country/State: Newcastle, UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: Canadian pressing

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 2260

Price: $100.00

 

 

Junco Partners sprang from the same Newcastle music scene that launched Eric Burden and the Animals.  Formed in 1964 (the name came from a famous blues song), the original line-up featured singers John Anderson and Ronnie Baker, guitarist Charles Harcourt, bassist David Sproat, keyboardist Peter Wallis, and drummer John Woods.  

 

With The Animals breaking through to an  international audience, Junco Partners seemed groomed for similar success.  Immensely popular on the local club scene, in 1964 they packed up for Hamburg's infamous Star Club, but were turned back by German immigration officials who discovered they were too young to get work permits.  That setback seemed momentary with the band signing a recording deal that saw the release of their debut single:

 

 

- 1965's 'As Long as I Have You' b/w ' Take This Hammer' (Columbia EMI catalog number DB 7665)

 

Even though it was an intriguing mix of blues and more pop-oriented moves (imagine a mash-up of The Animals and The Zombies), the single did little commercially (# 60 on the UK pop charts), and the band returned to the English circuit where they spent the next six years opening for name bands and serving as a touring unit for a stream of American blues acts, including Freddie King and Howlin' Wolf.

 

By the time the band got a chance to finally record an album the line-up had shrunk to former Jackson Heights alumnus Charles Harcourt on lead guitar and vocals, Sargeant on lead vocals and keyboards, Sproat on bass, and drummer Woods.  Produced by Fritz Fryer, to my ears 1970's "Junco Partners"  was one of those albums that didn't immediately hit you, rather crept up on you and simply wouldn't leave you alone (kinda' like a bad woman).  So here's what the band has to say about the collection: "The The Junco Partners Album was recorded in various big London studios for "Barclay" record label over a six week period in between touring in 1969 with Howlin Wolf, Freddie King and others. It was released in England, France and Germany after the band split up in 1970. At the time of recording, the band was a very slim four piece, renown for its dynamic live performances and gave its all to Bob Sargeant's songs.  But truthfully we still didn't capture the essence of what we were when we started out, or what we are now - "A bloody good blues band". However it did awakened Bob Sargeant's recording and producing prowess - he went on to produce number 1's on both sides of the Atlantic, including more than twenty top 20 hits and on reflection the songs are not that bad either."

 

Judging by these ten tracks I'd say their opinion was a bit on the modest side.  Anyone expecting to hear a standard collection of British guys doing lame blues covers was going to be in for a major surprise.  While material like their cover of Joe Cocker's Change In Louise' and the Sargeant-penned 'Am I Blue' underscored their longstanding blues fixation, the album was far more diverse than expected with credible stabs at progressive, psych, and commercial rock.  Yeah, Sargeant may not have been able to compete with the bluesy intensity of former lead singers John Anderson and Ronnie Baker, but he was actually quite good, occasionally sounding a bit like a gruffer Stevie Winwood and on tracks like 'Fly Me High' and 'Reprieve' he was magnificent.  Guitarist Harcourt also handled vocals on a couple of tracks and was also a strong presence.  As for the rest of the band, Harcourt was a real rarity - a rock guitarist who didn't play a single unnecessary chord, while the Sproat/Woods rhythm section was consistently superb - easy to see why American blues men wanted to work with them.

 

"Junco Partners" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) The Minotaur   (Robert Sargeant) - 4:21    rating: **** stars

For a band that prided themselves on their blues moves 'The Minotaur' was simply dumbfounding - but not in a bad way.  Kicked along by a breezy, but propulsive melody, the song's progressive and slightly psych-tinged flavor was super impressive.  Sargeant sounded great and turned in some keyboards that would have made Alan Price proud.   Great way to open the album and my only complaint was the song faded out too soon. 

2.) Fly Me High   (Robert Sargeant) - 4:44     rating: **** stars

Wow, from Sargeant's opening organ chords on, this one was major funky ....   Imagine Eric Burden singing a funky blues number with real swagger and conviction (and in tune), and you'll have a feel for what 'Fly Me High' sounded like.  Backed by some of the tightest horns I've ever heard (eat your heart out Stax and Muscle Shoals) and a killer Charles Harcourt double tracked lead guitar, and this was simply a fantastic tune.  Another track where I wish it hadn't faded out so early.  

3.) Change In Louise   (Joe Crocker - Chris Stainton) - 3:50      rating: *** stars

Their cover of Joe Cocker's 'Change In Louise' gave the bluesy song a Stevie Winwood and Traffic tinge.  I won't say it improved on the Cocker original, but it was entertaining.  It would have been even more entertaining had they dropped the shrill female backing singers from the mix.   For some odd reason the song was tapped as a French single.

 

 

- 1970's 'Change in Louise' b/w 'Fly Me High'  (Barclay catalog number 61.325)

4.) Black Widow   (Robert Sargeant) - 4:03     rating: **** stars

Starting out as a stark ballad showcasing Sargeant on vocals and keyboards  'Black Widow'  then brought in Harcourt on fuzz guitar and the rest of the band.  Morphing through a number of time and melody changes, this was another one that had a Traffic feel.   I would have given it an extra star if not for the abrupt ending.  It almost sounded like the recorder had simply run out of tape.   

5.) Help Me  (Charles Harcourt) - 3:43     rating: **** stars

Harcourt's lone composition, 'Help Me' featured his surprisingly likeable voice and impeccable lead guitar on a song that managed to somehow mash-up blues, folk, progressive, and rock moves in under four minutes.  I'd love to figure out the riff he plays on acoustic guitar.   Imagine a really good Cream track.  Fantastic tune.   

 

(side 2)
1.) Natural Thoughts   (Robert Sargeant) - 3:25 
  rating: **** stars

With a memorable, lysergic-tinged melody, 'Natural Thoughts' was probably the album's most outright commercial track.  Sargeant and Harcourt shared vocals on the song and the whole band (particularly drummer Woods) kicked ass.  This is the song I would have tapped for a single.      

2.) Am I Blue   (Robert Sargeant) - 4:21    rating: *** stars

With Harcourt turning in his best Freddie King impression, 'Am I Blue' was a traditional four-on-the-floor blues number.  Yeah, this was the band's bread-and-butter and there wasn't anything wrong with the performance, but having heard their dexterity handling other genres, it was slightly dull and plodding in comparison.   

3.) Reprieve   (Robert Sargeant) - 3:45    rating: **** stars

'Reprieve' was another album highlight.  A stomping, keyboard-powered rocker, this one had everything you look for in a radio hit, including growling Sargeant vocal, and blazing backwards Harcourt guitar solo.     

4.) In the Morning   (Robert Sargeant)- 4:10    rating: *** stars

One of the only real disappointments on the album, 'In the Morning' didn't have much of a melody and Sargeant's vocal was pretty lame.  What the song did have going for it was some great Harcourt lead guitar - in fact he turned in one of his best solos here, and some nice Sargeant Hammond organ.  

5.) Death By Fire   (P. Rowan) - 5:28    rating: **** stars

Complete with Sargeant's hypnotic organ, Sproat's melodic bass line, and some engaging lyrics, 'Death By Fire' found the band dipping their collective toes into Traffic-styled English folk and jazz moves.  Suitably moody and the 'fire' sounds (I'm guessing someone crinkling newspaper in front of a microphone), were hysterical.      

 


A real pleasure start-to-finish and well worth checking out since you can still find reasonably priced copies.

 

As you read above, the band indicates the album was released after they called it quits, though other references indicate Harcourt quit shortly after the album was released, leaving the three survivors to continue on for a short period.  Regardless, by the end of 1970 they'd called it quits.

 

 

 

Seven years after the album was released the band reunited for a performance at the 1977 Newcastle Festival.  The band's performance saw various television appearnaces and the release of a couple of independent singles:

 

 

- 1978's 'Swinging Sixties Boys' b/w 'Peepin' & Hidin'' (Rigid catalog number JUNK 028)

- 1981's 'Tall Windows' b/w 'Noizez in my Head' (Energy catalog number NRG4 NM)

 

 

A little older, the band were still playing with considerable energy as of 2011 (I'd see them in a heartbeat, though I'd love to know what the story is with John Anderson and his ever-present raincoat):  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vlN1XH13uXQ&feature=endscreen

 

I've never heard any of them, but over the years the band's released a couple of independent albums:

 

- 1996's "Almost Live - Full Steam R&B"

- "The Singles" 

- "Almost Down In New Orleans"

 

 

They also have a small web presence at: http://www.knbarker.freeserve.co.uk/

 

 

 

 

 

 

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