The Sonic


Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1:

- Mike Brunning -- bass

- Ray King -- vocals, lead guitar

- Joe McGhee -- keyboards

- Brian Wilson -- drums, percussion

 

 

 

- The Sonics

 

 

 


 

Genre: pop

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  Sonic Original English Beat Company

Company: Center

Catalog: 17059 ST
Year:
 1969

Country/State: UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: German pressing

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 254

Price: $100.00

 

Best time to play:  on the way home after a rough day at work - crank the speakers up to 11

 

I guess my fascination with '60s and '70s European bands has something to do with the fact my family spent almost two decades living in Europe and I spent a big chunk of my pre-teens and teens listening to local music (as well as more than my share of time tuned in to the Armed Forces Network).  Anyhow, I'm just a pushover for stuff like The Sonics (aka The Sonic).

 

Originally known as The Sonics, the band featured four anonymous English expatriates (actually two of the members were Scottish).   Only identified in the German line notes as Mike, Brian, Ray, and Joe, I'm guessing their career path followed that of hundreds of bands that tried, but couldn't make it in England.  Relocating to the continent, The Sonics ended up in West Germany where their English identities apparently helped them score a couple of recording contracts, resulting in the release of a pair of obscure and highly collectable singles:

 

- 1966's 'Hitch Hike' b/w 'Gypsy' (Paletten Records catalog number SCH 2)

- 1967's 'Hey Baby' b/w 'Heartbreak City' (Ariola catalog number 19 958 AT)

 

Though the singles didn't set the charts on fire, the band somehow managed to score a deal that saw the release a "quickie" LP for the German Center label.  Released with a credit to The Sonic, given the packaging, it was hard to tell what the album's real title was so I'm opting for "Sonic Original English Beat Company".   Showcasing a mixture of American and English pop and rock covers, the album was pretty strange.  Even though it was released in 1969, the overall sound was very mid-'60s beat band - lots of fuzz guitar, organ, and slightly acid-tinged production effects. (In fact many of the cover tunes dated back to the 1966-67 timeframe).   To be honest, the results weren't half bad; in fact much better than most  bargain label album products.  The fact the band members were English/Scottish certainly didn't hurt the results.  Assuming the played their own instruments, drummer Joe was quite good.  That said, there were some unintentionally funny moments scattered across the ten tracks (check out the hysterical Dylan impersonation on 'Most Likely You'll Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine' and the painfully flat vocal on 'Mr. Bus Driver').

 

"Sonic Original English Beat Company" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Everlasting Love   (Smith - Buzz Cayson - Mac Gayden) - 3:25

The British band The Love Affair had enjoyed a chart topping hit with their cover of 'Everlasting Love' back in 1967.  There version was a rather bouncy pop arrangement,  In contrast, The Sonic took the song and turned into an organ and bass-powered funeral dirge.  In spite of the horrible harmony vocals, the funny thing was how good the results turned out.  rating: **** stars

2.) Mr. Bus Driver    (Wayne Carson Thomson) - 2:10

Wayne Carson Thompson wrote it and Bruce Channel enjoyed the US hit with 'Mr. Bus Driver'. Whereas Channel's version was a wonderful slice of blue-eyed soul (possibly the best thing he ever recorded),  The Sonic opted for a more pop-oriented take.   Unfortunately the anonymous lead singer managed to turn in one of the flattest vocals you've ever heard.  Seriously, the poor guy sounded like he was choking on a mouthful of marbles.  So bad, it's actually worth hearing ...   rating: **** stars 

3.) I See Your Light   (John Durill - Mike Rabon - Norman Ezell) - 2:55

Opening up with those classic Farfisa organ chords, I'll  tell you The Sonic cover gave The Five Americans' original  version a run for its money.   Very cool.    rating: **** stars 

4.) Most Likely You'll Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine   (Bob Dylan) - 3:31

 With the lead singer doing his best Dylan impersonation, the band's cover of 'Most Likely You'll Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine' was actually a guilty pleasure.  Add in the giddy harmonica solos and it may have been my favorite song.   rating: ***** stars

5.) Born To Be Wild    (Mars Bonfire)  - 3:35

Sticking to the original melody and arrangement, musically their cover of Steppenwolf's 'Born To Be Wild' wasn't half bad.  In fact, the spastic globs of fuzz guitar were a nice touch.  And then you got to the lead vocal ...   As before, the performance was done in a hysterical sing-song fashion that left you wondering if the guy was going to make it through the whole song.  Imagine Tony Joe White singing right after having his tonsils removed and you'd get a feel for what it sounded like.    rating: **** stars

6.) Kentucky Woman   (Neil Diamond) - 2:10

Giving credit where due, given a spare acoustic arrangement, their cover of Neil Diamond's 'Kentucky Woman' was actually very impressive.   Again, they didn't really mess with the song's wonderful melody, rather paired down all of the excess noise found on the Deep Purple hit.    rating: ***** stars

 

(side 2)

1.) She's Looking Good    (Roger Collins) - 2:40

Wow, based on their cover of Roger Collins' great soul tune 'She's Looking Good",  I hope someone suggested that they refrain from further attempts to sound soulful.  In this case the poor lead singer sounded constipated, rather than soulful.  They didn't even come close to the original (or P.J. Proby's cover for that matter).   rating: ** stars

2.) Get Back  (John Lennon - Paul McCartney) - 3:25

Everytime I hear their 'Get Back' cover I'm left to wonder if they were trying to sound like a foreign band.  There's something totally bizarre about the lead vocal.  Yeah, I'm sure that the singer was just trying to 'toughen up' his voice (a la-McCartney), but in doing so, it sounded like he had a non-English accent.   Plain strange ...   rating: *** stars

3.) My World    (R. Kerr - R. Felton) - 2:45

I don't know how many folks have heard the Cupid's Inspiration version of 'My World' (it was a minor 1966 UK hit).  The Sonic cover eliminated some of Terry Rice Milton's vocal excesses and stripped away the heavy orchestration.  Unfortunately, this was another one that suffered from an extremely flat vocal delivery.  Shame since the stripped down arrangement was really good.   rating: *** stars

4.) Elevator    (G. Alexander) - 2:05

Credited to a 'G. Alexander', 'Elevator' was one of two tunes I'd never heard before.  Musically the song had a  sunny Beach Boys-styled feel that I found very attractive.   Quality power-pop with a very Vanity Faire-ish feel.   rating; **** stars

5.) Reservations    (Hammond) - 2:50

With a fantastic, bouncy garage feel, 'Reservations' was one of the album's best songs.   Shame it wasn't released in 1967, rather than 1969.    rating; **** stars

6.) Hush   (Joe South - South) - 3:20

I've always loved Joe South's 'Hush' and until I heard The Sonic's version I'd always thought it was a song you simply couldn't mess up.   Well, I was wrong.   This version was flat, sluggish, and thoroughly dull.   Even the way the sang the title 'Huuuuuuuuuush' irritated me.  A pox on this song.   rating: **

 

There isn't a single original note in these grooves, but I'll readily admit I enjoyed it from start to finish.  Even the isolated wipeouts (their dreadful cover of Joe South's 'Hush'), were worth listening to.  One of those band's I'd love to know something about ...  Someone out there has their story !  Drop me a line.

 

 

I love the internet for the way it can connect people.   Got this note from Margaret McGhee, the daughter of band keyboardist Joe McGhee.   She was kind enough to have her dad provided a brief band overview and was kind enough to share it with me (and everyone else).

 

My father Joe was part of the music scene in Glasgow (Joe McGhee and The West Nile Jazz Band) and this is how he met drummer Brian Wilson.  Ray King at that point was already in Germany. Each one of them playing in different bands.  The Sonics was their name till they were asked to change it hence the change for the album to The Sonic.  They were together for around 6/7 years, playing in places like Staat Theatre Kassel. They also appeared in a documentary about their music.  They also wrote a piece of music for a ballet, but my father is not sure what happened to that!  They recorded the album, which as I mentioned they were very disappointed in the changes made without their knowledge, after this they realized things weren't going their way and decided to split.  Brian Wilson still teaches, you can Google him...Brian Scotty Wilson.  Ray King is still living in Germany, Mike Brunning is still living in Kassel as far as my father recalls.  Joe returned to Scotland.  Dad is still in touch occasionally with Brian and Ray.  My dad has no recollection of any singles being released! Brian may be able to help more.  I did check and sure enough Wilson is still active on the music scene.  In fact, he has a couple of interesting YouTube videos out there: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLJpuWqyYuk 

Talking about this has given my father a lovely boost so thank you.

Kind Regards, Joe McGhee and Margaret  (September, 2014)

 

 

 


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