Band members Related acts
line up 1 (1971-72)
- John Pantry -- vocals, keyboards
- John Richmond -- lead guitar, keyboards, banjo
- Nick Ryan -- bass
- Robin Slater -- vocals, guitar
- Mike Wade -- drums, percussion, vocals
- Chris West -- guitar
- The Factory (John Pantry)
- Fresh Air (John Pantry)
- Norman Conquest
- John Pantry (solo efforts)
- Peter & the Wolves (John Pantry, John Richmond and Mike Ryan)
- Mike Ryan (solo efforts)
- Sounds Around (John Pantry, John Richmond and Mike Ryan)
Rating: 4 stars ****
Company: Rare Earth
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: cut out notch lower edge
Catalog ID: --
With the establishment of Rare Earth Records, the early 1970s saw Motown making a concerted effort to expand it's music empire and recording catalog into rock and roll. Among the slew of bands signed to Rare Earth was Wolfe. Wolfe was essentially a continuation of Sounds Around and Peter & the Wolves. Both band had released a series of mid and late-'60s singles fronted by singer/keyboard player John Pantry, guitarist John Richmond and bassist Mike Ryan.
With the addition of singer/guitarist Robin Slater and drummer Mike Wade, 1971 saw Peter & the Wolves morph into Wolfe (get it - wolves to wolfe ...). How the group ended up associated with Motown is a mystery to me, but Jerry Ross seems to have had something to do with it. Note that Ross is credited on the album liner notes.
With John Pantry producing, "Wolfe" was recorded at London's International Broadcasting Studios (IBC). Coincidently, Pantry worked at IBC serving as a studio engineer and producer with credits that included The Bee Gees and The Small Faces. On the surface 1972's "Wolfe" didn't look all that impressive. Packaging the album in onr of the year's dullest covers wasn't exactly an inspirational start. Never a good thing, the track listing also reflected a heavy dose of popular covers - Chinn-Chapman/Sweet's 'Funny, Funny', Leslie Duncan's 'Love Song', King Harvest's 'Dancing In the Moonlight' and James Taylor's 'Something In the Way She Moves'. Underscoring the Peter & the Wolves link, 'Something In the Way She Moves' had previously been released as Peter & the Wolves final 45. The good news was the band were uniformly good, injecting their unique fingerprints on every tune, including the covers. Their version of 'Dancing In the Moonlight' was better than the original. They had the sense not to mess with Judd's 'Snalin' Mumma Lion (re-titled 'Mama Lion' for the album). Even more impressive were most of the six original tunes. 'Bite It Deep' was a great slice of sunshine pop, while 'Us', 'Time Is Money' and 'Song with No Name' overcame pretty but forgettable melodies with interesting lyrics. I even liked the songs most folks toss - the acoustic 'Dead from the Head Down' and their swampy cover of Judd's 'Mama Lion' both rocked pretty hard. Pantry handled most of the lead vocals and he had a highly commercial voice. Guitarist Slater and drummer Wade handled a couple of songs with less impressive results.
"Wolfe" track listing:
1.) Ballad of the Unloved (Scott English - Larry Weiss) - 3:30 rating: **** stars
I'd previously heard this tune on The Raiders' "Country Wine" album. Songwriter Scott English had also released it as a single. Thankfully the Wolfe version wasn't as precious as English's version, nor as country-tinged as The Raiders' take on the tune. The melody remained intact, but the song benefited from a weird distorted keyboard and guitar opening. Elsewhere Pantry's lead vocals brought a likeable Bee Gees vibe to the cover and coupled with nice harmony vocals and the interesting mid-song break, the tune was actually more interesting than either other version.
2.) Bite It Deep (John Pantry - Nick Ryan) - 3:57 rating: **** stars
One of six band originals, starting out as a glistening slice of sunshine pop, 'Bite It Deep' has a hyper-commercial melody and sounded very late-'60s. Slater's slide guitar kicked the result up a notch. Should have been a single.
3.) Love Song (Leslie Duncan) - 2:40 rating: **** stars
Propelled by Panty's keyboards, their Leslie Duncan cover was bouncy and commercial, reminding me a bit of what Paul McCartney had done with Mary Hopkins. Trying to "heavy up" the song certainly helped.
4.) Something In the Way She Moves (James Taylor) - 2:40 rating: *** stars
The decision to include a cover of James Taylor's 'Something In the Way She Moves' was curious as it was a Peter & the Wolves recording, having been released as the group's final single. Confusing the group's discography even more, in early 1971 the 45 was released in the States by the Heritage label. Opening a pop song with a flute solo is never a good thing in my book. Imagine my surprise when it turned out their version of this classic song was actually enjoyable. With a smooth, folk arrangement they sped up the tune, sprinkled on electric keyboards, banjo and flute to make it surprisingly catchy. You won't forget Taylor's haunting original, but this version was nice.
- 1970's 'Something In the Way She Moves' b/w 'The Lady and Me' (UPC catalog 104)
- 1971's 'Something In the Way She Moves' b/w 'The Lady and Me' (Heritage catalog number HES 828)
5.) Funny, Funny (Nick Chinn - Mike Chapman) - 2:55 rating: *** stars
I have a sweet spot for The Sweet version of the tune, but thanks to Slater's skitterish lead guitar Wolfe's was equally good in a sunshine/bubblegum fashion. Perhaps not quite as bubbly, but still a fun performance.
6.) Dead from the Head Down (John Pantry - Nick Ryan) - 2:55 rating: **** stars
With an acoustic arrangement 'Dead from the Head Down' actually rocked surprisingly hard. Great acoustic guitars. Not sure who handled the vocals on this one, but it wasn't Pantry.
1.) Dancing In the Moonlight (Sherman Kelly) - 2:50 rating: **** stars
Most folks know this one as a hit for King Crimson, but the original was written and recorded by the band Boffalongo. King Harvest's cover stayed pretty true to the original and was the hit, offering up a near-perfect slice of top-40. Wolfe didn't mess with the song's commercial sheen, but slapped plenty of Wade's percussion and Slater's fuzz guitar on the melody, surrounding it with glistening harmony vocals. While it almost pains me to admit this, their cover was actually better than the original, or hit versions. The song was released as a 45 in the UK and Holland. For some reason the "B" showed a slightly different song title - 'Snarling Mama Lion' versus 'Mama Lion' on the LP.
- 1972's 'Dancing In the Moonlight' b/w 'Snarling Mama Lion' (Rare Earth catalog RES 108
2.) Tale of Two Cities (John Pantry - Nick Ryan) - 4:45 rating: **** stars
With Slater sharing lead vocals with Pantry, 'Tale of Two Cities' showed how good these guys could be. The song structure was interesting, basically two songs stitched together midway. The first half was very pop-oriented while the second half sounded like one of those protest songs you'd hear at your local Irish bar. The lyrics apparently aimed at life in New York and life in London were interesting and the multi-part vocals quite intricate. One of my favorite performances.
3.) Us (John Pantry - Nick Ryan) - 3:00 rating: *** stars
The ballad 'Us' was pleasant and quaint with a lovely lyric. Kind of a Paul McCartney vibe going on with this one.
4.) Mama Lion (Mark Wirtz - Kris Ife) - 3:30 rating: **** stars
Released under the title 'Snarlin' Mumma Lion' the song was original recorded and released by the British band Judd. Wolfe's version didn't mess much with the original, though whoever handled the vocals (it wasn't Pantry), couldn't match Kris Ife's original performance .
5.) Time Is Money (Robin Slater) - 3:53 rating: *** stars
Guitarist Slater's lone composition, 'Time Is Money' was a pretty, but predicable ballad salvaged by some interesting lyrics, the band's nice harmonies and a cheesy Pantry synthesizer solo..
6.) Song with No Name (John Pantry - Nick Ryan) - 1:00 rating: **** stars
Just Pantry and piano, 'Song with No Name' was stark and thought provoking as a memory to a lost one. Shame it was so short.
Pantry remains active in music. Following the breakup of Wolfe he recorded a rare 1972 solo album ("John Pantry" Philips catalog number 6308 129), before turning his musical attention to showcasing his Christian beliefs. He recorded a dozen solo efforts, touring and speaking about his beliefs. In the early 1990s he was ordained as an Anglican minister. I haven't checked any of his latter releases.
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