Sunday, June 24, 2018

Review: Vinyl Reissue of The Action's 'Rolled Gold'



Do your best to wrap your brain around The Action’s lack of widespread success. Reg King was possibly the UK’s finest smooth soul singer, several members of the band were capable of writing great songs, and they had George Martin in their corner. Perhaps The Action’s early singles were too reliant on previously recorded material and they adapted too late to the age of composing bands. There were certainly management issues. Whatever the case was, The Action made some of the best Mod-infused soul records of the mid-sixties, and when they started producing their own material, there were on the path to creating one of the best albums of 1967: the year that gets my vote for pop’s best one. 

Alas, the band’s shaky foundations crumbled before The Action could finish the LP they intended to call Rolled Gold. George Martin’s interest was never particularly keen and he decided to end his relationship with the band… though he first managed a characteristically grand production for “In My Dream”, the one song that progressed beyond the demo stage. Reg King left, and the remnants reformed as Mighty Baby. The Rolled Gold recordings were shelved for nearly 30 years until Dig the Fuzz Records put them out as Brain (The Lost Recordings 1967/68) in 1995. This selection of tough, intelligent psych pop—too serious to compare to The Who Sell Out (as has often been done), too controlled to be compared to Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake (ditto)—reverted to its intended title in 1997 and Reaction gave it wider release in 2002. Rolled Gold is now getting another go via Spain’s Guerssen with its first vinyl release since ’97. 

Once again, there’s a new cover with a mood-appropriate photo of the band in deep thought and neat gilt lettering, and once again, the music is fresh, powerful, beautiful, and forever provoking frustration that it wasn’t released in 1967. Though one wonders what other feats of magic George Martin might have performed with the other tracks, and the demo-nature of the recordings has always left the sound a touch on the harsh side, there are actually quite a few production strokes beyond the usual austerity of demo-making, such as the flute on “Climbing up the Wall” and the magnificent “Love Is All” and the horse hooves effects at the beginning of “Little Boy”. Bass is very fat on Guerssen’s vinyl, providing a decent counterpoint to the harsher high-end elements. An extensive article originally published in Shindig! last year is included in a large, illustrated insert as a nice supplement with this new LP, and as far as the legendary unfinished albums are concerned, Rolled Gold is still second only to The Beach Boys’ legendary SMiLE in my book. 

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