Classic album review: Marmalade – There’s A Lot Of It About (1968)

the_marmalade-theres_a_lot_of_it_about_a
Source: album artwork

At a time where a lot of bands were going for otherworldly psychedelic ‘mind-crashers’, Marmalade went another direction. They had a very commercial sounding aura about them, and after four failed singles, they finally made the top 10 of the U.K. Charts. Fortunately for them, unlike massive bands like the Small Faces and The Move, Marmalade actually had a top 10 hit in the United States with “Reflections of my Life”, making them a one hit wonder in that country.

What Marmalade captures to do is create commercially sounding pop songs, without going over the top with or sounding too corny (most of the time!) Lead singer Dean Ford really puts them in control with a fantastic voice, and one that is synergistic with the songs themselves. It is too bad that he never never made it big as a solo artist after he left the group in 1974, after doing four albums with them.

As for the songs themselves, lets start with the covers. There is a total of five of them included on here, and I would say three of them were worth recording. Their version of Big Brother & Holding Company’s “A Piece of my Heart” could have made it big itself. It perfectly encapsulates the spirit of the 60’s. Look up some live BBC songs on Youtube. There are many songs there that have that same feeling as “Piece of my Heart”. It’s easy to get lost in a magical rush of serotonin when Ford sings on this one. The Bob Dylan cover of “I Shall Be Released” might not be for everybody, but for a lot of people it will serve as a song you might listen to constantly for months. So smooth, and includes astounding horns that will make you reverse the songs a few times to hear it again.

Their cover of “Hey Joe” starts a bit boring for sure, the first verse is a little lazy. However, it picks up speed quickly and the last 2/3 of the song is definitely worth it. Their version of The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer in the City” is a song that I can take or leave it…Not bad, but not exceptional either. Now, as for the originals, you will mostly be happy with;

There are two particularly psychedelic songs on the album, one of them being the incredible “I See The Rain”, reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix. Ironically, Hendrix stated that “I See The Rain” was the the best song of 1967 for him. Crunchy guitar riffs, and parts of “Hey Joe” noticeable throughout it. I have never read or heard anybody say that, but there is a guitar part in this song that is identical to parts of Hendrix’s version.

Popgroup Marmalade.
Marmalade, circa 1969

The other psychedelic song, “There ain’t no use in Hangin’ on”, is a groovy piece of musical art that will captivate you with its catchiness and impressive guitar parts by lead guitarist William Junior Campbell. Then, we get to tracks like “Station on Third Avenue” and “Chains” both stylistically different, but they will each get you into music mode. “Chains” especially will grab you, with its Rubber Soul sounding maturity.

The opening track, “Lovin’ Things” got them into the charts.  Not a bad song, but the non album single “Wait for me Mary-Anne” is much better and should have replaced “Lovin’ Thing”. However “Lovin Things” did get them their first hit in the UK, peaking at number six.

I would also recommend their follow up album, Reflections of the Marmalade, and 1974’s Our House is Rocking which features a much harder sound from them. If you enjoy pop, I would totally advise you check this album out. Not perfect by any means, but there are enough songs on here by this Scottish band that should make it on your on your miscellaneous playlists.

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