The Complete De Wolfe Sessions is the first official reissue of the legendary sessions done in the '60s and '70s by the not-so-mysterious Electric Banana. The band's story began in 1967, when a down-on-their-luck Pretty Things took a job working for the music library firm De Wolfe tracking songs for potential use as incidental music in swinging '60s films. Working with the Reg Tilsley orchestra, the group cut five tracks under the name the Electric Banana. Two of the tracks were supplied by outside songwriters -- the neo-beat group trifle "Free Love" and goofy country-rocker "Cause I'm a Man" -- and sound like the band were going through the motions. The other three were much more impressive. The swaggering "Walking Down the Street" would have been a highlight of their concurrent album Emotions, the biting horn-driven soul ballad "If I Needed Someone" sports a truly needy Phil May vocal, and "Danger Signs" is a jaunty, loose-limbed take on Motown-style soul, which is a direction the Pretties never really explored. The flip side of the record (and all the records they did in the future under the Electric Banana name) was made up of instrumental takes.
More Electric Banana was recorded at the end of 1967 and ditched the snappy pop arrangements in favor of dark and swirling psychedelia. Tracks like the evil-sounding "I Love You" and the searching "Grey Skies" come across like the beginning stages of S.F. Sorrow, and a different take of "I See You" actually did end up on that classic album. Even More Electric Banana was recorded in early 1968, and unlike the first two albums, Electric Banana weren't working on a Pretties album at the same time. These were stand-alone songs that found the band forging a direction that touched on ferocious post-psych meets hard rock ("Alexander," "Eagle's Son") as well as blues-wailing biker rock ("Blow Your Mind") and a rambling take on West Coast country-rock ("It'll Never Be Me"). These tracks are some of the best music the Pretty Things made and this collection is the best place to find them.
By the time of the next Electric Banana record, 1973's Hot Licks, the band were firmly in mainstream album rock territory, and "Sweet Orphan Lady" sounded like a strong Faces album cut; "I Could Not Believe My Eyes" is rambling boogie rock; "Walk Away" is a haunting CSN&Y-styled ballad; and the rest is amiable rock & roll that's not spectacular, but still lots of fun. Amazingly, they made one more album, 1978's The Return of the Electric Banana. Also amazingly, it's not half bad. "Do My Stuff," opens the record sounding like a lost Flamin' Groovies classic, "James Marshall" is a tough rocker that pays tribute to Jimi Hendrix, and the rest is serviceable late-'70s AOR. The album closed the book on the Electric Banana, but not before some truly interesting and sometimes not far from brilliant music was made. As usual, the Grapefruit label has done an amazing job with the sound and packaging, helping to make the collection something of an answered prayer for Pretties fans.