Denny Laine

Birmingham Boy

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AllMusic Review by

A Denny Laine bootleg? You better believe it, even if it's hard to find even by bootleg standards, and even harder to imagine many people seeking it other than the most hardcore collectors of British Invasion obscurities and Beatles-associated product. That's a shame as Laine did have something to offer back in the 1960s, but even the small bands of the faithful will be disappointed with this collection of rarities, on both musical and packaging grounds. By far the most interesting of these 23 tracks are the first seven, all taken from his short-lived initial stab at a solo career, which saw him eke out two singles in the late '60s. Laine was singing interesting, arty British orchestrated pop at this point, in a unique and magnificent high voice, as heard on the two singles included here, "Say You Don't Mind" and "Catherine's Wheel." Unfortunately, their value on a bootleg is questionable since they're not sourced from the master tapes (and the very end of "Say You Don't Mind" gets chopped off), and the songs have previously appeared on some legitimate various-artists compilations. What's even more galling is that the much rarer flipsides of those two singles, "Ask the People" and "Too Much in Love," aren't included. There are five late-'60s Laine BBC cuts in muffled but listenable quality, including BBC versions of "Ask the People" and "Catherine's Wheel," as well as three decent songs the group never officially released: "Why Did You Come," "Guilty Minds," and a cover of Tim Hardin's "Reason to Believe." Three of these appeared on the bootleg various-artists compilation Hard-Up Heroes II, but "Reason to Believe" and "Guilty Minds" did not. After this the CD goes downhill, though a few early-'70s cuts are offered with Ginger Baker's Air Force's cover of "Man of Constant Sorrow" ( with Laine on lead vocals) and the three scarce tracks by Balls, Laine's band with Trevor Burton and Viv Prince (including their sole U.K. single and an even rarer German B-side). The Balls cuts are undistinguished early hard rock, but there's worse to come, with most of the rest of the disc devoted to Laine's inessential mid-'70s solo album of Buddy Holly covers, Holly Days, complete with plenty of distracting vinyl noise from the LP copy from which it was mastered. An "acetate version" of one of the Holly Days tracks and a lone BBC Laine-era Moody Blues recording (of "Go Now") polish it off. The mastering of tracks from old records -- for most of these actually were released officially -- is substandard throughout this disc, as are the track listings, which credit some tracks to "Denny Laine's Incredible String Band" (the actual name of the musicians he fronted in the late '60s was Electric String Band), and inaccurately date the BBC version of "Go Now" to 1963. There's room for a good retrospective of early Laine rarities that counteract the unfair public image of him as a Paul McCartney stooge. But not only is this not quite it, it's also the kind of sloppy, careless presentation that gives bootlegs a worse name than they deserve.