Ian & the Zodiacs

Star Club Show, Vol. 7

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Although the album title intimates that this might be a live recording, it is, in fact, a studio set, consisting entirely of covers. All-cover LPs by British Invasion bands recording for Germany's Star-Club label in the mid-'60s almost comprise a genre unto themselves. Those albums were often sub-standard, but as these things go, Ian & the Zodiacs' debut is decent, and certainly a cut above most similar such items. Their version of "The Crying Game," with its mournful, tone-pedal guitar mimicking the sound of a trombone, sounds much like Gerry & the Pacemakers' hit ballads such as "Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying," and it actually sounds better than the famous British hit rendition of "The Crying Game" by Dave Berry (and even had some success in Texas). That tone-pedal guitar appears on a few other cuts -- such as "This Empty Place," the unlikely instrumental "Spartacus," and "Take a Message to Martha" (a gender-rewritten version of "Take a Message to Michael") -- and was the most innovative feature of the band. The rest of the record's filled out by competent, if unremarkable, vintage and contemporary rock and soul covers, as well as a pretty fair rendition of a Jagger-Richards song ("So Much in Love with You") that the Rolling Stones never released. [The Repertoire CD reissue doubles the length by adding a dozen bonus tracks, including both sides of four 1963-1965 non-LP singles (one of which, "Bitte Komm Wieder" [a German version of "Take a Message to Martha"]/"All of Me," was apparently withdrawn); unreleased outtakes of "Clarabella" and "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling"; "Secret Love," from the 1963 compilation LP This Is Merseybeat, and a not-too-different unreleased demo version of "The Crying Game." The band's Achilles heel was the usual bugaboo among second-line Merseybeat bands: there are only two originals among those bonus tracks. Still, they were certainly better than some other cover-reliant British Invasion bands that had more success., and could well have had hits had they managed to get their hands on some good outside material.]