Various Artists

Upside Down World of John Pantry Featuring Peter & The Wolves, The Bunc

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John Pantry was a minor but interesting figure on the late-'60s British rock scene, working as an engineer for some major acts, but also writing and singing quite a bit of material on his own. The lengthily titled The Upside Down World of John Pantry featuring Peter & the Wolves, the Bunch, Norman Conquest and the Factory, pressed in a limited-edition LP of 1000 copies, assembles 20 tracks that he had a big hand in during 1967-1969. All but one of them were written by Pantry, and he also often (though not always) sang on these recordings, which include not only rare singles by Peter & the Wolves, the Bunch, Norman Conquest, and the Factory, but also a half-dozen previously unreleased Pantry solo demos. While Pantry's compositional style was very much in the fey wing of British pop-psychedelia, he had a greater melodic sense and knack for dramatic, somewhat haunting tunes than many of his counterparts, even if it never led him to commercial success. In some respects, his songs were similar to a few of the airiest, lightest keyboard-based Paul McCartney works from the Beatles' psychedelic phase; there are also some echoes of the early Bee Gees, though Pantry isn't quite as melodramatic. Without a doubt, the strongest track is the Factory's "Try a Little Sunshine," which sounds a little like a meeting between the Who and the Moody Blues, and has been justly anthologized on some late-'60s British rock rarity compilations. Nothing else here rocks as hard, and a few of the cuts border on the twee, but it's rarely less than pleasant, though only the bittersweet and arching Factory B-side, "Red Chalk Hill," comes close to being as memorable as "Try a Little Sunshine," and the demos (most of which have only piano and voice) are pretty primitive production-wise. As usual for Tenth Planet limited editions, the packaging is excellent, with liner notes by British psychedelia expert David Wells that are copious even by his high standard.