Monday, January 19, 2009

The Honeybus - At Their Best

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The story of Honeybus is almost a cautionary tale. Considering that most have never heard of them, it's amazing to ponder that they came very close, in the eyes of the critics, to being Decca Records' answer to the Rubber Soul-era Beatles. The harmonies were there, along with some catchy, hook-laden songs and usually tastefully overdubbed brass and violins. The pop sensibilities of Honeybus' main resident composers, Pete Dello and Ray Cane, were astonishingly close in quality and content to those of Paul McCartney and the softer sides of John Lennon of that same era. What's more, the critics loved their records. Yet, somehow, Honeybus never got it right; they never had the right single out at the proper time, and only once in their history did they connect with the public for a major hit, in early 1968 they hit the spot with 'I Can't Let Maggie Go'. Their best known lineup consisted of Pete Dello (vocals, keyboards, guitar), Ray Cane (vocals, bass, keyboards), Colin Hare (rhythm guitar, vocals), and Pete Kircher (drums, vocals), with Dello and Cane writing most of their songs.
'Honeybus at their best' is 25-song compilation containing The Honeybus Story as well as all of the singles, including 'I Can't Let Maggie Go,' and lots of rare takes. Strangely enough, 'Maggie' doesn't hold up as that good a song next to some of the rest, and many of Ray Cane's numbers actually come off as more memorable than many of Dello's songs. The group's 1969 recordings, featuring Kelly's guitar in lieu of an excess of overdubbed instruments, are generally the strongest body of work here. Hare's 'Would You Believe,' a country-style number (making him the group's 'Ringo Starr') also comes off as a refreshing change of pace. Some of the songs suffer from a degree of sameness, but most of the music contains enough surprises to make it interesting.

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1 Story2 Black Mourning Band 3 Scarlet 4 Fresher Than the Sweetness in 5 He Was Columbus 6 Ceilings No. 1 8 7 Under the Silent Tree 9 She's Out There Hare 10 She Said Yes 11 I Remember Caroline 12 How Long 13 Ceilings No. 2 14 Delighted to See You 15 The Breaking up Scene 16 (Do I Figure) In Your Life 17 Throw My Love Away 18 Girl of Independent Means 19 The Right to Choose 20 Julie in My Heart Dello 21 I Can't Let Maggie Go 22 She Sold Blackpool Rock 23 She Sold Blackpool Rock [French Version] 24 Would You Believe 25 Tender Are the Ashes 26 How Long [Single Version]

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