Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Factory - Complete Story! (1966-1969)

Biography by Richie Unterberger
The Factory recorded two psychedelic singles in the UK in the late 1960s—unnoticed at the time, now fetching more than a hundred pounds among collectors—that combined psychedelia with power pop harmonies. They were discovered by Brian Carroll, an engineer in one of London's leading studios, IBC. With his colleague Damon Lyon Shaw, he was looking to enter production, so they cut their teeth on the youthful Factory, whose three members included a sixteen-year-old drummer and seventeen-year-old guitarist. Their first single, "Path Through the Forest," was a respectable piece of hard psychedelia with commendably creative guitar and vocal distortion, came out on MGM in the UK in late 1968.
The Factory's only other single, "Try a Little Sunshine," was written for them by John Pantry (a songwriting friend of Carroll), and issued by CBS in late 1969. It sounded a little like a mating of the Who and the Moody Blues (in the best sense of that combination), with its crunching guitar chords and catchy, wistful vocal harmonies. Like its predecessor, it was heard by few, and the group disbanded shortly afterward. That was too bad, as they had considerable promise considering their youth and the quality of their two 45s. Both sides of their two singles, as well as a couple of unreleased demos, were assembled for the Path Through the Forest mini-CD in 1995.
18 Tracks
Stand-Out Tracks:
"Path Thru the Forest""Gone""Try a Little Sunshine""Red Chalk Hill""The Old and the New"

by Richie Unterberger
There can't be many other 1960s bands whose output totaled two flop singles that have been honored with a bootleg. Yet this one materialized for the Factory, and in common with many bootlegs, it's at once useful for its excavation of a mound of obscure material of interest to fanatical collectors, and irritating for its substandard packaging and (at times) sound. Both sides of the two official Factory 45s are here, along with the demos "Mr. Lacey" and "Second Generation Woman." All half-dozen of those tracks previously appeared on Bri-Tone's CD-EP Path Through the Forest, but Complete Story! adds 13 more cuts. The catch is that just one of them, the "original long version" of "Path Through the Forest," is actually a recording by the Factory. Filling out the disc are seven songs from the singles by Peter & the Wolves; both sides of the Norman Conquest 45; and three numbers by the Bunch, two of them done for the BBC. What's the connection between the Factory, Peter & the Wolves, the Norman Conquest, and the Bunch? The CD sleeve doesn't say a word about it. Granted, you shouldn't expect bootleggers to always go the whole nine yards in supplying such basic information, but not everyone has complete sets of back issues of Record Collector to fill in the gaps. Dedicated research reveals that both Peter & the Wolves and the Norman Conquest included the Factory's studio engineer, John Pantry, who also wrote the Factory B-side "Red Chalk Hill." As for the link between the Factory and the Bunch, it's been written that the Bunch was another name for Peter & the Wolves. To further muddy the picture, some Peter & the Wolves' 45 sides are not included here, though it's doubtful that too many people will get upset.So how's the music? Well, the Factory tracks are good second-division, British late-'60s psychedelia/freakbeat, particularly "Path Through the Forest" and "Try a Little Sunshine." The original long version of "Path Through the Forest," the one actual Factory cut not on the Path Through the Forest CD-EP, adds some yet freakier effects not heard on the official 45. Peter & the Wolves play much lighter pop-psychedelia than the Factory, with sunshine pop and bubblegum overtones, sometimes with a nice merry-go-round feel ("Little Girl" and "Lantern Light"), but sometimes in an unmemorable, lightweight fashion. The Norman Conquest single is yet more featherweight, late-'60s British flowery pop, though one of the sides, "Upside Down," benefits from some enchanting organ. The Bunch makes a decided upswing into moodier psychedelic rock on "Spare a Shilling" (both studio and BBC versions included) and the BBC performance of the group's spooky "Looking Glass Alice," though there was surely enough time for the studio version of that tune — one of the better '60s British psychedelic obscurities — as well. In all, this has some good late-'60s pop-psychedelia for the intensely devoted collector of the style, yet it's marred not just by the poor documentation, but also by uneven sound quality in which the volume levels fluctuate and some surface noise can be heard. Yes, it's a bootleg, but it could have been much more laudable with just a little more effort on the part of the perpetrators.
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