Thursday, November 18, 2010

Plastic Penny - Currency (1969)



Plastic Penny were an unremarkable late-'60s British group who made the U.K. Top Ten in early 1968 with "Everything I Am," a labored ballad augmented by strings, that wasn't even one of their best songs. Much of their material was psychedelic pop with hints of encroaching prog-rock, sometimes recalling the Who a bit, elsewhere going into more fey story-songs. Their guitarist, Mick Grabham, would play with Procol Harum for a few years in the 1970s.




Plastic Penny's second album offers various shades of British psychedelic pop that aren't near either the top or bottom of the class. It left the impression of a group who were good musicians, but not ones who had exceptional material or a markedly identifiable style. Beatlesque psychedelic pop that was lighter than the Beatles was the main ingredient, perhaps with elements of the Bee Gees and the poppiest facet of the Who as well, though there was more organ involved in Plastic Penny's arrangements than there was in those of any of these other groups. Sometimes the keyboard-driven sound had shades of Procol Harum and Traffic. It's respectable listening, but not a record to win commendations for originality; "Give Me Money" in particular is a shameless imitation of the Who and the Move in their circa 1967 power pop days, albeit a pretty good one. The inclusion of a couple instrumentals (the closing "Sour Suite," lasting eight minutes, and "Currency") with a heavier, more improvised-sounding organ-grounded approach, as well as mediocre covers of "Hound Dog" and "MacArthur Park," raises the suspicion that the group really didn't have enough material ready to make an album, even though those instrumentals aren't bad. Serious Elton John fans, however, will be interested in collecting this record for the presence of an early Elton John-Bernie Taupin composition, "Turn to Me," that Elton John never recorded. The way Plastic Penny do it, it sounds like an early Badfinger track. The CD reissue on Repertoire adds two bonus tracks.



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