Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Picadilly Line - The Huge World Of Emily Small (1967)




Originally formed in 1967 as Picadilly Line by Rod Edwards and Roger Hand, English psychedelic pop group Edwards Hand released three albums before disbanding in the mid-'70s (1968's The Huge World of Emily Small [as Picadilly Line] featured the talents of Danny Thompson, Alan Hawkshaw, Jan Barber, Herbie Flowers, and Harold McNair). The group's highly collectible eponymous debut was produced by George Martin, who worked with very few pop acts outside of the Beatles. The record received its share of critical acclaim, earning comparisons to the Bee Gees, as well as the aforementioned Fab Four. Stranded (1970) and Rainshine (1973) were also produced by Martin.




"Picadilly Line's The Huge World Of Emily Small is one of those albums that just seems to have slipped under the radar of most UK pop psych collectors. As such, it has never been re-issued in any form! The band (essentially a duo led by Rod Edwards and Roger Hand, who would later record as Edwards Hand) flourished briefly in the late '60s releasing this one album. With them is the cream of UK session men including Danny Thompson (bass), Alan Hawkshaw (keys), Herbie Flowers (bass) and Harold McNair (flute). The Picadilly Line even managed an appearance at The Middle Earth club in London, the then hallowed centre of the UK psychedelic scene.
The album is breezy post-Sgt. Pepper psychedelic pop with plenty of swinging London vibes, orchestration and evocative whimsical lyrics. Reference points are a psychedelic The Hollies, Chad and Jeremy (circa Of Cabbages and Kings) Nirvana, Kaleidoscope (UK), World Of Oz, Donovan and The Bee Gees. Filled with beautiful dreamy vocal harmonies and elaborate electric and acoustic arrangements, this is a real trip back to the height of UK Flower Power. All material is original except for a great version of Dylan's 'Visions of Johanna' and The Everly Brothers' 'Gone, Gone Gone.'
Features ten unreleased bonus tracks exclusive to this CD, including their non-album singles 'Yellow Rainbow'/'Evenings with Corinna' and 'Evening with Corinna'/'My Best Friend,' both from 1968. Digitally re-mastered from the original master tapes and re-released with full consent of the producer and band. Booklet includes unseen photos from the period and band biography and the CD features ten bonus tracks."


The Picadilly Line's sole album is one of the recordings that most epitomizes what has been retrospectively dubbed the "toytown" school of British psychedelia by collectors. That is, the songs bounce along daintily; the vocal emphasis is on high harmonies; the lyrics are sometimes populated with observations of British everyday life and characters, sprinkled with a coat of whimsy; and the arrangements benefit from touches of baroque orchestration. It's executed here, however, with a fey, twee touch that makes the Zombies' Odessey and Oracle, for instance, sound rough 'n' ready by comparison. It's thus going to be too light even for some British psychedelic pop enthusiasts, but it's not quite the most saccharine entry in the genre, though it's undeniably precious. There's a folky lightness that keeps this from being too wide-eyed and childish, sometimes sounding a bit like Simon & Garfunkel gone toytown, though with some similarities to both the 1967-era Beatles and '60s California pop in the vocals and arrangements. The covers of Bob Dylan's "Visions of Johanna" and the Everly Brothers' "Gone, Gone, Gone," however, seem misplaced in these surroundings. The CD reissue adds ten bonus cuts of a similar nature (though they're sometimes marginally gutsier) and the same level of professionalism, including all three of their non-LP cuts that appeared on singles in 1968. Of these, the one of most interest is "Yellow Rainbow," as it was written by Graham Nash, then of the Hollies. Unsurprisingly, it sounds much like a Hollies song given a lighter treatment than the Hollies themselves would have; also unsurprisingly, to be a little uncharitable, it's by far the best track on the CD.


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