Forgotten series: Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders – The Best Of (1994)

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Even those with minimal knowledge of rock and roll probably don’t have to be told the British beat boom of the early 60s still holds center stage as the genre’s most important and inspiring movement. Decades later, such influences continue to penetrate the consciousness of musicians everywhere.

Hailing from Manchester, England, Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders were just one of dozens upon dozens of combos working the revolutionary circuit. Nailing silky smooth soul samplings to a bright and shiny pop complexion, the band proved to be a tight and spirited lot. A 20-track collection, The Best Of Wayne Fontana and The Mindbenders (Fontana Records) is the sort of greatest hits package any group worth their microphones and amplifiers would be proud to claim as their own.

Bleeding with righteously radiant vocals, a cover of Ben E. King’s “Stop Look And Listen” reveals the band’s penchant playing it cool and smart in the finest Mod fashion possible, while a remake of Cliff Ballard’s “Game Of Love,” which rumbles and tumbles with choppy rhythms, thudding bass lines and a kicking chorus, provided Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders with a No. 1 smash single in early 1965. Glowing with spunk and passion, “Where Have You Been?” and the polished pleadings of “Remind My Baby Of Me” are other stand out cuts included on the disc.

Late 1965 saw Wayne Fontana flee the band for a solo career. Now referred to as simply the Mindbenders, they brazenly carried on, and in the spring of 1966 scored a No. 2 winning ticket with “A Groovy Kind Of Love.” Breathy, romantic and flourishing with swaying melodies and goosepimple-inducing harmonies, it’s easy to hear why this lush and lovely tune tugged the heartstrings of millions of people.

Sticking to a reliable blueprint sketched of catchy and concise pop rock songs, the Mindbenders proceeded to record juicy jewels in the form of “Can’t Live With You (Can’t Live Without You),” “Ashes To Ashes,” “It’s Getting Harder All The Time” and “Off And Running.” There was nothing the least bit pretentious about the Mindbenders, as they performed their finely-chiseled material straight on and to the point.

There were hints, however, that towards the end of the band’s tenure they were starting to go in a different direction. For instance, there’s “Schoolgirl,” a relatively strapping rocker that could have been hijacked from the Rolling Stones or the Pretty Things, where “My New Day And Age” crackles with strands of squiggly psychedelic creases.

1968 was the year the Mindbenders ceased to be. Singer and guitarist Eric Stewart soon found success with Hotlegs, whose wacky “Neanderthal Man” pierced the airwaves in 1970, followed by solid gold superstardom with 10cc, not to mention assorted sessions with Paul McCartney.

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Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson was born the day Ben E. King hit No. 4 with "Stand By Me" -- which is actually one of her favorite songs, especially John Lennon's version. She's contributed to Lance Monthly and Amplifier, and served as Rock Beat International's associate editor. Paterson has also published Inside Out, and Twist & Shake. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Beverly Paterson
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