Forgotten series: The Factory, Peter and the Wolves, others – Upside Down World of John Pantry (1999)

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Featuring the multi-talented John Pantry in his various guises as singer, songwriter, musician and recording engineer over a period from 1966-71, Upside Down World of John Pantry is jam-packed with singles, demos, alternate versions and previously unreleased songs.

Wooden Hill, in 2009, issued a much-welcomed and newly expanded 2-CD version of this original excellent 1999 Tenth Planet Label’s original 19-song LP-only collection. That’s 34 new bonus selections. All of the songs on both discs, except for two, were composed by Pantry, who was heavily influenced by late ’60s Bee Gees after engineering the trio’s initial three albums in 1967-68 while at IBC Studios.

The superbly psychedelic “Try a Little Sunshine,” as performed by the Factory features John Pantry on guest lead vocals, leads off the initial disc with a Who-meets-the Moody Blues-fueled flight — making for an outstanding single that deserved to have been a Top 10 hit everywhere in 1969. The b-side, “Red Chalk Hill” also featured John Pantry’s lead vocals, is presented in two versions: the original Factory single, as well as a piano-and-voice demo. “Lantern Light,” as recorded by Pantry’s group Peter and the Wolves, could easily have fit onto the Bee Gees First album in ’67.

Also featured, besides the Factory, and Peter and the Wolves are: Norman Conquest, the Bunch, Sounds Around (P&TW’s prior name) and Wolfe (last name change of P&TW).

“The Old and the New” is yet another catchy melodic pop tune from Peter and the Wolves that’s reminiscent of the Beatles’ “Penny Lane.” Pantry’s first band Sounds Around (later known as Peter and the Wolves) tackle “What Does She Do,” which sounds like a slightly more sophisticated Dave Clark 5. John Pantry’s very melodic and quite infectious 1968 demo of the McCartney-esque “Mississippi Paddleboat,” the sickly sweet pop of “Battle of Trafalgar” and “Julie” would not sound out of place on Emitt Rhodes’ debut solo album.

However, Pantry’s solo ’68 demo of “Pitsea Pub” and the grand “Barbara” seem better suited on an album by Emitt Rhode’s old band, the Merry-Go-Round. The same could be said of Pantry’s ’68 demo of the ballad “Celebration of the Year.” The bubblegummy “Birthday,” as done by the Bunch in 1968, sounds like early Sweet — before Sweet existed. Peter and the Wolves’ ’69 wonderfully infectious demo of “Salt” serves up an upbeat Beatlesque/Monkees pop confection. The circus beat and adolescent story of “Little Girl Lost” comes off as bubblegum Bee Gees. James Taylor’s melodic and breezy “Something in the Way She Moves,” as recorded in 1970 by Peter and the Wolves, is perhaps the most different sounding out of all the tunes here, coming on like Jethro Tull-lite.

These recordings, according to the expanded, updated and superb liner notes, have been digitally remastered. But it’s hard for me to determine which of the original LP’s songs were remastered, because I still heard some slight distortion to most of the songs overall on the album. To me, it sounds as though they were mastered from either records or the LP masters. Maybe I’m being too picky, considering the rarity of the material. So, I will leave that up to you, gentle readers, to determine.

Having said that, I still do think it’s a worthy and rare collection to own — if for no other reason than the second album’s worth of 27 previously unreleased and rare Pantry material, in addition to the extra seven added songs on the first disc. What a mammoth melodic collection from a very talented man.

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Steve Elliott

Steve Elliott

Steve Elliott has written for Shindig, Twist and Shake, Garage & Beat and Ugly Things. A big fan of all things rock and roll - especially the British Invasion, garage rock, psychedelic, new wave, folk rock, surf and power pop - he was a consultant on Sundazed Music's reissue of 'The Best of Butch Engle & The Styx: No Matter What You Say' in 2000, and has also provided liner notes for Italy's Misty Lane Records. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Steve Elliott
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