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Groovy Uncle - Persuaded

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 14 / 11 / 2014

Groovy Uncle - Persuaded
Label: Trouserphonic Recordings
Format: CD


Irresistible 60’s spy film-influenced fourth album from Medway-based garage rock outfit, Groovy Uncle

Glenn Prangnell and his merry bunch return after releasing the single of the summer (‘Barefoot in the Car Park/Wet Weekend’, both included here) with their fourth long-player titled ‘Persuaded’. We know now what to expect from any record bearing the Groovy Uncle name; 60’s-inspired beat/r&b lovingly put together with care and feeling, made by a bunch of musicians who not only understand the music of that period but who can actually deliver the whole package, not just the sounds. But where can Prangnell lead his band on this fourth outing without repeating what they’ve already done? Well, this time Prangnell has injected a little mystery into the whole affair and not just musically. The sleeve will have those of a certain age rummaging through dusty boxes in the attic looking for that little orange ‘Man From U.N.C.L.E.’ membership card that they treasured so much back in the mid-sixties. The little touches in the design of the Groovy Uncle logo leave little doubt that part of this album at least is inspired by those mid-sixties spy films and TV series and memories of more innocent times and Illya Kuryakin come flooding back. This is confirmed by the opening track, ‘Persuaded (Instrumental)’, which you just know is the theme to some long lost spy thriller but just can’t place (it’s because the song is actually a Glenn Prangnell original). It doesn’t just evoke the work of John Barry. There are traces of the soundtracks from the Blaxploitation movies of the 70s in there somewhere too. For a band that started out as almost as a pastiche of a sixties r&b band, the song shows just how far they have come and how few have the understanding of that era and genre that Prangnell and company have. That song makes a reappearance as the closing track on the album, this time as a vocal version featuring the talents of the mysterious Miss Modus. The first thing that comes to mind when discovering that Prangnell has another female singing on Groovy Uncle recordings other than the wonderful Suzi Chunk is why? Suzi has proven just what a unique and amazing singer she is; recently non other than Stevie Van Zandt voted the aforementioned ‘Barefoot in the Car Park’ as his song of the summer, so it’s not just a motley bunch of scribes who are raving about her, as the most powerful man in ‘Lillehammer’ feels the same. Seriously though, if Little Steven rates Suzi, and surely it’s her vocals that captured his attention on that song, that’s recommendation enough. So, it’s a little surprising to begin with to understand why Prangnell chose another female singer for not just this song but also others on ‘Persuaded’. That’s until you hear Miss Modus sing the title song. While there’s little doubt that Suzi could have made her usual excellent job by wrapping her vocals around the song, it has to be said that Prangnell probably made the right choice. The breathy, dingy nightclub vibe that Miss Modus brings to the song is perfect. While Suzi would have left her own unique stamp all over the song, the listener can appreciate what Prangnell was after by using the vocal talents of Miss Modus here. Like Suzi, there are a lot of 60’s influences seeping through the vocals from Miss Modus, but there’s less of Suzi’s-Sharon Tandy like soulfulness and more of the drama of Helen Shapiro, Shirley Bassey and Nancy Sinatra in the performances from Miss Modus. It makes sense why Miss Modus takes the lead on ‘Your Weight in Gold’ too. The exotic touches in her vocals again make the song an ideal choice for a spy movie soundtrack. ‘I Won’t Be Fooled By You’ mixes classic pop with those film scores and is the one song where Miss Modus takes the lead where the listener wonders what Suzi would have made of the song; but those background vocals sound like they are coming from a familiar set of powerful pipes. Miss Modus also displays her pop prowess on the duet with Prangnell that is ‘What’s Going On’, an all-too short twang-filled vintage pop song where, not for the last time on this album, Prangnell boldly displays his love of mid-sixties Beatles. So, Suzi Chunk’s lead vocal contribution is that already available single ‘Barefoot in the Park’ and ‘High Time’. We’ve covered the single in a separate review, and it sounds even more powerful in the context of this album; ‘High Time’ also covers much the same ground, an r&b belter which brings out the very best in Suzi’s magnificent voice. Does any other singer right now have a more powerful and expressive voice than Suzi? She really does own every song she lends her vocals to. While Prangnell made a shrewd move by employing the talents of Miss Modus on the more film-inspired tracks (and by moving slightly in that direction Prangnell has kept his music interesting and revealed an unexpected side to his sound and vision) and he has also kept long-time Uncle fans happy with the Suzi Chunk cuts, it’s the songs where Prangnell takes the lead that surprise most of all. The Beatles comparisons have always been there. Although the first Groovy Uncle album had more in common with other 60’s bands in reality than it did with the fab four, on the tracks where Prangnell takes full control here that Beatle influence comes to the fore more than ever before. There’s no denying that ‘No Idea’ has leanings to McCartney’s more thoughtful songs, the string quartet arrangement goes some way to achieving this but vocally Prangnell isn’t a million miles from McCartney here too. Think ‘She’s Leaving Home’ or ‘Eleanor Rigby’. It really is that good. But it’s the third track on the album, ‘Should Have Been Mine’, which is the biggest surprise. Coming in after that opening thriller-inspired instrumental and Suzi’s stomping ‘Barefoot in the Park’ 45, it’s a mellow, harmonica-drenched Beatle ballad that just blows the listener away. It’s a perfect pop song, the kind of which are far too rare these days. The melancholic, addictive melody is superb, Prangnell’s yearning vocal is almost Lennon at his most vulnerable and it’s proof that Prangnell is by far the master at creating these particular sounds. Those who have heard ‘Wet Weekend’ on that summer single and fallen for its charms will love what Prangnell does on this album. ‘Pocket of Concern’ is a restrained take on the garage sound; a power pop classic in the making, it’s simply irresistible; the sound of a band enjoying what they are creating that spills over into the listener. ‘You Look Good to Me’ is another Prangnell lead vocal, a bouncy pop song that again is impossible not to sing along to. There are again little touches of Lennon in there, while never losing sight of the fact that this is Groovy Uncle creating music that is timeless. Four albums in and Prangnell and his gang have produced an album that has moved on from their earlier work without losing any of the elements that made them so good in the first place. It’s like three separate visions mixed into one; the spy soundtrack element, the soulful 60’s sides that Suzi Chunk excels at and Prangnell’s own love of 60’s bands sprinkled over all the resulting sound. The listener still gets the feeling that for all the care and attention Groovy Uncle is putting into their music and presentation (check out the label of this album for further proof) they still aren’t taking it all too seriously. While that’s to be admired, the time’s very close to Prangnell and his ever expanding band to having to deal with the fact that they are fast turning into one of our most important bands.

Track Listing:-
1 Persuaded (Instrumental)
2 Barefoot In the Car Park
3 Should Have Been Mine
4 Your Weight In Gold
5 No Idea
6 I Wont Be Fooled By You
7 High Time
8 Wet Weekend
9 Pocket of Concern
10 What's Going On
11 You Look Good To Me
12 Persuaded (Vocal)

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Interview (2014)
Groovy Uncle - Interview
Malcolm Carter talks to Glenn Prangnell, the front man with 60's-influenced Medway-based act Groovy Uncle's recently released third album, ‘One Vowel Away from the Truth'


One Vowel Away From the Truth/Life's a Gift (2020)
Groovy Uncle - One Vowel Away From the Truth/Life's a Gift
Malcolm Carter reflects on the reissue of two of 60's pop-influenced Medway-based band Groovy Uncle’s finest albums on extremely limited vinyl.


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