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Art Gallery (Bonus Track Version)

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Album Review

The Artwoods' only album was an enjoyable mixture of club-oriented soul, R&B, and jazz with a strong organ spice, although it found them falling seriously behind their contemporaries in the British R&B scene in a crucial respect. Not one of the dozen tracks was a group original, and their vocal and interpretive ability was not so strong as to make that shortfall an irrelevance. Still, it did give them a chance to stretch into some jazzy workouts and rave-ups that probably couldn't have been contained on 45s, particularly the swinging cover of "Walk on the Wild Side" (with excellent jazz organ by Jon Lord); Allen Toussaint's "Can You Hear Me," with an arrangement reminiscent of the Spencer Davis Group; and Bobby Bland's "Don't Cry No More," one of their best R&B covers. Once a plum British Invasion rarity, the LP has been reissued on CD by Repertoire and doubled in length with the addition of 14 bonus tracks, including most of their non-LP singles and all four songs from their rare 1966 EP Jazz in Jeans. That EP and their two post-Decca 1967 singles (also present on the disc) haven't been reissued elsewhere, and while this material isn't up to their best recorded output and is occasionally lame, there are some good moments among those rarities, such as the 1967 single "What Shall I Do" and the moody jazz-blues organ instrumental "Our Man Flint" (from Jazz in Jeans). It doesn't quite stand as the complete work of this minor British R&B/rock band, as it's missing four songs that only appeared on singles, including their very best track, 1965's "Oh My Love." For that reason, the Edsel best-of LP 100 Oxford Street still remains the best introduction to the band. And if you already have that LP and this CD, you don't quite have every last thing the Artwoods recorded, as the 1966 B-side "Molly Anderson's Cookery Book" doesn't appear on either of those releases.

Art Gallery (Bonus Track Version), Artwoods
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