ASH GRAY and the GIRLS – BORN IN THE SUMMER
2012 – LuvRock Records
Having not heard their first album I couldn’t say if this is the bands usual style or if it is just a one off tribute to the ‘Summer of love,’ around which the whole of the album seems to be constructed. The main point has to be that there was never a fully fledged sound as such in those incredibly experimental times and it was that experimentation that held such appeal in a decade that threw up so many different genres within popular music. Everybody was trying to rip down the boundaries to see how far they could go and if there were any limits, which is how garage rock, country rock, jam rock, hard rock, prog rock and goodness knows how many other genres and sub genres were born. I’m sure a huge amount of work was put into the recording of these eleven songs by this talented group and some of the songs are very good, but to these ears the album doesn’t really seem to have much originality, with very little staying in the memory for all that long, again something that echoes much of what was released
in those far off days! Of course, originality was probably not the aim of this recording and if it was indeed to resurrect a snippet of what was going on it does work pretty well, with in many ways the band having been successful with their evocation of the summer of love. Everything about most of the songs is reminiscent of the late 1960s but without actually sounding exactly like anyone around at the time, something which takes a huge amount of skill, so they have absorbed, mixed and digested their influences incredibly well to produce this kaleidoscope of melodic songs that do help to bring back 1967. My problem is that (sadly!) I was around in the late 1960s and was at an age where the
music of the time seeped into my soul and helped develop my tastes. This album is in many ways pleasantly reminiscent of those days but is neither better nor worse than much of what was being developed at the time. There was a huge surge of bands, some of whom maybe didn’t have the luck, maybe had a hit or two and disappeared in a year or less to either never be heard of again or perhaps to crop up on one of the many compilations that are now so popular and if lucky to maybe even be on ‘Nuggets’ or‘Pebbles.’
With the exception of Graham Gouldman’s Bus Stop, all songs were written by Ash Gray, who also handles lead vocals and guitars, with Nina Murphy and Sarah Wise being responsible for the beautiful harmonies, with Nick Fumento on drums and percussion. This seems to be the core band although there are a number of other musicians used on the album.
Every song is a pleasant enough listen, with the exception of the pointless version of Bus
Stop, with Grays tuneful vocals being enhanced by the beautiful female harmonies but I can’t listen to the album without thinking of some of the twee bubblegum pop that was around in the late 1960s, although this is nowhere near as bad as that, falling somewhere around the easier listening edges of the experimentation so prevalent in those days. For once, I won’t pick out any individual songs but will say everything is beautifully played and sung, with the writing also being good. It’s just that if, as I’m assuming, the idea was a tribute to the late 60’s there is a whole lot of the original music that is
still available that is better. Of course there is also the point that there was a hell of a lot of worse music than this album around then, as there is now! In many ways a novelty, but a clever, pleasant one.