Sunday 17 May 2015

Skurow and Sunshine and this LP from 1977 Make my Day ( no download )

There's been a lot written about this magnificent hard rock (not prog) opus which is apparently quite rare to purchase.  Credits can be found here on discogs as usual.  Note the very interesting comment:

Distributed by Album World. Cover and labels have 9 tracks listed. Some lps only play 7 tracks, 9 track versions do exist.

I wonder?  Of course, inevitably, my copy has only 7, as I guess the complete LP must be quite valuable if ever it turns up on ebay.

Here is a really in-depth (maybe a bit too in-depth) assessment from, bizarrely, not Tom Hayes, but rather from the BADCATRECORDS website:

Tax scam labels like those falling under the Album World conglomerate were renowned for all sorts of dirty tricks including simply appropriating demo tapes, miscrediting material to non-existent groups in order to keep the actual writers in the dark  and cobbling albums together from various acts under a made-up name.  All of those tricks seem to have taken place  on 1977's "Makes My Day".  Though the brief liner notes make no mention of it, about two thirds of the tracks appear to have been recorded by the mid-'70s Las Vegas-based band Skurow.  Featuring Ronnie Skurow and former Merry-Go-Round drummer Gary Kato, the band signed with London, releasing at least two 45s in the States and the UK, before collapsing.   The songs from those singles ('Keep Your Funky Side Out', 'Makes My Day', and 'Crimson Lady' all appeared on the Sunshine LP.   Musically the Skurow tunes were uniformly good with the band demonstrating a knack for clean, crisp melodies, nice harmony vocals, and an impressive versatility that included country-rock ('Just a Pretty Face '), white-boy funk ('Keep Your Funky Side Out'), and FM-ready rock ('Crimson Lady').   Shame they didn't get to record an album on their own.

The other tracks appear to be the work of the late composer Philip Kachaturian.  Kachaturian had already seen some of his work grabbed by the Album World affiliated Mark Holly label under the name Viva.  The Viva album entitled "Automobile Downstairs" seems to have re-purposed  the incidental music composed for the late H.B. Halicki's 1974 archetype car chase film "Gone In 60 Seconds".  (Look under my write-up for Viva for additional information.)   The funny thing was that even though 'Everything's Gonna Be Alright', 'Tell Me Now', and 'Space Flying" were credited to Kachaturian (the second tune was  shown as a Kato - Kachaturian collaboration), these tunes sounded nothing like his "Gone In 60 Seconds" work.  Instead two of the three were enjoyable slices of country-rock, top-40 pop, while the latter track was reportedly a slice of Latin-rock.

1.) Makes My Day  (Ronnie Skurow) - 
The 'A" side from the second Skurow 45, 'Makes My Day' was a very commercial slice of top-40ish rock with  tasty lead guitar, nice Latin-tinged percussion, and sweet harmony vocals.  Would have made a nice FM single.   rating: **** stars
2.) Keep Your Funky Side Out   (Gary Kato) - 
'Keep Your Funky Side Out' had previously see daylight as the 'A' side from the first Skurow single.  Musically it was an okay slice of white boy funk that might remind you a bit of Wild Cherry.  Nice squealing guitars, though the lyrics left something to be desired.   rating: *** stars
3.) Just a Pretty Face  (Gary Kato) - 
Sporting what was probably the album's pettiest melody, 'Just a Pretty Face' found the band aptly slipping into country-rock territory.  Imagine Poco at their most pop-commercial and you'd have a feel for what this one sounded like.   rating: **** stars
4.) Crimson Lady  (Gary Kato - H. Calter - Ronnie Skurow) - 
Another Skurow tune, 'Crimson Lady' was a surprisingly melodic slice of hard rock ... better than 95% of what you'd find on a tax scam

1.) Everything's Gonna Be Alright   (Philip Katchaturian) - 
Nice, driving country-rocker with a sparkling melody and uplifting lyrics that would have made a dandy mid-'70s single.   Another album highlight.   rating: **** stars
2.) Tell Me Now   (Gary. Kato - Philip Katchaturian) - 
Another catchy slice of mid-'70s country rock, with a nice commercial edge.  rating: **** stars
3.) You'll Be Mine   (Gary. Kato) - 
Credited to Kato, 'You'll Be Mine' sounded like a Surkow effort.  Another highly commercial pop-rock tune that sounded a bit like an American version of Badfinger.  Nice.   rating: **** stars
4.) When a Man Loves a Woman   (Percy Sledge) - 
One of the two tunes listed on the liner notes, but not found on the actual Reportedly a loungy remake of the Percy Sledge hit.
5.) Space Flying   (Philip. Katchaturian) - 
The second MIA tune also seemingly available on some copies of the album.  I've seen it described as a decent slice of Latin rock.
album.  The song was apparently included on some pressings of the LP.

Incidentally, for those (like me) who don't understand his mention of "tax scam label," here is the explanation, from a quite interesting interview with the author of a book on the subject, shocking as it may sound:

In 1976, some record label executives discovered that it was possible to create an entire label as a subsidiary to the major label, and to write it off as a huge tax loss to help the “real” label remain profitable. The idea was that a large number of albums (for instance, Tiger Lily and Guinness released almost 100 records each in just under two years) would be on the new label, and the entire batch (ie, every copy of all of the records) would be listed as unsold. They would probably list something like 10,000 copies pressed of each record, even though it’s possible that they pressed up only a few hundred or so. The ones they pressed were never even attempted to be sold; they were sent as promos and dumped into warehouses with cutouts.  Where this gets even more interesting is that in order to create 100 albums in just over a year’s time, the labels had to dig up everything they had in the vaults: demos, albums that were intended to be released but were not, tapes that were purchased from other labels, re-releases of albums that they had released on real labels under different names, stuff that was not ready to be released yet, etc. Many of these are clearly not finished or not properly mastered. The album covers follow a bare bones principle: a simple cover photo and a white back cover with a minimal amount of info (song titles, label info, maybe credits, though many of those are missing and/or fake.)
(Read the whole article-- it's fascinating as hell!)

For myself I've listened to the first two songs dozens of times and I will never, repeat, never get enough of that breezy American convertible sound blasting this slice of bluesy hard rock, driving down Route 66 and drinking a beer and watching those oh so pretty ladies out there struttin' their stuff, wow it must have been beautiful back then in the seventies:

Notice how the instrumental passage in the middle offers you a very safe, but effective, modulation into a minor key for the solo.  The song to me really recalls blues rockers Foxhat.  That yeah yeah hook really takes it over the edge for me.

Here's the track he mentioned about keepin' your funky side out:

This track has the unusual feature,in the three-part vocal harmonies of the chorus (which are, I might add, expertly done), that a second (i.e., an A note on top of the G chord) is one of the added-on intervals along with the customary fifth which creates a slight dissonance, this was first used (I might obviously be wrong) by the Beatles in "Baby you can ride my car" or whatever that song was called.  Here it's done much more successfully, of course.

And the other track he said was a standout, I totally agree with, is the Crimson Lady-- interesting how my favourites are the same as his:

Crimson Lady, Rock ON!!  Clearly, the pickpocketed band Skurow should have been given an LP to release...

I can't resist featuring another song although probably I will get in trouble with the friend who lent me this record, having posted already half his album, Gary Kato's You'll be mine:

Although slightly more pedestrian, it features the interesting aspect of a downgoing series of chords, in major key this time, complementing a melody that makes a wonderful fifth interval jump down at the end.

Anyone interested in reading a bit more about the artists on this interesting oddity and how they were connected together can look in this update to the acid archives here.  Apparently poor Skurow was shocked, many years later, when he found out his music was misappropriated.  If you're curious whether the Skurow 45 tracks are identical to these Sunshine LP tracks, they are indeed, they state there.  No need to hunt down those rare 45s.

You will also read there that one of my old favourites, Ilian, was also a tax scam release!!  Which explains the omission of songs on the LP versus what was printed on the back, as well as the poor quality of recording for some songs (which presumably were merely demos).  But thank god those tax scammers released the mystery man Ilian's music, which otherwise might have disappeared without a trace forever.

Ironically, if his music survives, as indeed it should, it will be due to the back story of this LP rather than the original 45s as Skurow!!  And now, Crimson Lady, Rock On!


Shortly after posting this with no download a friend sent to me a copy of the 9-track album with those two missing tracks that are so hard to find.  Of course, they make for a truly bizarre experience since "When a man loves" is instrumental muzak, therefore completely out of place, and the last song is some bizarre funk. It almost seems like the executives were joking with this-- and that's probably the explanation, someone's ancient joke.  Notice also how this rip has a lot of noise, the recording from analog was poorly done with a poorly grounded wire.

And here forthwith that long-awaited Space Flying track, so badly recorded evidently that it almost sounds like the instruments and singer were out of tune:


  1. I like my 'rawk' funky, so it was great to hear the Skurow 'Keep Your Funky Side Out', which according to Discogs, originally came out in 1974 as a promo only single on London Records here in the UK and USA (one side had a mono version and the other had a stereo version of the track).

    I had no idea about record labels created for tax-evasion purposes and records released specifically for this purpose - the interview with Aaron Milenski was fascinating to read (I was so impressed, I have put his record collectors book The Acid Archives on my Amazon list!) - it really takes record collecting to an entire new level!

    Seems I am not alone in my appreciation for the album and especially the Keep Your Funky Side Out track as I just clocked 127 visits to the Archive page for this track alone!
    Space Flying

    As a big fan also of latin fused rock and space related music in general, I would love to hear the Space Flying track by Philip. Katchaturian - Amazing to read that some were pressed with seven tracks and others with nine - I guess for tax evasion purposes the number of tracks were irrelevant - though it's enough to drive collectors insane!

  2. Sunshine makes my day and will make your day too:

  3. Wow Julian! Do thank your friend for sharing the elusive two tracks and of course to your good self for kindly sharing the entire rip.

    Well, the last two tracks are certainly a shock! I think you are bang on about the tax-evading record company executives having a joke with these - a lounge muzak cover of the Percy Sledge classic and I am pretty sure the Space Flying track is a totally different band and I don't think it takes a genius to work out that the original track was called something different! In fact, I am sure I have heard it before, but I just can't think where (sadly my neurons are not firing as efficiently as they once were!).

    I just feel really sorry for anyone who had the original 7 track album and spent time and money searching for the 9 track version, thinking they were going to be more of the same!

  4. Hi Julian, i spent ages reading that, you got me all riled up and raring to go, and the links dead!! Would you be so kind as to refresh the links, thanks!!

  5. Your review is a word-for-word lift from the BadCatRecords website

    1. Via rateyourmusic, if I recall, attributed by link above