Great (if slightly silly, ok) name for a late-60s British band that was to all intents and purposes a vehicle for the impressive talents of Hammond organ maestro Mike Weaver. Wynder K. Frog's stock-in-trade was reliable instrumental music of decidedly funky soul-jazz character that stretched across the spectrum from principal influence Booker T & The MGs through to Graham Bond, Georgie Fame and Zoot Money. The band made three albums for Island Records between 1966 and 1970, and these are handily collected together on this well-stocked three-disc set (usefully - and accurately - subtitled The Complete Recordings 1966-1970), which incidentally marks the very first official CD appearance of the majority of the material within - the exception being the second of the group's LPs, 1968's Out Of The Frying Pan, the only one to achieve any measure of chart action. And yeah, all the recordings have been freshly remastered and sound just great, while the accompanying booklet - incorporating many pertinent quotes from Weaver himself - is a real mine of information about this enigmatic outfit that has been somewhat sidelined by pop historians.
It's probably true to say that on parts of the first two albums the musical invention is sometimes workmanlike rather than imaginative, and the change in band personnel over that time didn't help continuity, but Out Of The Frying Pan was a better-than-creditable attempt at establishing a cohesive band identity and boasted a forward-thinking Muff Winwood production to boot. Despite the predictability of some of the material, Weaver's Hammond work is always inspired and never dull, lighting up even the most mundane of run-throughs of contemporary chart and R&B hits, while Weaver's own able compositions also made up a good quotient of the Frog repertoire at any given time. Yet it's all too easy to underestimate Weaver's achievement, and nowhere is this more apparent perhaps than on the third of the albums issued under the Wynder K. Frog name, Into The Fire, which was originally only issued in the States. (This followed a hiatus in WKF activity when a curious hybrid Mason, Capaldi, Wood & Frog outfit briefly came into being then fizzled out.) Into The Fire presented a handful of significantly interesting Weaver compositions that took the predominantly Muscle Shoals creative idiom further into jazz-rock and also permitted a healthy degree of stretching out for Weaver's "band", which by then consisted mostly of session-musicians.
Disc 3 of this set also valuably appends tracks from an acetate for a "lost" second LP, recorded between albums one and two, and includes some quite surprising covers (Happy Jack, We Can Work It Out) alongside revisits of earlier Weaver numbers like Baldy, with a standout of the session coming on A Memory Of Bruce. Other bonus tracks appearing on the set include the desirable early singles, a BBC radio session performance, a 1966 advert flexi-disc and a couple of items from the soundtrack for 1968 movie The Touchables.
Shook, Shimmy & Shake is a valuable addition to the CD back-catalogue of classy, trendy swinging mod and beat club music from the 60s. Groovy and fun!
|Barry Nisbet: A Bright Ray Of Sunshine||Planxty: One Night In Bremen|
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