The conceit behind the LP's birth is a marvellous one, and in many ways, a product of the psychedelic era.
Philippe DeBarge and the Pretty Things
I’m sure plenty has been written on this subject but I just couldn’t help adding my twopenno’th, given it’s such a great LP. The conceit behind its birth is a marvellous one, and in many ways, a product of the psychedelic era. If you don’t know the story, it goes thus. International Playboy and man at a loose end Philippe DeBarge decides to contact his favourite band, the rebellious and ultra-psychedelic Pretty Things (just finished with their brilliant LP SF Sorrow and their part in the slightly wrong “psychedelia is okay for the masses” film starring Norman Wisdom; What’s Good for the Goose).
This pursuit is made by DeBarge for one reason only; to effectively make the Pretties his backing band on an album of songs credited to him. After a fair bit of flattery on behalf of Monsieur DeBarge, the Pretties grasp the nettle and use the exercise to pilot their own artistic path towards (my fave LP of theirs), the critically acclaimed and mightily psychedelic Parachute. Sadly Philippe can’t get a release for the LP, and yes, you guessed it, it languishes in a basement for 40 years.
And yes the canned LP is as good as you’d hoped, and no, not as bad as you would fear.
The quality is very, very high; there are some cracking tracks on this album, right from the off. Opener Hello, How Do You Do? Is a surprisingly modern-sounding track - basically it’s the template for Beck’s pop career - whilst the driving strumming of You Might Even Say is a brilliant pastiche of Love. The fact that Philippe DeBarge sings and not Phil May is not as noticeably problematic as many would think. Sometimes his plaintive voice adds an unexpected poignancy, like on the reflective Peace, or New Day (the best song on the LP), or the marvellous Check Out; a song sung with all the venom of a true outsider. The more strident numbers like Alexander and Eagleson do miss the bite and range of Phil May though, despite the pyrotechnics.
Musically, this LP is also a bit of a signpost to Parachute; It’ll Never Be Me is very reminiscent of Talkin’ About the Good Times though you do feel the band threw some tremendous ideas aside in what sadly became a vanity project.
Still, you can get it now, and I strongly urge you to do so.