Organ and Keyboard Cavalcade Review by Ian King

Issue 350 – February 2017

(CD) John Kyffin – A Juniors Choice
Running Time 44 minutes – Price £7.95

John Kyffin - A Juniors Choice
John Kyffin – A Juniors Choice

And the award for the most cheerful CD EVER goes to John Kyffin with this excellent tribute to BBC Radio One’s “Junior Choice” weekend show and Ed “Stewpot” Stewart who died earlier in 2016. It contains a selection of the most popular tunes from those shows, so is basically full of fun and catchy novelty numbers. The tracks were chosen by the kids of the 1970s, so they would be in their fifties now, although they were probably listening with their parents and grand parents, so that pushes the ages up a generation or two. As young kids of today would also find these songs entertaining, I can’t think of anyone who would’t find this CD great fun.

Now I can’t remember listening to “Junior Choice” but it ran from 1954 until 1984 with Ed taking over for twelve years from 1968 until 1980 during which time he was getting seventeen million listeners. I do remember the “Ello Darlin’” catchphrase so it must be in the back of my brain somewhere but it doesn’t matter if you were a listener or not as the fifteen great tunes and fabulous arrangements stand on their own two feet (webbed feet on two of the tracks).

Again John is sitting at his vintage Wersi Helios and Spectra with a Tyros 2 handling all the drum, rhythm guitar and bass sounds. The T2 also takes on some of the lead sounds where authenticity is needed which leaves the ground clear for the Wersi organs to make the sounds they are really good at.

The opening track is The Seekers “Morning Town Ride” with an arrangement somewhere between Bert Kaempfert and a Dixieland Jazz style, it also has a lovely jazz piano break in the middle. If you play the organ then you must have played Ronnie Hilton’s “A Windmill In Old Amsterdam” at some point and here’s probably the best version I’ve heard complete with some eccentric sound-effects including all the ‘clip-clippety-clops on the stairs’ and a mousy-sounding jazz-hands finale.

Tommy Steele’s “Little White Bull” has old-fashioned organ lead and layered flute counter-melodies. We also get the overture-sounding middle sections where the beefy Wersi sound gets an outing. Younger readers may not know there was a “Right Said Fred” before the “I’m Too Sexy…” group, but it was a 1960s comedy hit for Bernard Cribbins and it makes its appearance here as one of the best tracks on the CD. Max Bygraves’ “Gilly Gilly Ossenfeffer…” pops up next with a gentle arrangement.

We have another showbiz icon now Ken Dodd’s “Happiness” complete with his “How Tickled I Am” opening phrase. This is a good one if you like the Wersi sound and we also have some vocal doo-wops in the background courtesy of the Tyros 2. Henry Hall had a big hit with “The Teddy Bears Picnic” and that’s up next with a lovely, slightly oom-pah style arrangement.

I did a Google search for “The Velvet Glove” and wondered if the version here was the one by the “Red Hot Chilli Peppers” or “Pinky and Perky,” luckily for all concerned it’s the latter and it’s been given the vintage Hammond treatment. The comedy hit from Peter Sellers and Sophia Loren, “Goodness Gracious Me” next, complete with a (snake) charming chorus. I suppose this song is a little politically incorrect now (although there was a great version by Rowan Atkinson and Pixie Lott a few years back, so perhaps it’s OK). Anyway, there aren’t any dodgy accents here, so we’re safe.

“Tich’s Tune” is from “Tich and Quackers,” a show made when Ray Alan put “Lord Charles” back in his suitcase and ran off with a young boy and a duck (and who hasn’t done that). It seems Quackers the Duck was operated by Tony Hart of “Vision On” fame (bet you didn’t know that). We now go from one duck to another with a fun arrangement of “The Ugly Duckling” made famous by Danny Kay (although I do remember buying the Mike Reid version in the mid-1970s). Yes, I know technically it was a Swan.

Allan Sherman’s fabulous comedy song “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah” is possibly my favourite track on the CD with its full-on Wersi-sound chorus, strings, gentle flutes and pizzicato strings. Before Terry Scott ‘married’ June Whitfield he had a very big hit with “My Brother” and we have another top arrangement here with Terry Scott’s voice popping up from beyond the grave, amongst the xylophone runs and twiddly bits. I now fancy a Cadburys Curly Wurly for some reason.

“Nellie The Elephant” is a timeless kids classic, recorded by Mandy Miller and we start out here with what appears to be another vintage Hammond treatment, but then we go all Wersi and marching band and it sounds fab. You’ll be humming this one for days! The Playmate’s novelty song “Beep Beep” closes the show and is one of the few tracks I haven’t heard of. We have an unusual arrangement here with the T2 taking on the lead with its vocal bops and doos.

It’s a shame this review is published after Christmas and the New Year as this would be a great disc to put on at a party. It’s a wonderful CD to recapture your youth or just to listen to how an organ recording should sound and how to get the best out of what is pretty dated equipment these days. John may not have a Tyros 5 or one of the new Wersi Sonics, but the overall sound and arrangements don’t get much better than this.

FULL TRACKS: Morning Town Ride • A Windmill In Old Amsterdam • Little White Bull • Right Said Fred • Gilly Gilly Ossenfeffer Katzenellenbogen by the Sea • Happiness • The Teddy Bears Picnic • The Velvet Glove • Goodness Gracious Me • Tich’s Tune • The Ugly Duckling • Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah • My Brother • Nellie The Elephant • Beep Beep.

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Review by Ian King from Organ and Keyboard Cavalcade Magazine.

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