Mainstream British success might have eluded them but The Spectrum, whose entire output is rounded up on this two CD set, had a pretty incredible journey. They supported the Fabs in an early gig, briefly boasted Charlie Watts as a member, were groomed as a British answer to The Monkees, had big hits in Spain and even had a record out exclusively in Venezuela. Oh and did I mention too that they recorded the vocal version of the Captain Scarlet theme tune?
Along the way they released a treasure trove of pop songs which run the whole 60s gamut from progressive pop to bubblegum with a psych pop diversion or two on the way.
This album includes all of their singles, both of their albums – a fairly uninteresting Merseybeat cash in, and The Light Is Dark Enough from 1970 – along with obscurities, contributions to film soundtracks and more.
The killer track here is the opener, Samantha’s Mine. A light slice of psych pop with continental (think Euro-kitsch) sounding keyboards and glorious harmonies. It could well have been the blueprint for Terry Hall’s sadly neglected 90s classic Forever J. It is incredible how it has escaped the interest of compilers.
Its B side, a solid version of Saturday Girl, the David Gates song made famous by The Monkees – though the definitive version is probably by Herman’s Hermits – is also wonderful.
The follow up Portobello Road is a great slice of swinging London beat (check out the wonderful goofing around in Notting Hill vid), while its flip Comes The Dawn is the type of harmony pop The Association excelled at.
As time went by the quality of the singles took a bit of a nosedive. I could personally live without hearing their hackneyed version of Heading For A Heatwave or the nursery rhyme pop of London Brigade Is Coming Down again. And if you are going to cover a Beatles tune, Ob La Di Ob La Da is possibly not the most inspired of choices.
Nevertheless as their decade continued The Spectrum rallied. A swinging version of the Goffin King classic Just What I Was Looking For Today has a bounce and energy notably lacking from the more famous Status Quo take on the song. While It Doesn’t Seem To Matter is prime late 60s psych complete with odd time changes, meandering melodies and a stunner of an arrangement.
The album, The Light Is Dark Enough, mixes previous releases with several new songs. The unique recordings captures a band edging into prog rock territory with powerful keyboards and driving bass yet still sprinkling it all with a touch of psych rainy day melancholy. If Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs get round to a volume two of English Weather the gentle Canterbury style prog of Mandy would be a serious contender. Then there’s Jacqueline, which bizarrely sounds like 80s psych legends The Prisoners.
After a few London dates The Spectrum called it a day. Of the original members the one with the most impressive CV turned out to be drummer Keith Forsey who not only graced Amon Duul and became Giorgio Moroder’s drummer of choice in the 1970s but also co-wrote Simple Minds Don’t You Forget About me.
The Spectrum had quite a journey then, and although this is a time an uneven listen they left behind many intriguing late 60s pop gems.