Here’s a strange one pop-pickers, I was on the prowl for Viola Wills’ cover of If You Could Read My Mind when I stumbled across a bargain bin copy of the New World album Believe In Music, which features a different version of the tune I was looking for. The band name rang a vague bell, and so I turned the platter over and immediately noticed the Gordon Lightfoot song in the track listing. The album is a 1973 RAK release, and the Mickie Most connection (RAK was his label) brought back vague memories of early seventies singles by New World that were more familiar to me as tunes done by other acts: Rose Garden covered by Lynne Anderson and Tom Tom Turn Around, which had also been waxed by The Sweet. It turns out that New World had other UK hits with Kara, Kara and Sister Jane. They’d even recorded the first version of Living Next Door To Alice, which flopped for them and then went stellar for Smokie.
Anyway, since the bargain bin copy of the New World album I’d come across was in mint condition and had been signed by all three members of the band, I thought it was worth taking a punt on for a quid. I knew several of the tunes on the album, although not these versions – and I also consider Mickie Most to be an interesting producer, since he’s worked with everyone from Donovan via Lulu to The Vibrators. New World I subsequently discovered were an Australian band brought to Europe by the songwriters Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman.
The opening track Roof Top Singing was New World’s last and most minor UK hit, spending one week at number 50 in the British charts in May 1973, so although I probably heard it once or twice at the time, it isn’t surprising I don’t remember it. It’s a Chinn/Chapman composition and while perfectly pleasant, hardly on a par with the material they wrote for The Sweet. It has a slightly nostalgic 1940s vibe with violins and other orchestral instruments quite high in the mix, and an almost doo wop feel to the vocals. The next song Green Rocky Road is a ‘traditional’ tune arranged by Mickie Most, it hints at reggae off-beats and while mildly toe-tapping never strays far enough from ‘grown-up’ pop to become interesting. Track 3 is a cover of Killing Me Softly with nice vocals and an easy listening arrangement; convincing as crafted pop but it was never gonna compete with Roberta Flack! Track 4 is If You Could Read My Mind, and it comes off as too smoothed out when compared to the Gorden Lightfoot original, and anyway I prefer the disco stomp of the later Viola Wills version. Closing the first side of the LP is a cover of Donovan’s Only The Blues, and this is weak.
Side 2 opens with another mistake, Jolson, which appears to be about the well-known American entertainer. It is vaguely nostalgic and features a second-rate sing-a-along chorus and some really terrible piano playing. I don’t know the song and assume it was written for the band since RAK are the publishers. Next up is the most laid-back cover I’ve ever heard of Bobby Freeman’s Do You Wanna Dance, and it almost amusing enough in itself to justify the round pound I spent on this platter. It is followed by Sally’s A Lady, which features some well-crafted vocal harmonies and cod-sophisticated guitar work that are nothing to get excited about. Again, I assume this was written for New World since it is published by RAK. The penultimate song is a cover of Morning Has Broken that closely follows the Cat Stevens’ arrangement. Once again this is pleasant enough, but you might as well be listening to the Cat Stevens and I’m no fan of him either! The album closes with the title track, I Do Believe In Music, a fey waste-of-time with over-prominent violin parts and a leaden rhythm. It should go without saying the song was probably written for the group, since it is published by RAK.
In the early seventies New World were regular guests on the BBC TV show The Two Ronnies, and it is clear they were being pitched at more than just teeny-boppers. Sophisticated pop is an oxymoron, but Mickie Most is shameless enough to try his hand at anything – never forget he bought out the Heavy Metal Kids contract from Atlantic Records. Now that is a seriously bad musical decision! Note to record collector scum: Believe In Music by New World didn’t make the UK charts and is thus relatively rare, but I am open to reasonable offers (which means something over thirty knicker).
And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – www.stewarthomesociety.org – you know it makes (no) sense!