Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Muleskinners - Knockout R&B EP

The Muleskinners were a R&B outfit from west London, overlooked but for one small fact.

One of umpteen British R&B groups to make a single or two in the mid-1960s, the Muleskinners' entry was a sole 45 in January 1965, "Back Door Man"/"Need Your Lovin'." "Back Door Man" was a raw cover of the Howlin' Wolf classic, and "Need Your Lovin'" a competently energetic R&B-rock number that did not offer certain evidence of future greatness. the Muleskinners' one claim to fame is that Ian McLagan played with them before joining the Small Faces; also, singer Terry Brannan was in the Roosters, the record-less band that included Eric Clapton and Manfred Mann men Paul Jones and Tom McGuinness before all of them went on to bigger and better things.

The Muleskinners featured a very young Ian McLagan (of Small Faces fame. Mac played guitar and keyboards in the band and this is an unreleased demo session culled from acetate. Never before released but expressing the true rhythm & blues of the original mod era.Piece of musical history here

McLagan of course passed into the mod pantheon because of his role in the legendary Small Faces. Later with The Faces he became a true rock superstar. This is his first steps on the ladder. 

Released without the band’s knowledge or consent back in 1964, The Muleskinners’ debut EP was recorded when the band didn’t even realise the tape was rolling! Or if they did – in true ’60s style – they now have no recollection of that Regent Sound session.

Undoubted highlight of this four-tracker is the sparse and moody arrangement of ‘Back Door Man’ – very Yardbirdsy and far superior to many of the better-known versions. Drummer “Chippy” Carpenter attests that this is not the version on their ultra-rare ’65 Fontana single [see sidebar].

Equally strong is ‘Need Your Lovin’, a vibrant, harp-punctuated punker that gets more Nuggetsy with every listen. It is not, however, as attributed on the sleeve, the Ronnie Hawkins song of the same name. Joe South’s ‘Untie Me’ is a nice soulful little ballad reminiscent of The Beatles’ take on Arthur Alexander’s ‘Anna (Go To Him)’.

Moddy types will want this smartly presented vinyl artefact as it showcases the first recorded evidence of the young, pre-Small Faces Ian McLagan and though it’s hardly the KO material promised by the title it well deserves a points verdict.

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