Guide to British Music of the 1960s

November 2018

CD Review: The Action - The New Action

 

The Action were one of the great unrecognised bands of the 1960s, at least in terms of the charts despite the fact they were known as a phenomenal live act. They recorded many tracks but an LP was never released during the band's lifetime. This new release looks to rectify that with "the LP that could have been".

Many UK groups were playing their version of American soul but there was always something different about the Action. It was not just about the amazing soul voice of Reggie King though. There was a sold rhythm section with drummer Roger Powell a model for a young Phil Collins. Mick Evans laid down some incredible bass tracks - listen to Baby You've Got It. Then you have Alan "Bam" King and Pete Watson adding harmonies. However, one thing that really made the Action stand out was Pete Watson's lead guitar played on a Rickenbacker 12-string. This gave the Action a radically different sound that did not replicate the Byrds!

The Beatles' producer George Martin signed the band to Parlophone Records but this did not guarantee success. While there is undoubted quality in the Action's recordings and they worked the live circuit extensively the singles failed to chart. Possibly the lack of original material was at the heart of this. At a time when groups were penning their own songs, the Action were heavily reliant on covers, particularly of Motown standards. This could work very well in a live context but in the record shops it was a different matter. The fans could but the original artists rather than the Action even if the English group did sound very different to the originals.

However, it cannot be denied that the Action did release some wonderful singles. The trademark sound is evident on their version of the Marvelettes' I'll Keep on Holding On with Watson's 12-string providing a distinctive touch to its b-side Hey Sah-Lo-Ney.

Watson left after the first three singles and although this left a hole, the band evolved its sound with more acoustic guitars and a slight move towards a more psychedelic feel. Shadows & Reflections is a great track that should have been a massive hit but the audiences were still looking for the "real" Action playing white soul. 

Fortunately the Action have gained a whole new audience following the 1981 release of The Ultimate Action on Edsel. The band is nowadays recognised as one of the great live bands of the 1960s. This LP brings together crucial Action tracks that shows the band at their studio best. The vinyl benefits greatly from modern techniques and is an absolute joy to listen to.

LP Release: 26 October 2018

Essential Tracks

  • I'll Keep On Holding On
  • Shadows & Reflections
  • Baby You've Got It
Track Listing
  1. I'll Keep On Holding On
  2. The Sissy
  3. Hey Sah-Lo-Ney
  4. Wasn't It You
  5. Baby You've Got It
  6. Something Has Hit Me
  7. Never Ever
  8. Since I Lost My Baby
  9. The Place
  10. Harlem Shuffle
  11. Twenty-fourth Hour
  12. Shadows & Reflections

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