White Rabbit Records - Blog

2023 Albums Thing 071 - The Charlatans “Tellin’ Stories”

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I’m no great advocate for “BritPop” (whatever that is). It seemed a most boorish, regressive time to me. Oasis made one good album, Pulp had been around so long it was laughable to lump them in with some seemingly new tribe, I remembered Blur when they were trying to jump the Baggy/Madchester bandwagon and don’t get me started on Ocean Duller Scene (no that isn’t a spelling mistake). But to my ears The Charlatans always had one huge advantage over the other BritPoppers, Rob Collins and his Hammond organ.

I can’t remember when I first realised the thrill of a Hammond, maybe when I heard Steve Winwood exploding into the Spencer Davis Group’s “Gimme Some Lovin’ ", maybe when being obsessed with The Jam I was prompted to listen to the Small Faces and Mac McLagan’s wonderful playing on something like “Afterglow Of Your Love” and in more recent times I’ve discovered things like The Quik’s floorshaker “Bert’s Apple Crumble”. I’ve been a fan of a Hammond ever since. When I first heard The Charlatans “The Only One I Know” my ears pricked up and I was interested. I was never a slavish buyer of their records but I always lent an ear.

Now I am aware that having just made the case for why I like The Charlatans that Rob Collins appears on only around half of this album as he tragically died in a car accident while the sessions were going on. He was replaced for the remainder of the recordings by Primal Scream’s Martin Duffy but the band, out of respect for Collins, have never revealed which one of he or Duffy played on what (although Tim Burgess and Mark Collins once suggested during an online listening party that Duffy played on "With No Shoes", "Tellin' Stories", "You're a Big Girl Now" and "Get On It”).

To my ears “Tellin’ Stories” is what contemporary music for Mods should sound like. It’s danceable, song driven very British “rock” music with obvious influences from Soul, R&B and the 60’s. The opening 4 songs (“With No Shoes”, “North Country Boy”, “Tellin’ Stories” and lead single “One To Another”) are utterly marvellous. There’s influences of folk music, dance music, and classic British Rock running through all of them. Later on “How High” is a perfect example of the influence of later 60’s British rock.

“Tellin’ Stories” is a much more guitar oriented album than their previous works, due to the loss of Rob Collins. But the organ shines through in places, particularly on the instrumentals “Area 51” and “Rob’s Theme” (obviously) and “Only Teethin’”. If I have one complaint about the album it’s that Tim Burgess’ voice does get a bit whiny in places, it’s almost like a Liam Gallagher pastiche at times, but it’s a small niggle. If anything worthwhile came out of BritPop (and there wasn’t much) then “Tellin’ Stories” is it.

Tellin’ Stories - https://youtu.be/WfPabs0iQAc

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