Market Square Music [Release date 05.04.19]
You may well ask: was there a Design flaw? This six-piece pop harmony group had great exposure in the early-1970s via several major TV shows but they never had a hit single. Their ultimate main-man, vocalist Barry Alexander, was even a songwriter with the Beatles Apple Corps.
The truth is, their style had been well done and dusted in the late 1960s with US singing troupes like the Johnny Mann Singers, Mamas & Papas and The 5th Dimension. ‘Take A Boat’ and ‘The Jet Song’ (from their second album) provide suitable references.
This 20 track compilation is a perfect summation of their strengths but also underlines the reality. Easy on the ear, folksy in origin, and easy on the eye (with the original girl singers Gabrielle Field and Kathy Manuell) you can see why they graced the likes of the Morecambe and Wise show and perhaps more specifically Benny Hill.
They recorded with some of the top session musicians of the day including Clem Cattini, Chris Spedding and Herbie Flowers whilst Nick Drake collaborator Robert Kirby orchestrated a couple of tracks in 1974.
It’s all a little bit “of its time” and could be grouped with the likes of Bert Kaempfert, Raymond Lefevre and James Last who had all experienced their easy listening heyday by 1971 when Design released their debut album.
By 1974, and after the release of a fourth album, they’d lost Gabrielle and original member Geoff Ramseyer and by the end of 1976 were no more.
With the 2012 RPM compilation now out of print, this new collection features three bonus tracks and two unreleased versions of songs that subsquently appeared in re-recorded form on the band’s swansong ‘By Design’ together with an informative liner note although light on “where are they now?”.
For those of a certain age this is music for your mum and dad. You can almost smell the teak veneer in the radiogram. ***1/2
Review by David Randall
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