Album review: THE FLEUR DE LYS – Circles: The Ultimate

THE FLEUR DE LYS – Circles The Ultimate

Countdown Records / Acid Jazz [Release date 26.3.21]

Formed in Southampton in 1964, The Fleur De Lys had an ever-changing line up during their short lifetime, the mainstay being drummer Keith Guster who has assisted with this new 25 track set. It includes all of the collectible singles released for Immediate, Polydor and Atlantic, along with plenty more besides, ranging in style from R&B through freakbeat, psych, and back into club soul.

Their early set list consisted of R&B and soul standards. Signed by Immediate Records, Gordon Haskell had joined on bass in time for their second single in 1966. This was a superb version of The Who’s ‘Circles’, a freakbeat anthem which featured a wild distorted solo courtesy of Phil Sawyer. The gutsy ‘So Come On’ comfortably sits alongside the best output by better known groups of the era such as The Action and The Creation.

Sawyer departed for the Shotgun Express (and later the Spencer Davis Group) and was replaced by Bryn Haworth. His influence was immediately felt on the organ-drenched B-side ‘Hold On’, released under the Rupert’s People moniker. The opening bars of ‘Gong With The Luminous Nose’, which features Haskell on vocals, were clearly purloined by Paul Weller for ‘Sunflower’!

After Haskell’s departure, the band became the first British band to sign Atlantic (Led Zeppelin being the second!) and released the infectious blue-eyed soul number ‘Stop Crossing The Bridge’.

Of the rarer tracks here, the demo of ‘Love Them All’ (co-written by John Bromley and Graham Dee) suggests this could have been a hit single had it been fully realised. There are also a couple of choice covers alongside the original material – Buddy Holly’s ‘Moondreams’ and ‘I’ve Been Trying’ by The Impressions – as well as tracks recorded with songstress Sharon Tandy. The powerful ‘Liar’ was one of the final releases associated with the band, who fizzled out later in 1969.

Compiled by Eddie Piller and Dean Rudland, the story of the Fleur De Lys is thoroughly annotated by Paul ‘Smiler’ Anderson in a booklet which also includes several photographs and images of the original 7” singles. ****

Review by Jim Henderson

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