Spanky & Our Gang – Complete Mercury Singles (Real Gone Music) review
Harmony-laden bliss, in mono!
Even though they hailed from Chicago, Spanky & Our Gang fit perfectly into the mid-Sixties’ mellow pop sounds coming out of California with bands like the Mamas & the Papas, and the Turtles. Yet, they certainly don’t get their due like those other bands. Which is a shame, because the Complete Mercury Singles shows that the band was capable of really great things.
Elaine “Spanky” McFarlane possessed a powerful voice and her bandmates provided impeccable, multi-part harmonies, which are showcased throughout this set. Every “A” and “B” side the band cut during their heyday is here. “Sunday Will Never Be the Same,” “Lazy Day,” and “Like to Get to Know You” all hit the Top 20 in 1967-68 and sound fantastic in their original, mono mixes.
Yet, the b-sides and lesser-known tracks are just as good. Take their interesting version of the Beatles’ “And Your Bird Can Sing,” which is elevated by layered voices. B-sides like the dark “Distance,” or the jazzy send-up “(It Ain’t Necessarily) Byrd Avenue” prove that the band was capable of a lot more than pure pop. “The Swingin’ Gate” shows off a rougher edge, while “Leopard Skin Phones” pokes fun at the burgeoning stereo technology. “Give a Damn” was a socially conscious track that most people never heard, due to the controversial title.
There’s actually two versions of one song “Echoes,” the first which features ocean sound effects, and then one without, which is listed under its more popular title, “Everybody’s Talkin’,” both featuring the late Malcolm Hale on lead vocals.
Highly recommended for fans of tight, multi-part harmony, like the Free Design or Mamas & Papas. —Tony Peters