The Pretty Things – Phillipe Debarge (Ugly Things Records)

The Pretty Things were in a strange place in 1969, having just released the groundbreaking concept album S.F. Sorrow to little commercial response; and losing founding guitarist Dick Taylor in the aftermath. Enter Phillipe Debarge, an incredibly wealthy young Frenchman with dreams of becoming a rock star, who hired The Pretty Things to write and record a privately-pressed album for him to sing on – this is that album, finally released forty years later thanks to the super-cool Pretty Things freaks over at Ugly Things.

Debarge had no singing experience, but he was closely guided by Pretty Things vocalist Phil May who recorded scratch-vocal tracks for Debarge to follow. This makes Debarge sounds like May but with slightly less range – by no means bad for an amateur. Thankfully Debarge doesn’t detract from the band’s multi-part harmonies either, which are a crucial element here. Musically, the album sounds like a transitional point between the Beatles-meets-Pink Floyd psychedelia of S.F. Sorrow and the more muted, earthy ,sound of 1970’s Parachute. While I miss the distorted sting of Dick Taylor’s guitar playing, new guitarist Victor Unitt adds some nice acoustic touches throughout, especially on the Love-esque “You Might Even Say”. Four of the album’s twelve songs would show up in other places in the Pretty Things catalog (“Graves of Grey” mutated into “Scene One” on Parachutes, and “Alexander”, “Eagles Son”, and “It’ll Never Be Me” were all tackled by Pretties-offshoot The Electric Banana), leaving eight songs unique to this release (the best being “You’re Running You And Me”). While not the first album I would recommend for Pretty Things newcomers (that’s S.F. Sorrow), committed fans would enjoy this album as a footnote to the band’s peak period. For an added bonus, the group reconvened in the studio last year to record a tribute to the now deceased DeBarge, “Monsieur Rock (Ballad of Phillipe)”, which is included as a bonus track.

1 Hello, How Do You Do 4:03
2 You Might Even Say 3:59
3 Alexander 2:55
4 Send You With Loving 3:00
5 You’re Running You And Me 4:36
6 Peace 1:44
7 Eagle’s Son 3:06
8 Graves Of Grey 0:48
9 New Day 4:07
10 It’ll Never Be Me 4:32
11 I’m Checking Out 3:40
12 All Gone Now 2:19
13 Monsieur Rock (Ballad Of Philippe) 5:53

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