The Action were one of those “why weren’t they huge?” British bands of the mid-1960’s. On the surface, the London quartet had it all: good Motown-inspired songs, a snappy Mod image, and perhaps most importantly, the support of Beatles’ producer George Martin, who produced their early singles. Despite how good The Action looked on paper, they consistently stunk it up at the cash register, never reaching the charts despite a series of strong singles like “Shadows and Reflections” and “I’ll Keep On Holding On”. Fast forward to 1967, and The Action were at a career crossroads. Like many others at that time, they were discovering LSD, and in turn opening themselves to spirituality and a wide array of new sounds, including jazz and West Coast psychedelia. They recorded demos for their next album, displaying their new psychedelically inclined mindset, but nobody listened. George Martin essentially resigned his position as their producer to focus on The Beatles (and really, can you blame him?), gigs were drying up, and singer Reg King was losing interest fast. In fact he left The Action in early 1968 to search for success via a solo career, and the band morphed into Mighty Baby. The album they demoed – Rolled Gold – was never made.
So, what ever happened to those demos? They basically rotted away until 1995 when they were released as Brain on the Dig The Fuzz label, who then remastered and re-released them again in 1998 under their originally intended title – Rolled Gold. Since then Rolled Gold has become something of a legend among ’60s fans, earning a reputation as the band’s psychedelic high-point. Many have said that, had it been fully produced and released in 1968 we’d be talking about it as a genre classic alongside Odessy and Oracle, Ogdens Gone Nut Flake and the like. Hearing the album now you’d have to agree with that original verdict. Yes, these are demos, but they’re well recorded ones, so the sound isn’t too far off from what you expect from a finished product. Yes, the band are often too self-serious in their notions of self exploration and the lyrics frequently dip into hippie drivel, but so what? They’re on fire here, striking a delicate balance between gentle harmony-laden psych and the harder stuff where fuzz guitars and pounding drums rule the day. Opener “Come Around” would have fit in perfectly with the wistful vibe of The Kinks’ Village Green Preservation Society, “Look At The View” gives The Move a run for their money, and “Love Is All” shows how the band’s expanding palette allowed them to absorb influences from jazz and The Byrds. The whole album is a pleasure, but “Brain” and “In My Dream” make the strongest impression. Had The Action recorded and released this album as intended in 1968 you’d hope they would have been smart enough to make these songs the singles.
Spanish label Guerssen’s 50th anniversary reissue sounds really good, sports great liner notes by Jason Barnard, and has a gold foil embossed cover for maximum shininess.