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The Poets

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Albums

Biography All Music Guide

Group Members: The Ian McMillan Orchestra

All Music Guide:

Although they only released half-a-dozen singles, these were enough to firmly establish the Poets' status as the best Scottish rock group of the mid-'60s. It's true that this is akin to being a big fish in a small pond -- not many Scottish bands recorded in the '60s, and not many of them were at all notable. But that shouldn't detract from the genuinely high quality of their records, which still remain known only to a relatively small band of collectors.

The Glasgow group differed from most other Scottish combos of the time in that they concentrated almost exclusively on original material, which alternated between mournful, almost fey ballads and storming mod rockers. Critics have compared the melodic, minor feel of much of their work to the Zombies, a comparison that holds water to a certain point, although the Poets were far more guitar-based. A minor hit single right out of the gate and a management deal with Rolling Stones manager Andrew Oldham seemed to spell probable success. But the Poets fell victim both to subpar promotion and numerous personnel changes, which had gutted the core of the band by the late '60s.

Oldham came across the band by chance on a trip to Scotland in 1964, quickly signing them and arranging a recording deal with Decca. Their first single, a characteristically moody original called "Now We're Thru," made number 30 in the U.K. Yet that was to be their only taste of commercial success, despite a flurry of fine singles over the next couple of years. The two-bass throb of the hard-rocking "That's the Way It's Got to Be," the exquisite acoustic ballad "I'll Cry with the Moon," a fiery cover of Marvin Gaye's "Baby Don't You Do It" -- all are worth hearing by British Invasion fans. Although some may find their slow numbers a bit on the maudlin side, the group had a knack for fine melodies, harmonies, and dense guitar arrangements that lifted these above the ordinary.

But the Poets were never given full opportunity to develop their unquestioned skills. Oldham took the group with him to his independent Immediate label in late 1965 for a couple of singles, but ultimately the Oldham association may have worked against them, as he was naturally inclined to focus most of his energies upon the Rolling Stones. The Poets were getting lost in the shuffle and discouraged, and by 1967 not one original member remained from the lineup that had first recorded. They did marshal the energy for a superb 1967 single, the blue-eyed soul/psychedelic "Wooden Spoon," which indicated that the band was still progressing and maturing, even though their continuity with previous lineups was tenuous to say the least. The Poets straggled on until 1971, barely recording again; Poets alumni turned up in Scottish bands like Trash (who were briefly signed to Apple Records), Marmalade, and one of Alex Harvey's outfits.