The Fortunes were one of many seemingly interchangeable groups which came to fame in the British beat boom of the mid-'60s, riding high on the charts with the classic hit "You've Got Your Troubles" and follow-up "Here it Comes Again." After mostly disappearing from Top 40 radio for years the group had a surprise second act with "Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again," which remained a staple on adult contemporary and eventually oldies radio since it was a hit in 1971.
It's perhaps even more surprising to learn that the group has remained active continually since disappearing from the charts for the second time, and always included founding vocalists Rod Allen and Barry Pritchard until they each had to retire (both eventually passing away) due to health issues.
The group's means to continuing as a pop group followed a bit different model than many of their beat contemporaries. While the bands that survived and kept issuing records most often focused on songwriting and changing their sound for the times, The Fortunes only hit the charts by cutting super clean-cut pop songs written by others. When the group attempted to get with the times in 1967, changing labels and releasing singles featuring original compositions, those efforts were quickly consigned to also-ran status.
Most of those 45s and an accompanying LP never came out in the U.S., and in scanning their stateside releases you'd hardly know the group had ever written songs. Shortly the songwriting pros were brought back into the fold -- a position eventually dominated by songs from "You've Got Your Troubles" authors Roger Greenaway and Roger Cook -- and The Fortunes were rewarded for persistence with their run of early '70s charters.
The basic tale of The Fortunes genesis is in the liner notes of their first LP, released in the U.S. in an abbreviated form following the Top 10 success of "Troubles." The group was originally a vocal trio of Allen, Pritchard and Glen Dale, with somewhat separate musical backing. Eventually the singers decided it would be more economical to become a self-contained group, picked up instruments and adding a drummer and keyboard player. The notes also relate that the group's first airplay success was due to pirate radio station Radio Caroline.
But what of their music? The debut album includes the first two hits, Britpop classics both; another good Greenaway-Cook number in the "Troubles" mode, "Laughing Fit to Cry;" lots of covers, including left-field choices like "They Call the Wind Maria" and The Radiants' "Voice Your Choice" (?!); and one okay original ballad. Overall, it's big, orchestrated pop, the new songs mostly essential examples of the form and the covers pleasant but mostly unnecessary.
The group next resurfaced in album racks with 1970's That Same Old Feeling, the title track of which ambled into the middle range of the Billboard charts that same year. By then singer/guitarist Glen Dale had decamped for a non-starting solo career -- noted on the album jacket, even though the members still in the band weren't named -- and was replaced first by Shel MacRae and then Andrew Semple. Keyboardist Dave Carr also departed and wasn't initially replaced; and Rod Allen was apparently going by his real name (Bainbridge).
I actually like this album better than their debut, as the group focuses on the carefully produced British pop of their earlier hits and doesn't tackle any covers familiar from superior versions. This album is content to stay pleasantly MOR and dispenses with most of the earlier beat edge, but that helps to unify the sound. The group also sounds more comfortable for that slight alteration; essentially, it doesn't rock, but it doesn't need to. From what I can tell by digging around online, this album was created specifically for the U.S. market, though it's likely assembled out of recordings from the tail end of their United Artists contract. At the time World Pacific was a part of the Liberty/UA corporate entity, and in fact it appears this is the last LP to be issued on the legendary label.
1971's Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again mostly follows the same formula, this time with production handled by Greenaway-Cook in addition to their song offerings. Some non-Rod Allen led numbers on side one are a bit too MOR, and not coincidentally include less prominent/complex harmonies, leaving the hit easily dominant on the first half. Side two is better, though, and keeps the LP's batting average above .500. For those keeping score, there was an additional album released following this one: A Storm in a Teacup, which reprises several tracks from the World Pacific album. But I've never seen that one yet! (Press, 1965; World Pacific, 1970; Capitol, 1971)
Editor's note: This story has been corrected. It misidentified the pirate radio station associated with Oliver Smedley, who shot and killed the Fortunes' manager Reg Calvert in 1966. Smedley was with the pirate broadcaster Radio Atlanta.