Here are some of the recent magazine, website and book reviews for the original Design album releases and the new CD reissues on RPM Records.


Ashley Norris, Shindig!magazine, November 2012:




One Sunny Day

Last year RPM issued the first four Design albums on a pair of CDs, finally bringing recognition for the boy/girl 70s vocal harmony band that was arguably the nearest thing us Brits had to The Free Design or The Fifth Dimension. If you found yourself addicted to their jaunty melodies, sweet harmonies, folky leanings and bizarre time signatures - often within the same song - then here’s more in the guise of One Sunny Day.

This rounds up the band’s non-album cuts and includes singles, B-sides and some of their early demos. As with many rarities compilations, it’s a rather disjointed listen. It’s ironic too that while the band’s singles sound a little too forced and overly commercial, their B-sides, especially ‘Lazy Song’, stand out as some of their finest achievements.

The band’s early demos from the late 60s are fascinating too, though the singles from almost a decade or so later,
less so. Nevertheless if you loved the albums, this is a must have too.



DustyGrooveAmerica, US website, October 2012:




A great set of singles and rarities from 70s sunshine pop group Design! It’s a UK combo whose boy/girl vocal harmonies and super sunny sound carried on the tradition of some of our favorite Californian groups of the late 60s – and they’re so good at hitting that vibe, it’s hard to believe they don’t hail from the west coast!


This excellent compilation from RPM UK puts together the group’s singles from the late 60s onward into the 70s – with both the A- and B-sides, plus some sweet rarities and demos that are hardly less lovely than the fully-realized album and 45 sessions! Wonderful stuff from a group that outta be better remembered!, Netherlands, October 2012:




DESIGN was a somewhat underappreciated pop and folk-rock band from the UK who recorded a handful of quality LPs and singles for Epic in the late ’60s and ’70s. The songwriting is first class and the band’s harmony vocals somewhat remind of US ’60s sunshine pop. Great stuff!



Paul Rigby, Hi-Fi World magazine, October 2011:




Sometimes called the UK version of the US sunshine pop outfit Fifth Dimension, this harmony vocal outfit consisted of Gabrielle Field, Kathy Manuell, Jeff Matthews, John Mulcahy-Morgan, Geoff Ramseyer and Barry Alexander. Alexander was an intriguing band member. Eldest son of the late cricket commentator Brian Johnston, Alexander became an award-winning producer of audiobooks.


Back in the early seventies, however, he was part of a group who espoused the flower power vibe in a very approachable fashion. Many readers will be familiar with them but might not realise it. If you spent your childhood watching Morecambe & Wise, Tommy Cooper and Val Doonican on TV then Design would regularly be seen singing their happy little hearts out. They released thirteen singles and five albums before the group's demise in 1976.


UK-based record label RPM has released two value-for-money CDs which pack two albums onto each disc. 'Design/Tomorrow Is So Far Away', the band's first two albums, are perfect lounge-core material while the harmonies often remind me of the Mamas and the Papas.


Within the second CD 'Day Of The Fox/In Flight' there are many surprises that will make fans of folk-rock and psychedelia sit up and take note. The first track on 'Fox', 'Nature's Children' is a perfect piece of English psychedelia. Multi-layered and quirky, it's a superb introduction that leads into the traditional sounding title track which is no less effective and affecting.


And so it goes, constantly surprising, as does the second album in the collection. Similarly quirky with eccentrically styled nostalgic pieces like 'Archie Franks' or the almost pagan-fuelled 'I Am The Greene Manne'. I expected kitsch but found quality.



Andy Morten, Shindig magazine, September 2011:






Long-overdue reissue of all four albums by UK soft-rock sextet Design, a top live draw that enjoyed countless outings on The Morecambe and Wise Show and its ilk during the first half of the ’70s but never achieved success as recording artists.


1970’s self-titled debut oozes butterscotch goodness, its flawless massed vocal harmonies adorning folk-pop gems like ‘The Minstrel’s Theme’. Despite the abrupt departure of chief writer/arranger Tony Smith, its ’71 follow-up is just as good and throws a couple of covers (including an inventive ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’) into the mix.


By the time of 73’s Day of the Fox, more disparate influences are at play - witness the folky title track and the Curved Air/Hammer Horror overtones of ‘Pisces Hymn’. On In Flight there’s little dip in the standard of the music. ‘A Famous Myth’ (recorded for the Midnight Cowboy soundtrack by US soft-pop gods The Groop, whose ‘Jet Song’ is also covered here) threatens to blow the original out of the water – seriously!



Kingsley Abbott, Record Collector magazine, September 2011:





‘Superlative shimmery sunshine pop’

During vinyl’s golden age, when LP-sized sleeves offered the potential for lavish, eye-catching artwork, collectors may well have been deterred from buying Design’s albums; the group’s scattershot approach to sleeve art bore little relation to the harmony pop within.


Taking their cue from the West Coast pop dreamed up by the likes of The 5th Dimension, it was evident from the opener to Design’s self-titled debut, ‘Coloured Mile’, that the group were at least the Americans’ equals. To the male/female contrasts of the Dimension, Design also added imaginative vocal lines akin to The Association that are, at times, quite stunning – as on In Flight’s ‘Don’t Apologise’.

Sometimes likened in the UK to acts such as The New Seekers, Design were in fact so much more, staying very much on pop’s adventurous side. Among the self-penned songs they included a smattering of covers, including two from obscure US sunshine act The Groop, Carole King’s ‘I Feel The Earth Move’ and a radical re-working of ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’. It is, however, the richness of their original material – with dipping and soaring vocal lines – that really sticks.

You’d be mad to miss out on this second chance to hear the grand Design.



Dusty Groove America, US website, 2011:




Early 70s sunshine pop from Design – their self-titled set from 1970 and the just as groovy Tomorrow Is So Far Away – together in a single set! Design has a way with male and female harmonies that really sets them apart, even though that style was huge in the late 60s and early 70s. They're essentially a vocals group with an acoustic guitar, given some pretty groovy rock and more soaring pop arrangements. Titles include ‘Coloured Mile’, ‘Willow Stream’, ‘Marguaretta’, ‘Matchbox Man’, ‘Children Of The Mist’ and more.

Tomorrow Is So Far Away is similarly sweet, a mix of smaller scale numbers and bigger arrangements, always with deft harmonies. Includes ‘Take A Boat’, ‘Celestina’, ‘Sad Fisherman’, ‘Ladybird Don't Fly’, ‘Butterfly Catcher’, ‘Man We Was Lonely’ and more.




Breezy, post-hippie sunshine vocal pop from Design – '73's Day Of The Fox and '74's In Flight albums – both albums on a single CD! Day Of The Fox is a pretty nice continuation of the early albums they made for Epic, with some pretty complicated vocal arrangements that they make sound easy. The album carries both trippier, kinda Surf's Up era Beach Boys influences on the production tip, along with much older folk rock styled numbers. Includes ‘Nature's Children’, ‘Day Of The Fox’, ‘Meet My Friends’, a weird cover of ‘I Feel The Earth Move’, ‘When Morning Comes’ and more.


In Flight has a more consistent, melodic production style and of course those transcendent group harmonies. Includes ‘Wherever You May Go’, ‘Archie Franks’, ‘Don't Apologize’, ‘End Of The Party’, ‘After The Rain’, ‘Losing You’ and more.



Design LP

Richard Morton Jack, Galactic Ramble, Foxcote Books, 2009:


DESIGN (Epic EPC 64322) 1971


Imagine my surprise to see this band, whose debut occasionally attracts psych collectors, as the musical guest on an early 70s Benny Hill episode. At what point does ‘soft psych’ resemble the kind of thing your 80 year-old great aunt finds acceptable?

The answer, of course, is that this music isn’t psych or rock in any way at all. What it is, however, is a completely unique and bizarrely fascinating fusion of soft rock instrumentation with classically themed vocals. There are moments here where the McCartney-styled bass playing and the dreamy vocals can send chills up your spine, and other moments when this is just unlistenably sweet and trilly.

The end result will make you scratch your head, but a few songs here are an amazing mix of complex composition with effortlessly lovely and accessible melodies. It rewards close listening, and sounds better a few songs at a time. For me it’s a keeper in spite of itself.


In Flight



A five-piece vocal harmony group backed by experienced session men such as Clem Cattini, Chris Spedding, Alan Parker and Herbie Flowers. Well orchestrated and produced, it’s sunshine harmony pop with a light hippy vibe.

The vocals are outstanding, and if it had been released in 1968 it might well have been huge. By late 1971, however, it didn’t stand a chance. In particular, ‘Jet Song’ sounds like the biggest hit the Mamas and the Papas never had, but the whole album is well worth a listen.


IN FLIGHT (EMI EMC 3032) 1974


This virtually defines the word ‘whimsical’, offering gentle, melodic folk-pop with lush harmony vocals and a breezy, summery feel. A couple of tracks display a distinct 1930s influence, and even these are enjoyable, whilst the best cuts manage a shimmering, almost psychedelic, West Coast feel. Overall, the perfect musical accompaniment to a garden party in the blazing sunshine.



Vernon Joynson, The Tapestry of Delights Revisited, Borderline Productions, 2008:



Final album


Sometimes classed as a folk-rock band, no doubt due to their battery of acoustic guitars, Design’s covers of songs by the likes of The Beatles, Steely Dan and Carole King actually outnumbered their attempts at folk material. They did, admittedly, record Tom Paxton’s ‘You’d Better Believe It’ and the atmospheric ‘Pisces Hymn’ by Dave Shannon of the folk band Therapy. Most of their songs were original, however – classy mainstream pop numbers with intricate and appealing harmonies and an interesting psychedelic twist, which sometimes gave way to tweeness.

The albums hint at something like a British equivalent of the American group Fifth Dimension. Their amplified backing came from such musicians as Clem Cattini, Herbie Flowers and Chris Spedding. Pictures of the band in concert show the men dressed casually, while the visual flair came from the blonde Gabrielle, the dark-haired Kathy and their colourful gowns. Chart success always eluded them but they persevered, as a list of their singles shows.               

By the time of their final album the group had begun to break up and the material moved more towards the middle of the road. Recommended as an introduction is their almost a capella version of ‘Strawberry Fields’ from their second album. ‘The Minstrel’s Theme’ got fresh exposure on Fading Yellow, Volume 5 (CD).