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British pop group Honeybus were active in the late '60s and early '70s, and their best-known material found an intersection between the gentle psychedelia of Rubber Soul-era Beatles and the ornate baroque pop of bands like the Left Banke or the earliest phases of the Bee Gees. Songwriters Pete Dello and Ray Cane tapped into a Lennon/McCartney type of chemistry on the band's sole hit, "I Can't Let Maggie Go," but they explored various different styles on their singles. Lineup changes seriously disrupted Honeybus' progress at every turn, yet the group's unique combination of melody and experimentation made them one of the more celebrated of the obscure sunshine pop bands, with multiple anthologies and reissues bubbling up as the years went on. In 2023, Under the Silent Tree: Gentle Sounds with Strings and Things collected all known recordings of the group's BBC sessions, including an album's worth of songs that never made it onto studio albums. Dello and Cane formed Honeybus in 1966 after working together in a string of other bands like Grant Tracy and the Sunsets and the Yum Yum Band, which featured ex-Them drummer Terry Noon. Honeybus was initially conceived as a studio-only project, with Dello on vocals, keys, and guitar, Cane on vocals and bass, drummer Pete Kircher, and second guitarist Colin Hare. The group signed on with Deram and issued a few singles before hitting chart success with their 1968 track "I Can't Let Maggie Go," which broke into the U.K. Top Ten charts and stayed there for several months. Dello left the band around this time, unwilling to tour or perform live too extensively. He was replaced by Jim Kelly, and Honeybus began touring regularly and working toward a debut album. The band broke up in 1969, just before the release of their 1970 debut full-length, Story. Dello reunited the early lineup of the group in 1971 to record a new set of songs, but a shift in management at the label resulted in 1972's Recital never being officially released; a run of promotional copies was pressed up, though, and became a high-dollar collector's item years down the line. The band fully deteriorated by 1973. Members of Honeybus remained active in music, and "I Can't Let Maggie Go" kept its place in music history as a one-time hit, being reissued into the '70s and '80s. The group's sound continued to be a fascination for new generations of listeners, and as time went on several compilation releases celebrated the band's short yet vibrant window of existence. Along with a few greatest-hits-style releases, the 2002 anthology She Flies Like a Bird offered several unreleased tracks along with previously released material. In 2023, a compilation of BBC recordings, Under the Silent Tree: Gentle Sounds with Strings and Things, collected all of Honeybus' known broadcast sessions from 1967 to 1973. The set spanned all of the group's lineups and included multiple songs not released in any other form.
© Fred Thomas /TiVo


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