LP Reviews

Arthur Alexander: The Monument Years
Though less well-known than, say, Otis Redding, soul belter Alexander had influence way beyond the scale of his success – the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, among others, covered his songs. And while his better-known material has been reissued on CD (Ace released The Greatest, which contains his work for the Dot label), the sides he recorded for Monument had been unavailable for decades. What’s crucial about these recordings (see Joe Simon, below) is that they were produced under the aegis of Fred Foster and Bill Justis, fondly cherished for their work with Roy Orbison. As this material is of such a high standard, it’s a puzzle as to why it didn’t sail to the top of the charts alongside Stax and Atlantic releases. Anyway, Ace – being the high-integrity outfit it is – also found no less than 16 tracks in the vaults which had never before seen the light of day. It’s appropriate that, alphabetically, this CD kicks off this month’s listings, because it ‘s arguably the most important discovery here (but see Nat King Cole, below!). Soul fans are just gonna love it, while Alexander’s may find a lump in the throat. (BeatReviews, 2001)

The Band: Rock Of Ages; Moondog Matinee; Northern Lights – Southern Cross; Islands
Completing the entire remastering of the Band’s eight albums (not counting the soundtrack to The Last Waltz, that is), Capitol has done ’em proud. Best of all, in case you already own the vinyl or the earlier CDs, they feature so many bonus tracks that Rock Of Ages gains a second CD with 10 extras – four featuring Bob Dylan himself. Although the Band’s reputation is based on the brilliance of first three LPs, this final quartet contains many magic moments including Moondog Matinee‘s wander down the group’s collective Memory Lane, a luscious ‘Georgia On My Mind’ on Islands, and Rock Of Ages showing how tight they were in concert. Still some of the finest ‘rootsy’ music America ever produced.  (BeatReviews, 2001)

Barclay James Harvest: Mocking Bird
(Harvest EMI)
Nice 17-track intro for the causal fan, BJH fondly remembered as the poppier side of progressive, with a deft line in Beatle-isms. This selection concentrates on the early years – 1970-72 – and it’s loaded with gorgeous harmonies, punchy guitar work and production values which won’t offend audiophiles one bit. Hippie-ish as can be, but maybe it’s time for re-assessment, perhaps?  (BeatReviews, 2001)

Blue Murder: Blue Murder
Geffen WX 245
A glimpse at the track listing and lyric sheet might put you off this HM cliché, which finds veteran Carmine Appice acting exactly like that which inspired Spinal Tap. But Blue Murder are just heavy enough to let you ignore the words to ‘Sex Child’. [A:2] (Hi-Fi News, August 1989)

Blue Rodeo: Diamond Mine
Risque Disque/WEA 256 268-1
Absolutely gorgeous guitar band epic which calls to mind everything jangly from Dylan to Petty to REM to the Eagles, but with a twang all its own. Here’s hoping that it benefits from the success of Brickell and the rest rather than getting lost in the shuffle. [A:1/1*] (Hi-Fi News, August 1989)

The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band: New Tricks
(Castle Music)
Although everything the Bonzos did is on CD, this is a nice (mid-price) single-disc introduction to what must be the first rock satire act. All of the classic tracks are here – ”I’m The Urban Spaceman’, ‘Canyons Of Your Mind’ – but be ready: it’s still bizarre, over three decades along. Also just out on Castle is the Bonzos’ “Legs” Larry Smith’s homage to Mel Brooks’ The Producers, a CD called – yes – Springtime For Hitler, cannily re-issued as the Broadway version of The Producers currently wows New York’s theatre-going public!  (BeatReviews, 2001)

Nat King Cole: Night Lights
Regarded as ‘The Lost 1956 Album’, this set hails from the time when Cole’s career was at its peak, yet 12 of the 20 tracks are previously unreleased. Nelson Riddle recorded an album’s worth of material, and some of the songs appeared as singles, but this is the first time it’s been presented in album form. Four of the tracks were actually written for a failed Broadway show called Strip For Action, yielding the hit ‘Too Young To Go Steady’, while any or all of the material could have appeared on one Cole LP or another. In other words, classic Nat King Cole, with lush arrangements, silky delivery and sublime sound. Fans won’t be disappointed, but they will be puzzled.  (BeatReviews, 2001)

Billy Connolly: The Transatlantic Years
Though now best known as an actor and before that a stand-up comedian, before those career moves this archetypal Scot had a not-so-modest stint as a folk singer of some note. This 2CD, 28-track set contains the best of his work for the Transatlantic label during 1969-74, both as a solo performer and as one half of the folkie duo, the Humblebums; the other half, of course, was Gerry Rafferty, who went on to deliver ‘Baker Street’ and (with Stealer’s Wheel) ‘Stuck In The Middle With You’. Curious blend of traditional folk and a Glaswegian form of rap, delightfully wry and a real challenge if strong accents baffle ye’.    (BeatReviews, 2001)

Cookie Crew: Born This Way
ffrr/London 828134.1
The most notable aspect of this rap effort is that it’s British rather than American. The usual clever lyrics and heart-stopping transients, good enough to keep a few quid on this side of the pond and maybe bring some dollars back. [A:2] (Hi-Fi News, August 1989)

Bobby Darin: Sings The Standards
Part of a new series (see Peggy Lee and Julie London, below), this disc takes great Capitol artist and gathers together 22 of that artist’s takes on the classics. Darin, posthumously recognised as a genuine, multi-faceted genius, always preferred lounge music to rock; this selection shows finesse nearly on a par with Sinatra and far better than most of the other Italian-American crooners held in higher esteem. Aside from the odd dash of show-bizzy corn, the package is a fine distillation of Darin-as-night-club-star, especially his versions of ‘Call Me Irresponsible’ and ‘Fly Me To The Moon’. Too classy for words. (BeatReviews, 2001)

Miles Davis: Kind of Blue
Classic/CBS8163 (Quiex SV Super Vinyl)
Yes, I groaned, too, when I saw that Classic had repressed what has be the most re-issued jazz album of all time. This is where Miles came of age, where the jazz album took a quantum leap forward in perception and presentation. But while it is true that it is also one of the most important, surely there’s a limit to the number of times it can be re-released; I consider myself only the most casual of jazz listeners, and yet I have five different versions! But this one is alleged to be the definitive, with corrected speed. So I compared it to the previous ‘definitive’, Sony’s last CD of it, the one with 20-bit remastering, and all became clear.

Despite the two of them sounding closer to each other than any CD-versus-LP combination I can recall, there were still enough differences to reinforce support for either. It’s exactly the sort of conundrum which keeps audiophiles arguing all night long, because the differences ARE subtle, and you have to be careful that levels are matched and that the odd pop or click doesn’t give away which is which. But close listening revealed to me that the CD has a closer-to-pristine sound, devoid of sheen but naked and open and full of detail, while the vinyl had a distinctive warmth which I know some will be driven to liken to valves versus transistors. At times, it sounded like the CD separated the musicians from each other, while the vinyl made it sound more like an ensemble. From a reviewer’s standpoint, the CD was easier to listen into – if focussing on small details is your priority – while the LP was better for just sitting back and enjoying. Which you prefer will get down to either personal taste or political prejudices. With or without outtakes, speed-corrected or not (and there’s probably even a case for buying this on multi-channel SACD!), I reckon that this Quiex SV edition is the best sounding version to date. (Audiophile Sound, 2002)

Desperate Danz Band: Send Three And Fourpence…We’re Going To A Dance
Happas Records HAPPAS 1
Everything has accelerated: Only a couple of years into the roots boom and here we have retro folk/dance music. This is so creaky that it makes Morris dancers look like Yazz Wannabees. Strictly for traditionalists. [A:2] (Hi-Fi News, August 1989)

The Dickies: Second Coming
Enigma ENVLP 526
The original surf/punk/speed merchants return, sounding as loopy as they did in ’79 with only a slight slowing of the tempos to mark the march of time. The trademark non-sequitur covers are there, including a timely massacre of Pitney’s ‘Town Without Pity’ and a hilarious ‘Hair’. The 1980s may be ending in drag mode, but some guys just wanna have fun. [A:1*] (Hi-Fi News, August 1989)

Isaac Hayes: The Ultimate Isaac Hayes 1969-1977

Although there are plenty of Hayes collections out there, this 2CD/21 track effort really lets you know that he’s is right up there with James Brown, Sly Stone and George Clinton in terms of influence over post-WWII urban African-American popular music. From funk and soul to sweeping ‘epic ballads’ which pre-date Barry White, Hayes did it all, including performing, composing and arranging. Shame on you if you don’t already own the ‘Theme From Shaft’ (track 2 disc 20), and further shame if you don’t think Hayes’ takes on Burt Bacharach tunes rival the Carpenters, Cilla, Dionne and Dusty. Better he should be respected for this than South Park. (BeatReviews, 2001)

The Jacksons: 2300 Jackson Street
Epic EPC 463352
Jacksons LPs are always slick and professional but rarely daring, so is it any surprise that this one simply reflects the state of the soul (ch)art? Actually, it says more about the influence of Bobby Brown than anyone could have expected. [A:1] (Hi-Fi News, August 1989)

Kaleidoscope: Infinite Colours, Infinite Patterns – The Best of Kaleidoscope
Although now best remembered as one of the earliest sightings of David Lindley and Chris Darrow (see CD Reissues, BeatReviews issue 3), this group also deserves recognition as one of the first of the West Coast psychedelic outfits. Unjustly overshadowed by the Charlatans, the Dead and others, Kaleidoscope exhibited the eclectic mix which made psychedelia the (rock) revolutionary genre that it was: a dash of folk, a hint of jazz, some bluegrass, some straight rock. Culled from three LPs and enhanced by the inclusion of rare singles tracks, this repackaging of 1993’s Blues From Baghdad serves as a cornerstone of any serious collection of 60s rock. (BeatReviews, 2001)

Dave Kelly Band: Making Whoopee – 1979/1982
In the same month that the Blues Band releases its first new album in ages, the band’s hardworking guitarist sees his 1993 r.p.m. compilation re-released. Its 21 tracks contain all of the material recorded by the slide guitar wizard over a three-year period, and Blues Band fans will note that all of them appear hear at various points. Solid, punchy, kick-ass British blues, just, er, like the Blues Band. (BeatReviews, 2001)

T Lavitz And The Bad Habitz: T Lavitz And The Bad Habitz
Intima/Enigma ENVLP 525
A pleasing variation on the crossover/fusion jazz-rock formula: lean and clean, basic and funky. No, this won’t set alight a world that’s been Sanborn’d to death, but it beats the hell out of Contemporary Instrumental. [A:1/2] (Hi-Fi News, August 1989)

Led Zeppelin: Physical Graffiti Classic/Swan Son SS2-200 (Quiex SV Super Vinyl); Presence Classic/Swan Song SS8416 (Quiex SV Super Vinyl)
Replete with exact replicas of the magnificent original packaging, here are two more instalments in Classic Records’ transference of the Led Zeppelin catalogue to audiophile standards. But is it possible that even one or two years of age removed from master tapes can contribute to an even better sound? This pair post-dates the last albums by a couple of years – not decades – and yet the sound showed a serious transition. Then again, it’s likely that Led Zep’s production values matured or evolved. Or is it the Quiex SV vinyl???

By this point – 1975-6 – Led Zeppelin could do no wrong, so the material grew slightly more self-indulgent, and I’ll be the first to admit that I much prefer their first two albums to anything they did which followed. These are LPs numbers 6 and 7 respectively, and they are an odd couple because they represent both high and low points. Physical Graffiti is so varied in content and vast in scope that it’s surely their equivalent of the Beatles’ ‘White Album’, while Presence is merely excellent by others standards but average by Led Zeppelin’s. Consistent with the earlier repressings, these editions have sheer mass equal to mint originals (those tapes must have been stored to Louvre standards), while the new vinyl is so quiet you can only wish it had been formulated 40 years ago.

I just had a horrible thought: what if Classic decides to go back and reissue earlier albums in Quiex SV… (Audiophile Sound, 2002)

Peggy Lee: Sings The Standards
Arguably the Greatest Female Singer Ever Who’s Not Named Dinah, Sarah or Ella, Peggy Lee’s delivery is so cool, unstressed and hip that she could be Dean Martin’s sister. And sexy? This should have an X-Certificate. She sashays through ‘Cheek To Cheek’, ‘As Time Goes By’, ‘Unforgettable’ – she even adds a Fifties sophistication to the Beatles’ ‘Something’ and Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ and country tearjerker ‘Release Me’ that make you believe that ‘it’s the singer, not the song’. 22 tracks, two new to CD – fabulous music, with sound quality to match. (BeatReviews, 2001)

Lil’ Ed And The Blues Imperials: Chicken, Gravy & Biscuits
Alligator/Sonet AL 4772
Long-awaited follow-up to the staggering Roughhousin’ of a couple years back. Lil’ Ed makes modern blues music with no concessions but you could almost swear this is some long-lost golden age boogie epic. As before, this was cut live without gimmickry. [A:1/1*] (Hi-Fi News, August 1989)

Julie London: Sings The Standards (EMI)
Magic: Ms London swinging through 22 standards, including ‘As Time Goes By’, ‘When I Fall In Love’, ‘Call Me Irresponsible’ and – God knows why – ‘Light My Fire’. But her breathy delivery, surely some of the sexiest exhaling in musical history, infuses it with a near-salacious quality which makes Jim Morrison sound like a virgin. Recently rediscovered by the ‘bachelor pad’ crowd, London surely needs to be re-assessed and credited with vocal skills which put her easily on a par with Peggy Lee (see above). Add to this the usual Capitol production values and you have a late-night listening session like no other. Sheer bliss. (BeatReviews, 2001)

Madonna: Madonna; Like A Virgin; True Blue
(Warner Remasters)

Now that the passage of time and Madonna’s staying power have weakened arguments that she is primarily (or merely) music’s greatest and most successful triumph of style over substance, the revisionism begins with the respectful re-mastering of her first three albums. The sound is nothing short of astonishing, especially the bass mixes, and they’re all the more irresistibly catchy for it. Her eponymous debut comes off best – less deliberate and commercial, perhaps – but all three releases have held up as being much more than merely the output of some exhibitionist broad prancing around in a corset. Warner has beefed up all three with two bonus tracks apiece, so collectors will be pleased. (BeatReviews, 2001)

Delbert McClinton: Live! From Austin
Alligator AL4773
McClinton’s first live LP and his first of any sort in nearly a decade, a set of tracks defying classification. Too blues-y and soulful for New Country, too country to be mistaken for uptown R’n’B and too good to be ignored whatever way you slice it. [B:1] (Hi-Fi News, August 1989)

Joe Meek & The Blue Men: I Hear A New World

Another go-round for what is regarded as the magnum opus from the overrated UK Phil Spector wannabee. The late Meek is held in high esteem by the British because he was all that they could muster at the time in the way of star producers and innovators; this is his attempt at an experimental space-rock concept, noteworthy mainly because it was recorded in 1960. r.p.m. has taken the original album, added a 30 minute monologue by Meek, and a CD-ROM track taken from a TV documentary. Mainly aural tosh now beloved of the sampling set, as well as the sort of sad collectors who genuinely but misguidedly believe that there was any British rock or pop of merit before the Beatles arrived. (BeatReviews, 2001)

The Millennium: Magic Time – The Millennium/Ballroom Recordings

Fans of pop genius Curt Boettcher have had a good year so far, but this triple-CD set from Sundazed takes the biscuit. Regarded with near-holy zeal in soft-rock and psychedelia-lite circles, Boettcher was involved with a series of groups which always skirted with but never achieved fame. Sundazed’s 3CD offering attempts to bring order to the chaos with the entire Begin and Ballroom LPs committed to CD, along with demos, alternate takes and outtakes from 1965-8, of which no less than 22 tracks are previously unreleased; also provided is a superb 24-page booklet which explains all. Musically? You’ll swoon when you hear this set if you ever enjoyed Harper’s Bizarre, the Left Banke, Brian Wilson at his freakiest, the Merry-Go-Round or – to pull it into this millennium – the Wondermints. Bless you, Bob. (BeatReviews, 2001)

Liza Minnelli: The Capitol Years

Long before Cabaret showed Minnelli to be an even greater talent than the mother who (still) overshadows her, she was recording for Capitol…at the age of 18. But she oozed maturity, and her vocal prowess transcended even the cornball arrangement inflicted on this disc’s opener, ‘Blue Moon’. In retrospect, you can see how this material led up to Sally Bowles and to live albums which rank among pop’s best. This disc contains 22 tracks, providing a good overview of her pre-Cabaret dues-paying. (BeatReviews, 2001)

Motorhead: Motorhead (Chiswick/Ace)
Or the motherlode, the heavy metal gods’ 1977 debut album, remastered ‘with added gut-wrenching bass’ and expanded with five bonus tracks (including all four from the ‘Beer Drinkers’ EP of 1980). Issued at a time when prog rock was waning, disco ruled and punk was engaged in its rear-guard action, Motorhead reverted to heads-down HM, which combined elements of whining punk and what would later be dubbed thrash. Fast, powerful, relentless and VERY influential, it remains some of the purest hard-rock-with-attitude ever issued, and it sounds as deliciously nasty today as it did then. And, bless ‘im, Lemmy’s still with us. (BeatReviews, 2001) 

Graham Nash: Songs For Beginners
Classic/Atlantic SD-7204 (Quiex SV Super Vinyl)
Nash’s 1971 solo venture was always nice-sounding, but Quiex SV – whatever they’ve added to the stew – lifts it up to the ‘magnificent’. As expected, it sounds like part of a Crosby Stills & Nash set, not least because it employs many of the same musicians, and because that ‘supergroup’ trio always let each member shine through (regardless of Neil Young’s moods when the group was operating as CSNY). Here Nash employed one of rock’s finest drummers – Johnny Barbata – plus members of the Grateful Dead, his regular sidekick David Crosby, Rita Coolidge, and others of the California school, so the set stands out as a classic slice of West Coast rock. Then again, such cross-pollination was normal back when the Los Angeles and San Francisco crowds behaved like big, happy families. Hence, there’s an intimacy here which you NEVER find, for example, with Neil Young releases, no matter who he used. Songs for Beginners is gentle, ‘British’ despite Nash’s move to the USA, and easy on the ears. But then Nash always provided CSN with the warmth and wistfulness while Crosby offered the politics and Stills the soul, so it’s to his credit that the album’s killer track is the painful ‘Chicago’. (Audiophile Sound, 2002)

Onslaught: In Search Of Sanity
FFRR/London 828 142-1
Bristol’s Numero Uno thrash act challenging the status quo by allowing melody to creep in past the monotonous drumming and puerile posturing. The subtitle should be, of course, ‘But You Won’t Find It Here’. [A:2] (Hi-Fi News, August 1989)

O.S.T.: Ghosts…Of The Civil Dead
Mute Records IONIC 3
Suitably gloomy score for a prison film. About as bleak as it gets, but Nick Cave’s fans might find it just about right. [A:2]

O.S.T.: 1969
Polydor 837 362-1
With a title like that, you can anticipate and do receive a package of evocative classics. Hankies out for the Thirtysomething brigade, with Cream, Creedence and others reelin’ in the years. Collectors note: Jesse Colin Young provides a gorgeous update of ‘Get Together’, while the Pretenders appear to show that record companies can’t even spell ‘authentic’. [A/B:1*] (Hi-Fi News, August 1989)

John Phillips: Pay, Pack & Follow 
Too bad Phillips passed away before seeing the response to the release of this oft-rumoured, long-lost solo album recorded with most of the Rolling Stones in tow. Phillips wrote all of the material, while Keith and Mick produced it, the sessions taking place throughout the 1970s. What you do not get is any indication that Phillips was one of the Mamas & Papas. Instead, it sounds like a Stones album in the manner that the Performance soundtrack sounds like a Stones album. Looks like this is the month for Great Lost Albums to emerge. (BeatReviews, 2001)

Alan Price: A Price On His Head; Shouts Across The Street; A Rock’N’Roll Night At The Royal Court Theatre

Three more Price solos show his varied approach to sourcing material. A Price On His Head, his second solo effort from ’67, featured three originals, but no less than seven from Randy Newman and one each from Dylan and Goffin & King. It doesn’t quite click with the era in which appeared as it’s so polished – but it’s pure Price all the way.. Shouts Across the Street, Price’s fifth solo from ’76, contains only original compositions, by this time boasting a more mature, jazzier feel. In contrast, Edsel’s ninth Price CD is an unusual live set from 1980, reminding us of just what an amazing all-rounder he is. The set is made up of his faves, a blitz on the 1950s classics from Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly, the Platters, Little Richard – effectively, it’s Price playing for pleasure the hits of the day which he probably once had to perform to earn a crust when he began his career. Slick and enjoyable, if primarily of interest to Price completists. (BeatReviews, 2001)

Howard Roberts: Something’s Cookin’/Goodies; Whatever’s Fair/All-Time Great Instrumental Hits; Jaunty-Jolly/Guilty!

Three 2-LPs-On-1-CD sets of cool instrumentals is a jazzy vein, Roberts – like Chuck Wayne below – a practitioner of easy-on-the-ears guitar-led interpretations. As these come from the Capitol vaults, the sound is stunning, and audiophiles with long memories will smile to see the name Dave Grusin in the band credits. Upscale bachelor pad music, begging to be heard through valves! (BeatReviews, 2001)

The Seeds: The Seeds/A Web Of Sound; Future/A Full Spoon of Seedy Blues/Raw & Alive/Rare Seeds

A gift from Edsel, all five of the Seeds’ LPs recorded for GNP, plus half-a-CD’s worth of rarities, thus giving us the complete output of the original band. And what a band it was, a highlight of the ‘Nuggets Genre’, punky psychedelia best exemplified by their lone smash hit, ‘Pushin’ Too Hard’. Because this material dates from the late 1960s, it covers a multitude of sins, including early psychedelia, garage rock, flower power and more, and its worth is iconic rather than musical. But the Seeds had their moments, and this trio of CDs nicely fills what has been a gaping hole. (BeatReviews, 2001)

Show Of Hands: No Song To Sing – The Collection

A worthy 14-track retrospective covering this folk duo’s first decade, including a couple of live versions of some of their ‘classics’, and cover versions including Little Feat’s ‘Willin” (utterly gorgeous) and Radiohead’s ‘Fake Plastic Tree’ (why bother?). Some scintillating guitar work, superb sound, lovely textured vocals – despite a few volts, one for the unplugged crowd. (BeatReviews, 2001)

Joe Simon: Monument Of Soul
Though Simon is well-represented on a variety of labels, this might just be the best one-shot purchase if all you want is the early cream. r.p.m. has gathered together 26 singles tracks recorded for Monument from 1966-72, including all of his 17 US chart hits from that era. Regarded as a beacon of country soul, Simon – who left the music industry to devote himself to the church – has a rich voice at times reminiscent of Jackie Wilson and a delivery which screams ‘Stax’ at you. Fabulous soul singing, worthy of wider appreciation. (BeatReviews, 2001) 

Stephen Stills: Manassas
Classic/Atlantic SD-2903 0996 (Quiex SV Super Vinyl)
Although a group debut of sorts, this magnificent double LP from ’72 started out as a Stills solo release until it dawned on him that he was actually fronting a rock’n’roll band which was able to bring back a bit of the old Buffalo Springfield magic. Unlike Crosby Stills & Nash, a group made up of equals in terms of both star quality and songwriting ability, Manassas was probably conceived as a Stills backing band, however liberal he was with sharing the limelight.

Stills was obviously aware of the assembled musical muscle, so every band member got a front cover credit – advisable when the litany includes Chris Hillman and most of the guys who ever backed CSN. There are even contributions from Rolling Stone Bill Wyman, and a dedication to three of Stills’ recently-departed friends, Jimi Hendrix, Canned Heat’s Al Wilson, and Duane Allman. Like the live gigs, the two LPs covered a multitude of then-popular country rock styles, and Stills was more than generous in letting others come to the fore. Indeed, each of the four sides are ‘themed’, like the live concerts, with each genre enjoying its own portion of the package. And each genre is well-served. Musically, this is an album which grows in stature as the years pass.

Soundwise, Manassas never impressed me as an LP worth dragging around to hi-fi shows for demo purposes – not bad, but hardly something to worry Sheffield Lab. Classic Records’ re-issue, though, opens the sound, removes a layer of haze and increases detail, so I can only attribute this to the level of remastering and the use of Quiex SV. Which added more, I can’t say. But one thing’s for certain: you can ditch the CD. (Audiophile Sound, 2002)

The Stranglers:Radio One Sessions
Strange Fruit/Nighttracks SFNT 620
The Stranglers heard live on the Beeb in 1982. [A/B:1]
(Hi-Fi News, August 1989)

Transvision Vamp: Velveteen
They’ve survived the hype, they’ve managed to maintain their dignity despite Wendy’s penchant for saucy attire and they’re making some of the best pure pop of any type in the UK today. What more do you want? [A:1] whether it’s hip or not. (Hi-Fi News, August 1989)

Various: The Best of the Boston Sound (Varese Vintage)
Orpheus: The Best of (Varese Vintage)
Ultimate Spinach: The Best of (Varese Vintage)
These three deserve grouping together because the first will lead to the other two. Back in ’68, when San Francisco was getting all the attention as the centre of the musical universe, a bright spark decided to exploit the growing number of bands in Boston, Massachusetts – then as now the greatest ‘college town’ in the world. The resulting ‘Bosstown Sound’ hype backfired, which is a shame because the groups transcended the marketing with some original material that contrasted with the West Coast. The Lost, Rockin’ Ramrods (and their off-shoot Puff), Eden’s Children, Beacon Street Union – most of them are only remembered now by New Englanders over the age of 50, but they deserve your attention for pioneering work in folk rock, soft rock, psychedelia, baroque rock, et al. Orpheus and Ultimate Spinach merit their own sets, having been among the most successful, and you can only wonder why Rolling Stone magazine came down so hard on the whole affair. (BeatReviews, 2001)

Various: Bob Crewe Presents The DynoVoice Story 1965-1968

If, like me you love ‘label’ compilations, then this will make your day. A 2CD/56-track set, it covers the activities of mid-1960s New York indie labels DynaVox, DynaVoice and New Voice, and the pickings are richer than you can imagine. Amongst the gems are massive hits from Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels, the weird ‘Walkin’ My Cat Named Dog’ by Norma Tanega and a slew of treasures from the Toys – hey, this set actually opens with ‘A Lovers Concerto’. Inbetween are other hits and near-misses, and a song which has become an anthem for the loungecore/bachelor pad crowd, Crew’s own ‘Music To Watch Girls By’. This is quintessential East Coast pop, post-Brill Building heyday, pre-psychedelia, containing some of the finest examples of independent-producer-as-hit-machine AM-radio classics. (BeatReviews, 2001)

Various: Funkology

In case you thought that the disco era of the 1970s yielded nothing more substantial than Sylvester, here’s a 2CD/36-track set concentrating on the hard funk element. Loads of P-Funk- and James Brown-related material, Kool & The Gang, Marvin Gaye, George Duke, Billy Cobham, Rick James – it’s like a soundtrack to every blaxploitation flick rolled into one. Nice woofer stretcher, too. (BeatReviews, 2001)

Various: The In Crowd

Subtitled ‘UK Mod R&B/Beat 1964-1967’, this tasty 26-track package chronicles the activities of a number of Second Division bands of the period, the R&B-oriented acts who worked in the shadows of the Rolling Stones and the Animals. Some of these did chart internationally – the Yardbirds and Brian Auger for example – but for the most part, they’re the artists about which collectors dream: Steampacket, the In Crowd, the Artwoods, the Action and the like. But this was a fertile breeding ground for the superstars of the 1970s, so you can hear a young Rod Stewart, a nascent David Bowie and more. Fascinating material, accompanied by a great booklet in the form a poster. (BeatReviews, 2001)

Various: Jazz Today Vol 1
BGP/Ace BGP 1026
10 tracks from the new Fantasy jazz catalogue. [A:1/2] (Hi-Fi News, August 1989)

Chuck Wayne: String Fever (Euphoria/Sundazed)
Though dating from 1957, this sounds like a retro release honouring an earlier era: Big Band. It’s light-as-a-feather orchestral jazz, featuring the kind of slick guitar work which fits nicely inbetween Les Paul and Wes Montgomery. Issued for the first time in to-die-for stereo, it also boasts five previously unreleased alternate takes. (BeatReviews, 2001)

Lori Yates: Can’t Stop The Girl
CBS 463288-1
Divine country warbling from a Canadian Who Would Be Southern. Rocking rather than rueful, with an appeal that should defy the country classifications. [A:1] (Hi-Fi News, August 1989)