The Blades of Grass, Are Not For Smoking (Rev-Ola). The Blades of Grass's only album is above-average by the standards of sunshine pop rarities, but not distinguished by the standards of general 1967 pop-rock, though it's amiable. "Happy," their sole (and small) hit single, is the most memorable track, and its combination of pop-rock melody and rhythm with thick orchestration is replicated throughout the rest of the album. The group was only responsible for penning two of the songs, nicely harmonizing against pleasing but rather anodyne melodies, and sumptuous but slightly overdone production in which the horns and violins sometimes get more precious than inventive. Echoes of the Beach Boys, Beatles, Mamas & the Papas (whose "Monday, Monday" is explicitly if super-briefly ripped off in part of the bridge to "That's What a Boy Likes"), and lesser talents like the Happenings slip into the vocal arrangements and overall ornate mood. But the songs don't resonate that strongly, sometimes sounding a bit like a quite minor-league Left Banke in both its musical and precious, fairytale-tinged lyrical auras (and in fact "Walk Away Renee" is covered on the LP). The 2002 CD reissue on Rev-Ola adds seven bonus cuts, six taken from non-LP singles, with the source of the last ("Leap into the Arms of Love") mysteriously left unidentified. These songs are similar to those heard on the LP, again focusing almost wholly on non-original material, and again emphasizing upbeat orchestrated sunshine pop whose songs aren't special, including a version of "I Love You Alice B. Toklas" (more famous as done by Harper's Bizarre).

Maxine Brown, 25 All-Time Greatest Hits (Varese Sarabande). There was more than one Maxine Brown greatest hits collection prior to this 2002 release, and no doubt there will be others in the future. On its own merits, though, it does a good job of assembling her best-known material, focusing on her mid-1960s recordings for Wand, which yielded the bulk of her best and highest-selling sides. One small advantage this does have over prior collections, such as Kent's fine Oh No Not My Baby: The Best of Maxine Brown, is that it does include her two key pre-Wand hits released on Nomar in 1961, in their original versions: "All in My Mind" and "Funny" (the versions on Oh No Not My Baby are later re-recordings). Otherwise, it's mostly top-of-the-line mid-1960s pop-soul, including her biggest and best singles of the era: "Oh No Not My Baby," "Ask Me," "One Step at a Time," "It's Gonna Be Alright," and good non-hits like "One in a Million," "Gotta Find a Way," "Put Yourself in My Place," and "Since I Found You." There aren't any of her recordings with Chuck Jackson, which might miff some fans as some of those singles charted. But really those duets weren't up to the standard of her best solo work, so it's not a significant flaw in focus. It's not a major gaffe, but two songs identified as previously unissued -- "Baby Cakes" and "Slipping Through My Fingers," both bearing the songwriting credit of Otis Redding -- have in fact shown up on previous Brown compilations, the first on Oh No Not My Baby, the second on Tomato's Maxine Brown's Greatest Hits.

Dean Carter, Call of the Wild!(Big Beat). A mere six of these 28 tracks were previously issued (in 1965-68, on the Milky Way and Tell International labels); the rest were taken from unreleased sessions spanning 1959-69, though it's all from 1964-69 except for a couple of 1959 straight rockabilly sides. That's the sign of an archival project that might seem excessive given Carter's obscurity. Fortunately, though, the sounds are quite worthwhile and deserving of release, both for their pretty high quality and from a historical standpoint, as there were few if any other musicians following Carter's odd path in the late 1960s. While there's much of the untamed rockabilly musician in Carter's vocal delivery and material, it's not quite rockabilly. It's more like rockabilly-garage-soul, rockabilly in spirit but with the production convincingly updated to absorb some mid-to-late-'60s trends. Because of his strange cover of "Jailhouse Rock" (which leads off the CD), where the tempo is accelerated past 100 miles per hour and fuzz guitar fights it out with Morse code bleeps, pounding piano, and a careening dobro solo, one might think of Carter as a novelty if that's the only track you're familiar with (which is likely if you've ever heard of him at all). But this ain't no Hasil Adkins, or some idiot savant cherished more for his weirdness than his talent. It's actually solid if strange hard-chargin' rock mixing good '50s and '60s traits, delivered with considerable vocal power by Carter, embellished at some turns by inventive touches like orgiastic female soul backup vocals. "Rebel Woman," the somewhat more conventional flipside of "Jailhouse Rock," is here and is another highlight, though some of the unreleased cuts come close to that caliber. On "Midnight Sun" and "Dobro Pickin' Man," two of the latest cuts on the CD, Carter unveiled a more mature country-soul side that's quite interesting too, though apparently not an avenue he pursued at length.

The Dixie Cups, The Complete Red Bird Recordings (Varese Sarabande). Only three years before the release of this CD, another comprehensive Dixie Cups anthology, Chapel of Love: The Very Best of the Dixie Cups, had appeared on the Collectables label. This has a very slight edge, however, as in addition to including everything from that prior compilation, it adds two more tracks: the fair midtempo pop-rocker "Wrong Direction," previously only available on the 1979 import compilation Teen Anguish Vol. 1, and a less notable mono single version of "Gee the Moon Is Shining Bright." In any case, it's a very good collection, containing the A-sides and B-sides of half-a-dozen 1964-65 singles they did for Red Bird, rounded off with less essential odds and ends (including an alternate version of "People Say" and an a cappella alternate version of "Iko Iko"). The Dixie Cups are usually remembered only for "Chapel of Love" and perhaps "Iko Iko," but as this disc demonstrates, there were a good number of solid girl-group sides on their other Red Bird recordings. Many of them were written by the estimable Brill Building hitmaking team of Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, and some are quite good despite almost total obscurity (such as "Little Bell" and "Another Boy Like Mine"); a few other tracks have a strong New Orleans R&B influence. It's one of the better single-artist girl-group anthologies, and makes one regret that such a likable, melodic act was unable to record longer for Red Bird, where they teamed with such a suitable production and songwriting supporting cast.

Episode Six, Cornflakes & Crazyfoam (Purple). This double CD is a testament to the outer limits of 1960s rock archivism, presenting 51 songs -- unreleased during the 1960s themselves -- by a band that never had a hit record, and never became especially popular even on an underground or cult level. Of course, they did have a couple of future members of Deep Purple in the band, which guarantees some sort of specialist audience. It's a pretty amazing package insofar as the sheer bulk of obscurities it unearths, spanning 1964-69. There are home and studio demos,  alternate versions, a couple 1967 German TV cuts, and mucho British radio broadcasts, those UK radio sessions providing the bulk of the source material. Sharp-eyed aficionados might protest at this point that there's already been an entire CD of Episode Six BBC performances (RPM's The Radio One Club Sessions Live 1968/69), but unbelievably, this package repeats just six tracks from that compilation; none of the other cuts have appeared anywhere. True, some of the songs from British radio are duplicated between the CDs in different versions that are in fact similar enough that very few listeners are going to do A-B comparisons. So, all hail the compilers, who toss in a superbly detailed 24-page booklet to boot. But what of the music? Well, the liner notes hit the nail on the head, correctly pointing out that the band's biggest problem was that they were "too good with any style to actually work out what their own was." There were probably few groups in Britain with as eclectic and, usually, tasteful cover repertoire as Episode Six: here you can hear them cover well-known and not-so-well-known songs by the Doors, Love, the Fifth Dimension, Moby Grape, cult soul singers, Denny Laine, Harry Belafonte, the Beatles, the Tokens, Bob Dylan, Fats Domino, Doris Day, Muddy Waters, Donovan, Sandie Shaw, and others. Also sprinkled in are a few of their originals, some of them good, but in the main derivative of specific '60s rock trends. The fidelity is extremely variable, from dodgy lo-fi to studio quality. It's all rather interesting if you like the band, who are best represented on the compilation of their studio recordings The Roots of Deep Purple: The Complete Episode Six. And occasionally there's a cut that's good on its own terms, like the US single version of the ominous "Love, Hate, Revenge," or the Sheila Carter-sung cover of Gene Pitney's "Something's Gotten Hold of My Heart." Yet really this can only be recommended to extreme British Invasion and/or Deep Purple completists, with the Deep Purple crowd getting possible kicks out of hearing Ian Gillan sing unlikely pop material like "Que Sera" and Sandie Shaw's "(There's) Always Something There to Remind Me."

The Everly Brothers, It's Everly Time/A Date with the Everly Brothers(Warner Brothers). It's Everly Time and A Date with the Everly Brothers, both from 1960, were excellent albums, a match for any other albums they did (including their earlier ones on Cadence). It's a shame that this CD, which combines both of the albums onto one disc and adds a few bonus tracks, was released for territories outside of the US. But it's not that hard to find in the States as an import, and is about the best Everly Brothers release you'll come across outside of best-of compilations. There's not a stiff among the 12 tracks on It's Everly Time, though most of them are barely known outside of serious Everly fans. They include six stellar contributions by Boudleaux Bryant and Felice Bryant (particularly "Some Sweet Day," "Sleepless Nights," and "You Thrill Me (Through and Through)"), one of Don Everly's best compositions ("So Sad"), and incredible harmony singing throughout. Although the material on A Date with the Everly Brothers is not on quite the same killer level of It's Everly Time, there are some very fine songs. Particularly good are the smash hit "Cathy's Clown," their raucous cover of Little Richard's "Lucille," "Love Hurts" (which preceded Roy Orbison's hit version), and "So How Come" (covered by the Beatles in 1963 on the BBC). The five bonus tracks include the 1961 double-sided hit single "Walk Right Back"/"Ebony Eyes"; the less popular 1961 hit single "Temptation"; alternate takes of "Temptation" (this one previously unissued) and "Stick with Me Baby"; and the 1960 recordings "Why Not" and "The Silent Treatment," both released on the 1977 rarities compilation New Album, though neither of them are memorable.

Guilbeau & Parsons, Louisiana Man (Big Beat). In a way, this is an embellishment of Gib Guilbeau's obscure early-1970s album Cajun Country. All of the songs from that album are here, as are a number of additional singles, demos, and outtakes, though not all of those are credited to Guilbeau or recorded around the time of that LP. What's the story, then, and why is this CD credited to Guilbeau & Parsons? The confusing picture, in a nutshell: Gib Guilbeau and Gene Parsons released a couple of singles in 1967-68 (both of which are on this disc), and also recorded an album's worth of material at the time that almost got released in 1968. It didn't appear in the late 1960s, though, and eventually a slightly altered version of the original album came out, credited to Guilbeau and titled Cajun Country, in the early 1970s. This 25-track disc, then, has the album; the singles; a half-dozen previously unreleased Guilbeau & Parsons demos and outtakes; a 1969 Gib Guilbeau solo single; a Peter & Gordon-like 1965 single by Gib & Wayne (the duo of Guilbeau and Wayne Moore); a previously unissued home demo duo by Guilbeau and Darrell Cotton; and a 1968 single by Bruce E. Oakes produced by Guilbeau and Parsons. It's for a specialized collector market, for sure. But anyone seriously interested in the genesis of country-rock should hear this, both for its historic importance and for the quality of the music. Guilbeau and Parsons, as well as other musicians heard here like Clarence White and Wayne Moore (who played with Guilbeau and Parsons in the group that became known as Nashville West), were forging some country-rock directions on these obscure recordings that anticipated the late-'60s work of the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers. Sometimes this amounted to country-tinged folk-rock reminiscent of Gene Clark and the Byrds (like the single "Your Gentle Ways of Loving Me," which was later done by the Byrds when Parsons and White joined, and "Woman's Disgrace," covered by the Gosdin Brothers); often it was close to Cajun-tilted Bakersfield country music; and often various ingredients of rock, Cajun, and country bubbled in the mix, with some R&B thrown in occasionally. There might have been a shortage of truly outstanding songs, but the blend was pleasant, creative, ahead of its time, and well done, with engaging vocals. The complicated story behind the routes Guilbeau, Parsons, and their associates traveled in the mid-to-late 1960s is unraveled in Alec Palao's lengthy accompanying essay.

Lee Hazlewood, These Boots Are Made for Walkin': The Complete MGM Recordings (Ace). This double CD is just what it says: all three of the albums Hazlewood recorded for MGM in 1965-67, with the addition of three instrumentals attributed to Lee Hazlewood's Woodchucks (two of which came out on a 1966 single, the third of which, "Batman," was previously unissued). His first two MGM LPs, The Very Special World of Lee Hazlewood (released in 1966) and the far more imaginatively titled Lee Hazlewood-ism: Its Cause and Cure (1967), together comprise the 22 songs presented on the first disc. In tandem, these two LPs arguably represented the peak of Hazlewood's mighty long and checkered career as a solo artist, containing some of his finest compositions; sympathetic production and arrangements combining pop, easy listening orchestration, rock, country, cowboy music and folk; and a unique fusion of droll humor with pop hooks, storytelling, and even some genuine romantic sentiment. There are some silly throwaways, to be sure, but there are also some real standouts, like his 1966 duets with Suzi Jane Hokum on "Sand" and "Summer Wine" (which predate the far more famous duets of those tunes he recorded with Nancy Sinatra); the bullfighting epic "Jose"; the Native American narrative "The Nights"; his own comic version of "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'"; the almost morbidly fascinating moping ballad "My Autumn's Done Come"; and neglected gems of brooding, sumptuously orchestrated melodramatic pop like "Your Sweet Love," "For One Moment," and "I Am a Part." It's a little strange, and perhaps distracting to those who own the original LPs, that these 22 songs don't follow the sequence from the original vinyl (and switch back and forth between those albums), but everything's here. Most of the second disc is devoted to Something Special, recorded (save for one song) in 1967 but not released for two decades (and then only in Germany). Sadly, this is far less worthwhile than his prior two MGM LPs, sounding like an eccentric lounge country-jazz-pop singer, with (except for "Shades") none of the full orchestrated arrangements that had distinguished his prior MGM output, the material boasting far fewer pop hooks (if just as much oddball lyrics). The set finishes with the three Lee Hazlewood's Woodchucks instrumentals, which though rare are throwaways, combining generic pop-rock with cheesy mariachi flourishes. In truth, almost all of the memorable songs on here can be found on the single-disc Lounge Legends compilation, which has almost everything from The Very Special World of Lee Hazlewood and Lee Hazlewood-ism: Its Cause and Cure, though the peppy, catchy "When a Fool Loves a Fool" (from The Very Special World of Lee Hazlewood) somehow escaped inclusion on Lounge Legends. But for those willing to spend a little more money and time, this two-disc anthology covers all the bases of Hazlewood's MGM era, augmented by detailed liner notes and an MGM sessionography.

Jimi Hendrix, Blue Wild Angel: Jimi Hendrix Live at the Isle of Wight (CD)(Experience Hendrix). Jimi Hendrix's show at the Isle of Wight Festival on August 30, 1970 was one of his final performances; he would be dead less than a month later. It's also one of the more famous, if not necessarily one of the best, of his later performances, since the Isle of Wight festival was filmed. This eleven-song, 70-minute set actually only presents a little more than half of the 18 songs he played that night. Five songs not on this CD do appear on the simultaneously released DVD of the concert, and, oddly, one song on the CD, "Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)," does not appear on the DVD. A Hendrix show at such a big event, and so shortly before his death, inevitably has a lot of historical significance, but it's not among his finest work, live or otherwise. The trio of Hendrix, drummer Mitch Mitchell, and bassist Billy Cox sounds a little less than 100%, understandably so since they went on at 3am. More importantly, though Hendrix's skills as a guitarist and singer were undiminished, this was a point in his career where his focus wasn't at his optimum. There's no shortage of thrilling guitar work here, but the arrangements do occasionally meander (as on a 19-minute version of "Machine Gun"). It was courageous for Hendrix to play some new material at the festival, like "Dolly Dagger" (the best of those songs), "Freedom," and "In from the Storm," but these just weren't as sharp and poignant as his best earlier compositions. Just a few of the more famous Hendrix standards -- "All Along the Watchtower," an 11-minute "Red House," and "Spanish Castle Magic" -- are included. A mangling of "God Save the Queen" (who said the Sex Pistols were the first to come up with that concept?) provides a surprise opener, as does its segue into a 50-second snatch of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." The sound is good, as is the annotation, but this is secondary on the list of available Hendrix live recordings.

Jimi Hendrix, Blue Wild Angel: Jimi Hendrix Live at the Isle of Wight (DVD), (MCA). Jimi Hendrix's set at the Isle of Wight Festival at the end of August 1970 was one of his final concerts, given a few weeks before his death. It wasn't one of his greatest shows, but it had its share of worthwhile musical moments, and was fortunately filmed as part of director Murray Lerner's documentary on the entire festival. This DVD, released simultaneously with a CD of the same title, has almost the whole concert, a quite lengthy one that ran about two hours. "Almost" the whole concert, it should be noted: the songs "Midnight Lightning" and "Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)" were performed, but aren't included, though "Hey Baby (New Rising Sun)" is on the CD. Since this concert doesn't contain the best versions of the songs Hendrix was performing live at this point, the DVD is a more valuable experience than the CD. The footage of Hendrix, drummer Mitch Mitchell, and Billy Cox going through a few old favorites and some of the later material Jimi wrote gives a close-up glimpse of Hendrix's guitar mastery and on-stage presence. The film quality of this nighttime performance is good, though there are occasional thin blue lines due to technical imperfections in the negative, and the lack of sunlight prevented more than a few audience shots. The performances sometimes waver between the extended and the drawn-out, particularly on a 19-minute version of "Machine Gun"; Hendrix actually gets more animated, in a showmanship sort of way, on "Foxy Lady," one of the older songs placed in the setlist to placate audience expectations. The focus is, naturally, usually on Hendrix and his vocal and guitar work, though Mitchell is seen fairly often; Cox, in contrast, is seldom seen, and his bass is expectedly far less prominent in the sound mix than Jimi's guitar. In addition to footage of the show itself, the main feature portion of the DVD also has some scenes of the festival getting set up, and interviews with Mitchell, Cox, and others. There are several worthwhile extra features too, including an interview with director Murray Lerner, and four songs presented in the Multiple Camera Picture in Picture format. These allow viewers to see "Spanish Castle Magic," "Red House," "Foxy Lady," and half of "Machine Gun" in a format that overlays a full-screen picture with one or (more frequently) two insets that let you see three or two simultaneous camera angles; all four of those songs are also included in a standard single full-screen format in the main feature portion of the DVD. Less essential, though of some interest, are a few artifacts and memorabilia, including festival posters, tickets, and Hendrix's handwritten directions to the site of the festival; there are also informative liner notes in the booklet.

Elvis Presley, Elvis, The Great Performances, Vol. 2: The Man and His Music (Rhino). The second volume of this three-part DVD series of vintage Elvis Presley footage is lighter on his 1956-57 TV appearances than the other three installments. Those are the rarest and most exciting early Elvis clips, and for that reason, this volume rates as slightly inferior to its companion discs. There's still plenty to enjoy in these 14 songs and 55 minutes, though, linked by bits of still photographs and documentary footage, with longtime Presley friend George Klein handling the voiceover narration. (It's interesting to see Elvis asked for an opinion about war protesters in a brief 1972 press conference excerpt; naturally, he demurs.) For one thing, there are three vintage live 1956-57 TV appearances, all of them exciting. These include a medley of "Shake, Rattle and Roll"/"Flip, Flop and Fly," from January 28, 1956, when he had yet to become a national star; an exciting "Blue Suede Shoes" from April 1956, filmed aboard a naval ship in San Diego; and a "from the waist up" rendition of "Don't Be Cruel" on The Ed Sullivan Show in January 1957 (as well as Sullivan's emphatic speech to the audience about what a nice young man Presley is). Most of the rest of the clips from the late 1950s and early 1960s come from his movies, and while that might disappoint viewers as they're neither live nor that rare, some good scenes are picked, like "Mean Women Blues" from Loving You and "Return to Sender" from Girls, Girls, Girls. There's also one song from his 1960 Welcome Home Elvis TV special. Less interestingly, there are a couple from his 1973 Elvis: Aloha from Hawaiispecial; a 1972 "Always on My Mind" from Elvis on Tour; and, to finish it off, "If I Can Dream" from his 1968 comeback TV special. The only DVD extra of note is a trivia track that can be turned on or off. This flashes factoids, both about Elvis and with some pretty superfluous (occasionally even silly) notes related to the lyrics and settings of the performances, in subtitle print at the bottom of the screen once in a while.

Elvis Presley, Elvis, The Great Performances, Vol. 3: From the Waist Up (Rhino). The third volume of this three-part DVD series of vintage Elvis Presley footage focuses almost exclusively on clips from his 1956-57 TV performances. Those clips qualify as the most exciting live footage of Presley's entire career, so this 51-minute disc is naturally both a pleasure to watch and historically valuable, despite some minor imperfections. There's not much to carp about when watching the clips themselves, all of them live, encompassing such classics as "Hound Dog," "Too Much," "Don't Be Cruel," and "Baby, Let's Play House," as well as lesser-known goodies like "Ready Teddy," "When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again," and "Love Me." Bono of U2 does the voiceover, which occasionally (though quite infrequently), unfortunately, goes over the clips. Most of the voiceover, however, is restricted to the additional footage and still photos that link the TV performances. Some of that additional footage, it should be noted, is quite interesting in itself, presenting silent mid-1950s movies of Elvis on stage, including 1955 shows in Texas predating his television debut. Also a brief clip of Bo Diddley doing "Bo Diddley" on The Ed Sullivan Show in the mid-1950s finds its way into the program, which isn't objectionable at all, since it's an exciting snippet and since Diddley was influential on Presley. As for the most amusing moment, that would have to be the first pass into the bridge on "Love Me," where Presley oh-so-briefly forgets the words and stumbles. Despite the title "From the Waist Up," by the way, most of this has Elvis in full-body gyration camera angles, though by the time of his final Ed Sullivan appearance in 1957 (four of whose songs are here), he was being filmed from the waist up. Note that footage from three of the songs on this DVD also appears on the previous two volumes in this series, though the overlap's not so huge as to be egregious.

The Sallyangie, Children of the Sun [expanded edition] (Sanctuary). The Sallyangie's Children of the Sun album has its charm, but it wouldn't be nearly as interesting to collectors as it is had it not marked the first appearance on record of Mike Oldfield and Sally Oldfield. Even by the standards of the late 1960s, it's fey, naive British folk with touches of pop, in Ray Warleigh's flute, Terry Cox's percussion, and David Palmer's arrangements. A fairytale ambience suffused the Oldfields' original songs, on which Sally Oldfield's high, trilling vocals overshadow brother Mike's guitar playing and less prominent singing. The 2002 CD reissue on Sanctuary expands the material into a two-disc set, with disc one a straight reissue of the Children of the Sun album, though it includes two songs ("Twilight Song" and "Song of the Harbor") that didn't make it onto the original US LP. The second CD reaches to the dustiest corners of the vault to fill up a disc, with three Mike Oldfield solo guitar improvisations. These are mostly instrumental, except for some very brief and frankly very annoying nursery rhyme chants from Mike, and although the acoustic folk guitar work on these is good (in the mold of John Renbourn), they sound more like sketches or works in progress than completed ideas. There are also a couple of tunes, "Color of the World" and "Two Ships," credited as Sally Oldfield 1970 solo tracks, though discographies have listed these as comprising a 1969 non-LP Sallyangie single. In any case, they're far more orchestrated pop-folk productions than anything on the proper Children of the Sun album, pleasant but twee, sounding like a conscious effort to emulate some of Marianne Faithfull's 1960s work. Rounding out the bonus tracks is a version of "Children of the Sun" "minus intro." The liner notes, sadly, don't shed any details about the bonus tracks, though they do include some comments by Sally Oldfield on this seldom-documented band.

Dusty Springfield, Heart & Soul(Varese Sarabande). Is this a valuable release for Dusty Springfield completists? Certainly; none of the 18 songs are too easy to find elsewhere, with seven of them never having appeared in the US before this CD, and eight of them previously unreleased anywhere. Do they comprise a musically strong and pleasurable release? Overall, no, even by the standards of rare Dusty Springfield material. In a reversal of the way such anthologies usually work, it leads off with the seven least interesting items, all culled from soundtracks and obscure singles and/or duets from the 1980s and 1990s. Although Springfield's voice is okay or better on these, in truth the material and arrangements -- usually leaning very heavily toward MOR and adult contemporary music -- are not only poor and bland, but ill-suited toward Dusty's style. Much better are the ten songs from live television performances from 1968-73, even if it's unfortunate the exact sources of these aren't given (though the year of recording is noted for all of these tracks). Among these are a few hits ("Son of a Preacher Man," "A Brand New Me," "The Look of Love") and, more intriguingly, some songs she never released in studio versions. Those include a musically uninteresting medley of Seekers hits written by her brother Tom Springfield; covers of "Up on the Roof" and "People Get Ready"; and a good rendition of "Won't Be Long" from 1971, though she had done that on a 1966 LP. The sound on these TV clips is okay, and the arrangements adequate but sometimes not too inspired; it's hard to tell, but it seems that sometimes she might be singing to a recorded backing track rather than live accompaniment. As a worthwhile bonus, there's an unlisted bonus track of her 1967 radio ad for Great Shakes milkshakes.

Various Artists, Better Than the Beatles (Knight). Almost certainly an unauthorized collection, this 27-track CD gathers more than two dozen novelties cut in the immediate aftermath of the Beatles' conquest of America. These are for the most part novelties exploiting the explosion of Beatlemania, it's important to point out, not imitations. You can tell as much from some of the titles and group names: "We're the Weavils" by the Weavils, "Buggs vs. Beatles" by the Buggs, "The Beatle-Bomb" by the Exterminators, "The Guy with the Liverpool Hair" by the Outsiders, "Ringo Boy" by Dorie Peyton, "I Want to Be a Beatle" by Bobby Wilding, and so forth. Like much novelty exploitation, it's not great music, but it has definite historical/curiosity/pop cultural value as a sampler of a fringe side effect of Beatlemania. If you were to take this with unwarranted sociological seriousness, many of the songs seem not so much a celebration of the Beatles as a reaction to a threat, with the group far more a target of satire than adulation. There's an irony, too, that in these takeoffs on and jabs at the Fab Four, the music itself is either in the early-'60s frat-rock/surf/twist mode that the British Invasion would soon make obsolete, or pretty dire attempts to emulate Merseybeat, or some sort of combination of the two.

Nonetheless, there's some good fun to be had, even with the bad cuts, and it certainly gives college radio DJs good light (and obscure) fodder for the playlist. Some of the cuts are even modestly enjoyable on musical merits. The Outsiders' "The Guy with the Long Liverpool Hair" (apparently not by the Outsiders famous for "Time Won't Let Me") is fairly good hard-driving faux tough Merseybeat. So is Tony Rivers & the Castaways' "I Love You," which actually has no direct Beatles references in the lyrics, was by a real British group, and was apparently chosen simply because it sounds like the early Beatles (and also isn't that rare, a much better-fidelity version appearing on the legitimate RPM release The Tony Rivers Collection Vol. 1: "Castaways"). There are some girl groups here too, like the Beatle-ettes' doing "Only Seventeen," which sounds like a weird hybrid of Merseybeat and Lesley Gore's "She's a Fool," and the Swans' with "The Boy with the Beatle Hair," which has the dippy circa-1963 girl group sound of acts like the Murmaids (of "Popsicles and Icicles" fame). There are even some musicians who achieved fame, like Gene Cornish & the Unbeetables, led by the future member of the Rascals (though the two songs here aren't good); Ernie Maresca, who had a big 1962 hit with "Shout Shout (Knock Yourself Out)," and whose "The Beetle Dance" is pretty crummy; and Gary Usher, famed as a songwriter/producer who worked with the Byrds and the Beach Boys, and whose flop single "The Beetle" is on this CD.

This doesn't contain every Beatle novelty by any means. Conspicuous by its absence is "Ringo, I Love You" by Bonnie Jo Mason, an early pseudonym for Cher, which is actually pretty gutsy and one of the best Beatles novelties, and ex-Crickets Sonny Curtis's "A Beatle I Want to Be." Also missing is the only Beatle novelty to make the Top Forty, the Carefrees' "We Love You Beatles, Oh Yes We Do," although a snatch of it's heard on the annoying, unnecessary "bonus track." Indeed, there probably would have been enough for a two-CD set; perhaps more were being saved for a second volume. It would have been nice if there was even a shred of documentation: there are absolutely no liner notes or original release labels and dates, though some of the labels of the original 45s are reproduced in the booklet.

Various Artists, Ed Sullivan's Rock'n'Roll Classics Boxed Set DVD (Rhino). Prior to going off the air in the early 1970s, The Ed Sullivan Show often gave rock musicians some of their greatest media exposure. This mammoth nine-volume DVD box set (also available in VHS) has nearly 150 rock'n'roll clips from the program, spanning the mid-1950s to the early 1970s, though the substantial majority of these are from 1964-70. There's much to praise about this package simply due to the sheer bulk of vintage footage of numerous rock'n'roll greats, including (and this is just a partial list) Elvis Presley, the Beatles (whose 1964 appearances, perhaps the most famous rock television appearances ever, are heavily excerpted), the Rolling Stones, the Supremes, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Beach Boys, the Jackson 5, the Temptations, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, James Brown, Jackie Wilson, the Doors, the Jefferson Airplane, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin, Sly & the Family Stone, the Mamas & the Papas, and Buddy Holly. The discs (about an hour each in length), too, are broken up thematically if you're in the mood for certain sub-genres, with divisions for the British Invasion, Motown, '60s Rock, Love Songs, and other styles (including a whole disc devoted to the Temptations & the Supremes). The majority of it's in color, although there are a good number of pre-1965 black and white items.

There are some great clips here, like the Beatles' February 1964 live American television debut; Elvis Presley doing "Hound Dog," and not solely from the waist up (though some "waist up" clips are here too); James Brown dancing like a fiend on "Prisoner of Love" and a "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag"/"I Feel Good" medley; a pre-teen Michael Jackson dancing through some of his own amazing steps with the Jackson 5; Sly & the Family Stone dancing into the audience; the Temptations switching off lead vocals on "I Can't Get Next to You"; Santana coming to a boil on "Persuasion"; the Doors doing "Light My Fire"; Bo Diddley shaking through "Bo Diddley" in 1955, in one of the first nationally televised appearances of an out-and-out rock'n'roller; and Buddy Holly doing "That'll Be the Day" and "Peggy Sue" on some of the only TV he did before his death.  There's some more middle-of-the-road pop-rock that's not nearly as exciting, like Tom Jones, Gary Puckett & the Union Gap, Oliver, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Carpenters, B.J. Thomas, Petula Clark, and Paul Anka. But even those clips have their interest for both archival value and entertainment pleasure, not to mention some frightfully corny sets and early video tricks, like superimpositions of romantic scenes and psychedelic effects. It's also cool to see the occasional non-megastar song, like the Searchers' "Needles and Pins," Lulu's "To Sir With Love," and Jay & the Techniques' "Keep the Ball Rolling." You can also gauge the changing mood of the times by the camera work and set design; while most of the clips prior to the mid-1960s are just straightforward shots of the musicians and the stage, from 1965 onward they get increasingly gaudy, sometimes using specially created scenarios and special visual effects (particularly for the psychedelic numbers).

All those good things notwithstanding, there are some surprising shortcomings to the set that make it less of an ideal viewing experience than it could have been. Most importantly, there's exuberant-to-the-point-of-aggressive, and not extremely enlightening, narration by Jay Thomas between the clips. Also, different parts of the program are prefaced and linked by an annoying pseudo-'60s instrumental jingle that you'll be sick to death of hearing after the 50 or so times it plays over the course of the nine volumes. There are super-brief interview excerpts with musicians (and some of their colleagues) from time to time that add very little. Beyond the formatting, some might be surprised to find how many of the songs were lip-synced rather than played live, whether in whole or sung live to a backing track. It's not just the more lightweight groups or non-instrument-playing soul singers that do this; even the Rolling Stones used backing tracks. It's also disappointing to find that many of the songs were truncated into shorter versions, presumably necessitated by time restrictions when these needed to be fit into the original live broadcasts. What's worse, there seems to have been some editing done to the clips that were originally broadcast to compress them into a shorter running time in this reissued DVD/VHS format. This is particularly evident at times during the Beatles' 1964 songs, with "All My Loving" missing its second verse, for instance. Finally, a few clips are duplicated in different volumes (and once, in the case of the Jefferson Airplane's "Crown of Creation," actually duplicated within one volume), although that occurs seldom enough to be a major irritant.

As for special DVD features, there are few. The trivia track, which displays trivia in yellow subtitles as the footage plays, is fortunately optional, as the information bites range from reasonably interesting and informative to (more often) mundane and even inane. The selected discographies are virtually useless; you'll find far more depth in that regard in a number of standard rock reference books and on-line sources. There's just a bit of bonus footage in volume nine, which has a fairly interesting interview with one of The Ed Sullivan Show's directors, John Moffit, and the only in-camera interview of Sullivan that still exists, filmed in 1958 (and also including his wife Sylvia Sullivan). Overall, mind you, it's still a tremendous bounty of visual rock'n'roll history, and entertaining in what matters most, the footage itself, which does take up the overwhelming portion of the discs. Note that just two of the nine volumes in the box, volume one (with an assortment of hitmaking acts from 1965-67) and volume two (with another assortment of hitmmaking artists, from 1968-70), are available separately.

Various Artists, Living in the Streets 3: Busting Out of the Ghetto (BGP). The third volume of this unusual but very worthwhile series shows no signs of running out of steam in its excavation of obscure oddball goodies of the stranger manifestations of R&B in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and occasionally a bit later (one track on here's from 1979). The term R&B must be used, rather than Black music, since actually most but not all of the performers are Black: one of the better tracks, the Generation's storming funk-rock "I'm a Good Woman," features lead vocals by a pre-Cold Blood Lydia Pense. But there's a lot of prime soul, funk, and jazz from the era, usually in collision with and feeding off each other (and sometimes borrowing from psychedelic rock), reflecting a wild era in which boundaries were falling all over the place. Most of the cuts are very good, and very few of the performers will be known to anyone but collectors, save the Fatback Band, jazzmen Charles McPherson (as accompanist to singer Pat Bowie) and Gary Bartz, and perhaps eccentric soul veteran King Hannibal aka the Mighty Hannibal. But some highlights to listen out for include a rare 1969 socially conscious funk B-side by Johnny King & the Fatback Band; the Mighty Tom Cats' 1973 cover of Manu Dibango's "Soul Makossa"; Tanya Winley's 1979 recording "Vicious Rap," regarded by some as one of the very first rap records, though its musical backing still owes a lot to funk; Jade's "Viva! (Viva Tirado)," a vocal version of the El Chicano hit; Gary Bartz's "I've Known Rivers," inspired by a Langston Hughes poem; Lorez Alexandria's 1968 torch-soul single "I'm Wishin'"; and Pat Bowie's "Feeling Good," a magnificently contained interpretation of this classic standard, and the earliest cut here, dating from 1965. Certainly this isn't the most stylistically consistent anthology out there, but that's not an issue when the music is this good, and the presentation and annotation so expert.

Various Artists, Peculiar Hole in the Sky (Big Beat). The Australian pop-psychedelia scene of the late 1960s was more akin to the British pop-psych scene than the American one, though it borrowed from both of those cousins. Really, however, it wasn't as distinctive as either, nor did it have many tunes to rate on par with the best of those from the UK or US. Nonetheless, this 27-track anthology of Oz pop-psych from 1967-70 does cover a scene that's rarely been noted by rock collectors or historians, particularly outside of Australia. Licensed from the Festival label (with the exception of a couple of tracks from Clarion Records), there aren't any names that will strike instant chords with the international pop connoisseur, though some of the writers and performers found wide fame in other contexts. Foremost among those is Bon Scott, who prior to joining AC/DC sang on the Valentines' "Peculiar Hole in the Sky," which in turn was written by Harry Vanda and George Young of the Easybeats (who released their own version shortly afterward). Vanda-Young also wrote R. Black & the Rockin' V's' "Walking & Talking," never recorded by the Easybeats, though that song's just okay. Other noted writers are behind some of the better tracks. Mick Bower of the Masters Apprentices, one of the greatest Australian rock bands, wrote the Bucket's very Cream-styled "I Can't Help Thinking of You." Graham Gouldman penned his usually classy pop on Normie Rowe's "Going Home," produced by legendary British impresario Giorgio Gomelsky. Barry Gibb authored Jon's anxious "Upstairs, Downstairs," which sounds much like the Bee Gees' own circa-1966 recordings. Overall, though, the songs tend toward the ordinary-with-a-touch-of-weirdness in material, sometimes with lingering British Invasion, mod rock, and sunshine pop influences. Once in a while a cut does jump out as worthy of attention, like the Executives' dreamy yet disquieting "Moving in a Circle," with its eerie organ and wispy vocal by Carole King (not that Carole King!).



Buffalo Springfield, Sell Out (Aurora Borealis, bootleg). There just isn't much high-grade unreleased Buffalo Springfield material that didn't make it onto their 2001 box set, but this CD gamely assembles some of the more notable scraps that haven't made it onto wide availability. Just two of these 16 tracks saw official release. One's the nine-minute version of "Bluebird" that opens the disc, which was on the 1973 double-LP Buffalo Springfield anthology; the other's a 45 mix of "Mr. Soul." Of the handful of other studio items here, by far the most notable is the 1967 outtake "Sell Out," a hard-rocking Neil Young tune that, while reflective of his generally anxious and jumpy style of songwriting from the time, isn't up to the level of the Young compositions that made it onto Buffalo Springfield's LPs. In addition, there's a 1965 Young solo demo of "Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing," from his 1965 solo session for Elektra that has long been circulating on bootleg; the minute-and-a-half version of the psychedelic instrumental "Raga," which has again long been making the rounds on bootleg; and an "extended version w/Neil Young overdubs" of "Bluebird," though this poor-sounding acetate lasts just half a minute longer than the relatively well-known nine-minute version from the Buffalo Springfield anthology, and whatever Young overdubs are present are superfluous. Most of the disc, however, is given over to live material, mostly from either a live 1967 show at Huntington Beach or a 1968 one from Dallas (the location of one live version of "For What It's Worth" isn't given). The recording quality of all of these is imperfect but listenable, though the liner notes say that the Huntington Beach and Dallas songs are taken from an "upgraded source." The band do perform pretty well on these, though they're more prone to improv indulgence, particularly in the guitar soloing, than the studio versions, and the vocals can be more ragged. Still, where else are you going to hear live versions of "Bluebird," "For What It's Worth," "Rock and Roll Woman," "Go and Say Goodbye," "Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing," "Uno Mundo," and "A Child's Claim to Fame"? Accepting the fact that there don't seem to be any good-quality live Springfield recordings in existence, it's a good supplement for major fans of the band, though not something that less devoted listeners are likely to enjoy too much.

Canned Heat, Don't Forget to Boogie: Vintage Heat (Varese Sarabande). This is actually a CD repackage of the 1966 recordings that appeared back in 1970 on the Janus LP Vintage Canned Heat. Produced by Johnny Otis, this was the group in its early formative stage, with the lineup that would play on their official 1967 debut album: Bob Hite, Alan Wilson, Henry Vestine, Larry Taylor, and Frank Cook. All but two of the songs are covers of well-worn blues staples, mostly from the classic electric Chess catalog, including "Spoonful," "Rollin' and Tumblin'," "Pretty Thing," "Got My Mojo Working," and "Louise," with John Lee Hooker's "Dimples" as well. Though more basic and tentative and than the late-1960s recordings for which they're well known, these are pretty brisk, concise performances that mark Canned Heat as one of the few enduring White American blues-rock bands of the era. Indeed, this lacks the jam-prone bombast that afflicted many of their famous releases, and even those who dismiss their familiar stuff for that reason might find themselves enjoying this. One of the two group originals, "Straight Head," sounds like they might have been trying, if just slightly, to aim a little closer to the pop market, in the manner of some of the tracks recorded around the same time by the Rising Sons (the L.A. folk-rock-blues group with Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder). It's only 24 minutes long, and one song, "Rollin' and Tumblin'," is presented twice (once with harmonica, once without), but it's a worthy archival collection.

Johnny Cash, At Madison Square Garden (Columbia/Legacy). Not released until 2002, all 26 of these songs -- adding up to a generous 77 minutes -- were recorded at Cash's successful show at Madison Square Garden in New York on December 5, 1969. Two best-selling live late-1960s Cash albums, At Folsom Prison and At San Quentin, have long been available, and it will be pretty difficult for this to dislodge those in prominence among those scouting for live material in the Cash catalog. Still, it's a good document of Cash as he reached the apex of his mainstream popularity. Also, its setting in a large, popular venue by itself guaranteed that the ambience would be somewhat different than it would be on the two aforementioned live albums, both recorded in prisons. While Cash has a full band (including Carl Perkins on electric guitar and his longtime associate Marshall Grant on bass), the sound to its credit remains spare. The sound is not amazingly top-of-the-line, but it's pretty good, and the repertoire is extremely varied, taking in oldies like "Big River," "I Still Miss Someone," "Long Black Veil," and "Folsom Prison"; his then-recent smashes "Boy Named Sue" and "Daddy Sang Bass"; the Americana and Native American advocacy of songs like "The Ballad of Ira Hayes" and "Remember the Alamo"; the spiritual "Were You There (When They Crucified My Lord"); and Ed McCurdy's anti-war folk revival tune "Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream." There are also guest star turns for Carl Perkins (who does "Blue Suede Shoes"), the Statler Brothers (who do their hit "Flowers on the Wall"), and the Carter Family, whose two songs are actually vivacious highlights of the disc, and a good change of pace from Cash's customary low chug. Between-song raps on the Vietnam War, prison, and other topics testify to Cash's ability to reach out to all stripes of his constituency, though the finale medley (and the bits near the end announcing the renewal of his TV show and explaining pregnant June Carter's absence) are a tad showbizzy.

Crystal Circus, In Relation to Our Times (Akarma). While not a major find, this collection of material -- all previously unreleased, save the two songs ("In Relation (To Our Times)" and "Merry-Go-Round") from their 1967 single -- isn't at all bad pop-psychedelia. It's rather like finding an unreleased Strawberry Alarm Clock album that might make a decent candidate for the best LP that group ever made, had it borne the Strawberry Alarm Clock billing. Indeed the Strawberry Alarm Clock influence is pervasive, especially on "In Relation (To Our Times)," but also on "Don't Say I Didn't Warn You," which sounds like the ultimate cross between the Strawberry Alarm Clock and the hardest-rocking sides by Paul Revere & the Raiders. Most of the other songs have nice bouncy tunes with major-minor melodic alternations, pleasing sunshine pop harmonies, and appropriately psychedelic organ, fuzz guitars, trippy orchestration, vocal distortion, and odd effects. The lyrics might be superficially far-out, but again, impressions like those recorded in "Circus and Zoo World" are a good complement for this kind of candy-pop-psych. Occasionally they get into more of a straightforward garage-ish hard rock-soul blend, like on "Never Again," but it's the more ethereal and poppy numbers that stand out.

Darius, Darius II (World in Sound). Darius was one of the better obscure late-1960s psychedelic singers who did only one album. So this release of 15 previously unreleased songs -- all recorded between 1967-71, though not many other details are given on this disc -- is quite welcome. The material's pretty good, too, though not as sharply refined and hard-hitting in its impact as the sole, self-titled Darius album. Darius really did have an unusual mix of flavors, leaning toward folk-rockish tunes and philosophical lyrics of tense introspection and confusion. Yet he had quite a blue-eyed soulful voice, one capable of both a hurt quaver and keening screams, and also had a good knack for romantic pop melodic hooks. Though the production quality and songwriting is uneven, all of these qualities are out in force through most of Darius II, whether it's the gutbucket soul-folk of "Don't You Get the Feelin'" (heard here in two versions), the foreboding acoustic acid-folk of "New Start," "Best Girl," and "No One Like You," or the comparatively jubilant soul-pop of "I Don't Mind" and "Summer Is Over." "44th Floor" borrows very liberally from the soul classic "I've Been Loving You Too Long," but enjoyably so, while "Beauty" is breezy downbeat jazz-soul-pop, if that doesn't sound like too many adjectives to fit into one tune. "For Now I Love You" is excellent moody late-1960s acid folk-pop, melodically similar to Three Dog Night's "Easy to Be Hard," but texturally far more similar to the bent orchestral psych-folk-rock of his friend Bobby Jameson. And the cover of Barbara Lewis's classic "Hello Stranger" is quite cool, with its imaginative, unclassifiably weird organ-synthesizer-like sounds. Only intense collectors are going to end up hearing this record, but unlike the bulk of such collections, this really is worth hearing by less specialized listeners who'd like to catch up on a significant -- and accessible -- late-'60s talent who somehow missed getting his music out in significant numbers.

Dave Davani, Fused! The Swinging Soul Sound of Dave Davani (Big Beat). This contains not only the entirety of Davani's only 1960s album, Fused!, but also a couple of 1965-66 singles and four previously unreleased outtakes from the same era. Fused! was a very respectable instrumental soul-jazz effort, with Davani's Hammond organ backed by the sort of sleek electric guitar and sturdy rhythm section one would have expected from mid-1960s Prestige soul-jazz sessions. Davani was a little (but not much) more pop-slanted than the average such Prestige act, particularly on the cover of "Big Boss Man," which with its harmonica and tambourine shows the influence of mid-1960s British R&B-rock. For the most part, however, the album presents covers of American jazz tunes by Miles Davis (an especially dynamite version of "Milestones"), Big John Patton, Cannonball Adderley ("Sack O' Woe," also covered by Manfred Mann around this time), Nat Adderley ("Jive Samba"), and Dizzy Gillespie ("The Champ"). Davani also covered "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" and James Brown's "Night Train," and penned a couple of his own tunes, including the title track, which has a tauter, more urgent beat than most of the soul-jazz done by his American counterparts. The bonus tracks are just as worthwhile, including their 1965 instrumental single cover of the "Top of the Pops" theme; the 1966 single "The Jupe"/"On the Cooler Side," which has more of a Swinging London R&B feel than most of the material from the album; a cover of Booker T. & the MG's' "Boot-Leg," intended for a 1965 single but not issued; two outtakes from Fused!; and a previously unreleased cover of Barbara George's "I Know."

The Spencer Davis Group, Time Seller Special Edition (RPM). Though named Time Seller Special Edition, this is actually something like an expanded edition of the band's first post-Stevie Winwood album, With Their New Face On. The first disc of this two-CD set consists wholly of With Their New Face On, a not-bad record that nonetheless could not come close to matching the best of what the band had recorded with Stevie Winwood in the group, no matter how much some collectors might want to put a different face on that situation. The album veered from fairly decent pop-psychedelia ("With Their New Face On" itself) and rather Traffic-sounding cuts ("Mr. Second Class") to solid blues-rock ("Don't Want You No More," covered by the Allman Brothers) and mundane filler in the same mold. This particular reissue is perhaps more notable for the second disc, a CD-ROM consisting of a 56-minute 1967 documentary film on the group, at the time when the lineup included singer-guitarist Phil Sawyer (who had left the band by the time With Their New Face On came out) and organist Eddie Hardin as replacements for Stevie Winwood and Muff Winwood. There are factors that work against the film being a major enjoyable experience, aside from needing to view the whole thing on your computer screen. Though all the dialog is in English, the commentary is in German, and not subtitled in English (though, conversely, some of the spoken dialog appears with German subtitles). The scenes in which the band are shown horsing around, doing photo sessions, and talking business are rather dull. Better is the glimpse of Davis and Sawyer working on a folky tune the band didn't record that year, "Robin Hood," and live footage (including some at The Marquee in London), largely of bluesy songs that were leftovers from the Winwood repertoire. Strangest is the scene of them recording the instrumental track to a tune that sounds much like, though not exactly like, their hit "I'm a Man"; when Phil Sawyer overdubs vocals (which are much like, but hardly exactly like, Stevie Winwood's), it turns out to be not "I'm a Man," but a "Great Shakes" soft drink commercial! Super-brief glimpses of Noel Redding and Mick Jagger are also seen in a film of archival interest that never penetrates deeply into the obvious question that hovered over the band at the time: did they have a future after the departure of Stevie Winwood?

Marianne Faithfull, Come My Way (Decca). When Marianne Faithfull released her first two albums for the UK market in the spring of 1965, she took the unusual step of issuing them simultaneously. One, simply titled Marianne Faithfull, was the pop-oriented collection that listeners of her hit singles would have expected. The other, Come My Way, by contrast was comprised solely of folk tunes, most of them traditional, the acoustic settings arranged by guitarist Jon Mark. Faithfull at this very early stage in her career still had the tremulous soprano common to many woman folk singers of the era. While her singing here is pleasant and competent, it's rather average when stacked against the emotional commitment and personality the best interpreters of such tunes brought to the material at the time. Indeed, Faithfull herself would do the same kind of repertoire, with considerably greater vocal imagination and more forceful musical backing, on her underrated third UK album, 1966's North Country Maid. Still, it's an okay record, Faithfull putting her pipes to reverent use on folk revival staples like "Portland Town," "House of the Rising Sun," "Once I Had a Sweetheart," and "Black Girl," taking on a contemporary writer with Ian Tyson's "Four Strong Winds." Her reading of "Lonesome Traveller" stands out for the propulsive backing, with hasty 12-string guitar strums and what sound like bongos. The CD reissue, available briefly in Britain in the early 1990s and then in Japan in the early 2000s, adds four bonus tracks: the 1964 B-side "Blowin' in the Wind"; "Et Maintenant," from a 1965 EP; the poppy and bluesy 1966 B-side "That's Right Baby"; and her classic 1969 single "Sister Morphine," which predated the Rolling Stones' version by a couple of years.

Lonnie Mack, Still on the Move (Ace). Still on the Move is a somewhat revised and expanded version of the 1992 Ace CD compilation Lonnie on the Move, which was itself a slightly revised reissue of a mid-1970s double-LP compilation album of 1960s Fraternity recordings. It's "somewhat revised" because it actually eliminates two tracks from Lonnie on the Move, "Soul Express" and "Jam and Butter." That's both because those are actually different titles for the same recording, and because that recording appears under its proper name, "The Freeze," on another Mack anthology on Ace, Memphis Wham. Still on the Move also adds a bunch of tracks that haven't been included on reissue comps before, among them sides from rare mid-1960s Fraternity singles and five previously unreleased alternate takes. What appeared where previously is a complicated enough exercise to make you wish, actually, that you didn't even know about those other compilations. What's important is that, when it's combined with the other two Mack Ace CD anthologies From Nashville to Memphis and Memphis Wham!, you have all the 1960s Mack Fraternity recordings you could possibly want. What's more important is that this is very good rock-R&B-country-soul, not quite as good as his best 1960s Fraternity stuff (as heard on the Memphis Wham! comp), but not far off that mark. His idiosyncratic vibrato guitar is consistently excellent, and the material (whether instrumental or vocal) is frankly much more varied and interesting than those of many other artists from the time who were working the same territory. "Wildwood Flower" sounds like a more even-tempered Link Wray; "Snow on the Mountain" is a first-class overlooked blue-eyed soul cooker from 1967; and the overdone "Money" gets a very cool minor-keyed interpretation. His singing is good enough to make you wish that he'd sung more often, and indeed some cuts, like "I Found a Love," sound suspiciously like they were meant to have lead vocals but never got overdubbed with them, as they have full backup vocal choruses. On the other hand, instrumental workouts like "Stand By Me" bring a fresh interpretation to such standards that wouldn't have been possible if they'd included vocals.

The Merseybeats, I Think of You (Bear Family). All 31 songs the Merseybeats ever recorded manage to fit on this single-CD compilation. That includes the A-sides and B-sides of all eight of their 1963-65 singles; all of the tracks from their sole album that weren't on 45s; the songs from their 1964 EP On Stage, none of which made it onto any other format at the time; and even German versions of "I Think of You" and "It's Love That Really Counts." That doesn't leave much to complain about. Nonetheless, it has to be said that if you have their Edsel best-of Beat & Ballads, which concentrates on their best singles, you're not missing much, even if it's only half the length. Of the cuts here that aren't on Beat & Ballads, few are memorable, largely encompassing some mediocre group-penned B-sides and drab covers, some of inappropriately pop-oriented tunes. Among this material, really, the only song that's up to the standards of what was selected for Beat & Ballads is a lively rockabilly arrangement of Rodgers-Hammerstein's "Hello, Young Lovers." And the liner notes aren't as good as those for Beat & Ballads, though they do have some comments by Merseybeat-for-a-time John Gustafson. Still...this does have everything, at no more expense than you'll likely incur from a used copy of Beat & Ballads. And much of the best stuff, like "Don't Turn Around," "Milkman," "Don't Let It Happen to Us," "I Stand Accused," and "It's Love That Really Counts," rates among the better unknown (in the US, anyway) Merseybeat, with "Last Night" counting as one of the best obscure early British Invasion pop-rockers.

Duffy Power, Leapers and Sleepers (RPM). For such a significant cult artist, Power's 1960s recordings have been fairly poorly documented and distributed, with the best known of them actually being mid-1960s demos that didn't come out until the early-'70s release Innovations. This two-CD, 34-song set does a magnificent job of filling in the major gap in the Power catalog by collecting both sides of all six of his rare 1962-1967 Parlophone singles in one place, as well as adding no less than a dozen previously unreleased outtakes. That's not all: there are also both sides of his rare US-only 1965 single (credited to Jamie Power), and eight 1965-67 Marquis Music session demos that were only previously available on the 1995 anthology Just Stay Blue. What's more important than the quite impressive lengths this compilation went to for assembling rare material, though, is the high quality of the music. There were few other singers exploring the eclectic tributary Power navigated in the 1960s, combining shades of blues, folk, jazz, rock, and pop in varying mixtures that never sounded forced, with vocals that could shift from croon to raunch. Power was an astute interpreter of material ranging from the Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There" (just the second Beatles cover ever, incidentally; both the rare single and a previously unreleased alternate version are here) and George Gershwin's "It Ain't Necessarily So" to Goffin-King's pop-soul classic "Hey Girl" and Mose Allison's "Parchman Farm." Power also wrote some fine original material that was consistent with the vibes of the outside material he favored. He also used some great backup musicians, most notably the Graham Bond Quartet (with a pre-Cream Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker), who are heard on "I Saw Her Standing There" and several other songs, including Bond's own composition "Farewell Baby." A young John McLaughlin is heard on several other tracks. There's quite a lot to dig into here, some of the highlights including the lean blues-rock of "I'm So Glad You're Mine"; the unexpectedly fruity orchestral baroque pop production of his 1967 single (an outtake from that time in the same vein, "Take It Smoothly," is actually better than the tunes that ended up on the 45); the moody teen idol pop of the previously unissued 1962 outtake "Cupid's Bow" and the 1964 single "Where Am I"; and the bopping jazz-R&B of his self-penned 1962 B-side "If I Get Lucky Someday." Some of the previously unissued covers of familiar rock-R&B standards are only average, but that's a minor strike against a very pleasing, well-packaged set, complete with super-detailed liner notes that include many comments from Power himself.

John Renbourn, Another Monday(Castle/Sanctuary). Renbourn's second album was very much in character with many of the records he would release throughout the rest of his career, the only difference being that his approach here was perhaps somewhat more tentative. The guitar playing is not tentative; it's excellent folk-blues, virtuosic but full of heart and imagination, and open to other influences from jazz and world music, though not as much so as he would be in many subsequent efforts. The vocals (when he takes them; some tracks are instrumental) are more perfunctory, but they don't detract from the performances. His inclination toward Early Music is evident on "Ladye Nothinge's Toye Puffe" and "One for William," the latter of which also features oboe. More typically, though, he drifted into the blues idiom, one of the standouts being his interpretation of the oft-covered "I Know My Babe" (more frequently titled "I Know My Rider" when recorded by other artists) and his bottleneck playing on "Nobody's Fault But Mine." For Pentangle fans, the album's especially interesting for the recording debut of Jacqui McShee as accompanying vocalist on three numbers, although her singing is far more subordinate and less assertive than it would be in Pentangle. The album's biggest flaw, actually, is its short running time of a mere 28 minutes, with seven of the 12 pieces clocking in under the two-minute barrier. The 2002 CD reissue on Castle/Sanctuary adds lengthy historical liner notes by Colin Harper.

The Spike-Drivers, 60s Folkrocking Psychedelia from the Motor City (RD Records). This collection of 15 previously unreleased recordings from 1965-68 doesn't include their rare Reprise singles, though it does have different versions of three songs from those 45s ("High Time," "Baby Won't You Let Me Tell You How I Lost My Mind," and "Strange Mysterious Sounds"). A little better documentation about exactly when and where this stuff was cut, in fact, would have been quite useful if it's known, though the 16-page booklet has otherwise very detailed liner notes from lead guitarist Sid Brown. It's more psychedelic than folk-rock, sounding quite a bit like an early San Francisco band might, though they were from Detroit. At times there's a resemblance to the Great Society, particularly in the minor-keyed tunes and improvisational-raga influences, though that group (Grace Slick's pre-Jefferson Airplane outfit) had considerably better songs, melodies, and vocal/instrumental personality. The Spike-Drivers are not a major find as far as obscure early psych bands go, but all those negatives out of the way, there's some fairly cool stuff here, if on the charmingly naive side. "Strange, Mysterious Sounds" is a little like a collision between doomstruck raga rock and Mamas & the Papas harmonies, and "Portland Town" is a haunting drawn-out acid-folk cover of the traditional folk song. Other tracks, like "Got the Goods on You" and "Baby, Can I Wear Your Clothes?," mine a much lighter tone lyrically and musically, with their offbeat mixtures of British Invasion, folk-rock, and bohemian lyricism. Some of the tracks do get into grating (and sometimes sub-standardly recorded) noisy psychedelic improvisation without much of a compositional backbone, though. And as singers they're far below the level of a Jefferson Airplane, though like the Airplane they were a mostly male group with one female singer (Marycarol Brown, who takes lead vocals rather infrequently).

T.C. Atlantic, The Best of T.C. Atlantic (Bacchus Archives). This focuses entirely on the band's studio output, including nothing from their rare 1967 album Recorded Live at the Bel Rae Ballroom. With the exception of their mesmerizing 1966 single "Faces," one of the finest obscure psychedelic records with its entwining fuzz-raga guitars, the band didn't produce anything of enduring magnificence, though their early singles weren't bad. It's that handful of 1965-66 singles that lead off the CD and are by far its most interesting selections, including "Faces"; the Zombies-like "I Love You So Little Girl"; the strange Merseybeatish pop of "Once Upon a Melody"; a surprisingly good cover of Bo Diddley's "Mona" with "I Want Candy"-like drum; and a raucous, brief cover of "Baby Please Don't Go." After that, unfortunately, they became a pretty anonymous if competent late-1960s group with far greater hard rock and soul influences, though "I'm So Glad" wasn't bad pseudo-Merseybeat and "(20 Years Ago) In Speedy's Kitchen" typical baroque psych-pop. Not as typical, and not very good, were the novelty single "O-Rang-A-Tang" and a re-recording of "Faces" with strings and wah-wah guitar (issued on a late-1960s single) that was far inferior to the original version. The discographical documentation in the otherwise good liner notes is indefinite, but for whatever reason, a few songs that came out on 45s are missing, like their 1966 single "Shake"/"Spanish Harlem"; also a few songs that were not released at the time, apparently recorded in the late 1960s, are included.

The Velvet Underground, The Velvet Underground & Nico [Deluxe Edition](Polydor). The "deluxe edition" of the Velvet Underground's classic debut album is somewhat disappointing in that it fails to offer any previously unreleased material, even as it expands its length from one to two CDs. The key bonus is the inclusion of both the stereo and mono versions of the album, which fill up most of disc one and disc two respectively. To fill out the program, disc one also includes the five songs from Nico's first album, 1967's Chelsea Girl, in which Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, and Nico were involved in the songwriting; disc two adds the 45 single versions of "All Tomorrow's Parties," "I'll Be Your Mirror," "Sunday Morning," and "Femme Fatale." To be frank, the differences between the stereo and mono versions are not major enough to be noticed by most listeners, although hardcore collectors will probably appreciate the opportunity to pick up a mono version rather than ante up for an expensive original mono LP. The five Nico songs, though quite good, are easily available on Chelsea Girl itself. Finally, the differences between the 45 RPM single versions and album ones are real minor: "All Tomorrow's Parties" is heard in an edited version that reduces its running time by half, and "Sunday Morning" has a little bit of studio chatter at the very beginning. More significantly, "I'll Be Your Mirror" does not fade out as it does on the album, but goes on for five additional seconds, coming to a rounded ending on a guitar chord. That's about the most notable musical bonus on this package, and it's a pretty steep price to pay for two CDs worth of material (much of which many interested in the Velvet Underground will already have) just to hear that. The booklet has a reasonable overview essay and lyrics, but isn't that huge or detailed, and again offers little that intense fans of the album and band wouldn't already know. This is great music, of course, as many critics have noted, innovative in its lyrical exploration of drugs, sex, the psychology of romance, and urban decadence; musically explosive in both the assaultive avant-garde construction of its louder numbers and the magnificent melodies of its ballads; and filled with great songs like "I'll Be Your Mirror," "All Tomorrow's Parties," "Venus in Furs," "Femme Fatale," and "The Black Angel's Death Song" (not to mention the Nico solo tunes of an only slightly lower caliber, like "Chelsea Girls" and "It Was a Pleasure Then"). But it's not something that you really need if you already own The Velvet Underground & Nico, unless you're a truly major devotee. By the way, like the original LP this has a peelable banana on the cover, though the packaging (with the track listing on a plastic case) is set up so that you'll probably end up peeling it whether you want to or not when you slide the album in and out of the case.

The Who, My Generation [Deluxe Edition](MCA). As many Who fans know, disputes between the Who and producer Shel Talmy held back the release of a CD version of My Generation taken from the best available original sources for quite some time. Eventually the dispute was resolved, and 2002 saw the release of this deluxe edition of this classic album, expanded into a two-CD work with the addition of no less than 17 extra tracks. So is it time to celebrate and finally throw away that scratchy old My Generation LP, whichever version of that you have? Unfortunately, not quite.

Pluses first: the sound, remixed in stereo by Talmy, is very good indeed, very clear and punchy without sacrificing the enormous power the band brought to the sessions, sometimes revealing parts with a clarity never before heard. This also, finally, adds some seminal non-LP tracks also recorded in 1965 (most notably their debut single "I Can't Explain"), as well as a bunch of R&B cover outtakes that previously surfaced on the 1980s comps Who's Missing and Two's Missing. There are also slightly longer versions of a few tracks; an instrumental track for "My Generation" and an "a cappella version" of "Anytime You Want Me"; and one (1) genuine previously unheard song, "Instant Party Mixture," a weird and not good takeoff on Dion's "Runaround Sue" that was recorded in early 1966 as a possible B-side.

So what's to carp about? Well, some overdubs used in the original version of the LP have been lost, and their loss is not just something that audiophiles or unhealthily completist record collectors will notice. Specifically, on "My Generation," Pete Townshend's guitar is virtually missing from the instrumental break, and the group's backup vocals at the song's climax are likewise mostly gone missing. Other little omissions crop up too, and though this compilation makes up for that a bit with "monaural versions with guitar overdubs" of "My Generation" and "A Legal Matter," it's no small loss. Also, unbelievably, although "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere" is here (and misspelled on the cover), it's an alternate version with different vocals from a French EP. It's fine to include that, but the classic single version itself, a tremendously exciting and important record, isn't present at all, and no one could reasonably claim there shouldn't have been room made for both. Too, the version of "Leaving Here" is an alternate, and while that's fine to have as a marginally interesting addition, the version that first showed up on Who's Missing is, um, missing.

These shortcomings are not unimportant. If a group and label is going to bill something as the ultimate package of classic album-plus-bonus tracks, it should have everything you want to hear. This deluxe edition doesn't. It doesn't, of course, mean that it doesn't contain much great music, particularly the My Generation album itself, a tour de force of British mod music maturing from R&B raveups into melodic power pop with riveting instrumental and lyrical hooks. Good also it is to hear the nice early R&B cover B-sides "Daddy Rolling Stone" and "Anytime You Want Me," and while the R&B-oriented outtakes of Motown songs like "(Love Is Like a) Heat Wave" aren't so good, as historical documentation they're important. The sessions are also documented nicely in a booklet of liner notes. But no doubt we'll have to wait for the SACD or DVD or some such configuration to correct some of these flaws and separate us from more of our hard-earned cash.

The Wildweeds, No Good to Cry: The Best of the Wildweeds (Confidential). Although this doesn't get into the group's later, brief stint as a country-rock band on Vanguard Records, this truly is the best of the Wildweeds, focusing on their best and earliest output. Both sides of all four of their 1967-68 singles are here, along with ten previously unreleased tracks (one of them a stereo version of their debut single "No Good to Cry," another an instrumental version of the same tune). There was another, odd Wildweeds collection back in the late 1980s, but this is superior, as the sound (remastered from the original tapes) is better, and the liner notes tell the full history of the band, with quotes from most of the members, including Al Anderson. The music itself is uneven, but it's an interesting and usually good meld of soul-rock with some garage, pop, and psychedelic touches. The Rascals are an unavoidable reference point, though the Wildweeds were indubitably rawer, though their original material wasn't in the Rascals' class. They're also separated from Rascals comparison by the distinctive upper-range, almost strangled blue-eyed soul vocals of Anderson. No other song is quite as good as their biggest regional hit, "No Good to Cry," though actually one of the outtakes, "Where Is Our Love," comes close. The rest of the unreleased material likewise comes close to the standard of the singles, perhaps with a greater pop leaning on some cuts. All of those outtakes are original songs except a cover of "I Can't Stand It," though the instrumental "Fuzzy Wuzzy" is something of a throwaway. Note that this isn't a collection of the entire Wildweeds discography: there's the entire country-rock album they did for Vanguard (reissued in Italy on CD), and also the late-1980s LP Greatest Hits...& More! has a few other stray outtakes.

Various Artists, Hot Generation!: 1960s Punk from Down Under (Big Beat). "Punk from down under" seems like more of a marketing tag than a dead-on description of the 30 mid-1960s Australian rock cuts on this compilation, all taken from the vaults of the country's Festival label. If anything, that subtitle's underselling the CD, which is plenty energetic, but also a good deal more melodic and therefore memorable than the average '60s punk (i.e. '60s garage) compilation. Australian rock of the time had closer stylistic ties to British Invasion music than '60s American garage did, so what you get here is something that's somewhat rawer and more juvenile than much of British Invasion mid-1960s mod and freakbeat sounds, yet more tuneful and professional than many US '60s garage bands. No famous acts are here, though several have large-to-modest reputations among international '60s rock collectors, including the Sunsets, the Purple Hearts, the Black Diamonds, and Steve & the Board; others, such as Normie Rowe, Tony Worsley, Johnny Young, and Ray Brown, had some substantial commercial success in their homeland, though this comp focuses on their most raucous material. Some of the sides are just okay, but others are good or close to great, like the Sunsets' surf-cum-mod "The Hot Generation"; Ray Brown & the Whispers' mesmerizing tough Merseybeatish "Go to Him"; the Black Diamonds' "See the Way," a superb piece of reverberant '60s guitar pop; Robbie Peters's giddy "She Does Everything for Me," surely one of the finest Zombies covers ever done; and Johnny Young's "Good Evening Girl," written by three of the Easybeats but never recorded by that group, although it's easily up to the standards of their better songs. Even the occasional covers of the well-known American or British rockers have original twists to offer, like Worsley's molten rendition of the Birds' "How Can It Be" and Peter Doyle's version of the Spencer Davis Group's "High Time Baby."

Various Artists, King New Breed Rhythm & Blues (Kent). This collects 24 R&B sides from the esteemed King label cut between 1956 and 1967, though the emphasis is on the brands of R&B that preceded the golden age of soul music. The aim, and very successfully realized too, was to capture the poppier side of King's R&B, often mixing together varying amounts of blues, rock, soul, and pop. Many vault compilations of labels such as King -- and Kent/Ace has been as guilty as anyone in this respect -- are genre exercises, pleasing for completist collectors, but just too homogenous to maintain interest for less specialized tastes. In contrast, King New Breed Rhythm & Blues is not just varied, but almost unerringly good-to-excellent, in large part because so many of the songs do fall a bit outside the party musical lines expected or demanded of many a blues or soul purist. For one thing, many of the songs boast minor, moody tunes that just weren't the norm in much blues or soul. If it's true that several of the songs are explicitly derivative of "Fever" (with which Little Willie John had a huge hit on King in the mid-1950s), it's also true that tons of blues songs from this era stick to a 12-bar formula, and at least this was a different formula. Yet most of these tracks don't refer to specifically to "Fever" (though Joe Tex's 1956 single "Pneumonia" certainly does), and some aren't even moody. They're just different from the norm, usually with edgy, exciting performances. Tiny Topsy's 1959 single "Just a Little Bit" is a true monster, too strange in construction to be a hit perhaps (and similar to but almost not quite the same as Rosco Gordon's "Just a Little Bit"), but brimming with sullen energy. Albert King's excellent "Had You Told It Like It Was (It Wouldn't Be Like It Is)" is downbeat soul-pop, but just as passionately performed as his more standard blues classics, and a good deal more melodic. Other big names here include Little Willie John (with one of his better singles, "I'm Shakin'"), Freddy King (who duets with Lula Reed on "It's Easy Child," covered by the Moody Blues on the B-side of their hit "Go Now"), James Brown's right-hand man Bobby Byrd, Johnny Watson, the "5" Royales (whose "Think" isn't rare, but is an R&B classic with great guitar), and Ike Turner (whose 1957 single "She Made My Blood Run Cold" is a weird Screaming Jay Hawkins-like slice of  ghoul rock). Yet some of the no-name performers (and there are a lot of them) here offer tracks of the same caliber, whether it's Mike Pedicin's "Burnt Toast and Black Coffee," Bobby King's minor-keyed "Thanks Mr. Postman" (an answer record to "Please Mr. Postman"), Mary Johnson's girl-group influenced "Hard Forgetting Memories," or the peppy, upbeat 1963 dance soul of Hannibal's "My Kinda Girl." There's got to be more stuff around from this era like this that breaks boundaries a bit, whether on King or other labels, and Kent/Ace is to be applauded for compiling R&B-soul cuts that mine grooves that have not often been covered by other reissues.

Various Artists, Love That Louie: The Louie Louie Files (Ace). The "Louie Louie" saga is about as interesting as any song's journey through the rock'n'roll folk process. Its arrangement evolved several times via several cover versions between the time author Richard Berry did the first one in 1957 and the Kingsmen had a #2 hit with it in 1963. Since then it's been covered innumerable times, of course. This disc presents no less than 15 versions of the tune, as well as three pre-Berry songs that influenced the first "Louie Louie"; four basic "Louie Louie" rewrites; and two "sequels" to "Louie Louie." That's 24 tracks in all, chronologically spanning Johnny Mercer's 1951 recording of "One for My Baby (And One More for the Road)" (a lyrical inspiration for the Berry composition) to Toots & the Maytals' 1972 reggae interpretation. The biggest coup in this rather extraordinary document is the first CD reissue of the original Richard Berry 1957 Flip recording, which had previously been license-proof. Of course the Kingsmen hit single is here as well, but the real treat is the variety of takes by other artists, some of them quite rare, most of them relatively little-heard. There are half-a-dozen 1960s versions from the Northwest, including ones by Rockin' Robin Roberts & the Wailers (the act most responsible for reviving it into a more rock-oriented arrangement), the Kingsmen, Paul Revere & the Raiders (whose 1963 single competed head-to-head with the Kingsmen but lost out nationally), and the Sonics. There are covers by 1960s stars the Beach Boys, Otis Redding, and the Kinks. There's the obscure mid-1960s garage version by the Swamp Rats, and easy listening renditions by the Sandpipers and Sounds Orchestral. There are the sequels "Have Love Will Travel" by Richard Berry and "Louie Go Home" by Paul Revere & the Raiders. There's an attempt to revive "Louie Louie" by the lead vocalist on the Kingsmen's single, on Jack Ely & the Courtmen's "Louie Louie '66." There's even Rene Touzet's 1956 cha-cha "El Loco Cha Cha," which contains a riff real similar to the principal one of "Louie Louie." Does it get too be too much, these two dozen "Louie Louie"s or spinoffs thereof one after the other? Not really; there's a good amount of variety to the arrangements, some of the versions are really good, and it's historically fascinating. No doubt some major collectors might bewail the absence of an item or two, like the young David Bowie's cover of "Louie Go Home" (as lead singer of Davie Jones & the King Bees on the B-side of his 1964 debut single) or the Epics' wild 1965 garage-soul takeoff "Louie Come Home." But this is an excellent, and fun, collection of the most important versions, and considerably superior to previous anthologies that have assemble multiple "Louie Louie" interpretations. It's also boosted by lengthy and fascinating (if eye-strainingly small) liner notes detailing each track and the song's evolution, augmented by interviews with some of the key figures on some of the most important recordings of the tune.

Various Artists, Of Hopes & Dreams & Tombstones: Beat 'n' R&B from Down Under (Big Beat). All 31 of the tracks on this anthology of mid-1960s Australian rock were licensed from Festival, the most active independent label in recording Australian rock of the era. Although its limitation to one source inevitably means it can't serve as a best-of (or one of the best-ofs) for the Australian scene as a whole, it's a good collection of material from a vibrant corner of '60s rock that's been fairly neglected by listeners not from down under. There's not a single name on here that might be known even to most reasonably knowledgeable '60s collectors, but hardcore internationalists will be familiar with some of these from Australian '60s compilations on Raven and Festival itself. Among them are some very fine artists, even if they usually didn't record much, like the Purple Hearts, Steve & the Board, the Sunsets, and Ray Brown & the Whispers. It's not easy to characterize the Australian sound of the period as a whole, but generally it would be fair to say that it blended some of the better aspects of American garage and British Invasion Mersey, mod, and R&B, with some echoes of surf, novelty, Bo Diddley, and American soul thrown in. Some of this material's ordinary (if always energetic), but there are at least a dozen standouts, though some of this has already appeared on other Australian reissues. The Sunsets' "When I Found You" is certainly an irresistible blend of British Invasion and surf sounds, while Chris Hall & the Torquays' "Don't Ask Me Why," the Five's "There's Time," and Jimmy Crockett & the Shanes' "That Lovin' Touch" (with the typically un-PC garage lyric "you've got that sweet lovin' touch, but you keep talkin' too much") is certainly as good as much of the garage rock compiled on the Nuggets box sets. The production, melodies, and variety are frankly better than they are on the average American garage comp, though the energy is of an equal level. It also helps that some of this is more quality pop-rock than it is simple garage, like Ray Brown & the Whispers' melodramatic and brooding "Too Late to Come Home," the downbeat R&B of Tony Worsley & the Blue Jays' "If You See My Baby," and Mike Furber's downright sorrowful "You're Back Again," which sounds like a particularly gloomy spin on the Merseybeats.



The Byrds, The Byrds Play Dylan (Columbia/Legacy). The Byrds' unsurpassed ability, at least most of the time, to arrange and interpret Bob Dylan songs was but one facet of their greatness. Still, it was an important facet, and this 20-track collection of Dylan covers gathers all the evidence in one place. There are 20 tracks, but that doesn't quite mean 20 Dylan songs; a number of these are represented by both a studio version and an alternate take or live performance, though fortunately the multiple readings are spaced far enough from each other to avoid undue redundancy. As far as the contents go, about half of a dozen of these cuts are undisputedly among the best Dylan covers ever, including "Mr. Tambourine Man," "All I Really Want to Do," "Chimes of Freedom," "My Back Pages," and "Spanish Harlem Incident." Most of the others are well done and satisfying at the least, though some aren't so hot, like "Lay Lady Lay" and "Just Like a Woman." It's strange that it's sequenced so that rather than leading off with their "Mr. Tambourine Man," the most important and famous recording in all of folk-rock, that cut appears sixth, but that's a small reservation. Nothing here is previously unreleased, though about half a dozen were not issued until long after they were recorded, on rarity compilations, the group's box set, and expanded CD editions of their original LPs. Those rarities, for the curious who might not have kept up with all those reissues, include an early studio version of "The Times They Are A-Changin'"; live versions of "Chimes of Freedom" and "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" from the late 1960s and early 1970s; the 1971 studio outtake "Just Like a Woman"; the 1965 studio outtake "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue"; an alternate take of "Lay Lady Lay"; and a 1990 recording of "Paths of Victory" by a reunited version of the Byrds.

Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper & the Clinch Mountain Clan, The Very Best of Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper & the Clinch Mountain Clan (Varese Sarabande). As a 19-track CD that covers the duo's most commercially successful period, this should be considered the best compilation of the Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper's work as a duo. Devoted to their Hickory material from 1956-63, it features seven Top Twenty hits: "Come Walk With Me," "Cheated Too," "Big Midnight Special," "The Wreck on the Highway," "There's a Big Wheel," "Johnny, My Love (Grandma's Diary)," and "This Ole House." That's less than half of the anthology; more importantly, it captures them in their artistic prime too, at a good midpoint between their Appalachian old-time country music and the more modern commercial Nashville sound (including some drums and electric instruments). Wilma Lee Cooper's vocals still jump out with an exuberance that mark her as one of the most emotional, expressive, and downright extroverted country singers of the time. The material selected for this comp is a real good and diverse mix, including the near gospel-boogie of the Louvin Brothers' "There's a Higher Power," Woody Guthrie's "Philadelphia Lawyer," "The Tramp on the Street" (Wilma Lee Cooper's singing reaches sublime heights of yearning on that cut), some originals from the pen of Wilma Lee Cooper, and the reworking of the folk standard "Midnight Special" into "Big Midnight Special." "Johnny, My Love (Grandma's Diary)," one of their best hits, was written by Boudleaux Bryant and Felice Bryant, the same team responsible for many early Everly Brothers classics. There's some real hot country and rockabilly picking, too, on songs like "Cheated Too," the rollicking "I Tell My Heart," and "There's a Higher Power."

Dando Shaft, An Evening With Dando Shaft (Edsel). On their first album, Dando Shaft came off as something like a more folk-oriented, yet also more hippie-oriented, Pentangle. The percussive pulse of Roger Bullen's bass in particular gave much of the material a rhythmic swing that helped it stand apart from traditional folk, as did original material based around images of nature: rain, wind, leaves, the dawn, flowers, the country, and so on. The singing and songwriting betrayed a notable debt to Bert Jansch, though with a more whimsical bent that Jansch usually allowed. Their greatest assets, certainly in terms of putting their own stamp on a sound that bore close resemblance to aspects of Pentangle (and, more distantly, the Incredible String Band), were the colors added by multi-instrumentalist Martin Jenkins's mandolin, flute, and violin. As progressive folk that was pastoral in mood and not quite folk-rock, it was pleasant but ultimately not as distinguished or interesting as their unavoidable reference point, Pentangle. The Pentangle comparisons would if anything multiply when they added a female vocalist, Polly Bolton, for their next two albums.

Neil Diamond, Play Me: The Complete Uni Studio Recordings...Plus! (MCA). Neil Diamond was a Uni artist in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the period that coincided with his greatest commercial success and most consistently popular singles. This three-CD, 74-track set is just what it says it is: every last song from all six of his 1968-72 Uni studio albums, plus seven cuts from his live Gold and Hot August Night records (also originally released on Uni). It shouldn't be taken as the total summary of Diamond's early career, as it's missing all of the hits for Bang Records that were recorded before he joined Uni (though the seven live songs do include versions of most of those big Bang hits). For all his talents as a major pop singer-songwriter, Diamond was really not a good album artist, and hearing six albums at once is going to test the limits of all but his devoted fans. If you do take the plunge, though, it's rather interesting to hear that Diamond was certainly a more eclectic stylist than he's usually given credit for, even if some of his odder ventures were rather lousy. There's some country, some near-gospel, and quite a few covers of other major singer-songwriters. Still, there's no getting around it: only the hit singles (of which there are quite a few, to be fair) really reach out and grab you. Much of the rest sounds like the AM pop of the hit singles, but not nearly as good. There are some obscure above-average songs to be heard here, like the small 1968 hit "Two-Bit Manchild," the Dion-like bluesy "Dig In," and "Coldwater Morning." But these are balanced by some real turkey goofball experimentation, like the raps on "The Pot Smoker's Song" the country satire "You're So Sweet Horseflies Keep Hangin' Round Your Face," the kiddie tune "I Am the Lion" (where it almost sounds like he's trying to dilute Arthur Brown's "I am the God of hellfire!" shtick for the little ones when he sings the title!), "Crunchy Granola Suite," and the weird art-cum-mainstream pop of "African Suite." In addition, as an interpreter of other people's songs, Diamond is not too interesting, though you'll hear plenty of that on this set, including covers of "Chelsea Morning," "Both Sides Now," Randy Newman's "I Think It's Gonna Rain Today," "Until It's Time for You to Go," "Mr. Bojangles," and "Everybody's Talkin'." Not to harp too much on the absence of Bang material, but it should also be noted that the version of "Shilo" (from his 1968 album Velvet Gloves and Spit) is not the same as the one on the hit Bang 45.

Fairport Convention, Heyday: The BBC Sessions 1968-1969/Extended (Island). In its previous edition (first released in 1987), Heyday was an important document of Fairport Convention's early days, its dozen tracks including numerous songs (mostly folk-rock covers) that they didn't put on their late-1960s albums. The 2002 edition adds to its value considerably by adding eight more tracks, all of them also taken from 1968-69 BBC recordings, and all 20 of the songs featuring the lineups (with varying personnel) in which Sandy Denny was included. The twelve songs that were also on the original release, though, remain the most interesting due to the absence of studio counterparts, but also due to their exceptional quality. The version of Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne," with Ian Matthews and Sandy Denny alternating lead vocals, is perhaps the best cover of that standard. There are also fine interpretations of songs, sometimes quite obscure, by Gene Clark, Eric Andersen, Joni Mitchell, Richard Farina, the Everly Brothers, and Bob Dylan, as well as the quite good Simon Nicol original "Shattering Live Experience." The newly added eight songs, by contrast, are mostly versions of tunes that also showed up on their official late-1960s albums, though Jackson C. Frank's "You Never Wanted Me" (which did previously appear on the Sandy Denny Who Knows Where the Time Goes box set) is an exception. Still, it's good to hear different versions of standouts like "Fotheringay," "Si Tu Dois Partir," "Autopsy," and "Tam Lin," though the arrangements aren't significantly different from the familiar studio ones. A new sleeve note by Ashley Hutchings is another good reason to pick this up. Incidentally, some other Fairport BBC cuts from the time have been bootlegged but eluded inclusion on this disc, though perhaps subpar fidelity had something to do with those decisions.

Family, Music in a Doll's House/Family Entertainment (See For Miles). This two-CD package is a little more interesting than a typical reissue combination of two albums. Most importantly, it adds two bonus tracks, both from their pre-Music in a Doll's House 1967 single "Scene Through the Eye of a Lens"/"Gypsy Woman," that had never been legitimately reissued on compact disc before. It's also enclosed in a hardback miniature CD-sized book, with 40 pages of liner notes and, for those who care about such things, remastered with super 20-bit technology. (Though, unfortunately, there are no additional tracks other than those from the 1967 single, although some interesting non-LP cuts are mentioned in the liner notes.) As for the music itself, it's good late-1960s British psychedelia, not quite in the first tier, but among the best bands below that level. On these first two albums, Family adeptly combined bits of hard rock, trippy psychedelia, blues, folk, poetic lyrics, and classical music into something fairly whole and coherent, though not as immediately memorable as some other bands they resembled in some ways, like Procol Harum and Traffic. They were closer to Traffic than anyone else, particularly in their use of some non-conventional rock instruments, especially saxophones, mellotron, and above all Ric Grech's violin. Still, they were more sinister and unsettling than Traffic, though not in a way that prohibited a wide variety of moods. As for the rare 1967 single, the A-side, "Scene Through the Eye of a Lens," is one of the best British psychedelic rarities from that year, moving from a pastoral ballad to a quirky hard psychedelic passage with disembodied vocals and inventive synthesizer effects. The B-side "Gypsy Woman," though, is a blander affair that's indicative of their most blues-rock-oriented roots.

Aretha Franklin, The Queen in Waiting (The Columbia Years 1960-1965) (Columbia/Legacy). Franklin's Columbia years are hard to summarize in compilations, even fairly extensive ones such as this two-CD set, which includes six previously tracks and one previously unavailable alternate take among its 40 songs. In part that's because she explored several different styles during this era without really finding a home in any of them; in part that's because the quality of the recordings themselves were so erratic; and in part it's because Sony keeps putting out compilations that duplicate each other to a fair extent. About half the songs on this anthology, for instance, also appear on the most comprehensive previous Franklin/Columbia retrospective, Jazz to Soul. On its own merits, this is a fair summation of some of her more notable Columbia recordings, slightly more pop-oriented in its track selection than Jazz to Soul, and at least including something new in the handful of unissued numbers. David Ritz's informative liner notes make a case for viewing the Columbia years as ones with numerous artistic successes. But the fact remains that the mixture of lush pop, Billie Holiday-style jazz-blues, Dinah Washington-Nancy Wilson-style jazz-pop crossover, early Dionne Warwick-style light soul-pop ("Cry Like a Baby" is actually a quite good cut of that sort), and hints of gospel is unfocused, if often promising. And it's not nearly as good or expressive as the soul she'd delve into at Atlantic after leaving Columbia. Her accompanists sometimes deserve their share of blame as well; the drums of "Nobody Knows the Way I Feel This Morning" almost totally lose the rhythm at one point, and the harmonica player on "Evil Gal Blues" sounds like she or he had just been dragged in off the street. There's not much soul music here, in the accepted stylistic sense, other than the two best tracks, "Soulville" and "Lee Cross," which are the ones that point most convincingly to her future triumph as the queen of soul. The previously unreleased items (all on disc one) are as variable as the rest of the set, ranging from the satisfyingly bluesy cover of Ray Charles's "Hard Times (No One Knows Better Than I)" (with some fine Franklin piano) and the respectable jazz-R&B-gospel of "Please Answer Me" to trifling Bobby Scott-produced orchestrated pop ballads and an unremarkable alternate take of "Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home."

Francoise Hardy, If You Listen (Virgin France). Sung (except for one track) in English, this 1972 album (originally titled just Francoise Hardy) was reissued on CD by Virgin France in 2000 under the title If You Listen, and issued in some foreign territories under yet different titles in the 1970s. However it was titled, it was a good, tasteful, and subdued set of folk-rock- and singer-songwriter-influenced covers (though the one French song, "Brulure," was the sole original Hardy composition). It's no surprise that the mood here is dignified rainy-day sorrow. But that was Francoise's forte, and the arrangements, emphasizing acoustic guitar and light strings, seem to indicate she was doing some listening to British folk-rock and American singer-songwriters. So does the choice of covers, including songs by Buffy Sainte-Marie, Neil Young ("Till the Morning Comes"), Beverley Martyn, and Randy Newman ("I Think It's Gonna Rain Today"). There's also the quite obscure "The Garden of Jane Delawnay," a misspelled interpretation of "The Garden of Jane Delawney" by the British folk-rock band the Trees; "Let My Name Be Sorrow," originally done by Mary Hopkin; and a couple of tunes co-written by Mick Jones, later of Foreigner. None of songs rate among her best work, but it's still a good album, often overlooked even by Hardy fans, and notable in that just one of the English songs ("Bown Bown Bown") was also recorded by Francoise in a French version.  It's also much superior to her album of English cover versions of just three years before, Francoise Hardy En Anglais, which was over-produced and far heavier on the syrup.

Keith Jarrett, Restoration Ruin (Vortex). Restoration Ruin is a real oddity in the Jarrett catalog: a vocal album on which he plays all the instruments. And not a jazz vocal album, either, but a folk-rock one, in which he alternates -- quite literally, track to track -- between sub-Dylan outings and more folk-baroque ones that echo the late-1960s work of artists like Love and Tim Buckley. There's a certain amateurish appeal to the LP, in keeping with other crossover "acid-folk" artists of the period. Yet the fact is that Jarrett is a major jazz musician, but a journeyman-at-best folk-rock singer (with a hoarse, wavering croon-whine), instrumentalist, and songwriter, with a bent for flaky wordplay that gives this a bit of a fried-psychedelic tinge. At times, to be harsh, it's less than journeyman, particularly on the Dylanesque cuts, which have almost embarrassing wheezing son-of-Dylan harmonica, and some downright embarrassing out-of-sync drums. Better are the daintier, more melodic tracks with trimmings of flute, strings, and flamenco-like guitar, like the title song, "For You and Me," and "Sioux City Sue New," with their bossa nova feel. The record was reissued on a single-disc CD in 1999 that made it seem yet weirder by pairing it, incongruously, with a respected, all-out early-1970s avant-garde jazz album by the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Bap-Tizum (recorded live in 1972 at the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival).

The MC5, Human Being Lawnmower: The Baddest & Maddest of the MC5 (Total Energy). If you want more MC5 than the official albums, but aren't interested in collecting each and every archival release of additional material, this is one of the better supplementary collections to get. Be cautioned that like all of the collector-oriented MC5 product that's come out on Alive/Total Energy, it is erratic; it's just less erratic than some other such releases. About half of it was previously unreleased, these cuts including a studio outtake of "Skunk" that moves along pretty well in its blend of the band's usual incendiary hard rock with soulful brass, at least once you get past the grandstanding drum introduction. Also previously unissued: a respectable live cover of Ray Charles's "I Believe to My Soul," recorded live at the same shows that produced the Kick Out the Jams album, though it unaccountably fades out while they're still in the midst of a chorus; an instrumental alternate take of their early single "Looking at You"; the blues-soul-rock "Gotta Keep Movin'," a studio outtake from High Times; "Rama La Fa Fa Fa," another outtake from the live gigs that yielded Kick Out the Jams, and not one of their best early songs, if a characteristic one; and an unreleased instrumental guitar-only demo of "Over & Over." As for the rest, MC5 completists might be distressed to have to buy a bunch of previously issued songs they might already own to get to the unreleased stuff. But at least most of those previously available songs are among the more listenable of the cuts that have already been exhumed. These include "Motor City Is Burning" (another performance dating from the live Kick Out the Jams shows), a muffled studio outtake of "American Ruse," and a "flat mix" of the early single "Borderline" that, say the liners, are taken for the first time from master tapes. Some of this, though, is the kind of stuff that only diehards will want to sit through repeatedly, like the interminable "I'm Mad Like Eldridge Cleaver," which ends with cacophonous jamming just as indulgent as the worst of the California hippie bands to whom the MC5 were supposedly alternatives. Lengthy liner notes by John Sinclair weave details about the tracks' sources with personal recollections of the group.

Nico, Heroine (Anagram). There are a plethora of live recordings by Nico from the last decade of her life, enough so to discourage even fans from investing a lot of time and effort in acquiring each one. Heroine, however, must rank not only among the best of those recordings, but among her best 1980s work. Recorded at the Library Theatre in Manchester around 1980 (an exact date is not available), it immediately has a leg up on her studio work of the era (as heard on her Drama in Exile album) in its minimal, at times almost bare arrangements. Nico was not made to be a rock star, as some of her production seemed to insist on trying to make her. She was best as a lonely voice peering out of the darkness, and though she's backed by a band (the exact musicians are unidentified) on this set, the accompaniment's spare and spooky, as it should be. The repertoire's a good cross-selection of material, spanning the Velvet Underground to her then-current songs, including "All Tomorrow's Parties," "We've Got the Gold," "Frozen Warnings," "Valley of the Kings," and "Femme Fatale." Vocally she's pretty focused and cutting, though in a somber fashion, on this recording. It has pretty good sound too, though you'll sometimes need to crank the volume a bit, so spacious and subdued is the instrumentation, which leans heavily on synth and harmonium. The 2002 CD edition on Anagram has an enhanced track/video of her singing "My Heart Is Empty," presumably from around the same time as or from the exact performance documented on the album, as well as a remix of "Reich Der Traume," vintage and remix doctors unspecified in the notes.

Odetta, Odetta Sings Dylan (Camden). From 1965, Odetta Sings Dylan was one of the first albums entirely devoted to Bob Dylan interpretations, and one of the best. In part that's because the concept was still actually fresh then; in fact, other than an obscure 1964 album by Linda Mason, it was the very first album of Dylan covers. And in part it was because, unlike most of the artists who would take a swing at the concept, Odetta was actually a major folk musician, one who had done much to inspire Dylan himself. But most of all, it was because the arrangements were excellent, featuring the guitar of Bruce Langhorne (who, of course, played on Dylan's Bringing It All Back Home and numerous 1960s folk and folk-rock recordings) and, one presumes, the bass of frequent accompanist Bill Lee (though the CD doesn't list session credits). Langhorne, the character who inspired "Mr. Tambourine Man," also plays some tambourine, particularly on "Baby, I'm in the Mood for You." Although this is not a folk-rock album, as a result the arrangements have far more rhythm, swing, and imagination than most folk records of the era did. The song choices are good, too, not only including familiar tunes like "The Times They Are A-Changin'" and "Mr. Tambourine Man," but also some songs that hardly anyone's recorded. Indeed, Dylan never did put "Long Ago, Far Away" or "Long Time Gone" on any of his official releases, and didn't release three of the other songs ("Baby, I'm in the Mood for You," "Walkin' Down the Line," and "Tomorrow Is a Long Time") in the 1960s. All of this is not to overlook Odetta's well-nuanced, bluesy vocal interpretations of the material, particularly on an extraordinary ten-minute version of "Mr. Tambourine Man." The 2000 CD reissue on Camden adds "Blowin' in the Wind" (from a 1963 album) and "Paths of Victory" (from a 1964 LP) as bonus tracks, nice additions that are stylistically consistent with the rest of the recording.

Duffy Power, Sky Blues (Hux). For a guy who's never been too well known or even managed to make a heck of a lot of records, Duffy Power made quite a few appearances on the BBC, as far back as the late 1950s. This 19-track compilation is actually only a fraction of those, but it's well-assembled and satisfying, though it's unfortunate that a 1970 solo session and a 1967 one as leader of Duffy's Nucleus could not be cleared for inclusion. All but three songs come from the late 1960s and early 1970s, a time at which he was, to admit a begged-for pun, at full power. And even if its primary appeal is to fans of this fine eclectic cult blues-rock artist, it's of above-average interest as far as BBC compilations go, since it captures Power in some quite different settings. Five acoustic songs from a 1970 session have Power backed by British blues great Alexis Korner on guitar, and serve as further evidence that Duffy was one of the UK's finest folk-bluesmen, on both originals (including the otherwise unreleased "Halfway Blues") and covers of "That's All Right Mama" and Robert Johnson's "Hellhound." Six songs from a 1971 session are backed only by Mike Hall on keyboards, but are just as effective in their stark yet sensitive delivery. These include the exceptionally haunting jazz-blues Power original "The River," and oddities like "Baby Let's Play House" and a bluesy reworking of the Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There" (which Power had covered on disc way back in 1963). The four 1973 tracks have a more standard full blues-rock band backing, and though not as outstanding as the other sessions, command decent respect. The CD's rounded out by three 1994 cuts on which he's backed only by acoustic guitar and Dick Heckstall-Smith's saxophone, and one rather rough-fidelity cut from a 1968 session, a cover of "Gin House Blues." Actually the sound on the 1970 session is mediocre (though listenable) too, but on the whole this is a good collection as both a listening experience and a document of facets of his work that weren't always readily available on official releases.

The Searchers, The Iron Door Sessions (Castle/Sanctuary). In early 1963, the Searchers recorded eleven songs at a Liverpool club at which they often played, The Iron Door, to tape and (successfully) submit as demos to Pye Records. Although it was known that a few acetates of these demos had been pressed, just one copy (in the possession of the Searchers' Tony Jackson) was eventually discovered to have survived. The Iron Door Sessions contains all eleven tracks from that acetate, and is a notable historical discovery for Merseybeat aficionados and indeed British Invasion fanatics in general. It is not, however, a great recording, though it's listenable and enjoyable. An unavoidable problem is the fidelity, both due to the non-studio recording conditions and the mastering from acetate, rather than the original tapes. The sound is understandably kind of thin, and at times the inadequacies become significant, as when some of the backup vocals on "Ain't That Just Like Me" can barely be heard. Perhaps more significantly, while respectable and energetic, and close in sound to the Searchers' early records, it's not quite as good or polished as those early Searchers discs. That becomes especially evident when comparing the versions of "Sweet for My Sweet," "Ain't That Just Like Me" (heard here minus the extended raveup section that made the Searchers' recorded version so original), and "All My Sorrows" to the later Pye studio takes. These demos do prove that the Searchers had basically already refined their sound to something very close to what was captured slightly later on official Pye releases. More interestingly, there are several covers here that never showed up on those '60s Pye releases (or even on the live Star-Club album), including "Jambalaya," "Let's Stomp," and "Maggie Mae" (yes, the same folk song that the Beatles did a snatch of on Let It Be). Also interesting is the sole original, "Darling Do You Miss Me," which was slightly reconfigured as the 1964 B-side "I'll Be Missing You."

Simon & Garfunkel, Live from New York City, 1967 (Columbia/Legacy). Recorded on January 22, 1967 at Lincoln Center in New York, four of these 19 songs were on the 1997 Old Friends box set, but the rest were unissued until the 2002 appearance of this release. The duo perform acoustically, without accompanists (as was usually the case in their concerts), on a fine-sounding and well-delivered set that doesn't contain any revelations, but is nonetheless an excellent document of their live work as they reached their prime. Certainly a Simon & Garfunkel fan could have hardly wished for a better song selection, as it features all the major hits and most of the best album tracks that the pair had recorded prior to 1967: "The Sound of Silence," "I Am a Rock," "Homeward Bound," "The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)," "Richard Cory," "A Hazy Shade of Winter," "The Dangling Conversation," "Anji," and "For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her." Some of the more offbeat moments, however, lie in less celebrated songs like "Leaves That Are Green," "Benedictus," and "He Was My Brother." Only two of the cuts, though, would qualify as relatively seldom-heard tunes: "A Church Is Burning," which Paul Simon put on his 1965 UK-only solo album but was not recorded for release by Simon & Garfunkel, and the uncommonly tough-minded "You Don't Know Where Your Interest Lies," which would be a 1967 non-LP B-side (of "Fakin' It"). Numerous live Simon & Garfunkel bootlegs had circulated before this release, so the pair's concert sound will not come as a shock to hardcore fans, but it's great to have a classy, above-board document of their live presence.

The Springers, The Best of the Springers: Nothing's Too Good for My Baby (Jamie/Guyden). The Springers didn't have as much personality or distinction as many better-known soul groups, from Philadelphia or elsewhere, and some of their recorded efforts were ordinary. Still, just because a group is unknown, not major innovators, and not stylistically immediately identifiable doesn't mean they can't produce some good sounds. The Best of the Springers: Nothing's Too Good for My Baby (a deceptive title considering that they put out hardly anything and never had hits) can be confidently recommended to anyone who likes good, well-produced '60s Philadelphia soul, or is interested in the roots of the sound in which the likes of Thom Bell (who arranged at least some of these cuts) got their feet wet. Of these 16 sides (all recorded in 1965 and 1966), ten tracks (some alternate versions) were previously unissued, and six were released on rare singles, though it's unclear from the notes whether these constituted all their official singles. A couple of the catalog numbers in the track listings are attached to just one song, leaving one to wonder whether the B-sides were omitted, or these were 45s on which the group were only featured on one side. The rather vague if lengthy interview with producer and label owner Thaddeus Wales that comprise most of the liner notes add to the confusion when he states that he only put out four songs by the group. Leaving aside such issues for those who lose sleep over such inconsistencies, "Nothing's Too Good for My Baby" is the song that's attracted attention (and astronomical prices) in the soul collecting circuit, with its lightly danceable beat and slightly jazz harmonies and chord progressions. But the Springers were also very adept at tuneful ballads, some sprinkled with the doo wop-derived harmonies that Philadelphia was known for, others (like "(I Want You) Every Night and Day") in a snazzier, moodier, more sophisticated frame of mind. At other times they get into a slightly harder groove with echoes of bluesy funk; "(You're Drawing Me) Closer and Closer" and "Hold On" drift toward the raucousness of the likes of Bobby "Blue" Bland and the Isley Brothers.

Steve and the Board, Steve and the Board...and the Giggle Eyed Goo (Ascension ). All 16 tracks released by the band are included on this CD reissue of their sole album, which adds both sides of their two subsequent non-LP singles. Steve and the Board weren't out of this world, but they were an energetic, slightly above-average British Invasion-inspired band, leaning closer to the Beatles and the Mersey sound than raving R&B. Their biggest Australian hit, "The Giggle Eyed Goo," is actually a bit in the novelty vein and not too representative of most of their repertoire, which was dominated by original material. "I'm to Blame" is a nice, innocuous mating of the Mersey sound and the Byrds, while "Margot" goes more into the harder-charging sounds of mid-'60s mod rock, and "I Want" will probably be favored by garage fans for its high, droning distorted guitar riff. "I Call My Woman Hinges 'Cause She's Something to Adore" is certainly one of the more oddball song titles of the era, and is like several of their other songs a respectable midpoint between the R&B and pop wings of the British-influenced sound. The highlight, though, is the brooding, sublimely melodic rockaballad "Lonely Winter," which incidentally was recorded by the Bee Gees (with better vocals and a slightly fruitier arrangement) around the same time. There's another Bee Gees connection in a cover of an early Barry Gibb song the Bee Gees never released, "Little Miss Rhythm & Blues," though this slow interpretation is markedly inferior to the fine uptempo version of the song issued by Trevor Gordon in the mid-'60s. Of the non-LP cuts, "So Why Pretend" is about the best in its sort of Zombies-meets-1965 British beat boom sound, though none of them are that great. Unfortunately there's virtually nothing in the way of informative liner notes on this expanded re-release, though it has a complete discography.

Various Artists, Das War Ein Harter Tag: Beatles Leider Auf Deutsch (Bear Family). Sure, to people outside Germany, the concept of this 30-song compilation might seem daft: 1960s recordings by German artists, singing in German, covering Beatles songs. For someone looking for wacky and interesting Beatles-related ephemera, though, it's actually quite a fun listen, if nothing you would place among the best Beatles covers ever (let alone as anything close to the original versions). You haven't heard of any of these singers unless you were living in Germany then (and maybe even if you were living in Germany then). For some reason Didi & Die ABC Boys are heavily represented, with no less than nine songs. You won't get any help from the liner notes, which are brief, do not contain details on the artists, and (if you don't speak the language) are in German. Anyway, the pleasure, such as it is, in listening to this is in the unexpected weird variations. Sometimes, for instance, the verse-chorus structure will be messed with a little, or a little bit of the song (usually the chorus) will be sung in English, and the rest translated into German. And even for those English fragments, considerable liberties are taken: the title phrase of "love me do" is changed by Didi & Die ABC Boys to "I love you," for instance, and Howard Carpendale sings "life is cra-zee" instead of "life goes on, bra" in the chorus to "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da." In at least one case, speaking and singing German turns out to be a definite advantage: in Bill Ramsey's "Yellow Submarine," the German U-boat dialogue in the instrumental break sounds, perhaps unsurprisingly, really convincing. All kidding aside, it's a true testament to the strength of the Beatles' melodies that even when sung in German, and by rather second- and third-rate acts, the tracks are still usually just plain enjoyable (and better than Bear Family's sequel compilation that also adheres to this concept, Sie Liebt Dich: Weitere Beatles Songs Auf Deutsch). It's also a credit to this compilation that it contains versions of some Beatles songs that were rarely covered by anyone in any language, like "I'll Get You," "It Won't Be Long," "There's a Place" (some really screechy female singers on this one, backing Hermann Van Keeken), and "Two of Us." To no one's reasonable objection, the concept is stretched a little bit to include four songs that, strictly speaking, aren't Beatles covers: versions of "Twist and Shout" (modeled on the Beatles' own cover), Claudia Gordon's "Goodbye" (a Lennon-McCartney number that had been a hit for Mary Hopkin, but was never recorded by the Beatles), and two 1963 Beatles "tribute" records, auf Deutsch of course.

Various Artists, Legends of Harmonica(Rhino). No 20-track compilation can hope to cover more than a fraction of the most notable performers and styles associated with recordings featuring the harmonica. Within those limitations, though, Legends of Harmonica is a very good, and fun, survey of nifty recordings from 1927 to 2001 that put the harmonica at the forefront. In the minds of many listeners the harmonica is more strongly linked to the blues than to any other form, and while nearly half of these songs are blues or strongly related to the blues, one of the CD's strengths is that it showcases sterling use of the instrument in other genres. It is, for instance, used in classical music in John Sebastian Sr.'s "Romanian Rhapsody" (and yes, that's the father of the Lovin' Spoonful's John Sebastian). There are also virtuosos of the harmonica within jazz ("Lover Come Back to Me," by Larry Adler with Django Reinhardt, and Toots Thielemans's "Fundamental Frequency"), mainstream pop ("Mack the Knife" by Jerry Murad's Harmonicats), funk (War's hit "Gypsy Man"), rock'n'roll (Bruce Channel's great 1962 chart-topper "Hey Baby," featuring Delbert McClinton), and folk-blues (Harry Belafonte's "The Midnight Special," with an obscure 1962 session appearance by Bob Dylan on harmonica). If it's blues you want, of course that's represented as well, by masters like Little Walter (the astonishing instrumental "Roller Coaster"), Jimmy Reed, and Charlie Musselwhite (whose "Christo Redemptor" is actually a superb adaptation of a jazz-classical composition by Duke Pearson). Some pretty obscure items that might well not be instantly familiar even to those with large record collections are the 1927 track "Narrow Gauge Blues" by El Watson, the raw mid-1950s Sun Records blues "Rockin' Chair Daddy" by Harmonica Frank, and Charlie McCoy's "Orange Blossom Special." Whether because of space or licensing restrictions, it's unfortunate that some other obvious contenders weren't included, whether one of the early Beatles tracks with John Lennon on harmonica, blues-influenced British Invasion bands like the Rolling Stones and Yardbirds, or early country harmonica whiz DeFord Bailey.



Jerry Butler, The Philadelphia Sessions: The Iceman Cometh, Ice on Ice, and More (Mercury). Here's a sensible, good-value thematic reissue, a blast of fresh air in an era where sometimes any excuses seem to be getting made to put out the same material over and over. Both of the late-1960s albums on which Butler collaborated with the Kenny Gamble-Leon Huff production team, The Iceman Cometh and Ice on Ice, are combined onto a single CD, with the addition of three other tracks from the era (which originally appeared on the LPs Mr. Dream Merchant and You and Me) featuring the same Butler-Gamble-Huff combination. Thus it isolates, onto one solid package, the short-lived time in which Butler, working with Gamble-Huff, successfully enhanced the early Philadelphia soul sound, and vice versa. The Iceman Cometh, the (slightly) earlier of the pair of albums, is the one that will grab listener's attention more, as it has the hits "Never Give You Up," "Hey, Western Union Man," and "Only the Strong Survive." But really, Ice on Ice isn't far behind in quality, featuring "A Brand New Me," which some listeners might be more familiar with from Dusty Springfield's version. It was the equal of its precedessor in sophisticated production, too, sometimes introducing the electric sitar-like sounds that became a vogue throughout soul music for a while. The consistently sentimental stories might be a little overwhelming at all once. But overall these sessions are highlights of slick-yet-not-too-slick early Philly soul production, and ones in which the artist (Butler) is as much a creative contributor as Gamble-Huff. The CD also adds historical liner notes by author Craig Werner.

The Byrds, The Preflyte Sessions (Sundazed). This double CD brings together all of the early Byrds rehearsals/demos found on the Preflyte and In the Beginning releases, and adds quite a bit more. As such, it stands as the definitive document of the birth of the group and how they sounded prior to recording the "Mr. Tambourine Man" single for Columbia at the beginning of 1965. For that reason alone it would be essential for any Byrds fan. But even for non-fanatics, there's a great deal of excellent music hear to enjoy, even if the songwriting is more Beatles-like than it would be on the Byrds' early albums, and the performances more tentative. If you already have Preflyte and In the Beginning , what you really want to know is what's been added. To begin with, there are four pre-Byrds solo David Crosby electric rock cuts, also produced (as everything here was) by early Byrds manager Jim Dickson. Two of those, "Come Back Baby" and "Willie Jean," have shown up on other compilations, but "Jack of Diamonds" and Dino Valenti's "Get Together" have not. "Get Together" is particularly intriguing, kicking off with a weird "Twist and Shout"-like intro. Then there are no less than 14 additional previously unreleased alternate takes by the Byrds themselves, although unfortunately just one of these (an instrumental run-through of "The Times They Are A-Changin'") was not available in a different version, or different versions, on Preflyte or In the Beginning. None of these additional multiple versions, alas, are as good as the ones that were first heard on those prior collections, though there are some interesting minor differences, like the bluegrass-type fractured guitar solo on a take of "You Movin'." Also, three of the new takes are just instrumental backing tracks without vocals. Still, it's great to have all of this material in one place, and the 50-page booklet of essays and photos is another major bonus.

Nick Drake, Second Grace (Mirrorglass Music, bootleg). Second Grace originally appeared as a label-less vinyl bootleg of indeterminate origin. To both the pleasure and aggravation of the kind of collectors dedicated enough to buy this stuff to begin with, an upgraded CD with the same title and sleeve appeared on Mirrorglass Music not too long after the LP version had made the rounds. And it is a significant upgrade, significant enough to force you to resignedly buy it all over again even if you have the LP, mainly because there are ten additional tracks on the CD version. There's still virtually no information about the music aside from the song titles, even though there are a couple of nice photos of Drake on the sleeve. So you'll probably have to look in on posts from Drake online discussion groups to get the lowdown on these 25 tracks, none of which came out on his official releases, though about half of them are available on other bootlegs. Even if you have those other bootlegs and feel the need to pick this up to complete your collection of what's available, this is pretty marginal, both in terms of musical quality and the variable fidelity (some of it's obviously from home recordings). As for what train-spotters will find most interesting, the best tracks include a different (apparently home-recorded) version of "Mayfair"; an acoustic "Day Is Done" (certainly one of the set's highlights); an alternate of "Parasite"; "Leaving Me Behind," a typically meditative song not on any of his regular releases, though the version here is murkily recorded; a somewhat distantly miked home demo of "Saturday Sun," with only piano accompaniment; two nice, brief guitar instrumentals that sound like studio outtakes, so much better is their fidelity than most of their surroundings; a one-minute "Saturday Sun" (titled "Place to Be" on the vinyl version), in relatively decent sound; and a very nice and reasonably clear acoustic "Hazey Jane," the best song here. As for what's on the CD that's not on the LP, there are additional, brief versions of "Mayfair," "Joey," "Fly," and "Saturday Sun"}; an acoustic "Three Hours"}; a different version of "Strange Meeting No. II" than the one on Time of No Reply ; and three songs that were on the Tanworth in Arden bootleg, but are here presented in "much better sound quality," according to the back sleeve. This was the best you could do for hearing this material when this CD appeared in 2001. The hope among Drake fans was that some or all of it would come out on official release with far superior sound quality, but that eventuality has remained uncertain.

Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell, The Complete Duets(Motown). Most listeners will be satisfied enough with a best-of compilation to cover the work that Gaye and Terrell did together. Those that want to hear more should make The Complete Duets their next and only subsequent stop. The two-CD collection includes everything from their three Motown duet albums, along with the previously unreleased "We'll Be Satisfied"; an alternate take of "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing"; and an alternate vocal of "Keep on Lovin' Me Honey." For good measure, the second half of disc two is devoted to rare solo Terrell sides. That includes four songs from 1965-66 singles, including the non-LP B-side "Baby Don'tcha Worry," all of which were also released as duets with added Gaye vocals; it sounds like they're trying to make her a mini-Mary Wells on "Hold Me Oh My Darling." There are also nine previously unreleased Terrell solo tracks (though all of the songs were also featured, with Gaye on duet vocals, on the Gaye-Terrell LPs). It would have been good for the otherwise satisfactory liner notes to include more specific details on those unreleased Terrell items, and in all the non-hits on the package are enjoyably generic late-1960s Motown}, rather than being of particularly exceptional merit. At the same time, it's of reasonably strong consistency, and a useful compendium of the total known output of one of soul's top duets.

The Knaves, Leave Me Alone! (Sundazed). This eight-song ten-inch vinyl release must have most of what could be salvaged from the Knaves' tape archive, including their debut single "Leave Me Alone"/"The Girl I Threw Away" and both sides of their lesser-known follow-up, "Inside Outside"/"Your Stuff." Actually "Leave Me Alone" is a rather overrated (within garage fanatic circles, anyway) standard bluesy punkish rant, but "The Girl I Threw Away" deserves its reputation as one of the most outstanding fusions of Byrdsy folk-rock with morose '60s garage punk. Knaves songwriters Howard Berkman and John Hulbert offer more fairly attractive, sullen blends of brooding Byrds influences and rawer garage rock on "Tease Me" and "Away," though "Your Stuff" gets back to the garage mainstream with some nice stop-and-start tempos backing the salacious half-spoken vocal. The release is stretched out to semi-LP length with one of the most eccentric covers of "As Time Goes By" (yes, the Casablanca classic) you'll ever hear, as well as an alternate backing track for "Leave Me Alone." It's a slightly above average '60s garage release, made more interesting than the norm by virtue of the folk-rockish melodies and harmonies in much of the original material, and includes lengthy quotes from Knaves Berkman and Gene Lubin on the back sleeve.

George Martin, A Conversation with George Martin(MCA). This 74-minute interview disc was promotional-only, distributed as part of PR for Martin}'s 1998 In My Life album. Conducted in July 1998, Martin Lewis asks George Martin questions covering his entire life, from his childhood and 1950s production work through the making of In My Life. Of course, his work with the Beatles is covered too, in about 25 minutes of conversation, although his stories will be familiar to many Beatles fans that have already read extensively about the group, or seen him interviewed on documentaries. Other than the Beatles, less-traveled topics include his pre-Beatles work with Peter Sellers, the early days of Parlophone Records}, a pre-Beatles trip to Capitol Records in Los Angeles that led him to ask for technology upgrades back home, and his 1970s associations with America and Jeff Beck. Martin, as anyone who's seen him on documentaries like the Beatles' Anthology knows, is extremely well-spoken, so it's interesting to hear him speak even if you're already familiar with some or many of the stories. What's disappointing, perhaps, is that 22 minutes are devoted to talking about the In My Life album, which hardly ranks among the more distinguished of Sir George's projects. Disappointing, yes, but understandable, since that album's really the only reason this collectable disc was produced. It would have been nice, though, to have more stories about some of artists he produced who are merely mentioned, or not mentioned at all: Gerry & the Pacemakers, Cilla Black, the Action, American Flyer, Shane Fenton, the Vipers, and so forth.

Van Morrison, The Genuine Philosophers Stone One(bootleg). This very well-assembled, handsomely packaged bootleg gathers interesting odds and ends, mostly unreleased, from Morrison's early career. His very early career, actually; ten of the 18 songs were done by his pre-solo career group Them in 1964-66, while the remaining eight are publishing demos from the summer of 1968. Leading off the set are two unreleased June 1964 versions of songs Them later released, "Stormy Monday" and "Don't Start Crying Now." The "Stormy Monday" take is definitely rawer than the released one, with the kind of eerie knife-scraped descending guitar swoops that prove that Jimmy Page probably didn't play all of the guitar parts on Them's early records. "Don't Start Crying Now" isn't as good as the official version (put out as Them's first single), particularly since one verse or so seems to have been hacked out of the early part of the tape. Then there are four good 1965 BBC live-in-the-studio performances, including "Here Comes the Night" and "Gloria"; an alternate version of "I Gave My Love a Diamond"; shambling live run-throughs of "Here Comes the Night" and "Turn on Your Lovelight" from their 1965 NME Pollwinners Concert; and a "demo" of "Mighty Like a Rose" that in fact sounds like Them's official studio recording of that number (which was the only Them track left off the compilation The Story of Them Featuring Van Morrison). The eight 1968 demos are sparely arranged tunes that find Morrison getting close to the fusion of folk, blues, jazz, and rock that would characterize his early albums Astral Weeks and Moondance. Two of the songs, "The Way Young Lovers Do" and "Ballerina," would appear on Astral Weeks , but the rest would not be used, though you can hear him working out ideas and feels that would crop up in some of his early solo albums. The sound on these demos is good (though there's a drop-out on one number), and the performances loose and breezy, though kind of skeletal. "The Way Young Lovers Do," for instance, is done as a mournful folk song, rather than the upbeat soaring jazz-with-strings tune it turned into on Astral Weeks. This is by no means on the same level as the best Them or early Morrison records, but for anyone who's a serious fan of that music, this is worthwhile listening, pleasurable beyond mere historical interest. Incidentally, it's the first part of a three-volume "Genuine Philosophers Stone" Morrison bootleg series, available in separate installments or as a three-CD set.

The Redcoats, Meet the Redcoats Finally (Bacchus Archives). There are few specific chronological details on this collection of 12 songs, which have obviously been pasted together from sessions recorded at various points; only the tracks from the rather unrepresentative "Love Unreturned"/"The Dum Dum Song" single were previously released. Although the liner notes infer that the cuts are from the mid-1960s, and many of them obviously are, some are obviously too Sgt. Pepper- and Magical Mystery Tour-influenced to be from before 1967. Anyway, this is decent, though not wonderful, original music from young fellows who obviously worshiped the Beatles. "You Had No Right" fits right into the mid-1965 Help! period, with its jangling guitars and well-thought-out exuberant harmonies. "Words of Wisdom," "Sing a Song," "When Tomorrow Comes," and "Opportunity" fall squarely into the Beatles 1967 mode of bouncy midtempo keyboard-dominated tunes and optimistic, cosmic-tinged lyrics. "Man" is very much like the harder-rocking Revolver songs, with its audibly "Paperback Writer"/"Taxman"-informed high harmonies. "Another Took Her Place" must date from earlier, with its hard Merseybeat sound, as must "Back to His Door," with its stomping Dave Clark Five beat and "Anyway You Want It"-like effect on the chorus. If a convincing emulation of the Beatles and the British Invasion was their strength, it was also their obvious problem: there's not much originality going on here. All the same, it's quite a refreshing contrast to the cruder, less melodic, and less musically accomplished sounds that are far more the norm for super-obscure '60s garage reissues.

Rocket from the Tombs, The Day the Earth Met the Rocket from the Tombs (Smog Veil). Rocket from the Tombs, the Cleveland band that featured a pre-Pere Ubu David Thomas and future members of the Dead Boys, have been hailed by numerous serious rock critics as overlooked punk and new wave forefathers. They never entered a recording studio, however, and for the most part their scant body of demos and live tapes have been heard only by serious collectors, though some were available on the 1990 album Life Stinks (itself hard to find now). The Day the Earth Met the Rocket from the Tombs does not issue every tape known to exist by the group, and is not perfect from the standpoints of fidelity and performance. The 74-minute disc does, however, finally make a reasonably comprehensive document of their work widely available for the first time. The first half is devoted to a February 1975 loft rehearsal, and though the sound is on the muddy side, the performances raw, and the songs on which David Thomas sings lead afflicted by some indistinct vocals, it's a quite powerful fusion of hard rock, metal, and art rock that in retrospect can be seen to contain some seeds of American punk. Particularly edgy are an early version of "30 Seconds Over Tokyo" (redone to famous effect by Pere Ubu) and the nearly out-of-control "Life Stinks," though the standout number is the unexpectedly melodic, lyrically desperate "Ain't It Fun." The next seven songs, from one of their final shows in July 1975, boast better (though not outstanding) fidelity, and some of their most innovative compositions ("Final Solution" and "Sonic Reducer"), as well as the arcane Velvet Underground cover "Foggy Notion" (at that time impossible to find even on bootleg). Thomas doesn't sing lead on any of the July 1975 numbers, but does on all three of the final selections, taken from a May 1975 show, including the future Dead Boys staple "Down in Flames" (with a downright avant-garde instrumental section) and a cover of "Search & Destroy." There are shortcomings to Rocket from the Tombs: some of the songs leaned too heavily on heavy metal and simple outrage, and for all the notoriety attached to the band because of the Pere Ubu and Dead Boys connections, their best moments were actually the more sensitive reflections on troubled youth by Peter Laughner. And there are some imperfections to the package in that it doesn't include all the known Rocket from the Tombs tapes, the excerpts seemingly selected so as not to repeat any song twice (it's also unfortunate that the loft cover of the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction" fades out almost as soon as it starts). Yet in all, this is a release of considerable historical importance and definite musical worth, enhanced by lengthy and knowledgeable liner notes.

The Rolling Stones, The Allen Klein Collection (Midnight Beat, bootleg). Actually, for a bootleg, this is very well packaged: the graphics are almost up to release-level quality, and the music, all recorded in the studio, is similarly just below official release standards in audio fidelity. It gets a fairly low rating, however, because most of these are alternates of 1960s songs on Metamorphosis, which itself was a collection of subpar outtakes. It's one for the rather embarrassingly obsessed Stones fan -- come now, let's all raise our hands together! -- who can look past the usually mediocre quality of the songwriting and appreciate the historical value of the performances. The first 16 of these 22 tracks exactly duplicate the song lineup of the original Metamorphosis LP (including the two cuts that were used on the UK version, but left off the US release). The difference is that 13 of these are alternate versions, though "Out of Time," "I Don't Know," and "If You Let Me" are just the same ones you hear on the real Metamorphosis album. To be frank, there's not much difference between the alternates and the officially issued takes; obviously in some instances, it's just a case of a different mix being used, stripping or adding some parts. Filling out the disc are six more mid-1960s outtakes. The basic jam "And Mr. Spector and Mr. Pitney Came Too" and the lewd "Andrew's Blues," neither of which have substantial tunes going for them, have shown up on numerous other boots, as has the more basic mix of "Have You Seen You Mother Baby, Standing in the Shadow?" That leaves the orchestral pop-folk instrumental "Hear It," which sounds more like something Andrew Oldham did for his instrumental albums, albeit with Keith Richards on guitar, than a genuine Stones outtake. There's also a different version of "Blue Turns to Grey," though the backing track was recycled for Dick & Dee Dee's cover of the tune. The CD closes with "I Know," a forgettable British Invasion pop song bearing an Oldham songwriting credit; whoever's singing on the cut, it certainly isn't the Rolling Stones.

The Searchers, The Swedish Radio Sessions (Castle/Sanctuary). Although there's never been a compilation of Searchers 1960s BBC sessions, this is a wholly satisfactory substitute. The 25 songs on this jam-packed single disc happen to have been recorded in 1964-67 for Swedish radio, not the BBC, and in front of an audience, not live in the studio. But otherwise it's the same kind of deal you get with BBC session compilations: a chance to hear a group do material live, with a slightly different looser feel than the studio versions, with some songs that don't show up in their studio discography thrown in. In this case, collectors might be most interested in the handful of tunes here that the Searchers didn't record in the studio during their prime Pye 1960s era: Fats Domino's "Let the Four Winds Blow" (two versions), "Red Sails in the Sunset," "Memphis Tennessee," "What'd I Say" (two versions, though they did do this on their live Hamburg album), and "See See Rider"/"Jenny Take a Ride." Other than that it's a mix of some big hits and cover versions, the big hits including "Needles and Pins" (three versions, no less), "What Have They Done to the Rain?" (without the strings on the hit single), "When You Walk in the Room," "Take Me For What I'm Worth," "Ain't That Just Like Me," "Have You Ever Loved Somebody," and "Sweets for My Sweet." The sound is very good, and the performances good as well. You actually hear three different Searchers lineups over the course of the three separate sessions: the one with Tony Jackson on the spring 1964 session, the same personnel but with Frank Allen replacing Jackson on the December 1964 one, and the one with John Blunt in place of Chris Curtis for the May 1967 one. Actually Blunt plays inappropriately busy, heavy-hitting drums on the 1967 takes of "When You Walk in the Room" and "Needles and Pins," but overall this is a good supplementary pickup for the serious Searchers fan.

The Standells, The Live Ones! (Sundazed). All six of the songs on this ten-inch vinyl release were recorded live at Michigan State University in 1966, and previously unissued. Usually on the rare occasions when live recordings of bands such as the Standells are dredged up, the results are disappointing both soundwise and performance-wise. Happily, this proves a remarkable exception to that norm. The fidelity is quite good -- better, indeed, than many official live recordings of the time -- and the Standells play well, reproducing the arrangements of their records pretty closely, though with some satisfying loose live energy. If just six songs from a Standells '66 gig are available, the selection is about as good as you could wish for, with five of their best (or at least better) tunes: "Dirty Water," "Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White," "Why Did You Hurt Me," and "Mr. Nobody." There's also a cover of "Gloria," during whose middle spoken section the audience breaks out, for some probably always-to-be-unknown reason, into spontaneous applause. This is a very good collector-targeted release, and not one that you have to be an insane completist to enjoy.

The Turtles, Solid Zinc: The Turtles Anthology (Rhino). For anyone who wants to get more Turtles than a greatest hits collection offers, yet isn't interested in getting everything the Turtles did, this 51-song, two-CD compilation is the ticket. Mind you, most average '60s rock fans will still be more than satisfied by the average greatest hits collection, as the band's familiar hits were truly the best things they did. If you want to fill in the gaps with lesser-known (and sometimes downright flop) singles and relatively seldom-heard LP tracks, this does so well. However, though the Turtles were more adventurous than much of their AM radio competition, those lesser-known efforts are pretty erratic and often not that interesting, which might disappoint those wondering if this set could lead to a serious re-evaluation of the group's importance. On the plus side, on disc one, there are some good, and not great, solid folk-rock obscurities like their cover of P.F. Sloan's "I Get out of Breath"; the little-known very early Warren Zevon songs "Outside Chance" and "Like the Seasons"; the almost early Kinks-like "Almost There"; and the spooky pop-rock of "She'll Come Back." On the minus side, much of the non-hit material on both discs is well-crafted pop-rock without the hooks of the hits, and without the inspiration of greater bands like the Beatles, Kinks (the cover of Judee Sill's "Lady-O" sounds rather like a blend of early solo Paul McCartney and turn-of-the-decade Ray Davies), and Byrds, though it's apparent they were trying to reach those heights with their more sophisticated and/or stranger tracks. Just two cuts were previously unreleased, neither of them special: demos of "Marmeny Mill," later done by Flo & Eddie, and "How You Loved Me" (re-recorded for Turtle Soup ), in which the Ray Davies influence was especially strong. As a minor criticism of a very well-assembled package, it would have been good if one or two items from the surf band the Turtles evolved from (the Crossfires) had been included at the expense of some of the more dispensable selections, like their cover of Kenny Dino's "Your Maw Said You Cried."

Link Wray & the Wraymen, Slinky! The Epic Sessions '58-'61(Sundazed). While there was a 20-track 1992 compilation devoted to Wray's Epic work ( Walkin' with Link), this two-CD, 46-song set more than doubles the volume. It not only sweeps up some stray previously released cuts that eluded Walkin' with Link, but also adds 17 previously unissued outtakes, demos, and alternates, along with rare singles by the Ponies, Doug Wray, and Bert & Ray on which Link played. Wray's Epic output was not quite his peak; the slightly later period covered by Norton's Mr. Guitar anthology was more outstanding. Still, there's some fine string-bending and distortion to be heard on these discs, though it doesn't contain the original hit version of "Rumble" (which was issued on Cadence, not Epic). If there are flaws, these are mostly relative. Wray doesn't get as unhinged as he did on his wildest sessions, and some of the cuts are samey-sounding, routine instrumental workouts that get closer to Duane Eddy than was his usual wont. Still, you get some mighty cool ingeniously devious rockers like "Raw-Hide," "Walkin' with Link" (which explodes into the "Rumble" riff at the end), and "Comanche," while his occasional vocal workouts like "Oh Babe Be Mine" and "Ain't That Lovin' You Baby" are some of the most sandpapered-textured early rock'n'roll singing to be heard. There are also some weird detours into south-of-the-border Tex-Mexisms on "Tijuana" (with a flute solo), "El Toro" (with mariachi horns), "Guitar Cha-Cha," and "Rumble Mambo," all of which sound like soundtracks to bullfights in which the matadors brandish switchblades and wear leather jackets. Some of the previously unreleased outtakes also brandish an odd sort of lounge sleaze ("Kiki" has a cheesy burlesque wah-wahing horn that has to be heard to be believed), while the hitherto unavailable "Moonlight Love" is a surprisingly effective sort of raw Henry Mancini-meets-untutored-Duane Eddy ballad with strings.

Various Artists, Backcomb 'n' Beat (RPM). The third installment of this series devoted to British 1960s girl-group-like sounds is, like the genre itself, not a match for the best American girl-group music. But, like its predecessors, it's a fairly good compilation, if more notable for inventive orchestral pop production than for the talents of the singers. Julie Driscoll, represented by the early single "I Know You Love Me Not" (which sounds a little like an experimental Dusty Springfield), is the only fairly well-known name on this 22-track disc, though Twinkle had some success in Britain, and Glenda Collins and Samantha Jones have their enthusiasts. There are some real solid, ingratiating pop-rock cuts here, though, like the McKinleys' quite gutsy "Sweet and Tender Romance"; Dany Chandelle & the Ladybirds' "Lying Awake," a pretty reasonable facsimile of Phil Spector's Ronettes-Crystals arrangements; the Chantelles' exuberant "Gonna Get Burned"; Sylvan's odd "We Don't Belong," with its clattering descending melody and suicide allusions; the breathy sides by Samantha Juste, the future wife of Mickey Dolenz; the swirling torch-pop of Cloda Rogers's "Lonely Room"; and the Drifters-influenced arrangement of Jan Panter's "Yours Sincerely." A real surprise contributor, if an indirect one, is Donovan, who co-wrote and played guitar on the McKinleys' 1965 pop-folk outing "Give Him My Love," a number he never recorded himself. Overall it's an above-average comp with good variety, not just of interest to diehard specialists.

Various Artists, Can You Dig It? The '70s Soul Experience(Rhino). Like other super-ambitious genre overviews on Rhino, this six-CD box set is documenting a style so large and diverse that the track selection is not going to completely satisfy everybody, even with 136 songs. There are many good things to say about this release, though. To start with the positive, most of the major soul stars of the 1970s are represented with at least one track, and sometimes with a couple cuts. In addition, there are lots of fine hits by dozens of artists that only had a few (or only one) big records, from the Winstons' "Color Him Father" and Jean Knight}'s "Mr. Big Stuff" to Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose}'s "Too Late to Turn Back Now" and Sylvia's "Pillow Talk." Rather than be strict about the chronological boundaries of the project, there are a half-dozen 1969 singles in the '70s-soul vein to lead off disc one, as well as a solitary cut from the early 1980s (Rose Royce's "Golden Touch," which could have been left off without any tears shed). Room is made for some non-African-American soul by Whites and Latinos, and plenty of big-but-not-huge hits. Sensibly, the first half of the 1970s is heavily represented, all but one of the post-1975 cuts getting shunted onto disc six. On the other hand, there is no way to boil down, say, the output of Al Green, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, Sly & the Family Stone, and other superstars to just one or two representative songs, and some might quibble with the ones selected, though generally the compilers wisely played it safe by targeting big hits. In addition, some superstars are not present at all -- the Jackson Five, Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin, and Stevie Wonder, for instance. There's nothing that might be considered rare, with nearly every one of the tracks having been a substantial hit single, even if some of those -- the Fuzz's "I Love You for All Seasons," the 8th Day's "She's Not Just Another Woman," and Brighter Side of Darkness's "Love Jones," for instance -- aren't exactly over-represented on compilations. The final disc might round out the chronology of the decade, but also is far inferior to the rest of the set, often illustrating soul's decline into pop slickness. But you know what? It's still a very good, intelligent overview of 1970s soul, guaranteed to please someone who doesn't collect this stuff obsessively, but wants a lot of it around, sequenced in a manner that ensures variety and quality. The packaging is, as is always the case with major Rhino box sets, quite imaginative, with a 78-page info booklet and an outer cover that simulates a rack of eight-track tapes.

Various Artists, The Goldwax Story Vol. 1(Kent). The Memphis 1960s soul label Goldwax is most known for its lengthy series of singles (many of them R&B hits) with James Carr, but also recorded several other artists during the decade. Three of the 24 tracks on this anthology belong to Carr, including his most famous song, "The Dark End of the Street." Otherwise, though, most of these names will draw blanks, except for O.V. Wright (who did just one single for the label) and Timmy Thomas (whose jazzy 1967 organ instrumental "Liquid Mood," with some scat singing, preceded his big vocal hit "Why Can't We Live Together" by five years). Deep Southern soul fans will enjoy this release mightily, as it has so many of the stocks?in-trade of Southern soul in general, and Memphis soul in particular: tight soul backup, urgent pleading vocals, and a leaning toward slow, emotional balladry in the songwriting (with some uptempo tunes thrown in). It isn't, though, on the same level as the somewhat similar and much more famous soul being done in the same town at the same time at Stax Records. The vocalists are too often derivative of Otis Redding and Sam Cooke; the Ovations' Louis Williams sounds like a Sam Cooke clone, so close are his vocals and so obvious is his role model. The "George" half of George & Greer, heard on their lighthearted uptempo 1966 single "You Didn't Know It, But You Had Me," was well-known songwriter George Jackson}. For some variety, you get the instrumental "Here It Is Now" by Gene (Bowlegs) Miller, which strongly recalls the work of Stax instrumental groups Booker T. & the MG's and the Mar-Keys. The Lyrics' "Darling," the first Goldwax release in 1964, is the most doo wop-indebted cut, with some ludicrously over-the-top crying at the cut's outset.

Various Artists, The Sounds of North Philly (Philly Archives). This disc is devoted entirely to the output (and pretty much contains the entire output) of two obscure '60s Philly soul groups, the Royal Five and the Informers}. The Royal Five have ten of the 24 cuts, covering both sides of their three obscure '60s singles for as many labels, two songs from an unreleased acetate, an alternate version of "Gonna Keep Loving You" (unlisted on the CD), and "Five Miles," a late 1969 outtake. They're classy, well-produced romantic Philly soul harmonizers, just lacking quite enough in the special song department to match similar competitive groups from the region that were getting hits. The early singles emphasized uptempo dance songs, yet their finest moment was the B-side ballad "Gonna Keep Lovin' You," with its memorable recurring descending hook. "Five Miles" may have been unreleased, but it's among their best efforts, recalling the uptempo David Ruffin}-era Temptations}. The Informers have the remaining 14 songs, including both sides of their two singles; both sides of two unreleased acetates; both sides of the two singles they did under the name the Fabulous Performers}; and two unreleased songs. Again, it's solid early Philly soul with multi-part vocals, with pleasing arrangements and productions, again divided fairly evenly between fast and slow numbers. And again, the songs don't quite rise enough above pleasant to register as should-have-been hits. And -- again! -- the influence of the Temptations is often felt, with 1969's "Think About It" getting into a socially conscious lyrical bag, organ, and funk wah-wah guitar. The sound is generally pretty good, but variable, with some of the unreleased cuts in particular bearing a few crackles. It's not a bad pickup for those in love with the early Philly soul sound, even if the performances and songs don't take it to the first level of the genre.

Various Artists, Stax Instrumentals (Stax UK). None of the 1960s Stax Records instrumentals on this compilation were previously issued. As they're almost evenly split between cuts by Booker T. & the MGs and the Mar-Keys, they represent a major find not only for fans of those acts, but for soul and instrumental rock fans in general. That's not to say it's a great record, as some of the cuts are basic and repetitive, and/or share notable similarities with hit records by either the artists themselves or others. There are some hot grooves here, though, more often than not the work of Booker T. & the MGs, who after all were a much longer-lived and better outfit than the Mar-Keys. Dating is imprecise on all of these tracks, and the ones by Booker T. & the MGs were done at various points throughout the 1960s, though Steve Cropper believes that most of them date from before 1967. There's some fine prototypically simmering mood music among their thirteen cuts, such as "Let's Go" and "Ain't It." There are also sometimes slight deviations from the expected prototype, as in the Cropper slide guitar work on "Slidin'," and the jazz aspirations of "Jazzy." An alternate of "Tic Tac Toe" probably provides the only familiar tune on the CD. The Mar-Keys' dozen songs can be more precisely dated, though only in a general sense: most are from the early 1960s, and all are from before 1965. They were far more inclined to brassy, less imaginative frat-like rock'n'roll than Booker T. & the MGs, and as a consequence their half of the platter is less interesting. But it's not bad, and in fact is often respectably sassy early-1960s instrumental soul-rock, though more of their offerings are likely to fall into imitative/derivative riffs (sometimes of themselves; "Blue Peanut" sounds like an attempt to clone "Last Night" with some variation). With knowledgeable liner notes including comments by Cropper and the Mar-Keys' Wayne Jackson, this is a good investment for those who love the early Stax sound.

Various Artists, Super Breaks Vol. 3 (BGP). The third volume of Super Breaks maintains the high standards set by this series, in several ways: quality of the material, eclecticism of the tracks within a 1960s-1970s soul-funk-jazz-crossover spectrum, and mixture of obscure songs by stars with obscure tunes by just plain obscure artists. Although cuts by Marvin Gaye, the Coasters, and Sly & the Family Stone are found here, none of them are the ones you're likely to hear on oldies stations, or even noncommercial specialist programs. Gaye's "T Plays It Cool" is wiggly, futuristic instrumental funk from his early-1970s soundtrack to TroubleMan, for instance, while the Coasters' "Soul Pad" is goofy modern soul from 1967, and Sly Stone's "Trip to Your Heart" is from his relatively unheralded debut Epic album. True, some of this is disc is 1970s funk, some from leading lights like Funkadelic and the Bar Kays. Yet there are unpredictable side trips to artists few would dare to include on such thematic comps, like the spacy jazz-funk cut "The Rose" from San Francisco late-1960s psychedelic cult band Fifty Foot Hose; the fusion cover of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" by Jimmy Ponder; mid-1970s fusion from Hampton Hawes; and the excellent 1964 sorrowful girl group-soul ballad by Wendy Rene (selected due to its being sampled by Wu Tang Clan on "Tearz"). If you're looking for more well-known samples here, bits of Johnny Jenkins's "I Walk on Gilded Splinters" were appropriated for both Beck's "Loser" and Oasis' "Go Let It Out." If you're not looking for samples (though the modern records that have sampled these tracks are detailed in the liner notes), it's still a good collection of off-the-beaten track music, if a little erratic and occasionally mundane.


Mike Bloomfield, I'm Cutting Out (Sundazed). In late 1964 and early 1965, around or just prior to the time he joined the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Mike Bloomfield cut some unreleased solo sides for Columbia. Mostly produced by John Hammond, these featured backing by an electric band that included Charlie Musselwhite on harmonica. Five of those songs came out on the 1994 Bloomfield CD compilation Don't Say That I Ain't Your Man. This LP has all five of those tracks, plus five additional ones that didn't make it onto the 1994 CD. For that reason alone, this is essential for Bloomfield fans, even if you already have that previous disc. At this point Bloomfield was rawer and less imaginative than the guitarist he would develop into with Butterfield and as a Bob Dylan accompanist, and he was never much of a singer. Nonetheless, there's a good brash early blues-rock energy to these sides, which mix straightforward covers of Chicago blues giants like Little Walter and Muddy Waters with a few Bloomfield originals. The good news is that the previously unissued cuts (including alternate versions of "I Got My Mojo Working" and "I Feel So Good") are not disreputable leftovers, but up to the same level of the ones that showed up on Don't Say That I Ain't Your Man. Certainly one of the new finds, "I'm Cutting Out," is the best of the three Bloomfield originals on the collection, as a nice bouncy no-nonsense blues with a superb stinging guitar solo and a raunchier vocal than was Bloomfield's wont. The alternate version of "I Got My Mojo Working" is less frenetic than the one on Don't Say That I Ain't Your Man, and for that reason a bit better. Liner notes with an appreciation by Al Kooper and a 1966 Bloomfield interview add to the desirability of this vinyl-only release.

Brave Belt, Brave Belt I/Brave Belt II (Bullseye). Both of Brave Belt's albums are combined onto one double-CD on this reissue, with the addition of a couple of bonus tracks. This was an odd transitional period for group leader Randy Bachman, as neither of the albums were that similar to either Guess Who or Bachman-Turner Overdrive, but certainly (at least in hindsight) served to bridge the two acts. Brave Belt's debut, which comprises disc one, was country-folk-rock that strayed into the realm of Bachman's old chum Neil Young, whether penned by Bachman or Chad Allan, though Bachman's songwriting retained some of the hard rock-pop flavor of Guess Who. There are lingering traces of wistful country-rock on Brave Belt II, especially on the two songs that Chad Allan co-wrote and played on before he left the band. But for the most part it finds the band drifting toward a much harder- rocking sound, particularly as most of the cuts feature Fred Turner's John Fogerty-with-a-squall vocals. Both of the bonus tracks are found on the second disc, and date from around early 1972. One is a cover of "Shakin' All Over," which of course Allan and Randy Bachman had made into a hit in the mid-1960s with the Guess Who. The other, "Hands and Faces," co-written by Allan and recorded prior to his exit from Brave Belt, reflects the quieter mellow rock sound of their first album. The reissue is embellished by thorough notes from John Einarson, co-author of Randy Bachman's autobiography.

Mike D'Abo, The Mike d'Abo Collection Vol. 1: Handbags & Gladrags (RPM). Subtitled "album singles rarities 1964-1970," this is a good 22-track collection of solo material from the singer most known for his late-1960s stint in Manfred Mann, filled out by some singles he did in the mid-1960s with A Band of Angels prior to joining Manfred Mann. Actually the six A Band of Angels tracks, taken from their four 1964-66 singles, are among the most interesting songs, including a ferocious R&B-pop-rock number, "Me," that mixes the Pretty Things, Small Faces, and Merseybeat. The other A Band of Angels items are less distinguished, but include some fair Mersey-styled cuts, as well as the enjoyably melodramatic pop of "Too Late My Love." Half of the CD is comprised of his 1970 solo LP d'Abo, a fair cross between blue-eyed soul and laidback early 1970s singer-songwriting, with a lot of Randy Newman and Ray Charles influences peeking through, along with occasional resemblance to Paul McCartney. That material is more competent than memorable, although it does include d'Abo's own version of his "Handbags and Gladrags," more famous as sung by Rod Stewart. The disc is filled out with the 1969 Immediate single "See the Little People," the 1970 Bell single ""Miss Me in the Morning"/'Cinderella Arabella," and the previously unreleased 1970 track "Because You Are." None of those are too great either, the singles sounding much like (unsurprisingly) late-1960s Manfred Mann, "Because You Are" rather like, again, Randy Newman.

Richard & Mimi Fariña, The Complete Vanguard Recordings (Vanguard). This is a straightforward three-CD set of the Fariñas' Vanguard recordings, each disc containing one of their three albums: Celebrations for a Grey Day, Reflections in a Crystal Wind, and the posthumous outtakes collection Memories. For Richard & Mimi Fariña fans that already have all of those albums, the chief interest lies in the seven previously unreleased bonus tracks that have been added to the Memories disc, all of them taken from their appearance at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. Those songs, in which the duo played in an acoustic setup with some help from onstage guests (including Bruce Langhorne and Fritz Richmond), are enjoyable but not essential, particularly as the sound quality isn't that great. The new additions, however, make live versions of some their best songs available, among them The Bold Marauder" (the best of the live cuts), "Sell-Out Agitation Waltz," "Pack Up Your Sorrows" (with Peter Yarrow), and "Celebration for a Grey Day"; Jean Ritchie accompanies them on "Shady Grove" (which is sometimes nearly drowned out by airplane swoops). Overall this is seminal, underrated mid-1960s folk-rock, quite consistent in quality for the most part. It's not an over-investment for the cost-conscious, as if you like any one of their albums, you'll probably like all of them. Note, however, that it's not quite the complete Vanguard recordings, since it doesn't have the unreleased version of "Tuileries" that appeared on the compilation Pack Up Your Sorrows: Best of the Vanguard Years. It's also a bit disappointing that no further studio outtakes were found, such as the demos referred to in David Hajdu's book Positively 4th Street.

The Flowerpot Men, A Walk in the Sky (RPM). Entirely recorded between 1967 and 1969, this anthology's a little curious in that it's neither a best-of, nor an absolutely comprehensive roundup of everything the Flowerpot Men did. Compiled by John Carter (who wrote and produced their material, often in conjunction with Ken Lewis), it highlights the trippiest, most psychedelic facets of their repertoire. The big hit "Let's Go to San Francisco" is here -- in fact, parts one and two are both here, in mono and stereo versions -- though some songs that appeared on their singles are missing. Three tracks are presented in alternate versions, while the eleven-minute "E=MC2/Musha Hada" was previously unreleased. Getting past all that, you'll find this to be surprisingly credible pop-psychedelia, though "Let's Go to San Francisco" has given them the tag of a one-shot novelty band. "Mythological Sunday" has commendably dreamy production, with that uniquely British synthesis of mellotron, quasi-classical piano, hazy harmonies, and exotic production trickery that doesn't quite overwhelm the song. "Blow Away" is one of the most dead-on emulations of the Byrds you're going to come across, down to the McGuinn-esque vocals and twelve-string guitar ring. "Say Goodbye to Yesterday" is acceptable late-1960s Beatles-like studio pop, and "Walk in the Sky" is kind of like the Four Seasons or the Tokens on acid. This is too sweet and frothy to qualify as major work, but it's got enough of that British fairy dust to make it worthwhile for psychedelic fans. It certainly demonstrates there was more to this band (largely a studio creation) than novelty, despite the inclusion of "Let's Go Back to San Francisco Parts 1 & 2," a somewhat contrived follow-up to their big hit. An enhanced CD bonus track has a TV clip of the Flowerpot Men lip-syncing to "Let's Go to San Francisco" in 1967.

Ellie Greenwich, Brill Building Sounds: Be My Baby: Recordings 1958-1985 (Brill Tone). Like the other compilations of rarities in Brill Tone's series (for Carole King, Barry Mann, and Jeff Barry), this is probably unauthorized, of considerable value to serious fans, and infuriatingly inconsistent in both content and presentation. The 56-track, two-CD set includes almost anything you're likely to find that was recorded by Greenwich as a solo artist, although it omits most of her Raindrops recordings (which have been reissued separately, and legitimately). The relatively simple question "what's on here" cannot be answered simply. There are all her rare Red Bird solo singles and outtakes; weird, insubstantial solo singles she recorded in the late 1950s and early 1960s, sometimes under different names like Ellie Gee & the Jets, Ellie Gaye, and Kellie Douglas; everything from her 1968 United Artists LP and her 1973 Verve LP, as well as both sides of a 1969 non-LP single; and about 20 previously unreleased songs. It's "about" 20 because, although the cover says there are 21 unissued tracks, only 19 are marked as such in the liner notes. Disappointingly, these unreleased items don't include, say, her own 1960s versions of "Be My Baby" or "Da Doo Ron Ron," but are actually usually by composers other than herself and partner Jeff Barry, on which she was probably just serving as a demo singer. On top of this, just to fill out disc one, they throw in a bad unreleased Carole King acetate ("Don't Count Your Chickens") and a pretty cool Barry Mann 1965 demo of "We Gotta Get Out of This Place." Of the unreleased material, it's usually, unfortunately, weak-to-average unmemorable period early-to-mid-1960s Brill Building pop, though "Disillusioned" almost makes it as a good song, and "House of Gold" was later done well by Dee Dee Warwick. There are a couple real good obscurities here -- her dramatic 1965 single "You Don't Know," which should have been a hit, and her lovely poignant 1965 track "Can't Hide the Hurtin'" (which, say the liner notes, was previously erroneously credited to the Raindrops). But both of those have been reissued, above-board, on other CD compilations. Disc two is almost totally devoted to the 1968 and 1973 albums, which have some good moments but are overall disappointing, and too heavy on remakes and covers. Besides, both of them have been reissued, with non-LP cuts, on Raven's Ellie Greenwich compilation. A couple of 1985 tracks from Elektra's Leader of the Pack album are okay but inessential. After all this, by the way, a rarity (1962's "Big Honky Baby") that was ascribed to Greenwich on Ellie Greenwich is not included on this set.

The Guess Who, This Time Long Ago (Ranbach Music). In the CD era, the catalog of the pre-Wheatfield Soul Guess Who has been very hard to come by. Together with Sundazed's Shakin' All Over! (which focuses on their hardest-rocking mid-1960s cuts), this two-CD Canadian collection of rare and unreleased 1967-68 recordings fills in the gap well. A few of these songs did appear on non-LP Canadian and/or UK singles, like the devastating garage punkers "It's My Pride" and "If You Don't Want Me" (which are also on the Sundazed comp); the sappy 1967 ballad "His Girl," heard here in two versions, which was actually a minor British hit; "Flying on the Ground Is Wrong," one of the first (if not the first) cover of a Neil Young song; and unbelievably awful versions of Steve Lawrence's "Pretty Blue Eyes," recorded by the band in an attempt to get their label to release them from their contract. ("Croyez-Moi," an awkward French version of their 1966 single "Believe Me," appears for the first time here.) Most of this set, however, is devoted to unreleased material, recorded in 1967 and 1968, in the studios for CBC TV shows. Some of those performances are marginalia, like the almost note-faithful cover versions of "Light My Fire," "White Room," and "Love Is All Around," and the psychedelic instrumental "Sitar Saga." Much of disc two, however, is devoted to late-'60s originals that find the band starting to arrive at their own hard-pop-rock identity, including early versions of four songs apiece from {^Wheatfield Soul} and Canned Wheat. The standouts are early versions of "These Eyes" and the Doors-ish psychedelic suite "Friends of Mine," which includes contributions from members of the Winnipeg Symphony and some free jazz sax near the end. A CBC version of the single "When Friends Fall Out" (later to appear on American Woman,  which alternates between grinding riffs in the verse and contemplative balladry on the bridge, saw Burton Cummings start to fully form his tense belting vocal style. There's a sense of a band fishing for a style throughout much of this anthology, not always successfully, but it documents an important transitional phase in the group's evolution.

The Johnstons, Give a Damn/Bitter Green (Castle). This combines the two more pop-oriented of the Johnstons' late-1960s albums, Give a Damn and Bitter Green, onto one CD. Note, though, that it does omit a couple of Bitter Green's most trad-minded cuts ("The Kilfenora Jig" and "Reels: The Fair-Haired Boy/Kiss the Maid Behind the Barrel/The Dawn") and adds their cover of Ralph McTell's "The Streets of London" (from a 1970 single). Although the Johnstons are most known for their recordings of traditional folk material, {^Give a Damn} saw them going into a folk-rock-pop direction with fair artistic success. Fans of Fairport Convention's early work could do much worse than to check this (and the Johnstons' 1969 album Bitter Green) out, though it's not as good as Fairport Convention, and more tilted toward folk-pop than Fairport were. Nevertheless, there are solid treatments of largely then-contemporary folk-rock material by writers like Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, and Dave Cousins (of the Strawbs). Though the arrangements use only mild rock instrumentation (and a good amount of mild pop orchestration), they work well with the group's gentle, pleasing harmonies. In addition to interpreting songs by the well-known folk-rock composers mentioned above, they also take on a couple of Jacques Brel numbers, Ewan MacColl's "Sweet Thames Flow Softly," and works by lesser-known authors that have a melodic late-1960s folk-pop bent. On Bitter Green the group seemed to be attempting to balance traditional tunes with covers of songs by Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, and Leonard Cohen. The contemporary material, it must be said, outshines the traditional efforts, particularly their superb interpretation of Cohen's "The Story of Isaac," which is an overlooked highlight of late-1960s British Isles folk-rock in general. Even on some of the trad folk pieces, though, they add some rock-influenced flexibility to the arrangements, putting some sitar and percussion on Ewan MacColl's "Jesus Was a Carpenter." The reading of Joni Mitchell's "Marcie" is another highlight, tastefully embellished by subtle horns and flutes.

Josie & the Pussycats, Stop, Look and Listen: The Capitol Recordings (Rhino Handmade). Josie & the Pussycats' rare recordings have been esteemed as some of the best music of the bubblegum genre by aficionados. That might sound to many like damnation with faint praise. Even those that have no love for bubblegum, though, would have to admit that their records were better than they had any right to be, and were respectably fetching and accomplished soul-tinged pop in their own right. This compilation has everything known to exist by the band. There's everything from their sole and rare 1970 LP; twelve cuts from non-LP singles (some of them only available on cereal boxes, and three of them different versions of songs that also appeared on the album); and six, yes six, previously unreleased tracks (three of those alternate mixes). "Stop, Look and Listen" still rates as one of the best early Jackson 5 imitations ever, and "You've Come a Long Way Baby" isn't far behind in that regard. Those are the best songs, but other than a few covers of contemporary pop hits, the rest is also surprisingly enjoyable, good-natured period 1970 pop, often given a sheen of soul by Patrice Holloway's vocals. It's not major rock music by any means, but it has its merits, and some of the poppier numbers, like "I Wanna Make You Happy" and "The Time to Love" have a breezy mellifluous quality that's nearly sublime. The reissue's enhanced by lengthy and thoughtful liner notes, including detailed recollections by producer-songwriter Danny Janssen and songwriter/vocal arranger Sue Sheridan.

Malo, Celebracion (Rhino Handmade). While one has to wonder whether the demand for Malo product is wide enough to merit a four-CD box set, rather than individual reissues of some or all of their albums, Celebracion certainly does a great job of presenting the band's legacy in toto. Each of their four 1972-1974 Warner Brothers albums is included in gatefold sleeves, with a twenty-page booklet that goes over the band's history with some depth, bolstered by interview quotes from several band members. Two to five bonus tracks are added to each disc/album, though unfortunately these are just shorter single edits of album tracks. There's one previously unreleased cut, "Pana," but that's just an unreleased single edit of the same track of that name that appears on their debut album. Although the albums are erratic, and slightly but steadily decline in quality after the debut Malo, they amply illustrate the band's importance as one of the most exciting outfits to fuse rock with Latin and jazz. Certainly there are similarities with Santana, as might be expected from a band featuring Carlos Santana's brother in guitar. But Malo were more Latin-oriented, and sometimes expert at constructing multi-part extended tracks with blistering interplay between hard rock guitar, Latin percussion, and jazz brass. In addition, they could sometimes summon heartfelt sentimental soul ballads, the hit "Suavecito" being the famous one, though each album has one or two songs (albeit less impressive ones) in the same vein. They couldn't avoid a certain formulaic quality after a while, and the group drifted toward less satisfying pop inclinations as time went on and personnel changed, but at its best, this set contains some of the finest Latino rock ever laid down.

Billy Preston, Billys Bag: His Most Hammond Groovin 'Soul Movin' Sides 1963-1966 (RPM). It's too bad the otherwise thorough liner notes don't admit to exactly what releases these thirteen tracks first appeared upon, or give any songwriting credits. The title is accurate as far as it goes, though, in that these are early Preston sides from the mid-1960s featuring his organ. All of them are instrumental, so they're not too much in line with the vocal soul material he did after reaching fame as a solo artist. If you're looking for instrumental organ '60s soul with dashes of rock, jazz, and gospel, Preston was one of the best at his game, concocting joyful swirls and unpredictable trills that do much to make the basic R&B material swing. What keeps this from being in the same league as, say, Booker T. & the MG's is the pedestrian nature of that material, which usually sticks to standard R&B progressions, and doesn't do much to redefine the familiar cover tunes, like "Slippin' & Slidin'" and "Shotgun." At its very best, as on "Soul Derby," "The Octopus," and "Let Me Know," he transcends the unmemorable songs by virtue of sheer passionate virtuosity, taking the organ into some pretty adventurous territory with his dense textures and rapid-fire bursts without abandoning a compelling dance groove.

Lou Reed, American Poet (Pilot). Finally, this is an official release of the December 26, 1972 performance of Reed on a New York radio show, which had been floating around on numerous bootlegs for many years. The sound is at least as good as it's been on any of those bootlegs. As for the music, it's inarguably among the finest of Reed's solo work, released or unreleased. The set's split evenly between Velvet Underground classics and highlights from Reed's early solo albums, with backing by the Tots, the group of unknown musicians who played with him in concert during the period. The fidelity is very good, Reed's singing is great, and the band plays in a raw and urgent  manner that Lou should have employed on his solo albums, but didn't. The Velvet Underground songs are well done and considerably different from the originals, and the versions of solo classics like "Vicious," "Walk on the Wild Side," "I'm So Free," "Berlin," and "Satellite of Love" slay the studio takes to shreds. If you're looking for one interesting bonus that doesn't seem to have made it onto many of the prior bootleg releases of this material, there's a brief interview with Reed in which the naive-sounding DJ asks Lou where Doug Yul is. "Dead, I hope," Reed deadpans, to sincere gasps of shock from the audience. For those who take their Reed seriously, that one moment might actually make this CD worthy of purchase even if you already have the music on bootleg. This is essential for Reed fanatics, though it's unfortunate that the liner notes are poorly written and poorly proofread, with no details about the show itself, instead offering a general history of his activities in the early 1970s.

The Strawbs, Strawberry Music Sampler No. 1 (Witchwood). In 1969, the Strawbs assembled a privately pressed sampler of unreleased material to circulate among publishers to solicit possible cover versions. Actually some of the songs would appear, in the exact same or different versions, on subsequent Strawbs releases. However, some of the tracks were never issued, and as only 99 copies were pressed (with only two known to survive), it probably qualifies as the ultimate 1960s British folk-rock rarity. This 2001 CD reissue makes it easily available for the first time. While it isn't as good as either the Strawbs' first official album or their album of late-1960s sessions with Sandy Denny as lead singer, for anyone who liked those records a lot, this is a recommended purchase. Among the seventeen songs are different versions of songs that have appeared on the Sandy & the Strawbs, Preserves Uncanned, Dragonfly, and Grave New World albums, as well as one tune, the lush pop-folk ballad "Whichever Way the Wind Blows," that was never released anywhere else. As it turns out half a dozen of these do appear in exactly the same version on the Sandy & the Strawbs releases, but what the heck, that still leaves almost a dozen cuts that are otherwise unavailable. Although the differences between those and the other takes in circulation are sometimes slight, there are some notable and sometimes intriguing differences, as in the ambient pub voices and piano of "How Everyone But Sam Was a Hypocrite?"; the strings on the Cousins-sung versions of "And You Need Me" and "Stay Awhile"; the jaunty orchestral arrangement of "Sweetling"; and a downright strange instrumental waltz rendition of "And You Need Me" that segues into "Josephine." It's unfortunate there are virtually liner notes detailing the origin of these tracks (for that you'll have to dig out the May 1994 issue of Record Collector), but on the whole it's good late-1960s British pop-folk-rock.

Thor's Hammer, From Keflavik, With Love (Big Beat). Twenty of Thor's Hammer's 1965-67 recordings are on this compilation, which emphasizes their mid-1960s English-sung sessions in London. The other half is filled out by Icelandic songs and their 1967 Columbia single, as well as an outtake from the Columbia sessions, "By the Sea." Thor's Hammer were undoubtedly the best-known 1960s Icelandic band, which is not too useful a guide for curious consumers, as they're likely the only Icelandic '60s band whose product has been reissued for the international market. All joking aside, this would be respectable British Invasion-styled rock no matter where it came from, though it's not great. Certainly the best cuts are the toughest ones from their 1966 London session, where Petur Ostlund pounded the drums with a Who-like fury, and the group wrote engaging tough mod rockers with "I Don't Care," "My Life," "Better Days," and "The Big Beat Country Dance." If You Knew," which is like the hardest Merseybeat or early Hollies, is another highlight. The lighter Merseybeat-ish items are less impressive, but still reasonably fetching (though they totally lose the beat during the instrumental break of the ballad "Love Enough"). The Icelandic-sung cuts are of a lower order, because of both their more perfunctory production and more generic songwriting. The Columbia cuts are an odd, not wholly successful attempt to Americanize their sound, especially with the peppy horns. Three songs from a 1967 LP find them going into a more reflective British pop style, with the addition of an English session man on organ. Extremely lengthy and informed notes by Alec Palao provide a history of this hitherto mysterious (to non-Icelandic residents) band.

Zakary Thaks, Form the Habit (Sundazed/BeatRocket). Both sides of all six of Zakary Thaks' singles are on this last-word compilation, along with three instrumental versions of tracks from the 45s. All of this material has been reissued before on Eva's J-Beck Story 2, with the exception of instrumental versions of "Face to Face" and "Green Crystal Ties." Still, this marks the first time everything's been available in this fidelity in the U.S., bolstered by the inclusion of a lengthy interview with lead singer Chris Gerniottis in the liner notes. It takes its place as one of the very best single-artist 1960s garage reissues, the songwriting and musicianship at a far higher level than most '60s garage bands could boast, with just as much insouciant youthful energy. From the punk of "Bad Girl" and the mind-blowing fuzz guitar of "Face to Face" to the Beatlesque pop of "Please," the folk-rock-pop of "Mirror of Yesterday," and the San Francisco-like psychedelia of their final releases (at times even sounding like early Moby Grape), it's all good-to-great stuff. Note, however, that different mixes are used than were heard on some of the original singles, which is particularly noticeable on "Mirror of Yesterday" (where the high mariachi horn parts in the break have been erased) and "Please" (which adds some poppy backup vocals to the bridge).

Various Artists, Assault the Vaults: Rare Australian Cover Versions of the Brothers Gibb (Spin). It's not well known that the Bee Gees wrote many songs between 1963 and 1967 that were covered by Australian artists, but never recorded by the group. Most of those were solo Barry Gibb compositions, but there were a few songs that Maurice Gibb co-wrote with Spin Records chief Nat Kipner as well. Thirty-one of these rare efforts that the Gibbs gifted to others are assembled on this Australian compilation. All are original versions, and none were recorded by the Bee Gees themselves (indeed many were never covered again). That makes this quite a catch for devoted Bee Gees collectors, especially considering that the Bee Gees themselves played support roles on some of these sessions. On its own terms, though, the music's rather hit-and-miss. On the Bee Gees' own Australia-era recordings, they were stylistic gadflies, able emulators of contemporary trends without fully establishing their own identity. That formative confusion is reflected in many of this disc's songs, which run the gamut from bad country-pop and teen idol rock to excellent early Beatles imitations. In the latter category, Bryan Davies's "I Don't Like to Be Alone" will certainly please anyone who likes the sound of early-1964 British Invasion rock, with Trevor Gordon's "And I'll Be Happy" sounding much like a Billy J. Kramer outtake. Gordon's "Little Miss Rhythm & Blues" is another highlight, and is about as rowdy as Barry Gibb ever got in his writing. The numerous girl-sung tunes on this anthology tend not to nearly measure up to those standouts, though Sandy Summers doesn't sound bad in a (very) sub-Lulu fashion, and April Byron's "A Long Time Ago" is a decent dramatic ballad. The three collaborations between all three Gibb brothers -- Ronnie Burns's "All the Kings Horses" and Jon Blanchfield's "Town of Tuxley Toymaker Part 1" and "Upstairs Downstairs" -- find them getting far closer to the tuneful, slightly fanciful and neurotic variation of the Beatles' pop side that they finally perfected after moving to England in 1967.

Various Artists, Flips and Rarities. Certainly this is an unauthorized CD compilation of rare 1960s tracks that Phil Spector had something to do with, as either producer, songwriter, or even artist. There's no label (though there is a catalog number), but it certainly does exist, and was as of 2001 available for sale at specialized record stores with extremely deep stock. Just because Spector was involved in a record didn't necessarily mean it was good, and the merits of this 30-song anthology are extremely erratic, though there are some undoubted high points. Most of these are run-of-the-mill early-1960s tracks that weren't hits for a reason: the songs were trivial and not that hot. And most of them don't have an identifiably Spectoresque sound, in part because on several of them he was only involved as a songwriter, in part because some of them predate his true Wall of Sound techniques. Some of these cuts are good, or at least okay, like Gene Pitney's "Dream for Sale" (which actually isn't too rare), Bonnie & the Treasures' "Home of the Brave," April Stevens's breathy "Why Can't a Boy and Girl Just Stay in Love" (which Spector co-wrote with Nino Tempo), Johnny Nash's "World of Tears," and Veronica's "Why Don't They Let Us Fall in Love" (which is actually Ronnie Spector of the Ronettes). Sonny Charles & the Checkmates's "Black Pearl" is very good, and was a pretty big hit in 1969, but why it's included here isn't too clear, as it's been officially released as part of Spector's Back to Mono box. There are also items that fall into the novelty realm, like the guitar instrumental "Bumbershoot" that Phil Spector cut under the alias Phil Harvey, and the ridiculous Crystals B-side "The Screw (Let's Dance)," a throwaway track interrupted by poker-faced admonitions to "do the screw" (spoken by Spector's lawyer). Overall this is interesting to acquire for dedicated Spector enthusiasts, but the utter lack of liner notes (though at least there are songwriting credits) is a major strike against its value. There are no clues as to why some tracks, like Santo & Johnny's "Spanish Harlem," are considered to have any Spector associations whatsoever. The sound quality is pretty good, but the tracks have almost certainly (sometimes quite audibly so) been taken from vinyl records rather than master tapes.

Various Artists, Our Turn to Cry (Kent). Like its companion volume Sanctified Soul, this scours the Atlantic vaults for obscure soul ballads of the 1960s and early 1970s. Although this is no way should be construed as a sampler of the best Atlantic had to offer in that category, for those who have digested all the famous classic soul by Atlantic stars and are ready for more, this is highly recommended. No big stars are found on this 26-track anthology, with the exception of the Isley Brothers, whose exquisite 1964 heartbreaker "The Last Girl" is hardly something (unfortunately) that you're likely to hear on oldies stations. A few other singers here had mid-level success and fairly strong cult status, such as Baby Washington (who does "Breakfast in Bed," more famous as rendered by Dusty Springfield), Dee Dee Warwick, Dee Dee Sharp, Doris Troy, Bettye Swann, Mighty Sam, Johnny Adams, Lou Johnson, Benny Latimore, and Alvin Robinson. You don't see many of the other names anywhere unless you own singles price guides, but there are some real goodies. It's a long list. The Soul Brothers Six's "What Can You Do When You Ain't Got Nobody?" is churchy, pleading soul at its best. Bobby Marchan sounds a heck of a lot like a woman on "What Can I Do (Part 1)" (and he is a he, not a she). Mike Williams's "Lonely Soldier" is a moving, if subtle, commentary on the anguish of serving in Vietnam. Benny Latimore's "I'm Just an Ordinary Man," from 1969, is far more satisfying than his more well-known subsequent output. Alvin Robinson does a good approximation of Ray Charles on "Let Me Down Easy. "Dee Dee Sharp breaks out of her novelty dance mold with the Dan Penn-Spooner Oldham song "Help Me Find My Groove." Bobby Harris does a cool tribute to the late Sam Cooke with "We Can't Believe You're Gone." Billy Mashburn does a perhaps inadvertently humorously overdone tribute to doo wop on "Don't It Sound Good (Part 1)." N.A. Allen does an obscure, soulful Goffin-King composition, "No Easy Way Down." Some of the early-'70s cuts are slicker and less interesting than those of the prior decade, but overall this sits very high on the ladder of obscure soul collections.

Various Artists, Yet Mo' Mod Jazz (Kent). Like its companion volumes in the Ace catalog (Mod Jazz and Mo' Mod Jazz), Yet Mo' Mod Jazz is a delightful anthology of hip but danceable jazz from the 1950s and 1960s, with a great deal of soul music often entering the equation. This 26-track CD may be more limited than the other Ace sets in its scope of source material, drawing exclusively from the Atlantic vaults between 1957 and 1969, but it's no less eclectic in its musical variety. There are fairly little-heard cuts by Ray Charles ("Get on the Right Track Baby," covered by Georgie Fame in the 1960s), King Curtis, Mose Allison, Esther Phillips, and LaVern Baker alongside quite cool excursions into pop-funk-soul-jazz by Les McCann, Eddie Harris, Johnny Griffin, Hubert Laws, Herbie Mann, Charles Lloyd, and the Modern Jazz Quartet. It's also flexible enough to insert some mighty enjoyable cuts by artists that purists would snub as not jazzy or soulful enough to keep this company. Up that alley there's Mel Torme, whose "Right Now" was the B-side of his famous "Comin' Home Baby"; Mark In Trio's pre-Santana Latin-funk on "Tres Lobos"; the all-out honkin' sax R&B of Tommy Ridgley's "Jam Up Twist"; and Byron Lee & the Ska Kings, who do ska-jazz fusion with "Watermelon Man Ska." Of course Les McCann & Eddie Harris's "Compared to What" is a famous recording that's not been hard to get on other CDs, though its appearance here does not make it any less enjoyable. This is one of those rare anthologies, in any genre, where the quality is consistently high enough to make it difficult to single out favorites, and is also one of the jazz anthologies most likely to be enjoyed by rock and soul fans who don't consider jazz a main interest.



contents copyright Richie Unterberger, 2000-2010
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