Archived Reviews

Syd Barrett, The Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett Story [DVD] (Zeit Media). In a couple important respects, Syd Barrett is a difficult documentary subject, as there isn't much film of him either performing or being interviewed. The 50-minute film (originally broadcast on the BBC) that's the main feature of this DVD, however, does an excellent job of summarizing the key aspects of his life and music. Its most important strength is its interviews with his close associates, scoring the hard-to-believe coup of first-hand talks with all four of Barrett's Pink Floyd bandmates (Roger Waters, Nick Mason, Rick Wright, and David Gilmour). Making briefer but meaningful contributions are such interesting figures as Bob Klose, Pink Floyd's original guitarist; early Barrett girlfriend Libby Chisman; early Pink Floyd co-manager Peter Jenner; and Mike Leonard, who worked on the group's early lighting effects. Mixed with those interviews are small but significant snippets of '60s footage showing Syd in performance with Pink Floyd, live and in the studio, as well as excerpts from home movies and the "Arnold Layne" promotional video; there's even a bit of the legendary unreleased Floyd/Barrett song "Vegetable Man" on the soundtrack. The brilliance of Barrett's music and the tragedy of his sudden and rapid mental demise is examined with intelligent and sympathetic detail, also encompassing his influence on the music that Pink Floyd went on to make without him.

The two-DVD edition released in 2007 by Zeit Media is the one for serious Barrett/Pink Floyd fans to get, as it includes quite a bit of bonus material. Disc one has additional interview segments, a basic Barrett bio, and a memorabilia section that, unlike many such things on DVDs, is not an afterthought, but offers dozens of quite rare and interesting vintage posters, ads, record sleeves, and photos. The second disc offers complete unedited interview footage done for the project with Waters, Gilmour, Wright, and Mason, as well as solo performances of Barrett songs by Graham Coxon of Blur and Robyn Hitchcock. The Waters-Gilmour-Wright-Mason interviews on disc two add up to 90 minutes in all, including almost an hour with Waters alone. While they might be more than general fans want to see and hear, for aficionados they're fascinating, affording the chance to hear the members' memories -- not only of Barrett, but of Floyd's early days in general -- at considerably greater length than the principal documentary feature allows. Those segments don't merely repeat obvious stuff that's been gone over many times elsewhere, digressing into such interesting tangents as Waters' recollections of Bob Klose's role in the early Pink Floyd, and Mason's accounts of the Barrett-Floyd outtakes "Scream Thy Last Scream" and "Vegetable Man."

Jeff Beck Group, Jeff Beck Group Supporting Pink Floyd: Messin' with the Blues (bootleg) (Empress Valley Supreme). A three-CD bootleg of the Jeff Beck Group at the Shrine Exposition Hall in Los Angeles on July 26 and 27 of 1968 isn't too much at once -- if it's recorded well. This material, including tracks from four separate sets, isn't, though it has some value for very serious Beck fans. It sounds like an audience tape, and by those standards, Beck's guitar work comes through very well indeed. But while you'd probably pick the guitar if you had to settle for just one element of the Jeff Beck Group to come through on an unreleased tape, his guitar wasn't the only thing that made the band worth listening to. There were also Rod Stewart's vocals, for one thing, which are pretty faint on these recordings. Beck's guitar is impressive, especially on his showcase "Jeff's Boogie," a holdover from his Yardbirds days, but here extended so that he throws in riffs from "Over, Under, Sideways, Down" and the theme to The Beverly Hillbillies. There are also a few songs that didn't make it onto the Jeff Beck Group's early LPs, including B.B. King's "Sweet Little Angel," Beck's British hit single "Hi Ho Silver Lining," and Elmore James' "The Sun Is Shining," as well as impressive workouts on the likes of "Shapes of Things" and "Beck's Bolero." If only this were recorded well, the performances are of a high enough level that it would be a significant piece of music. But you could say that about almost an infinite amount of bootlegs, and something like this really has to be captured in good fidelity to make it both important and enjoyable. Also on the set are a couple of instrumentals ("Interstellar Overdrive" and "A Saucerful of Secrets") by the act the Jeff Beck Group were playing with on these shows, Pink Floyd; in part because they don't have vocals, they're pretty good recordings/performances by 1968 live bootleg standards.

Big Maybelle, I've Got a Feelin': OKeh and Savoy Recordings 1952-1956 (Rev-Ola). This CD is just what its subtitle says it is, gathering 27 tracks Big Maybelle released on the OKeh and Savoy labels between 1952 and 1956, as well as a live version of "Ring Dang Dilly/Candy" (though it's not specified whether that's previously unreleased). Big Maybelle recorded for other companies before and after 1952-56, but this period was her artistic and commercial prime, including the R&B hits "Gabbin' Blues," "Way Back Home," "My Country Man," and "Candy." All of those cuts are included on this well-annotated anthology, along with a non-charting 45 that nonetheless remains her most famous recording, the original version of "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" (later covered for a monster smash by Jerry Lee Lewis). Not every song on this disc is as good as the aforementioned titles, but Big Maybelle's raunchy, powerfully throaty vocals are consistently impressive on material that runs from jump blues shouters and earthy ballads to near-rock'n'roll. While "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" is an inevitable standout considering it's by far the most famous tune, it's quite different from Jerry Lee Lewis' rockabilly treatment; it's a much more measured midtempo R&B/blues hybrid in this incarnation, and it really took Lewis to kick it into much higher gear. Far less celebrated, yet far more impressive, is "I've Got a Feelin'," a great devious minor-key number that's the set's unheralded highlight, though the playful "One Monkey Don't Stop No Show" is almost as good.  Much like her version of "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On," Big Maybelle's somewhat forgotten today, but on the basis of these sides, she certainly deserves more recognition. For she's as good as quite a few other similar figures from the dawn of rock'n'roll who have, whether because they had a few more hits or for other reasons, attained higher profiles as innovators among rock and R&B historians. While much of this material also appeared on the 1994 compilation The Complete OKeh Sessions 1952-55, this CD might get the slight nod as the preferable choice, as the seven Savoy tracks include a hit ("Candy") postdating the OKeh era.

Canterbury Glass, Sacred Scenes and Characters (Ork). In 1968, Canterbury Glass recorded six tracks in London for an album that went unreleased at the time, the group disbanding after interest from a couple record labels fell through. Nearly 40 years later, many of the tapes were rediscovered and issued on this CD. This isn't quite the original album; two of the six tracks couldn't be found, and the "bonus" cut, a demo of one of the two missing songs, apparently bears no resemblance to the version recorded for the album. Still, since all four of the tracks retrieved from the original album sessions last around ten minutes, the CD does offer what would have been a healthy-sized LP by 1968 standards. Unlike many such relics to see the light of day in the CD age, it's not a run-of-the-mill psychedelic outing in terms of either style or quality. With the religious tones of both the music and lyrics (some of which are sung in Latin), it's a little like hearing the Electric Prunes' late-'60s pseudo-religious concept LPs, but as done by a British band who were playing it straight, rather than because some producers and arrangers foisted a gimmick upon them. There's a consciously cathedral-music-goes-rock flavor to the proceedings, the standard psychedelic guitar rock being augmented by churchy organ, harpsichord, flute, and male-female choral harmonies. In some respects, the blend resembles psychedelic-early progressive rock crossover bands like Procol Harum and Caravan, the difference being that while those groups used classical-religious influences as a prominent shading, Canterbury Glass employ them as driving forces. While there's an earnest naivete to the proceedings that might either charm or turn off listeners depending on their tastes, it's also haunting and unusual, and not nearly as explicitly derivative as many such unsigned bands of the era. It's a worthwhile curiosity for those who want to hear what was briefly called "God rock" done with accomplished integrity, though the bluesy demo of "We're Going to Beat It (Battle Hymn)" isn't nearly up to the standards of the rest of the material.

Caravan, The Show of Our Lives: Live at the BBC 1968-1975 (Deram). While this two-CD, nearly two-and-a-half-hour collection doesn't include all of Caravan's BBC recordings, it's indisputably the finest collection of the band's radio performances yet assembled. It doesn't quite include all of the BBC tracks that have appeared on previous releases; a couple songs from their first 1968 session are missing, as are most of the cuts from the Ether Way: BBC Sessions 1975-77 compilation. This is more than compensated for, however, by the inclusion of a half-hour August 2, 1973 session that appears for the first time anywhere on this anthology, as well as the much-improved fidelity on some material first issued as part of the Green Bottles for Marjorie: The Lost BBC Sessions set. Too, the absence of some mid-to-late-'70s material isn't a big blow, as it was during the period covered by this collection that Caravan were truly at their peak.

As for the music itself, while these tracks aren't radically different from the more familiar studio versions, they're fine testimony to the band's ability to deliver complex progressive rock with deft spontaneity in a live setting. The first disc is far more impressive than the second, the band sounding like a cousin to early Soft Machine (with whom, of course, they shared deep roots) in their ability to make the transition from psychedelia to progressive rock sound playful, humane, and for the most part based in strong songs and vocals. The most pleasing treasure is their fine nine-minute stretched-out cover of the early Soft Machine B-side "Feelin', Reelin', Squealin,'" which Caravan never recorded on their studio releases. The second disc, alas, finds the group becoming steadily less interesting with the onset of several personnel changes, documenting the band's (and indeed the entire serious British progressive rock genre's) growing inclination toward slicker virtuosity and less acute, distinguished songwriting. Nonetheless, the better portions are delightful and Mark Powell's annotation (which almost amounts to a band history in itself) excellent, and the compilation as a whole belongs in every serious Caravan fan's collection.

Susan Christie, Paint a Lady (Finders Keepers). The material on this album, heard by few until it was issued on CD in the early twenty-first century, might have been built up as a little weirder than it is by some of the collectors who've raved about it. While it's not the most uplifting stuff in the world, much of it is haunting but not all that out-there pop-folk. Susan Christie's fairly strong, strident vocals and moody melodies, occasionally embellished by strings, aren't the most uncommercial mixture that could have been concocted, though apparently they were too uncommercial to find release when they were originally recorded. What is unusual -- and what sets it most apart from some singers she might bear the vaguest of resemblance to at times, like Melanie, Tim Buckley, Sandy Denny, and Bobbie Gentry -- are the unexpectedly forceful distorted guitars, near-hard-rock organ, and angular rhythms and mild dissonance used in some of the arrangements. In addition, for an eight-song, half-hour album, it's certainly unpredictable in the wide territory it covers -- "No One Can Hear You Cry," unlike anything else on the record, is close to sounding like a fine lost Dionne Warwick outtake, though even that gets set aside from the usual Bacharach-David production by the insertion of off-the-wall exotic tinkles of descending instrumental glissandos. If that's not odd enough in this company, there's also a cut, "When Love Comes," that's not too far off early Marianne Faithfull at her best. In contrast, "Yesterday, Where Is My Mind?" is freaky at the outset, with its pummeling tumbling drum breaks, creepy organ, and trippy ominous whisper-to-a-scream recitation, but even that track settles back into a relatively conventional song after three minutes. "For the Love of a Soldier" is another standout, managing to mix affecting antiwar folk-rock with a funky hard rock chorus quite effectively. Though Christie's not quite a major talent based on these relics, this is nicely dreamy and varied folk-rock for the most part that shows a lot of sadly unfulfilled potential, and if it's more downbeat than the norm for the genre, it's hardly gloomy.

Edda Dell'Orso, Voice (Bella Casa). Edda Dell'Orso is best known as the haunting, oft-high-pitched voice heard on numerous Ennio Morricone soundtracks. Indeed, more than half of the 21 tracks on this anthology are taken from Morricone-scored films. But it's more of a Dell'Orso compilation than a Morricone one, as it also includes selections written by four other composers for Italian films, the material encompassing the years 1967-1982 (though just three of the cuts postdate 1972). In a world where too many reissues are hyped as thrillingly unclassifiable, this Dell'Orso collection is the real deal. There are elements of horror movie soundtracks, European easy listening late-'60s/early-'70s lounge music, operatic classical music, exotica, and almost pornographically explicit sexual innuendo, several of these genres sometimes (though by no means always) bumping heads within the same song. The constant is Dell'Orso's uniquely eerie voice, distinguished not only by its otherworldly range (especially at the high end), but also by her almost exclusive use of wordless phrasing. That helps get around any language barrier inherent in listening to Italian music, of course. But more importantly, it conveys a wide palette of emotions, from the funereally grim and space-age modernism to the out-and-out kinky. There are, as a matter of curiosity, three songs here with actual lyrics, but those relatively conventional outings are far outshone by the mystery of her lyric-free musings. It should be noted that this, like the 2005 CD compilation Dream Within a Dream...the Incredible Voice of Edda Dell'orso, does not feature any of her contributions to Morricone's famous Spaghetti western soundtracks A Fistful of Dollars, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and Once Upon a Time in the West. But like that 2005 compilation, it's a highly recommended sampling of her other work, both for its idiosyncratic vocal majesty and the equally idiosyncratic mix of pop and experimental qualities in the material.

Aretha Franklin, Live in Stockholm 1968 [DVD bootleg] (Mirage Entertainment). That this isn't an authorized DVD is made immediately clear by the presence of a time code throughout this concert, as well as the slightly grainy image quality, which is okay but certainly not from a first-generation source. Still, it's an opportunity for serious Aretha Franklin fans to see her live in concert at her peak, singing well and literally sweating with effort for much of the 49-minute black-and-white show. You could be forgiven for wondering if you have the right disc when Franklin opens the show with "There's No Show Business Like Show Business," which is certainly not the kind of material that was drawing fans to her concerts anywhere around the globe in 1968. She gets down to real business soon enough, however, and concentrates on real soul tunes throughout most of the performance. Oddly, it takes her a while to get to the big hits she'd chalked up by the time of this program, but that does give you a chance to hear some relatively little-traveled songs like "Don't Let Me Lose This Dream" and a cover of the Rascals' "Groovin.'" Though she's performing with nothing but a vocal mike for much of the time (with assistance from three female backup singers), she does go to the piano to play and sing one of the highlights of the set, "Dr. Feelgood." And toward the end, she finally does get to the hits the audience must have been anticipating most highly, including "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)," "Respect," and "Chain of Fools." The DVD's bumped up to an hour-long length with the addition of a couple lip-synced clips from a 1967 TV show hosted by New York DJ Murray the K, along with a couple pre-superstardom 1965 clips from the Shivaree program.

The Grass Roots, California Folk Rock Zeitgeist: Live at Fillmore San Francisco 1967 (Vintage Masters, bootleg).This bootleg is actually identical to the one issued on Hyacinth in 2002 under the title Live at the Fillmore '67; bootlegs of two different 1967 Grass Roots Fillmore gigs might be stretching the bounds of credibility. What is astounding, if only mildly, is that the set -- in good if not perfect sound -- shows the band to be a fairly credible live act. It's also considerably rawer than their famous studio hit recordings of the period would lead one to expect, almost verging on garage rock at times. Some well-done renditions of their folk-rock-pop numbers are on hand with "Let's Live for Today," "Look Out Girl," "Things I Should Have Said," and "Where Were You When I Needed You," though the version of "This Precious Time" is not only incomplete, but also sounds as if it's taken from an official live LP. More surprising are blues-rock numbers like "Got My Mojo Working," "Night Time Is the Right Time," and "Have Love Will Travel," as well as a garage-psychedelic "Jam," all of which give the impression the group welcome the chance to be less slick and more earthy in a live setting. Best of all is "Feelings," here done in a far rawer arrangement than the studio version, with thundering bass and a much more explicit similarity to the riffs in the Rolling Stones' "2120 South Michigan Avenue." Overall it's much more interesting and powerful than the average '60s rock fan would expect of a live Grassroots bootleg, if not wholly representative of what said average fan would expect given their poppier studio releases.

Otis Redding, Dreams to Remember: The Legacy of Otis Redding [DVD] (Reelin' in the Years Productions). There isn't as much Otis Redding footage as there should be (and, of course, there wasn't as much Redding as there should be period, owing to his 1967 death in a plane crash). There's more footage than many people realize, however, and more than a dozen surviving clips form the backbone of this fine DVD. Though the Reelin' in the Years company has made some DVDs consisting of performance clips almost exclusively, this isn't one of those. It's more a Redding documentary that includes plenty of clips, as the vintage Otis performances are broken up by numerous interviews (with guitarist Steve Cropper, trumpeter Wayne Jackson, Stax records executive Jim Stewart, and wife Zelma Redding) filmed specifically for this project shortly before the disc's DVD release. Though that approach can sometimes be problematic, in this case it works well. The interviews are genuinely interesting, informative, and entertaining without resorting to hyberbole or undue sentimentality. The clips themselves are more mixed in quality, both in terms of the surviving audio/image standard and performances. But Redding's onstage dynamism almost always comes through well, even though a bunch of these are lip-synced television shows (even his wife admits that Otis wasn't a good mimer). They include a version apiece of most of his most well-known hits, though it's on the genuinely live songs that Redding truly shines. The highlights of those include "Satisfaction," from a 1967 Stax/Volt revue show in London; "My Girl," from an Oslo date on the same tour (four additional songs from that filming are available on a separate Reelin' in the Years DVD,  Stax/Volt Revue Live in Norway 1967); "Shake" at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival (though, again, about fifteen additional minutes are available from that same performance on the DVD The Complete Monterey Pop Festival); and a couple songs filmed for Upbeat on December 9, 1967, just the day before he and several members of his backup band died. Worthwhile extras include bonus interviews with Cropper and Jackson, and an image gallery soundtracked by a rare radio interview.

Dusty Springfield, Live at the BBC [DVD] (Universal). In 1966 and 1967, Dusty Springfield did two separate six-episode black-and-white television series, simply titled Dusty, for the BBC. Although there was one featured guest per show, otherwise the focus was all on Dusty, who sang a half-dozen or so songs on each program. Unfortunately a few of the episodes have been erased or lost, but material from nine of the twelve -- three of the ones broadcast in 1966, and all of the ones aired in 1967 -- is featured on this remarkable DVD, which is a real treasure trove of footage largely unknown even to many Springfield fans, especially in the US, where this series wasn't shown. It would be enough in itself simply to see so much footage of Springfield in her absolute prime, the episodes edited so that only her solo songs and performances are featured. What makes it downright amazing, however, is that many of the 46 songs -- only a very few of them multiple versions, and one of them (one of the two renditions of Jacques Brel's "If You Go Away") not even transmitted at the time -- are numbers she never put on her studio releases. Among them are a wealth of American soul covers, including good-to-dynamic versions of Martha & the Vandellas' "Heat Wave" and "Nowhere to Run," Aretha Franklin's "Soulville," the Temptations' "Get Ready," the Drifters' "I Don't Want to Go on Without You," Mary Wells' "You Lost the Sweetest Boy," and Sam Cooke's "Good Times."

Springfield was always an eclectic chooser of material, however, and perhaps more so than ever here given that she was performing on a nationally televised variety show. That can be a mixed blessing -- there are too many middle-of-the-road pop standards, including a vaudevillian number so cutesy ("If My Friends Could See Me Now") that even hardcore Springfield fans might feel like shielding their eyes from the screen. Yet the non-rock items also include some quite moving and intriguing performances that bring sides of Springfield to light that aren't too prominent in her 1960s records, including a beautiful rendition of the Irish traditional folk song "My Lagan Love"; the folk standard "Poor Wayfaring Stranger," which Springfield states she actually learned from Jo Stafford's version; the Spanish song "Anna," on which Dusty plays guitar; and "Two Brothers," a tune she originally recorded way back in her Springfields days. General fans who might feel disoriented by the inclusion of so much (and such a wide assortment of) obscure material can be reassured that she does in fact do a few hits too, including "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me," "All I See Is You," "Losing You," and "Some of Your Lovin'." It's great, though, to have the opportunity to hear (and see) her doing so many otherwise unavailable songs, and though the camerawork and sets are basic, her vocals are uniformly strong and her stage presence always elegant and ingratiating.

Also on the DVD are a few interesting extras, those being a version of the Rascals' "How Can I Be Sure" from a 1970 BBC program; covers of "Since I Fell for You" and (less pleasingly) "I Am Woman" from a 1972 episode of The Tom Jones Show; and a 1979 BBC performance of her lukewarm single "I'm Coming Home Again," preceded by almost 15 minutes of talk show chat in which she discusses her long stay abroad in Los Angeles. The photo gallery (some stills from the Dusty series accompanied by the studio version of "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me" on the soundtrack) and "jukebox," mixing audio-only versions of a few of her '60s hits with audio-only tracks taken from the Dusty performances, are inessential bonuses, especially as it makes much more sense to just watch the footage of the Dusty songs instead of merely listening to them. As good as this DVD is, it could have been even better had not three of the episodes from the 1966 Dusty series been tragically lost. What's here, however, is voluminous -- adding up to more than two-and-a-half hours -- and, more importantly, is not only fine historical footage, but also adds significantly to Springfield's body of 1960s work considering the unavailability of many of the songs on audio-only releases.

Johnny "Guitar" Watson, Untouchable! The Classic 1959-1966 Recordings (Ace). Like many a journeyman bluesman, Johnny "Guitar" Watson led something of an itinerant recording life during much of his career, wandering from label to label in the 1950s and 1960s with just a little chart success. Untouchable! does a great service to collectors by assembling 27 tracks from 1959-1966, many of which, surprisingly, had not only never previously come out on CD, but had never been reissued in any form. While in general these are blues/R&B crossover sides, there's more variety than one might think, and though the hopping between styles makes it a little uneven, it makes for a better listen in one gulp than you might expect. There's some relatively straight blues, particularly in the earlier sides; there are rather more blends of blues/R&B with pop than many blues fans might realize exist, sometimes on covers of pop standards, and sometimes employing strings; and there are cuts, particularly in the mid-'60s selections, that verge on out-and-out soul. It's true that the three songs most likely to be familiar to general blues and rock fans are among the very best material here, those being "Looking Back," which was covered by John Mayall's Bluesbreakers (with Peter Green on guitar); "Cuttin' In," a 1962 Top Ten R&B hit, and one of Watson's most effective fusions of blues (with biting guitar) and orchestration; and "Gangster of Love," one of Watson's signature tunes (though this 1963 King single, fine as it is, is not his original version). But everything here is at least okay, and much of it's above-average-to-excellent, even on some tracks where the influences of others like Clarence "Frogman" Henry, the Olympics, the Temptations, and Ray Charles are obvious. There might be a little less guitar pyrotechnics than some straightahead blues fans would like, and it's unfortunate that a few interesting cuts referred to in the liner notes from this period were not available for licensing. But overall it's a solid overview of a time when Watson was among the more interesting (and certainly overlooked) artists building bridges between the blues, R&B, and soul.

Los Zafiros, Los Zafiros: Music from the Edge of Time [DVD] (Shout Factory). Though very popular in their native Cuba and Miami, Los Zafiros' very existence remains unknown to almost everyone outside of that region. The 80-minute documentary Los Zafiros: Music from the Edge of Time does much to illuminate their intriguing story, combining outlines of the group's history with scenes of the surviving group members revisiting friends and relatives about forty years after the peak of their stardom. Dominating the film are the memories of the two surviving Los Zafiros, Manuel Galban (better known as part of the Buena Vista Social Club) and co-founder Miguel Cancio, who by the time of this documentary had moved from Cuba to Florida, though he visited to Cuba to shoot many of the scenes in this documentary. It could actually be said that there's too much emphasis on the emotional reunions and nostalgic storytelling, and not quite enough on Los Zafiros' actual music and career, though fortunately the inclusion of fuzzy black-and-white vintage '60s clips of the group does much to vividly illustrate their charm and appeal.

At times it seems the film is more about the sentimental nostalgia and heartbreak of close friends separated by time, death, and relocation than it is about a '60s musical group, with plenty of teary and merry scenes of informal musicmaking and conversation about the good old days. Too, there are some interesting tangents to the Los Zafiros that aren't explored beyond the surface or at all, like their popularity among the expatriate Cuban community in Florida; the novelty of being able to perform in Europe and Moscow, at a time when traffic to and from Cuba was very limited; and any unusual challenges or difficulties that might have been encountered in professionally performing and recording music so heavily derivative of American doo wop at a time when relations between Cuba and the US were very tense. Several rough comparisons of Los Zafiros' significance in Cuba to that of the Beatles seem stretched, given that the two groups shared few stylistic similarities. If you're willing to indulge the performers and filmmakers obvious forgiving sentimentality for the era and what the group represented, however, it's a window into a music, time, and place of which many outside of Cuba remain unaware.

The DVD also contains a whopping hour and 25 minutes of extras, most of those being deleted scenes and interviews not used for the principal documentary. Although a few of these are interesting (particularly a segment with an original member who left before their rise to fame), frankly these portions are going to be too much to wade through for most viewers, with plenty of informal jams and conversations that don't add any more to the story than similar scenes from the main feature do. There are too many general reiterations of what a great group Los Zafiros were without much specific interesting elaboration, and one interview with a fellow Cuban singer seems to use a brief positive comment about the group as an excuse to feature her own performance and a cappella vocals for several minutes. On the other hand, footage of several archival Los Zafiros performances from the '60s is quite valuable and entertaining, as are some excerpts from other not-strictly-related '60s Cuban television programs, featuring both other musical performers and some Cuban TV commercials from the era.

Various Artists, Banged Up: American Jailhouse Songs 1920s-1950s (Viper). It's a lot more fun to listen to songs about jail than it is to be in jail. And if you do enjoy tasting the jail experience through the vicarious medium of early-to-mid-twentieth century popular song, Banged Up: American Jailhouse Songs 1920s-1950s is a very fine compilation of prison tunes from various strains of American music. There are just a few classics here that might be reasonably familiar to the learned listener with eclectic tastes, those being Johnny Cash's original single recording of "Folsom Prison Blues," Jimmie Rogers' "In the Jailhouse Now," Bukka White's "Parchman Farm Blues," and the Robins' great mid-'50s R&B-rock stormer "Riot in Cell Block Number Nine." Many of the performers here, however, are actually pretty well known within their genres, including country blues (Leroy Carr), classic vocal jazz (Bessie Smith), early Chicago blues (Big Maceo Merriweather), hillbilly (the Delmore Brothers, Jimmie Davis, the Blue Sky Boys), early New Orleans jazz (Henry "Red" Allen"), cowboy music (Gene Autry), and even swing jazz (Bunny Berigan's "Prisoner's Song") and R&B (Richard Berry, represented by  "The Big Break," his follow-up to "Riot in Cell Block Number Nine"). Considering how miserable and abusive prison life often is in reality, the songs usually have a fairly jaunty, if oft-melancholy and wistful, take on jail time, one recording (Carr's "Christmas in Jail, Ain't That a Shame") even combining the jailbird and holiday genres. The grimmer aspects of incarceration, however, get their due in Smith's "Send Me to the 'Lectric Chair" and the late-1940s track credited simply to "Alex," the harmonica-and-voice "Prison Blues," which is a field recording of an actual inmate of Parchman Farm. Steve Hardstaff's annotation gives useful histories of both the performers and songs, and the officially 20-track disc ends with an unlisted bonus track that sounds like a 1920s/1930s-era gospel field recording.

Various Artists, Fairytales Can Come True: UK Popsike from the Late 60's (Psychic Circle). The idea of this compilation is to present obscure British recordings from the late 1960s that had definite psychedelic feel, but also had a lot of harmony pop influence at work as well. Often this led to a particularly precious branch of psychedelia dubbed (long after the fact) by some collectors as "toytown" music, in part because of a preoccupation with British character sketches, childhood nostalgia, and fantasy that was largely absent from American psychedelic rock. There's some of that here, but fortunately this largely steers clear of excessively precious and twee material, though some of it does have the good-time bounce that leaked down to so many bands from the circa-1967 Beatles and Kinks. None of these were hits or anything close to it, of course, but some general '60s collectors might actually recognize some of the musicians, particularly the Searchers (represented by a fairly respectable, and seldom anthologized, late-'60s 45, "Umbrella Man"); Jackie Lomax, as leader of the Lomax Alliance; Los Bravos, of "Black Is Black" fame (here heard covering the Easybeats song "Bring a Little Lovin'"); Ian Matthews, heard on the Pyramid's breezy "Summer of Last Year," recorded shortly before he joined Fairport Convention; and Hedegehoppers Anonymous and the Roulettes, both of whom had a little UK success on record in the '60s. What's most impressive about this compilation, however, is that there's a fair amount of variety in the selections, encompassing an obscure Troggs cover (Barry Benson's "Cousin Jane"), almost raw folk-rock (Hedgehoppers Anonymous' "Daytime"), sub-Walker Brothers balladeering (the Virgil Brothers' "Look Away"), and nearly baroque moodiness with influence from both classical music and Beach Boys harmonies (Fred Lloyd's "You Kissed Him," Dreams' "A Boy Needs a Girl," and Dave Christie's "Penelope Breedlove"). If you want more sing-songy sugary stuff, that's here too, but not so much so that listening to the CD gets to be an overly sickly sweet experience. It's definitely an anthology for deep UK psych specialists, but one of the better ones in this subgenre likely to ever be compiled.

Various Artists, Goffin & King: A Gerry Goffin & Carole King Song Collection 1961-1967 (Ace). Like songwriter team-oriented compilations that Ace has produced for Doc Pomus-Mort Shuman and Jerry Leiber-Mike Stoller, this anthology of 26 tracks penned by Gerry Goffin and Carole King mixes a few famous hits with a bunch of items that are much more off the beaten path. It's a mixed, if overall worthwhile, blessing. For it's not the place to start if you want the best and most famous work in the Goffin-King catalog, missing the biggest covers of their compositions by the Shirelles, Little Eva, Bobby Vee, Herman's Hermits, Manfred Mann, the Chiffons, the Everly Brothers, and others. On the other hand, for those who already have those hits several times over in their collections, it's a good place to pick up 1960s recordings of many of their lesser-known songs, with a few smashes (particularly Aretha Franklin's "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural  Woman" and the Animals' "Don't Bring Me Down") sprinkled in. The downside is that most of the songs, with some exceptions like the aforementioned pair, simply aren't as good or memorable as Goffin-King's most famous classics. But there are some very good tunes here, including a few that were small hits, like Tony Orlando's "Halfway to Paradise," Betty Everett's rousing soul-popper "I Can't Hear You,"  and the Tokens' "He's in Town" (which the Rockin' Berries made a much bigger hit in Britain). Also of note are oddities like the Crickets' "Don't Ever Change," a hit only in the UK (where the Beatles covered it in 1963 on the BBC), Bobby Vee's rare "The Idol" (a theme song for a 1962 TV documentary), and Dusty Springfield's version of "Wasn't Born to Follow" (a song much more renowned as done by the Byrds). Skeeter Davis' wonderful "Let Me Get Close to You" sounds like it should have been a big hit, but to be honest, most of the relatively unfamiliar tracks here simply aren't in the same league, though many have excellent period '60s pop-rock production. That's even the case when stars like the Drifters, Chiffons, Lenny Welch, Bobby Rydell, the Righteous Brothers, and the Everly Brothers take a crack at something, though Jackie DeShannon's girl group-flavored "Heaven Is Being with You" and P.J. Proby's Righteous Brothers-like "I Can't Make It Alone" are well worth hearing. Still, the CD's a smartly chosen sampling of material for those who want to hear more Goffin-King compositions than what's most commonly available, with excellent liner notes covering both the composers' early careers and these specific recordings.

Various Artists, Phil's Spectre III: A Third Wall of Soundalikes (Ace). Such is the wealth of Phil Spector soundalike productions from the 1960s, and such is Ace Records' industriousness in licensing a wide variety of them for the Phil's Spectre series, that there's no decline in either the quality or range of material selected for this third volume. The 26 tracks include actual hit singles (Lesley Gore's "Look of Love," Martha & the Vandellas' "In My Lonely Room") and a whole bunch of flops in the girl group, pop-soul, and pseudo-Righteous Brothers styles (as well as including an actual Righteous Brothers cut in "My Tears Will Go Away"). There's even a bit of folk-rock (the Ashes' "Is There Anything I Can Do," which sounds like a Spectorian cross between the Mamas & the Papas and the Byrds) and bubblegum (the 1950 Fruitgum Company's "When We Get Married"). One point the compilation does drive home is not just how extensive Spector's influence was throughout the industry, but also how much a good song, as well as a grand production, was necessary to make a Phil Spector production (or imitation thereof) good. Some of these tracks have some of the master's tricks down pat, but are simply missing a memorable tune to go along with it. Still, there are some very good cuts here, starting with the aforementioned Gore and Martha & the Vandellas hits. Also of note, though, is the pummeling Crystals-like, David Gates-produced-and-penned mid-charting single "My One and Only, Jimmy Boy" by the Girlfriends, one of the very best Phil Spector imitations (and very best girl group singles) of all. Other highlights are the Kit Kats' "That's the Way," which grafts Spectorian production onto a bit of Four Seasons-like vocals; Alder Ray's "'Cause I Love Him," which is not just a Phil Spector soundalike, but also a Darlene Love soundalike; and Bonnie's expansive "Close Your Eyes." Mick Patrick's liner notes provide an abundance of detail and vintage illustrations for those mostly rare and unknown releases.

Various Artists, Rock & Roll Years Vol. 6 [DVD bootleg] (Pinup). An unauthorized DVD compilation this may be, but it's still a pretty good way to view a 90-minute series of rare rock'n'roll television and film clips from the mid-1950s through the mid-1960s. An eclectic variety of stars and obscure performers are represented, many of the clips are live (though a good share are mimed), and the image and sound quality are pretty good, though a little below what you might expect of an official product. Some highlights include one-shot rockabilly group the Sparkletones doing electrifyingly kinetic live versions of "Rocket" and their hit "Black Slacks"; the Johnny Otis Show doing their hit "Willie & the Hand Jive," with backup vocals by the huge woman trio the 3 Tons of Joy; live performances of "Blue Jean Bop" and "Sexy Ways" by a leather-clad Gene Vincent; live Ed Sullivan Show appearances by Buddy Knox and Jimmy Bowen, who sing their rockabilly-pop hits "Party Doll" and "I'm Stickin' with You" respectively; Judy Tyler's energetic "Roving Gal," interesting if only for the sheer novelty of seeing an energetic unknown '50s white woman rock'n'roll singer; and Ritchie Valens' mime of "Ooh My Head" from the movie Go, Johnny, Go! A few of these performers, like Johnny Horton, Tennessee Ernie Ford (doing an elongated "Sixteen Tons" with audience participation), and Ferlin Husky, were country-pop singers rather than rockers, but they still fit in okay considering how popular they were at times with the rock audience during the era. It's true this does contain its share of comparatively dull mimed clips, but at least it affords you a chance to see artists like Jan & Dean, Brenda Lee, Eddie Cochran, Wilbert Harrison, and Billy Ward who don't pop up on archival television programs or film documentaries very often. Ending the disc is an exciting seven-song UK TV segment from January 8, 1964 featuring Little Richard live (with backup by British band Sounds Incorporated). It starts out a little more subdued than you might expect or hope, but soon gets rowdy enough as he rips his way through some of his big hits ("Rip It Up," "Lucille," "Long Tall Sally," "Good Golly Miss Molly," "Send Me Some Lovin'") and covers of "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" and "Hound Dog."

Various Artists, Stax/Volt Revue Live in Norway 1967 [DVD] (Reelin' in the Years Productions). Many soul fans are well aware of the lore behind the Stax/Volt Revue's early 1967 tour of Europe, especially as it generated several live albums. It wasn't widely known until the release of this DVD forty years later, however, that more than an hour of one concert was filmed for Norwegian television. Though this 75-minute DVD isn't perfect either musically or technically, it's plenty good, especially musically. Thus it has to get a five-star rating considering both the dynamism of the performances and the immense historical significance it carries as the only available lengthy document of the Stax sound as it hit its 1967 peak. Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Eddie Floyd, Arthur Conley (not a Stax artist but along for the tour), the Mar-Keys, and Booker T. & the MG's all play 100% live on this black-and-white program, with the MG's and Mar-Keys also serving as the backup musicians for all the singers. Redding and Sam & Dave, as you'd expect, have the longest and best segments, both of them literally sweating buckets as they fire up a staid Norwegian crowd (who'd likely never seen anything like this before) with some of their most popular mid-'60s tunes. Nothing on the revue's a waste, however, as Conley has enough time to rip through his smash "Sweet Soul Music"; the Mar-Keys step snazzily through three instrumentals, including their big hit "Last Night"; Eddie Floyd does well enough in his only song, "Raise Your Hand"; and Booker T. & the MG's open things up with their instrumentals "Red Beans and Rice" and a smoldering, elongated "Green Onions." Though the footage is a bit grainy, the cinematography's fine if a little basic. And it's definitely better than the 55-minute version (duplicating the original broadcast) that's made the round on bootleg: not only is the quality considerably better, but the filmmakers also found twenty additional minutes of footage that didn't make the original program, including a second, different version of "Green Onions." Significant extras include interviews with Steve Cropper (of Booker T. & the MG's), Wayne Jackson (of the Mar-Keys), Jim Stewart (executive at Stax Records), and Sam Moore (of Sam & Dave) conducted specifically for this project. What's more, there's a full-length commentary track from Cropper, Jackson, and Stax authority Rob Bowman, who also wrote the comprehensive liner notes, sealing a great package that's essential for soul fans.

Various Artists, A Trunk Full of 60's Pop Exotica: Swinging London: The Accidental Genius of Saga Records 1968-1970 (RPM). In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the British budget label Saga recorded numerous albums designed to cash in on UK pop-rock-psychedelic trends. The LPs were quickie exploitation jobs, but as is often the case with such productions, some reasonably genuine stuff couldn't help sneaking through and finding status among serious '60s collectors decades later. This quite unusual compilation gathers 25 tracks that were scattered across numerous Saga releases, the common denominator being that all of them were plugged into British mod rock and psychedelia to some degree. It almost goes without saying that none of these songs were hits, and that very few of them are known even to veteran British '60s collectors, though some might be familiar with the Five Day Week Straw People, the Magic Mixture, and the Blackbirds (the last actually a German group whose material Saga managed to issue for the UK market). A few recognizable musicians do pop up here and there, even if the culprits most likely wouldn't mind having these relics buried deep within their resumes, including Mungo Jerry's Ray Dorset (here part of Good Earth), future Fairport Convention bassist Dave Pegg (as part of the Dave Peace Quartet), and original Fleetwood Mac bassist Bob Brunning (as part of Five's Company). As you also might expect, the actual music's not nearly as interesting as it is rare, since much of it's either heavily derivative and/or obviously trying to latch on to fashionable Swinging London-type grooves and the lighter side of psychedelia. Approached with the right level of expectations, however, that doesn't mean there aren't some fun or at least amusing moments along the way, if you're a fan of those genres and have at least a little irreverent humor about the styles' excesses and naivete. With one exception, you wouldn't say that anything here is a lost gem, but a good number of the tracks are fairly groovy in different and sometimes off-the-wall ways. Those cuts would include the Blackbirds' downright creepy "She," with its horror movie organ and Dracula-like vocals; the Dave Moses Group's cool Latin-tinged organ-based go-go lounge instrumental, "Quite Fast"; Linda & Noel's quite accomplished slice of toytown psych-pop, "Mr. Bantam's Fair"; New World's strange heavy psych adaptation of "Scheherazade"; Shake 26's hard-charging instrumental "Underground Set," which bisects mod rock and heavy psychedelia; Five Day Week Straw People's ridiculously echo-smothered "Sunday Morning" (not the Velvet Underground song!); and Magical Mixture's dreamy "Moon Beams," perhaps the one cut on the CD that can hold its own as a legitimate first-rate piece of UK psychedelic buried treasure. Others are just okay, or generic or even subpar, though sometimes in a manner that lovers of kitsch might appreciate. Stefan Granados' lengthy liner notes dig up more information about these obscure budget releases than anyone would have thought possible.


Archived Reviews

Chet Atkins, The Essential Chet Atkins (RCA Nashville/Legacy). Chet Atkins is more esteemed as a session musician and producer than a solo artist, and critics have rightly noted that much of his immense catalog as a solo artist is unimpressive. It might thus be assumed that it would be difficult to pick a two-CD, 40-track career-spanning retrospective that would both represent much of his finest solo output and appeal to the general listener, not just the country music scholar. Happily, this set manages the difficult feat of doing exactly that, owing to intelligent selection of a wide cross-section of tracks, going all the way back to a 1946 single by Chester Atkins and the All-Star Hillbillies and all the way up to a 1995 recording (though most of the set predates 1970). Atkins' virtuosity as a guitarist has never been in question, but here it's allied with good material and taste, showing him as a fine blender of hillbilly, boogie, and jazz styles in a variety of contexts. It's mostly instrumental, of course, but wisely his talents as a sideman are showcased here and there too on vocal sides by the Carter Sisters and Mother Maybelle, Eddy Arnold, the Everly Brothers, and Don Gibson. Even the pop standards are good when chosen this judiciously, and there are some surprisingly bold moves into more electric and rock-influenced territory on cuts like "Slinkey" (with its innovative tremolo), "Boo Boo Stick Beat," the Shadows cover "Man of Mystery," and "Teen Scene" (which he co-wrote with Jerry Reed). It might not be the ultimate Atkins compilation, given the sheer quantity of material the guitarist recorded, but it's a good—and, more crucially, very listenable—starting point for surveying his work as a solo artist.

The Blossom Toes, We Are Ever So Clean (Sunbeam). Imagine the late-'60s Kinks crossed with a touch of the absurdist British wit of the Bonzo Dog Band, and you have an idea of the droll charm of Blossom Toes' debut album. Songwriters Brian Godding and Jim Cregan were the chief architects of the Toes' whimsical and melodic vision, which conjured images of a sun-drenched Summer of Love, London style. With its references to royal parks, tea time, watchmakers, intrepid balloon makers, "Mrs. Murphy's Budgerigar," and the like, it's a distinctly British brand of whimsy. It has since been revealed that session men performed a lot of these orchestral arrangements, which embellished the band's sparkling harmonies and (semi-buried) guitars. But the cello, brass, flute, and tinkling piano have a delicate beauty that serves as an effective counterpoint. The group sings and plays as though they have wide grins on their faces, and the result is one of the happiest, most underappreciated relics of British psychedelia. The 2007 CD reissue on Sunbeam adds ten bonus tracks that are of great value in rounding out a more accurate picture of the band around the time the album was recorded. They include a worthwhile outtake from the LP, "Everybody's Talking"; alternative versions, minus the orchestral overdubs, of "Look At Me I'm You" (instrumental only) and "I'll Be Late for Tea" that give a better idea of how the band actually sounded live at the time, isolated from the album's elaborate production; live, and quite different, versions of "Mister Watchmaker" and "Love Is" that are far sparer than the original LP arrangements, including vibraphone, flute, and Mellotron; the scarce (and not very good) non-LP single version of Bob Dylan's "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight"; and three decent demos of Brian Godding compositions, of unspecified origin. Also included are thorough historical liner notes drawing on extensive interviews with the band members.

Vashti Bunyan, Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind (Singles and Demos 1964 to 1967) (Dicristina). Vashti Bunyan will always be most known for her 1970 album Just Another Diamond Day, a big cult favorite among some folk-rock fans, and her 2005 comeback Lookaftering. She did, however, release a couple obscure singles in the mid-1960s, as well as doing quite a few unreleased studio and demo recordings around the same time. This 25-track collection couldn't be bettered as a thorough sweep of her material from this era, including both sides of her two mid-'60s 45s; three tracks from singles that went unreleased; demos and tapes from 1966-67; and a good dozen tracks from a 1964 tape that Bunyan found in her brother's attic decades later. As interesting as these are to Bunyan fans, it does show a talent that's still in fairly embryonic shape. The mid-'60s singles (released and otherwise) are quite reminiscent of Marianne Faithfull's orchestrated pop-folk recordings from the same era, yet even wispier and more precious. The similarity can't help but be accentuated by the choice of an unreleased Mick Jagger-Keith Richards composition ("Some Things Just Stick in Your Mind") as her 1965 debut 45, just as Faithfull had debuted with another Rolling Stones offering, "As Tears Go By." Some Phil Spector influence gets poured into the production on "Coldest Night of the Year," done with fellow Andrew Loog Oldham clients Twice As Much. A folkier approach is taken on the unreleased 1966-67 demos and tapes that feature just her voice and acoustic guitar, though the songs likely would have also ended up in a baroque pop-folk bag had they been produced for official release. "I'd Like to Walk Around in Your Mind" and "17 Pink Sugar Elephants" show her drifting toward more unusual and fanciful lyrics, though the oddest tune, "Don't Believe," sounds almost like it could have been a demo targeted toward Herman's Hermits in its skipalong jauntiness. The dozen voice-and-acoustic-guitar songs from the 1964 tape (lasting only 23 minutes in all) are even barer than the 1966-67 demos, and yet more subdued and fragile-sounding, bringing to mind a young melancholic girl singing to herself in a tiny bedsit on a cloudy London day. The roots of the pastoral delicacy of Just Another Diamond Day are obvious throughout this disc, but Bunyan's personality has yet to come through as strongly, and much of the material here is a little rudimentary in comparison.

Billy Butler, The Right Tracks: The Complete OKeh Recordings 1963-1966 (Kent). Not to be confused with the prior, similarly titled Edsel compilation titled The Right Track, this compiles virtually all of the material Billy Butler recorded for OKeh from 1963-66. The officially released singles he cut for the label during this period comprise about half of this 29-track collection, and are essential for lovers of '60s Chicago soul for several reasons. First and foremost, Butler, though far less celebrated than his older brother Jerry Butler, was a fine singer and songwriter in his own right, producing consistently good pop-soul discs that were rather reminiscent of the Impressions (and, at times, Major Lance, another Chicago soul artist with strong connections to Curtis Mayfield). In addition, if you are a fan of Mayfield's mid-'60s work with the Impressions and as a songwriter/producer, this has some of his best overlooked work in the latter capacity. "Found True Love," "I Can't Work No Longer," "Can't Live Without Her," "Nevertheless," and "(You Make Me Think) You Ain't Ready" are some of the standouts here, but everything's worth hearing, whether they're pleading ballads or uptempo dance tunes. All that noted, the rare and previously unissued cuts that make up about half the CD are a mixed blessing and mostly far below the level of the officially released 45s, though those singles are outstanding enough to make the disc worth purchasing even if you rarely listen to the other half. Some of these extras are alternate versions that aren't better, or too different, from the ones that found release; others are backing tracks and instrumentals. "Fighting a Losing Battle," in fact, is the only one that's comparable in quality to the 1963-66 singles. Also note that despite the title The Complete OKeh Recordings 1963-1966, this  doesn't seem 100% complete; there's a vocal version of "You Won't Let Me Forget It" on the Edsel comp The Right Track that doesn't appear on this CD, though this disc does have an instrumental backing track of the song. As for further nitpicking, though the liner notes claim that the cool doo wop-influenced "Does It Matter" (included here in two versions) has never been released before, a version does in fact appear on the same aforementioned The Right Track anthology. These are small blemishes on what's otherwise a good, well-annotated compilation of one of the best overlooked '60s soul singers.

Nick Drake, Family Tree (Tsunami Label Group). For many years after his death, unreleased home tapes that Nick Drake made shortly before beginning his official recording career have been bootlegged among collectors. The 28 songs on Family Tree add up to an extensive (though not quite complete, missing some minor covers like "Get Together," "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright," and "Summertime") compilation of the performances he recorded on such equipment before he cut his debut album, 1969's Five Leaves Left. The bulk of it, and the part that's been oft-bootlegged, was recorded on a reel-reel at his family home (and include a vocal duet between him and sister Gabrielle Drake on "All My Trials," though otherwise they're all solo performances). Less familiar, and hence probably new even to many hardcore Drake collectors, are eight songs taped on cassette somewhat earlier during his spring 1967 stay in Aix-En-Provence in France, as well as a couple of earlier versions of songs that later appeared on Five Leaves Left that were taped by Robert Kirby in 1968, and a couple recordings of songs sung and played (on piano) by Nick's mother, Molly Drake. Many Drake fans will already be familiar with the performances he taped at his family home, but the cleaned-up sound here makes this disc much easier to listen to than those earlier unauthorized releases, though everything's still (inevitably given the sources) a little lo-fi.

As for the music, it's a very pleasant and listenable portrait of Drake's folk roots, though not on par (and not meant to be) with his studio releases. For one thing, at this point, he wasn't playing much of his own material; most of the songs are traditional folk tunes, or covers of compositions by '60s folk songwriters that were obviously big influences on Drake, such as Bert Jansch, Jackson C. Frank, and Dylan (and, on "Been Smokin' Too Long," a friend he met in France, Robin Frederick). Also, both his guitar work and singing are more derivative of the likes of Jansch, Donovan, and country bluesmen such as Blind Boy Fuller (whose "My Baby's So Sweet" he covers here) than they would be by the time he settled into his own style on Five Leaves Left. Still, much of what makes Drake special does come through, even with the relatively low percentage of original material and primitive recording conditions. His folk guitar work is already nimble, but more striking are his vocals, which already boast his characteristic mixture of assured slight smokiness and English reserve. And the few Drake compositions put his reclusive yet poetic worldview in greater, more original focus, though it's really only on the songs later used on Five Leaves Left (and, perhaps, the haunting if Donovan-esque "Strange Meeting II") that it becomes fully mature. The two Molly Drake songs, incidentally, aren't mere completist add-ons; they make it clear that she was likely a substantial influence upon her son's melancholy melodies and songwriting, if perhaps a subliminal one. Less essential, though still illuminating for the dedicated Drake fan, is a classical instrumental (by "the Family Trio") with Nick on clarinet.

Aretha Franklin, Aretha Franklin & King Curtis Live at Montreux: The Another Side of Don't Fight the Feeling [DVD bootleg]. Shot live at the Montreux Jazz Festival on June 12, 1971, this 70-minute color footage offers five songs from King Curtis & the Kingpins, followed by a twice-as-long set from the featured attraction, Aretha Franklin (with Curtis' band the Kingpins backing her up). How can you go wrong with that kind of talent? You can't, though this unauthorized DVD gives it a try. So let's get the negatives out of the way first: the image transfer is a little washed-out and jumpy, though still viewable with reasonable comfort. A big fat rectangular "Footstomp" logo appears on the lower right-hand part of the screen throughout, in case you have any doubt who's made it possible for you to view this material. This doesn't seem to be the whole set, either, or possibly not include everything that was filmed; in the cruelest blow, one of Franklin's best numbers here, "Dr. Feelgood," is cut off before the end. But these are outweighed, though not hugely, by the positives, mainly Aretha's performance. This is the Queen of Soul in her prime, literally sweating with effort, and sticking to her finest material, including "A Natural Woman (You Make Me Feel Like)," "I Say a Little Prayer," "Don't Play That Song," "Spirit in the Dark, and "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)." She also plays piano for a good portion of the performance, allowing appreciation of what's always been an overlooked part of her skill set. In comparison, King Curtis' set (with Cornell Dupree on guitar) is a little unremarkable, though it's still solid soul, including versions of "Soul Serenade" and "A Whiter Shade of Pale." But as good as it is to have this rather than not having it all, like many such products, it begs the question: if the footage exists in better condition, when is someone going to get a hold of it and give this historically important material the presentation and packaging it deserves?

Aretha Franklin, Rare & Unreleased Recordings from the Golden Reign of the Queen of Soul (Rhino). Aretha Franklin's recordings for Atlantic in the late 1960s and early 1970s are universally acknowledged as her best, and this two-CD set draws exclusively from that era, spanning late 1966 to 1973. Aside from the B-sides "Pledging My Love/The Clock" and "Lean on Me," everything here is a demo, outtake, or alternate version -- a real hoard of largely previously unheard material from the prime of one of the greatest soul singers. Franklin and Atlantic did exercise sound judgement as to what to select for release, however. So these recordings, as valuable as they'll be for soul fans to hear, are neither on par with her best official work nor revelatory insofar as uncovering hidden gems or unsuspected stylistic detours. Still, what's here is characteristic Franklin soul, which is satisfying enough. Historically speaking, the most fascinating of these vault finds may be the three late-1966 demos that lead off the set, including early versions of "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)" and "Dr. Feelgood," although the rudimentary arrangements (just voice, piano, bass, and drums) illustrate how vital Jerry Wexler's production was to getting the most out of the material. Otherwise the tracks reflect the diversity of the songs Aretha was putting on her official Atlantic releases, encompassing covers of tunes penned by James Brown, her sister Carolyn  Franklin, Motown, Van McCoy, Leonard Cohen, and Gene McDaniels, and even including a pass at "My Way" (as well as several items whose composers remain unknown). Stylistically the palette is broad, too, from wailing near-bluesy soul to near-pop, usually played with tight soul combos, but wrapping up with a solo piano demo of "Are You Leaving Me." The early-'70s recordings on the second disc don't have quite the energy and quality of the first, though they're still performances most artists would envy, taking in mild funk, earthy gospel, and a slight creeping slick pop influence. As for the track that seems most inexplicably passed over for release back in the day, that would be the bold, pounding McCoy-authored 1968 outtake "So Soon."

The Goons, Unchained Melodies (Decca). Though the Goons are known primarily as a spoken-word comedy team, they also recorded their share of musical parodies. This highly enjoyable 14-track compilation is dominated by singles they released on Decca in the UK in 1956 and 1957, fleshed out by a couple 1955 recordings that didn't get released until 1990, as well as a 1978 reunion single. Few popular music styles escaped their arrows, the songs taking shots at rock'n'roll, opera, popular standards, Christmas odes, music hall, and even yodeling country and western. They even yielded two double-sided British hits in 1956, "Bluebottle Blues"/"I'm Walking Backwards for Christmas" and "The Ying Tong Song"/"Bloodnok's Rock and Roll Call." Listening to these recordings several decades down the line, it's obvious how substantial an influence the trio of Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, and Harry Secombe were on subsequent British comedians. The use of funny voices can be very similar to Monty Python's, especially the nasal high-pitched ones, while the intro to "Eeh! Ah! Oh! Ooh!" makes the Goons' connection to the Bonzo Dog Band clear. But even taken aside from its historical context, this is funny (and non-dated) stuff, the trio deflating all manner of musical pomposity with charm, superb timing, and deft insertion of silly sound effects (with, on four of the tracks, help from producer George Martin). The 16-page booklet of liner notes is a helpful survey of the Goons' career in general, and their comedy recordings in particular.

Elmore James, The Classic Early Recordings 1951-1956 (Ace). Although a few hardcore Chicago electric blues fans might take offense at the remark, Elmore James' work does not comprise the most varied discography among major bluesmen. So a single-disc survey of his material, whether it covers the first five years or so of his career (as this three-CD anthology does) or a longer period, works better as both a general introduction and a more listenable compilation than a box set does. If you're a completist who does want everything known to exist that he laid down in the studio between August 1951 and January 1956, however, this 71-track compilation is the most thorough retrospective of that era likely to be produced. In addition to including songs that were not issued in any form until after his death (and sometimes long after his passing), there are multiple takes of specific tunes, alternates, false starts, studio chatter, instrumental version, songs on which he guested by Bep Brown and Little Johnny Jones, and so forth. Indeed, there are so many multiple versions on this release that even the liner notes take care to suggest custom-programming the CD sequence if you'd rather not hear them all in a row. For all the if-we-can-find-it-release-it mentality driving this collection, however, it really is pretty listenable, at least if you like James and early-to-mid-1950s Chicago blues a lot. For one thing, it does include a couple of big hits, those being Elmore's original 1952 version of "Dust My Broom" and the 1953 Top Ten R&B hit "I Believe." More relevantly, James played and sang consistently well even on the material that languished in the vault. Plus all those multiple versions aren't wholly repetitive; James occasionally makes changes to the lyrics and music, though the similarity of style from song to song is prevalent enough that you have to be paying close attention to catch all of these. Some fans primarily familiar with James through his Delta-soaked electric slide guitar playing (and there's plenty of that here) will also be surprised at the commercial R&B edge to many of the sides, though it's commercial in the better sense of that term, often with horns and piano urbanizing Elmore's approach. The forty-page booklet has a wealth of information, vintage photos, and a detailed sessionography, increasing its appeal to those who want all things Elmore. (Initially released in 1993 in long-box packaging, The  Classic Early Recordings 1951-1956 was reissued by Ace in 2007 as a standard-sized three-CD set with a different cover.)

Koerner, Ray & Glover, Blues, Rags & Hollers: The Koerner, Ray & Glover Story [DVD] (MVD Visual). As much of a cult following as they have among blues and folk fans, Koerner, Ray & Glover aren't exactly the kind of act who will attract interest from noted documentary filmmakers or PBS's American Masters series. So Tony Glover himself co-directed this 1986 documentary, which began as a half-hour film, and was eventually expanded to the two-hour form in which it's presented on this DVD. Its low-budget, humble origins are sometimes evident, though only the occasional fluctuation in sound levels is a significant drawback. Too, the relative scarcity of vintage footage -- it wasn't until April 1982, nearly 20 years after their first recordings, that they appeared on television -- means it has to rely heavily on talking heads and still photos. As much as a DVD can be said to grow on you over the course of its two-hour running time, however, this low-key but affectionate portrait does. John Koerner, Dave Ray, and Tony Glover all speak extensively about their individual and group histories, their idiosyncratic combination of folk and blues, and their sporadic recordings. Indeed, about as much time's given to their various side projects as their work together as a trio, and while the early-to-mid-'60s recordings that established their reputation aren't neglected, there's a lot of coverage of what they did in the subsequent two decades as well. What comes across most memorably is the humble, droll diffidence of all them toward fame and fortune; in the case of Koerner and Ray in particular, they just didn't seem too bothered with getting ahead in the music business, simply playing for kicks and rolling willy-nilly with whatever whimsical paths their music or lives took. The documentary also reveals some interesting non-musical activities of Glover's that even fans of the trio might not be aware of, including his stint as a popular radio DJ, his rock journalism, and his friendship with Patti Smith long before she start to perform music. This won't win any major awards for striking or slick documentary filmmaking, but if there was an award for the least pretentious documentary of a significant recording act, it could well win that prize. The DVD includes a couple updates as to their surprisingly extensive activities in the two decades following 1986 (including, sadly, Dave Ray's death in 2002), as well as 25 minutes of performance footage from the 1990s.

Lene Lovich, Live from New York at Studio 54 [DVD] (MVD Visual). While it's better to have some Lene Lovich footage from her prime than nothing, it must be admitted that even Lovich fans will find this nearly-hour-long disc of a 1981 live performance disappointing in some important respects. Originally filmed for a television program (and not a high-budget one, from the looks of things), the footage is a little grainy and the camera work sporadically shaky. Most unfortunately, the sound balance isn't so good, and the element that suffers most is the crucial one, Lovich's singing. Whether it's the fault of the equipment being used on stage, the sound equipment used by the film crew, or both, her vocals aren't as out-front as they should be, and specific lyrics are often slightly muffled and hard to understand. Add the fairly crude insertion of some special visual effects and audience interviews, and it's something of a cross between a real production and what you might expect from a bootleg. The performances themselves, however, are fine, with Lovich animatedly performing eleven songs that include some of her most popular tunes, among them "Home," "One in a Million," "Too Tender (To Touch)," "Say When," "New Toy," and "Lucky Number." Visually she's distinctive as well, her costume and hairstyle suggesting a cross between a punk, a cabaret singer, and the Swiss Heidi character. The band plays well with an affable stage presence that gladly concedes the spotlight to Lovich, although the backup group includes one member, Thomas Dolby, who would soon become a star in his own right. The only DVD extra is a brief rehearsal clip, with a Lovich voiceover taken from comments in an interview she gave.

Les Paul, Chasing Sound! [DVD] (Koch Vision). Originally presented as a 90-minute documentary on PBS' American Masters series, this DVD adds 90 minutes of extras to this overview of one of the most influential (and genre-crossing) guitarists of the recording era. The main feature takes a little too long to get going, laying on perhaps a few too many testimonials than is necessary before getting to the core story. The core story, fortunately, does occupy the heart of the film, based around interviews with Paul, conducted at a time when he'd been in the music business for more than seven decades. The interviews are mixed with memories from associates, praise from admirers ranging from B.B. King and Bonnie Raitt to Richard Carpenter and Jeff Beck, and vintage footage going all the way back to movie appearances predating Paul's hooking up with Mary Ford. The footage with Ford, even including a TV commercial, supplies the most entertaining segments, illustrating as it does Paul's peak as a player and recording artist. What makes his story particularly interesting, however, is not just his run of hit records in the 1950s, as influential and impressive as they were. There were also the innovations he made on several fronts, particularly as a pioneer of multi-track recording and one of the very first musicians to explore and expand the possibilities of the electric guitar. Of the extra features, the most interesting are the more complete series of vintage TV clips of Paul and Ford (including several commercials), as well as some older clips of Paul playing in groups before he and Ford formed a duo (as well as one of Ford singing as part of a three-woman backup group). Also included in the extras are full-length performances, filmed not long before this DVD was released in 2007, with Les Paul and His Trio (some of which are excerpted in the main documentary); duets with Keith Richards, Kay Starr, Merle Haggard, and Chet Atkins (filmed between 1996-2005); more extended interview segments with Paul about his jazz background, recording methods, and guitars; and a gallery of vintage photo stills.

The Rolling Stones, Beat! Beat! Beat! At the Beeb (bootleg) (Invasion Unlimited). The Rolling Stones' 1963-65 BBC sessions have usually been scattered piecemeal over innumerable bootlegs. This two-CD, 50-track set does what should have been done a long time ago by a legitimate label, gathering every known recording they did for the radio network onto one package. There are things to be said against this anthology, namely the uneven sound quality, which ranges from excellent to marginal (though overall it's pretty good). But even at its worst it's listenable, and the compilers did seem to be working from the best available tapes that have escaped into circulation. Of more importance, this is the most complete picture yet of the most vital body of early Rolling Stones recordings that has yet to gain official release. As is usual for BBC compilations (authorized or otherwise) of British Invasion bands, much of it's given over to live (or at least live-in-the-studio) performances of songs also found on their official studio releases, though with a rougher and stripped-down edge. There are, however, a number of songs that never found their way onto those releases, including great covers of Chuck Berry's "Memphis, Tennessee" and "Roll Over Beethoven"; not as great, but still good, covers of Berry's "Beautiful Delilah"; and versions of Tommy Tucker's "Hi Heel Sneakers," Bo Diddley's "Cops and Robbers" and "Crackin' Up," Buster Brown's "Fannie Mae," and Howlin' Wolf's "Meet Me in the Bottom." These alone would make this of significant importance, but there are also BBC versions of a lot of material from their early albums, EPs, and singles going back to their debut 45 "Come On," including such standouts as "I Wanna Be Your Man," "You Better Move On," "I Just Want to Make Love to You," "Around and Around," "Carol," "It's All Over Now," "Route 66," "2120 South Michigan Avenue," "Walking the Dog," "The Last Time," and "(I Can't Get No Satisfaction)." Alas, there are very few Stones originals on the set; the only others besides "The Last Time" and "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" are "Little By Little" and "The Spider and the Fly." And as with some other bands who recorded prolifically for the BBC, there are multiple versions of many of the songs, though never more than two of any of the same tune, spaced far enough apart from each other that listener enjoyment isn't diminished. On the whole these are sparkling, if occasionally, raw performances that testify to the group's brilliance as an R&B-rock band in their early days. There's no reason they shouldn't be officially released with the appropriately possible sonic cleanup, especially as there are several other far less worthy Stones rarities/live releases cluttering their official discography.

Mick Taylor, The Mick Taylor Collection [DVD bootleg] (Original Artists). Because Mick Taylor never established himself as a significant solo artist or bandleader, this nearly two-hour unauthorized DVD isn't so much a collection of Taylor clips as an anthology of performances he gave as part of other bands. When those other artists include the Rolling Stones, Mike Oldfield, Jack Bruce, and John Mayall, however, some good music is guaranteed, whether or not you're a particular Taylor fan. The clip with Mayall, unfortunately, amounts to nothing more than a brief bit from a Mayall documentary, with no significant performance footage. The three tracks from his first concert (at Hyde Park in July 1969) with the Rolling Stones are better, but be warned that these have been issued as bonus material on the official DVD release of that concert, so the kind of fanatics likely to pick up this bootleg in the first place might already have it in their collection. After an extensive trailer for the Ladies & Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones Film, we then come to the unexpected highlight of the disc: a 25-minute live 1973 performance (source unidentified, though it looks like a TV broadcast) of Mike Oldfield's "Tubular Bells" in excellent quality, though here Taylor's just part of a mini-orchestra of sorts with about ten players.

Then follows another big find: an hour-long 1975 BBC television concert by the short-lived incarnation of the Jack Bruce Band in which Taylor played, preceded by an interview with Bruce and Taylor. Also including major jazz artist Carla Bley on keyboards, future Knack (!) drummer Bruce Gary, and keyboardist Ronnie Leahy, this group never put out a record while Taylor was in the band, making this program a lost album of sorts. Unfortunately, while the image quality and transfer are okay, the music's kind of disappointing, dominated by Bruce's ponderous songs. These are a little like his more ambitious Cream tunes without the pop-friendliness, adding a lot of gloomy, arty jazzy pretensions. Too, Taylor's role in the music isn't as large as one might have guessed, and doesn't bear much relationship to the blues-rock for which he's renowned; based on this evidence, it seems unsurprising that his partnership with Bruce didn't stick. If only for the gap it fills in for our knowledge of what this band sounded like, however, it's a significant if underwhelming document. Sadly, the final clip, of Taylor playing in Chris Jagger's band in 2003, is awful from almost every angle: there's bad camerawork, sound, and singing, and the song goes on way too long, though you can tell Taylor's still got his chops when he solos.

The Tempests, Would You Believe! (Poker). The Tempests' sole album is prototypical late-'60s beach music: swinging if somewhat bellicose blue-eyed soul, albeit in a ten-piece band with nine whites fronted by a black singer. There's a staunch brassiness to the arrangements, with two saxes and two trumpets, and Hazel Martin delivers his vocals with assured though slightly vibrato-laden earnestness. More beach soul ingredients are added by the keening, buzzing organ of Michael Branch. The resultant sound is often in the same ballpark as fellow beach music biggies like Bill Deal and the Rhondels,  though the Tempests are less frat-oriented and a little more oriented toward earthy soul, in large part because they have an actual African-American singer. It helps that, unlike some other such LPs from the time, most of the material is original, and fairly good and versatile. The upbeat, uptempo stuff is favored, but they're also capable of pulling out a dramatic ballad like "You (Are the Star I Wish On)." The 2007 CD reissue on Poker adds historical liner notes and four worthwhile, similar bonus cuts from their pair of 1968 non-LP singles, compiling everything released by the band in one place.

The Zombies, Into the Afterlife (Big Beat). Although the Zombies broke up at the end of 1967, there wasn't a wholly clean break between that era and the time by which Rod Argent and Chris White established themselves with Argent, and Colin Blunstone established himself as a solo artist. For a year or two, they variously wrote, recorded, and produced demos and low-profile official releases as they hatched their next moves, Blunstone even leaving the music business entirely for a while. While some of this material came out under the Zombies name, much of it either remained unreleased or (in the case of Blunstone's recordings) was issued under the pseudonym of Neil MacArthur. The 20-track Into the Afterlife compilation rescues much of this rare material, combining numerous previously unissued demos recorded by the group's primary songwriters (Argent and White) with both sides of all three of the singles Blunstone released as Neil MacArthur. It also offers a couple MacArthur/Blunstone outtakes, alternate "orchestral" mixes of a few late Zombies tracks, an Italian-language recording of MacArthur's "She's Not There," and even a genuinely live-on-TV 1967 Zombies cover of the Miracles' "Going to a Go-Go." Far from being a barrel-scraping exercise, it shows the musicians to be making interesting music in its own right that often sounded like a natural continuation of what the Zombies had recorded in the late 1960s. Argent handles lead vocals on the Argent/White demos, and while he's not quite as good a singer as Blunstone, he's both good and has a similar style, making those cuts sound pretty close to genuine Zombies tracks. Their songs share many traits with the Zombies' material circa Odessey and Oracle in their baroque melodicism, breathy vocals, and haunting flavor, though with just a tinge of the progressive rock that was starting to emerge at the end of the 1960s. "Telescope (Mr. Galileo)" and "Unhappy Girl" are both standouts in this regard, and "To Julia (For When She Smiles)," the best track on the  entire CD, is more than a standout; its delicate combination of quasi-classical balladry and choral backup vocals is every bit the equal of the best tracks on Odessey and Oracle. The Neil MacArthur tracks (including the minor UK hit remake of "She's Not There") are more floridly produced orchestrated pop-rock, but also have their silky charms, particularly the cover of Nilsson's "Without Her" and the more understated, acoustic-oriented sad ballad "World of Glass." Thorough annotation by Zombies expert Alec Palao ices the package, and as none of the tracks appear on the otherwise thorough Palao-compiled Zombies box set Zombie Heaven, this CD is a necessary supplement to that box for fans of the group.

Various Artists, All My Loving [DVD] (Voiceprint). Lasting nearly an hour, Tony Palmer's 1968 made-for-television film All My Loving was the first documentary about rock music ever broadcast on the BBC. For that matter, it was the first time some of the major rock stars in the film had been seen playing live or frankly speaking their minds on the BBC. For those reasons, it's a landmark of sorts, but it's not without its flaws as a television program. Without a narrative thread or context, it jumps rather willy-nilly between brief performance clips, interview snippets, and footage of late-'60s youth gatherings and violent political disturbances. As a consequence, no one's really allowed to go on at enough length to make cogent points, though the most articulate interviewees -- Frank Zappa telling a disturbing story about Marines ripping up baby dolls in a Mothers of Invention concert, Paul McCartney discussing how seriously some people analyze the Beatles' songs -- come close. Some of the juxtapositions -- for instance, of loud rock music with some authority figure claiming how much it damages ears or tacky commercial campaigns -- are vaguely pretentious, arty contrasts that demonstrate nothing. The use of footage of bodies being dumped into graves while the Beatles' "Money (That's What I Want)" plays on the soundtrack crosses the line into the pointlessly (and tastelessly) absurd. Some of the soundbites with non-rock-musicians (including publicist Derek Taylor, Who co-manager Kit Lambert, and author Anthony Burgess) are so brief and devoid of explication that it's hard to say what they're doing here, other than to provide some sort of contrast to the featured rock musicians. So why watch it, decades later? Well, it does have some exciting performance footage of the Who (a particularly destructive American gig), Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Pink Floyd, and Eric Burdon, some of whom add the odd insight in interview segments as well. Donovan's proclamations add some gentle optimism to the mix, though on the whole it favors the most aggressive brand of 1968 British rock. Whether the alternations of footage of those acts with various atrocities being committed around the world is meant to intimate that the music is a reflection of or an antidote to its times is hard to say. It does not so much attempt to explain rock music, though that was Palmer's original brief, as reflect some of its impact and images, ending up as a reflection of the turbulence of the year in which it was made, 1968. The Voiceprint DVD adds a surprisingly lengthy (40-minute) 2007 interview with Tony Palmer in which he details the genesis of the film (which largely came from a suggestion by John Lennon) and the BBC's reluctance to air it. As a far more marginal bonus, there are also a handful of cartoons by Ralph Steadman, some of which relate to the times and topics of All My Loving and some that don't.

Various Artists, The Leiber & Stoller Story Vol. 3: 1962-1969 (Ace). Like the previous volume of this admirable Ace Records series devoted to songs by the great composers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, this isn't so much a best-of survey as a representative sampling of what the pair were up to during this part of their career. There are a few sizable-to-modest-sized hits here, like Jay & the Americans' "Only in America," Johnny Cash & June Carter's "Jackson," the Drifters' "Rat Race," Dion's "Drip Drop," and Peggy Lee's "Is That All There Is?" The emphasis, however, is more on less renowned recordings of their songs—not always written, incidentally, by Leiber-Stoller as a team, but sometimes in collaboration with other writers, and sometimes with the involvement of just Leiber, or just Stoller. Sometimes, too, the versions selected are not the most famous ones, but less celebrated interpretations, as in the cases of Jimmy Scott's "On Broadway" (rather than the Drifters' big hit with the same song) or Dee Dee Warwick's "I (Who Have Nothing)" (though it was Ben E. King who had the big hit with it). There's also the original recording of a tune far more famous as a song covered by the Rolling Stones on one of their early LPs, Alvin Robinson's "Down Home Girl." Though still capable of great work, Leiber and Stoller were a bit past their peak by the mid-to-late 1960s, so this isn't the first or second place to get acquainted with their prime material. Also, some of the tracks, though welcome to collectors for their rarity, simply aren't up to the level of their better efforts. Nonetheless, this is still a good and well-programmed compilation that has its share of both memorable hits and some overlooked goodies and oddities, like Richie Barrett's "Tricky Dicky" (covered by the Searchers during the British Invasion), Betty Harris's soul ballad "His Kiss," the Honeyman's odd hickoid novelty "Brother Bill (The Last Clean Shirt)," Tommy Roe's gunfighter narrative "The Gunfighter," Willie Bobo's Latin-funk boogaloo "Juicy," and the Walker Brothers' typically lush melodrama "Take It Like a Man." Mick Patrick's excellent liner notes give track-by-track details plush with insider info about the songs and recordings.

Various Artists, Real Life Permanent Dreams: A Cornucopia of British Psychedelia 1965-1970 (Castle). There have been previous attempts to marshal a lot of British psychedelia into one compilation, but Real Life Permanent Dreams is a little different from those. This four-CD, 99-song box set isn't a best-of, but more like an attempt to assemble a very wide (though still representative) cross-section of material, most of it pretty obscure to the average listener. For the most part, it succeeds in delivering a high-quality anthology that manages to offer a lot to both the collector and the less intense psychedelic fan, though it's by no means the cream of British psychedelia. There are only two famous hit records, for one thing, and even those, Arthur Brown's "Fire" and the Status Quo's "Pictures of Matchstick Men," are represented by a previously unreleased alternate version and a BBC recording respectively. Many of the leading acts of the genre are missing, from the Beatles, Pink Floyd, and Procol Harum through the more psychedelic-oriented tracks by Cream, Traffic, the Yardbirds, and numerous other UK acts. Also, the cross-licensing isn't as extensive as it could be, though it's not as heavily reliant on tracks controlled by the Sanctuary Records Group as many other comps on the Castle label are.

There's a lot of interesting stuff here, though, ranging from precious twee fantasy-laden pop-psych and freakbeat to psychedelia on the verge of making a transition to hard rock and progressive rock, even though some of the songs are fairly average and even generic British psychedelia. Some of the cuts—Winston's Fumbs' "Snow White," the Buzz's "You're Holding Me Down," the Peep Show's "Mazy," the Kult's "No Home Today," Paper Blitz Tissue's "Boy Meets Girl," and Lord Sutch's strange "The Cheat"—rate as some of the best obscure recordings in the entire genre. Also, a lot of major artists—including Donovan, the Kinks, the Nice, Julie Driscoll & Brian Auger & the Trinity, the Small Faces, Marc Bolan, the Incredible String Band, Jethro Toe, Soft Machine, and Humble Pie—are heard on the box set, though in every instance, they're represented by some of their more obscure recordings, often taken from B-sides, BBC sessions, or demos (and, in Jethro Tull's instance, the debut 1968 single on which they were billed as Jethro Toe, "Sunshine Day"). There are also a bunch of selections that feature big names in unfamiliar guises, like the tracks by Noel Redding's band Fat Mattress, the quasi-supergroup Santa Barbara Machine Head (with Ron Wood and Jon Lord), Episode Six (with future members of Deep Purple), the Bystanders (who evolved into Man), or the Beatstalkers (whose "Silver Tree Top School for Boys" was written by David Bowie, who never recorded the tune himself).

Yes, there's a touch of collector elitism at play in some of the choices. A few superior songs—like the Smoke's "My Friend Jack" (a hit only in Germany) and the End's "Loving Sacred Loving" (co-written by Bill Wyman)—by acts that aren't exactly international household names are represented by yet more obscure, and arguably inferior (though undeniably rarer), alternate versions. As compensation, though, even collectors who think they have everything are bound to come across items they don't have or were only barely aware of, like Lomax Alliance's effervescent and previously unreleased "The Golden Lion" (including Jackie Lomax), one of the highlights of the whole collection. There's also a superb 48-page booklet featuring wise and witty liner notes by David Wells, perhaps the top expert on all things British psychedelic. It all adds up to a worthwhile addition to the psychedelic aficionado's collection, though it's neither as comprehensive nor as killer as the best such four-CD anthology of obscure British psychedelia could be.

Various Artists, This Is Tom Jones [DVD] (Time Life). Material from eight episodes from the ABC variety series Tom Jones hosted between 1969 and 1971 are compiled onto this three-DVD set. Understandably, rock-oriented listeners might be wary of checking this out, both because Tom Jones wasn't exactly a hardcore rock singer, and because variety shows such as his had a lot of middle-of-the-road content. But big '60s rock fans should check this out, since Time Life, as the liner notes state, "has chosen the best, most rocking segments from the series." Though images of prim women throwing themselves at Jones from the audience are the ones that first come to mind when viewers remember the series (and there are plenty of such moments here), you'll also be surprised at how many hip, dynamic acts passed through as guests. This anthology has quite a few of them, including clips of the Who (performing their then-new single "Pinball Wizard"), Stevie Wonder, the Moody Blues, Mary Hopkin, Janis Joplin, Joe Cocker, Little Richard, and Aretha Franklin. The clips aren't unduly stiff or contrived, either (at least by the standards of network variety series), with the Who's performance, Cocker's air-guitar miming, Joplin's rendition of "Little Girl Blue," and the frankly weird psychedelic poetry intro to the Moody Blues' "Ride My  See-Saw" standing out as the most memorable.

Also memorable, though a little more for novelty than sheer musical quality, are the host of unlikely duets between Jones and many of these guest stars, including Joplin, Franklin, Burt Bacharach, Little Richard, Cocker, and Wonder. (No, he doesn't sing with the Who; that might have been pushing the boundaries of outrageousness, though it's too bad this doesn't have his gotta-be-seen-to-believe it singing with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's on "Long Time Gone.") There are also some reasonably amusing, though not quite cutting-edge, comedy sketches with the Committee, the Ace Trucking Company, Richard Pryor, Pat Paulsen, and star actress Anne Bancroft. And, of course, Tom Jones sings several songs per episode, including not just expected hits like "It's Not Unusual" and "Green, Green Grass of Home," but also plenty of R&B covers a la "In the Midnight Hour" and Little Richard's "Lucille," as well as more unexpected choices like "Danny Boy" and Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Lodi." Jones himself adds episode introductions and interviews filmed in 2007 especially for this DVD. And if you really want to dig deep, one of the segments (of material from the episode with Stevie Wonder) can be viewed in the version taped for British TV and the one taped for US TV, though these basically only amount to minor differences in the sets and clothes. Note, too, that the material from the April 18, 1969 episode (the one with the Who) is presented in black-and-white, that being the only version available, though the rest is in color. In all it's four-and-a-half hours of surprisingly entertaining and historically interesting footage, packaged with an informative booklet of liner notes.


Archived Reviews

The Animals, Deluxe BBC (Hyacinth). Most, if not all, of the 54 tracks on this two-CD bootleg previously showed up on other unauthorized releases. Deluxe BBC, however, is undoubtedly the most thorough collection of the group's 1964-67 BBC recordings (although four of them did see official release on the 1990 Australian anthology Roadrunners!), adding a few other rarities from the same era for good measure. And it's not just a peripheral compilation of interest only to the most hardcore Animals fans; it's a worthwhile listen for any big Animals admirer. The sound quality on most of it is decent at the least, and excellent at best. That's particularly true of the majority of the tracks on disc one, which are obviously taken from a retrospective BBC radio special of the Animals' British radio recordings, complete with announcer comments and some interview material with Eric Burdon. Live BBC versions of some of their most popular songs are here, like "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood," "It's My Life," "When I Was Young," "San Franciscan Nights," "Monterey," "Inside Looking Out," "We Gotta Get Out of This Place," and "Bring It on Home to Me." But, of probable even greater interest to serious Animals hounds, so are some covers they never put on their records, like "Ain't That a Shame," "Lawdy Miss Clawdy," "Drown in My Own Tears," "Shake, Rattle & Roll," "If I Were a Carpenter," "It Hurts Me Too," and (the biggest surprise) the Rolling Stones' "Connection." Since a few of these tracks are incomplete or of subpar fidelity, it's doubtful the entire set will ever be granted official release, but those imperfections are relatively minor, especially by usual bootleg standards. The non-BBC material includes a live 1964 New York version of "Baby Please Don't Go" (source unidentified) that seems pretty close to Them's famous hit arrangement of the same song; the UK-only B-side "Gratefully Dead"; "Club-A-Go-Go," from the Hullabaloo TV show; and four Ed Sullivan Show tracks that had been officially released on the various-artists compilation The Sullivan Years: The British Invasion.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Studio Archives 1969 (Voodoo Sounds). Though some unreleased Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young studio material from the late 1960s and early 1970s has come out in the CD era, it seems that more exists than was realized. It's not known for sure if everything on this 77-minute bootleg of studio outtakes was recorded in 1969. But at the least, most of it was, and whatever wasn't (with the exception of the Buffalo Springfield seven-minute psychedelic instrumental rarity "Raga III," recorded at the Hullabaloo Club in January 1967) must have been done close to 1969. More important than pinning down dates, however, is listening to the music, which proves to be always interesting, and often very worthwhile. There are a lot of goodies for CSNY fans to savor here, including four unreleased Stills songs, a couple of which ("Ivory Tower" and "Everyday We Live") have the hard rock/folk-rock blend of Stills at his best; an unreleased Neil Young song, "Everybody's Alone"; and Graham Nash, intriguingly, singing an acoustic cover of a David Crosby composition from the latter's days with the Byrds, "Everybody's Been Burned." It's true that much of the rest of the material on the disc consists of the sort of alternate versions with more hardcore collector appeal, and that the Stills-sung acoustic cover of Fred Neil's "Everybody's Talkin'" seems to be much the same version as the one that's on the 2006 expanded CD edition of Crosby, Stills & Nash. But even some of these are notably different than the familiar versions, a la acoustic takes of "Triad" and "Almost Cut My Hair"; a studio take of Young's "Sea of Madness"; and four takes of the Beatles' "Blackbird." The sound quality is superb, and fully of official release standard, though a few of the songs never released by CSNY in any form clearly seem unfinished (like Stills' "I'll Be There" and "30-Dollar Fire"). Certainly the caliber of the unissued ideas and songwriting is high enough to make one lament that the group didn't get it together to release more material before splitting in the early '70s, as they clearly had more to offer than what surfaced on the official records. And there's some real interesting chatter in the track titled "Black Queen Riff," which Stills refers to as his song for the Grateful Dead. "We oughta help them make a record," says Crosby.  "Oh, I'm gonna," responds Stills. Continues Crosby, "They're really dynamite musicians. They just don't know how to get it on tape." Admits Stills, "Hey, listen, I dug playing with them a shitload more than I dug playing with the Airplane." "The Airplane's always playing weird changes and strange times and shit," adds Crosby. At which point the engineer interrupts and asks them whether he should stop the tape during this kind of chat...to which they agree.

Billie Davis, Whatcha Gonna Do?: Singles, Rarities and Unreleased 1963-1966 (RPM). The split of Billie Davis' 1960s recordings between three different labels seems to have made it impossible to compile a truly definitive retrospective of her work, which would take two CDs if it were to be complete. Should you want everything she recorded between her two separate stints with Decca Records, however, this compilation is exemplary, even if its omission of that Decca material (which included all three of her British chart hits) means that this shouldn't be mistaken for a best-of. All of her 1963-66 singles for Columbia and Piccadilly (including her duets as half of Keith & Billie) are on this 28-track anthology, along with five previously unreleased 1963 cuts (two studio outtakes and three live performances). These show Davis to be a singer worthy of attention by serious British Invasion fans, yet not one who was quite good enough to demand reinvestigation by less intense specialists. Influenced by both girl group and soul, she had a perky, girlish, vibrato-heavy sound that wasn't far off the standards of, say, Lulu. Yet she was clearly not in the same league of Lulu either vocally or in terms of the quality of the material she recorded. Some of the tracks are dull or hindered with cheaper, more dated early-'60s British pop production than the likes of Dusty Springfield or Lulu ever had to overcome. Still, there are some very good songs here, like the sassy, swaggering "Whatcha Gonna Do" -- the one track here you could peg as a should-have-been-hit that never was -- and its swinging, infectiously catchy girl group-ish B-side, "Everybody Knows." Other singles (like 1966's "Just Walk in My Shoes"/"Ev'ry Day")  showed her gravitating toward credible blue-eyed soul, and "The Last One to Be Loved" is a good and sumptuously orchestrated cover of a Bacharach-David song that's highly reminiscent of Dionne Warwick's mid-'60s recordings -- no real surprise, since Warwick herself recorded it too. The duets with Keith Powell (billed to Keith & Billie), however, were tame soul-pop tunes that undermined her strengths. The liner notes give a good account of Davis' career during this hitless period, and if you pick this up in conjunction with the compilation Tell Him: The Decca Years, you'll have everything you need to hear by the singer.

The Doors, Live in Boston (Rhino/Bright Midnight). Several 1970 Doors concerts were officially recorded for use on the Absolutely Live album, including both of the shows they gave in Boston on April 10 of that year. This three-CD set has the early and late sets from Boston in their entirety, adding up to about three hours of music, all but two of the tracks previously unreleased. Well, three hours of mostly music, it should be clarified; it's padded by a whole lot of Jim Morrison raps and crowd reaction, to the point where it starts to seem like there's less music than speech by the end of the second show. Basically, this is the Doors very much as they sound on Absolutely Live -- bluesy, a little loose and sloppy, yet still high-spirited if boozy. It's yet sloppier and looser than Absolutely Live, however, if for no reason other than it doesn't benefit from the editing together of several different performances into one double LP.

That's part of the reason Doors fans want something like this, though -- to hear something different from what's already in the band's official catalog, not something that's more or less a duplication of a well-known live record that's been in print since 1970. On that count, Live in Boston delivers, both in the tone of the performance and the actual setlist, including several songs that aren't available in many live versions on legitimate or illegitimate releases, like "The Spy," "You Make Me Real," "Been Down So Long," and "Ship of Fools" (along with a few expected classics like "Light My Fire," "Break on Through," "Five to One," "When the Music's Over," and "Back Door Man"). There are also a bunch of unexpected covers that, as enticing as they look on paper, are rather fragmentary and half-developed (and sometimes thrown in the middle of another tune), like "Mystery Train," "Fever," "Rock Me," "Crossroads," "Summertime," and "St. James Infirmary Blues." Versions of all those songs have shown up on other live Doors releases (though not always in as good sound quality as they do here), and while they add to the value of this release by virtue of their falling outside the band's usual repertoire, they also demonstrate that the Doors weren't such a great straight blues-rock band -- something that it seems like the group are changing into at times when listening to this set.

Another big part of this material's attraction (and, to some less indulgent listeners, flaws) might be the extended between-song raps, which show Morrison in even more dissolute mindset than was his frequent wont. There's banter about voting, astrology, the already-issued line "Adolf Hitler is still alive...I slept with her last night," and the taunt, "would anybody like to see my genitals?" (The crowd roars in affirmation, though Jim declines, "Forget it!") Some of that diffident toying with the audience and its worship of rock stars spills over to the performances too, with Morrison at times playacting his way through the familiar songs the audience wants to hear most. That's especially true of the second version of "Light My Fire," where the band weaves in and out of "Fever," "Summertime," and "St. James Infirmary Blues," with Morrison wordlessly slurring rather than singing one of the verses. The band as a whole joins in the spirit on "Been Down So Long," with Ray Manzarek switching from organ to guitar, and Robby Krieger from guitar to bass, resulting in a novel but notably out-of-tune rendition. These kind of qualities might make Live in Boston too much of a stretch for typical Doors fans, as it's not the band at their best, and certainly not the band at their tightest and focused. For those many serious Doors fans looking for something different from what they have in their collection (official or bootleg), however, Live in Boston delivers a lot of it, in official-release-standard-sound that's far superior to what's offered on the vast majority of bootlegs.

Dyke & the Blazers, We Got More Soul (BGP). Subtitled "the ultimate Broadway funk," no one's going to beat this as the ultimate Dyke & the Blazers compilation. The two-CD, two-hour-twenty-minute set has everything the group released on 45 or LP between 1967-70, including unedited full-length versions of seven of their singles, no less than 13 previously unissued tracks, and even some radio station promos. It could be that less intense funk/Dyke fans might wish for a more succinct single-disc comp concentrating on the official singles, especially as, like many single-artist funk anthologies, the grooves get a little similar-sounding over the course of two-plus hours. Then again, if you like the group enough to get a Dyke & the Blazers collection in the first place, you might well be the type who thrives on such lengthy dwellings on the primeval funk groove. And as such grooves went, few were better (and very few artists, if any other than James Brown, did them earlier) or earthier than Dyke & the Blazers, even if turns out that session musicians (including members of the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm band) often played the parts of the Blazers in the studio. The anthology's conveniently divided into one disc of their 1966-67 sessions (all held in Phoenix, where the band was based at the time) and a second of their 1968-70 sessions (which all took place in Hollywood), though the quality remains consistent throughout. That counts the many unreleased tracks, which are generally up to the standard of what the band officially released, including some (like the ultra-kinetic (if marred by some out-of-tune horns) "She Knows It," the upbeat "Let's Do It Together," and the untypical serious ballad "Why Am I Treated So Funky Bad?") that would have ranked among their more interesting efforts had they been issued at the time. Alec Palao's magnificent liner notes are the most thorough history of the band yet put to print, including a detailed sessionography.

Fairport Convention, Live at the BBC (Universal/Island/BBC). Is a four-CD box set of Fairport Convention 1967-74 BBC recordings excessive? After all, even the Beatles only got two CDs of Beeb tracks into official release. But it really isn't too much for fans of the band, for the quality of most of the stuff here is truly good, even if the very best of it was already issued on the Heyday compilation. There's a lot more here, however. While the expanded Heyday CD contains 20 1968-69 tracks, this offers a relatively whopping 69, and where Heyday focused exclusively on late-'60s sessions done while Sandy Denny was in the lineup (which was admittedly their peak era), this has a few recordings predating Denny's entrance into Fairport, as well as quite a few postdating her departure (and a few from when she briefly rejoined the group in the mid-'70s). Most important of all, this has quite a few songs, particularly folk-rock cover versions from the late '60s, that didn't make it onto official Fairport Convention releases of the time.

Certainly the first two discs of the set are the strongest, as all but three of the tracks date from the '68-'69 Denny era.  If you're already heard Heyday, you know how good some of these gems are, like their superb interpretation of Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne," and their fine reworkings of songs by Richard Fariña ("Reno, Nevada"), the Everly Brothers, Gene Clark ("Tried So Hard"), Eric Andersen ("Close the Door Lightly When You Go"), Bob Dylan ("Percy's Song"), Johnny Cash ("I Still Miss Someone"), and Joni Mitchell ("I Don't Know Where I Stand"), as well as quality originals like "Autopsy" and "Shattering Live Experience." This set includes a few other goodies, however, some of which were previously on bootlegs and benefit from much-improved sound here (Joni Mitchell's "Eastern Rain," "Marcie," and "Night  in the City"), and one of which ("Jack of Diamonds," an obscure Bob Dylan lyric set to music by Ben Carruthers from their first LP) had never even previously shown up on those old bootlegs. It's true the blues songs "You're Gonna Need My Help" and "If It Feels Good You Know It's Can't Be Wrong" are kind of lame, but at least they preserve one aspect of the early band's repertoire.

It's also true disc three (all taken from 1970-74 sessions) pales a little in comparison to the first pair of CDs, but these do document Fairport's transition to a much more English traditional folk-oriented group, with Denny re-entering on the four songs from 1974. The fidelity on disc four (subtitled "Off Air") is indeed taken from off-air recordings rather than original tapes, and has noticeably poorer fidelity, though it's actually not that bad. Even these performances, however (some of which found prior release on the Fairport Unconventional box set, as had a few other stray tracks from the first three discs), are quite enjoyable, with eight songs done in 1967-68 when Judy Dyble was still in the lineup. Some of these songs, too -- Eric Andersen's "Violets of Dawn," Bob Dylan's "Lay Down Your Weary Tune" -- never found release on their official albums, and there are other highlights (or at least intriguing oddities) like their December '68 send-up of "Light My Fire" and a 1970 version of "Tam Lin" with male lead vocals (though Denny had taken the lead on the familiar studio recording). In all, this is essential for Fairport fans, and is not solely or primarily of historical interest, making for quite fine listening on its own terms.

Heinz, Just Like Eddie: The Heinz Anthology (Castle). This two-CD, 49-track set beats the 44-track double CD The Complete Heinz by a nose as the most complete Heinz anthology ever likely to be assembled. Everything he released with Joe Meek as producer between 1963 and 1966 is here, including all of his A- and B-sides, everything from his sole LP, everything from his two EPs, and even a couple of live tracks from the obscure 1964 live At the Cavern LP. On top of all that are three previously unreleased tracks: a 1964 cover of Ritchie Valens' "Come On Let's Go" and raw live versions of the single "Questions I Can't Answer" and "Hound Dog," both of those live cuts coming from an October 1964 BBC television broadcast. (Note, by the way, that this two-CD set really contains 47 tracks, not 49; "Just Like Eddie," issued on both 45 and his LP,  and "Dreams Do Come True," released on both 45 and the Live It Up EP, appear on both discs.) Is all this too much Heinz? Perhaps; you could easily boil this down to a little less than half the quantity without losing much in quality. Still, the best dozen or so cuts -- "Just Like Eddie," "I'm Not a Bad Guy," "Dreams Do Come True," "That Lucky Old Sun," "You Were There," "Big Fat Spider," "The Beating of My Heart," "Movin' In," and "Heart Full of Sorrow" foremost among them -- are genuinely good obscure British Invasion-era recordings. Heinz wasn't much of a singer, but he summoned some likable enthusiasm; Joe Meek's production for his fair-haired boy could be relentlessly imaginative, though his taste in the material he selected (and sometimes wrote) for Heinz was sometimes quite poor; and there is some incredible, at times ferocious guitar playing on the best (and particularly the hardest-rocking) Heinz sides. David Wells' notes are quite thorough and enjoyable as well, making this something both Heinz and Meek fans should own.

The Incredible String Band, Across the Airwaves: BBC Radio Recordings 1969-1974 (Hux). While 20 of these 33 tracks had been previously released before this CD was issued in 2007, this two-disc set is undoubtedly the most comprehensive anthology of the Incredible String Band's BBC recordings. As with most BBC compilations, you couldn't put this on par with the group's best studio work in terms of content, performance, or the thematic flow of particular albums. Yet at the same time it's definitely a more valuable supplement to the band's official discography than is usually the case with BBC material, for several reasons. First and foremost, several of the songs never made it onto official ISB releases, including versions of "Ring Dance" and "Fine Fingered Hands" (both eventually included on Robin Williamson's 1998 solo album Ring Dance); "Beautiful Stranger" (which Mike Heron would do on his 1971 solo album Smiling Men with Bad Reputations); the Hindu devotional song "Raga Puti"; "Long Long Road" (the only song from the multimedia stage show U that didn't make it onto the ISB album of the same name); "Worlds They Rise and Fall" (a Heron original later used on the soundtrack of the film Hideous Kinky); the Carter Family's "You've Been a Friend to Me"; "Secret Temple," co-written by Licorice McKechnie; "Oh Did I Love a Dream," a Malcolm Le Maistre tune; and assorted other Williamson and Heron songs that didn't find a home in the standard ISB catalog.

Of perhaps more importance, no matter what you think of the Incredible String Band, the sheer stylistic range of the material here is astonishing. That could be said of many (and maybe most) of their official albums, too, but here it's even more eclectic. Perhaps that's because of the five-year chronological span of the set, which encompasses seven different lineups of the band (though Williamson and Heron are always present); perhaps it's also because they might have been inclined to put in a few off-the-wall items and side trips on their radio sessions that weren't top candidates for their studio releases. There's raga rock, rock-less raga-informed songs, relatively ordinary wistful folk-rock, amiable country barroom rambles, medieval-flavored minstrelsy, really spaced out quasi-world music/folk fusions, a cappella hymns, bluesy boogie, Cajun, a 12-minute suite ("Darling Belle"), and more. Yes, some of their oddest ventures are cringeworthy on occasion, particularly when they adopt fake Chinese accents for "Willow Pattern" (another Williamson song that, perhaps fortunately, never made it onto vinyl). But also there's an engaging merry looseness that, on some levels, make this more accessible to casual listeners than much of their more familiar, official discography. In addition, the sound quality is reasonable-to-excellent throughout; although the packaging is careful to note that some of these tracks are off-air recordings not made from the best sources, even the fidelity on those is quite satisfactorily listenable. Add marvelously detailed liner notes (including complete information on their 1967-74 sessions, though it's unfortunate that a few of these don't survive in releasable fidelity), and you have a collection that's recommended to all Incredible String Band fans, not just completists.

The Incredible String Band, Philadelphia Folk Festival 1969 (Tellulah). The woefully inadequate documentation on this CD -- there's nothing but a couple of band photos, an image from the l969 Philadelphia Folk Festival poster, and a list of the song titles -- can't help but fuel speculation that this might not be a wholly authorized disc. While the packaging might be disappointing, however, it's a pretty good-sounding live recording of the Incredible String Band, albeit perhaps a little more subdued and low-key than some fans might like. From the dates given on that poster, it can be assumed that this show took place on either August 22, 23, or 24 of 1969 -- just one weekend after their appearance at Woodstock (yes, they were at Woodstock, even if their disappointing performance wasn't captured on the film or soundtrack). This was the incarnation of the band in which ISB mainstays Robin Williamson and Mike Heron were joined by partners Licorice McKechnie and Rose Simpson, and endearing if somewhat amateurish female harmonies decorate much of the material. If they took many of the exotic instruments for which they were known onstage with them, it's not too evident on these eight tracks, which largely stick to an acoustic guitar-vocal base, though organ, hand percussion, bass, and fiddle can be occasionally heard. That might disappoint fans of the group's more acid-folk side, but it actually makes it a little more approachable in some ways than their official releases for those who found their more ambitious droning a little grating. The material's all from their late 1960s and early 1970s albums -- there's nothing at all that goes back as far as 1968's The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter -- and the ultimate result is enjoyably lilting, satisfyingly eccentric, eclectic folk with a mild rock influence. The fidelity is quite reasonable, though not perfect (at one point the group complains about microphone feedback). It's good to have a document of this particular lineup of the band, though the compilation Across the Airwaves: BBC Radio Recordings 1969-1974 gives a better, superior-sounding, and far more extensive look at how they could sound in a live situation.

Lady June, Lady June's Linguistic Leprosy (Market Square). Lady June, aka June Campbell Cramer, was a bohemian artist and poet who was something of an honorary member of the less commercial wing of the early-'70s British progressive rock scene. Numerous musicians lived and hung out in her flat in the Maida Vale area of London, which is most famous as the place where (at a 1973 party) Robert Wyatt fell out of the window at a party, paralyzing him from the waist down. She was already in her early forties when she recorded the debut album Lady June's Linguistic Leprosy. It's such an eccentric piece of work that it's safe to say it would never have gained release had she not had such strong art-rock connections, and had Virgin Records not been at the stage where it was issuing some of the least commercial progressive rock music ever (though it's been reported the LP did sell out its 5,000-copy pressing). While Lady June does take all of the lead vocals on the record, they're actually much more spoken poetry than singing, though she does occasionally hum-sing in a tentative way. Her pieces -- it's hard to call them songs, at least in the standard sense of that term in rock music -- are odd, whimsical, rather surrealistic spoken poems, delivered in a quirkily aristocratic manner.

Without demeaning her contribution to the record, it wouldn't be nearly as interesting a rarity to art-rock fans as it is without the substantial contribution of her producer and longtime friend Kevin Ayers. He composed most of the musical settings for the poems, as well as playing numerous instruments and adding a few backup vocals. Those musical settings change the album from the rather insignificant spoken word effort it could have been to something much more interesting, as this was the era in which no one was more skilled at devising varied, whimsical art-rock as Ayers was. There's blues, a snaky combination of harmonium guitar and bowed bass ("Tourist"), good-time near-reggae ("Bars"), minimal sustained classical-like piano, almost gospel-ish piano and chanting ("To Whom It May Not Concern"), and a good old-fashioned silly vaudevillian duet (between Ayers and Lady June, on "Mangel/Wurzel"). Most impressively, "Everythingsnothing" and the track it segues into, "Tunion,"  is a largely wordless, eerily hypnotic ambient synthesizer-dominated passage that stands up to the better mid-'70s work of Brian Eno. That's not such a coincidence, since Eno helps out on "Tunion" and was also sole composer of the music for one of the other tracks, "Optimism." At these and other points of the record, Lady June's voice is distorted in various imaginative fashions and merged with gothic sound effects so that her poem is just one element of a sound collage, rather than a conventional poem backed by music. The record's not for everyone, and not as accessible as even the albums of the era by Ayers and Eno.  But for fans of the likes of Ayers and Eno, this is an interesting and oft-entertaining curiosity, enhanced by detailed historical liner notes on the 2007 CD reissue on Market Square.

Joe Meek, They Were Wrong! Joe's Boys Vol. 1 (Castle). In the early-to-mid-1960s, Joe Meek recorded teen-oriented pop-rock with literally dozens of young British male singers. A few hit singles, and many flops, resulted. No less than 62 such songs that didn't become hits are on this two-CD set—in fact, eleven of them are previously unreleased cuts and alternate takes—and although a few artists who did have hits are here (John Leyton, Heinz, and Gene Vincent), the specific tracks representing them were not well known. The material on this compilation might not, in fact, be well known even if you have a bunch of Meek collections, as 22 of the tracks made their CD debuts here. Since many Meek sides were weak, innocuous teen idol fare, you'd have reason to be wary of an anthology assembled along this theme, even if you're a Meek fan in general.

As it turns out, however, this is a surprisingly listenable and likable compilation, even if many of the singers are no great shakes in the vocal department. The main reason is that Meek's production is quirkily intriguing even on the less interesting songs (and many of the songs, to be fair, aren't all that good). His usual bag of tricks—manic crunching drums, oddly treated pianos, weird backup voices, peculiar echo/reverb, zany sound effects, soaring orchestration, and so forth—are almost always in force, often succeeding in making even the meager songs and singers fun to some extent. Also, you can hear specific echoes/attempts to imitate several of the early major American rock stars Meek obviously admired, and while they're no match for the real thing, there are some pretty grin-raising, respectable emulations of Buddy Holly, the Everly Brothers, Elvis Presley, and Roy Orbison. And of course there's an actual American rock'n'roll great here in Gene Vincent, whose "Temptation Baby" (recorded for the British film Live It Up) isn't the most typical Vincent fare, but works fairly well as rockabilly-pop with a distinctive Meek sonic stamp.

Traces of Merseybeat and even a little folk-pop make themselves known in some of the later recordings, and some of the songs—John Leyton's "Voodoo Woman," Chad Carson's credible Presley imitation "They Were Wrong," Billy Dean's equally haunting and cheesy "Ridin' the Rails," and Freddie Starr's "Just Keep on Dreaming" (which sounds like a gutsy Gerry & the Pacemakers)—are pretty good tracks on any level, not just from historical/novelty angles.  For aficionados of the truly strange, there are a couple previously unissued (shakily) Meek-sung demos, and the Checkmates' odd satirical song "You've Got to Have a Gimmick Today," which pokes instantly dated fun at a few vocal styles on early-1960s hits. David Wells' detailed liner notes give plenty of background info on all of the tracks, a welcome feature as so many of these will be unfamiliar even to collectors.

Joe Meek, Vampires, Cowboys, Spacemen & Spooks: The Very Best of Joe Meek's Instrumentals (Castle). It might be subtitled The Very Best of Joe Meek's Instrumentals, but this isn't the most selective compilation of instrumentals overseen by the British semi-genius producer, the two discs including a whopping 60 tracks. That's not to say, however, that's it's not selective at all, considering just how many instrumentals the prolific Meek cut in the early-to-mid-1960s. For those who like Meek a lot, but don't want to go to the insane extent of trying to track down everything he did in the studio, this is a very good-value distillation of his work in the instrumental rock realm. Also, Meek's instrumentals weren't as prone to sappy pop as his efforts with vocal artists from the era, and more likely to delve into purer rock. That hardly means that everything here is brilliant, and it might try the patience of those for whom a little Meek goes a long way. If you do like Meek to a significant degree, however, you'll find much to enjoy, as all the tracks -- even the ones of more marginal quality -- are stuffed with his sonic trademarks, including eerie out-of-this-world (if cheesy) electronic keyboards, crunchy compression, heavenly orchestration, twangy surf-country guitars, and numerous shades of weird and unclassifiable sounds, percussion, and miscellaneous tinkles. True, if you collect Meek to any extent, you're likely to already have some of these cuts, particularly those by the Tornados, though at least this includes several uncommon variations of Tornados tracks (a stereo version of "Telstar," a previously unissued "undubbed" version of "Exodus," the UK version of "Ridin' the Wind," the German version of "Life on Venus," etc.). It's also true that the best Tornados tracks tend to also be among the very best items on the anthology, as the production generally outpaces the tunes. Nevertheless, there are a few cuts that are both excellent and relatively unknown, like the Packabeats' "Theme from the Traitors" (which recalls the Shadows at their best), the Original Checkmates' creepy "The Spy" (with some great organ work), the Moontrekkers' devastating, lurching horror-rock classic "Night of the Vampire," and the same group's peculiar "Hatashiai (Japanese Sword Fight)." David Wells' liner notes are typically excellent and thorough.

Pentangle, The Time Has Come (Castle).  Like many large CD box sets, The Time Has Come is not quite a best-of or a rarities compilation, but something in between. That warning given, it also has to be added that as such things go, this four-CD, 65-track set -- drawn exclusively from their 1967-73 recordings, and ignoring any reunion efforts -- is one of the best. For one thing, it does include quite a bit of rare material that serious Pentangle fans will want to have, including an entire disc of previously unreleased live, television, and film recordings from 1970-73; a few more unreleased soundtrack bits and studio outtakes; and BBC sessions and B-sides that, while previously issued on CD, might not be in every Pentangle admirer's collection. Yet it doesn't lose sight of their strongest and most popular material. Most of their most essential songs are represented in either the familiar studio form or as a live/BBC/TV recording, although the absence of a few standout tunes like "Lyke-Wake Dirge" and "I've Got a Feeling" hurts a bit. The journey's also made more interesting by the inclusion of a few tracks from solo albums that John Renbourn and Bert Jansch issued during the 1967-73 period. The devotion of the entirety of disc three to all 19 songs officially issued from their Royal Festival Hall concert of June 29, 1968 (twelve of which were first released as part of their 1968 Sweet Child album, the remaining seven of which showed up on a 2001 expanded CD reissue of that record) might seem to give that material inappropriate weight. But even those tracks have been resequenced with (in the words of the liner notes) "much of the lengthy applause, between-song banter and tuning-up edited out," creating a more compact listening experience for those interested in re-experienced the cuts in such a fashion.

It's the rare material that the most ardent fans of the group will want to hear most, of course, and while the rarities are a little uneven in both performance and sound quality, they dig up some worthwhile oddities. Foremost among those are a couple extracts from their soundtrack for the obscure early-'70s movie Tam Lin, including a musical adaptation of "Tam Lin" that uses an entirely different melody than the much more celebrated version that Fairport Convention put on the Liege and Lief album. "The Best of You," also from Tam Lin, was Pentangle's deepest venture into pop-rock by far, and quite a nifty one, sounding rather like the theme to a '60s mod TV adventure series with its cinematic orchestration. "Pentangling," whose seven-minute length was bold enough when it appeared on their debut LP, gets stretched out to twenty minutes in the 1970 live version here, and while it's not entirely successful in that form, it's interesting to hear the quintet improvise at such duration. Also in the interesting-but-not-great category is the bluesy "Poison," a previously unreleased August 1967 outtake from their first studio session of a song that Jansch would re-record for his 1969 solo LP Birthday Blues. Live early-'70s television versions of two songs never included on their official releases of the period in any form, Johann Sebastian Bach's "Sarabande" and the American shape-note hymn "Wondrous Love" (performed with the early music group the David Munrow Ensemble), are outstanding examples of their ability to take pieces from unlikely sources and make them their own. The main attraction of this sumptuously packaged box, however, is the exhilarating interplay between the group as they blend folk, jazz, blues, and a little rock, pop, classical, and Indian music over the course of five or so years, whether on classics like "In Time," "Light Flight," "Basket of Light," "Travelling Song," and "Let No Man Steal Your Thyme" or less celebrated songs. Plus the 56-page liner notes, dominated by Colin Harper's historical essay, contain a more detailed overview of the band's career than anything else that has ever been published.

Dusty Springfield, The Complete BBC Sessions (Mercury). This 22-track CD isn't exactly the "complete" group of sessions Dusty Springfield recorded for the BBC. It's just all of the ones that have survived in good sound quality; there were some others, sadly, that the radio network didn't preserve (including her first solo session in November 1963, and performances of some songs she never put on her official record releases). Fortunately, the 22 that do remain (including three she recorded in July 1962 in a pop-folk style as part of the Springfields) make for a good and lengthy disc. True, it's a little short on the prime bonus 1960s BBC rock comps usually offer, namely songs that were never included on standard releases. But there are a half dozen of those, all of them quality covers that suit her style, including Bobby Lewis' "Tossin' and Turnin'," Stevie Wonder's "Uptight (Everything's Alright)," Dee Dee Warwick's "We're Doing Fine," the Rascals' "Good Lovin'," Jackie Wilson's "Higher and Higher (Your Love Keeps Lifting Me)," and the Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody." The other tracks include BBC renditions of some of her hits ("Wishin' and Hopin'," "Little By Little," "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me," "Son of a Preacher Man," "I Just Don't Know What to with Myself," "Little By Little"), though there are just as many lesser-known tunes from her '60s releases (including two notably different versions, oddly enough, of Betty Everett's "I Can't Hear You (No More)"). In common with many BBC releases, the arrangements and performances of the songs she also cut for records aren't too different from the studio versions; in fact, since Springfield habitually employed pretty elaborate orchestral production, they're noticeably thinner. But they're still good, and detectably different from their more familiar official counterparts. That's what you want from a BBC collection, and in some ways it's actually a more consistent listen than most of Springfield's non-best-of albums, since almost every song is a soulful pop number that suits her strengths.

Junior Wells, Live at Theresa's 1975 (Delmark). Recorded at two separate gigs in January 1975, but not issued until 2006, this captures Junior Wells onstage at Theresa's, one of the most esteemed Chicago blues clubs. It's a little rawer than most live albums; the sound is good, and Wells is in good form, but his band is a little rough (and, particularly on the tracks with guitarist Sammy Lawhorn, a little off-key). But the flaws really aren't too significant, as this is a pretty enjoyable set of Chicago electric blues in its unadulterated vintage form. Wells offers his trademark exuberant blues with touches of rock, soul, and funk, performing a few of his most popular tunes ("Messin' with the Kid," "Snatch It Back and Hold It") and a bunch of classic covers that are more identified with other performers (Slim Harpo's "Scratch My Back," Big Bill Broonzy's "Key to the Highway," James Oden's "Goin' Down Slow," Little Walter's "Juke," Tampa Red's "Love Her with a Feeling," and "Help the Poor," the last popularized by B.B. King). It might have been good to hear more Wells originals, but on the other hand it's cool to hear him bring his persona to that group of outside material, and a few five-minute-plus numbers allow him to stretch out more than he did in the studio. There's also some entertaining banter with the audience (and a version of "Happy Birthday") that adds to the intimate, earthy club ambience, though you do feel that a talent as major as Wells should have had slightly tighter backup musicians than the ones (including Buddy Guy's brother, Phil Guy, on guitar) playing on this CD.

The Wild Cherries, That's Life (Half a Cow). If you go just by the records they managed to release during the 1960s, there's not really enough to make a Wild Cherries album. This reissue, however, makes the most of out their slim recorded legacy, combining both sides of their four 1967-68 singles with sixteen previously unreleased 1965-66 bonus tracks. It's the eight tracks (all written or co-written by guitarist Lobby Loyde) from the singles, though, that are the truly significant ones, since it was on these that the Wild Cherries laid down the music that was among the most innovative in 1960s Australian rock. On the most notable of those 45s, the group fused psychedelia, early hard/progressive rock, and soul in a manner that no other Australian band of the time was doing on record, particularly on "Krome Plated Yabby," "That's Life," and "Gotta Stop Lying." These are somewhat similar to the rock being played by some Detroit outfits of the late '60s, and if they're certainly more pop-oriented than, say, the MC5, they do offer a pretty intriguing blend of creative ambition and muscular crunch. The other, far less well known songs from the singles might surprise listeners who've heard the other tracks on compilations, as they're more straightforward soul-rock than you'd expect (adding some pop-oriented orchestration on "I Don't Care"), though they're fairly good as that style goes. The remaining sixteen tracks -- taken from studio outtakes and home/live recordings -- capture the group at an earlier pre-Loyde stage at which they were much more an R&B/rock band along the lines of British bands like the Rolling Stones and Yardbirds. In fact, just one of these songs (the quite admirably mean'n'lean "Get Out of My Life") is a group original; not only are all of the others covers, but most of them are covers of tunes that major British Invasion bands like the Yardbirds, Who, and Manfred Mann put on their early recordings.  This section of the CD isn't nearly as original as the Loyde-led material, then, and it's not as well recorded either, though the fidelity's satisfactory. Still, the Wild Cherries do sound like a good tough mid-'60s British R&B band at this stage in their development, and without those tracks...well, there wouldn't be enough for a CD. As is standard for the Half a Cow label, the packaging is superb, featuring a 36-page liner booklet jammed with photos.

Various Artists, The American Folk-Blues Festival: The British Tours 1963-1966 [DVD] (Hip-O). Like the previous three volumes of this superb series, this DVD presents about 75 minutes of mid-1960s European television performances by blues legends. The only real difference is that all of these were filmed in England (hence the subtitle "The British Tours 1963-1966"), where appreciation of the blues was really taking off and, of course, making a big impression on the UK pop scene via artists like the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton. While the word "legends" is thrown around a lot in reviewing vintage blues compilations, this is one instance where it's not overhyping the case. Every single performer here is legendary. Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, and Sonny Boy Williamson were Chicago blues giants,; the more rural and rawer side of the form is caught by Lightnin' Hopkins and Big Joe Williams; R&B is represented by Big Joe Turner, and  soul by Sugar Pie DeSanto; and the blues' roots in jazz and gospel are captured by Lonnie Johnson and Sister Rosetta Tharpe respectively. Every single performer here is caught, in well-preserved black-and-white footage, at or near the peak of his or her form, sometimes with some of their very most famous songs, whether it's Waters doing "Got My Mojo Working," Williams playing "Baby Please Don't Go," or Williamson singing "Bye Bye Bird." That's not even mentioning the top talents that can be seen as accompanists at various points, including bassist Willie Dixon, guitarists Hubert Sumlin and Otis Rush, and pianists Sunnyland Slim and Otis Spann.

As for the most unusual and colorful performances, perhaps Williamson wins on that account -- though not by much -- by playing one end of a harmonica without holding it, as if he's chewing a cigar. Also novel is Junior Wells' 1966 performance of Ray Charles' "What'd I Say," delivered (and danced through) in modified James Brown fashion; it might not be the song you most associate with classic blues (or even Wells' blues), but it's interesting in part just for that reason. And while Johnson and Tharpe were long past their commercial prime on record, their clips (especially Tharpe's, which were done on a disused railway station) prove they still had plenty of gas left. It might be heretical to say so, but the arrangement Howlin' Wolf plays of his classic "Smokestack Lightning" is disappointingly different from the familiar 1950s single, removing the tune's distinctive menace and changing the melody almost entirely into a more ordinary standard amiable blues progression (though Wolf's actual stage presence and vocal delivery is still mesmerizing). As for another mild criticism, it would have been nice if more specific information about the filming of these specific clips was included, though there's a fine essay by Mike Rowe about the early tours of Britain by US performers in general. That's the smallest of complaints, however, about a set that presents some of the greatest blues film performances of all time, in some cases offering some of the few instances in which these vital artists were even filmed.

Various Artists, The Pomus & Shuman Story: Double Trouble: 1956-1967 (Ace). As most big fans of 1950s and 1960s rock know, Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman were among the greatest Brill Building songwriters of the period, writing mighty hits for Dion, Elvis Presley, the Drifters, and others. This 26-song compilation of versions of their songs (most written by Pomus and Shuman together, though some were composed separately or with other writers) inevitably contains much fine music, though it does seem indecisive as to whether to be a best-of or a more collector-oriented anthology. Some of their biggest and best hits are indeed here: Dion & the Belmonts' "A Teenager in Love," the Mystics' "Hushabye," Ray Charles' "Lonely Avenue," and the Drifters' "Save the Last Dance for Me," for instance, as well as pop and teen idol smashes like Andy Williams' "Can't Get Used to Losing You," Jimmy Clanton's "Go, Jimmy, Go," Terry Stafford's "Suspicion," and Fabian's "Turn Me Loose." Yet quite a few of their hits are missing -- all of the hit covers, in fact, recorded by Elvis Presley, as well as some by the Drifters. Much of the rest of the disc is filled out with pretty rare and obscure recordings that might not be known even to pretty knowledgeable rock'n'roll fans. The benefit of having such stuff on a Pomus-Shuman compilation is that a lot of those items are pretty hard to find, and some are pretty good, like early British rocker Marty Wilde's "It's Been Nice"; LaVern Baker's "Hey Memphis," an "answer" record to Presley's hit "Little Sister"; Gene McDaniels' "Spanish Lace," which is very much like the Latin-influenced work of the early-'60s Drifters; Irma Thomas' delectably soulful 1965 ballad "I'm Gonna Cry 'Til My Tears Run Dry"; and Presley's trashy, brassy "Double Trouble," which is not only the sole Elvis track here, but the last jointly copyrighted Pomus-Shuman composition.

Yet some of the other rarities here are routine exercises that aren't nearly on the level of the famous Pomus-Shuman hits, even though some of them were done by hitmaking artists (including Bobby Darin, Barrett Strong, Ral Donner, the McCoys, and Bobby Vee). And while Del Shannon's  "(Marie's the Name) His Latest Flame" carries some historical weight for having been recorded before Elvis' version, it can't compare to hit recording of the same song by Presley. Still, you could argue that almost anyone interested enough in Pomus and Shuman to buy a whole CD of their songs is quite likely to have the missing Presley and Drifters hits in their collection already, and more interested in getting a chance to hear some of the more seldom traveled efforts in their catalog, both good and mediocre. That chance is certainly supplied by this compilation, with fine annotation outlining the basics of the songwriters' careers and explaining the sources of each track.

Various Artists, Roots and Rumours: The Roots of Elvis Vol. 2 (Rev-Ola). The first volume of this series was confined to the original versions of songs that Elvis Presley is definitely known to have covered in his early career. There are a few such items on this 28-track follow-up, but many of the tunes are ones he's thought to have covered live or on unfound studio outtakes, two of the chief sources fueling the speculation being Elvis: A Musical Inventory 1939-55 and the 1956 songbook Elvis Presley's Album of Juke Box Favorites No. 1 (issued by Hill & Range publishers, supplier of many of the songs Elvis did record). That's a crucial difference, and one that, to liner note writer Dave Penny's credit, is fully acknowledged in this CD's excellent annotation. If you can accept that there might be some poetic license involved in the hypotheses, this is a highly enjoyable of hillbilly, country swing, country boogie, and early R&B songs that, whether Presley covered them or not, undoubtedly accurately reflect his early country and blues influences. There are a lot of fine sides from the '40s and '50s here, including some pretty well-known classics (the Delmore Brothers' "Blues Stay Away from Me," Ivory Joe Hunter's "I Almost Lost My Mind") and cuts by major artists whose work was vitally influential upon early rock'n'roll (Bob Wills, Lefty Frizzell, Hank Snow, Bill Monroe, Rufus Thomas, Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup). There are also a whole bunch of obscure tracks, as well as just a few instances of songs that Elvis did actually cover ("Milk Cow Blues," heard in its Bob Wills version, and "Just Because," here sung by the Lone Star Cowboys). It's interesting, however, that barely any of the 28 recordings actually sound that close to bona fide rock'n'roll. The most notable exception is Buddy & Bob's "Down the Line" -- an early, slightly lo-fi (but very good) rockabilly recording by Buddy Holly (with Bob Montgomery) of a song they offered to Elvis in hopes he'd record it for Sun Records. Just a couple of small complaints: there are no original release years and labels in the annotation, and Eddie Riff's fine tough 1956 R&B side "Ain't That Lovin 'You, Baby" sounds as if it was taken from a significantly warped source copy or tape.

Various Artists, The Song Before the Song (Viper). Many songs that became popular around the 1950s and 1960s actually had their roots -- sometimes general, sometimes very specific -- in earlier recordings of the pre-rock era, and sometimes earlier versions of the same song. The Song Before the Song presents 20 of these. A few of these original versions are fairly famous (within the record collector world, at any rate), like Josh White's "House of the Rising Sun," Nat King Cole's "Route 66," and a bunch of songs covered for hits by Elvis Presley (Big Mama Thornton's "Hound Dog," Arthur Crudup's "My Baby Left Me," Hank Snow's "A Fool Such As I," Smiley Lewis' "One Night," Bill Monroe's "Blue Moon of Kentucky"). Yet others might have even escaped the attention of diligent historically-minded fans. Keep in mind that sometimes these aren't exactly early versions of famous songs, but songs that contained elements of later hits and classics. Hal Singer's raw early-'50s R&B/swing number "Rock Around the Clock," for instance, isn't the same tune Bill Haley made into a huge hit, but there are things (the title and some of the riffs) that make one wonder if it was an influence that fed into the composition of the later song of the same name. The same could be said of jazzman Slim Gaillard's "Tutti Frutti," which definitely isn't the same tune as the early Little Richard classic beyond the title phrase; Bessie Jackson (aka Lucille Bogan's) "T & NO Blues" starts off with a lyric later used to open Junior Parker/Elvis Presley's "Mystery Train," but isn't the same otherwise. But don't take that to mean this CD is deceptive in its theme; those songs that aren't identical to the later famous versions are fascinating to hear in their own right. And there are a bunch of other actual original versions here, including Emmett Miller's "Lovesick Blues" (later done by Hank Williams), Big Joe Williams' "Baby Please Don't Go" (done by too many blues and rock artists to count), and Henry Thomas' "Bull Doze Blues" (adapted into Canned Heat's "Going Up the Country"). Plus, even if you're not the scholarly type, this disc makes for a good collection of early blues, country and jazz music on its own terms. If you are the scholarly kind, thorough liner notes make the connections between the versions clear in a most reader-friendly, witty fashion. It's another in Viper's underappreciated series of vintage roots music anthologies that illustrate where much of the music of the second half of the twentieth century came out of, without being at all stuffy about it.



Archived Reviews

Annisteen Allen, Fujiyama Mama (Rev-Ola Bandstand). While she's largely forgotten even by R&B historians, Annisteen Allen recorded quite a bit in the 1950s, though only one of her singles, "Baby, "I'm Doin' It!," was a big hit. That single -- a risque "answer" record to the Five Royales' "Baby Don't Do It" that made the R&B Top Ten in 1953 -- is here, along with 27 other tracks, mostly or wholly from the early-to-mid-'50s from the sound of things (original release info, unfortunately, is not supplied). Allen's records are emblematic in many ways of both swing jazz's transition to R&B, and R&B's transition from rock'n'roll. Certainly the earliest sides are as much, or maybe even a bit more, swing than R&B -- a logical connection, since Allen had been a singer with Lucky Millinder. She found a yet more impressive groove, however, with later sides with more of a funky backbeat, the best of which, the outlandish "Fujiyama Mama," was famously covered yet more explosively for a rockabilly classic by Wanda Jackson. While nothing else here is quite on par with "Fujiyama Mama," it's fine '50s R&B-cum-rock'n'roll, Allen delivering the songs with a satisfyingly saucy style. Though not quite on the same level as somewhat similar fellow woman early rock pioneers Ruth Brown and LaVern Baker, Allen was almost as good, and the consistent material on this compilation serves as a reminder of how overlooked and underestimated her contributions were. The liner notes are good as well, making it more of a shame that the original release info is missing; that's all this CD would have needed to be definitive.

The Bee Gees, Melbourne 1971 [DVD bootleg] (Wow). In the summer of 1971, the Bee Gees undertook their first tour of Australia since they had left the country nearly five years before to achieve global fame. Their July 15, 1971 concert at Festival Hall in Melbourne was filmed for an Australian television special, and that hour-long black-and-white program is presented on this bootleg DVD in fairly good (though not pristine) condition. For this show, Robin Gibb, Barry Gibb, and Maurice Gibb -- Barry and Maurice playing guitar and piano, though Robin just sang -- were backed by a guitarist (Geoff Bridgeford) and drummer, as well as a full orchestra. This helped them create arrangements about as full as those heard on the Bee Gees' late-'60s/early-'70s records, and though the sound wasn't perfect (sometimes the vocals are softer than they should be), it's a pretty good performance that accents their most popular material of the era. Every one of their big 1967-71 hits ("New York Mining Disaster 1941," "To Love Somebody," "Holiday," "Words," "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart," "I Started a Joke," "Massachusetts," "I've Gotta Get a Message to You," and "Lonely Days") is here, lending the show something of a greatest-hits air. A few other songs from the era are included as well, "I Can't See Nobody" being a highlight, and the blue-eyed-soul tune "Lay It on Me" -- the only one to feature Maurice Gibb on lead vocals -- being the least impressive. Robin Gibb and Barry Gibb are the primary lead singers otherwise, though three-part harmonies are naturally often a feature. The onstage patter and joking isn't very interesting or dynamic, but the performances are good. It's certainly a film that should be issued officially on DVD should the original source be available for a high-quality transfer, as it's a good and representative encapsulation of the sound for which the Bee Gees first became internationally famous.

Bob Dylan, Early Performances: TV Collection 1963-1964 [DVD bootleg] (Solid Gold DVD Express). If you're looking for a collection of pre-1965 Bob Dylan footage, this would seem to have most of it, though it's unfortunately marred by erratic image and sound quality. The first part of the disc presents a nearly-hour-long program broadcast on WBC TV in 1963, with the strikingly banal title of  Folk Songs and More Folk Songs!, on which Dylan does three tunes solo on acoustic guitar in his early folk style: "Blowin' in the Wind," "Man of Constant Sorrow," and "Ballad of Hollis Brown." Those performances are fine, as are those by the other notable folk artists featured on the program: Carolyn Hester, Barbara Dane, the Brothers Four, and (in their early pre-soul, gospel-folk guise) the Staple Singers. Unfortunately, the transfer on this bootleg DVD is afflicted by an annoyingly wavy, wobbly frame, and the sound is a little harsh and distorted; one would guess there must be a higher-grade copy of the program somewhere. Too, everything about the TV special other than the musical performances was contrived. The songs are linked by a corny, folksy on-screen narrator (John Henry Faulk) around a highly specious flashcard history of the United States, and the sets (and the drawings that are part of the links) are cheap and silly even by the standards of the era.

Also contrived, but more palatable, is the 1964 episode of the Canadian TV series Quest that occupies the bulk of the rest of the DVD. Dylan here sings six of compositions from the The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan and The Times They Are A-Changin' albums live on a set that seems to be attempting to simulate a loggers' cabin, complete with actors in lumberjack clothes nodding appreciatively to Bob's music. Filling out the disc are some interesting odds and ends, including his performance of "Only a Pawn in Their Game" at a civil rights rally in Mississippi in 1963 (the same clip used for a scene of his Don't Look Back film) and three songs from the March on Washington in August 1963 (including "Only a Pawn in Their Game," a duet with Joan Baez on "When the Ship Comes In," and a group singalong of "Keep Your Eyes on the Prize" in which Dylan participates). A 1964 clip from The Steve Allen Show has a brief interview and a full performance of "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll," though a second, "no-time-code version" of this clip on the DVD on which the time code is blocked out by a blurry gray rectangle makes the time code bar even more distracting than it is in the original. Finally, there's also a 1964 BBC TV clip of "With God on Our Side," though Dylan isn't given the opportunity to complete the song. As historically interesting as this footage is, and as focused as Dylan's performances are, it gives the impression that neither he nor the television programs were too comfortable in figuring out how this music should best be presented in these settings.

Bob Dylan, Dont Look Back 65 Tour Deluxe Edition [DVD] (Docudrama). Dont Look Back, as all Bob Dylan fans know, is an essential document of both the singer-songwriter and the explosive forces of change coursing through the folk and rock scenes of the mid-1960s, capturing the singer on and offstage during his last acoustic tour (of Britain in the spring of 1965). Docudrama's first DVD edition of the film, issued in the early days of the DVD medium, was a fine expansion of the original movie, with extra audiovisual material and commentaries. About seven years later, however, this deluxe two-disc edition added yet more bonus features. Even if you have the previous DVD incarnation, you'll likely want to upgrade, as unlike many such things billed as "deluxe  edition," this actually does add a lot of valuable bonuses.

The first disc is actually the same as the one previously issued in Docudrama's first DVD package of the film, including the original movie, digitally remastered; five uncut audio performances from the tour; commentary by director D.A. Pennebaker and tour road manager Bob Neuwirth (who also features prominently in the documentary itself); and a different version of the famous sequence in which Dylan holds up cue cards while "Subterranean Homesick Blues" plays on the soundtrack. The second disc, however (titled "Bob Dylan 65 Revisited"), offers 65 minutes of previously unavailable outtake footage from the documentary, with an optional commentary track by Pennebaker and Neuwirth. As with most outtake footage, it's easy enough to see why it wasn't used for the principal documentary feature, which concentrated on more dramatic scenes. There's plenty for serious Dylan fans to enjoy in these outtakes, however, starting with some concert footage (some in complete or near-complete versions) that didn't make Dont Look Back itself, in which Dylan performs outstanding early compositions such as "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue," "It's All Right Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)," "If You Gotta Go, Go Now," and "To Ramona." Also included are backstage sequences in which he works out songs on piano, including an early version of "It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry" and "I'll Keep It with Mine"; a scene in which a then-unknown Nico makes a fleeting appearance; and a third version (different to the one in either the documentary or the bonus material of the first disc) of Dylan discarding cue cards to the soundtrack of "Subterranean Homesick Blues," this one filmed on a windy rooftop. Several offstage scenes in which we see Dylan being kind and jovial with idolizing fans give the impression that the footage selected for Dont Look Back itself might have made him out to be a little nastier and more hard-edged than he really was. It's a little disappointing that Pennebaker and Neuwirth's commentary track sometimes discusses camera equipment and technique at the expense of making direct observations on the actual action passing before us, but it also contains its share of interesting stories and insights as well.

Also included in the deluxe edition is a reprint of the 168-page 1968 Dont Look Back book, which is essentially a transcript of the "screenplay," such as it was, enhanced by plenty of stills from the movie. There's also a finger-sized mini-book of stills from the alley scene (the version actually used in the documentary) where Dylan holds up cue cards to "Subterranean Homesick Blues"; if you flick through the pages, it will simulate an actual moving sequence. In all, this deluxe edition is a spectacular package, both in content and presentation, that will likely stand as the most comprehensive bundling of material generated by the Dont Look Back project.

Bob Dylan, Dylan Speaks: The Legendary 1965 Press Conference in San Francisco [DVD] (Eagle Media). On December 3, 1965, Bob Dylan gave a nearly hour-long televised press conference in San Francisco. While this program has been excerpted in some documentaries, and quoted from in some publications, relatively few fans were able to view the show in its entirety until its 2006 release on this DVD. Dylan was never the most revealing interview subject, and this question-and-answer session -- black-and-white, and transferred onto this disc in very good quality -- was no exception. It's valuable, however, as the longest such document of any interview situation from his mid-1960s prime, and as an audiovisual illustration of his enigmatically impish way of dealing with the press (and with public acclaim/attention/criticism in general). He fidgets and gives short, taciturn answers to questions that don't interest him or that he finds ridiculous or slightly insulting, particularly ones that probe for meanings to his songs or how/if he sees himself as a generational spokesman. He does seem to loosen up a little over the course of the interview, however, and does sometimes laugh and give friendly responses. Though not all of those responses should be taken as gospel, some interesting observations do emerge, such as his declaration that Manfred Mann are the best interpreters of his songs (when almost everyone must have been expecting him to name the Byrds); his enthusiastic plug for the Sir Douglas Quintet; his admission that he doesn't think of Donovan as a good poet; and his nonchalant recounts of how his newly electrified live concerts are getting both cheers and boos, depending upon where he's playing. Some noted journalists and media figures can be seen in the audience proposing occasional questions, like Rolling Stone co-founder Ralph J. Gleason, concert promoter Bill Graham, and literary giant Allen Ginsberg. There's no music on the DVD, but as it's the best surviving document of Dylan in front of the media, many serious Dylan fans will want to see it at least once.

Jon & Robin, Do It Again! The Best of Jon & Robin (Sundazed). Drawing from 1965-69 singles, their two albums, and three previously unissued tracks, this CD is a solid compilation of Jon & Robin's work that proves they had more to offer than their sole hit, "Do It Again a Little Bit Slower." That song's here, of course, as is their regional smash "Dr. Jon (The Medicine Man)," a beguiling combination of searing fuzz guitar and saucy soul-pop vocal interplay that was also written by Wayne Carson Thompson. Elsewhere, the pair fly all over the mid-to-late-'60s pop-rock map, throwing in a bit of Neil Diamond-styled fluff ("You Got Style," written by hitmaking tunesmiths Jeff Barry and Andy Kim), engaging romantic teen pop (another Thompson number, "Drums"); "Gloria"-styled garage ("Love Me Baby"); very Byrds-like guitar raga-rock ("Thursday Morning"); quality lightweight blue-eyed soul (the Mouse & the Traps cover "Like I Know You Do"); a blatant Joe South knockoff ("Gift of Love"); and even a blatant if pleasing attempt by soul singer Bobby Patterson to rewrite "Do It Again a Little Bit Slower" (the previously unissued "My Heart Beats Faster"). If that's not enough variety for you, there's also "I Want Some More" (yet another Thompson number), which sounds like a raw garage-influenced variation of the Nancy Sinatra-Lee Hazlewood duets. Sure, Jon & Robin were liberal in their copping of other styles and trends; even in some of their photos, they look a bit like bandwagon-jumping weekend mod/hippies. That doesn't mean, however, that they didn't make some good, fun records, with an identifiable, ingratiating brand of teasing vocal blends and banter. That sense of fun, and a high level of pop-rock craftpersonship, comes through well on this anthology, put together by Sundazed with their usual high standards of packaging.

Ronnie Lane, The Passing Show: The Life & Music of Ronnie Lane [DVD] (Eagle Vision). Though Ronnie Lane is still not an overly familiar name to the general rock fan, his life was full of substantial musical achievements and personal drama. This hour-and-a-half documentary is an excellent overview of his career, smoothly integrating choice footage of all his major musical groups (the Small Faces, the Faces, and Ronnie Lane's Slim Chance) with interviews of a wealth of his most important colleagues and friends. Those include Ian McLagan and Kenney Jones of the Faces; producer Glyn Johns; various musicians who played with Lane in his solo career; Eric Clapton; Pete Townshend; two of Lane's ex-wives; and some filmed conversations with Lane himself, including ones in which he was suffering from the multiple sclerosis that made his final two decades quite painful. (Other of Lane's comments are heard as voiceover narrative.) Whether playing mod R&B, psychedelia, early-'70s hard rock, or gypsy-flavored roots music, the point's repeatedly made that Lane, unusually for a rock star of his time, cared more for music and doing his own thing than the materialistic trappings of fame. It's a mindset that got him into some trouble at points, as the extensive portion on his financially disastrous attempt in the '70s to tour as a traveling circus of sorts makes clear. His associates also admit he could be a difficult guy to deal with at times, in part because of the onset of a disease whose symptoms weren't initially recognized. Also on the DVD are relatively inessential bonus features with a few more anecdotes from the interviewees, and a few Lane songs performed by some of the musicians who participated in the documentary.

MFSB, Muthafunkinsonofabitch (Funkadelphia). Precise details as to the origins of these 16 instrumental tracks are thin on the ground. None of them are actually credited to MFSB (although the CD as a whole is), and while a few are noted as having been recorded in 1968, 1969, or 1973, over half the cuts are undated. The liner notes -- which actually only consist of five extended quotes from figures involved with MFSB -- aren't much help, although they do scatter hints that these cuts represent MFSB recording under pseudonyms. So an educated guess would presume that these tracks -- credited to no less than twelve separate artists, including such colorful names as Electric Indian (whose "Keem-O-Sabe," a Top Twenty hit in 1969, is the only well known item here), French Connection, Race Street Chinatown Band, and Brothers of Hope, and such mundane handles as Sam Reed Band -- are in fact MFSB recording under different names in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Some celebrated figures are involved in the production and songwriting, including Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff, and Len Barry, but the specifics of their involvement aren't fully spelled out. But while the lack of background information is frustrating, the music itself is pretty cool. This is indeed the sound of Philadelphia soul turning into funk, but rawer and closer to the bone than most of the famous recordings on which MFSB were the backing players (and certainly rawer than MFSB's own hit recordings). All of the instrumental elements of the Philly soul sound are here: tight grooves, funky guitars, neat riffs, and overlays of jazzy vibraphones. It sounds earthier than much famous Philly soul of the era, though, in part because most of the tracks aren't decorated with horns or soothing strings, putting the most cutting ingredients in relief. That's particularly true of some of the guitar work, which sometimes goes into nifty wah-wah, and at others (especially on Hidden Cost's "Bo Did It") even verges on what sounds like Cream/Yardbirds-influenced hard rock lines. It's true that much of this does sound like promising backing tracks waiting for vocal overdubs, and that none of them (except "Keem-O-Sabe") particularly sound like they're instrumental-only hits waiting to happen. Yet this incompleteness is also part of what makes this obscure release interesting, allowing us to dig the root of the Philly sound without the sweeteners in a pretty unadulterated state. Much of it's indeed funky as a, well, mutha, and no doubt it will eventually be plundered by twenty-first century samplers looking for something that few competitors are even aware exist.

Duffy Power, Duffy Power (GSF). For all the many recordings of Duffy Power in the 1960s and the 1970s that eventually found release, his 1973 album on the GSF label (sometimes reported to have come out in 1972) was the only full-length Power LP that came out shortly after the material it contained was recorded. Confusingly, another album titled Duffy Power came out around the same time on the Spark label, though that LP contained tracks recorded in the late 1960s. The Duffy Power album on the GSF label was entirely different, and has received relatively little attention even among his cult followers, in part because so much other Power material was reissued on CD prior to the record finally coming out in the compact disc format in 2007. While the tracks on the GSF album aren't among the best Power cuts, they prove to be surprisingly and satisfyingly worthwhile, finding his trademark eclectic folk-rock-blues blends intact on a set of entirely self-composed songs. Though not as sparsely produced as some of his more effective '60s efforts, or as cracking with R&B excitement as some other of those '60s efforts, it's a pretty gutsy set, though imbued with the likably humble humanity Power invested with almost everything he laid down. He takes on some pretty big subjects -- religion, most notably, on "Song About Jesus" and "Glimpses of God" -- along with his more standard vulnerable, sweetly edgy romantic ruminations ("Holiday" is close to torch-song jazz-blues). Generally Power does sound better the folkier he gets, and the odder, jazzier tunes he uses (as on "Holiday," "The River," and "Love Is Shelter," all of which use effectively dramatic light orchestration) are the highlights. The more rock-oriented tracks, while okay, have a more generic early-'70s British rock feel. The 2007 CD reissue added extensive comments about each song by Power in the liner notes, along with three bonus tracks of almost similar quality that he cut shortly afterward for a follow-up LP that never came out.

Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, Definitive Performances 1963-1987 [DVD] (Hip-O/Motown). The core of this DVD presents 14 clips (usually from television) of Smokey Robinson & the Miracles in performance, mostly from their 1963-70 prime, though there are a couple from the post-Robinson lineup of the Miracles in 1976, as well as three 1980s solo Smokey numbers. Unlike the DVD retrospectives of fellow Motown stars the Supremes, the Temptations, and Marvin Gaye, however, the disc actually gives equal weight to interviews (with Robinson and fellow Miracles Pete Moore and Bobby Rogers) done especially for the project. These interviews are not all clumped together as part of the main feature, or loaded on as extras; instead, the main feature alternates performance clips with extensive interview segments. This might disappoint some fans looking for musical footage first and foremost. But the formats are effectively integrated, providing a good balance of historical insight and sheer entertainment, and certainly the DVD doesn't stint on content, adding up to about two-and-a-half hours altogether. The nine musical clips of the 1963-70 Miracles include some of their biggest smashes, among them "Shop Around," "You've Really Got a Hold on Me," "Mickey's Monkey," "Ooo Baby Baby," "The Tracks of My Tears," "Going to a Go-Go," "I Second That Emotion," and "The Tears of a Clown." True, more of these are mimed than most would like, and the Miracles were not quite as visual or fancy-stepping a group as the Temptations (their dynamic segment in the 1964 concert film The T.A.M.I. Show would have made a nice addition). But they're still pleasing to watch, and some of the performances are live, highlighted by a 1963 film of the group working at the Apollo (where they insert some of Sam Cooke's "Bring It on Home to Me" into "You've Really Got a Hold on Me"). The 1976 clips (with Billy Griffin as lead singer), meanwhile, are most interesting not for the music (versions of "Do It Baby" and "Love Machine"), but for their outrageous pink stage outfits. The interview portions are quite interesting, as Smokey and his pals reflect on the group's origins, Motown, Robinson's songwriting, and the evolution of several of their classic records. Also included is a special audio section allowing you the option of hearing isolated lead and background vocals for the studio tracks of eight of the '60s Miracles recordings, as well as a 24-page booklet of historical liner notes.

The Rolling Stones, The Complete Ed Sullivan Shows [DVD bootleg] (New Depression Music). After their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in late 1964, Sullivan was quoted as promising the Rolling Stones would never be on his program again. Well, he backtracked quite a bit from that proclamation; he didn't just have them on again, but had them on again five more times over the next five years. This DVD collects all six of their 1964-69 Sullivan appearances, during which they performed 16 songs --none of them twice -- including such classics as "The Last Time," "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," "19th Nervous Breakdown," "Lady Jane," "Paint It Black," "Ruby Tuesday," "Gimme Shelter," and "Honky Tonk Women." Only two significant points can be made against this bootleg release: the transfers of the videos are obviously not from the best possible original sources (though they're pretty good), and on most of the songs from their final three appearances (September 1966, January 1967, and November 1969), it's obvious that Mick Jagger is singing a live vocal to a studio track. Otherwise, this is classic Rolling Stones, and among the best (and most historically important) footage of the band ever broadcast. These are among some of Jagger's most photogenic performances, and in these years, visually the Stones came off as more of a band in performance than a backing unit for a frontman, even if Jagger is obviously the biggest focus. In a few instances, there are surprising shortcomings in their efforts to replicate the classic studio recordings -- in particular, the attempts to mimic the distorted fuzz of "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" and "19th Nervous Breakdown" sound a little anemic compared to the singles, and Jagger's vocals seem mixed way too low on "Gimme Shelter" and "Honky Tonk Women." As compensation, you have such interesting moments as the sight of Brian Jones playing sitar on "Paint It Black" and recorder on "Ruby Tuesday," Keith Richards playing (or pretending to play) piano on "Ruby Tuesday," and Jagger oddly switching the line "still I'm gonna miss you" to "girl I'm gonna miss you" throughout "Ruby Tuesday." Most famously, there's the clip of "Let's Spend the Night Together" in which the Stones sing "let's spend some time together" under network pressure, Jagger (whose delivery of this song in particular is outrageously camp) rolling his eyes a couple times during those lines in apparent ridicule.

And that's not all -- you get, as "bonus tracks," different "rehearsal" clips of "Ruby Tuesday" and "Let's Spend the Night Together," with Jagger singing the original lyrics in the former, and vacillating between "time together" and "night together" in the latter. As additional bonus clips, there are the four songs they performed in April 1965 at the New Musical Express Pollwinners' Concert, as well as their fine promo video for "Jumping Jack Flash" (which is not simply mimed to the record, as the audio track's definitely a different, more live-sounding version). There really should be an official release of all of the Rolling Stones' Ed Sullivan appearances taken from the best available sources, as there has been for the Beatles' Sullivan spots. In the absence of such authorized product, however, this is recommended viewing for all Stones enthusiasts.

The Rolling Stones, The Marquee/Montreux Rumble [DVD bootleg] (4Reel Productions). While the sleeve looks almost professional enough to pass for an official release, it's certainly highly uncertain that this DVD is authorized, especially as there's a fat time-code-sized black bar sitting near the bottom of the screen throughout much of it. Nonetheless, this does present a good amount of footage that fans of the early-1970s incarnation of the Rolling Stones will enjoy. First up are a few rehearsal clips filmed in Montreux by German TV on May 21, 1972, including a couple run-throughs of "Tumbling Dice," "Shake Your Hips," and some bluesy jamming. Mick Jagger's vocals aren't miked high enough, but otherwise these are enjoyably relaxed performances in which the band seem to playing for themselves, rather than for the cameras. The core of the disc is a performance filmed for television at the Marquee Club in London on March 26, 1971 (and, unfortunately, with that black rectangular bar near the bottom of the screen at all times). Though this eight-song set has the Mick Taylor lineup of the Stones running through much of their better-known late-'60s/early-'70s material (as well as "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"), it's not the most overwhelming concert footage of the band, in part because everyone save Jagger is pretty stationary. Useful extras include their 1971 Top of the Pops spot for "Brown Sugar," a promo film of "Loving Cup" filmed during the Montreux rehearsals, and quite a bit (although hardly fascinating) interview material with Jagger and Bill Wyman that aired on The Dick Cavett Show in August 1972, as well as July 1972 New York performances of "Brown Sugar" and "Street Fighting Man" that aired on the same program. All interesting stuff, though all of it would look better if it was given the higher-quality transfers typical of authorized releases.

The Seekers, 1968 BBC Farewell Spectacular [DVD bootleg] (Majik Rat). In July 1968, the Seekers did an official farewell concert for BBC television. The soundtrack of that concert was issued on CD decades later, and the 50-minute show itself came out on VHS around that time. But as of 2006, the program had not made its way onto DVD, leaving the way for this unauthorized DVD release. Despite the rather amateurish packaging, the transfer itself is pretty good, and probably of just slightly lesser quality than you'd get on an official DVD. While this 18-song television special was well filmed and well performed, it might be a bit of a letdown for Seekers fans who value the group for the pop-folk style for which they were most famous. For it's presented as something of a variety show in which the quartet (sometimes reduced to a trio, a duo, or soloists) sing tunes in several styles, including traditional Australian folk, jazz, rock'n'roll (a cover of "Hello Marylou"), and even a ragtime piano solo spot for Judith Durham ("Maple Leaf Rag"). You'll also have to put up with some obviously carefully scripted and rehearsed between-song comedy routines that are somewhat amusing, but pretty corny. On the other hand, this does have quality non-mimed performances in the closely harmonized pop-folk vein (sometimes with orchestral backing) that was their forte, including their hits "I'll Never Find Another You," "A World of Our Own," "The Carnival Is Over," "Morningtown Ride," and "Georgy Girl" (presented in both a full-length version and a shorter reprise that closes the program).

The Small Faces, Small Faces: 40th Anniversary Edition (Decca). What makes this fortieth anniversary edition of the Small Faces' self-titled 1966 debut album more worthwhile than other CD reissues of the same record -- particularly the 1996 expanded edition on Dream, which offered five bonus tracks? Well, this 2006 upgrade, aside from bearing the obligatory "digitally remastered" sticker, offers eleven bonus tracks. Those include not all five of the bonus tracks from the 1996 expanded edition (those being alternate versions of "What'cha Gonna Do About It," "Come on Children," "Shake," and "E Too D" that showed up in the French EP format, as well as an extended version of "Own Up Time"). They also include all five of the 1965 and 1966 UK A-sides and B-sides from their first four singles that weren't included on the original Small Faces LP, as well as an alternate version of one of those A-sides, "Hey Girl" (source unspecified). Those A-sides and B-sides make great additions, as they all fit in well sound-wise and style-wise with the tracks from the LP. The alternate versions are less essential, but still nifty for the diehard Small Faces fan, which is whom this fortieth anniversary edition is targeted toward, after all. Also, the liner notes are a big improvement over the 1996 expanded edition, this time running to 20 pages of intensely detailed information about the group's early career and recordings by Andy Neill, with lots of photos and memorabilia reproductions. Yes, it's true that the big Small Faces fan is likely to already have all of these 23 tracks somewhere, so much has their catalog been reissued in various formats. This is likely to be unsurpassed, however, as the most thorough (and thoroughly annotated) collection of the material they released through mid-1966, when they were at the most raucous stage of their R&B-soaked mod rock sound. And, extra goodies and ribbons on the packaging aside, this is vital British Invasion music that at its best -- the hits "What'cha Gonna Do About It," "Hey Girl," and "Sha La La La Lee," as well as the flop single "I've Got Mine," the single-worthy pop-rocker "Sorry She's Mine," and the Muddy Waters rave-up "You Need Loving" (which helped inspire Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love") -- is mod rock at its best, though some of the other material here is energetic filler verging on generic R&B jams.

Cat Stevens, In Concert [DVD bootleg] (Wow). If you're in agreement with many critics and fans that the early 1970s was the pinnacle of Cat Stevens' career, you'll be well pleased by this 100-minute DVD, even if it is unauthorized. For the bulk of it's devoted to two lengthy live, color 1971 television performances, both of them presented here in decent quality, though the transfer would no doubt be a bit better if it was an official product. Stevens (playing guitar and, just occasionally, piano) is accompanied only by guitarist Alun Davies and bassist/conga player Larry Steele on these nearly unplugged performances, mostly singing material from his Tea for the Tillerman and Teaser and the Firecat albums. Eight songs are from a June 8, 1971 program on public television in Los Angeles; ten are from a BBC concert on November 27, 1971. There's not as much repetition of specific songs as you might think; only "Moonshadow," "Wild World," "Father and Son," and "Hard-Headed Woman" are done on both shows. And while it's curious that "Peace Train" and "Morning Has Broken" are not performed, Stevens did go into his back catalog on the BBC program for "Maybe You're Right" and, much more unexpectedly, "I Love My Dog." The renditions are sedate, in the classic singer-songwriter style of the era, but they're warm, good-natured, and professional. Also on the DVD are other interesting odds and ends from his early career, including a 1970 clip of "Lady D'Arbanville" on French TV; promo films for "Moonshadow" (with animation), "Father and Son," "Hard-Headed Woman," and "If You Want to Sing Out"; and, in an almost jarring flashback to his pre-singer-songwriter incarnation, a black-and-white clip of Cat miming "Matthew and Son" on BBC's Top of the Pops on January 19, 1967, complete with a Swinging London-type dancing audience.

The Supremes, Reflections: The Definitive Performances 1964-1969 [DVD] (Motown/Universal). As a single-disc DVD compilation of Supremes performances, this is hard to beat. The twenty clips (in both black and white and color), drawn mostly from television shows, include renditions of all but two of their 1960s Top Ten hits. Refreshingly, too, not all of them are lip-synced (though some of them are); a few are wholly live, and others at least have live vocals. No matter what the format, you're curious to view what's next, if for nothing else than to see their never-more-than-once hairstyles and wardrobes. Highlights include particularly "live"-looking and -sounding performances of "The Happening" and "In and Out of Love" in Stockholm in April 1968, and scenes of the group recording "My World Is Empty Without You" in the studio, used in the 1966 TV special Anatomy of Pop. Not everything here is strictly performance; a promo film of "You Keep Me Hangin' On" is mostly devoted to shots of the girls playing ping-pong. To enhance viewability, the clips are sequenced so that the second performances of the two songs presented in two different versions ("Baby Love" and "Stop! In the Name of Love") are placed near the end; the "My World Is Empty Without You" clip, likewise, is presented twice, once without the original narration, once (at the DVD's very end) with the original narration. Extras include an option which allows you to watch eight of the mimed clips with a soundtrack that treats the Supremes' vocals so they're heard "a cappella," in isolation from the rest of the elements of the studio recordings; an optional "trivia track" (appearing as subtitles on the screen) which, unlike many such DVD features, actually has quite a bit of interesting information about the group's recordings, appearances, and career for serious fans; and a 20-page booklet of liner notes. Of course, this does not contain all Supremes footage of note; a great deal more exists, including their performance on The T.A.M.I. Show and several additional Ed Sullivan Show appearances, for starters. As the liner notes themselves acknowledge, it would easily be possible to fill up an entire second DVD of quality performances, though this is certainly a good initial wrap-up.

The Zombies, Video Anthology [DVD bootleg] (Wow). The problems plaguing this hour-long DVD are the ones that plague many such unauthorized compilations. The quality of the sound/image/transfers is highly variable and often a little-to-very subpar; most of the clips (most taken from TV programs) are mimed, not live; and there's not all that much material overall (about an hour, including three versions of "She's Not There" and two of "Tell Her No"). Nevertheless, if you are a big Zombies fan, this is the only video of note that had ever surfaced prior to its emergence in 2006 or thereabouts. Though the repetition of their two big hits is a bit of a drag, at least this does include mimed clips of a few of their less-traveled tracks, those being "She's Coming Home," "Summertime" (two versions), and "It's Alright with Me." They also do show singer Colin Blunstone to be a more photogenic, kinetic frontman than is usually remembered, though the limitations of the era's lip-syncing and hokey, staged sets don't allow full appreciation of the band's live performance abilities. Fortunately, there is one live clip, from a 1967 French TV show, that is live, and what's more one of them is a song (the Miracles' "Going to a Go-Go") of which no version had appeared on any Zombies release, the other being another soul cover (of the Isley Brothers' "This Old Heart of Mine") that only exists on official releases as a BBC radio performance. Original compositions, not soul covers, were the Zombies' strengths, but at least that clip does offer something different and unexpected. Also on the DVD are their brief appearances in the 1965 Otto Preminger movie Bunny Lake Is Missing (and their appearance, singing a ditty called "Come on Time" to the tune of their single "Just Out of Reach," in the film's trailer); and an interesting documentary of about a half-hour's length, including interviews with the original members, done in the 1990s from the looks of things. Closing the disc is a mysterious mimed "promo video" for "Time of the Season," though none of the musicians bear any resemblance to any of the group's original members; perhaps that's a TV clip of a "fake" Zombies that formed to exploit the success of "Time of the Season" (which became a hit after the group broke up), though the track listings don't reveal any details.

Various Artists, Folk Is Not a Four Letter Word 2 (Delay 68). The second volume of this series gathers an admirably eclectic variety of rare folk-rock of the late 1960s and 1970s from around the world, and not just from English-speaking countries or English-singing artists. There are some US and UK acts here, to be sure, and most of the tracks are performed in English, but there are also artists from Sweden, Holland, France, and Germany. More often than not, this travels the gentler, folkier, more mystical and haunting side of folk-rock, with a higher percentage of female vocals than many such compilations boast, and with Pentangle and Joni Mitchell in particular (and perhaps some Mary Hopkin and Melanie) often standing out as audible influences. But this really is an eclectic anthology within its chosen genre, with some cuts that also show the influence of progressive rock and psychedelia. Which specific tracks you like the best might depend on your specific tastes, but certainly the Welsh trio Y Triban give Joni Mitchell's "Night in the City" a very effectively unusual (and very Pentangle-ish) arrangement; Elly & Rikkart's Dutch-sung "Heksenkring" is an almost menacingly playful male-female duet; and Paul Parrish's "Dialogue of Wind and Lover" is a fey Donovan-ish near-gem strongly recalling that singer's folk-rock-jazz-raga hybrids, though with shyer vocals. A few of these artists might be familiar to CD-age collectors for having been honored with reissues of their own in the years shortly before this 2006 release (Chuck & Mary Perrin, Jan & Lorraine, Susan Christie), but the substantial majority will likely be unfamiliar even to folk-rock specialists, so rare (and/or unexposed in the English-speaking world) were the original pressings. But it's not a snobbish collection that values rarity for its own sake or excludes artists who aren't usually classified as folk-rockers. Commendably, its scope includes a track by Pentangle themselves (by far the most famous artist on the CD), albeit the non-LP B-side "I Saw an Angel"; a late-'60s effort ("Sunrise") from Alexis Korner, usually thought of as a bluesman; a Christian rock band, 11.59; and a song by a German actress, Sibylle Baier (most known for her role in Wim Wenders' 1974 film Alice in the Cities), that was recorded in the early '70s but not released for decades. True, for the most part this doesn't rival the best folk-rock of the era, and it's unfortunate that not all of the original label and release dates are included in the annotation (though otherwise compiler Andy Votel's liner notes are excellent). But it's a good, adventurous compilation for folk-rock hounds, whether they just want to sample some virtually unknown recordings from the era, or use this as a sampler that might introduce them to artists they want to more fully investigate.

Various Artists, Playboy After Dark [DVD bootleg] (Silvertone). Shortly after this bootleg DVD of 30 rock songs performed on the Playboy After Dark series in the late 1960s and early 1970s came out, Morada Vision came out with an official collection of Playboy After Dark episodes that included a few performances by some of the same artists (Ike & Tina Turner, Canned Heat). Should more episodes of Playboy After Dark be made commercially available, this bootleg will be made redundant. However, the official compilation presents complete episodes that also include comedians and crooners. This bootleg, on the other hand, focuses solely on the rock performances broadcast on the series, including clips not only by the aforementioned Ike & Tina Turner and Canned Heat, but also Deep Purple; Iron Butterfly; Taj Mahal; B.B. King; Linda Ronstadt; the Byrds; the Sir Douglas Quintet; Steppenwolf; the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band; the Grateful Dead; Fleetwood Mac; and Country Joe & the Fish. The quality, though not as good as it would be if transferred from the best available sources, is pretty good. And, most importantly, the performances are mostly live, and quite good and interesting for the most part. Highlights include Deep Purple doing their hit "Hush"; the just-post-Gram Parsons-Byrds, with Clarence White on guitar, doing a couple of Dylan covers; Fleetwood Mac's "Rattlesnake Shake"; the Grateful Dead, with Tom Constanten in the lineup, doing "Mountains of the Moon" and "St. Stephen"; Linda Ronstadt, singing less slickly than in her superstar days, offering "Lovesick Blues" and "Long Long Time"; B.B. King presenting his hit "The Thrill Is Gone"; and the Sir Douglas Quintet pumping out "Mendocino" and "She's About a Mover" in fine form. The colorful, campily sexy audience dancing and costumes complement the music well, and if at times they verge on the absurdly dated, that's part of the fun. If you're not so much interested in the Playboy After Dark series itself as you are in the rock music featured in the show, this is a good condensation of highlights, at least until such time as those who control the material might want to put out an official such package themselves.

Various Artists, Songs That Elvis Loved (Chrome Dreams). Elvis Presley covered many songs during his career, and doubtless loved and was heavily influenced by many others that he didn't record. So any single-disc compilation of "songs that Elvis loved" is necessarily selective and incomplete. However, if you are looking for a good (if imperfect) anthology of original versions of many of the most interesting songs the King covered, this 28-song UK collection is very good indeed. For one thing, it focuses upon original versions of songs Presley interpreted from the earliest and best part of his career. So most, though not all, of the original versions of songs Elvis cut on his Sun singles are here -- not just the relatively famous original blues versions of "That's All Right (Mama)" (by Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup) and "Mystery Train" (by Junior Parker), but also Dean Martin's "I Don't Care If the Sun Don't Shine," Bill Monroe's "Blue Moon of Kentucky," and Kokomo Arnold's "Milk Cow Blues." Moving beyond the Sun era, while Big Mama Thornton's "Hound Dog" and Lloyd Price's "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" are not obscure (though they're very good), you also get lesser-known items like Crudup's "My Baby Left Me," Hank Snow's "(Now and Then There's) A Fool Such As I," and Josh White's "Evil Hearted Man" (which seemed to provide at least part of the inspiration for "Trouble," written for Presley by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller). Also, unlike some other similar compilations, this pays some attention not just to the blues, R&B, and hillbilly Presley loved and sang, but also the pop schmaltz and gospel that he also loved and sang with some frequency, like the Orioles' "Crying in the Chapel," the Ink Spots' "That's When Your Heartaches Begin," and "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" (heard here in drastically different interpretations by Al Jolson and the Carter Family). Also interesting are the "originals" of songs Elvis recorded with different lyrics, including Maria Lanza's "Torna a Surriento" and "O Sole Mio" (which became "Surrender" and "It's Now or Never" respectively) and the Shelton Brothers' "Aura Lee" (changed to "Love Me Tender"). Sure, there are many notable absentees from this CD whose inclusion would have made it even better, like Arthur Gunter's "Baby Let's Play House," Bernard Hardison's "Too Much," and Roy Hamilton's "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Cry (Over You)." But it's a fine package, with informed liner notes by Spencer Leigh about the songs, their origins, and their influence upon Presley.



Archived Reviews

Jackie Edwards, I Feel So Bad: The Soul Recordings (Castle). In the annals of 1960s Jamaican music, Jackie Edwards was something of an anomaly. Like so many Jamaicans, he recorded for Island Records, and was based in Britain. In truth, however, his music was often far closer to soul than reggae or ska, though a little bit of influence from those forms could be detected even when he went in a decidedly soul direction. It was also his lot to be more known to history as the man who wrote the Spencer Davis Group's early hits than as a recording artist, though he did cut quite a few discs in the 1960s. The documentation on this 22-track collection isn't as thorough as it could be, but it seems that all of it was done between 1965-68 save for one 1971 song. And though none of them were hits, it proves Edwards to be a fine soul singer in his own right. He's also distinguished from much of his competition by his strong songwriting skills (most of the material here is his own) and a certain British soul-pop touch to the occasionally orchestrated production -- usually by Chris Blackwell and Spencer Davis/Rolling Stones/Traffic producer Jimmy Miller, working together and separately -- that helped differentiate it from much American soul product of the time. Setting it aside from much US soul, too, were some slight ska accents that lent his arrangements, delivery, and compositions a certain light romantic sweetness entirely different from that heard on records by Motown or Philadelphia soulsters. There are lots of fine tracks here that are little known to either reggae or soul fans, including his own versions of "Keep on Running" and "Somebody Help Me," which were chart-topping UK hits for the Spencer Davis Group (though it doesn't have his versions of two Spencer Davis songs on which he was the co-writer, "When I Get Home" and "Back into My Life Again"). Also dig his stomping rendition of "L-O-V-E," perhaps known more to British Invasion collectors as recorded by the British soul-rock group Simon Dupree & the Big Sound. Edwards recorded more material than what's here, of course, not all of it as soul-oriented. But it's a fine summation of the most accessible soul-slanted sides by this undervalued artist.

Marvin Gaye, The Real Thing in Performance 1964-1981 (Hip-O/Motown). Here's a DVD that gives the music to you straight, without a fuss, presenting 16 full-length performances by soul great Marvin Gaye, taken from film and television clips spanning 1964 to 1981. Many of the core classics from Gaye's hit repertoire are represented, including "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," "Ain't That Peculiar," "Let's Get It On," "What's Going On," "You're a Wonderful One," "Hitch Hike," "Pride and Joy," "Can I Get a Witness," and (as a duet with Tammi Terrell) "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." Interspersed between some of the songs are interview excerpts from television music and talk shows, and while these aren't so lengthy as to make this a documentary that could tell the story of Gaye's career on its own, they're entertaining and do shed some light on his music and life. If there's any drawback, it's that many of the clips are lip-synced, including nearly all of the ones from the '60s (which comprise about half of the material on the disc). Still, Gaye always looks and moves fine, and the first six clips (all from the mid-'60s) are enhanced by syncing the images to the original stereo master recordings. There's some unpredictable entertainment to be had on both the mimed and live clips, too, including a filmed-outdoors duet with Terrell in which you can see their breath (presumably to indicate they are on an appropriate peak to sing "Ain't No Mountain High Enough"); "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," sung to a different track than the studio version, with Gaye on piano; and a fully live 1972 performance of "What's Going On," from the obscure film Save the Children. And while few Gaye fans would count "A Funky Space Reincarnation" among his greatest songs, its 1979 promo film is certainly amusing for its sheer gaucheness, complete with Gaye's spangled maroon wardrobe, clouds of dry ice, and writhing barely-clothed women. Adding to this high-quality package is a 24-page booklet with an essay by top soul historian Rob Bowman, and a bonus feature that allows you to hear Gaye's a cappella vocal tracks for seven hits in isolation, synced to the corresponding film clip to aid watchability.

Dana Gillespie, Foolish Seasons (Rev-Ola). Although she would eventually become most known as a blues singer, at the outset of her recording career in the mid-to-late 1960s, Dana Gillespie flirted with pop-rock, folk-rock, and mildly psychedelic baroque pop. All of those styles can be heard on her obscure 1968 debut album, which oddly was issued in the US but not the UK, despite the heavily British-European cast to the production and arrangements. The melange of approaches makes for an indecisive direction and uneven quality in certain respects. Yet at the same time, it makes the record an undeniably interesting, at times even exhilarating, slice of eclectic late-'60s Swinging London-tinged pop. Very roughly speaking, Gillespie echoed the material and vocals of fellow British woman pop-rock singers such as Marianne Faithfull and Dusty Springfield at points, though her voice was at once both huskier/smokier than the young Faithfull's and gentler and whispery than Springfield's. The styles tried on for size include the breezy psych-pop of "You Just Gotta Know My Mind," a Donovan composition that Donovan himself never recorded; the very Faithfull-esque (in the good sense) wispy folk-pop of "Tears in My Eyes" and Gillespie's own composition "Foolish Seasons"; the sunshine pop-influenced orchestral arrangements of "Life Is Short" and "London Social Degree," both penned by cult British pop-rocker Billy Nicholls; the gothic Europop of "Souvenirs of Stefan," which vaguely recalls the likes of Francoise Hardy; and the downright catchy, sexy mod pop of "No! No! No!" Further unexpected turns are taken with the almost pre-goth blues-pop death wish "Dead," and the haunting, eccentric cover of Richard Farina's "Hard Lovin' Loser." Sure, there are a couple of icky-sweet pop clunkers along the way (including Gillespie's sole other self-penned number on the album, "He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not"). On the whole, though, it's an extremely likable (if somewhat stylistically confused) album, with nonstop unpredictably luscious and imaginative production. The UK 2006 CD reissue on Rev-Ola has thorough historical liner notes, including many quotes from Gillespie herself.

George Harrison, The Concert for Bangladesh [DVD] (Apple). The film made of the August 1, 1971 concerts in New York's Madison Square Garden to raise relief funds for Bangladesh was given a deluxe reissue on this two-disc DVD, one disc of which contains the original film, the other offering extra features. Organized by George Harrison and also featuring spots by Bob Dylan, Billy Preston, Leon Russell, and Ravi Shankar, the concert itself might not quite match the expectations some fans might have for such a star-studded lineup. The good-time rock-soul of Preston and Russell, though they were briefly hitmakers in the early 1970s, is on the slight side compared to Harrison and Dylan's music. In addition, the acoustic-based Dylan set is a little low-key; though he offers some of his top songs (including "Blowin' in the Wind," "Just Like a Woman," "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall"), the accompaniment seems tentative and under-rehearsed. Too, the onstage band is perhaps bigger than it needs to be, including not just Eric Clapton (who doesn't sing or perform any of his own material) and Ringo Starr, but numerous other guitarists, bassists, singers, and horn players, some of whom are basically swamped by the arrangements.

All that noted, there's still much to enjoy about this concert and film, particularly as it remains the best place to watch footage of George Harrison as a solo artist. While he's a bit nervous at times, he for the most part offers good versions of highlights from both his first solo album, All Things Must Pass ("My Sweet Lord," "Awaiting on You All," "Beware of Darkness"), and his Beatles-era compositions ("Something," "Here Comes the Sun," "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"). The large complement of gospel-soul-flavored backup singers adds different shades than are heard on the studio versions, and "Here Comes the Sun" is performed in a touching acoustic rendition (with Pete Ham of Badfinger on second guitar). Ravi Shankar opens the proceedings with more solemn Indian music that helps remind the audience about the cause the event raised money for, as does Harrison's closing performance of the non-LP single "Bangla Desh." The filming itself might be a little less sophisticated than the best rockumentaries of the era, but satisfactorily captures the onstage action and sense of occasion. The bonus disc offers worthwhile bonus items, including a 45-minute documentary on the concert, with interviews of some of the participants; smaller features on the making of the film and the album; and just a few previously unissued performances from the rehearsals, sound check and afternoon show, including Dylan's "Love Minus Zero/No Limit" and "If Not for You," along with a cover of Robert Johnson's "Come on in My Kitchen" by Harrison, Clapton, and Russell.

John Holt, I Can't Get You Off My Mind (Heartbeat). Although the phrase "18 Greatest Hits" appears as a subtitle on the cover, this by no means concentrates exclusively on Holt's most popular recordings; you won't find "Help Me Make It Through the Night" here. Rather, it focuses on the Clement Dodd-produced material he cut for Studio One in the late 1960s and the early 1970s. Not that there's anything wrong with such a compilation, as this period yielded some of Holt's most enduring recordings, whether alone or (as was the case for three of the tracks) with the Paragons. With most of the songwriting is credited to the team of Holt and Dodd (though there's a dandy cover of George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord"), it's a fine set of sweetly sung tunes from the time when rock steady was changing into early reggae music, sometimes moody ("Strange Things"), sometimes happy-go-lucky ("Happy Go Lucky Girl," natch), sometimes with early dubbish effects ("Change Your Style"), sometimes with echoes of Drifters-like soul ("Depth of Love"), sometimes even with light orchestration ("Tonight"). Two of the tracks ("Anywhere" and "My Sweet Lord") make their CD debut here, while seven others are, in the words of the track listing, an "original stereo mix previously unreleased on CD." Its appeal isn't limited to the collectors who care about such distinctions, however; it's top-notch, varied early reggae, and more consistent than the usual single-artist anthology of the genre.

Alexis Korner, Sky High [Bonus Tracks] (Castle). Sky High was a typically uneven Alexis Korner album, on several accounts. First, the literally sky high level of talent among the backup musicians -- including future Pentangle rhythm section Danny Thompson (bass) and Terry Cox (drums), as well as Duffy Power on harmonica -- was not matched to universally high-caliber material. Too, while admirably eclectic, the array of styles on display -- from down'n'dirty R&B to acoustic blues, out-there jazz, and almost traditional jazz-blues -- seemed to indicate as much directionless as adventurousness. There was, too, no getting around Korner's severe limitations as a lead vocalist, a chore he undertook for five of the album's fifteen tracks. Fortunately, first-class blues-rock vocalist Duffy Power took lead vocals on four of the other tracks, and for that reason alone, Sky High is a worthwhile release. "Long Black Train" (which Power and Korner co-wrote) is a genuine lost British R&B gem, and the very best track Korner cut in that style, with its ominously echoing guitar, pummeling rhythm, and Power-ful vocals and harmonica.

Sadly, nothing else on the record comes close to matching it, though the album's not without its merits. There are, to start with, those four other tracks with Power on lead vocal, which are respectable R&B, though none of them are nearly as good as "Long Black Train" (and one of them, "I'm So Glad (You're Mine)," would be recorded by Power in a better version under his own name). There's also a raucous cover of Charles Mingus' "Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting," though this and other jazz instrumentals on the record (including a horn section) are so different from the Power-led cuts that they could easily be mistaken for the work of a different band. The numbers on which Korner takes lead vocals, however, make one wish he'd had the humility and wisdom to let Power be the lead singer for most of the LP, though Alexis does okay with the nicely swinging jazz-blues tune "River's Invitation."  Too, the three Korner solo guitar instrumentals that end the album seem like slight afterthoughts.

The CD reissue of this rare album on Castle in 2006 improved it substantially with the addition of ten BBC recordings from 1965 and 1966, half of them previously unreleased. None of them feature Power (though all of them retain Thompson and Cox as the rhythm section), Korner handling the vocals on all of them except "I Got a Woman," which is sung by Herbie Goins. These BBC tracks also run the gamut of the blues and all of its jazz and R&B offshoots, including another Charles Mingus cover ("Oh Lord, Don't Let Them Drop That Atomic Bomb on Me," sung with particular hoarseness by Korner); shuffling Korner-penned jazz-blues instrumentals; a version of Herbie Hancock's famous "Watermelon Man" (with another wracked Korner vocal); Jimmy Smith's "Back at the Chicken Shack," with Brian Auger on organ; and a rather cool soul-jazz instrumental, "The Jailbird." While not great recordings in and of themselves (though the sound is very good), these too testify to Korner's versatility and a catholic taste that seemed to embrace jazz and R&B as heartily as purist blues.

John Lennon, The Dick Cavett Show: John & Yoko Collection [DVD] (Shout Factory). In September 1971 and May 1972, John Lennon and Yoko Ono appeared on three episodes of The Dick Cavett Show, talking about their music and lives. (To be technical, they only appeared on the program twice, but the 1971 interview was so long that it was used in two separate episodes.) This two-DVD, approximately three-and-a-half-hour set presents all three of the episodes in their entirety, even including Cavett's opening monologues and the other guests who appeared on the programs; nothing's missing, except the commercials. For Lennon fans, and for many general music and popular culture fans, these are unremittingly interesting, with Lennon and Ono discussing various aspects of their art, songs, records, experimental films (from which a few clips are shown), and social views. The Beatles are only touched upon at a few points, though John does make some general observations about the group and their breakup. While Cavett was not a rock music expert, he did set them at ease and draw out their chat in an informal manner that, certainly by the standards of talk show television, was intelligent and entertaining.

In the September 1971 segments, Lennon does far more talking than the much quieter Ono, coming across as a pretty likable, funny fellow who doesn't shoot as much venom here as he did at various other points of his solo career. Certainly the most interesting portion is the one in which the pair takes questions from the audience, with John delivering a very thorough, insightful answer as to how he wrote songs and how his composing method changed since the early days of the Beatles. As especially interesting points of trivia, he reveals regretting that he threw in a reference to Chairman Mao in "Revolution," worrying that it might prevent him from visiting China. He also names Frank Zappa and Dr. John as some of the musicians he was most enjoying listening to at the time, and expresses surprise that "Oh Yoko!" and "Imagine" are turning out to be the most popular tracks from his Imagine album.

Ono speaks more in the May 1972 segment, in part because much of that was devoted to her and Lennon explaining their search for Ono's daughter, Kyoko, in a custody battle with Yoko's ex-husband. This in turn was helping to lead to efforts to deport John from the U.S., which are also discussed (and which would turn into a battle lasting five years or so). In this episode (unlike the September 1971 programs, which were all talk), Lennon and Yoko also perform, using Elephant's Memory as the backing band. John sings "Woman Is the Nigger of the World," whose controversial title required Cavett (under network pressure) to insert a small introduction aimed at mollifying any viewers who might be offended. Yoko sings "We're All Water," which like "Woman Is the Nigger of the World" was bound for the ill-fated Some Time in New York City album.

For the record, these episodes also contain interviews with other guests who appeared on the programs, those being comedian/commercial producer Stan Freberg; actress Shirley MacLaine; and, as a far less recognizable name, Robert Citron, then director of the Smithsonian Institute's Center for Short-Lived Phenomena. Though not related to Lennon and Ono's work, those segments are actually pretty entertaining (even the Citron one), and you might as well watch them as long as you have these discs in the player. Rounding off a first-rate package are introductions specially recorded for this DVD by Cavett, shortly before its 2005 release; a 20-minute interview with Cavett about the Lennon-Ono programs; and a booklet with historical liner notes.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Give Peace a Song [DVD] (Hip-O). The centerpiece of this DVD is a 45-minute program on John Lennon and Yoko Ono's famous Bed-In for peace at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal in May and June of 1969. Much of this footage has been seen, and much of the subject matter covered, in several previous Lennon/Ono documentaries, particularly John and Yoko's Year of Peace and Bed-In for Peace: All We Are Saying Is Give Peace a Chance. This nonetheless does a good, succinct job of explaining the essentials of the event, balanced between archive footage of John and Yoko in their hotel room and decades-later interviews with people who were there. Among those interviewed for the project, and usually offering quite interesting memories/comments, are Ono, comedian/folk singer Tommy Smothers, journalists and record company figures in attendance at the event (including a then-young fan who sneaked in with a fake press pass), Andre Perry (who helped produce the "Give Peace a Chance" single, recorded in the hotel room), and Pete Seeger (who wasn't at the Bed-In, but offers recollections of singing "Give Peace a Chance" to hundreds of thousands of Vietnam War protesters). The short segments on mediocre updated versions of "Give Peace a Chance" recorded in the 1990s and 2000s by other artists are unnecessary, and John and Yoko's Year of Peace (which focuses on their entire year of peace-related activities in Canada, not just the Montreal Bed-In) is actually a better documentary, if you can find it. Still, Give Peace a Song -- which was actually directed and produced for the CBC by the same team that did John and Yoko's Year of Peace -- is educational and enjoyable on its own terms. Its value is greatly enhanced by about 35 minutes of interesting bonus features, including CBC television interviews and press conferences conducted with Lennon and Ono in December 1969; bonus interview material with Perry and Smothers; and an interview with Petula Clark, who visited John and Yoko at the Bed-In. In one of the DVD's most amusing moments, Clark remembers Lennon's advice when she told him about audience hostility to the bilingual show she was presenting in Montreal at the time as follows: "Fuck 'em!"

John Mayall, Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton [UK Deluxe Edition] (Universal UK). The 40th anniversary deluxe edition of John Mayall's classic Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton album, issued in the UK in 2006, is a two-CD, 43-song affair, even though the original LP had just 12 tracks. While the many extras aren't nearly as essential as the original LP itself, this reissue neatly packages everything the Clapton lineup of the Bluesbreakers recorded, while still making the Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton album the centerpiece. Disc one presents both the mono and stereo mixes of the record, which was not just Mayall's best, but also a cornerstone of both British blues and blues-rock, as well as being the first to showcase Clapton's talents in full bloom (and in a purer blues context than anytime before or since). In common with many such mono-stereo packages for CD reissues, most listeners won't find the differences drastic, but sometimes they're noticeable -- in mono Mayall's vocal on "All Your Love" has a much hollower, echoing feel, and "Parchman Farm" has keyboards that are inaudible in the stereo mix (which, in turn, has a longer harmonica intro for the same song).

Of more value, at least as far as the extras go, is disc two, which presents no less than 19 tracks that the Clapton lineup recorded in 1965 and 1966 that didn't appear on the Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton album. This includes the 1965 "I'm Your Witch Doctor"/"Telephone Blues" single, the A-side of which is not only one of the Bluesbreakers' greatest recordings, but one of the great rock non-hit singles of the 1960s by anyone, with searing futuristic distorted guitar. Also on hand is the fine late-'65 soul-pop-flavored studio recording "On Top of the World," and the less impressive, more traditional blues of the obscure "Bernard Jenkins"/"Lonely Years" single. Then there are eight previously unreleased 1965-66 BBC recordings, only one of them ("Key to Love") of a song that appeared on the Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton record, the other tracks including radio versions of "I'm Your Witchdoctor," "On Top of the World," the early Mayall single "Crawling Up a Hill"/"Crocodile Walk," and three cool numbers the Bluesbreakers never put on their '60s studio records ("Cheating Woman," "Bye Bye Bird," and "Nowhere to Turn"). Rounding out the disc are the half-dozen '66 live recordings (with both Clapton and Jack Bruce in the band) that have appeared on compilations (five of them on Primal Solos, and the sixth, "They Call It Stormy Monday," on the Looking Back collection). The sound on the BBC cuts is decent, though the performances not as full and cutting as the Clapton lineup's studio work; the live material is in fuzzier sound, though listenable. Despite the uneven nature of the second disc, however, it's great to have all of this Mayall-Clapton material in one place, and impossible to imagine a more definitive collection of the Mayall-Clapton Bluesbreakers recordings.

John Mayall, John Mayall Plays John Mayall [UK Expanded Version] (Universal UK). John Mayall's debut album, recorded live in December 1964, is a little unjustly overlooked and overrated, as it was recorded shortly before the first of the famous guitarists schooled in the Bluesbreakers (Eric Clapton) joined the band. With Roger Dean on guitar (and the rhythm section who'd play on the Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton album, bassist John McVie and drummer Hughie Flint), it has more of a rock/R&B feel, rather like the early Rolling Stones, than the purer bluesier material Mayall would usually stick to in his subsequent recordings. The record doesn't suffer for this, however, moving along quite powerfully, and -- unusually for a British R&B/blues band of the time -- featuring almost nothing but original material, all penned by Mayall. Nigel Stranger's saxophone adds interesting touches to a few tracks, the songs are quite good, and while Dean's guitar and Mayall's vocals aren't on the same level as the best instrumentalists and singers in the British blues-rock movement, they're satisfactory. The 2006 UK expanded CD edition adds five enjoyable cuts that round up everything else recorded by the pre-Eric Clapton version of the Bluesbreakers, including the 1964 single "Crawling Up a Hill"/"Mr. James"; the early-1965 single "Crocodile Walk"/"Blues City Shakedown"; and the February 1965 outtake "My Baby Is Sweeter," which first showed up on the early-'70s British compilation Thru the Years. "Crawling Up a Hill" and "Crocodile Walk" also appear on the original John Mayall Plays John Mayall album in live performances, but the bonus track versions are entirely different studio recordings done for those non-LP singles, and are pretty good as well.

Ennio Morricone, Happening (El). The scanty liner notes of this compilation of cuts from 1968-1973 Ennio Morricone soundtracks (save a couple from 1977) rather misleadingly term it "a psychedelic montage." Much of this is not exactly psychedelic, at least if you think of Morricone psychedelia in terms of genuinely way-out tracks like "Il Giardino Delle Delizie" or the weirder moments of the Danger Diabolik soundtrack. It's still a satisfying collection of 25 tracks from Morricone's arguable prime, much of them not easy to come by on CD anthologies. And a lot of it is imaginatively strange, like the combination of tribal drums and church-from-hell organs on Burn's "Quemada Secondo from Quemada" and the fire-licking choral vocals of "Studi Per un Finale (Secondo)" from the same source. Some of the other stuff is more meditative and whimsically evocative, even occasionally suggestive of '60s swinging Europe lounge sounds—not that there's anything wrong with that, just that it's not quite as strikingly odd. Groovy go-go organ sounds, haunting wordless spectral vocals, cherry circus-like riffs, and weird dissonant blends of twangs and pops are also heard, so the "psychedelic" element is more in the kaleidoscopic range than in any unrelenting weirdness in the music itself. Stranger than all-get-out, though, is the nine-minute "Erotico Mistico" (from Maddalena), where funereal organ, a rolling drum pattern reminiscent of Ringo Starr's brief solo in the Beatles' "The End," and Gregorian male vocals back Edda Dell'Orso's extremely orgiastic, if soft and subtle, moans and sighs. It's the highlight of this anthology, recommended to those looking to deepen their Morricone collections, despite its wavering and uncertain focus.

Roy Orbison, In Dreams [DVD] (Legacy). Weaving together performance footage (spanning the early 1960s to the late 1980s) and interviews, this is a very good documentary of Roy Orbison, though not quite a definitive one. Clips of most of Orbison's most famous songs are here, including "Only the Lonely," "Running Scared," "Crying," "Dream Baby," "Oh, Pretty Woman," and "It's Over." Note that some of these clips are from the 1980s, not the time at which these songs were originally hits, though that time-lapse isn't as big an issue with Orbison as it would be with many artists, since he retained the quality and power of his voice even into his fifties. In the non-musical segments, Orbison is well represented by interviews from late in his life (with audio-only snippets occasionally overlaid over non-interview footage), coming across -- as you'd expect -- as a soft-spoken, humble man. Also interviewed are quite a wide assortment of associates (Fred Foster, who produced Orbison's greatest hits in the first half of the 1960s, being the most important) and fellow stars testifying to Orbison's influence, including Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen, the Bee Gees, Bill Wyman, Bono, and even film director David Lynch (whose use of "In Dreams" in Blue Velvet helped reignite interest in Orbison in the 1980s). It's not quite a thorough history of Roy's career; his wilderness years, from approximately the mid-1960s (when he left Monument Records, where he had his big hit run with Foster) to 1980, are barely examined. Too, his series of small-to-big comeback successes in the '80s (including his "That Lovin' You Feelin'" again duet with Emmylou Harris, the U2-penned "She's a Mystery to Me," and the Traveling Wilburys) are perhaps given more weight than they deserve. It's still a well-done overview, however, that gives a good account of both the man and his music.

The Paris Sisters, The Complete Phil Spector Sessions (Varese Sarabande). The Paris Sisters' career extended from the mid-1950s to the late 1960s, but they remain principally remembered for their brief association with Phil Spector, particularly the 1961 Top Five hit "I Love How You Love Me." Rather surprisingly, this compilation marks the first time all of their Spector-produced recordings have been gathered onto one CD. Granted, it's a slim body of work, comprising the A- and B-sides of five singles on the Gregmark label, including "I Love How You Love Me" and the Gerry Goffin-Carole King-penned Top Forty follow-up "He Knows I Love Him Too Much." (The eleventh and final track is merely a stereo version of "I Love How You Love Me.") Yet it's a significant one, not only in terms of Spector's career, but also on its own musical merits. The Paris Sisters might have been on the very most pop-oriented end of the early-'60s girl group sound, but they had a very appealing vocal style, particularly in the feathery, almost whispered enunciation of lead singer Priscilla Paris. Spector backed the trio with luscious, pillowy orchestration, and while the ballad-dominated material was rather reminiscent of the song with which Spector had scored his first hit (the Teddy Bears' "To Know Him Is to Love Him"), here he had the chance to embroider such tunes with far fuller arrangements. It's true the songs tended so far toward the sentimental that they often tread on the syrupy. But the production gave them a haunting, almost spooky air that definitely anticipated much of the flavor of the more strikingly innovative hits Spector produced slightly later for the Crystals, Ronettes, and Righteous Brothers. There's just one uptempo number (the B-side  "All Through the Night") on this historically important collection; otherwise it's behind-closed-doors music with a touch of the otherworldly.

Duffy Power, Vampers and Champers (RPM). This two-CD anthology falls somewhere between an expanded edition of Duffy Power's most notable album, Innovations, and a sort of best-of compilation of his most notable post-1964 material. The very Power fans most likely to buy this are likely to have much of it already, and for that reason, might be mildly disappointed. If you don't happen to have much or any Power yet, however, it's a largely excellent collection. Disc one features everything from Innovations, which though released in the early '70s contains 1965-67 recordings exclusively. These are among the finest obscure British blues-rock of the '60s, shaded with folk, soul, and jazz, the diverse tracks featuring support from a pre-fame John McLaughlin (who co-wrote some of the songs with Power), a pre-Cream Jack Bruce, and pre-Pentangle members Danny Thompson and Terry Cox. As a nice bonus, this disc adds two bonus tracks from the same era, the Power original "Little Girl" and a cover of Muddy Waters' "I Want You to Love Me" that (like one of Innovations' tracks, Waters' "Louisiana Blues") has some positively skin-crawling acoustic slide guitar.

Disc two leads off with seven acoustic tracks recorded in 1969 for the Duffy Power LP. While all of that material from that record is worth hearing (and was issued on CD on the 1992 release titled Blues Power, these are also quite good, subtly ingratiating folk-blues-rock, if not quite as exciting as the Innovations material. Also on hand are three slightly slicker, but still satisfying, early-'70s tracks with full arrangements, produced by ex-Zombies Rod Argent and Chris White (and previously available on the CD compilation Just Say Blue). There are also three previously unreleased tracks, all Power originals, from 1970 recordings on which he was backed by Keith Tippett's group -- of those, "Dr. Love" has a slight funk feel, while the more impressive "Holiday" and "Love Song" blend pleasing jazz, blues, and folk accents with Power's effectively gentle vocals and tender compositions. Finally, the CD concludes with four previously unreleased tracks from 1991-2002 -- again, all Power originals -- that, refreshingly, find him sticking to the understated arrangements and genre-blending rootsy compositions that suit his style best. Colin Harper's extensive liner notes supply extensive background information on the recordings, the booklet also including rare photos from throughout Power's career.

Simon & Garfunkel, Fantastic Early Years 1966-1970 [DVD bootleg] (Footstomp). Much of the footage on this 45-minute disc of vintage Simon & Garfunkel television clips isn't in the greatest shape, at least in the form in which it's been preserved and transferred onto this bootleg DVD. But there's some good stuff here, particularly the opening segment of six songs from a 1966 Canadian TV show, done wholly live with a suit-and-tied, seated Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel harmonizing closely on a single mike. This is as early and collegiate a view of the pair (performing before a very polite, well-dressed seated audience) as you'll get, and though the image is a little wavy, the sound is pretty good for an unauthorized disc featuring mid-'60s footage. The songs in that portion, too, are well-chosen, featuring both early hits ("The Sound of Silence," "Homeward Bound," "I Am a Rock") and some less traveled early LP cuts ("Richard Cory," "He Was My Brother," and "A Most Peculiar Man"). The other clips are less exciting), but still have their entertainment value, including a couple '66 songs mimed on Hollywood A Go Go; a live versions of "The Sound of Silence" from a source identified only as "Mid '60s TV Show"; a few late-'60s appearances on The Smothers Brothers; and a promo clip for "Mrs. Robinson" showing the pair playing baseball in an empty stadium. More interesting is a fine live clip of them doing "Mrs. Robinson" with band backup in the late 1960s, taken (though it doesn't say so on the sleeve) from their 1969 television special Songs of America. There's much additional interesting old Simon & Garfunkel footage that could have been placed on here (like that Songs of America special), especially considering the short running time, but what's here is worthwhile.

Simon & Garfunkel, See for Miles: 1966-2004 [DVD bootleg] (Bad Wizard). While this unauthorized two-hour DVD by no means contains all the footage of Simon & Garfunkel that's not available on commercial releases, it does have some pretty interesting stuff, though the imperfect shape of the sources/transfer to disc will limit its appeal to serious fans. The first ten songs were all performed live, in front of a sedate studio audience, in Amsterdam in 1966. It's not quite as good as a six-song Canadian 1966 live set that's emerged on another bootleg DVD, but it's good enough, including their biggest early hits ("Homeward Bound," "I Am a Rock," "The Sound of Silence") and a bunch of relatively obscure early album tracks ("Richard Cory," "Leaves That Are Green," "A Most Peculiar Man," "A Poem on the Underground Wall," "He Was My Brother," and two versions of "Anji"). This segment's followed by their hour-long November 1969 network television special Songs of America, which mixed concert and studio footage of the pair with interviews of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel and scenes late '60s American political/cultural conflict. You'd have to think the film exists somewhere in better shape than this somewhat grainy, washed-out print, and one wishes there was more Paul and Art and less non-Simon & Garfunkel scenes. Still, those Simon & Garfunkel sequences do provide some interesting watching and listening, particularly a kinetic live concert version of "Mrs. Robinson." Rounding out the disc are appearances the duo made on Late Show with Letterman and Good Morning America in the early 2000s in association with their comeback tour, and while these aren't as exciting as the '60s clips, they do show the two to still be in fine voice (and reasonably fine humor). The clip listed as being a version of "Scarborough Fair" from The Andy Williams Show, by the way, is not the complete original late-'60s performance, but a scene of Simon & Garfunkel being shown part of the clip as part of one of their Good Morning America segments.

Stuart Sutcliffe, Stuart Sutcliffe: The Lost Beatle [DVD] (Digital Classics). Produced for the BBC, this is a well-done hour-long documentary on the life of Stuart Sutcliffe, most known as the Beatles' bass player in the early 1960s, though he left to concentrate on art before his death in early 1962. Several important close associates of Sutcliffe and the early Beatles are interviewed, including his fiancee (and noted early Beatles photographer) Astrid Kirchherr, Klaus Voormann, Stuart's sister Pauline Sutcliffe, Rod Murray (an art school chum who shared a flat in Liverpool with Sutcliffe and John Lennon), Tony Sheridan, and early Beatles manager Allan Williams. The film is handicapped, however, by the lack of any archive footage of Sutcliffe (or the Beatles from the time Sutcliffe was alive, for that matter), and also by the absence of genuine Beatles recordings on the soundtrack, with weak anonymous ersatz Beatles music serving as a poor substitute. More important, at least for the serious Beatles fanatics who comprise a significant portion of the viewers most likely to be interested in this DVD, is that the story's been told so many times in other formats that there's little that hasn't been said (in so many words) by the narrative or the people interviewed elsewhere. It's interesting to hear Voormann (himself a respected bass player) claim that Sutcliffe, contrary to most reports, was actually playing bass fairly well in his time with the Beatles in Hamburg, and also to hear Sheridan somewhat abashedly recall that Paul McCartney was fighting "like a chick" in an oft-remembered onstage rumble with Sutcliffe. Yet there's a feeling that Sutcliffe's significance, both to the Beatles and as a visual artist, is being magnified a bit more than it deserves, though not extravagantly so. In addition, the theories (largely advanced by Pauline Sutcliffe) that Lennon and Sutcliffe had some homosexual interaction with each other, and that Lennon administered a beating that might have led to Sutcliffe's death of a cerebral hemorrhage, are discussed here despite the lack of solid evidence, though they're only touched upon (and dismissed by Kirchherr as "silly" and "rubbish"). The film does use some little-seen still photographs of Sutcliffe and the early Beatles, and includes a bonus gallery of Sutcliffe's largely abstract (and, to this day, not often circulated) artwork, though it doesn't seem to justify the claims of American art historian Donald Kuspit in the main feature that Sutcliffe was a major talent.

The Velvet Underground, At the Factory: Warhol Tapes (bootleg) (Nothing Songs Limited). On January 3, 1966, the Velvet Underground -- very shortly after coming to Andy Warhol's attention -- had rehearsals taped by Warhol in the Factory. Much (though not all) of that tape is included on this bootleg, with the addition of three songs from a live performance on February 6, 1966, and two more songs rehearsed in the Factory on March 7, 1966. Be straight about this -- it's for serious fans only, since the recording quality's not that good (particularly in the vocal department), and since, in common with many rehearsals, the tracks are often sketches, riffs, and fooling around, not complete songs. If you are a serious fan, however, it's a fascinating document of the band in its early, formative stages -- the earliest such document, in fact, other than the low-key July 1965 demo tape of Lou Reed, Sterling Morrison, and John Cale that came out as disc one of the Peel Slowly and See box set. The strikingly idiosyncratic, assaultive brittle droning sound of the band is already in place in the January rehearsal, but there are relatively few snatches of familiar original songs, other than "Heroin" and "There She Goes Again" (which here already approach forms similar to their studio arrangements).

What's most remarkable is that you can hear, in the formless jamming, more specific links to the band's rock'n'roll roots that would be buried in their standard repertoire, with licks from Bo Diddley's "Crackin' Up" and (more surprisingly) the Beatles' "Day Tripper" cropping up, as well as more generic blues noodling. Too, parts of the track awkwardly titled "Run Run Run intro to Miss Joanie Lee," as well as some passages elsewhere on the disc, bear distinct resemblance to some of the knotty, chaotic improvisation heard in the band's studio version of "European Son." Most intriguingly, there are partial run-throughs, in different keys, of "There She Goes Again" with Nico, not Lou Reed, on vocals, though this idea to put her in the frontwoman position for this tune was apparently abandoned. The five songs from February and March performances include complete versions of "Heroin" and "I'll Be Your Mirror." Bigger surprises are a cover of Bob Dylan's "I'll Keep It With Mine," a song that Nico would do on her debut album, and here given an "I'm Waiting for the Man"-style rhythm; a "European Son" that slides into lines from the old Dale Hawkins rockabilly classic "Suzie Q"; and an original song with fairly indistinct vocals, "Get It on Time," that never appeared on the Velvet Underground studio releases, and has an atypical country-folk-rock feel.

Various Artists, The Best of Hootenanny [DVD] (Shout Factory). It's hard to believe that folk music was so popular in the early 1960s that it commanded its own network television show. But it was indeed, with Hootenanny running for 18 months between April 1963 and September 1964. This three-DVD set contains no less than four-and-a-half hours of material from the series, with 91 separate live performances (most of them musical, although a few routines from comedians are included as well) before collegiate audiences.  Hootenanny did tend toward the more commercial side of the folk boom, and it's true that a good deal of the stuff on this set is of the dated, innocuous, even corny singalong variety. Yet there's also some fairly earthy offerings with integrity, and as a whole it's a wide-ranging sampling of the music being categorized as "folk" during the peak of the folk revival, with some notable omissions.

To start with some of the less whitebread stuff, highlights include Ian & Sylvia, near the outset of their recording career; Miriam Makeba, just around the time she was becoming an international star, singing in both her native tongue and English; Johnny Cash, performing "Busted" and "Five Feet High and Rising"; and Judy Collins, in the prime of her pure folk period, both doing "Anathea" solo and dueting with Theodore Bikel on "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine." Future folk-rockers of note crop up here and there in their purely folk incarnations, including not just Collins and Ian & Sylvia, but also John Phillips (as part of the Journeymen); Scott McKenzie (also as part of the Journeymen); Barry McGuire (as part of the New Christy Minstrels, singing their hit "Green, Green"); Hoyt Axton; the Dillards, when they were strictly a bluegrass band; and, most surprisingly, Carly Simon, as half of the Simon Sisters (whose two songs include a cover of Pete Seeger's "Turn, Turn, Turn"). And while there's a good deal of commercial Kingston Trio-style folk from the likes of the Limeliters, Chad Mitchell Trio, the Rooftop Singers, and the Brothers Four, it'll surprise many viewers to see how many different styles were represented. There's gospel (Marion Williams, the Clara Ward Gospel Singers); country (not just Cash, but also Eddy Arnold, trying to get it on the folk boom with "Poor Howard" and "Song of the Cuckoo"); Irish folk (the Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem); old-time country (the Carter Family); and even a bit of jazz (Herbie Mann, whose two clips are among the better ones). It's also interesting to see Trini Lopez delivering "If I Had a Hammer" on electric guitar with a group including Mickey Jones (later to drum on Bob Dylan's 1966 world tour), well in advance of the popularization of folk-rock. There are also comedy bits from a young Woody Allen, a young Bill Cosby, and John F. Kennedy impersonator Vaughn Meader, though these (like many of the music clips) are on the mild and dated side.

As interesting as this footage is, it could have been a lot more so, through no fault of Shout Factory or the set's compilers. As is well known (and as this set's liner notes acknowledge), some noted performers boycotted Hootenanny because of the show's unwillingness to have Pete Seeger appear unless he signed a loyalty oath. Seeger didn't, and the performers who refused to appear on the show as a result included many of the very best and most popular folk acts of the time, among them Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul & Mary, Joan Baez, the Kingston Trio, Tom Paxton, and  Ramblin' Jack Elliott. And while the set does include clips by some very obscure artists like Beverly White, Richard & Jim, and the Coventry Singers, it doesn't have some very interesting ones who appeared on the program, like the Big Three (with a young Cass Elliot), Bonnie Dobson, and Judy Henske (who, frustratingly, is seen as one of the singers in a group singalong finale of "He's Got the World in His Hands," but not in a clip of her own). What's here is certainly abundant, well preserved, and for the most part quite enjoyable, raising hopes that a further volume might be produced of the footage that didn't make the cut for this release.

Various Artists, Joe Meek Freakbeat: You're Holding Me Down (Castle). Joe Meek is most famous for the records he made in the early-to-mid-1960s, even the best of which usually matched futuristic one-of-a-kind production with quaint, silly (if sometimes quite catchy) tunes. This has led many critics to charge, with some justification, that trends were passing him by as British Invasion groups with grittier, more creative material overran the globe. It's sometimes overlooked, however, that he made quite a few records with the new generation of self-contained, tougher mod/R&B-oriented British bands in the final two years or so of his life, even if these experienced little commercial success. A whopping 30 such sides from 1964-66 are assembled on this quite interesting and occasionally thrilling (if uneven) compilation. Generally, Meek was more restrained in leaving his heavy sonic thumbprint on these records than he was with most of his acts, perhaps because the groups were more apt to have their own songs and want to arrange things their own way. You can still hear a lot of Meek in the super-compressed sound, thick-as-a-brick percussive slap, and occasional astral organ, but the tracks aren't as chock-a-block with effects and strangeness as most of the cuts he did with more malleable acts.

Fortunately, Meek didn't seem inclined to tame the rough edges off such groups, and quite a lot of uninhibited (if rather uncommercial) R&B/pop raving  comes through on these obscure releases, most of which were flops (and some of which weren't even issued at the time). A few of the tracks, in fact, are among the greatest examples of unhinged "freakbeat," bridging British Invasion mod/R&B/pop and psychedelia on vicious, nearly off-the-rails recordings like the Buzz's "You're Holding Me Down," the Syndicats' "Crawdaddy Simone," and Jason Eddie & the Centremen's insanely trilling "Singing the Blues." There are some more standard, but also satisfying, tough R&B-grounded performances too, like David John & the Mood's "I Love to See You Strut" and "Bring It to Jerome," and Heinz & the Wild Boys' "Big Fat Spider" and "I'm Not a Bad Guy," both of which feature some of the most exciting unknown over-the-top guitar solos in all of mid-'60s British rock. While most of the other cuts are less notable, most of them likewise have something to recommend in the way of both eerie production values and tough, crunchy tunes -- and sometimes, a lot to recommend in those categories, as listens to Paul & Ritchie & the Cryin' Shames' "Come on Back," Jason Eddie & the Centremen's "Come on Baby," and the Riot Squad's "I Take It That We're Through" will confirm.

Certainly it doesn't have all of the notable work that Meek did in this style. There's nothing by Screaming Lord Sutch, for example, and there are additional sides by Heinz and the Syndicats in this vein well worth hearing. Too, while the Puppets' "Shake with Me" is quite acceptable, it pales next to the killer version cut by Meek with the Outlaws (with Ritchie Blackmore delivering one of the most incredible little-heard guitar solos of the mid-'60s). What's here, though, is a mighty fun listen, and will appeal in almost equal measures to both Meek and British Invasion fanatics. Many of these tracks, incidentally, have previously shown up on other collector-oriented anthologies, going all the way back to the special British edition of the Pebbles series, Pebbles Vol. 6. But they're presented here with better sound quality, and certainly better liner notes, than those compilations often featured.

contents copyright Richie Unterberger, 2000-2010
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