Monday, 11 November 2013

Various "Various Artists"....

Like a good mix tape, the compilation album at its best is either a springboard for further exploration, or an encapsulation of a scene, genre or simply a label's output. At its worst it is The Ultimate Cheese Party. The following are worth hearing:
WIBG – 30 Big Goldens
Post Records, 1967(?) 2-LP

The charm of this top 40 compilation is that it was compiled by Philadelphia radio station WIBG as a promotional item and perfectly captures the US commercial radio of the flower power era. Despite the cover and 'free daisy decal' though, it's a resolutely non-countercultural item, with pop-psych confections (Incense & Peppermints), pure bubblegum (Yummy, Yummy, Yummy) and some oldies (Duke of Earl). There are pictures and biographical sketches of the stations DJs ("Happy Jack takes care of biz and gets it on every evening") which reinforce the atmosphere of 'Scooby Doo', rather than 'Woodstock' grooviness.

Tommy James & the Shondells - I think We're Alone Now
Strawberry Alarm Clock - Incense & Peppermints
James & Bobby Purify - I'm Your Puppet

Travellin' This Lonesome Road - An Anthology of the Victor/Bluebird Catalogues
RCA records, 1970

There are lots of excellent anthologies of pre-LP blues singers, this one focuses on the mid-20s - mid-30s output of Victor's Bluebird 'race record' imprint. Unlike many compilations collecting the solo, rural blues singers of the era this features appearances by the excellent Memphis Jug Band and Canon's Jug Stompers as well as various singers accompanied by other instrumentalists.

Luke Jordan's mournful-but-melodious Church Bell Blues/Pick Poor Robin Clean
Blind Willie McTell - Mr McTell's Got the Blues
Memphis Jug Band - She Stays Out All Night Long

Lookout! Freakout
Lookout! Records/Panic Button Records, 2000 

Label samplers necessarily rely on the quality of the roster being showcased, and though California's Lookout! Records isn't remembered as one of the best known US indies out there, in the latter half of the 90s they had a lineup of mainly punk bands of various types, several of whom went on to be well known (The Donnas, Green Day, Alkaline Trio, Rancid), the non-star studded lineup of this compilation is full of bands who are worth a listen.

American Steel's slightly ska-tinged meisterwerk Got A Backbeat
The Groovie Ghoulies  - Carly Simon
Moral Crux - Bomb For The Mainstream

Hò! #1 Roady Music From Vietnam
Trikont records, 1998

A highlight among this list, this unique album from Germany's superb Trikont label collects recordings of various buskers, impromptu gatherings, funeral processions and restaurant entertainers in modern day Vietnam. It's colourful, atmospheric, chaotic and strangely uplifting.

All of it; seriously, most of the music here isn't like anything else, but these are great:
Dylan Thanh's wobbly acoustic version of the Bee Gee's I Started a Joke
Dan Bau Vietnam's weird, space-age twangy surf version of Ghost Rider in the Sky
Eo Sinh & Nahm Hao's unearthly VC Love Song, complete with loud traffic & street noise
Ferry Duo's mournful, alien FNL's Blues

New Wave
Vertigo, 1978

1977; a cover image of a leather jacketed punk, spitting and on the reverse  a lineup of anonymous youngsters in unconvincing versions of the punk uniform.   Yes, this is a zeitgeist-bandwagon-jumping cash-in by a mainly hard/prog rock label.
 Despite the title, some of the music to be found on the album pre-dates the punk boom proper and in fact, what we see here is that the accepted chronology of punk as we now know it was already settling into place.  Therefore the album covers the founders: New York Dolls, Ramones – the stars of the contemporary US scene; Dead Boys, Talking Heads, Richard Hell & the Voidoids – the architects of UK punk (represented by The Damned’s New Rose) and relative newcomers like The Boomtown Rats.  Better still though, are the anomalies; the Runaways,  Skyhooks,  Little Bob Story, demonstrating that any scene becomes more interesting when you look past its ‘greatest hits’.

The Flamin' Groovies immortal Shake Some Action
The Dead Boys sleaze-a-thon All This And More
Talking Heads' quirk-rock manifesto Love Comes to Building on Fire

Deep Overground Pop
Polydor, 1969 2-LP

Desperately hip (and in fact really good) double album showcasing some of the era's most popular 'cool' music (Hendrix, Cream, The Who) along with bands  Polydor were trying with limited success to push into the same league (Taste, Rare Amber, Second Hand). Nice sleeve too - in the gatefold there's a key as to who's who in the cover pic.

Jimi Hendrix's beautifully understated Little Wing
Second Hand's overwrought psych/prog epic Reality
Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & the Trinity's creepy/groovy Season of the Witch

Maggie, Maggie, Maggie; Out! Out! Out!
Anagram Records, 1987

The excellent cover suggests a slightly different compilation of protest punk; this one is indeed pretty great, but rather than being the viciously anti-thatcherite crustfest one might expect, it's actually a compilation of quality punk of many hues, not all UK-based and some by 1987 fairly elderly.

Dead Kennedy's all-time great Kill The Poor
The Expelled's almost melodic Government Policy
Action Pact's dynamic Open Your Eyes with George's great outraged vocals

Earache Presents - Grind Crusher
Earache Records, 1989

A great album, albeit not as singularly grindy as the title suggests; in fact it was a pretty good indication of the way the extreme scene was going in '89 with Morbid Angel's death metal meeting Godflesh's pioneering industrial nastiness and Repulsion and Intense Degree's by then olde worlde grind.

Morbid Angel's classic Chapel of Ghouls
Carcass' peerless Exhume to Consume
Bolt Thrower's crushing Through the Eye of Terror

Soul Direction
CBS/Direction, 1968

CBS had a range of excellent (mostly 'Northern'-ish) soul acts in the late 60s, but they didn't really know what to do with them; hence a compilation album with a fish on the front. Some great stuff here though,

Pretty Purdie's superb drum showcase Funky Donkey
Charlie & Inez Foxx's high energy, celebratory I Ain't Going For That
Johnny Johnson & the Bandwagon's silly but nice Stone Soul Picnic

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