Sunday, April 29, 2012

VA - Merseybeat, The Story Of The 60's Liverpool Sound.


This double-CD anthology, Mersey Beat: The Story of the 60s is a very serious expansion upon the earlier Liverpool rock anthologies from Sequel and other imprints associated with the Castle and Sanctuary labels. Where most of the earlier releases in this vein from Castle were limited to the contents of the Pye Records library, this time they've reached out to include tracks from groups on EMI, Polygram, and others, and come up with a rather more comprehensive anthology. They've also distilled down a lot of the best music from those earlier compilations, going back to the late '80s, so that alongside various international stars (Gerry & the Pacemakers, the Swinging Blue Jeans) and super- and mega-star acts (the Beatles, represented by "Ain't She Sweet" from their Hamburg period), you get people like Johnny Sandon (with the Remo Four), the Trends, the Chants, and the Undertakers. Castle has also expanded its scope to embrace oddities such as one demo by Billy Fury -- Liverpool's first homegrown rock star -- and girl group outfits such as the Three Bells, who never quite made it but were an integral part of the city's musical landscape. Between the selection and the overall sound quality (which is excellent or better except on the Fury demo which, in a move of supreme bravery, opens the collection), this is arguably as good an anthology of the sound spawned by the city as any ever released, and may open a few people's ears to some of the deserving acts from off the top tier who should be better known; that's especially true of the Undertakers (also referred to as the 'Takers and represented here in both guises) and Jeannie & the Big Guys; you also get the supreme moments of glory for such Brian Epstein-managed indulgences as Tommy Quickly (also backed by the Remo Four) (whose "Kiss Me Now" should have been a contender for at least the U.K. Top 20).What makes this collection even better is that, just as ordinary listening, it's one of the most thoroughly rewarding assemblies of dance music from the period that one is likely to find -- even the ballads have a beat, and all of it is catchy, even the relatively obscure stuff such as "Here She Comes" by the Three Bells. And the collection also embraces the mid-'60s second-generation sounds spawned in the city, by such acts as the Merseys (offshoots of the Merseybeats), Paddy, Klaus & Gibson, Chris Curtis (post-Searchers), making it one of the most comprehensive anthologies of its type on just two CDs. All of that said, there are a few holes -- along with the Big Three, whose "Some Other Guy" is here, one wishes that there'd been room made for at least one song by Tony Sheridan, who loomed large in the Liverpool pecking order at the start of the '60s, and perhaps something by Rory Storm & the Hurricanes as well, as a group that was distinctly more popular than the Beatles at the start of the decade represented. Still, as far as it goes, this is virtually a self-contained crash course in the pop music history of Merseybeat and British rock & roll from 1961 through 1966, and a lot of fun, and it also comes with some nicely thorough annotation to back up the music. It's a great place to start discovering the music, and also not a bad acquisition for those already well familiar with the music in question.

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