Friday, April 11, 2014

Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas - The EP Collection

 The CDs in See for Miles' The EP Collection series are odd hybrids that don't often quite function as either greatest-hits collections (though they usually have quite a few hits) or rarities anthologies (since they include too many hits). Billy J. Kramer's entry into the series is no exception. All 25 of the tracks were used on EP releases from the mid-'60s, and they do include all half-dozen of his major chart hits, as well as his Lennon-McCartney B-side covers of "I'll Be on My Way" and "I'll Call Your Name." However, the other songs miss some of his better other tracks of the period, especially "Pride (Is Such a Little Word)," a pretty good Merseybeat rocker from his first LP. As for the non-hits on the disc, they include some passable Merseybeat ("I Know," co-written by George Martin and Merseyside rock compere Bob Wooler, and "They Remind Me of You"), but also too many dull oldies covers. As for rarities, there are a few hard to obtain elsewhere, though since they're way in the minority on the track list, you should be a committed Kramer/Merseybeat fan before shelling out the full price for the CD. "Take My Hand" (used primarily as a 1966 B-side) isn't too easy to come by, although it's not a very good effort, with a folk-pop-orchestrated feel. The live tracks from early 1965's Billy J. Plays the States are better, both because these aren't too easy to find, and as they have some fairly hot playing, especially on "Irresistible You." And finally, there are four instrumental tracks from the 1963 U.K. EP by Kramer's backup band the Dakotas that have no contributions from Billy J., but are decent Shadows-style performances. Yet despite the inclusion of all the hits and good value as a 25-track single disc, if you want just one Kramer collection, you're still far better off with The Best of Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas.

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