Category Archives: compilation

The Blues Magoos • The Mercury Singles (1966-1968) [CD, LP]

Blues MagoosSometimes I think about things like: what if I would have been around to dig bands like The Blues Magoos as they were happening? Would I have appreciated them, as a nascent rock enthusiast, the way I do now? So I thank Sundazed for putting out The Mercury Singles (1966-1968), a compilation of the 7″ sides the NYC band did for Mercury at the birth of psychedelia. Driven by a wild guitarist and kick-ass keyboardist (Peppy Castro and Ralph Scala), the Magoos came up with two of the greatest psych psingles of all time, “Tobacco Road” and “(We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet,” and merged the folk and rock scenes into a unique sound that has never been duplicated. This album makes it easy to get an idea of what it might’ve been like, in ’66, to get a load of their idea of rock.

Blues Magoos Mercury SinglesMade up of the eight mono singles they released during their short stay with the label, The Mercury Singles includes the aforementioned classics and their B-sides (a few of which were never originally released on LP), plus “One by One,” “There She Goes” and its flip “Life Is Just a Cher O’Bowlies,” a take on The Move’s then-current “I Can Hear the Grass Grow” and even a Christmas single with a psyched-up “Jingle Bells.” There are a few not-so-hot sides but overall you can’t go wrong with this baby. Sundazed did a great mastering job (as usual) and that makes it worth considering their other other Blues Magoos releases, the band’s first two albums Psychedelic Lollipop and Electric Comic Book, too.

Fans of West Coast garage bands like the Sonics ought to give the Magoos a listen if they’re not already familiar with these nuggets of psychedelia. Even if you’re already familiar, this compilation is definitely too psuperb to pass up.

4/5 (Sundazed)

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Elvis Costello • Taking Liberties (LP)

Welcome back, me! Took some time off to get my head sorted out (thanks Mike, Dan, Sarah, Kelli, Jesus, et al.) and now I’m about to take some liberties with this.

elvis_takinglibertiesElvis Costello‘s Taking Liberties was a 1980 compilation put out by Columbia Records here in the States to bring together 20 tunes that had escaped US ears. From his first album through his fourth (Get Happy!!, earlier in ’80), EC and the Attractions had released numerous B-sides, soundtrack tunes and various other recordings and his US label wisely issued them on one piece of vinyl.

When I discovered Taking Liberties it was the answer to my (17-year old) prayers! No more scouring my local record shop for costly import singles, no more writing to shops in NYC that I found in the back pages of Trouser Press or NY Rocker for singles they’d probably already sold out of… Now I had an hour of rarities that I could listen to over and over and not wear out the way singles inevitably would. The cover, suitably, showed Elvis outside of an American telephone booth (instead of a red British one), ostensibly writing the album’s title across the cover. Clever. On the back was a note from the record label’s A&R guy telling us of the variety of types of songs that were inside and how “the fabulous Attractions add a fiery vigor to many of Elvis’s numbers.” Inside, the inner sleeve gave up all the info about the songs and where they could originally be found – a handy reference in the pre-Internet and Wikipedia days! The record itself had a parody of Columbia’s old labels, and that was cool, too.

takingliberties-label

The original side one label for Taking Liberties was a parody of those found on Columbia’s old 78s.

Luckily, the music on Taking Liberties was as exciting as the presentation. All kinds of great songs were on it, from rockers like “Clean Money” and “Big Tears” to moody outings like “Hoover Factory” and “Ghost Train.” And the Attractions never let me down, either, really digging in to “Tiny Steps,” “Crawling to the U.S.A.” and many more. I can’t tell you how much this album meant to me! It was like a second volume of Get Happy!!, which also had 20 songs on it. That’s 40 new songs in one year. Crikey!

This reissue comes from Universal Music, where Elvis currently licenses his earlier works, and it sounds quite good. I can hear all kinds of things in the songs that the kinda krappy-sounding original masked. I think once the initial crackles that come with a new record rid theirselves of my vinyl I’ll be even happier. As the original liner note sums up, “Elvis clearly demonstrates here that his potential and versatility are practically unlimited.” Well said, Gregg Geller, wherever you are.

5/5 (UMe/Universal)

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The Damned • The Chiswick Singles… And Another Thing (2LP)

damned_chiswicksingles-cvr Compilations of a band’s singles – both the ‘A’ sides and the lesser-known ‘B’s – can be a dodgy thing. Typically the ‘A’ sides are worth having, but the ‘B’ sides are throwaways that exist only because something had to occupy the other side of the record. But then there are bands like The Damned, who like few bands before and after them, put out 45s that killed. The Chiswick Singles… And Another Thing is a single CD/double LP that showcases most of the band’s singles from the fertile 1978-1981 period (for some reason “Wait for the Blackout” and its flip “Jet Boy Jet Girl” are missing), and it’s a cracker of a comp.

By ’78 Dave Vanian, Captain Sensible and Rat Scabies had already disbanded The Damned, farted around for a year, and got back together with a new bass player. Sensible switched to guitar after original guitarist Brian James left and the band flourished. I don’t know if that’s a coincidence but I prefer to believe it’s not. Anyway, here you get 24 tunes, 21 of them from their Chiswick Records, post Stiff/post-punk tenure which spawned the classic Machine Gun Etiquette (1978) and the almost as good followup, The Black Album (1980). The final 4 tracks come from their ’81 EP, Friday 13th. damned_drcula-billboardSpread over one CD or in this case, a really sweet 2LP set on red splatter vinyl, this compilation has quintessential tracks like “Love Song,” “Smash It Up” and “I Just Can’t Be Happy Today” as well as goofy/fun B-sides “The Turkey Song” and “Billy Bad Breaks,” plus experimental (read: filler [?]) things like “Sugar & Spite” and “Seagulls.” I’m not saying that everything here is a must-have, but I am saying that everything here is a must have for a Damned nut like me.

If you’ve had trouble filling your vault with The Damned’s faultless singles, look no further. And since it’s available on both CD and vinyl, you can now finally have ’em all in one handy format of your choice.
5/5 (you knew I wouldn’t rate it any lower!) (Ace [CD]/Let Them Eat Vinyl [2LP])

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