Review: Various Artists – As Good As It Gets

Posted on: Saturday, Feb 13, 2010

VARIOUS ARTISTS: AS GOOD AS IT GETS

(Smith & Co)

Great British Rock ‘n’ Roll Instrumentals (SCCD 1188)

Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Instrumentals Vol. 2 (SCCD 1189)

Lonnie Donegan Vol 2 (SCCD 1190)

Great British Rock ‘n’ Roll Vol 4 (SCCD 1191)

Great British Skiffle Vol 4 (SCCD 1192)

Great Rockabilly Vol 4 (SCCD 1197)

From Dutch label, Smith & Co, come these superb double albums, to add to the previously released volumes – all compiled by Dave Travis, and most boasting between 50 and 70 tracks, with nicely illustrated booklets – a must for fans of the sounds of the 50s and early 60s.

These releases cover some big names from the selected genres, along with some that are very obscure, and probably very rare on original vinyl, if available at all!

Great British Rock ‘n’ Roll Instrumentals has 61 tracks over its two discs from 1949-1959, ranging from early guitar heroes such as Bert Weedon, the jazz and skiffle of Ken Colyer and Chris Barber – and interestingly some tracks from The John Barry Seven – featuring the legendary film score producer. An interesting three tracks on the first disc are from The Drifters, who in 1959 became The Shadows, and the rest, as they say, is history!

Other British treasures here are Lord Rockingham’s XI with their chart topping “Hoots Mon” and pianist Winifred Atwell and her boogie piano . . . and if you want obscure, how about Ozzie Warlock & The Wizards and Ray Sendit & His Rockey Team!

Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Instrumentals Vol 2 features a whopping 64 tracks from the USA between 1951-1965 – with ‘big hitters’ such as Duane Eddy, Chuck Berry and Chet Atkins – and a fair sprinkling of classic tunes such as Santo & Johnny’s “Sleep Walk”, the afore-mentioned Duane Eddy’s rumbling guitar on the timeless “Peter Gunn” and Johnny And The Hurricane’s “Red River Rock”.

Legendary West Coast bluesman Pee Wee Crayton pops up in an uncharacteristic rocking mode on “Blues Before Dawn” – a quite splendid 1 minute and 56 seconds, and another gem being The Wailers “Tall Cool One”. Aside from these more well known names, check out the likes of Preston Epps with “Bongo Rock”  and Arthur ‘Guitar Boogie’ Smith And His Crackerjacks, with the self-explanatory “Guitar Bustin’”.

Lonnie Donegan Vol 2 contains 53 recordings over two discs, subtitled ‘More Original Skiffle Recordings 1952-1959, from the late, much-loved father of British skiffle – with plenty of his best known recordings such as “Puttin’ On The Style”, “John Henry”, “Cumberland Gap” and many more in place.

For collectors this compilation features plenty of rarities – three titles recorded for French radio in 1954, and also featuring The Ken Colyer Skiffle Group, and a home recording circa 1952-3 of influential early bluesman Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “Black Snake Moan”. The blues influence is also evident with the legendary Leadbelly – aka Huddie Ledbetter – on the rousing “Midnight Special”.

A great second collection honouring one of the most influential of British musicians, and the perfect companion to the first volume.

Great British Rock ‘n’ Roll Vol 4 covers the period from 1953-59, boasting 70 tracks, as the British rock ‘n’ roll movement gathered pace, after the initial Stateside blast! Again several of the giants are present, from Cliff Richard, here with the pre-Shadows, The Drifters – with The Shadows also here in their own right; the evergreen Tommy Steele; Johnny Kidd & The Pirates, featuring the sparkling guitar of Mick Green; and other household names such as Marti Wilde, Adam Faith and Billy Fury.

Standouts are The Clash-covered “Brand New Cadillac” from Vince Taylor & The Playboys”; “The Train Kept-a-Rollin’” from Jim Dale – probably most famously covered by TheYardbirds and Aerosmith amongst a host of others.

Again, a marvellous compilation for fans of this era, with many of these vintage cuts having stood the test of time.

Great British Skiffle Vol 4 contains 60 tracks over its two discs, and covers the period from 1950-1959, when ‘skiffle mania’ hit the UK, with bands cropping up everywhere! Giants such as Lonnie Donegan, Ken Colyer and Chas McDevitt feature – but this collection also has a healthy blues content with early prominent players such as vocalist and guitarist Alexis Korner and harmonica man Cyril Davies featured.

Although they weren’t really skiffle musicians two of their 1957 cuts for Tempo are here – “County Jail” and “National Defence Blues”. They both also appear on tracks with one of the best known female skiffle stars, Beryl Bryden.

Other notables are The Vipers, who featured one Wally Whyton in their ranks – who went on to a long and varied TV and radio career; and the legendary late Humphrey Lyttleton, with of course stalwart Chris Barber.

Great Rockabilly Vol 4 takes us Stateside again, with a whopping 70 tracks, covering the period 1952-1959, with the biggest name here, ‘The King’, Elvis Presley himself on some early cuts, with other giants such as Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Rick Nelson.

One of the favourite rockers of the time is also here, Gene Vincent, with his band, The Blue Caps – represented by “Who Slapped John” and “Race With The Devil”. For all those big names present, an equally, if not more, collection of more obscure artistes are present – Jack Turner & His Granger County Gang, Billy The Kid, The Lonesome Drifter, Derrell Felts & The Bluenotes, and a whole host more – all worthy of investigation on these two discs or rocking sounds!

GRAHAME RHODES

All available from 8th February

www.smithco.nl



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Ken

February 15th, 2010 at 07:15
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1

Hoots Mon is a classic record from my youth (despite being born in ’62).

My gran had 78s of “Hoots Mon” that I loved, I also remember another key influence: she also had a 78 of Elvis doing “All Shook Up”

Following on, in the early 70s, Elvis became my first musical love.

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Steve

February 16th, 2010 at 22:07
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2

Sounds like good stuff, but “The Train Kept A-Rollin'” by Jim Dale?? Think I’ll stick with the Tiny Bradshaw version!