Big Beat/Ace [Release date 26.07.19]
Every few years a label attempts a new “Power Pop” collection, and this time it’s the turn of Ace Records via their Big Beat imprint. Dave Burke presents an impressive selection of 70′s and 80′s vintage, licensed from a myriad of labels (and, in some cases, the artists themselves). Pleasingly there are enough obscurities to appeal to the power pop aficionado, as well as a few bonafide classics of the genre for any curious newcomers – never an easy thing to accomplish.
Of the better known artists and tracks here, Big Star’s ‘September Gurls’, ‘I Wanna Be With You’ by Raspberries, The Romantics with ‘What I Like About You’ and Dwight Twilley Band’s ‘Looking For The Magic’ are all terrific examples of power pop at its very best.
One real bonus is the inclusion of the rare original version of ‘Shake Some Action’ by the legendary Flamin’ Groovies. The later recording from Rockfield Studios is the one that is usually compiled, so kudos to Ace for sourcing the original 1973 take which band member Cyril Jordan has referred to as “the best thing we ever did”.
The CD kicks off with a collaboration between The Paley Brothers and Ramones, who deliver a punchy cover of Richie Valens’s ‘Come On Let’s Go’, which was originally released on the “Rock ‘N’ Roll High School” soundtrack album. Another standout cut is the outstanding ‘Let Go’ by New York band Dirty Looks. Boasting some great hooks and a catchy chorus, this was originally released by UK label Stiff Records in 1980.
There are a few acts here who were clearly influenced by the sound and style of The Beatles and other 1960s “British Invasion” bands. Two prime examples are The Spongetones with the sprightly ‘(My Girl) Mary Anne’, and the rarely compiled and absolute killer of a track by The Nashville Ramblers entitled ‘The Trains’. Dating from the 1980′s, ‘The Trains’ sounds like a long lost Merseybeat classic.
The collection is littered with gems that in a parallel universe would have stormed the charts; none more so than the fabulously catchy and upbeat ‘Nuclear Boy’ by 20/20. ‘It’s Only Dark’, meanwhile, is an early B-side by San Francisco band Wire Train, who would later adopt a more mainstream rock sound.
A couple of obscure masters of the power pop genre are also represented here. Tommy Marolda (recording as The Toms) recorded 1979’s majestic ‘Better Than Anyone Else’ in his home studio, while Van Duren evokes the sound of Emitt Rhodes with the incredible ‘Andy, Please’.
The disc concludes in style with the first version of ‘Tomorrow Night’ by Shoes, the killer ‘Rock And Roll Is Dead’ by The Rubinoos, and 1982’s epic ‘One World’ by Utopia.
As one would expect from an Ace label release, the CD is accompanied by a detailed booklet. This one has 28 pages packed with detailed notes about each track and artist, along with a large number of artist photographs and images of original sleeves and record labels.
As for the pick of the obscurities here, only a cold hearted music fan would fail to be moved by The Tweeds and their self-released infectious 45 ‘I Need That Record’ from 1980. “Record keeps on spinning, makes my life worth living…” sums up the joy that this new collection brings. Let’s hope that it sells well enough to warrant a second volume. ****
Review by Jim Henderson
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