Various Artists

Coolest Songs in the World, Vol. 1

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Little Steven Van Zandt hangs out with Bruce Springsteen, James Gandolfini and Handsome Dick Manitoba on a regular basis, which would make it a safe bet that he has a higher cool factor than the average guy, so if he says that these 15 tunes are the coolest songs in the world, we can believe him, right? As far as this compilation goes, Van Zandt's circle of friends isn't as important as the fact he hosts one of the best syndicated radio shows in America, Little Steven's Underground Garage, and if his taste in nuevo garage rock isn't flawless, it's good enough that this CD rocks with consistent strength and enthusiasm. Van Zandt covers a broad range of garage-centric acts here, from the very retro vibe of veterans the Chesterfield Kings to the epochal fuzztone of unsung guitar hero Davie Allan and the soulful vibe of Reigning Sound, and he's willing to put relative little-knowns Mr. Brown and Cotton Mather next to relative big names Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and the Mooney Suzuki. While there aren't any out and out duds here, Van Zandt does seem to have a fondness for garage formalism, and there are just enough songs following the familiar teenage sneer template that this get a bit samey in the middle innings. But there's no arguing Little Steven knows a good single when he hears one, and there are 15 songs here that would be topping the AM charts in a better world. This isn't going to change your life the way Lenny Kaye's Nuggets compilation did, but it'll give you something good to listen to while waiting for the next installment of the Underground Garage to air.

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