Various Artists

Diamond Joe: The Sound of Meeks-ville

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By the time this 21-track compilation appeared in 2007, there had been so many anthologies of Joe Meek productions that even those oddballs determined to collect as many as they could were understandably losing track of what had or hadn't been issued where. This particular disc focuses on "rarities and collectables," and couldn't be considered among the more essential Meek comps out there. If you are someone who's interested enough in the eccentric British producer to accumulate a half-dozen or more CDs of work, however, this is a worthwhile add to the shelf. None of these songs were hits, and few of the artists even had anything resembling hits, though Carter-Lewis & the Southerners and Glenda Collins made a little noise. But all of the material has Meek's characteristic weird way with sonic ambience, combining quasi-outer space echo, instrumentation, and compression with lightweight but undeniably catchy early-'60s British pop. As a perhaps more useful note to the collectors likely to search this out, it also has a bunch of hard-to-find sides, with five previously unreleased cuts and -- according to the liner notes -- 11 that were unavailable elsewhere on CD when this anthology was issued, though Meek-o-philes may have heard at least some of this on out-of-print comps. Some of the songs here are quite good, particularly the two singles by Carter-Lewis & the Southerners, which have near Merseybeat-like catchiness and vocal harmonies; Glenda Collins' "It's Hard to Believe It" (presented in a previously unavailable stereo version), which has some of the most explosive effects and astral instrumentation of any of Meek's non-hits; Joy & Dave's enjoyable country & western-like harmonized outing, "Diamond Joe"; and Johnny Garfield's blustery orchestrated pop number "Fickle Heart." Some of the other tracks, of course, don't have too much going for them other than imaginative production, and the two instrumental tracks by the Saints sound a little like studied attempts to replicate the sound of the Tornados. It's good frivolous fun for the most part, however, with the sort of detailed liner notes that are becoming expected of Meek CD compilations, no matter how obscure the source material.

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