Jet Harris / Jet Harris & Tony Meehan

Diamonds and Other Gems: The Complete Decca Singles

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This 2008 compilation contains the same exact 20 tracks as the very similarly titled 1989 Deram anthology Diamonds and Other Gems. Why in the world, then, might you prefer this over the other? Well, the 12-page liner notes to the 2008 collection are far superior to the annotation on the one that preceded it by about 20 years, and include a lengthy essay and mucho vintage pictures and memorabilia. This 2008 CD is also more logically chronologically sequenced than the 1989 one. Whether you've heard it before or not, however, the music remains the same, including both sides of all seven 1962-1964 singles Jet Harris issued with or without Tony Meehan; four tracks that showed up on EPs and a soundtrack, and two that were unreleased in the '60s. Though highly uneven, it remains among the best British rock music made just prior to or just as the Beatles were emerging. Heavily rooted in the moody instrumental rock of the Shadows (in which both Harris and Meehan had previously played), the songs are, naturally, more bass-heavy, Harris being a bassist. At times -- especially on the hits "The Man with the Golden Arm" and "Diamonds" -- it's the equal of the Shadows at their best, with somewhat more of a spy movie-like menace than the Shadows boasted. There are also slighter items with somewhat corny orchestration, backing vocals, and an ersatz galloping country & western feel. And the occasional numbers on which Harris takes vocals prove he was a much better bassist than singer, though these aren't all bad. Overall, it's an interesting, at times very entertaining, document of a style that briefly ruled in British rock, and which the Beatles would quickly make passé even as "Diamonds" was battling it out with "Please Please Me" for the top position on the British charts.

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