In the conventional wisdom of American garage bands in the '60s, white suburban kids hooked on folk and surf music picked up on black blues and R&B records via the Beatles and Rolling Stones and subsequently began plugging in guitars and attitudes across the land. While that summation is somewhat accurate, it tends to downplay the presence of musical forces already in place. East Side Sound highlights one of these regional scenes with a generous helping of 30 mixed tracks recorded in ethnically diverse Los Angeles. The disc begins in the pre-British Invasion days when greasy R&B-influenced rock reigned. The records, released by entrepreneur Eddie Davis on a variety of labels, were promoted through Friday night dances in conjunction with L.A. radio station KRLA. This venture became successful enough that acts like Roy Orbison, the Beach Boys, and even Herb Alpert would make free appearances just for exposure. A few of the singles, such as the Premiers' "Farmer John" and Cannibal and the Headhunters' "Land of 1000 Dances," became national hits. These tracks have a distinctively harder-edged R&B sound than the contemporaneous music scenes of many other regions of the country. Even the sole surf instrumental release by Gene Gray and the Stingrays had a raunchier edge than many surf discs. Despite the concurrent popularity of the Beatles, none of these acts attempted to mimic the Fab Four. The bands evolved with the times, however, with fuzz guitars and nods to psychedelia on the later tracks. East Side Sound is a fine compilation documenting the oft-overlooked Latin American contributions to rock & roll and the garage band phenomenon. More than just another teen-scene regional collection, this disc fulfills a historical mission in rockin' good style.
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