Various Artists

The Best of the Boston Beat

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Boston radio station WCOZ went to number one in the '70s when radio programmer John Sebastian (no relation to the Lovin' Spoonful's singer) created his Led Zeppelin format. Thanks to the energies and devotion of DJ Leslie Palmiter and her "Boston Beat" Sunday night radio program, music from the New England region obtained airplay on this 50,000 watt mega station on 94.5 FM (replaced years later by dance and rap Top 40), a signal as instrumental in the breaking of the Cars' demo, "Just What I Needed," as the rival WBCN. This 1979 release is a real time capsule and despite the flaws -- a few suburban bands who lack sparkle and innovation -- there are some rarities by groups who went on to national prominence. Johanna Wild became Jon Butcher Axis and their "Suzanne" was a Boston area classic, the antithesis of the new wave so important to 1979, but still relevant. Rick Berlin's original Luna is here, and he's listed as Rick Kinscherf, but the 45 RPM "Hollywood" from the notorious Jay Mandel production sessions which cost the band a deal with Cleveland International is included here, the natural extension of Orchestra Luna gone rock. There's a live tape of the Stompers, who would later sign with Boardwalk, recorded February 13, 1979, at the Paradise Theater -- the band is always more energetic live. A pivotal track from the Atlantics is "I'm Hooked" -- it was the band with original guitarist Jeff Locke, who was their essential pop songwriter. He was replaced by Fred Pineau when the band signed a label deal and released Big City Rock, so this is one of the few places to find music from the original act, who were one of the biggest draws in their day. When you look at the lineup of Johanna Wild, the Fools, the Atlantics, Thundertrain, the Stompers, the Johnny Barnes Group, and Luna you are seeing an impressive roster which could have put 5,000 people in a hall if presented on one bill; they were all that popular. Thundertrain's version of the Standells' "Dirty Water" is classic. It is not on their 1977 Teenage Suicide LP; this song was released two years later with blues master James Montgomery on harp and with production by Duke & the Drivers' "Earthquake" Morton. Five years later, Aerosmith's Joe Perry would record "Dirty Water" with a band called the Lines, while Mach Bell was Perry's lead singer on MCA Records, that coincidence making this release all the more historically important. Bell's insane vocals on the WCOZ compilation -- rambling about "the Boston strangler" and such -- give his version the edge, even over that West Coast band the Standells. Joanne Barnard's "Don't Break My Heart" is wonderful pop recorded out at Long View Farm, as was the Thundertrain track. Permanent Press record exec Ray Paul shows up with an interesting "Lady Be Mine Tonight" which features local scenester Mr. Curt Naihersey. All in all, this is one of the better time capsules of Boston music and the first of three compilation albums from radio station WCOZ.