Various Artists

The Big Hits of Mid-America: The Soma Records Story, 1963-1967

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The Soma Records Story is the vision of one man, Amos (Soma spelled backward) Heilicher, who owned the biggest distributorship in the Twin Cities. Tied in to the area's Kay Bank Studios and the pressing plant that went in with it, Heilicher was smart enough to start recording rock & roll bands by the carload, offering 1,000 copy pressings of any group that wanted to buy some studio time and make a record. No Sam Phillips when it came to assessing the value of the new music, Heilicher just locally test-marketed the small pressings, and if anything smelled like a hit, he got it out there in quantity and started working it, occasionally snaring a national biggie in the bargain. This two-disc, 48-track deluxe collection brings together most of the shining moments in Soma teen rock history. Though curiously the label's first hit, 1959's "Mule Skinner Blues" by the Fendermen, is noticeably absent, everything else noteworthy seems to be aboard, from top drawer Minnesota combos like the Trashmen (the obligatory "Surfin' Bird," "Bird Dance Beat," "A-Bone") Gregory Dee & the Avantis ("The Grind," "Olds-Mo-Williams") , the Underbeats ("Foot Stompin'," "Book of Love," "I Can't Stand It"), the Castaways ( "Liar, Liar," "Sam," "Goodbye Babe"), and the High Spirits ("Turn on Your Lovelight," "Tossin' and Turnin'," "Bright Lights, Big City," and "I Believe"). Equally as powerful are sides from the Accents (fine versions of Howlin' Wolf's "Howling for My Darling" and Lonnie Mack's "Why"), the Four Wheels (great Beach Boys cops on "Central High Playmate" and "Cold 45"), and the Del Counts ( "Bird Dog," "What Is the Reason"), and lesser lights like the Rumbles, the Embermen, Jimmy Kaye & the Coachmen (nice, un-Shadows of Knight version of "Gloria"), the Half Dozen, the Boys Next Door, the Corvets, Dudley & the Doo-Rytes, and Sir Winston & the Commons, making this one of the most power-packed collections of local mid-'60s garage rock ever assembled. With a bound booklet loaded with label shots, great photos, and the stories of 48 chunks of great wax, this is an indispensable piece of rock & roll history, Midwest style.

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