Various Artists

The History of Syracuse Music, Vol. 7

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For rock historians as well as fans of Lou Reed and Ronnie James Dio, The History of Syracuse Music series is an absolute must. With intense and precise liner notes written by the "Syracuse Music Authority," rare and valuable music is able to be processed and appreciated on this very underground compilation, which was available by mail order. It is enlightening, though the sound quality is rough. The vinyl can't handle all the music crammed onto the grooves the way a CD can, and it is doubtful any of the included songs came from the master tapes -- it sounds like they were taken from disc sources, especially the doo wop of the Eldaros' "Please Surrender" from 1958, which appears to be taken off of warped vinyl. There are 17 tracks on Vol. 7 (covering the years 1957-1975), including Lou Reed's extremely rare and wonderful "Cycle Annie" from the Pickwick Soundsville! album (also available on a bootleg 7" EP called You're Driving Me Insane). This is the same version, though the sound is thinner, meaning it definitely came off of another piece of plastic. Information that Reed was on Syracuse University's enrollment roster in the fall of 1960 (as "Lou Allen") is rather interesting and will make for more Reed lore. There are three columns of liner notes inside the gatefold, giving insight into the careers of Reed, Felix Cavaliere, Mike Esposito of the Blues Magoos, and other artists who drifted through "the boundaries of Onondaga County" up in Syracuse. Hearing the late Bud Ballou do a snippet of his radio show is interesting (he went on to fame on Boston radio in the '60s), while "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" by Dio sounds nothing like the heavy metal singer who joined Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple, but the liner notes say it is! The album comes in gold and, with plenty of photos on the cover and inside the gatefold, it is certainly worth having. The Sidewinders are not the Andy Paley band that recorded for RCA in the '70s; this is a soul group performing James Brown's "Cold Sweat" in 1967. There are two Elf tracks from 1973 and 1974 that sound more like the Dio who listeners know and love, and the Belmonts' track from 1975 features Dan Elliot sounding like the Happenings. This is an intriguing collection that sheds some light on important music history. Despite the flawed sound, The History of Syracuse Music, Vol. 7 is worthwhile. It probably won't be as valuable in collectors' circles as the discs that house the original recordings, such as Soundsville!, nor will it be sought out like The East Village Other: Electric Newspaper (which has bits of the Velvet Underground performing), but it is an admirable effort, and by documenting history has its own place in history.