The Action

The Ultimate Action

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This collection is a slightly expanded version of an LP that first appeared in 1984. There are no notes -- an unthinkable oversight today -- but otherwise, this is one of the best pieces of British beat-style R&B available, a match for the best tracks off The Beatles' Second Album, and any of the best R&B-style numbers by the early Who. The material isn't in chronological order, although that's not a huge problem for listeners, but it's heavily scrambled. The stuff stands on its own, in any case -- "Harlem Shuffle," "Since I Lost My Baby," and "In My Lonely Room" are among the finest English R&B covers of the period, and even originals like "Never Ever" (written by Alan King, Reggie King, and Mike Evans and the group-composed "Twenty Fourth Hour" are fine pieces of songwriting, with attractive hooks and choruses, and good soulful performances. One fascinating discovery unearthed on this CD, amid hits that never were (like their cover of the Marvelettes' "I'll Keep on Holding On" and the brooding, modish "Wasn't It You,") is the group's cover of the Spector-Goffin-King classic "Just Once in My Life." In contrast to the Righteous Brothers' Wall of Sound approach, the five-piece band does it by themselves with no overdubbed help, and Reggie King and company are good enough singers to pull it off, despite a few awkward moments on the fade. The attempts at experimental, quasi-psychedelic material ("Shadows and Reflections") are nicely played and sung, but they lack the depth and urgency of the group's earlier material, and it's easy to understand EMI's misgivings over the direction the group was going in, based on this evidence. As an added attraction, the production by George Martin is also among the best work of his career in rock & roll, second only to his work with the Beatles.

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