Various Artists

1963: The Soundtrack

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The U.K. label Castle's double-disc set 1963: The Soundtrack offers an interesting perspective on that pivotal year, when the British Invasion was just about to change music: instead of collecting a lot of songs and artists that are well-known to international audiences, this comp mixes tracks from acts whose popularity remained largely a U.K. phenomenon with U.S. hits. For listeners already well-versed in the British Invasion's definitive music, 1963: The Soundtrack is a refreshing and authentic-feeling way to revisit the era; it feels a lot like listening to a British radio station at the time. The most internationally popular artists included here are probably the Searchers and Petula Clark, but aside from the Searchers' "Sweets for My Sweet," the tracks from them aren't their biggest hits (Clark's "Chariot" became "I Will Follow Him" and a big hit for Little Peggy March in the States later in 1963). Benny Hill's "Harvest of Love" and Kenneth Cope's hyper-cockney "Hands Off, Stop Muckin' About" provide cultural color that you won't find on many other early-'60s comps, and stand out all the more against well-known American songs like Paul & Paula's "Hey Paula," Del Shannon's "Little Town Flirt," and Betty Everett's "You're No Good." Joe Meek fans will also be pleased by the number of his productions that appear on the collection, including the Tornados' "Globetrotter," the Flee-Rekkers' "Fireball XL-5," and the Joe Meek Orchestra's "The Kennedy March" -- all much more unique choices than, say, "Telstar." While it might not be the best place to start for anyone beginning to explore the British Invasion and early-'60s pop and rock, 1963: The Soundtrack is a lot of fun for those eager to dig a little deeper.

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