A's, B's & Rarities

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It seems strange to see the output of Mickie Most's RAK label finally being taken seriously by record labels as well as collectors, 30-plus years after the imprint established itself as the epitome of disposable pop tunes. Yet EMI's ongoing As, Bs & Rarities series offers nothing less than the same thorough treatment that any other, more hallowed, label could expect. The format is essentially the same throughout: a gathering up of every RAK single (A-sides and B-sides) released by a given band, with the remainder of the CD filled with choice outtakes and oddities -- which, in CCS' case, covers a lot of territories. From the band's opening shot (and hit), a spectral cover of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love," and on through such off-kilter delights as "Brother," "Walking," and the quite salacious "Tap Turns On the Water," CCS maintained a dignified but often unsettling role in the U.K. charts of the early '70s. Neither did the magic cease when the records stopped selling -- their first-ever flop, 1972's "16 Tons," offers up a near-definitive rendition of that jolly old chestbeater. Seven straight singles plug the bulk of this collection, with the B-sides (a superlative rendition of John Lee Hooker's "Boom Boom" among them) frequently sounding as great as the hits. From there, five tracks highlight CCS' three original albums, before two superlative, and previously unissued, outtakes close the set. The sleeve notes make the point that, of all the music that main man Alexis Korner made throughout his career, CCS is frequently overlooked by the repackagers. This collection goes a long way toward remedying that oversight and might, if listeners are really lucky, even lead to reissues for the original LPs themselves.

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