A's, B's and 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 -- an approach that the average Mud fan will relish. This is not the first time around for the bulk of the band's As and Bs -- the German Repertoire label long ago created a masterful two-CD set around the same theme. But they still missed one B-side, 1973's "Do You Love Me," which now makes its CD debut here, and besides, two CDs of Mud can be a daunting prospect for the average consumer. Hacking away the dead wood that preceded and followed the band's greatest-hits period, As, Bs & Rarities follows the band through the delirious three years that opened with "Crazy," closed with "One Night," and bristled amidships with some of the most effervescent singles of the early to mid-'70s: "Tiger Feet," "The Cat Crept In," "Lonely This Christmas." And some of the greatest B-sides, too. Some historical anomalies are corrected: "Moonshine Sally," an apparent return-to-form hit in 1975, opens this collection, to remind listeners that it was, in fact, recorded in 1972. A cover of "In the Mood," issued in 1974 under the not-altogether deceptive pseudonym of Dum, slips in, together with the song planned for the band's final RAK single, "Hula Love." No real rarities, then, and little that the compulsive Mud collector won't already own. But it's a great compilation all the same, and if you're looking to spend an hour or so feeling delightfully, extraordinarily, happy...this is for you.

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