Various Artists

Bad Penny Blues: Joe Meek, The Early Years

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Back before he became Britain's first successful independent record producer -- if not its quirkiest and most controversial -- Joe Meek engineered or produced countless sessions in the 1950s for established British labels, and this delightful two-disc, 62-track set chronicles that period. The variety here is quite astounding, with cuts that range from uptown blues and jazz (Shirley Bassey's "Burn My Candle") to reconstituted pop (Dennis Lotis' "Sugaree"), piano and horn romps (Humphrey Lyttelton's "Bad Penny Blues"), skiffle (Lonnie Donegan's "Cumberland Gap"), uptown folk (Peggy Seeger, Guy Carawan, and Isla Cameron's "Bring Me a Little Water Sylvie"), odd orchestral pop (Bill Shepherd's "Tequila"), and transplanted calypso (Lord Invader's "Teddy Boy Calypso"). It's a seldom-heard part of Meek's legacy, and since several of these tracks have never been released on CD before, it's also somewhat of a collectors item for serious fans of the colorful and enigmatic Meek.

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