Various Artists

Beat, Beat, Beat! Volume One: The Mersey Sound & Other Mop Top Rarities 1962-63

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Castle Music deserves some kind of an award for their Beat, Beat, Beat series -- and even more honor because it's unique; no other label, including EMI and English Decca, would have the courage or ambition to go up through three years of the British beat and British Invasion booms, single by single, and B-sides, focused on a single label. There are about 150 minutes of eminently enjoyable, delightfully danceable British Invasion-style music on this two-CD set, filling it to overflowing, and don't let the fact that most listeners have only heard of maybe three of the three dozen acts featured put you off. Usually, with a compilation like this, covering the complete generic output of a particular label -- in this case, England's Pye Records -- for a specific period, there are lots of apologies to be made and explanations to be given about why various tracks should be tolerated. Not so here -- every track on this set has value precisely as what it was in 1962-1963: eminently listenable, usually exciting and diverting rock & roll. For starters, any Dave Clark Five fans worthy of the name are probably going to have to own this set because of the two early tracks by the group, "That's What I Said" and "I Knew It All the Time," which open these two CDs -- they're about as good as anything else the band ever recorded, and very catchy. A pair of early dance cuts by the Roulettes at the outset of their career are no less compelling. Erky Grant & the Earwigs may have been a less-compelling talent, but even they had a rhythm section that could pound out a solid dance beat, and generated one solidly memorable song in "I'm a Hog for You Baby." Nelson Keene, Bobby Shafto, and Dickie Pride, all late-'50s popsters, didn't do a bad beat-style single in "The Kissing Had to Stop," masquerading as the Guv'ners. Much more interesting is the harmony-based trio the Kestrels and their cover of "There's a Place," which attempts (successfully) to lay a more ornate and soulful vocal take on the early Lennon/McCartney original. In this company, the Searchers sound like world-class talents, but they're not that far above, say, the Viscounts (featuring future songwriter/manager Gordon Mills), who tried for a Merseybeat/harmony approach on "It's You" and "I'll Never Get Over You." Johnny Sandon & the Remo Four show why both singer and band were able to endure as potential breakout talents for years on the enjoyably frantic "Lies" and the ballad "On the Horizon." Those who are curious about the Undertakers, a top soul outfit from Liverpool who somehow never made it despite enjoying the publicly stated fandom of the Beatles, can start here, and folkish, harmony-based the Overlanders are similarly well represented. Future Graham Nash collaborator and Threshold Records artist Gregory Phillips is also here, doing the Billy J. Kramer-style "Angie," and the disc ends with the Brian Epstein client Tommy Quickly and reliable Pye mainstays Joe Brown & the Bruvvers. Enjoyable as the first disc is, disc two is even better, showing off the label's slightly more sophisticated later-1963 vintage efforts at emulating the Mersey sound as it became established, with serious and more compelling talents, including the Puppets (produced by Joe Meek), the Chants (superb singers who not only were based in Liverpool, but were black as well), and the Migil 4 (soon to become the Migil 5, a top bluebeat outfit). There are several examples of good early versions of songs that would later manifest themselves as hits in the hands of other bands, including Johnny Sandon & the Remo Four's recording of "Magic Potion," the Sundowners' interpretation (complete with electric guitar) of "House of the Rising Sun," and Pat Harris & the Blackjacks' "Hippy Hippy Shake," done in a high-energy Brenda Lee style. The sound is excellent throughout, giving good, solid, even pumped-up play to the bass and rhythm sections that will tell you why many of these groups came off so well when they played live.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 2:19
2 2:25
3 2:09
4 2:31
5
1:54
6
1:59
7 2:34 Amazon
8
2:22
9
2:08
10
2:02
11
2:00
12 2:16
13 2:28
14 1:50 Amazon
15 2:11
16
1:55
17 2:08
18 2:23
19
2:01
20
2:51
21 2:14
22 2:17
23 2:32
24 3:07
25 2:00
26
1:52
27 2:09
28
2:21
29
1:57 Amazon
30
2:35 Amazon

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1
2:01
2 2:09
3 1:57
4 2:32
5
2:35
6 2:19
7
2:18
8 2:40
9 2:53
10
2:12
11 2:54
12
2:10
13 2:27
14
2:25
15
2:10
16 2:31
17 2:30
18 2:24
19 2:29
20 2:16
21 3:18
22
2:19
23 2:06
24
1:55
25
2:00
26 2:02
27 1:56
28 2:40
29 2:14
30 1:46
blue highlight denotes track pick