Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders

Beat Merchants I

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They might have had a number one hit, but Wayne Fontana & the Mindbenders must rate as one of the less likely 1960s rock groups ever to be honored with a bootleg. The time finally came with Beat Merchants I, and while this does have some rarities you probably can't find elsewhere, its worth is diminished by some poor execution in both the song selection and mastering. First off, many of these 27 tracks were made available in superior sound quality on legitimate CDs, whether on the U.S. and U.K. best-of anthologies, or particularly on Beat Goes On's 2002 reissues of the original Mindbenders albums (both with and without Fontana). That leaves as the true rarities nothing but five B-sides that have escaped those compilations, as well as a live performance of "A Groovy Kind of Love" from German TV and BBC versions of "Blessed Are the Lonely" and "Hold on Girl." (Nitpicking note: although "Youngblood" is referred to as a B-side here, it's not listed as one in Wayne Fontana/Mindbenders discographies, though it didn't appear on their LPs, either.) The B-sides are okay but rather typical and unmemorable British Invasion fare (getting into somewhat progressive pop on the 1968 Mindbenders-only flip "Yellow Brick Road," here marred by some surface vinyl noise), whether covers (including "Roadrunner" and "Love Potion No. 9") or not. The live stuff isn't so remarkable, either, though the sound quality's pretty good for unreleased radio/TV work. For those who care -- and there must be a few such finicky customers out there -- the versions of many of the tracks are in true stereo, though all of these have likewise made it onto the aboveboard CD reissues in some form. There's room, though it's a small market, for a more well-thought-out Mindbenders rarities CD that collects the tracks that have escaped reissue, or even a comprehensive multi-disc Mindbenders set with everything. This gap-filler, though, doesn't fill all of the gaps -- some of the non-LP B-sides aren't here -- and is too redundant with legal discs that contain some of the same material.