Various Artists

Best of 60's Mod [Castle]

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We've all heard most of this material before somewhere, though grouped together a lot of the music is thoroughly refreshing and entertaining. Drawn mostly from the Pye Records vaults (with some additions from the U.K. soul label Beacon Records), the 18 songs here represent different corners of the mod sensibility, musical and otherwise, of the mid- to late-1960s. "Tin Soldier" is one of the Small Faces more intensely soulful songs, and a great way to open the CD, and "'Til the End of the Day" (its crunchy guitars and bass very well-represented) is still a too-little-heard classic from the Kinks. Past those most familiar points, the disc plunges into the more outre sides of the period and genre -- the Smoke's "My Friend Jack," with its scratchy, shimmering guitars; David Bowie's frantic and catchy "Do Anything You Say"; Chris Farlowe's intense rendition of the Rolling Stones' "Think"; Billie Davis' "Just Walk in My Shoes," and Geno Washington's "Water," which sounds like Otis Redding reincarnated. The overall song selection is a little unusual, in that the producers extended their reach to a pair of U.S. R&B/soul numbers, the Showstoppers' "Ain't Nothin' but a Houseparty," and "The 81" by Candy & the Kisses, both from Philadelphia; and gave the last three slots over to ska and reggae numbers -- a relevant but sometimes overlooked part of mod culture -- by the Skatalites ("Guns of Navarone"), Roland Alphonso ("Phoenix City"), and Desmond Dekker & the Aces ("007 (Shanty Town)"). The annotation is sketchy to non-existent, but the sound is excellent and there's enough diversity to make this an edifying as well as entertaining disc.