In the late '50s, seemingly every major -- and sometimes not so major -- city in America had its own small, independent record label. All of them were vying for a share of the marketplace, recording local talent, hoping that elusive hit record would emerge from their often crude endeavors. Some of these were basically one man operations, recording their sides in homemade basement studios and pressing up small quantities for local consumption. During this time period, the place to go and the man to see in Minnesota was David Hersk and his ultra-primitive studio-cum-record company, Gaity Records. This is the first of two volumes devoted to the small batch of 45s that were issued on Gaity and its three subsidiaries, Perry, Twayne, and Laura. All of these issues are ultra rare with only a mere handful of copies passing through collector's hands over the decades. The reason for all this attention being paid to this dime sized-label are twofold. One, Hersk created an ultra-primitive sound -- even for the time and technology -- with the echo in his basement studio that only enhanced the wildness of the teen combos he recorded. Two, although his custom service taped everything from polka bands to radio jingles, these recordings were the spawning ground of all the Twin Cities rock & roll groups that came in their wake, including the almighty Trashmen. Nothing you have experienced in crudely recorded and played roots music can prepare you for the audio onslaught of the Sonics' "Marlene" or its equally demonic flip, "Minus One -- Blast Off." "Marlene" sports an ear-drilling mid-range equalization hump that zeroes right in on the lead guitar and twin saxes to a painful degree; breaks happen where they shouldn't, and a sloppy, out of control drum solo appears out of nowhere before the whole tune dissolves in a wash of tape echo that blankets the tune like too much ketchup on a cheeseburger. The other true two-sided gem of gut-level rocking comes from the lone single of the String Kings. "Bloodshot" is an echo-laden, rockabilly vocal ode to severe hangovers while its instrumental flip, "The Bash," sports a repeated guitar riff that sounds suspiciously like "Peter Gunn," a point not lost on the group when Henry Mancini issued his 'original tune' several months later and scored an international hit with it. The compilation closes with another hard-rocking highlight, the supremely crude "Endsville" by Al Don and the EC's. With guitars tremoloed beyond belief, pounding drums, and squealing sax predominant in the mix, the crudity of this disc (no masters exist for any of the original Gaity singles) is exaggerated by the fact that all copies are pressed off center, adding a tonality to the performance that's downright eerie and spooky. As a chunk of wild-ass American rock & roll, this is a pretty potent batch to reckon with.
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AllMusic Review by Cub Koda