Various Artists

British Beat Before the Beatles [Series Overview]

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As the title says, there was British rock before the Beatles, but it wasn't particularly great -- it was often stiff and stilted, sounding tentative. Still, there were some gems amidst the mediocrity, and the best thing about this seven-disc series is that it captures both the good and the bad, providing a thorough retrospective of this little-acknowledged (especially to American collectors) period of rock & roll. While that is certainly a valuable service, be forewarned that this does not make for engaging listening. Essentially, this is a curiosity, even for serious rock & roll collectors, and for every great song by Billy Fury, Cliff Richard, or Johnny Kidd & the Pirates, there are many, many songs that don't hold up except as historical curiosities that simply aren't that interesting -- even for those who buy rarities as a way of life.