British Invasion: 1963-1967

Various Artists

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British Invasion: 1963-1967 Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

There have been countless compilations covering the British Invasion, from budget-line single-disc rush jobs to exhaustive multi-volume series to box sets like Hip-O's 2004 three-disc compilation, The British Invasion: 1963-1967. While this isn't the best of the British Invasion sets released over the years -- that would be Rhino's The British Invasion: History of British Rock, a nine-volume set released in the late '80s and early '90s, which is sadly only partially in print as of this writing -- it's a solid set, heavy on hits and providing a good narrative of how British pop/rock evolved from Merseybeat to psychedelia and prog rock. Along the way, nearly all the major bands are represented -- the Rolling Stones and Dave Clark Five are the most glaring omission, the inclusion of Tony Sheridan's "Ain't She Sweet" as a Beatles track is a bit misleading (as is the Yardbirds' only entry, "Little Games"), while some could make the case for Herman's Hermits and the Pretty Things as being sorely missed -- which is not necessarily the same thing as having all the major singles present. Overlooking the aforementioned Beatles and Stones, there are plenty of classic singles that could and should have been here, anything from the Animals' "House of the Rising Sun" to the Small Faces' "Itchycoo Park," but apart from a handful of scattered tracks, it's hard to argue with what is here, since the selections are representative, the hits are plentiful, and the sequencing is sharp, with cult favorites like the Move and the Walker Brothers fitting nicely against the one-hit wonders and titans like the Who, Donovan, and the Kinks. It's especially nice that each disc has its own internal logic -- the first covers the early, innocent days of Merseybeat, the second dabbles in both sophisticated pop and hard rock, and the third is heavy on psychedelia and Baroque pop -- since it means all three work as their own entity while fitting as a piece. What keeps this from being completely essential is that it's limited by its three-disc scope -- it would be nice to have Rhino's exhaustive History of British Rock revived and updated for a new millennium -- and that the Animals, Yardbirds, and Small Faces' best work is all missing. That said, as an overview of the British Invasion, this is both accurate and highly enjoyable, a good primer on one of the most exciting times in pop history.

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