Various Artists

'Coz Rock Album: The Best of the Boston Beat, Vol. 2

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Radio stations sponsoring compilations of local recording groups was the rage in the '80s, and some important musical time capsules were created. When acts hit from those discs, those time capsules turned into collectors' items. The first volume of now-defunct radio station WCOZ's The Best of the Boston Beat (named after DJ Lesley Palmiter's excellent Sunday night local music program) was issued on WCOZ Records, manufactured by Infinity Records, in 1979 (the station's major competition, by the way, was Infinity Broadcasting). This second set, released in 1981, is on the Starsteam label out of Houston, TX. Starstream Records/Big Music America may have been a company which specialized in radio station LP projects, as the disc came with a ballot for voting on the album's best track and there was a national 25,000 dollar grand prize and a "record contract" (no specifics other than that). "Big Music America has gone into major cities all across the country to solicit tapes," is the claim on the back cover. Years after the regional album's creation, no such "battle of the bands" mentality is necessary. Classic tracks by the Jon Butcher Axis, Balloon (who featured future Joe Perry Project lead singer Charlie Farren), soon-to-be Boardwalk recording artists the Stompers, along with Johnny Barnes and a band with future producer Chris Lannon as guitarist, Midnight Traveller, give the album credibility the contest could not. Musically, the best tracks are "Shutdown" from the Stompers, "Roll Me" from Johnny Barnes featuring the gifted Craig Covner on guitar, Charlie Farren singing "Political Vertigo," and a classic early rendition of "New Man" by the Jon Butcher Axis, more driving than the remake on their Polygram debut. Anne English gets a nice runner-up status with "All I'm Waiting for Is You," while the other artists provide a snapshot of a moment in Boston music history. "Rock on the Radio" by Mark Williamson and American Teen is mainstream hard pop, while Midnight Traveller travels that same road. It's a good thing the tracks were not put back to back, as they sound very similar. Keep in mind, this is when radio programmer John Sebastian (not the singer/songwriter) brought WCOZ to 9.1 in the ratings by offering the world a steady diet of Led Zeppelin. That was the format of the station and this second volume reflects the album rock mindset. Powerglide is another band who made some noise, but like the aforementioned American Teen and Midnight Traveller, they were not part of what was considered the "underground" of the day. The Stompers, Jon Butcher, Balloon with Charlie Farren, and Johnny Barnes were able to cross into both arenas -- the suburban club scene as well as the Boston rock & roll crowd -- but none of these groups were totally embraced by the world where the Nervous Eaters, Willie Alexander, the Real Kids, and other members of the Live at the Rat clique performed and/or caused trouble. This album's lack of music from that world is a drawback -- the artists who got airplay on DJ Palmiter's show were not fully represented by 'Coz's Rock 'n' Roll Album: The Best of the Boston Beat, Vol. 2. Trapper, the Smith Brothers, and Witch One may have names that evaporated as quickly as their respective careers as bands did; their inclusion is a departure from the first volume, which had an impressive nine artists of the 12 being those who were more firmly established, but the "I exist therefore I am" philosophy earns them their place when someone picks up this rare collection and gets to hear some voices from the past. When you put this collection alongside Wayne Wadhams' 1975 Chef's Salad compilation and the Live at Jacks and Live at the Rat recordings, along with other collections of local music, you get a better focus. There were three compilations in radio station WCOZ's series before they changed call letters and went dance music/rap.

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