Various Artists

Czechoslovakian Beat, Vol. 1 (65-68)

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The title looks like some sort of joke, but this is indeed a collection of 14 garage/punk sides issued in Czechoslovakia in the mid-to-late '60s. Most likely, it's the first compilation of '60s rock of any sort from behind the Iron Curtain. Czech bands, like groups in all Eastern Bloc countries, faced limited recording opportunities, had much more limited access to British and American releases, and had to get along with relatively primitive equipment. It's therefore rather amazing that this sounds more or less like most '60s garage compilations, other than the fact that much of it's sung in Czech. There are the same lo-fi fuzz guitar riffs, cheesy organs, and endearingly clumsy approximations of British Merseybeat, mod, and early psychedelia that you might find in groups from Holland, Spain, or Texas. There's no truly outstanding material, and for English speakers the sound of '60s rock sung in the unfamiliar Czech language is a shock. Its mere existence, however, makes for an intriguing historical document, with the occasional interesting bit of psychedelic weirdness -- minor-key folk melodies, strange reverb effects, odd scraping instruments, and such -- intruding once in a while, on the tracks by the Juventus especially.