Various Artists

Hard-Up Heroes, Vol. 2

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Like most various-artist bootlegs, this compilation of 28 late-'60s BBC performances by acts great and small is a niche-interest item even by bootleg standards, which by their very definition cater to a niche market. Still, if you are a fan of late-1960s British rock with pretty broad interests and tastes, you'll almost certainly find something of value here, and you might well enjoy most or all of it. Stars on hand are Traffic, who offer some of the best tracks, particularly their "Paper Sun"; Manfred Mann with the Jack Bruce lineup doing "Pretty Flamingo" and the Kim Fowley-penned "Long Haired Onsquare Dude Called Jack" (which they never put on their official releases), neither of which are on their legit '60s BBC collection; and Donovan, with a nice "Jennifer Juniper." On the flipside you have tasty morsels from groups so obscure you can't believe that any of their BBC stuff has been preserved: Grapefruit, Skip Bifferty, the Downliners Sect (a late-'60s session, not from their more typical mid-'60s R&B/punk phase), Honeybus, the Koobas, Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera, Denny Laine's Electric String Band, and the Blossom Toes (whose cover of Dylan's "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" is the worst song the band recorded, but at least it's a different take than the BBC one that's circulating on another tape). The songs by the obscure groups are actually quite respectable musically speaking, and Grapefruit in particular acquit themselves very well, as their three songs are good, psychedelic, sunshine pop, with fidelity almost on par with official albums. The Denny Laine tracks are also of particular historical interest, as he recorded just two official singles during the late 1960s, despite progressing in interesting directions; "Why Did You Come?," one of his three songs here, didn't appear on either of those 45s. The Bonzo Dog Band's "Ready Mades" didn't make it onto their official BBC collections, nor did "Help," an apparent impersonation of Bob Dylan singing the Beatles' classic which doesn't sound like the Bonzos, but is credited to them. The Bonzos' Viv Stanshall also appears fronting Viv Stanshall's Big Grunt, doing his typically droll 1970 single about a "Blind Date." The fidelity throughout the disc, unfortunately, is quite variable, from near-excellent (as on the Grapefruit tracks) to fuzzy, with the beginnings and ends of some songs chopped off.