Various Artists

History of Texas Garage Bands in the '60s, Vol. 1: The Sea Ell Label Story

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This two-CD set covers the two year history of Houston-based Sea Ell Records, which recorded some of the better and more interesting garage-punk and psychedelic music to come out of Texas during the years 1966-1968. All seven Sea Ell singles are represented, along with additional tracks by most of the bands (George Washington & the Cherry Stompers, Derby Hatville, and the Coachmen) that recorded for the label, and a few (Satyn's Children, the Smokin' Bananas, and the Wolves) that only cut demos for the company. Despite the fact that at least half of this CD was never intended for public consumption, the music holds up startlingly well. The Wolves don't really fit in with the '60s bands here, sounding too much like an early-'70s blues-rock outfit, and some of the later Derby Hatville tracks are too produced and pop-sounding, closer to Gary Puckett & the Union Gap than to the 13th Floor Elevators, but otherwise this could pass for a Pebbles volume. One precious ultra-obscurity -- "Girl Don't Change Your Mind" by Eddie Cunningham & the Lone Rangers -- also shows up. The sound varies wildly, from crisp, professionally recorded source tapes to booming, out-of-balance demo tracks. The second disc consists of demos cut in 1967 and 1966, respectively, by the Smokin' Bananas and the Intruders. The former try very hard to sound like the Beatles (especially on their vocals), while the latter have a more brittle, blues-based sound.

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