Joe Meek

Joe Meek Presents 304 Holloway Road

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Tone-deaf Brit-pop producer Joe Meek gets revisited in a bland and unflattering compilation of his chart-challenging hits from the early- to mid-'60s. After the stunning Razor & Tie rerelease It's Hard to Believe It: The Amazing World of Joe Meek gave a new generation of audiophiles something to fawn over, this sophomore collection does little more than burst the bubble. The unorthodox producer reunites with the Blue Men for the album opener, "I Hear a New World," which promises something that never comes to fruition -- a new world. Instead, listeners will traverse the familiar waters of cover tunes, polite thefts, and imitations. The Saints' version of "Wipe Out" has about as much flavor as notebook paper on white toast, turning the Ventures into the UN adventures -- but who would have thought surf music could sound so bland? Then there's "Georgia on My Mind," which has rarely been so devoid of soul. Peter Cook has a fine singing voice, but does he even know where Georgia is, or what it is? Just before the halfway point, the Fabulous Flee Rakkers rehash "Greensleeves" via an uninspired "Green Jeans," with the sort of sloppy abandon that fares much better in the energetic Las Vegas Grind series. Later, the same band returns with "Fireball"; a track that sounds like a junior-high marching band after a nap, the song has neither fire nor even a single "ball" to its credit. Later, Jess Conrad throws some jungle rhythms into "It Can Happen to You"; something of an "Iko Iko" clone with goofy "birds and bees" lyrics, it's like stock music for the Banana Splits or H.R. Puff'n'stuff. Elsewhere, and earning points for campiness, Alan Dean & His Problems wail out "Thunder and Rain," a memorable but uncharted tune, if not a little melodramatic (perhaps due to Meek's added sound effects of "thunder" and "rain" -- get it?). Pat Reader's "Cha Cha on the Moon" is one of those bachelor pad cocktail exotica numbers, noteworthy perhaps for its comparative polish. Much of the material on 304 Holloway Road belongs to the collector rather than the discerning listener, since time has been less kind to the tarnished treasures laid out here. Joe Meek certainly deserves the reintroduction, more for his music than his troubled personal life, but the album isn't even bad enough to have fun with. Sadly, this is a tribute that will likely be found in the used bins.

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