Various Artists

Later Volume One: Brit Beat

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Jools Holland's British television show Later is known for its musical eclecticism, placing a wide variety of artists on one particular show. Although that commitement to diversity can sometimes make the show appear to be stodgy at a glance, the truth of the matter is that Later is one of the finest musical television shows of the mid-'90s. It is a broad-minded and thoughtful show, that features everyone from Oasis to Portishead to Robert Plant & Jimmy Page. Later Volume One: Brit Beat, the first installment in a six-volume series of discs devoted to the show, concentrates on the Brit-pop movement of the mid-'90s and features nearly every major Brit-pop band, often in compelling, occasionally revelatory performances. Over the course of its 19 tracks, Later Volume One: Brit Beat winds through figureheads like Paul Weller, early '90s trendsetters like Suede, Manic Street Preachers and Charlatans, emerging stars like Super Furry Animals and Ash, and the three most popular UK acts of the '90s -- Oasis, Blur and Pulp. In between, Supergrass, Elastica, Radiohead, McAlmont/Butler, Ocean Colour Scene, Cast, the Bluetones, the Auteurs, Edwyn Collins, and Audioweb also get space. The end result is nearly a greatest hits of the '90s. Apart from a couple of unsteady performances (the Charlatans' "Just Lookin'" sounds shakey, Audioweb sounds out of place), Later Volume One: Brit Beat is uniformly excellent. For the collector, such rarities as Noel Gallagher's string-augmented take on "Wonderwall" and Pulp's "I Spy" performed with an orchestra make this disc a necessary purchase, but anyone with a passing interest in Brit-pop will enjoy this collection. After all, it plays like the greatest hits of the mid-'90s.