The Migil 5

Mockin' Bird Hill: The Pye Anthology

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Ska and bluebeat fans will love this British import CD, and even rock & roll fans and British Invasion fanatics should learn a lot from it. Mockin' Bird Hill: The Pye Anthology features 30 songs cut by the Migil 5 from the fall of 1963 (when they were still the Migil 4) through the end of 1965. A lot of the material is shockingly good, featuring solid bluebeat, R&B, jazz-based rock & roll, and British soul. The two bluesy Migil 4 cuts that open this collection are pretty strong on their own terms, reminiscent of the sort of music that Alexis Korner and Blues Incorporated were recording in the same period. However, the two songs that mark the debut of the quintet, "Mockin' Bird Hill" and its B-side, "Long Ago and Far Away," are something else altogether -- unique bluebeat classics that stand the test of time. Alan "Earl" Watson's sax is the added element here, and it makes all the difference as he loops in and around a rhythm section playing a ska beat. The Migil 5 might not have looked like a ska band was supposed to, but these guys had the musical skills to pull it off, and then some: Mike Felix was a brilliantly charismatic singer with a powerful delivery (his performance on "Don't Want to Go On Shaking" is alone worth the price of the CD), and the beat kept by him, bassist Lenny Blanche, and rhythm guitarist Red Lambert was impeccable. The range of material is also a surprise, covering everything from George Gershwin's "Long Ago and Far Away" to Hank Williams' "Your Cheatin' Heart." Folk, jazz ("That Lucky Old Sun"), R&B ("Just Like a Woman," "I'm in Love Again"), and rock & roll (a surprisingly raw "Long Tall Sally") are all well-represented, and there's not a bad cut to be found anywhere. Even when the band try their hand at a ballad, such as "Brush Those Tears From Your Eyes," they manage to infuse it with extraordinary passion and directness. Indeed, the only place where the material slackens is on the final two cuts, "Pencil and Paper" and "Nevertheless (I'm in Love With You)," where Earl Watson's smoother vocals prove to be no real substitute for the departed Mike Felix's stronger, harder singing.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
feat: Migil 4
2:25
2
feat: Migil 4
2:29
3 2:47
4 2:08
5 2:44
6
2:17
7
2:59
8
2:34
9 2:31
10
2:59
11 2:39
12 2:31
13 1:57
14 2:46
15 2:47
16
2:39
17 3:50
18
3:37
19
2:55
20 3:16
21 2:45
22 2:16
23
3:29
24 1:45
25
2:20
26 2:26
27 2:55
28 2:10
29
2:33
30 2:17
blue highlight denotes track pick