Mod Generation: Clean Living Under Difficult Circumstances is an amazingly fine (and fun) collection of mid- to late-'60s appropriate U.K. rock & roll -- amazing because it succeeds despite the fact that neither the Who nor the Move, the two bands most closely associated with mod culture, are represented among its 18 songs. On the other hand, the makers have reached out to some less familiar and less often heard songs even on the best-known bands here, and the result is a quirky, clever, often surprising body of music. The Small Faces, who were very closely associated with the mods, are present, but not with one of their soft psychedelic hits -- rather, they're represented by "Get Yourself Together," a deceptively defiant piece of songwriting, filled with crunchy guitar, hot drum fills, and lots of attitude. And it's sandwiched between Action's white hot "I'll Keep on Holding On" and Carnaby's crunchy, searing "Jump and Dance," with the Kinks' feedback-laden "I Need You" as the chaser. John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers' "I'm Your Witchdoctor" always showed a surprising stylistic flourish, for a group that was often too studied and practiced for its own good, and Chris Farlowe showed himself a more than competent soul shouter (with Albert Lee handling the guitar fills) on "Treat Her Good." "Michael (The Lover)" by Geno Washington & the Ram Jam Band should have been a transatlantic soul hit, and Jimmy James & the Vagabonds show their most authentically soulful side on "This Heart of Mine." P.P. Arnold had no problems with authenticity, being American born and raised, and "If You See What I Mean" is a great showcase for her voice. Jess Roden never had a better showcase for his singing than "Emergency 999" by the Alan Bown Set, which belatedly became a Northern Soul standard -- David Bowie also had to wait a long time after "I Dig Everything" to find an audience. Smoke's "We Can Take It" is almost as catchy as their one actual hit, "My Friend Jack," and seems to define the youthful defiance of the mods. "Circles" by Les Fleur de Lys decked out in flashy lead guitar by sessionman Jimmy Page, is actually a more ambitious rendition of the song than the Who's original version. And the Clique do an amazingly good job of putting over a song with the impossible title of "We Didn't Kiss We Didn't Love but Now We Do," mostly by energetic repetition of the central riff with some sense of purpose. "Baby Don't You Do It," which later became an important part of the Who's sets, gets energized as a screaming rocker by the Poets, while the Spectres, soon to metamorphose into Status Quo, are pretty impressive in this company with "Neighbour, Neighbour." And Timebox brings an offbeat jazz coloration to these surroundings with "Soul Sauce," which recalls the early work of Manfred Mann.
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AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder