Various Artists

Of Hopes & Dreams & Tombstones: Beat 'n' R&B from Down Under

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All 31 of the tracks on this anthology of mid-'60s Australian rock were licensed from Festival, the most active independent label in recording Australian rock of the era. Although its limitation to one source inevitably means it can't serve as a best-of (or one of the best-ofs) for the Australian scene as a whole, it's a good collection of material from a vibrant corner of '60s rock that's been fairly neglected by listeners not from down under. There's not a single name on here that might be known even to most reasonably knowledgeable '60s collectors, but hardcore internationalists will be familiar with some of these from Australian '60s compilations on Raven and Festival itself. Among them are some very fine artists, even if they usually didn't record much, like the Purple Hearts, Steve and the Board, the Sunsets, and Ray Brown & the Whispers. It's not easy to characterize the Australian sound of the period as a whole, but generally it would be fair to say that it blended some of the better aspects of American garage and British Invasion Mersey, mod, and R&B with some echoes of surf, novelty, Bo Diddley, and American soul thrown in. Some of this material's ordinary (if always energetic), but there are at least a dozen standouts, though some of this has already appeared on other Australian reissues. The Sunsets' "When I Found You" is certainly an irresistible blend of British Invasion and surf sounds, while Chris Hall & the Torquays' "Don't Ask Me Why," the Five's "There's Time," and Jimmy Crockett & the Shanes' "That Lovin' Touch" (with the typically un-PC garage lyric "you've got that sweet lovin' touch, but you keep talkin' too much") is certainly as good as much of the garage rock compiled on the Nuggets box sets. The production, melodies, and variety are frankly better than they are on the average American garage comp, though the energy is of an equal level. It also helps that some of this is more quality pop/rock than it is simple garage, like Ray Brown & the Whispers' melodramatic and brooding "Too Late to Come Home," the downbeat R&B of Tony Worsley & the Blue Jays' "If You See My Baby," and Mike Furber's downright sorrowful "You're Back Again," which sounds like a particularly gloomy spin on the Merseybeats.

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