Various Artists

Off the Wall, Vol. 2

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Like volume one of this short-lived '60s garage rock series, upon its initial release in the early '80s, it stood out as one of the few compilations of its sort beyond the Pebbles/Nuggets/Boulders compilation series. Decades later, it still continues to stand out as one of the better '60s garage anthologies, in part because it was able to cherry pick the field before it got strip-mined. A little surprisingly, considering the great number of subsequent garage comps, none of the 18 tracks here have been reissued much elsewhere, which makes it worth hunting down for the dedicated garage fanatic, though by now the LP itself is a rarity. Not a single one of these groups, in fact, counts among the better-known '60s garage acts, though some specialists will be familiar with the Fallen Angels, the Liverpool Set, and the Little Boy Blues. There are a lot of the standard circa 1966-1967 garage (and garage-psychedelic) accoutrements here, including fuzz guitar, swirling organ, and defiant sub-Rolling Stones/Kinks vocals. But the elemental riffs are good and, for the most part, the performances are very fresh and occasionally pretty imaginative, though many of them stick to the tried-and-true lyrical formulas of cheating women and hurt adolescent rebellion. Some cuts that stand out both for their quality and their relative deviation from the garage norm include the Triumphs' cover of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band's "Lovin' Cup," which rates as one of the great unknown punky blues-rock outings of the '60s; the Deepest Blue's "Searching," which runs through a surprising number of interesting tempo changes for what starts out as a basic garage cruncher; the Glas Menagerie's haunting Eastern-influenced instrumental "Mod Threads"; the way over-reverbed lead vocal on the Cave Men's "It's Trash"; the 3rd Evolution's slow-grinding "Don't Play with Me"; the Fallen Angels' Bo Diddley-like "Bad Woman," and the Little Boy Blues' quite acceptably early Rolling Stones-like "I'm Ready."