Various Artists

Pebbles, Vol. 1-28

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Though 1972's Nuggets compilation reawakened listeners to the sounds of mid-'60s garage rock, it only focused on the tip of the iceberg. Behind those forgotten hits and semi-hits lurked hundreds, if not thousands, of regional hits and flops from the same era, most even rawer and cruder. In the late '70s, the Pebbles compilations came along to fill in the gap and then some. Each volume gathered 15 to 20 obscure 45s, originally issued on tiny labels and remastered right from the excruciatingly rare original vinyl. The featured acts were unknown to anyone but collectors and those who happened to have lived in the areas where the bands played. More than any other factor, these compilations were responsible for the resurgence of interest in garage rock, which remains high among collectors to this day. Though the lyrics are at times downright juvenile and sexist, the main attraction is the sound and stance, which anticipates the outrage of punk rock, but tempers it with tough British Invasion-inspired melodies, harmonies, and hooks, as well as fuzz-toned guitars, Farfisa organs, and wildly manic songwriting and performances. There are a lot of great unknown songs on Pebbles, but there are also a fair number of generic tunes that have little to recommend them beyond an excess of energy, which can make listening to an entire volume at once as much a challenge as a joy. Listeners approaching this series for the first time should search for the first ten volumes; after this initial burst, the well ran increasingly dry, and the later volumes can be a chore. Most of the individual installments don't have themes, but those looking for a concentration of certain items should check out the third (psychedelia) and sixth (British R&B/mod) volumes. Of special interest among the later volumes are installments devoted to wide-ranging obscurities from the European continent.