Various Artists

Perfect for Parties: Highlight Album

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Germany's Bear Family label is recognized as the premiere reissuer of roots music in the world; its catalog of complete recordings box sets and single-disc anthologies encompasses a huge swath of the most popular and obscure hillbilly and rockabilly artists of yesteryear. Perfect for Parties: Highlight Album, which takes its title and cover art from a rare Elvis Presley EP, is a budget-priced, 33-song sampler with selections from the label's more niche-oriented releases. Although Bear Family has reissued the complete recordings of big-name artists such as Hank Snow, Lefty Frizzell, and Jim Reeves, you won't find their music on this collection. Instead, the listener is treated to rockabilly rarities from Rod Morris ("Alabama Jail House"), the hot '40s string band stylings of Curley Williams ("Just A-Pickin' and A-Singin'"), and the Western swing of Johnnie Lee Wills ("The Band's a Rockin'"). Considering the amount of material available in Bear Family's catalog, Perfect for Parties could have been the ultimate hillbilly bop anthology, but some of the selections are questionable. Larry Nolen's out-of-tune warbling on "Hillbilly Love Affair," for one, is far from the best cut on The Sarg Records Anthology box set it represents, and Betty Cody's "Pale Moon" -- inspired by Slim Whitman's "Indian Love Call" -- is fine, but not exactly "perfect for parties," except perhaps as the guests are packing up to leave. There are many classic recordings, though, from Jumpin' Bill Carlisle, Charlie Adams, Hank Locklin, and Roy Hogsed. Perfect for Parties is much cheaper than comparable compilations from Buffalo Bop and Collector Records, and few collectors are likely to have many of these recordings even though they have been previously reissued, so it's a good value overall. With Perfect for Parties, Bear Family has succeeded in creating a label sampler that simultaneously advertises its more obscure offerings and stands alone as an entertaining collection of boppin' obscurities.

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