One would think that this series by Castle Music and Sequel Records would be starting to run out of steam after eight volumes, but there's no shortage of worthwhile sunshine pop and freakbeat-style sides on this 78-minute, 29-song CD. Opening with the beautiful yet punchy "One Way Street" by Floribunda Rose, this disc never lets the listener go; one wishes that more were known (like, anything at all) about the Blinkers, whose "Dreams Secondhand" manages to come within inches of sounding like a commercial jingle while still working in some intense fuzz guitar. There are some known quantities here, including Episode Six -- whose members harmonize the way Deep Purple never even tried -- the Tremeloes, and the Marmalade ("Butterfly"), plus one surprise in the form of a person famous in other venues trying her hand at music: Britt Ekland no less, working simply as Britt, gives listeners a kind of Nico-meets-Phil Spector amalgam in the form of "You Really Have Started Something." The Rainbow People may sound a little too upbeat, like the New Seekers trying to be perky -- and a song that sounds a little too much like the title song from The Partridge Family television show doesn't help -- but that's about as soft as anything gets here, and does little harm to the mood, juxtaposed with the Tremeloes' Beatle-esque, crunchy, and fuzz-laden "Gentleman of Pleasure." The Onyx's "It's All a Put On" shows that folk-rock still had its adherents as late as 1968 -- their ornate guitar and organ accompaniment covers for the retro feel of the single, which might've been a huge hit had it surfaced two year earlier. Gary Aston's "His Lordship" plays like a first-person rethinking of the Kinks' "A Well-Respected Man" without the irony, but there is a lot of unintended humor in its attempt at "angst." Nobody seems to know anything about Linsey Moore, which is a shame -- as a folksinger with a pop sensibility, she sounds (based on "Linsey's Song") as though she could've been another Mary Hopkin. Based on "With My Baby," John Galt deserved better than the anonymity he achieved, but two of his backing musicians, Benny Gallagher and Graham Lyle, did find fame later on. Everything here is pleasant and most of it is extremely well played and well sung, with the best -- Ways & Means' beautifully ornate and crunchy "Sea of Faces" -- saved for next to last. It's all well mastered and very thoroughly annotated, and fun from beginning to end.
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