While Philadelphia is generally thought of as the birthing ground of Dick Clark's American Bandstand and the truckload of micro-talents that inhabited that show while real rock & roll languished in the corner, these 16 tracks from Jack Howard's Philadelphia-based Arcade label show another side of the musical coin. Howard was an early promoter and publisher for Bill Haley back in the days when his band was known as the Four Aces of Western Swing and Arcade was primarily an outlet for country artists from the East Seaboard states. But as the Four Aces metamorphosed into the Comets and Bill Haley became the first White rock & roller to hit the national charts, Howard started gearing Arcade releases toward the shakin' beat, and the 16 cuts anthologized here show his grasp of the changing times. Much of this compilation has a spinoff Haley feel, and members of the Comets would often participate -- both collectively and individually -- in recording sessions for Arcade, sometimes contributing material as well. Two of the tracks compiled here, the Kingsmen's (not the "Louie Louie" group) "It Should've Been Me" and the Highlighters' "Hot to Trot" are in actuality the Comets moonlighting away from Bill Haley. Ray Coleman and the Skyrockets' "Jukebox Rock 'n' Roll" is the opening track here and while he may be a Haley acolyte, he nonetheless comes up with a fine sound on this and "Everybody's Rockin' Tonight." Bill Moss was a hick singer to the bone, but the unbelievably sleazy-sounding "You Look Like Something That the Cat Drug In" and "Rockabilly Hop" show that he had an effective grasp on the new style. The hillbilly boogie side of things is represented by Jesse Rogers' "Jump Cats Jump," Jimmy Collett's "Four Alarm Boogie" and "Beetle Bug Boogie," and Curly Herdman's "Buck Fever Boogie." Those with a nose for history will revel in the original pre-Bill Haley and the Comets version of "Rock Around the Clock" by Richmond, Virginia's Sonny Dae and the Knights, the record that inspired Haley to record his version of the tune. Although kernels of the famous version appear here and there in the band's arrangement, it becomes obvious that this is one time Haley and the Comets had the definitive version. Part of a two-volume set, this shines some light on some obscure recordings deserving of a much wider audience.
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