The Beat Merchants

The Beats Go On...

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Listening to this 19-song compilation of official singles and demo tracks by the Beat Merchants, one just wants to ask, "What the hell went wrong?" Based on these sides, these guys had it all, a distinctive guitar attack, nicely coarse vocals, and a ton of collective charisma, but they never made it as a recording act. Whether they're engaging in Beatles-like balladry ("Was Before") or going head-to-head with the Rolling Stones on Muddy Waters' "Messin' With the Man," the Beat Merchants were making entertaining, exciting, and interesting records; even "Does It Show," a sub-Who hard rock ballad, is utterly diverting, and the best of the cuts here, "Pretty Face," "Moanin'," "Reasons," "So Fine," "On a Summer Day," "Pretty Thing," and "Not Guilty" -- the latter a sneering punk anthem from very late in their history, which shows they still had what it took as players and songwriter in 1966, without a recording contract to their names -- are as good as any archival releases by the Yardbirds and the Kinks et al.