Various Artists

The British Invasion Box

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While Varese Sarabande's The British Invasion Box certainly isn't a thoroughly comprehensive or complete overview of the mid-'60s boom of all things English in the world of rock & roll, it's certainly an entertainingly idiosyncratic examination of the period. Disc one, 25 Hits from the British Invasion, stretches that title more than a bit -- in no known universe was "I Knew It All the Time" by the Dave Clark Five really a hit, though since it predated their run of hits it was doubtless available to license unlike their best-known stuff, and similar legal issues make for a few other oddball inclusions. Since obtaining the rights for Beatles and Rolling Stones tracks would be either impossible or cripplingly expensive, compilers Cary E. Mansfield and Steve Massie have made some interesting substitutions -- David & Jonathan's cover of "Michelle," which was produced by Fab Four knob-twiddler George Martin, Twice as Much's take on "Sitting on a Fence," which was produced by onetime Stones Svengali Andrew Loog Oldham, and a version of "Out of Time" by Chris Farlow, which was produced by Mick Jagger himself. Elsewhere, a live take of "Boom Boom" by the Animals and Alan Price's version of "I Put a Spell on You" make for a two-part replacement for "House of the Rising Sun," and though the Who and the Kinks don't make the cut even by proxy, Long John Baldry, Hedgehoppers Anonymous, and the Herd are all here in their semi-obscure glory. But there are still more than a few great tunes here, and any disc with "Tell Her No" by the Zombies, "I'm a Man" by the Yardbirds, "Itchycoo Park" by the Small Faces, and "Friday on My Mind" by the Easybeats can't be all bad. (And yeah, the Easybeats were from Australia, but we'll let that one slide.) The album also includes an entertaining liner essay from Ian Whitcomb, whose only hit, "You Turn Me On (Turn On Song)," has been included. Disc two is called The American Roots of the British Invasion, and brings together 20 tunes by American acts that were later covered by British artists. This proves to be a much more consistent and entertaining listen than the first CD, running the gamut from Buck Owens' Bakersfield twang ("Act Naturally") and Del Shannon's melodramatic pop ("I Go to Pieces") to John Lee Hooker's primitive blues stomp ("Boom Boom") and Larry Williams' frantic R&B ("Slow Down"). Simply put, these are 20 great songs, and if these aren't the versions most folks know best, they still sound terrific compiled here in all their eclectic glory. It's fun stuff, and informative to boot. Consumers take note: both of the discs in The British Invasion Box are available separately, in case one sounds a lot more interesting than the other.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:18
2 2:07
3 2:31
4 2:18
5 2:25
6 2:45
7 3:18
8 5:01
9 3:20
10 2:39
11 2:06
12 2:44
13 2:10
14 2:53
15 2:56
16 2:34
18 2:27
19 2:46
20 3:10
21 2:56
22 3:14
23 3:14
24 2:52
25 2:52
blue highlight denotes track pick