Various Artists

The Essential Pebbles Collection, Vol. 2

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To be cruel, this might have been more appropriately titled "The Inessential Pebbles." True, there are two discs and 55 songs' worth of rare '60s garage cuts here, none by anyone remotely famous even on a cult level (no, Neal Ford & the Fanatics do not count). Aside from a few reprises from the early Pebbles volumes on the first disc, though, it's pretty insubstantial stuff. It sounds worse than it would have in the late '70s, when this genre's existence was barely even acknowledged; by 1998, however, so much of it has been reissued that this collection really sounds second-rate next to, ironically, the original ten-volume Pebbles series. True, much of this has been previously unreissued, but as in any musical style, simple rarity and adherence to basic parameters of the idiom don't necessarily make for memorable music. Or, to put in language a rock fan can grasp, fuzz guitars, snotty vocals, put-down lyrics, and wild-and-craziness do not necessarily classics make. Garage/'60s collectors will already be familiar with the best cuts -- the Wig Wags' ominous "On My Way Down the Road," the Four Fifths' Byrds-like "If You Still Want Me," the Live Wires' bright and raw pop-psych-garage tune "Love," and the Soul Survivors' cover of the Isley Brothers' "Shakin' with Linda" -- from their early Pebbles vinyl volumes, although the addition of the Denims' compelling, minor-key "I'm Your Man" is nice. Other than that, surprisingly, some of the highlights are shopworn covers, like the Why Four's "Not Fade Away," the Night Watch's fuzz-and-organ-driven "Shake," and the Berries' "Baby Won't You Follow Me Down."

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