Various Artists

The London American Label Year by Year: 1958

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The London American label in a way helped rock music get a foothold in the U.K., as it licensed many U.S. rock & roll records for the British market from a wide variety of independent labels. This is a compilation of 28 of them, and perhaps one more bound to impress those with a sentimental attachment to the label than cold-hearted reviewers untouched by the imprint's significance. There's a fair amount of good music here, and it certainly does present a wide if not all-encompassing snapshot of rock & roll in the year 1958. Here's the problem as a collector, however: you're likely to have the classic stuff (or be able to pick it up in a better context) elsewhere. The rarities -- and there are quite a few of them, with ten of these songs failing to make even the Top 100 -- are usually simply not that great (and often a good deal less than that). The Coasters' "The Shadow Knows" and Carl Perkins' "Lend Me Your Comb" are notable exceptions in that regard, though they aren't hard to find on compilations of those artists' best material. You just want to know what the classics are? Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues" leads the pack, trailed closely by Chuck Willis' "Hang Up My Rock and Roll Shoes," Chuck Berry's "Sweet Little Rock and Roll," Little Richard's "Ooh My Soul," Jerry Lee Lewis' "Break-Up," Duane Eddy's "Cannonball," Jimmy Clanton's "Just a Dream," and Johnny Cash's "Guess Things Happen That Way." You want interesting rarities and oddities? There aren't so many of those, but Ganim's Asia Minors are certainly a weird novelty outfit that tries (not very successfully) to combine Turkish music with rock & roll; the Mills Brothers offer an unlikely cover of the Silhouettes' doo wop classic "Get a Job," which is markedly inferior to the original (though it almost made the U.S. Top 20); future soul stars Garnet Mimms and Howard Tate were both in the Gainors, though their "The Secret" isn't very memorable; and Billy Ward offers an unlikely cover of Jan & Arnie's proto-garage rocker "Jennie Lee," again in a rendition unlikely to displace memories of the original. Jimmy Starr's take on Conway Twitty's "It's Only Make Believe" also falls into that category, though its inclusion seems pointless considering it's not the original, not that good, and didn't make the charts. The liner notes, however, offer Ace's usual diligently researched cornucopia of interesting little-known facts and illustrations.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 1:56
2 2:33
3 2:33
4 2:40
5 2:10
6 2:21
7 1:58
8 2:01
9 2:22
10 2:07
11 2:19
12 2:16
13 2:38
14 2:04
15 2:09
16 1:54
17 2:19
18 1:45
19 2:10
20 2:30
21 2:14
22 2:24
23 2:05
24 3:01
25 1:51
26 2:09
27 2:04
28 2:21
blue highlight denotes track pick