Various Artists

Unearthed Merseybeat: From the Birth of Merseybeat to Psychedelia 1957-1968

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By "unearthed Merseybeat," Viper Records doesn't just mean obscure Merseybeat, but unheard Merseybeat. Virtually all of these 20 tracks were previously unreleased, though one of them (Wimple Winch's "Rumble on Mersey Square South") has made it onto some mod-psychedelic reissue compilations. The rest is a real cross-quilt of stuff, including a few big or relatively big names (Gerry & the Pacemakers, the Merseybeats, the Merseys, and the Swinging Blue Jeans), but largely devoted to the sort of artists only known by those who read the very small print of record collecting magazine articles about the British Invasion. Given the arcane sources, the sound quality is understandably variable, from release-quality excellence to tracks seemingly taken from the dustiest of acetates and decaying reel-to-reel tapes. Even taking that into account, this is a worthy and occasionally fascinating dig into the Merseybeat remains, most of this dating from the early- to mid-'60s, but stretching back as far as 1957 and as late as 1968. The best buried treasure is an alternate version of the Merseys' "Sorrow," minus the brass heard on the hit U.K. single, and in some ways preferable to the slicker, more familiar version. The Merseybeats' "The Things I Want to Hear (Pretty Words)" is a quite good 1964 outtake, just as good as most of their singles. Also in the classic, bouncy, melodic Merseybeat style, and pretty good tunewise, are the Kirkbys' "Don't You Want Me No More" and the Eyes' "She," the personnel on the latter including Beatles associate Klaus Voormann and Lewis Collins of the Mojos. A good deal of this CD, however, is far more in the rawer R&B or instrumental rock vein, including a 1961 cover of "What'd I Say" by Gerry & the Pacemakers and a very good cover of Buddy Holly's "I'm Gonna Love You Too" by Denny Seyton & the Sabres. At the more modern end of the scale, the Swinging Blue Jeans' 1966 outtake "Keep Me Warm ('Til the Sun Shines)" is more interesting harmony mod pop than much of what they were putting out on their official records at that point; the Kirkbys' "Dreaming" is a nice, mid-'60s Beatles-ish soundalike with flowery lyrics; Jason Eddie's "Mr. Busdriver" is fair late-'60s mod rock with a tinge of soul; and Wimple Winch's "Rumble on Mersey Square South" is a superb slice of ominous storytelling mod rock. Though it's an archival compilation, in a way this reflects the actual range of Merseyside '60s rock better than anthologies that concentrate on the well-known mid-'60s hit acts.

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