Various Artists

You Can All Join In

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When the Island label sampler You Can All Join In crashed the U.K. Top 20 in June 1969, it represented one of the most unexpected marketing triumphs of the age -- an (admittedly budget-priced) gathering of underground unknowns riding the label's own reputation for keeping its finger on the pulse, and out-performing many of the era's bona fide superstars. Wynder K. Frog, Art, Tramline, Clouds -- these were not names one normally expected to find hogging the number 18 slot on the chart.

Yet, place familiarity (or the lack thereof) aside, and You Can All Join In is one of those seamless compilations that simply cannot be improved upon. A dozen tracks highlight the best -- and that is the best -- of Island's recent and forthcoming output, from much-anticipated debut albums by Jethro Tull, Free, and Spooky Tooth to the sophomore effort by Fairport Convention. There's also a healthy taste of the label's most-successful-so-far signing, Traffic, as a leaf from Steve Winwood's back pages -- the Spencer Davis Group's "Somebody Helps Me" joins Tramline's cover of "Pearly Queen" and Traffic's own "You Can All Join In" (yes, indeed, this collection's title track).

The early '70s were the golden age of British record-label samplers, with Island themselves following through with three, Vertigo weighing in with the legendary Suck It and See, and CBS' redoubtable Fill Your Head With Rock ranking among a myriad others. None, however, echoed either the success or the resonance of You Can All Join In, a status that led, in the early '90s, to a CD reissue for the original compilation. No greater testament to its timelessness could be called for.

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