Sunday, May 09, 2010

THE ART OF THE COMPILATION
There ain't nothin' as sweet on God's good earth as a fine compilation. A collection of music packaged, annotated and all put together by someone else as an overview of a particular style, genre or scene. I'm an album man myself - that is, a record featuring multiple tracks by one artist - though sometimes a collection of tunes from all manner of folks is a whole lot more fun than 35-75 minutes of music from the same person or group. Such is the case with the following releases. These are some of my favourite comps of recent years - and I seen a lot of 'em - possibly of all time (ask me in a decade). Sure, I coulda put in Nuggets or Harry Smith's Anthology Of American Folk Music, but I figure you've already got those, right? The number of compilations being released covering everything from Peruvian psych to African funk to early '80s minimal synth-wave music sees no slowing down in the immediate future, and that's a good thing. You need a taster first, and then you dive right in, find out what you really like and explore further. The following releases are all worth your bother, and here's hoping you dig deeper. It's barely even scratching the surface, I know, but it's a start.

"That's What I Want" - Jook Joint Blues: Good Time Rhythm & Blues 1943-1956 4CD box (JSP/2007)
Much like the Trikont label (see below), British label JSP (that's John Steadman Productions: the guy who runs it) has so many great collections which span so many genres - jump-blues, western swing, Rembetika, cajun, jazz, old-time gospel et al - that they could have easily taken up all entries on this list. I've picked a couple, and this one, featuring 112 tracks of raw, good-time Southern electric blues from the 1940s/'50s, rates as one of their finest. Less out-and-out chaotic than the Shim Sham Shimmy release on Sub Rosa, the mood here relies less on raucousness and more on a loose, gin-soaked feel, very much like those Junior Kimbrough discs I've raved about in these pages before. Which figures, coz Kimbrough basically learned his chops from this very scene: totally regional blues where 78s wouldn't even leave county lines until Northern and foreign (white) collector dorks in the 1960s went shopping door to door.

Cantors, Klezmorium and Crooners: 1905-1953 3CD box (JSP/2009)
Despite my status as an agnostic gentile, there is something about Jewish music which appeals. Much like the soul/funk/jazz of Ethiopia, there's a certain key and tone in which the music is played which instantly identifies it for what it is. This collection is put together by 78 collector, Sherry Mayrent, a statement of fact which probably means about as much to you as it does to me, but nevertheless, this is an eclectic brew. Of special note is track 3 on disc 2: "Histendiger Chazen" by Maurice Schwartz. It sounds like a scratchy tape smuggled from a local mental hospital: Schwartz chants, yells, moans and screams solo for minutes on end, like a man having a conversation w/ himself. I'm told it's actually an ancient Yiddish chant. The rest of the three CDs contain actual music, and it's a terrific transportation into another time and place. Rockin'!

American Primitive, Vol. 2 2CD (Revenant/2005)
John Fahey (now solely Dean Blackwood's: Fahey's lawyer and friend before his death)'s Revenant label almost singlehandedly redefined the art of the box set with their 7-CD Charley Patton behemoth and then subsequently the 9-CD Albert Ayler set in the earlier half of last decade, but since they're not compilations of various artists - and since pretty much everything the Revenant label released is essential - I have to throw in something from their roster. 2005's second volume of raw pre-war gospel fits the bill perfectly. Most of the recordings are from the late 1920s and early 1930s (w/ one wax-cylinder cut being from 1897[!!]), lo-fi, coated in crackles and range from solo yelpers (some even propping their sound w/ spoons) to baptist choirs. A whole lot more in between. The God-botherers made a mighty racket back in the day.

Roll Your Moneymaker: Early Black Rock 'n' Roll 1948-1958 CD (Trikont/2008)
The German label Trikont - renowned for its compilations which span the genres of Rembetika, old-time country blues, gospel, southern soul, cajun, '70s punk and everything in between - just like the JSP imprint, possibly deserve all dozen entries here, but I'll list this one, simply because it's been a recent fave and fits perfectly w/ my current obsession with wild pre-rock 'n' roll black music. There's a lot of obvious entries here, even though it strangely omits the likes of the brilliant Louis Jordan and Amos Milburn, but that's no detraction from its uniform excellence in material. Ike Turner, Etta James, Lazy Lester, Rufus Thomas, Slim Harpo, Howlin' Wolf and Bo Diddley deliver just some of the 30 numbers. Like a party tape for the ages.

Loch Ness Monster CD (Trojan/2003)
The genre known as Oi! has never floated my boat to any great degree - barring those killer early singles by Cockney Rejects and Angelic Upstarts - but I can certainly thank the baldies for their contribution (in their fandom) to reggae. Skinhead reggae - there's no great explanation of the "sound" - was the great reggae being made around the 1969/'70, before it got drenched in dub and after it mutated from its ska/bluebeat roots. Lyrically and thematically, it's also pretty off-the-wall stuff: monsters, vampires, horror movies and guttural screams. Throw in some wild organ sounds and you've got a winner. Originally released on LP in 1970 (the now-deleted CD has a ton of bonus tracks), it features the Upsetters, King Horror, Music Doctors and more. Upbeat and often mighty strange, it's a good 'un.

Dr. Boogie Presents 26 Deranged and Smokin' Cool Cats CD (Sub Rosa/2009)
Dr. Boogie - AKA Walter De Paduwa - has now put out five volumes of goods on the Belgian avant-garde label Sub Rosa: primo pre- and post-war blues, boogie-woogie and '50s rockabilly. They're all worth a shot, but this and Shim Sham Shimmy (below) remain the finest collections thus far. I've heard of pretty much no one on this compilation, which means he's either scraping the bottom of the barrell for the sake of obscurantism or I just don't know my shit. Regardless, there's a million '50s rockabilly comps orbiting the earth as I write this, and this is surely one of the better ones. The paucity of any liner notes explaining who these unknowns are is the only drawback on an otherwise beautifully packaged and compiled album.

Dr. Boogie Presents: Ethnic Authentic Electric Shim Sham Shimmy CD (Sub Rosa/2008)
Thr roughest, wildest and rawest collection of good-time electric blues from the 1940s. If there actually exists a genre known as "gutbucket blues", then this fits the bill like a pink rubber glove. The opening title track by Champion Jack Dupree, which roars from the speaker, through to cuts by the likes of Slim Gaillard, Papa George Lewis, the great Joe Hill Louis and even a big name such as Albert Collins, never lets up the pace nor crudity of sound. 30 tracks in all. Ferocious.

Lion Vs. Dragon In Dub CD (Trojan/2007)
This is a Savage Pencil/Edwin Pouncey-curated collection of his favourite dub tunes, released just before Trojan/Sanctuary was bought by Universal Music. In other words, it was deleted before it was barely released, so it might be tough finding copies. Non-stop heavy duty Jah-drenched goodness throughout, and I & I rate it as the finest dub collection of all time (which actually means very little, but you get the point). First two tracks are the highlights: bongo-infused trance from Dadawah, and a cut by Keith Hudson from his Entering The Dragon LP of '74. Again, there's more dub comps out there than you could poke a stick at in a lifetime, but for me, few have shown the care, attention to detail, sequencing or track-for-track joy that this one offers. Hats off to Mr. Pencil!

1 comment:

Pig State Recon said...

I bought two of these comps based on previous LD posts, and don't regret it one bit. Guess I'll haveta look into the other six . . .