THE FIFTY BEST COMPILATIONS OF 2014-PART 5.

THE FIFTY BEST COMPILATIONS OF 2014-PART 5.

STRANGE BREAKS AND MR. THING III.

One of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed compilation series made a welcome return in May 2014. That’s Strange Breaks and Mr. Thing III. It’s been a long time coming. Five years in fact. So, after a five year back, Mr. Thing makes a very welcome return with Strange Breaks and Mr. Thing III, which is the result of five years of crate digging. Mr Thing. is without doubt, one of the most passionate and persistent crate-diggers, when it comes to unearthing hidden gems. No stone is left unturned in his search for elusive hidden gems. Quite simply, Mr. Thing digs  where other crate diggers fear to tread. Whether it’s dusty basements, thrift stores, warehouses or record shops, nowhere is off limits. As a result, Mr. Thing’s choice of music is truly eclectic. That’s reflected on Strange Breaks and Mr. Thing III.

On Strange Breaks and Mr. Thing III, Mr. Thing chooses nineteen slices of soulful, funky and jazzy music. Among the nineteen artists on disc two of Strange Breaks and Mr. Thing III, familiar faces sit side-by-side with hidden gems, killer cuts and rarities. This includes Dynamic Concept, Disco Orchestral, Woolwich Polytechnic School Concert Band, Chuck Jackson, Sharon Cash, Harry Beckett and Zulema. These tracks become a musical journey, where the music veers between dramatic, dreamy, and trippy, to beautiful, understated and melancholy. Other times the music is moody and broody. On other tracks, the music is sassy and seductive. One thing the music never is, is boring. Not at all. Certainly not when Mr. Thing is in charge of the music. Subtleties and surprises are sprung. Mr. Thing isn’t afraid of changing direction. Using the musical equivalent of a handbrake turn, he performs a volte face. That’s what makes Strange Breaks and Mr. Thing III such a captivating and refreshing compilation that belongs in everyone’s record collection. 

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SWAMP POP BY THE BAYOU. 

When the first compilation of Swamp Pop was released back in the early seventies, it was a genre without a name. So, the compilation was simply called The Other Sound Of The South. Then Bill Millar coined the term Swamp Pop. That day, a new musical genre was born. Swamp Pop is still as popular today, as back in the late-fifties, when some of the music on Ace Records’ compilation Swamp Pop By The Bayou was first released.

Swamp Pop By The Bayou is the latest instalment in Ian Saddler’s By The Bayou series. It was recently released on Ace Records and is the seventh compilation in the By The Bayou compilation series. There are twenty-eight tracks on Swamp Pop By The Bayou. Fourteen of the tracks were released between 1959 and 1964. This includes tracks from Vince Anthony With The Blue Notes, Jay Richards & The Blues Kings, Warren Storm, Rocket Morgan, Frankie Lowery and John Fred. Then there’s fourteen previously unreleased track. Among them, are tracks from Guitar Jeff, George, Tommy Strange, Bee Arnold and Rocket Morgan. For anyone interested in Swamp Pop, this mixture of familiar faces and hidden gems will be essential listening. Indeed, Swamp Pop By The Bayou takes the listener on a compelling, enthralling and mesmeric musical journey through Louisiana’s musical past. 

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THE COMPLETE FAME SINGLES VOLUME 1-1964-1967.

Mention Southern Soul, and certain labels spring to mind. Among them are Stax, Hi Records and Fame Records. These three labels are synonymous with Southern Soul. Together, they released some of the greatest music in the history of Southern Soul. Indeed, the artists who walked through the doors of Stax, Hi and Fame Records reads like a who’s who of Southern Soul. However, for far too long, Southern Soul has been overlooked. Instead, record labels have focused on labels like Philadelphia International Records and Motown. Thankfully, that’s no longer the case. Now reissue labels like Kent Soul, a subsidiary of Ace Records, are releasing a series of lovingly compiled compilations of music released by Fame Records. One of the most recent compilations is The Complete Fame Singles Volume 1-1964-1967. 

The Complete Fame Singles Volume 1-1964-1967 is the first in a three disc series featuring every single released by Fame Records. It’s a double album featuring twenty-six tracks on each disc. With a mammoth fifty-two tracks, this is one of the most comprehensive retrospectives of singles released by Fame Records. This means there’s contributions from some of the most influential artists in Fame Records’ history. This includes twenty-two tracks from Jimmy Hughes, six from Clarence Carter and a quartet of tracks from Dan Penn, Terry Woodford, Arthur Conley and Art Freeman. Then June Conquest, Spooner and The Spoons, James Barnett and The Villagers contribute two tracks each. That makes fifty-two tracks. For a newcomer to Fame Records, then The Complete Fame Singles Volume 1-1964-1967 is the perfect introduction to one of Southern Southern’s greatest labels.

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THE SOUND OF SIAM VOLUME 2.

For many people, Soundway Records’ compilation The Sound of Siam was their introduction to Thailand’s music. It was released to critical acclaim in November 2010. Sound of Siam was a trendsetting compilation. After that, interest in Asian music exploded. Record companies jumped on the bandwagon. Compilations of Indonesian, Cambodian, Vietnamese, South Korean and Singaporean music were released. Suddenly, Asian music was on trend. That’s still the case in  May 2014, when The Sound Of Siam Volume 2 was released.

Compilers Chris Menist, Maft Sai and Miles Cleret have dug deep for what’s a combination of hidden gems, rarities and classics. That describes The Sound Of Siam Volume 2 perfectly. The Sound Of Siam Volume 2 also shows that there’s more to North East Thailand than molam. Much more. There’s also luk thung. Both genres sit side-by-side on n The Sound Of Siam Volume 2. However, often this is  molar and luk thung with a twist. Everything from blues, funk, highlife, jazz, pop, psychedelia and rock melts into one on The Sound Of Siam Volume 2, which was recently released by Soundway Records. That’s why The Sound Of Siam Volume 2 is best described as a genre-melting compilation of Thai music released between 1970 and 1982.

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TOO SLOW TO DISCO.

For the last thirty years, many people have mocked the seventies West Coast sound. They viewed the lush harmonies, slick sound and clever chord progressions with disdain. One of the reasons for this was that West Coast rock was perceived as the music of the establishment. When punk came along, groups like the Sex Pistols, The Clash and The Stranglers took to mocking West Coast rock. These groups cast themselves as class warriors. Helping spread their message was the music press. Unquestionably, they parroted the message of these new class warriors. Their message was met by slavish approval. Now however, this wrong has been righted, and the seventies  West Coast sound is back, and best of all, it’s fashionable.  Recently, a number of compilations have celebrated the West Coast sound, including Too Slow To Disco, which was released on How Dare You Are Recordings. 

Classics, hidden gems and rarities sit side-by-side. There’s contributions from West Coast royalty, including The Doobie Brothers, Fleetwood Mac, and Chicago. There’s also contributions from Tony Joe White, Rupert Holmes and Matthew Larkin Cassell on Too Slow To Disco. It’s the perfect introduction to the delights of the much maligned West Coast sound. It received a bad press in the late-seventies and early-eighties from blinkered musicians and music journalists. They perceived the West Coast sound as the music of the establishment. As a result, the West Sound incurred the wrath of these class warriors. They encouraged a generation to ignore the many, and varied, delights of the West Coast sound. That was a great shame. Hopefully, a new generation of music lovers won’t make the same mistake. After all, there’s a cornucopia of great music awaiting discovery. The nineteen tracks on Too Slow To Disco are an introduction to the West Coast sound. Hopefully, How Dare You Are Recordings will release further volumes in the Too Slow To Disco series and a new generation will discover the delights of the West Coast sound.

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UNDER THE INFLUENCE VOLUME 4-COMPILED BY NICK THE RECORD.

For Under The Influence Volume 4, there is a a new compiler. Nick The Record takes over compiling duties on Under The Influence Volume 4. Nick is responsible for compiling the latest in the Under The Influence series. This means that Nick The Record has been busy. That’s an understatement. He has been on a crate digging expedition extraordinaire and has discovered some of the rarest disco, funk and boogie. Over the two discs on Under The Influence Volume 4-Compiled By Nick The Record, the listener is introduced to a platter of musical delights including Boogsie, The Family Tree, Jean Adebambo, Wild Fire, Leston Paul, Santth, Shelbra Deane, Ronnie Jones, Charlie Mike Sierra and State Of Grace.

Under The Influence Volume 4-Compiled By Nick The Record is, without doubt, the best of the four volumes. There’s no filler whatsoever. Instead, Under The Influence Volume 4-Compiled By Nick The Record is chock full of quality music.  As one great song finishes, another begins. Just when you think you’ve heard the highlight of Under The Influence Volume 4-Compiled By Nick The Record, you’re forced to think again.  Under The Influence Volume 4-Compiled By Nick The Record is an eclectic selection of floor-fillers. Some of them are familiar faces, others hidden gems. Boogie, disco, electronica, funk, Italo Disco and soul can all be found on Under The Influence Volume 4-Compiled By Nick The Record. They sit happily side-by-side on Under The Influence Volume 4-Compiled By Nick The Record, the latest and best in ZR Records Under The Influence series. 

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VAMPS ET VAMPIRE-THE SONGS OF SERGE GAINSBOURG.

Maverick, bon viveur, raconteur and rebel. These are just a few of the words that describe French singer, songwriter, poet, composer, artist, actor and director Serge Gainsbourg. He’s one of the most influential and controversial figures in French culture. Serge did things his way. Often that proved controversial. A master of wordplay his are lyrics funny, provocative, satirical, subversive, shocking and thought-provoking. This was the case throughout his career. During his career, it was impossible to categorise Serge’s music.  His back-catalogue is best described as eclectic. He recorded everything from chanson, disco, jazz, mambo, new wave, pop, prog rock, reggae, rock ’n’ roll and ye ye. Serge’s music was recorded by a whole host of artists, including many female singers who feature on compilation Vamps Et Vampire-The Songs Of Serge Gainsbourg which was released by Ace Records.

Vamps Et Vampire-The Songs Of Serge Gainsbourg is the perfect introduction to Serge Gainsbourg’s music. It features contributions from some of the greatest French female vocalists. Among them are Françoise Hardy, Marianne Faithfull, Juliette Gréco, Marianne Faithfull, Jane Birkin, Brigitte Bardot and Michèle Torr. It’s like a who’s who of French music. Each of these songs have one thing in common, they were written by Serge Gainsbourg. He was one of the most influential and controversial figures in French culture. Serge did things his way. Often that proved controversial. A master of wordplay his are lyrics funny, provocative, satirical, subversive, shocking and thought-provoking. This was the case throughout his long and successful career. Sadly, Serge Gainsbourg passed away in March 1991. Twenty-three years ago, French music lost one of its legends. He’s sadly missed and Vamps Et Vampire-The Songs Of Serge Gainsbourg is a reminder of the man and his music.

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VELVET REVOLUTIONS PSYCHEDELIC ROCK FROM THE EASTERN BLOC VOLUME TWO 1968-1971.

One of the last sources of undiscovered music has to be what was the former Eastern Bloc. Especially the music released during the psychedelic era. As a result, music lovers in the West never got to discover the psychedelic rock music that was popular within the Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Poland and Hungary. Each of these countries had a thriving psychedelic scene between 1968 and 1971. However, many music lovers are still unaware of this.

It’s only very recently that Eastern European psychedelia is starting to be heard by a wider audience. One of the labels flying the flag for Eastern European psychedelia are Particles. They released Velvet Revolutions Psychedelic Rock From The Eastern Bloc Volume Two 1968-1971. It’s the followup to Velvet Revolutions-Psychedelic Rock From The Eastern Bloc 1969-1973. Released in 2013, this for many people, was their introduction to Eastern European psychedelia.This was just the tip of a musical iceberg, as Velvet Revolutions Psychedelic Rock From The Eastern Bloc Volume Two 1968-1971 proves.

There’s music from Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Poland and Hungary. This includes Olympic, Progress Organisation, Kameloni, The Matadors, Romauld I Roman, Crupa 220, Breakout, Blue Effect, Omega and No To Co. The music is groundbreaking and genre-melting. Everything from avant garde, blues, folk, pop, psychedelia, prog rock and rock can be heard on Velvet Revolutions Psychedelic Rock From The Eastern Bloc Volume Two 1968-1971. Just like the best in American, African, British and Western European psychedelia, the music on Velvet Revolutions Psychedelic Rock From The Eastern Bloc Volume Two 1968-1971 has stood the test of time. It’s truly. timeless. Indeed, the music sounds way ahead of its time. Sadly, for most people, they’ll never have heard the music on Velvet Revolutions Psychedelic Rock From The Eastern Bloc Volume Two 1968-1971. Hopefully, this will change, and Velvet Revolutions Psychedelic Rock From The Eastern Bloc Volume Two 1968-1971 is just the start of a comprehensive reissue program of Eastern European psychedelia.

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VERCKYS ET L’ORCHESTRE VEVE-CONGOLESE FUNK, AFROBEAT AND PSYCHEDELIC RUMBA 1969-1978.

Recently, on 8th Decmeber 2014, Analog Africa released Verckys Et L’Orchestre-Congolese Funk, Afrobeat and Psychedelic Rumba 1969-1978. It’s an eleven track celebration of the Orchestre Veve’s music. 

Just as I’ve come to expect from Analog Africa, Verckys Et L’Orchestre-Congolese Funk, Afrobeat and Psychedelic Rumba 1969-1978, is a lovingly compiled compilation. It was compiled by label owner Samy Ben Redjeb. He’s dug deep into the Orchestre Veve’s vaults, and has compiled a compilation that reflects their eclecticism. As a result, Verckys Et L’Orchestre-Congolese Funk, Afrobeat and Psychedelic Rumba 1969-1978 is a fitting tribute to one of the most innovative, influential and pioneering Congolese orchestras, Orchestre Veve, which was lead by musical maverick Georges Mateta Kiamuangana.

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WILLIAM ONYEABOR-WHAT?

It was only when David Byrne’s Luaka Bop released World Psychedelic Classics 5: Who is William Onyeabor in October 2013, that the wider world first heard the music of one the most mysterious and elusive musicians. A year later, and it’s no longer just discerning musical connoisseurs who love the music of William Onyeabor. No. Many people within the music industry are fans of William Onyeabor’s music. So much so, that when Luaka Bop decided to release an album of cover versions and remixes of William Onyeabor’s music, that many high profile musicians and remixers offered their services. This includes Hot Chip, The Vaccines, Justin Strauss and Brian Mette, JD Twitch, Javelin, Policy and Scientist. They all feature on William Onyeabor-What?! It’s a ten track compilation which was released during September 2014.

These artists and remixers have taken some of William Onyeabor’s best known tracks and reinvented them on William Onyeabor-What?! The tracks are transformed. New life and meaning is breathed into a selection of William Onyeabor classics. As a result, William Onyeabor-What?! is the perfect companion to World Psychedelic Classics 5: Who is William Onyeabor. They’re the perfect introduction to a musical innovator, who fused a multiplicity of musical genres and influences to create his own unique and inimitable sound.

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YOU TALK TOO MUCH-THE RIC AND RON STORY VOLUME 1. 

Joe Ruffino founded his Ric and Ron labels in 1958. For the next five years, they were one of New Orleans’ premier independent R&B labels. During this five year period, artists of the calibre of Professor Longhair, Irma Thomas, Johnny Adams, Eddie Bo and Eddie Laing released singles on the Ric and Ron labels. Many of these singles were written or produced by Joe Ruffino. This was pretty good going for someone who originally, had started out in the record distribution business. Little did Joe realise that Ric and Ron would become so successful, so much so, that a whole host of labels would model themselves on his labels. What Joe would also surprised Joe Ruffino is that forty-one years after his labels shut their doors for the last time, interest in the music released by Ric and Ron has never been higher. That’s why Ace Records have recently released You Talk Too Much-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 1.

On You Talk Too Much-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 1, are twenty-four tracks from the vaults of Ric and Ron. There’s contributions from Professor Longhair, Irma Thomas, Al Johnson,  Tommy Ridgley and Joe Jones. Compiled by Tony Rounce who wrote the sleeve-notes, this is the first in a series of compilations featuring the music released by Ric and Ron. The music on You Talk Too Much-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 1, is among the finest R&B released by New Orleans labels between 1958 and 1960. Well known artists and unknown artists sit side by side on You Talk Too Much-The Ric and Ron Story Volume 1. They have one thing in common, and that they recorded some timeless R&B. Backed by some of New Orleans’ finest musicians, these artists are responsible for some of the finest music released on Joe Ruffino Ric and Ron labels.

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So, that’s what I regard as the best fifty compilations I’ve reviewed during 2014. It wasn’t easy choosing the fifty finest. I could just as easily chosen another ten or twelve compilations. However, after much contemplation this is what I regard as the best fifty compilations I’ve reviewed during 2014. I’ll do it all again in 2015.

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