Lenny Kaye Presents Lightning Striking. 

Label: Ace Records.

Format: 2CD.

Versatile describes musician, composer and producer Lenny Kaye. Many music fans remember him as the guitarist in the Patti Smith Group. Lenny Kaye also worked with everyone from REM and James to Suzanne Vega and Kristin Hersh right through to Soul Asylum and even poet and writer Allen Ginsberg. This is just part of the story of a career that began in 1964.

Lenny Kaye has also enjoyed a successful career as a music journalist, and has written for a variety of magazines. This includes Rolling Stone, Crawdaddy, Creem and Melody Maker. During the seventies he edited Rock Scene and Hit Parader. However, recently, Lenny Kaye published a new book.

Lightning Striking looks back at some of the most significant period in musical history since the birth of rock ’n’ roll. The book is also part memoir where Lenny Kaye looks back at a life that has revolved around music. To coincide with the release of the book, Ace Records recently released Lenny Kaye Presents Lightning Striking. 

This two CD set was compiled by Lenny Kaye and Alec Palao and features forty-seven tracks released between 1934 and 2014. These tracks essentially trace the development of music. There’s everything from  rock ’n’ roll, vintage R&B, pop, psychedelia, garage rock, punk rock and heavy metal. Tracks from familiar artists and bands are join by oft-overlooked singles and rarities on Lenny Kaye Presents Lightning Striking. 

Disc One.

Opening disc one is the album version of Lou Christie’s 1965 hit Lightnin’ Strikes. This pop gem lent its name to his fourth album which was released by MGM. Nowadays, Lightnin’ Strikes is widely regarded as Lou Christie’s finest hour.

The earliest track on Lenny Kaye Presents Lightning Striking is Rock And Roll by The Boswell Sisters with Jimmy Grier and His Orchestra. The New Orleans trio released this single on Brunswick in 1934, and featured in the film Transatlantic Merry-Go-Round. The song marked a stylistic departure as music began to evolve and different genres melted into one.

In 1954, Elvis Presley covered Arthur Crudup’s That’s All Right,  which was released on Sun. This further classic reached twenty-eight in the US Country charts and helped launched the career of the man who crowned The King. 

Nowadays, Howling Wolf is regarded as one of the greatest ever blues men. He went on to influence several generation of guitarists, and his music is still popular and relevant today. In 1962, he was signed to Crown Records when he recorded a new version of his composition Dog Me Around aka How Many More Years. It’s a reminder if any was needed of a legendary blues singer and virtuoso guitarist.

Professor Longhair spent his career in his home city of New Orleans, and didn’t enjoy the commercial success and critical acclaim his talent warranted. However, he was an innovative and inventive pianist who went on to influence other musicians. The former dancer and professional gambler was a latecomer to music and in 1957 released Look What You’re Doin’ To Me (Ooh-Wee, Baby). It’s an infectiously catchy track and one of his finest where he out rocks his rivals.

In 1955, Little Richard and His Band released Tutti Frutti on the Speciality label. Little did anyone know that the track would become a classic that sixty-seven years later is still a favourite of music fans worldwide.

By 1969, onetime teen idol Frankie Avalon was no longer as popular as he had once been. He had signed to the Chancellor label and was hoping to reinvent himself as an all-round entertainer. This he hoped would give his career the longevity he hoped for. However, when he released A Boy Without A Girl in 1959 this emotive and heartfelt ballad failed to trouble the charts. It’s now one of the hidden gems in his back-catalogue.

When Cliff Richard and The Drifters released Move It! on Columbia in 1958, this was the start of a long and illustrious successful career that has spanned sixty-four years. 

Pioneer describes British engineer and producer Joe Meek. The music he made was very different to much of the music being released in Britain in the late fifties. This includes I Hear A New World by Joe Meek & The Blue Men. It was a groundbreaking, genre-melting track that was recorded in 1959 and was meant to featured on a concept album. However, the track was only ever released on a limited edition EP and very few people got to hear a track that was way ahead of its time. It’s a welcome addition to the compilation and a reminder of a musical pioneer.

One of the most popular Mersey Beat groups was Gerry and The Pacemakers. One of their most successful and anthemic  singles was Ferry Cross The Mersey which was penned by Gerry Marsden, and released by Columbia in 1964. It’s stood the test of time and nowadays is regarded as a Mersey Beat classic. 

When Jefferson Airplane released their sophomore album on RCA Victor in 1967, it featured  3/5 Of A Mile In 10 Seconds. It’s one of the highlights of an album that seamlessly combines psychedelia with folk rock to create a timeless classic. 

Link Cromwell is one of the aliases that Lenny Kaye has used during his long career. In March 1966, the band released Crazy Like A Fox on Starday’s Hollywood imprint. Despite Cashbox tipping the single as a potential the hit, it failed to trouble the charts. This spelt the end for Link Cromwell whose career was short-lived. However, their debut single is an oft-overlooked hidden gem and welcome inclusion to the compilation. 

Disc Two.

MC5 opens disc two of Lenny Kaye Presents Lightning Striking with a previously unreleased version of Looking At You. It’s an Garage rock and proto punk combine head on to create a track that’s explosive and visceral.

In 1969, The Stooges released their eponymous debut album on Elektra. The garage rockers opened this future classic album with 1969. It sets the bar high for the rest of an album that later, would influence the first wave of punk

American punk band the Ramones released their eponymous debut album on Sire in 1976. It featured Blitzkrieg Bop and Judy Is A Punk  as well as Beat On The Brat which features on the compilation. It’s part of a landmark album which later, was credited as establishing the punk rock genre. The album is regarded as so important, that in 2012, it was deemed by the National Recording Registry as: “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant.”

During their career, Generation X combined punk and new wave.  Their debut single was the self-released Your Generation. It was a swaggering single full of attitude that was a taste of what was to come from the London-based band.

During their career, The Clash drew inspiration from a variety of musical genres. They signed to CBS in January 1977, and later that year, released their eponymous debut album. It featured Garage Land a raw, raucous anthem that combines garage rock and punk that epitomises everything that was good about The Clash.

Dokken was formed in LA in 1976, and started off playing in the city’s clubs. However, it wasn’t until 1981 that they released their debut album Breakin’ The Chains on the Carrere label. Four years later the group released their sophomore album Tooth and Nail on Elektra. This album of hard rock was certified platinum and featured Lightnin’ Strikes Again. It’s one of the album’s highlights and features a virtuoso performance from guitarist George Lynch.

Rocky and melodic describes the album version of Edge Of A Broken Heart by Vixen. When it was released as a single it gave the group a hit. It’s a track from the group’s 1988 album Tangerine which was released on EMI-Manhattan. The album was arranged and produced by Richard Marx, and is one of Vixen’s finest.

By 1991 Mark Lanegan was signed to the Sub Pop. For his first album for the label he covered Where Did You Sleep Last Night. He transforms a song written and originally performed by legendary bluesman Leadbelly.

It’s fitting that the Patti Smith Group close disc two of Lenny Kaye Presents Lightning Striking. Lenny Kaye played on their third album Wave, which features So You Want To Be (A Rock`N`Roll Star). It’s all he ever wanted to be and is also one of the album’s highlights. This makes it the perfect way to close the compilation.

For anyone who has read or is about to read Lenny Kaye’s new book Lightning Striking, then Lenny Kaye Presents Lightning Striking is the perfect companion. It’s features a truly eclectic collection of tracks that have been selected by Lenny Kaye and Alec Palao. They’ve chosen a mixture of tracks from familiar faces and lesser known artists for this lovingly created compilation. It features singles, B-Sides, album tracks, unreleased tracks and hidden gems. They rub shoulders on Lenny Kaye Presents Lightning Striking on this truly eclectic compilation which will also be of interest to anyone who is interested in the history of music or just good music.

Lenny Kaye Presents Lightning Striking.

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