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At the time Back to Mono was released in 1991, Phil Spector’s reputation as one of pop’s great visionaries was intact, but there was no way to hear his genius. It wasn’t just that there were no collections spotlighting his productions, there weren’t collections of artists he produced. It wasn’t until Back to Mono that there was a thorough overview of Spector’s greatest work, and while it’s not without flaws, it still stands as one of the great box sets. Some may complain that there are no selections from his superstar ’70s productions for John Lennon, George Harrison, Leonard Cohen, and the Ramones, but that’s for the best, since their presence would have been incongruous, taking attention away from the music that forms the heart of Spector’s legacy. All of that music is here, not just on the first three discs, all devoted to singles, but also on the fourth disc, his seminal 1963 holiday album, A Christmas Gift for You, which isn’t just the greatest rock Christmas album, but a crystallization of his skills. It could be argued that the song selection overlooks some obscure fan favorites, such as “Do the Screw,” but that’s simply nitpicking, because what’s here are all the great Spector records, which were hardly just great productions, they were great songs as well. As the set plays, it’s hard not to be stunned by the depth of the material and clarity of Spector’s vision for his famed Wall of Sound, whether you’ve heard these songs hundreds of times or not at all — especially because they gain power when grouped together. Many producers have been credited as the true creative force behind many rock records, but usually that’s hyperbole. In Spector’s case, it wasn’t, as this set gloriously proves.

-Stephen Thomas Erlewine, allmusic.com

DOWNLOAD:
Various Artists-PHIL SPECTOR: BACK TO MONO (1991 compilation)
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I think this shows that Hipinion probably has the greatest actual pool of talented and creative people out of any forum or message board on the internet. Here they are covering 25 of the best jams of the 1980s like “Would I Lie To You” by the Eurythmics, “Girls Just Wanna have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper, Prince’s “When 2 R In Love” and an admittedly out of place early GBV song. Styles range from minimalist glitchy house anthem to lo-fi four track with Radioshack condenser mic.

Actually maybe that GBV cover isn’t so out of place after all.

If you have to wonder if this even interests you, then it isn’t for you.

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Various Artists-HIPINION PRESENTS TOTALLY OR TOTALLY NOT: 80s (2010)
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Re-up, better bitrate of this indispensable box set. If you don’t have this, what’s your problem? I actually like the closet mix more than the regular mix of the third album. I know, what’s my problem? -Ian!

Does this five-CD box set feature an abundance of essential material? Certainly. It has all four of the studio albums released by the Lou Reed-led lineup, and a wealth of previously unreleased goodies. Is it an essential purchase? That depends on your level of fanaticism. Most serious Velvet fans have all four of the core studio albums already (although the third, self-titled LP is presented in its muffled, so-called “closet” mix), and will be most interested in the previously unavailable recordings, which do hold considerable fascination. The entire first disc is devoted to a drummer-less 1965 rehearsal tape in John Cale’s loft, with radically different, almost folky run-throughs of most of the important songs from their classic debut, as well as a song that only made it onto Nico’s first LP (“Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams”), and one which makes its first appearance anywhere (the Dylanesque “Prominent Men”). Other big bonuses include no less than seven outtakes from Loaded and other songs re-done by Reed on his early solo albums. And there are sundry other unreleased live and studio items, highlighted by a scorching live 1967 “Guess I’m Falling in Love” and the 1969 demo “Countess From Hong Kong.” There are also highlights from VU and Another View, longer versions of Loaded’s “Sweet Jane” and “New Age,” and an 80-page booklet. The thing is, though, that virtually everyone who’s interested in this material has already bought the four studio albums, sometimes several times over. A separate release of the two discs or so of truly new material would have been welcomed by the many fans who aren’t interested in paying for a five-CD box of stuff when they already have well over half of it.

by Richie Unterberger, allmusic.com

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The Velvet Underground-PEEL SLOWLY & SEE (1995 compilation)
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No one knew quite what to make of this L.A. band in the mid-’60s, which unbelievably included Ry Cooder, Taj Mahal, Kevin Kelly (later in the Byrds), and even Ed Cassidy (briefly) in the same lineup. They only managed one single on Columbia before breaking up in 1966, but they also got to lay down an album’s worth of unreleased material, which was finally issued over 25 years later. Their languid, bluesy, folksy sort of sound anticipated future recordings by outfits like Moby Grape, Buffalo Springfield, the Grateful Dead, and even the country-rock Byrds.

Their lone single and unreleased album form the core of this 22-track reissue, which features imaginative rearrangements of standards like “Corrine, Corrina,” an obscure Dylan cover (“Walkin’ down the Line”), rocking originals, a confident performance of Goffin/King’s “Take A Giant Step” (later Mahal’s signature tune), and nifty guitar interplay between Mahal and Cooder throughout. Overall, it sounds a lot more like it belongs in 1967-68 than 1965-66. This archival release has value above and beyond historical interest.

-Richie Unterberger, allmusic.com

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Rising Sons-RISING SONS FEATURING TAJ MAHAL & RY COODER (1965, 2002 compilation)
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Has some overlap with YOU GOT MY MIND MESSED UP, but to me the only guy that ties with Carr as the greatest soul vocalist of all time is O.V. Wright. -Ian!

All 28 songs from Carr’s 1964-1970 Goldwax singles are here, which is enough to make it a fair bid for a good best-of compilation, although it doesn’t have everything he recorded. About half of the songs on this British import are not on the most well-known American CD compilation of Carr’s work, The Essential James Carr, and those tracks are consistent with the level of his other Goldwax recordings, although they don’t include anything on the level of “The Dark End of the Street” or “Pouring Water on a Drowning Man.” This disc is particularly valuable for filling in some of his earliest 1964-1966 sides, which have a very slightly poppier and more up-tempo bent than his most esteemed songs. “That’s What I Want to Know”‘s groove is pretty Motown-ish, for instance, while “I Can’t Make It” and “Only Fools Run Away” have Marvelettes-like chirping in the background. The 1970 funk update of “Row, Row Your Boat” isn’t much to cheer about, though. There are plenty who will argue the point, but this doesn’t quite live up to Carr’s billing as the greatest ’60s deep soul singer; Otis Redding (who Carr resembles in some respects) was better, and others had better and more imaginative material. It’s good, certainly, and recommended to fans of artists like Redding who are looking for similar stuff that doesn’t get played on the radio anymore.

-Richie Unterberger, allmusic.com

DOWNLOAD:
James Carr-THE COMPLETE GOLDWAX SINGLES (2001 compilation)
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Given the late Fred Neil’s near mythic reputation as a songwriter, singer, environmentalist, and recluse, the reissue of his 1965 album Bleecker & MacDougal is of historic importance. But rather than being an artifact of the man who wrote “Everybody’s Talkin’,” “Other Side to This Life” (which appears here), and “Dolphins,” this album is made of the material that gave Neil his enigmatic presence. This is a highly evocative and emotionally charged set of material, nearly all of which Neil composed. The lineup on the album was similar to his previous outing with Vince Martin, and featured John Sebastian on harmonica, Felix Pappalardi on bass, and guitarist Pete Childs (who also played dobro and electric on the date — the latter was heresy for a folk record), with Neil playing 12-string. The pace of the set is devastating, from the greasy blues of the title track to the strolling darkness of “Blues on the Ceiling,” the jug band stomp of “Sweet Mama,” and the balladic heraldry of “Little Bit of Rain,” a dynamic Tim Buckley would bring his own magic to as he emulated it a few years later. In addition, there’s the tough Chicago blues meets California swagger of “Country Boy,” which Mike Bloomfield and Paul Butterfield would perfect two scant years later. “Other Side to This Life” is its own elegiac painting in sound, with glistening dirge-like textures caressed by Neil’s baritone. The tough, battered “Travelin’ Shoes” is an early example of folk-rock with a big accent on the word “rock.” Yet, on the album’s lone cover, a gorgeously wrought and multi-textured rendition of “The Water Is Wide,” Neil added spare, haunting jazz overtones to the arrangements, transcending the folk coffeehouse prison the song had been encased in for a decade. In fact, if one listens to Bryter Layter by Nick Drake, it would be easy to hear the connection. The album closes with the winding dobro that sparks “Gone Again,” underlining the album’s feeling of rambling transience and willful acceptance of both the graces and hardships life offers. In 13 songs, Neil transformed the folk genre into something wholly other yet not unfamiliar to itself, and helped pave the way for an entire generation of singer/songwriters who cared as much for the blues as they did for folk revival traditions. This is — more so than his fine compilation The Many Sides of Fred Neil (also on Collector’s Choice) or his debut Capitol album, Tear Down the Walls — the Fred Neil record to have.

For many, the name Fred Neil will be familiar only as that belonging to the songwriter of the modern classic “Everybody’s Talkin’,” or perhaps “Candyman,” “The Dolphins,” or “Other Side of This Life,” songs that Roy Orbison, Tim Buckley, and the Jefferson Airplane, respectively, recorded. However, Neil’s influence extends much farther. John Sebastian, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Bob Dylan all claimed him as an influence, since he blended traditional and contemporary folk, blues, rock, gospel, Indian, and pop influences into a distinctive, idiosyncratic style. His music was not only influential, it was quite rich on its own terms and some of the best music of its era. Unfortunately, since Neil chose a life of seclusion in 1971, disappearing from both recording and performing, his work was neglected. Remedying the situation, The Many Sides bypasses his Elektra material, instead offering a complete summary of his Capitol recordings, including his three albums for the label (Fred Neil, Sessions, Other Side of This Life), both sides of a non-LP single with the Nashville Street Singers, and six unreleased cuts. It’s a long overdue compilation and one that certainly stands as a definitive portrait of an influential and criminally underappreciated folk-rock figure. After listening to The Many Sides of Fred Neil, it makes sense that Neil turned into a recluse — this is moody, haunting music, unlike much of the work of his contemporaries. In particular, his eponymous album boasts challenging, innovative arrangments that remain fresh and startling to this day. The rest of his work may be a little uneven in comparison, but it’s frequently compelling and often matches its heights. Most importantly, The Many Sides of Fred Neil grants Neil his proper place in folk-rock history, confirming his unique vision and talent.

-Thom Jurek, Stephen Thomas Erlewine, allmusic.com

DOWNLOAD:
Fred Neil-BLEECKER & MACDOUGAL (1965)
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Fred Neil-THE MANY SIDES OF FRED NEIL (1998 compilation)
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Multiupload is acting funky today, so I’m using other stuff. It’ll be fun when none of them work. Is there a single reliable upload service left? Jeez. -Ian!

The Merry-Go-Round’s Listen, Listen: The Definitive Collection is a near-perfect example of doing a reissue the right way. Lovingly put together by the folks at Rev-Ola, the package is a perfect blend of enlightenment and entertainment, with insightful liner notes that feature new interviews with many members of the group and their guiding light, Emitt Rhodes, excellent photos, clean and crisp sound, and best of all, the wonderful music of the Merry-Go-Round and Emitt Rhodes. First, some bookkeeping. The opening half of the disc contains the group’s lone album released on A&M in 1967, The Merry-Go-Round, the second half is the Emitt Rhodes album released by A&M in 1970 (and also in ’71 with a different cover and an altered track listing) called The American Dream. The album is made up of songs Rhodes cut with studio pros in 1969 after the demise of the group, as well as demos recorded in the latter days of the Merry-Go-Round. The package is rounded out by four songs taken from singles released after The Merry-Go-Round, the mono version with drums of “Time Will Show the Wiser,” and as a bonus, the band’s recording of “Good Vibrations” with A&M honcho Herb Alpert on lead trumpet. Now for the music. The Merry-Go-Round is a breathtaking blend of chiming folk-rock guitars, British Invasion harmony vocals, baroque pop arrangements, and pure pop songcraft that sounds daisy fresh in 2005. The Beatles are a huge influence, there is plenty of Paul McCartney in Rhodes’ sweet vocals and their vocal harmonies. You can hear the Byrds a bit, some Left Banke (especially on the sweeping orchestral pop gem “You’re a Very Lovely Woman”), some L.A. garage on rockers like “Where Have You Been All My Life” and “Lowdown”; the group definitely didn’t exist in a vacuum. There are some songs, though, that are quite unique and original like “Time Will Show the Wiser” with its otherworldly sped-up and backwards guitars and enchanting melody; the warm and bouncy hit single “Live,” and “Had to Run Around” an exquisite ballad whose tender beauty foreshadows Rhodes’ classic 1970 Emitt Rhodes album.

These songs, and the overall quality of the songs and the group’s loose and earthy playing, help lift the album above the pack and should lead to it being mentioned in the same breath as Love’s first album or Buffalo Springfield’s first when talking about classic American debut albums of the ’60s. The singles included on the reissue show the band adding piano and a fuller sound, not too surprising since many of the tracks on the album were demos. They are fine songs, too; 1968’s “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band”-inspired “Listen, Listen” rocks harder than anything else they recorded and has one of Rhodes’ most intense vocals; “She Laughed Loud” is a self-mocking tune with some great background vocals, and “Missing You” incorporates some lovely harpsichord and was unjustly buried as a B-side. The American Dream album features some of Rhodes’ best songs, like the rollicking Harry Nilsson-esque “Holly Park,” the catchy as the flu, should-have-been a hit “Let’s All Sing,” and a couple of tracks that sound like the blueprint for the sound of Rhodes’ first real solo album: the simple and beautiful “Saturday Night” and “Pardon Me.” It also features a couple of near-clunkers in the hokey Appalachian narrative “Textile Factory,” the overly dramatic “Someone Died,” and the calypso-inflected “Mary Will You Take My Hand.” The use of studio musicians also tends to drain most of the homespun charm of the MGR’s work and the grafted-on string and horn arrangements on some of the songs can veer to the point of schmaltz (“Come Ride, Come Ride,” “The Man He Was”). When you strip away the excess sweetening, though, the record is at its heart a solid pop record, not up to the standard of what preceded it or what followed, but most certainly worth hearing. The set is a must for fans of Rhodes, too, but more than that, the fact that it marks the first time the entire Merry-Go-Round discography is available on CD makes it an absolute must for fans of sophisticated ’60s pop. In a world of botched reissues and pointless collections, Rev-Ola gets it right here.

-Tim Sendra, allmusic.com

DOWNLOAD:
The Merry-Go-Round-LISTEN, LISTEN: THE DEFINITIVE COLLECTION (1966-69, 2005 compilation)
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These are excellent! If a garage rock comp is any good, it has its own distinct personality. This one is all Crypt, it has that LAS VEGAS GRIND vibe, but it’s dirty garage rock. Possibly the dirtiest and sloppiest compiled. -Ian!

Crypt Records’ Back From the Grave, Vol. 1 unearths tracks from some of the ’60s most obscure garage rockers, including brilliantly named combos like the Monacles, the One Way Streets, the Canadian Rogues, and the Alarm Clocks. The songs range from tough and alienated, like Elite’s “My Confusion” and the Lyrics’ “They Can’t Hurt Me,” to goofy fun like the One Way Streets’ “We All Love Peanut Butter.” The Novas’ “Crusher,” Me & Them Guys’ “I Loved Her So,” and the Alarm Clocks’ “Dinah Wants Religion” are among the many high points on this uncompromising, entertaining garage sampler.

The second volume from Crypt Records’ Back From the Grave series digs up more stylish, underground garage rock from ’60s groups like Murphy & the Mob, the Fabs, the Hallmarks, and the Sloths. Red Beard & the Pirates’ “Go On, Leave” is among the many high points on this uncompromising, entertaining garage sampler.

-Heather Phares, allmusic.com

DOWNLOAD:
BACK FROM THE GRAVE PART I
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BACK FROM THE GRAVE PART II
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No, this isn’t the hardest thing in the world to find. But it is interesting, and I do reach for it from time to time as a good comp of mid-late 60s Stones stuff to put on that doesn’t feel played out. “Street Fighting Man” has different lyrics! -Ian!

This is the never-released album from 1971 (or was it 1972), which was pressed on a few acetates. Some acetates were sold, for a lot of money, a couple of years ago, and….surfaced on bootleg CD after a while. The songs are either completely different takes (like “Have You Seen Your Mother Baby”), or different mixes than the official versions (from Metamophosis) Pay Your Dues (the alternate version of Street Fighting Man) and the speeded-up Blue Turns To Gray are really fantastic, as Metomophosis, several of the songs features Jagger, Richards and studio musicians, and not the other Stones members.

The planned follow-up to Hot Rocks was to be titled Necrophilia, and was to have the tracks selected by the unpredictable Andrew Loog Oldham. A gatefold sleeve was designed by Fabio Nicoli using photography by the Stones’ official photographer from the sixties, Gered Mankowitz.

What you will hear here is a vinyl transfer to CD of the actual unreleased album. Alternate versions from 1964 to 1967.

DOWNLOAD:
The Rolling Stones-NECROPHILIA (1971 compilation)
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Nuggets, Lenny Kaye’s original 1972 compilation of garage and psych, loomed large in the record collectors consciousness, canonizing a portion of rock that was originally laughed off while setting the standard for reissues. Rhino’s 1998 box set of the same name expanded the scope of that record, replicating most of the original while gloriously spilling forth over three additional discs — and, in doing so, it spurred a minor revolution, becoming one of the most talked-about reissues of the last half of the ’90s. Rhino knew there was an audience thirsting for a sequel, and they gave them one in 2001, but they didn’t take the easy way out. Instead of offering another round of American garage rockers, they decided to take the road less traveled, compiling four discs of hidden treasures from non-American garage and psych bands. Most of these cuts are from British bands, but there are also selections from a pre-fame Guess Who, the New Zealand act the Smoke, the Brazilian psychedelia of Os Mutantes, the exceptional Merseybeat stylings of Uruguay’s Los Shakers, and the extraordinary Peruvian combo We All Together, among other non-Brit acts. It’s a brilliant, even necessary, move, since most of these bands and songs have been only heard only by the most dedicated collectors — the kind that are willing to risk money based on just hearing a band mentioned, not to hear the group themselves. Let’s face it — apart from the Status Quo’s “Pictures of Matchstick Men,” the Small Faces’ “Here Comes the Nice,” and the Pretty Things’ “Rosalyn,” the most familiar song here is the opener, the Creation’s “Making Time,” simply because it provided the indelible soundtrack to Max Fischer’s yearbook in Rushmore.


This song’s publishing was by Apple and Paul McCartney demanded Fire overdub
more vocal harmonies and guitar reverb, which I think muddied up the original.
I don’t think the original, as posted here, even made it to the old 45, but did make it onto
Nuggets, solidifying its superiority!

That’s four songs out of 109 — a ratio that should simply entice most die-hard rockers and record collectors, especially since the familiar names (the Move, Them, the Easybeats, the Troggs) are represented by songs that aren’t heard all that often. So, the big question is, does Nuggets, Vol. 2 deliver and is it worth spending the money for 100-plus songs you’ve never heard before? Well, if you’re even slightly interested in this, the answer is yes. That doesn’t mean this isn’t without its faults — like any garage rock, if it’s listened to in once concentrated burst, it becomes a little samey, which is also a by-product of its biggest flaw, namely how the compilers favor songs that sound like American garage and downplaying the delirious, precious frutiness of British psych. Still, that’s a minor complaint, because the simple fact of the matter is this — there’s no better way to fall in love with this music, not just because it does its job so well, it just simply doesn’t have any peers. Furthermore, a lot of this stuff is pretty hard to come by (personally, I spent about 150 dollars on a complete Idle Race collection, and it’s much better to get their two best songs here). Also, much of the bands here are best heard in this context, since they have a song, maybe three, that were stunners — and all of these stunners in one place is stunning.

-Stephen Thomas Erlewine, allmusic.com

DOWNLOAD:
DISC 1
DISC 2
DISC 3
DISC 4
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