Another in a regular series, here are a few vital recent releases from Ace, probably one of the best reissue labels in the world.
1. The Damned – The Chiswick Singles.
A very good cause for rejoicing – Ace, in their infinite wisdom, have decided to reissue six of The Damned’s classic Chiswick singles on vinyl and deposit them in a box set. This is the first time these vital Punk records, brimming with wit, wired energy and fun, have been available in their original and sonically best sounding format in over 30 years. The singles are first rate reproductions of the original promotional 7 inch copies, which included rare sleeves (all four members of the band are presented on the sleeve of the classic 1979 Top 20 hit ‘Love Song’, together with four 7 inch glossy photos of the original sleeves), the DJ version of the mournful, post Thatcher election single ‘I Just Can’t Be Happy Today’, the withdrawn UK test pressing release of the band’s unforgettable rendition of Jefferson Airplane’s ‘White Rabbit’ and bizarre Damned promotional items (a large Smash It Up sticker to accompany the superb ‘Smash It Up’/’Burglar’ single, a Christmas card for the ‘There Ain’t No Sanity Clause’ 45).
If you never owned these singles, or you did and had them lost/sold or stolen, this box set remedies that situation in fine style.
2. The Sonics – The Witch
Another magnificent vinyl only release from Ace: a rollicking EP by arguably one of the greatest and mostly widely influential garage punk bands of all time – The Sonics. Hailing from Tacoma, Washington, in the early 60s The Sonics honed the exhilarating roar of Little Richard and the other legendary 50s rockers into a devastating new electric, dynamic, propulsive and loud rock ‘n’ roll action sound.
Featuring their utterly abandoned lead singer and pianist Gerry Roslie, the strident and innovative guitarist Larry Parypa (who on the rare “switchblade version” of The Witch featured here, savages his guitar with a metal blade for further intensity) and the powering saxophone of Rob Lind, this EP (compiled by Alec Palao) contains some the legendary Sonics’ finest work. The unedited and frankly demented ‘Psycho’ (direct from studio master tape), the band’s throbbing version of the great Richard ‘Louie Louie’ Berry’s ‘Have Love Will Travel’ and the original November 1964, full length version of The Sonics first Etiquette single, ‘The Witch’, are all present and correct.
For further rock ‘n’ roll accomplishment from The Sonics look no further than Ace’s near definitive 2003 CD compilation, Psycho-Sonic, but for now blast out the glorious The Witch EP at maximum volume. It will be the best £10 you’ve ever spent.
3. The Seeds – A Web Of Sound
Compiled, researched and noted with original interviews with surviving band members by Alec Palao, this double Ace/Big Beat CD release of The Seeds incredible second 1966 LP, A Web Of Sound, is a lavish fitting tribute to the renowned 60s garage punk band. Released hot on the heels of their classic eponymous 1966 debut, A Web Of Sound’s numbers, such as the frantic ‘Tripmaker’, the hypnotic call for freedom ‘Just Let Go’, the druggy ‘Rollin’ Machine’ and the fourteen minute psychedelic odyssey ‘Up In Her Room’, further defined the lead singer/songwriter Sky Saxon and the group’s sonic attack but also revealed a new found ripeness and a readiness to experiment.
Also featured is the more punchy mono mix of the whole A Web Of Sound album and unused mono mix of the A Full Spoon Of Seedy blue LP, recorded late in 1966. The LP, originally credited to Sky Saxon Blues Band, is often viewed as somewhat of an abnormality in The Seeds cannon (Saxon perhaps recorded it because he felt a growing competition with The Doors), but with the advantage of hindsight it is a more than laudable shot at saluting the genre (Saxon wrote all the numbers, including the John Lee Hooker inspired, ‘Cry Wolf’) that most white American bands never cracked. The mighty Blues man Muddy Waters’ benefaction of Saxon and the group is clear indication of their worth. Waters contributed the song ‘Plain Spoken’ to A Full Spoon Of Seedy blues and members of his band performed at the sessions. On the sleeve, Muddy Waters wrote a fulsome tribute to The Seeds that concluded with the words, “Blues belongs to the soul, and they’ve got it!” No supplementary information is really required.
4. Boppin’ By The Bayou Again – Various Artists
The follow up to last year’s instant classic compilation Boppin’ By The Bayou is an equally wondrous collection of late 50s/early 60s Southern rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll, suffused with hot New Orleans R&B and Cajun boogie. Once again superbly compiled and noted by Louisiana rock ‘n’ roll expert Ian Saddler, Boppin’ By The Bayou Again captures the tremendous vigour and raw power of the swampy rockabilly created in South Louisiana.
Featured artists from Boppin’ By The Bayou return with further prime examples of hot gumbo rock: Rocket Morgan’s rockin’ tale of marital tribulations ‘You’re Humbuggin’ Me’, Pee Wee Trahan’s no holds barred ‘Bop And Rock Tonight’, Al Ferrier channelling Johnny Cash for the hillbilly style ‘Send Her Back’, the abandoned Johnny Jano’s ‘Rock-A-Me Lulu’, Warren Storm’s slinky ‘Oh Nell’ and Jay Chevalier’s celebration of the legendary American football player ‘Billy Cannon’ and his discerning analysis of the recent communist Cuban revolution, ‘Castro Rock’ (“It’s a great, great dance, as a matter of fact it’s the only dance in Cuba”).
New artists to the series also deliver the goods: Jerry Lee Lewis’ first cousin and best friend Mickey Gilley rocks ‘I Ain’t Goin’ Home’ with steely intent, J.C Politz with The Kings Of Swing reach terminal velocity with ‘Crazy Feeling’, Tony Perreau vents familial vexations with ‘Kissin’ Kin’, the Teen Hearts’ sax driven ‘Arelia’, Robert Owens demands to know ‘Whose Baby Are You’, while Rusty Kershaw makes the most primitive rockabilly imaginable with ‘Carry On’.
If you are looking for top draw, primeval, wild rock ‘n’ roll, just purchase Boppin’ By The Bayou and Boppin’ By The Bayou Again – satisfaction guaranteed.
5. Etta James – Etta Is Betta Than Evvah!
Compiled by Mick Patrick, Etta Is Betta Than Evvah! (the title spelling perhaps borrowed from Slade) is the very welcome CD debut of the late, great R&B/soul singer Etta James (1938-2012) last 1976 studio release on the venerable Chess label. James had been with the record company for an artistically remarkable and personally turbulent 16 years and her final recording for Chess does not disappoint.
Like Andre Williams, Etta James always managed to move with the times, embracing numerous, eclectic musical genres and making them her own. On Etta Is Betta Than Evvah! the accent is on mid 70s heavy funk and soul. Opening with the exhilarating, assertive ‘Woman (Shake Your Booty)’, a funked up remake/remodel of a number she recorded for the Modern label in 1955, ‘W.O.M.A.N’, Etta James proves she was still a match for any soul/funk performer, male or female, in 1976. James is equally at home singing Ann Peebles’ soulful ‘A Love Vibration’, King Floyd’s funky 1970 hit ‘Groove Me’, Allen Toussaint’s ‘Blinded By Love’ (first recorded by Johnny Winter). Rufus’ disco tune ‘Jump Into Love’, Randy Newman’s smouldering ‘Leave Your Hat On’ and Pat Lundy’s social comment number ‘Ain’t No Pity In The Naked City’.
Augmented with ten hot mid 1970s recordings, including a brilliant interpretation of The Righteous Brothers’ ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’’, the overwhelming powerful ballad ‘Down So Low’ (which James in her autobiography Rage To Survive described as “the hardest song I ever tried to sing in my life”), W.C. Handy’s gospel flavoured ‘St Louis Blues’ and Randy Newman’s sardonic ‘God’s Song (That’s Why I Love Mankind)’ and the singer/songwriter’s stealthy ‘Let’s Burn Down The Cornfield’, Etta is definitely Betta Than Evvah!
All words by Ian Johnston. You can read more from Ian on LTW here.