Here are just a few vital recent releases from Ace, probably one of the best reissue labels in the world.

The Damned
The Chiswick Singles And Another Thing

the Damned
the Damned

The Damned, the original punk outcasts, have never really been accorded the respect they deserve for helping kick start the upheaval rendered by the British ”˜punk movement’ in the mid 70’s. Then again, they probably wouldn’t want it anyway.

The Sex Pistols, the real ”˜punk’ instigators whom everybody was either inspired by or found revolting, and The Clash may have occupied the serious moral high ground but The Damned were always brimming with excitement, fun and humour, with an undercurrent of pure anarchy. At their best, this was always fuelling their high octane Stooge/MC5/Pink Fairies/Screaming Lord Sutch inspired musical assault. ”¨After an inflammatory opening bombardment with the first British punk single, ‘New Rose’ (1976) and the first British punk album, the landmark Damned Damned Damned (1977), they made the inconsistent Music For Pleasure, all for Stiff Records, and then promptly broke up.

Arguably, it was when they re-formed in 1979, without original guitarist/songwriter Brian James, that flamboyant guitarist Captain Sensible, manic drummer Rat Scabies, dapper proto Gothic lead singer Dave Vanian and new recruit, bassist Algy Ward (formally of the seminal Australian punk band The Saints), that the band really came into their own. Independent London label Chiswick would be the perfect launching pad for their return, and collected here are The Damned’s A and B-side singles, plus other rare oddities that the band cut during a couple of turbulent years.

The first of their Chiswick singles, the jubilant, energetic ”˜Love Song’, was the perfect antidote to the general misery of the period. The pop sensibility of The Damned’s punk couldn’t be denied and the record was a Top 20 hit in April 1979. After three years of trading, Top Of The Pops finally featured the band. The September ”˜79 follow up ”˜Smash It Up’ was just as infectious. The ascendant progress of ”˜Smash It Up’ up the charts was stalled by the BBC, who predictably banned the record for its perceived “subversive” content. The Damned were reprieved for ”˜I Just Can’t Be Happy Today’, giving the group the chance to desecrate the moribund studios of the Old Grey Whistle Test as the band’s sharp pop/punk/psychedelic third album, Machine Gun Etiquette, was released in November ”˜79. The unforgettable B-sides of these superb singles are all included here; the wonderfully irresistible ”˜Suicide’, the hilarious ”˜Burglar’ (sung by Scabies) and a deranged cover of the Sweet’s glam hit ‘Ballroom Blitz’, featuring their friend Lemmy of Motorhead on bass.

1980. Algy Ward left, Paul Grey joined and the group entered an even more ridiculous era. A cover of Jefferson Aeroplane’s ”˜White Rabbit’, the pomp rock epic ”˜History Of The World Pt 1′, over produced by future film score composer Hans Zimmer, and a deliberately overblown, sprawling double LP set, called The Black Album. Their Chiswick Records singles career finished suitably enough with a rambunctious Christmas novelty record, ”˜There Ain’t No Sanity Clause’.”¨

Also feature on this compilation are the ”˜School Bullies’ performing ”˜Teenage Dream’, ”˜Antipope’, a track from the Machine Gun Etiquette LP, only with a dash of violin high art weirdness from Aleksander Kolkowski in the middle of the number and their final Chiswick release, the ”˜Friday The 13th’ EP, featuring a suitably faithful cover of The Rolling Stones’ song ”˜Citadel’ from Their Satanic Majesties Request.

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James Burton
The Early Years 1957-1969

James Burton 'The Early Years'
James Burton 'The Early Years'

The saga of the great American guitarist James Burton’s early years are now told on this excellent new compilation, compiled and noted by Kingsley Abbott. It charts the fast recognition of his talents by key US musicians who witnessed the teenager’s distinctive and memorable guitar licks on other artists records. ”¨James Burton’s story really took off with his utterly distinctive playing on the late, great Dale Hawkins’s epochal ”˜Suzie-Q’, the song that created ”˜swamp rock’ in 1957. Soon after he worked with producer Jimmie Haskell on enhancing key tracks from Bob Luman (”˜Make Up Your Mind’, ”˜Red Hot’) and Bobby Lee Trammel, but the next step in his career came when Haskell introduced him to Ricky Nelson. Burton was only 17 in 1958, but straight away became the foundation for Nelson’s road and recording band as he entered his halcyon hit days: Nelson’s ”˜Don’t Leave Me This Way’, ”˜Stop Sneakin’ Around’ ”˜Blood from A Stone’ and ”˜My Babe’ are included on this release. Having such a forceful back-up guitarist must have given the introverted singer a great deal of added self-assurance. James Burton was to Rick Nelson as Scotty Moore was to Elvis.”¨With his work with Rick Nelson came credibility within the recording industry, allowing Burton to fully develop a session career that was every bit as vital. The 1960s saw him working with Lee Hazlewood (”˜Real Live Fool’), the Everly Brothers (”˜C.C. Rider’), country legend Merle Haggard (”˜If You Want To Be My Woman’ from Haggard’s classic 1967 LP, I’m A Lonesome Fugitive) and even Buffalo Springfield on Richie Furay’s ”˜A Child’s Claim To Fame’. Burton was also a member of The Shindogs, the house band for the Shindig TV show, and a couple of their released tracks are also included (”˜Someday, Someday’, ”˜Why’). Thankfully, a second volume is planned that will take in Emmylou Harris, Gram Parsons and The King.

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The Marketts
‘Outer Space, Hot Rods & Superheroes’

The Marketts 'Outer Space, Hot Rods & Superheroes'
The Marketts 'Outer Space, Hot Rods & Superheroes'

Compiled and sleeve noted by Alan Taylor and Dave Burke of vintage rock instrumental magazine Pipeline, Outer Space, Hot Rods & Superheroes collects together the very best of the whacked out surf-style instrumental tracks The Marketts recorded for Warner Brothers, between 1963 and 1966 including their smash hits ”˜Out Of Limits’ and ”˜Batman’. Many of the band’s later 45s make their CD debut here. The previously unissued ”˜Makaha’, a gem from the ”˜Out Of Limits’ session is also featured.

The Marketts’ 1966 version of ”˜Batman Theme’ is as filled with kinetic energy as Link Wray’s cover of Neal Hefti’s immortal composition (obviously some achievement and worth the price of this disc alone) and their 1963 attempt to cash in on The Outer Limits TV show (”˜Out Of Limits’) is an creepy, twang-tastic creation, which became a Top 3 US hit and the band’s biggest record. The conception of Los Angeles based producer Joe Saraceno, who produced LP’s by The Ventures and Sandy ”˜Let There Be Drums’ Nelson, The Marketts were a manufactured studio band that would contain some the best session men of the day, as such as guitarist Michael Z. Gordon, Tommy Tedesco, Hal Blaine, Carol Kaye, Leon Russell, Glen Campbell, Steve Douglas, Plas Johnson, Bill Pitman and Ray Pohlman. The whole compilation, which includes other dynamic tracks such as ”˜Richie’s Theme’, the futuristic ”˜Love 1985′, ”˜Napoleon’s Solo’ (obviously inspired by the hit The Man From U.N.C.L.E show) and The Marketts powerhouse version of John Dankworth’s ”˜Theme From The Avengers’. Outer Space, Hot Rods & Superheroes harks back to a time when enchantment came in surf inspired waves of sound.

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The Johnny Otis Story Volume 1 1945-1957: Midnight At The Barrelhouse

The Johnny Otis Story Volume 1 1945-1957: Midnight At The Barrelhouse
The Johnny Otis Story Volume 1 1945-1957: Midnight At The Barrelhouse

”¨”¨Johnny Otis, multi instrumentalist, singer, DJ, bandleader, and one of the pivotal figures in the development of American rhythm & blues, turns 90 in December 2011. Ace mark this momentous occasion with not one but two CDs in celebration of Johnny Otis’ (born John Alexander Veliotes) life and more than thirty years of recording activity. Midnight At The Barrelhouse is the first volume, and the selection within charts Johnny Otis’ early years as a bandleader through to the peak of his worldwide popularity with his first and biggest Capitol records hits. The second volume, The Show Goes On, will continue with further Capitol classics, through to his 1970s successes on Okeh/Epic and his own Hawk Sound label. Midnight At The Barrelhouse acts as a magnificent introduction to Otis’ legacy, which definitely played a part in changing the course of popular music.

What became termed ”˜Rock ”˜n’ Roll’ in part flowed from these seminal recordings.”¨”¨Johnny Otis may have downplayed his skills as a vocalist but, as can be heard throughout Midnight At The Barrelhouse, his singing is always as pleasing and recognisable as anyone who ever fronted his renowned band. He can also be heard on vibes and drums on such classic Otis tracks as his 1945 version of Earle Hagen’s ”˜Harlem Nocturne’ (surely the aural equivalent of Film Noir), ”˜Cattle Train’ (featuring Jimmy ”˜Hurricane Edwards’ Beasley on piano), 1952’s jumping ”˜Oopy-Doo’ and the two-part slow burn 1956 groove ”˜The Midnite Creeper’.

Even though Otis is not always the highlighted artist, his function in the formation of each and every one of these tracks is always perceptible. Also showcased are the great musicians from Otis’ classic early bands, such as the aptly named Pete “Guitar” Lewis (Lewis’ fierce playing on the devastating title track anticipates Robert Quine’s work with Richard Hell and The Voidoids) and Devonia “Lady Dee” Williams, plus vocalists of the calibre of Marie Adams (”˜Ma (He’s Making Eyes At Me)’), Bobby Nunn and the Robins (”˜The Turkey Hop Pt 2′), Big Mama Thornton (her still astonishing 1953 version of Leiber and Stoller’s ”˜Hound Dog’) and Little Esther (”˜Double Crossing Blues’). An all thriller, no filler showcase compilation, assembled and noted with evident love by Tony Rounce.

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Bobby Marchan Get Down With It: The Soul Sides 1963-1967

 Bobby Marchan Get Down With It: The Soul Sides 1963-1967
Bobby Marchan Get Down With It: The Soul Sides 1963-1967

Bobby Marchan, the former front man of Huey ”˜Piano’ Smith’s 1950’s R&B/rock ”˜n roll Clowns, was quick to embrace the coming changes in black American music during the 1960’s, via a series of classic soul singles for Bobby Robinson’s Fire label.”¨”¨As the decade progressed, Marchan got even more soulful. He joined up with Stax and then Dial Records, for whose boss and producer-in-chief, Buddy Killen, he recorded frequently, and always with impressive results. ”¨”¨The recordings Bobby Marchan made between 1963 and 1967 found him recording at three of the foremost locations for soul music: Stax and American in Memphis and FAME in Muscle Shoals. Get Down With It, compiled and noted by Tony Rounce, brings these tracks all together on the same CD.”¨”¨The dance floor-filler 1964 title track, which Marchan’s friend Little Richard later revamped into a template for UK group Slade’s breakthrough chart-topper, is probably Bobby Marchan’s best-known track (although not his biggest hit). ”˜Get Down With It’ is simply as funky as hell, a solid gold classic. Other strong up-tempo highlights include the FAME-recorded groove ”˜Funny Style’ (1965), Marchan’s own composition ”˜Shake Your Tambourine’ (1966), ”˜Sad Sack’ (1967) and Marchan’s 1967 remake/remodel of Huey Smith’s 1957 ”˜Rockin’ Pneumonia’, now with added Boogaloo Flu (substituting Boogie Woogie Flu) for good measure.

Get Down With It premieres the remaining two hot unissued sides from Bobby Marchan’s second Volt session (after just 48-years) – Paul Perryman/Clyde McPhatter’s ”˜Just To Hold My Hand’ and the bittersweet ”˜Too Late For Our Love’.”¨Yet it is the ballads that really accentuate Marchan’s significance and worth to 1960’s soul. Marchan was undoubtedly the man to sing magnificent numbers such as Joe Tex’s ”˜Meet Me In Church’, ”˜Someone To Take Your Place’ and Paul Kelly’s ”˜There’s Something About My Baby’ over the awe-inspiring rhythms and soulful sounds laid down in Muscle Shoals and Memphis. This music is basically timeless and confirms Bobby Marchan’s status as a real great icon of Southern Soul.

9 COMMENTS

  1. I thought The Damned’s ‘Friday the 13th’ EP was on NEMS, Black Sabbath’s old label? But if it’s not, it’s not!

    • You’re right Monty it was. A great review though Ian of a band that has never received their due credits. Good stuff!

  2. Bomp and Norton(both from the USA) are also very good for this sort of thing. Norton is especially good for very obscure rockabilly, doo-wop and early 60s rnr. Both are good for 60s garage. Norton seems obsessed with Hasil Adkins and Sun Ra, too! (Advertising slot over, now. Do I get my free LPs?)

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