The R&B Scene [Deram]

The R&B Scene [Deram]


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Having infamously turned down the Beatles after auditioning them in 1962, and then grabbing the Rolling Stones the following year as a consolation prize, Decca spent much of the next couple years snapping up a bevy of R&B-oriented U.K. rock acts. Many of them (though not the Stones) are represented on this 25-track compilation, which serves as a pretty broad snapshot of this aspect of the British Invasion as a whole. The good part is that you get to hear a lot of decent to excellent non-hits that will be unfamiliar to the average British Invasion fan, from the grittiest and jazziest of the lot to pop stars who occasionally got into an R&B bag (like Dave Berry and Lulu).The not-so-good part is that a fair number of mediocrities are mixed in with the more exciting stuff. Too, even the fine obscurities here have mostly been easily available on other CD anthologies or single-artist collections, and many British Invasion collectors interested in this kind of material are likely to already have much of the best of it elsewhere. But there's no denying that the best half or so is dynamite, whether it's early British R&B-rock at its most feral (the Fairies' "Anytime at All" and Cops'n Robbers' "Gotta Be a Reason," both strongly reminiscent of the early Pretty Things); Lulu at her most raunchily soulful ( "I'll Come Running Over" ); an early example of a folk song being rocked up, though it falls short of being folk-rock (the Plebs' "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You"); David John & the Mood's "To Catch That Man" (sometimes rumored to have been led by a very young David Bowie, though that's not the case); and the Hipster Image's "Can't Let Her Go" (the original version of a song subsequently covered by the Alan Bown Set), one of the best little-known midpoints between British R&B/mod rock and jazz. There are also plenty of efforts by stars-in-the-making that are cool or at least historically interesting, like the Birds (with Ron Wood), the Graham Bond Organisation (with a pre-Cream Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker), Davie Jones & the King Bees (led by the future David Bowie), Rod Stewart, and John Mayall (whose 1964 pre-Eric Clapton debut single, "Crawling Up a Hill," is pretty terrific).

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