British artists may be finding it difficult to make a dent on the U.S. charts today, but 40 years ago it was a different story. The Beatles, Donovan, the Kinks, the Who, Procol Harum, Billy J. Kramer with the Dakotas. They all charted here.
Some of those early invaders have remained familiar names in rock and roll, while others have fallen into obscurity. Gathered together on this marvelous three-CD collection, they are reunited as a vibrant slice of musical history.
The 54 tracks have been digitally remastered, but it's not only the sound quality that impresses. It's the expansive range of the music, and the major impact made on U.S. charts. Thirty-two of the tracks were Top 10 hits here; nine of those got to No. 1. Programmed chronologically, from Billy J. Kramer to the Moody Blues' "Nights In White Satin," the songs also vividly show the remarkable development of pop music from catchy mainstream songs to the incorporation of a deeper and more progressive sound.
Disc 1 covers the early incursion of British pop with cuts from the Merseybeats, Dusty Springfield, the Beatles, and the Kinks. Disc 2 reflects the growing exploration of new sounds, with tracks from the Who ("I Can't Explain") and Donovan ("Catch The Wind"). By the third CD, the progressive movement within British music has firmly established itself, and the disc contains tracks that almost four decades later retain much of their original appeal: the Spencer Davis Group's "I'm A Man," the Who's "I Can See For Miles," and Procol Harum's "A Whiter Shade of Pale."
This comprehensive collection pulls together many cherished golden oldies, and captures a creative period when British pop was growing up and experimenting - and finding listeners here. It was a relatively brief invasion, though. After Lulu's "To Sir With Love" in 1967, it would be four years before another UK act other than the Beatles and Rolling Stones would top the U.S. charts.
- RICHARD PATON
On the heels of the gold-selling Freaky Friday soundtrack, Lindsay Lohan shows both her goofiness and a maturity beyond her years with four new songs that serve as the cornerstone of the Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen soundtrack - though she gets too ambitious trying to build a medley around partial refrains from Stevie Wonder's "Living for the City" and David Bowie's "Changes." Overall, this is a well-edited package that includes light punk and British girl group Atomic Kitten doing a period-faithful rendition of Kool & the Gang's 1979 disco hit, "Ladies Night."
- TOM HENRY
There were few things that Cash didn't cover with his songs, and what makes this package so special is that the Man in Black shares his own selections of what he thought could cover the most bases. Here are Cash's choice of images from 70 years of life, aptly titled to reflect that. The songs cover the 30 years he recorded for Columbia, and they have him in his best voice with melodies that romp or soothe as fits the lyrics and mood. The disc is in stores this week.
- KEN ROSENBAUM
The Ware River Club, a five-member band out of Ware, Mass., sounds like the progeny of Wilco and the Jayhawks, who themselves sounded like the offspring of artists such as Waylon Jennings and Neil Young. "Cathedral" is a subtle disc that soars and dives at all the right moments. The band assumes a languid pace on some cuts, but manages to deliver a musical knockout punch whether it's the gut-bucket honesty of "If I Accidentally Take Your Life" or the quiet beauty of the title cut.
- ROD LOCKWOOD
Pianist Brad Mehldau appears to be using "Anything Goes" to show that the foundations for jazz improvisation lie not only in the "standards" but can incorporate material penned by Paul Simon and Radiohead. Even the pianist's methods of handling traditional works drop them into a new groove, and when plucking from the standards bin, Mehldau seeks the less tired, choosing from Thelonious Monk "Skippy," a bright composition highlighted with well-paced cymbals and snare. Backed by Larry Grenadier on bass and Jorge Rossy behind the drum kit, Mehldau shows a fully developed musical style in marrying past and present in a manner unlike any other jazz pianist.
- LARRY ROBERTS