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Published: Saturday, 3/31/2007

Sounds: Disc sets chronicle British Invasion, best of blues

No self-respecting rock connoisseur can say his or her collection is complete without a healthy dose of songs from the British Invasion, perhaps the most important sub-genre of '60s music.

Likewise, any blues aficionado cannot do without any John Lee Hooker music. Thanks to the label Shout! Factory, two recent compilations take care of business for both types of fan.

The three-disc British Beat set is lively, cohesive and, above all, fun. Where else can you get a relatively good, cleaned-up version of The Troggs original recording of "Wild Thing" with today's digital clarity? It's a gas hearing Lulu do "To Sir, With Love" and revisiting the warm, upbeat vocals of Petula Clark on "Downtown," as well as whistling along to the bouncy refrain with The Seekers on "Georgy Girl."

Even though the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, The Who, and a few other high-profile groups are missing, there's a beautiful cross-section of 57 hits from the likes of Tom Jones, Dusty Springfield, the Moody Blues, the Kinks, the Spencer Davis Group, Manfred Mann, Donovan, the Hollies, the Zombies, the Yardbirds, Chad and Jeremy, and Procol Harum.

On the blues front, Carlos Santana and Van Morrison bring out the best in a lot of musicians - and the late, great bluesman John Lee Hooker was no exception.

This notable reissue of some of Hooker's best collaborations, due to be released Tuesday, features Santana's fluid guitar solos and Morrison's earthy vocals, plus duets that find the gritty Hooker paired with the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Robert Cray, Eric Clapton, Ry Cooder, Ben Harper, Los Lobos and others.

His song with the smooth and versatile Raitt, "I'm In The Mood," earned both artists their first Grammy in 1989. One of his duets with Morrison, "Don't Look Back," earned those two a shared Grammy, too.

Hooker, who died in 2001 and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, had a one-of-a-kind, molasses-thick baritone voice and a deep-seated blues guitar. He shows his adaptability in this collection, without compromising much of his style.

- TOM HENRY

One is too long, the other too short, but both of these self-released discs are happy harbingers for a Toledo music scene that is fresh, fun, and underrated.

Mike Fisher's outfit, Societys Ugly Son, is a big, hard-rocking boogie band with a penchant for B-movie girls, old sci-fi flicks, and monstrous hillbillies. After playing acoustic shows around the city for a few years, Fisher assembled a group of players with diverse interests, molding them into a unit that resembles a broad splash of bands from Molly Hatchet to Blue Oyster Cult.

Ably produced by veteran Toledo musician E.J. Wells (he's the hero in the title track), the disc features tasty guitar jams ("You're Like Glass"), chugging rockers ("Drag Me Down"), and weirdness ("Shoot the News Floozie," "The Demise of Weatherman Willy.")

At 17 songs over more than an hour, "Hells Hero" could use some trimming, but it's the kind of disc that grows more impressive on repeated listens.

Vytas and His Electic Outfit favors an aggressive power-pop approach, with tightly wound tunes that veer from ska-inflected interludes to speedy rockers.

Vytas Nagisetty, Jason Quick, and Bubba Baker sound like a polished, professional unit thanks to regular gigs at Toledo restaurants and clubs, and the production on this disc is pristine.

At only five songs, "Space Cadet" is an EP, and it would've been nice to hear about six more songs to fill the CD out. Knowing Vytas and crew have a few more tracks like the big classic-rock oriented "California" makes this a band we want to hear more.

- ROD LOCKWOOD

Honky-tonk music doesn't get any more hard-core hayseed than this.

Sweeney leans heavily on vintage country sounds in her debut, but gives it a rockin', contemporary attitude with her lively twang and a sassy, confident approach. It all works to give her delivery a unique feel, with a delightful voice and outstanding backup musicians.

Sweeney's dozen songs lay on the country thickly, but she avoids the studio instrumental excesses that seem to be favored by so many artists.

This music concentrates on her splendid voice, with careful doses of guitars, lap steel, dobro, percussion, fiddle and mandolin to complement yet not overwhelm her.

There are melody hooks aplenty in this package that ranges from swaying, romantic dance pieces to uptempo two-steppers to barroom chip-kickers. A special treat is her version of Iris Dement's "Mama's Opry."

- KEN ROSENBAUM



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