Considering there are no Beatles, Rolling Stones, Who, Dave Clark Five or Pretty Things, the title of Absolutely the Best of the British Invasion (Fuel 2000 Records) was rather misleading. But the artists and songs featured are top of the line, making this 14-track disc a handy little guide for 60s Anglophiles craving a nibble of their favorite sounds.
The Yardbirds open the show with the psychedelic sting of “Shapes Of Things.” Illuminated by an eruption of wailing guitars, the winning tune is joined by a couple of other classic acid-inflected songs like the jaunty joss stick pop of “Itchycoo Park” from the Small Faces and Status Quo’s “Pictures Of Matchstick Men” that bubbles and squeals to the distorted din of wobbly wah-wah chords and abstract imagery.
[SOMETHING ELSE! INTERVIEW: Founder Jim McCarty on continuing the Yardbirds' legacy into a new era, and his hopes for Chris Dreja's return.]
Elsewhere, there’s the poetic folk rock of Donovan’s “Catch The Wind,” the Unit Four Plus Two’s bossa nova styled “Concrete And Clay,” Manfred Mann’s jolly cover of Bob Dylan’s “The Mighty Quinn” and the Animals growling and howling their way through the determined promise of “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place,” which decades on, resonates with a lot of people trapped in dead end situations.
Booming with dramatic Phil Spector influenced production smarts and grand harmonies, “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” by the Walker Brothers mates the romantic blue-eyed soul of Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield with the plush beauty of the Beach Boys to toe-curling effects, while the jazzy keyboard-slathered “She’s Not There” by the Zombies and the jingly jangly twelve-string splendor of “Needles and Pins” from the Searchers stand as additional stunners included here.
The Kinks check in with the witty and sarcastic observations of “A Well Respected Man” and the Tremeloes go to bat with “Here Comes My Baby,” a super spunky slice of hand-clapping pop accenting the band’s flawless vocal and melodic prowess.
Before embracing Beethoven, Mozart and Timothy Leary, the Moody Blues earned their bread and butter by playing rhythm and blues with a pop bent. Dripping with heartbreak and longing, but hopelessly catchy, “Go Now” is a fine example of the future progressive rocker band’s early work. Gerry and the Pacemakers close the set with “Ferry Across The Mersey,” an impassioned middle-of-the-road ballad.
Timeless and tasty, Absolutely the Best of the British Invasion offers a nice sampling of acts whose inspiration continues to loom large.