Monday, February 8, 2016

Review: 'Looking Stateside: 80 US R&B Mod, Soul and Garage Nuggets'

The Mod music scene was all about give and take. Mods took the records of American soul musicians who probably didn’t know or care what a Mod was and spun them incessantly at their pilled up, nattily attired shindigs. They gave back to the scene by forming their own bands and slamming out buzz-saw power pop that owed as much to The Animals and The Kinks as it did to Eddie Holland and Bob & Earl.

Being that Mod was a peculiarly British phenomenon, those self-identifying Mod bands tended to be British. However, in the wake of the British Invasion that stirred a rabid-Anglophile streak across America, there were Mod—or at least Moddish— bands Stateside too. Perhaps some of these bands really thought of themselves as Mods. Perhaps some of them have only been identified with the scene after the fact. I have a hunch that artists such as The Sonics, The Knickerbockers,  We the People (can a band adopt a more American name than that?), and certainly Gene Vincent didn’t think of themselves as Mods any more than Joe Tex or Curtis Knight did, but I’ll be damned if hearing all these U.S. soulsters and poppers bunched together on Looking Stateside: 80 US R&B Mod, Soul and Garage Nuggets doesn’t make me want to slip on my winkle-pickers and do the Block.

The name of the game here is obscurity, which pretty much has to be the case at this late stage in sixties-pop compilation history (and this one follows three others in RPM RecordsLooking… Mod-box series). However, there are familiar artists and songs. Versions of essential Mod anthems such as “Leaving Here”, “Shame, Shame, Shame”, and “Harlem Shuffle” are here, as are a quite a number of “original” songs that borrow liberally from familiar items such as “Get Ready”, “Do You Love Me”, “Satisfaction”, “Sugar Shack” (in an answer song by Georgia Lynn that slaughters Jimmy Gilmer’s original), “Night Train” (via a visceral instrumental penned by eighties TV jackass Morton Downey Jr., of all people), and once again, “Leaving Here”. There’s also Mickey Lee Jones’s original version of “Hey Sah-Lo Ney” (cut definitively by ace Mod combo the Action but not necessarily better), an outrageously powerful number called “He’s Mine” by The Swans, The Wailers’ eardrum-pulverizing “Out of Our Tree”, and a version of “Tomorrow’s Gonna Be Another Day” that predates The Monkees’ by a few months (but hardly betters it).

As a whole, Looking Stateside is a pretty damn consistent dance party in a clamshell box, though there may be a few too many instrumentals and it would have been an even more engaging listen if the soul and pop numbers had been mingled instead of segregated on their own discs. Still, it’s fab that bin dives can still turn up enough killer obscure records to basically fill three discs such as these.
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