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Various Artists - 2008 - "Sweet Relief"

(224:56, JAM Recordings)

TRACK LIST:                   

Too long to place here

Prolusion. This 3 CD set claims to feature 74 ‘stellar songs from the best rock and power pop bands from around the world’. It is the brainchild of JEREMY (Morris) who selected the tracks for release on Jam Recordings and contributed a few himself. However good the cause and this is a charity CD for the victims of Hurricane Katrina a 3 CD set of bands he has never heard before spanning 3? hours is a daunting prospect for any reviewer. However, despite the rather sickly cover I did manage to last the course and find much to enjoy.

Analysis. CD 1 gets off to a great start with Float on the Water by The Next Big Thing from the USA and indeed its guitar and harmony vocals are what it ‘says on the box’ ‘subtle’! The Red Button is “Revolver” inspired while Dorian Gray pop up here (and elsewhere) with a rare track entitled The Only One. The Beatles influence is writ large on this compilation but there is also one from Bill Kaffenberger ‘one of the biggest Byrdmaniax on the planet’. The standard is amazingly consistent with contributions from all over the world: the USA, Israel, Norway, Australia, Sweden, Germany, including a nice little tribute to Nick Drake: I wish I could remember which one! There are 26 songs on CD 1 alone so I’ll swiftly move on to CD 2.
A couple of Beatles tributes circa “Abbey Road” from Somerdale and Marmalade Souls and later The Zinedines are similarly ‘fab four’ orientated. There’s even a band called The Mop Tops from Sweden. It’s not all The Beatles though. There’s a bit of The Byrds in the jangly guitars of Swedish band Dorian Gray. Towards the end of the CD some familiar names appear: Ant Phillips, ex-Genesis with Guillermo Cazenave and also Barclay James Harvest with a ‘lost’ track, a demo sure to be of interest to collectors. Static Halo from San Diego is also worth checking out with their XTC inspired song Those Strings. Jeremy Morris pops up in the psychedelic Lemon Clocks, a Swedish-American collaboration. I also loved the vocal harmonies and guitars on Sweet Apple Pie’s ‘Harder than We Thought’- they don’t sound French at all! The Bradburys transport you back to those Nuggets collections on their Perfume Counter Girl while Canadian Jaimie Vernon is more ELO inspired. Japan is also represented with The Mayflowers and their ‘killer guitar solo’. The English band The Colonial Movement Company concludes CD 2 with their superb siren led, Mellotron drenched ELO/Beatles inspired Doodlebugs complete with 78 rpm ending. And who can resist a band with a name like Fran Smith Jr and the Ten Cent Millionaires and the great lyric to their song Leonardo!
Klaatu appear on CD 3. Why people thought they were The Beatles is beyond me. Anyway, an outtake from their first album is included that will be of interest to collectors. Another famous name is The Korgis (who started out life as Stackridge) and had a hit in the UK with Everybody’s Got to Learn Sometime (not the one on here). There’s also another ‘lost’ Barclay James Harvest track, an archival gem from a band with the irresistible name of The Dave Rave Conspiracy and much, much more to satisfy even the most jaded ears!

Conclusion. Those into retro rock and pop and the efforts of labels like Pink Hedgehog to keep the sixties alive and well will enjoy “Sweet Relief”. This collection proves once again, if proof were needed, the enduring influence of The Beatles to ELO to XTC, The Byrds, The Hollies et al. The only problem is there’s so much music that bands can get lost in there. I for one will be following quite a few of them up. Derivative it certainly is but immensely enjoyable and all in a good cause!

PJ=Philip Jackson: May 20, 2009
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