BEATFREAK VOL. 2: Rare and Obscure British Beat 1964-69
20 track CD, Particles Records UK
01. Lloyd Alexander Real Estate – Gonna Live Again (1967)
02. The Moquettes – Right String Baby, But The Wrong Yo-Yo (1964)
03. The All – I Don’t Go Back (1967)
04. Phase 4 – Listen To The Blues (1966)
05. The Pentad – Don’t Throw It All Away (1965)
06. Bad Boys – That’s What We’ll All Do (1966)
07. Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas – Forgive Me (1966)
08. Force Five – I Want You Babe (1965)
09. Billy J. Kramer & The Dakotas – Chinese Girl (1967)
10. Alex Harvey – Curtains For My Baby (1967)
11. Dick Jordan – Progress (1966)
12. The Pentad – Silver Dagger (1965)
13. The Trekkas – Please Go (1966)
14. Profile – Got To Find A Way (1966)
15. Marjorine – Loving Shrine (1969)
16. Red Squares – Along Comes Mary (1967)
17. The Cherokees – I Will Never Turn My Back On You (1965)
18. The Frame – I Can’t Go On (1967)
19. Split Image – Don’t Go Away (1966)
20. New Breed – Unto Us (1965)
Nice to see the folks at Particles (aka Psychic Circle, aka Past and Present, etc.) returning to the mid-60s UK beat boom with this new BEATFREAK series. There are now FIVE volumes, and all are recommended equally . As with most efforts on this label, a good amount of this material has been reissued elsewhere and one gets the sense of padding to reach the 20-track format….however, the real test of an album like this is….is it a good listen at maximum volume, does it give off a worthwhile 60’s UK beat vibe, is it well-programmed for maximum effect, are their detailed liner notes giving the history of the bands, and will most of the tracks be relatively new and fresh to most listeners. By those standards, I’d have to call this album (and the whole series—-I could just as easily have written about ANY of them) a huge success. And before you complain about Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas being on here, the two tracks on here are from later singles which featured Mick Green of the Pirates on lead guitar, and they are quite good–“Forgive Me” sounds as good as something by The Untamed or The Creation….really! I’ve never bought a Kramer compilation, so I’d never heard these singles, but they rock in a way one does not associate with Kramer’s more famous work. I’ve always wanted to hear everything I can from the UK expatriate band The Red Squares, who worked out of Denmark, so even a cover of “Along Came Mary” is well worth it. I missed the 2-cd reissue of their 60’s output which was released in the 1990’s (and I’m guessing many of you reading this did too), so I did not have this and it contrasts nicely with the other tracks on the album. Doing covers of other bands’ hits was an acceptable and enjoyable practice in the 1960’s…..hey, if you love your local band and you love a hit song you’ve heard on the radio, wouldn’t the best of all possible worlds be hearing your local band doing the song and putting their own stamp on it? I’ve never had a problem with this (Even today, I hear live music in bars most weekends and still enjoy hearing covers, when someone brings his or her own angle to the material and tries to excite a crowd). For instance, I consider the Standells’ cover of Eleanor Rigby much superior to the original, and THE SORROWS IN ITALY is one of my all-time favorite albums. The Alex Harvey tune is from a rare withdrawn 1967 single, the other side of which was on one of the later PICCADILLY SUNSHINE comps, as I remember. That’s probably been reissued elsewhere too, but as I am unlikely to find that 45 at my local flea market, I’m happy with getting it here. And how could anyone turn down a solid club-soul cover of The Pretty Things’ “Progress”? How often is THAT covered? The album ends with an extra track, not listed in the credits, that sounds like a sound library track which I could imagine being played during a film like “Gonks Go Beat” or “Dateline Diamonds,” so you can REALLY get into the 1965 UK beat frame of mind!
It’s a wonder that a solid 20-track compilation of released material (as opposed to private recordings, demos, acetates, etc.) that is solid UK 60’s beat can be assembled today. After all the PICCADILLY SUNSHINE comps, which began to wear out their welcome after a while, Particles Records’ return to raw beat-rooted singles is a relief. Tracks like the opener, “Gonna Live Again” by Lloyd Alexander Real Estate (!!!) could easily have been on the old DEMENTION OF SOUND compilation LP, and the unpretentious Beat-R&B with organ and harmonica of The Moquettes is most welcome and reminds us of what was so great about that period, when even the fourth-string bands had real roots and attitude to burn. I was unaware that the backing band from Lee Curtis and the All-Stars (who were mostly German, Lee was big in Germany and worked and recorded there extensively) continued on post-Lee as THE ALL–and their single “I Don’t Go Back” sounds like something the pre-Creation “Mark Four” could have recorded. Then Phase 4 come out swinging with “Listen To The Blues,” sounding like the Animals rhythm section with the early Small Faces sitting in. Over the years, as an Otis Clay fan, I’d heard that there was a UK R&B/soul band who did a cover of Clay’s amazing single “I’ve Got To Find A Way,” and that’s here too….a fine Brit-beat cover by PROFILE. And the album just goes on and on with one solid R&B-flavored UK Beat track after another.
As someone who’s been buying these kind of compilations since the late 70s/early 80’s with LP’s like THE BEAT MERCHANTS and the BROKEN DREAMS series, I can testify that although the material becomes more and more obscure, and these kind of albums are now featuring B-sides by bands you’d never have seen featured 20 years ago, the compilers—-like the best DJ’s spinning obscure 45’s—-can take second-and-third-string material and put it next to each other in a way that makes it more satisfying than any one song might necessarily be on its own. It’s like we’ve landed on some strange planet where the locals have modeled their behavior on some obscure South London late 1964 Beat club, and they don’t get all the details right, but they’ve got the spirit down.
I’ve played all five volumes many times now, and they hold up REALLY well. Britain was the world leader in Beat music in the 63-67 period, and the BEATFREAK series takes you REALLY deep into that world, through the non-hit 45’s and seemingly throwaway B-sides that have become precious jewels as the decades pass and the initial spark of prime British Beat becomes just a memory of a glowing ember.
When you play these compilations LOUD, you are ALMOST there, and that’s as close as you are going to get in today’s world, my friend. Pour yourself a Guinness, fire up an unfiltered cigarette, and jump into a world that, frankly, you and I probably couldn’t even find if it were 1965 again! And all for the price of a CD (and you can find these for about $10 if you look around).