Forty-five more 45s from the roots-rocking storehouses of Norton Records, this set crams more oddities, outliers and forgotten one-hitters into a three-disc set than anything since the first I Hate CDs. There are a few well-known names – rockabilly founding father Charlie Feathers hiccupping his way through “We’re Getting Closer to Being Apart” and girl group grandmere Mary Weiss (with the Reigning Sound as back-up) urging us all to “Stop and Think It Over.” There’s loose garage cannon Andre Williams covering the always fun, always raunchy “Daddy Rolling Stone” and Arthur Lee of Love stealing a big dollop of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” and calling it “Stay Away.” Suzi Quatro’s first band, the Pleasure Seekers, rips through a sublimely unpremeditated “What a Way To Die,” and the Dictators execute “16 Forever” with unadulterated skeeze.
Every variety of stripped down, pre-Beatles mayhem gets a track or two – rockabilly, jump blues, R&B, doo-wop and the kind of bone-simple garage rock that makes “Louie Louie” sound like Sondheim. There’s no real logic to the sequencing, either. Tracks are organized not by style or date or, even alphabetically, but rather like a really demented back-yard party where someone’s weird uncle is spinning from a box of discs he found at garage sales.
It’s all, or mostly all, good stuff. (The lone track by the Real Kids feels both out-of-place and sub-par.) But no question, the best cuts are the weird ones. Here’s the R&B oddity T. Valentine goofing through his mid-1960s how-could-that-be-a-hit classic “Lucille, Are You A Lesbian?” There’s the Saxons caravan chugging a whacked out “Camel Walk.” And don’t look now, but isn’t that late 1960s soul man (Jewish division?) Nathaniel Mayer insisting that he “don’t want no bald headed woman telling him what to do?”
There’s something unsettling about this mega-stack of records with holes in the middle getting wrapped up into a digital box set – like certain developing countries that are skipping whole phases of technology and going straight to the future. And when singles, like maraschino cherries, were clearly meant to be consumed one by one (with lots of brown liquor), it is somewhat daunting to dig into a big lot of 45. Yet these are minor existential concerns, and no concern at all next to idea of missing Dixie Dee and the Rhythm Rocker’s ghostly “Maxine” or the lovely harmonies of Mighty El Dukes doo-wop “Walking Beside You” (like Curtis Mayfield’s Temptations, but rougher and plainer). You could spend your whole life looking for these songs in attics and basements and local Goodwill stores…does it make them any less cool that you can download them all in one shot right now?