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By mid-1968 there was a growing consensus that something had gone horribly wrong with the American dream. The nation’s youth had loudly made their feelings clear, but now the older, pre-Beatles generations began to look at the country – with urban riots, Vietnam, and the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy – and wonder what the hell was happening. This album includes rare classics (The Beach Boys’ ‘Fourth Of July’), lost masterpieces (Roy Orbison’s seven-minute ‘Southbound Jericho Parkway’), and forgotten gems by some of the biggest names in the business (Elvis Presley’s ‘Clean Up Your Own Back Yard’).

Reactions to America’s existential crisis ranged in subject matter from divorce (Frank Sinatra’s ‘The Train’) and the break-up of the nuclear family (The Four Seasons’ ‘Saturday’s Father’), to eulogies for fallen heroes (Dion’s ‘Abraham Martin and John’), sympathy for Vietnam vets (Johnny Tillotson’s ‘Welfare Hero’), the church’s institutional racism (Eartha Kitt’s intense ‘Paint Me Black Angels’), and even questioning the ethics of the space programme (Bing Crosby’s terrific ‘What Do We Do With The World’).

Compiled by Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs, State Of The Union follows on from their highly acclaimed English Weather and Paris In The Spring compilations. With clear parallels between today's fractured country and the USA fifty years ago, this is a fascinating condensation of what Americans were thinking when they turned on the TV, or the radio, or simply walked down Main Street in 1968.

FORMAT INFORMATION

Coloured LP Info: 180g blue vinyl double LP.

“Paris In The Spring” is a collection of the new music, put together by Saint Etienne’s Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs, that emerged from France between 1968 and the mid-70s, an extraordinary blend of several previously independent strains – French chanson and yé-yé, American jazz and funk, British chamber pop – shot through with the era’s underlying mixture of optimism, uncertainty and darkness. This is the first collection of its kind, released on the 50th anniversary of the Paris uprising.

Serge Gainsbourg – a jazz pianist with a chanson past and a pop present – was in a position to play a key role in soundtracking France in flux over the next five years. His “Histoire de Melody Nelson”, with its heavily atmospheric arrangements by Jean-Claude Vannier, was the acme of this new, unsettling French sound. “Paris In The Spring” includes other equally dazzling Vannier arrangements (for Léonie) and Gainsbourg compositions (for Jane Birkin and Mireille Darc).

Prior to 1968, 60s French pop had been dominated by yé-yé, the country’s unique brand of upbeat pop, a world of primary colours, minijupes and discothèques (a French invention, after all). Its stars either faded fast after May ’68 or adapted to the new era: Jacques Dutronc (‘Le Métaphore’) and France Gall (‘Chanson Pour Que Tu M’aimes un Peu’) discovered a moody side they had previously kept hidden, while Françoise Hardy released the Brazilian-influenced, after-hours classic “La Question”, from which we have picked ‘Viens’.

New bands like Triangle emerged, influenced by Soft Machine and Gong who became regulars on the Paris club scene. French library music from Janko Nilovic and film soundtracks (François De Roubaix, Karl-Heinz Schäfer) reflected the era’s edginess. All are represented on “Paris In The Spring”, making it a continental cousin to Stanley and Wiggs’s hugely popular 2017 Ace compilation “English Weather”

Various Artists

Bob Stanley & Pete Wiggs... Present English Weather

The latest project from two-thirds of Saint Etienne is a compact disc and deluxe double LP of English music that represented the transition from psychedelia to prog as the 60s moved into the 70s. Most of it is not an easy listen, but it’s always interesting, melodic, melancholy, with jazz and folk touches.

STAFF COMMENTS

Andy says: Beautifully evocative snapshot (both aural and visual: check the cover photo!) of a bygone era: British head-rock, late 60's/early 70's.There are some biggish names (Camel, Caravan, John Cale) but mostly this is under the radar stuff and all the better for it. Easy on the ear prog, folk and rock with a hint of jazzyness, you really are transported to another time and place.

Barry says: A hugely diverse and transformative collection of classic rock, unheard jazzy gems and pastoral folk-tinged rarities. Dreamy in places, somewhat meditative and gloomy in others, but thoroughly brilliant throughout. Superbly curated and a thoroughly enjoyable listen.

The second “Bluesin’” volume in the “By The Bayou” series concentrates on musicians from South Louisiana and South East Texas discovered and recorded by J.D. Miller and Eddie Shuler. These two giants of the post-war recording scene were supreme talent-spotters. They knew the sounds that appealed to the local record-buying public, their target audience. What they couldn’t have known, or even guessed at in their wildest fantasies, was that the appeal of their recordings would last so long and encompass the globe. They probably thought it was just a passing fad when Mike Leadbitter in the late 60s, and then Bruce Bastin in the early 70s, made pilgrimages from England in search of the music, its artists and the label owners. Now here we are, over 60 years later, still uncovering blues masterpieces from their catalogues.

So ready yourself for transportation to a steamy Louisiana night, on the back porch or in a pulsating juke joint. Get a grip of that air guitar and bend the strings along with masters such as Lightnin’ Slim, Classie Ballou and Guitar Jr. This is music that has fired the imagination of legions of fans from all walks of life around the world for more than 60 years. It’s a pure delight to bring you a whole compilation of little-known or unheard performances from bosses of the genre, captured at their peak.


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