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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

Rhythm 'N' Bluesin' By The Bayou - Rompin' & Stompin'

    Letting the good times roll again, with this second visit to the dynamic South Louisiana R&B scene there is no waver in the quality of music.

    We’ve added the work of another Louisiana record man, Sam Montel from Baton Rouge, to the vast stockpile of material in the vaults of J.D. Miller, Eddie Shuler, Floyd Soileau and Jake Graffagnino.

    Sam (originally Montalbano) got into the music business when his childhood friend Jimmy Clanton hit the charts. Sam became his road manager and the whole scene got into his blood. He decided to start his own record label when only 18 years old. His first release, Lester Robertson’s ‘My Girl Across Town’, is included here, as is a previously unissued outing from Robertson.

    The Montel label had considerable success with artists including John Fred, Dale & Grace and the Boogie Kings, all attracting strong sales. We will be pulling out more R&B, swamp pop and rockin’ goodies from these vaults for future releases in the “By The Bayou” series.

    The other label owners – J.D. Miller from Crowley, Eddie Shuler from Lake Charles, Floyd Soileau from Ville Platte and Jake Graffagnino from Opelousas– have all had recordings featured on our earlier CDs. Like Sam, they could all spot talent and got the best out of their artists. It means Ace has the opportunity to bring you dynamic tracks from an area of the USA so very rich in talent. In addition to the talents of the lead vocalists, the backing musicians on many of the tracks are also very accomplished.

    Guitar Gable is heard on many titles, as is Katie Webster on piano, sax giant Lionel Torrence, drummers Jockey Etienne and Warren Storm and Lazy Lester, who would play whatever instrument was asked of him; all are featured on many of the Crowley recordings.

    Classie Ballou’s band was used often at Goldband, while the Upsetters, Little Richard’s former outfit, can be heard on Lester Robertson’s tracks.

    The excitement of discovering new material such as the track by Tabby Thomas, the previously unknown and romping version of ‘Flat Foot Sam’ by TV Slim and the downright nasty ‘Oh Mama (Cajun Blues)’ by Classie Ballou is undiminished. Bracketing them with other fabulous unknown recordings, unissued alternates and long deleted masterpieces is a pleasure and a privilege.

    If you have rhythm in your bones and a love of the raw and rockin’ then “Rhythm’n’Bluesin’ By The Bayou – Rompin’ & Stompin’” is going transport your spirit to a Louisiana juke joint.

    By Ian Saddler

    Jon Savage follows up last year’s “1966” 2CD set with a similarly packaged anthology of hits and rarities from 1967.

    There is no accompanying book this time – so you’ll have to buy this to read all about it in his sleeve notes.

    Now typified as the year of flower power, 1967 was the year the 60s divided. During those 12 months, the revenues from LP sales in
    Britain finally overtook those from 45s.

    Although outlawed on 14 August 1967, the Pirate Radio stations were still operating for much of the year, with their highly eclectic playlists: soul was rampant, and many psychedelicised acts still felt compelled to pour all their ideas into three or four-minute symphonies for the kids.

    The transatlantic split had begun to deepen, with America firmly in the driving seat. The UK chart might have been dominated by a succession of dreary ballads at #1 (‘Release Me’, ‘The Last Waltz’, ‘Silence is Golden’, ‘Let The Heartaches Begin’ etc) but the US had chart-toppers like ‘Light My Fire’, ‘Respect’, ‘Groovin’’ and, god bless the Strawberry Alarm Clock, ‘Incense And Peppermints’.

    The British equivalent of psychedelia had less of a look in at the top but resulted in fabulous Toytown hits like Simon Dupree’s ‘Kites’ and Traffic’s ‘Hole in My Shoe’. 

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Andy says: The follow-up compilation to, yep, "1966" by the Uk's greatest active music journalist, lets you know what was REALLY happening in the year where pop changed forever. His notes are spot on, his selection impeccable. Dig!

    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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