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Various Artists Various Artists
Album: Night Comes Down: 60s British Mod, R&B, Freakbeat & Swinging London Nuggets
Label: PCM
Tracks: 30+30+27

Following on from RPM’s previous compilations Looking Back and Keep Looking, Night Comes Down takes us on a further breathtaking, whistle-stop journey through time as it charts the headlong dash from mod soul and beat to hip psych, all from the perspective of the dance floor. The booklet essay sure hits the spot, as it promises “Night Comes Down acts like a soundtrack for a Sixties film which never happened, a pot pourri of near hits, forgotten misses, amazing moments and cult classics.” Each of the three CDs takes a trip across a specific sub-genre, charting its progression from primitive to sophisticated approaches to getting the trendsetters on their feet. Disc 1 initially covers R&B and jazzy beat (Laurel Aitken, Ronnie Jones) to horn-laden homegrown Brit-Soul (Oliver Bone, Norma Lee), then moves through loungecore (Mark Wirtz Orchestra & Chorus) and groovy pop (Twinkle) with glimpses into the upcoming freakbeat scene (The Tom Cats, The Attraction). Although the Lita Roza track dates from 1962, and those by Mickey Finn & The Blue Men, A Band Of Angels and James Royal from 1964/5, the bulk of the remainder on Disc 1 come from 1966. As on Discs 2 and 3, cult favourites like the Bo Street Runners and really obscure names like Five’s Company are neatly interspersed with unfamiliar material by well-known names like the Moody Blues, Spencer Davis Group and Arthur Brown. The music gets ever more interesting as the set continues, with Disc 2 delivering further delights from some of those names featured on Disc 1 in addition to some choice pre-psych titles from The Reaction, The In Crowd and The Outer Limits and some hybrid curios from the likes of The Brothers Grimm and The Web. Disc 2 also contains a previously unreleased instrumental track from The Truth. Disc 3 takes in eccentricities from The Spectrum and The Exceptions, catchy pop-psych from Sun Dragon and The Alan Bown!, more film-related titles (The British Lion Orchestra), an uncharacteristic late (1967) vocal track from Sounds Incorporated and appearances by future “name” rock stars in their early lineups (Episode Six, John’s Children), The Mike Stuart Span’s tough pre-Leviathan version of Remember The Times makes an appearance, as does The Mirage’s excellent cover of Tomorrow Never Knows and the relatively restrained Fire In The City by The Deviants. The 23rd Turnoff provide a heavy-flower-power demo track, while there’s also some tasty first-time-on-CD material (The Shadrocks, The Gnomes Of Zurich). Disc 3 also contains a conundrum – the killer cover of the Who’s Call Me Lightning credited to The Good Vibrations but, cryptically, referred to as later discovered to be by the even more obscure psych band Coconut Mushroom! The set concludes with a brace of prime riff-rockers from 1972 – that by The Matchmakers should at least have made the charts.

If you’re in any way an enthusiast for the music of the 1960s, and remain fascinated by the multi-coloured kaleidoscope of the Swinging London years with all its rapidity of change and its blinding plethora of invention and experimentation, then this set will be for you. Presentation is exemplary too, for the lavish 36-page booklet includes exhaustive detailing of every single one of the 87 tracks, complete with biographical information and disc label and band photos – and a suitably period-evoking introductory essay by compiler John Reed.

David Kidman