Sunday, January 9, 2011

Compilation Nation - Ace’s Charbusters USA series

I would like to take this moment to present the first installment of the ‘Compilation Nation’ section of The Kids Are Alright. In this section, I will offer my thoughts and insights on a few choice compilations of music. Some will be various artists releases like soundtracks and such; others will be single-artist affairs.

Volume 2 issued in 2002

For the inaugural edition, I chose to highlight one of my favorite series put together by the amazing Ace label. The guys at Ace don’t skimp on the details. They always make sure that you get your money’s worth. The great lengths they go to in order to appease the listener is extremely evident in the Chartbusters USA series.

The premise of this collection of 1960s pop hits is unique. Instead of the mundane mix of tunes you get on most run-of-the-mill compilations, Chartbusters USA presents a novel idea; British compilers hand picking their favorite American artist’s hits (the producers make it a point to include only one British artist per volume).

These collections were released sporadically from 2001 to 2009. Each volume contains roughly 30 tracks on one disc (remember what I said about getting your money’s worth?).

The track selection ranges from the familiar (The Turtles’ “Happy Together” kicks off the most recent volume, a special edition dedicated to Sunshine Pop) to the relatively obscure (The Tokens ‘flop’ entitled “She Lets Her Hair Down” is found later on the very same disc).

Mastering is good for the most part, though once in a while, I’m sad to say this series didn’t always live up to the great reputation Ace has made for themselves. Granted, the songs are transferred from the best possible sources, there seems to be more audible processing than I personally desire. Volume 2 contains a slight tape drag error right on the beginning of Classic IV’s “Spooky” and most of the Sunshine Pop collection is so maximized that your ears might ring from too many repeated listens. This is fairly small criticism and generally, the pros outweigh the cons by a mile.

A truly eclectic range of musical styles are represented. Motown. Garage rock. Country. Jazz. Bubblegum. Folk rock. You name it... it's there. As a bonus, you’ll get mono or stereo mixes that aren’t too common with a few of these tracks. The Neon Philharmonic’s “Morning Girl” in mono is something to be experienced. I could not get enough listens in.

If this collection is unfamiliar to you and you are intrigued, I urge you to check them out for yourself. I got all mine off of Amazon but you might be lucky enough to find them elsewhere.
If you are wanting to dive deeper into the magic that was the music of the 1960s, this is a great starter kit for your journey.

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