A lot of important music has been released via compilation albums–genre anthologies, label samplers, local scene collections and high-concept creations. There are live albums, new studio works, repackages of existing material, movie soundtracks, replays of rarities, field recordings of exotica, etc. — thousands of records of wildly varying quality and value. Many bands who never get around to releasing an album are nonetheless saved for posterity on compilations, and fans of specific groups may be well advised to track down early efforts that appear only on some various-artists release.

Rather than attempt any sort of comprehensive coverage, the compilations reviewed here are meant to be representative of the early days of new wave, African and hip-hop, as documented both by independent and major labels around the world. The emphasis is on the best-known and/or most significant albums of the ’70s and ’80s. (Promotional-only releases are excluded; only some of these original vinyl releases have ever been issued on compact disc.) The albums are arranged alphabetically by title.

Reviews written by Ira Robbins, Richard Gehr, Terry Rompers and David Sheridan.


David Bowie, Sade, Style Council, Ray Davies, Gil Evans, Eighth Wonder, Working Week, Slim Gaillard, Jerry Dammers

Despite the proliferation of major-league talent and new material, this illustrious late-’50s-styled soundtrack album is not especially exciting. Bowie’s title song is fine, as is the Style Council’s “Have You Ever Had It Blue?”; otherwise, these pros haven’t taken their best shot.

A CHRISTMAS RECORD (ZE/Passport) 1981 + 1982

Material, Waitresses, August Darnell, Was (Not Was), Charlelie Couture, Alan Vega, Suicide, Davitt Sigerson, Cristina, James White

Given the assignment to go out and record something appropriate for Christmas 1981, the ZE roster outdid itself, creating original and charming slices of contemporary seasonal music. The Waitresses’ “Christmas Wrapping” is a classic; other efforts (especially August Darnell’s) are nearly as clever. The following winter, a slightly revised version of the record was issued.

ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL (Australian Au-Go-Go) 1984

“Various Artists, Melbourne”

Huxton Creepers, Corpse Grinders, Painters & Dockers, Crushed Buzzards, Lynching Party, Feral Dinasaurs, Tombstone Hands, Harem Scarem, Spring Plains, Olympic Sideburns, Andy Caltex, Bum Steers

A remarkably diverse studio sampling of what the folks at Au-go-go deem to be the cool bands (not, as the liner notes explain, “video package bands”) in Melbourne. Indeed, the imagination and enthusiasm of these groups, which range from amateur to accomplished is awesome. There’s Crampsabilly, “Old Man River,” ’60s punk, rustic folk-pop, R&B, rock and Ubuish guitar noise.


Mood Six, Times, Miles Over Matter, Silence, High Tide, Earwigs, The Doctor, Barracudas, Marble Staircase

A time-trip back to the flower-power era with nine ’80s bands. The junk-culture kitsch blends namby-pamby lyrics with jaunty pop tunes for a trek into this fiercely imitative, inherently redundant movement. The Times and Barracudas have both done better than this; the other bands are easily forgotten.


Squalls, Flat Duo Jets, R.E.M., Love Tractor, Kilkenny Cats, Time Toy, Pylon, Bar-B-Q Killers, Dreams So Real

The soundtrack to a documentary film about the Athens music scene features live ’86 tracks (with the exception of the then-defunct Pylon, represented by an old LP cut) by groups large and small. The two R.E.M. takes (one an acoustic Everly Brothers cover) are otherwise unavailable; tracks by the Squalls are also a neat find. Otherwise, this well-intentioned postcard from home won’t do much to discourage skepticism about the infallibility of Athens bands.

A WICKED GOOD TIME (Modern Method) 1981

“The Modern Method Compilation”

Pastiche, Outlets, Future Dads, Boys Life, La Peste, Swingers Resort, Young Snakes, Vacuumheads, Suade Cowboys, Bound & Gagged, Someone and the Somebodies, Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, Loners


Boys Life, CCCP-TV, Freeze, Future Dads, Leper, Limbo Race, November Group, Pastiche (the mini-band), Someone and the Somebodies, Stains, Trademarks, Vinny, Vitamin

Boston is the place; the label was, for some years, the biggest and most active independent there. The bands on Modern Method’s first sampler (the subsequent volumes are not that different) are a limited cross-section of what was going on at the time; none stand out here (although a few turned into something better), but it’s a good introduction to one stage in the Boston band scene. (Aimee Mann of ‘Til Tuesday is one of the Young Snakes; the early Birdsongs piece features only Erik Lindgren and Roger Miller.)

BAND IT’S AT TEN O’CLOCK (UK 101/Polydor) 1980

Scene, Hit Men, V.I.P.’s, Piranhas, Real to Real, Holly and the Italians, Electric Eels, Jane Kennaway & Strange Behaviour, Thompson Twins, Huang Chung, Comsat Angels, Wasted Youth

The appearance of tracks by several soon-to-be-chart-stars makes this studio compilation of “bands featured at the 101 Club, St. John’s Hill, Clapham” noteworthy; otherwise, this LP hasn’t much to recommend it. The Thompson Twins and Huang Chung cuts are embarrassingly awful; a few of the lesser bands fare much better. Strictly a curiosity.


Specimen, Sexbeat, Test Dept., Patti Palladin, James T. Pursey, Meat of Youth, Brilliant, Alien Sex Fiend, Venomettes

Despite the clear intent of this made-in-the-studio London club compilation, the lineup includes not only the obvious style-setters of horrorshow rock (Specimen, Sexbeat, Brilliant, Alien Sex Fiend) but such ringers as ex-Shammer Jimmy Pursey and Test Dept. Powerful in spots, but too self-important and silly to be really influential.

BEAT STREET VOLUME 1 (Atlantic) 1984

Grandmaster Melle Mel and the Furious Five, System, Jenny Burton & Patrick Jude, Afrika Bambaataa, Juicy, Sharon Green, Lisa Counts & Debbie D., Cindy Mizelle, Arthur Baker, Rub‚n Blades

BEAT STREET VOLUME 2 (Atlantic) 1984

Jazzy Jay, Juicy, Tina B, Treacherous Three, Jenny Burton, Rockers Revenge, Ralph Rolle, La La

In its own weird way, the original soundtrack album to this dumb breakdancing exploitation film turned out to be a solid and significant hip-hop record, unifying many of the diverse strains of New York urban dance music for one flat-out party. Although it may be odd (these days it’s become less so) for a film to spawn two separate soundtrack albums, the success of the first led to a second disc a few months later, featuring an entirely different collection of artists.


Earth Quake, Greg Kihn, Rubinoos, Jonathan Richman

Probably the earliest American rock indie compilation, Beserkley’s first album release was composed of prior singles. Ignoring the dull Earthquake stuff, Chartbusters contains essential Richman and Rubinoos music. Pioneers deserve credit, and the LP has held up fine even after all these years.


“A Collection of Highlights from the First Four Years of America’s Pioneer ‘New Wave’ Label”

Iggy and the Stooges, Weirdos, Venus and the Razor Blades, Flamin Groovies, DMZ, Zeros, 20/20, Willie Alexander and the Boom Boom Band, Snatch, Wackers, Poppees, Shoes, Choir, Rockfield Chorale

A selfconscious testament to the foresight and variety of LA’s Bomp Records. Several of these bands whose Bomp releases are collected here went on to major-label contracts, while others have remained intriguing footnotes whose tracks may be otherwise impossible to find. The music varies in both style and quality, but it’s a classy and impressive label sampler.

BEST OF RALPH (Ralph) 1982

Residents, Snakefinger, Yello, Tuxedomoon, MX-80 Sound, Fred Frith, Renaldo and the Loaf, Art Bears

After a decade spent trail-blazing the furthest fringes of weird music, Ralph Records’ budget-priced two-LP best-of recapitulates a catalogue filled with startlingly strange sounds by truly significant bands. Half the songs were selected by a poll of the label’s mail-order customers, the rest by Ralph staff.

BETTER AN OLD DEMON THAN A NEW GOD (Giorno Poetry Systems) 1984

William S. Burroughs, David Johansen, Jim Carroll, John Giorno, Lydia Lunch, Psychic TV, Richard Hell, Arto Lindsay, Meredith Monk, Anne Waldman

Another John Giorno-organized epic chapter in New York art-literature-rock from a wild collection of thinkers and singers. Although consistently provocative and amusing, the highlights are a brief joint piece by Lydia Lunch and Clint Ruin and a bizarre thing called “The Rev. [Richard] Hell Gets Confused.”


“Songs to Remember from the Heart of the Beast”

Suburbs, Robert Ivers & Ice Stars, Commandos, Hypstrz, NNB, Jets, Swingers, Curtis A. & the Originals, Wad, Buzz Barker & the Atomic Bums, Fingerprints, Yipes!, Swan Lake Six, Pistons


Mofos, Bob Dunlap & Symphonic Fuzz, Halo of Flies, David Postlethwaite, Twa Corbies, Good Joe, Magnolias, PS, Otto’s Chemical Lounge, Breaking Circus, Whole Lotta Loves, Jayhawks

With an ambitious 1979 local talent sampler, Twin/Tone tossed its hat into the American independent label fray. Most of the bands featured on the two-record set hail from the environs of Minneapolis; members of this fertile gene pool have gone on to form numerous bands in the region. (The unrelated first two volumes in the series from which Twin/Tone took the name were on the Soma label in the mid-’60s.)

More a family tree progress report than a logical scene compilation, the successor to Big Hits Volume 3 contains new groupings by some of the same people who were on that LP. Replacements fans will undoubtedly know of the Nick Loweish track by Bob (“Slim”) Dunlap, recorded with ex-members of Safety Last, and the David Postlethwaite number, which features the Mats’ rhythm section. Otherwise, a lack of liner notes means that only the most eagle-eyed will spot the connections between the Hypstrz and the Mofos, or other fascinating intertwinings.


Disconnection, Pulsallama, Pigbag, Maximum Joy, Tymon Dogg, Sun Ra, Diamanda Galas, Promenaders, Mouth, Chris Reeves, R.A.P.P., Shriekback

A challenging, diverse multi-national label sampler: percussive funk, rock, reggae, electro-pop and jazz, all rolled up in a dozen tracks that share only a dedication to originality. Y’s foresightful commitment to exotic dance music comes shining through proudly.

BLOOD ON THE CATS (UK Anagram) 1983

“The Psychobilly Compilation: A collection of blood groups”

Alien Sex Fiend, Screamin’ Lord Sutch Loony Party, Sunglasses After Dark, Stingrays, Jazz Butcher, Outcats, Bone Orchard, Ricochets, Escalators, Panther Burns, Guana Batz, Shockabilly, Meteors

A weird mix of punk, crazy old-fartdom, psychobilly and traditionalism from a wooly collection of wild-eyed British bands. Very little reverence, but lots of twangin’ and screamin’.


“A Birmingham Compilation”

UB40, Denizens, Steel Pulse, Rainmaker, Steve Gibbons Band, Ricky Cool and the Icebergs, Wide Boys, Ferrari, Fashion, Mean Street Dealers, Dangerous Girls, Quads

Although not as good a Birmingham scene compilation as it might have been, the inclusion of UB40, Steel Pulse and Fashion make this studio set marginally worthwhile.

BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY. (Warner Bros.) 1988

Prince, New Order, Narada, Bryan Ferry, Depeche Mode, Donald Fagen, Noise Club, Konk, Jennifer Hall, M/A/R/R/S

The movie was crap, but scenes set in New York dance clubs called for a hip soundtrack, so this half-successful one was assembled. While rescuing Konk from mainstream non-existence and including tunes by Prince (“Good Love”), New Order (“True Faith”) and Bryan Ferry (“Kiss and Tell”), it also does the good deed of making M/A/R/R/S’ “Pump Up the Volume” available to those who somehow missed the single.


Andy T., Speakers, Counter Attack, APF Brigade, Alternative, Fuck the CIA, Clockwork Criminals, Caine Mutiny, Reputations in Jeopardy, Sucks, Crass, Porno Squad, Amebix, SPG Murders, Sceptics, Eratics, Sinyx, Red Alert, Frenzy Battalion, Snipers, Icon, Armchair Power, Disrupters, Action Frogs


Waiting for Bardot, Omega Tribe, Suspects, Your Funeral, Kronstadt Uprising, Deformed, No Label, Rejected, Boffo, XS, Polemic Attack, A. Gardener, Toxic, 1984, Toxik Ephex, Sic, Molitov Cocktail, Naked, Capital Punishment, Anthrax, Pseudo Sadists, Total Chaos, Dougie, St. Vitus Dancers, Stegz, Metro Youth, Normality Complex, Youth in Asia, Riot Squad, Destructors, Pits, Bored, Toby Kettle, Chumbawamba, Passion Killers, Amerikan Arsenal

Crass chose the tracks on both compilations from tapes sent them by like-minded politico-rockers around the world. The first album is on two 45 rpm discs; the second, two 33 rpm discs. Each is wrapped in a generic Crass poster sleeve. The recording quality is at best weak but if it’s energy and commitment you want, there’s loads of it here. As the liner notes to “BS 2” explain, “The tracks on this album express the `real punk spirit’–protest, independence, originality and lack of compromise.” Hear hear!


“A History of Punk”

Buzzcocks, Damned, Fall, Boomtown Rats, Wire, Spizz Energi, ATV, Ruts, 101ers, Sham 69, 999, UK Subs, Adverts, Cockney Rejects, Dave Goodman and Friends, Killing Joke, Slaughter and the Dogs, Anti-Pasti, Stranglers, Dead Kennedys, Generation X, Exploited, Vibrators, Vice Squad, X-Ray Spex, Business, Swell Maps, Partisans, Saints, Blitz, Heartbreakers, G.B.H., Eater, Disorder, Lurkers, Attila the Stockbroker, Adam and the Ants, Angelic Upstarts

Ambitious and well-executed, if not definitive, this double album attempts to provide a chronicle of British punk ’76 to ’82 and nearly succeeds. Unfortunately, intransigent copyright holders forced as many critical early bands to be left out as were fit in; as a result, the record is lacking Sex Pistols, Jam, Clash, Slits, etc. Nonetheless, the 38 tracks offer a wide-ranging review; ace liner notes by Chris Salewicz are a plus and the scrapbook graphics provide a warm historical exercise in nostalgia.


UK Subs, Dole, Leyton Buzzards, Tights, Outcasts, Skunks, Dave Goodman and Friends, Thomas Leer & Robert Rental, Outsiders, Throbbing Gristle, Record Players, Cabaret Voltaire, Vice Creems

Produced in conjunction with Zigzag magazine, the stylistic variety here is wild, but there are some extremely good early tracks by a well-chosen post-Pistols roster. A similarly conceived second volume (Labels Unlimited) was subsequently released; a two-album reissue of both followed.

CAN YOU HEAR ME? (Optional) 1980 (PVC) 1982

“Music from the Deaf Club”

Dead Kennedys, K.G.B., Offs, Mutants, Pink Section, Tuxedomoon

Recorded live at San Francisco’s Deaf Club, this important scene album was the first in a trilogy chronicling Bay Area new music. (The second and third are, respectively, Alive! Rock City on the Gammon label and Savoy Sound Wave Goodbye on G.O.). Fascinating.

C81 [tape] (UK NME/Rough Tapes) 1981 + 1981

Scritti Politti, Beat, Pere Ubu, Wah! Heat, Orange Juice, Cabaret Voltaire, D.A.F., Furious Pig, Specials [deleted from reissue], Buzzcocks, Essential Logic, Robert Wyatt, Raincoats, Josef K, Blue Orchids, Virgin Prunes, Aztec Camera, Red Crayola, Linx [deleted from reissue], Massed Carnaby Street John Cooper Clarkes, James Blood Ulmer, Ian Dury, Gist, Subway Sect, Panther Burns [only on reissue], Television Personalities [only on reissue]

Originally compiled and distributed via mail-order by London’s New Musical Express weekly, this incredible cassette was subsequently revised and issued commercially via Rough Trade. From pop to art noise, with stopovers in synthesizer-land and funk, there’s a taste of everything imaginable in here, and most of it is better than good. “C81” is an essential lesson in modern music and totally worth owning.

COLORS (Warner Bros.) 1988

Ice-T, Decadent Dub Team, Salt-N-Pepa, Big Daddy Kane, Eric B. & Rakim, Kool G. Rap, 7A3, Roxanne Shante, M.C. Shan, Rick James

This state-of-the-art rap album, assembled for Dennis Hopper’s film about contemporary gang warfare in LA, shows a lot of suss. Most of the crews featured are new and happening–Ice-T, Eric B. & Rakim and Big Daddy Kane–and most of the tracks stick to the topic at hand rather than exploit irrelevant but recognizable hits. (Eric B.’s seven-minute “Paid in Full” does both.) The two young ladies of Salt-N-Pepa provide the best light relief with their cut; Rick James’ odd stab at singing rap adds a little seniority to the proceedings.

COUNTRYMAN (Island) 1982

Bob Marley & the Wailers, Toots and the Maytals, Steel Pulse, Dennis Brown, Lee Perry, Wally Badarou, Rico, Aswad, Fabulous Five, Jah Lion, Human Cargo, Rebop Kwaku Baah

Heavy-duty all-star reggae soundtrack. The forgettable movie for which the record was compiled scarcely deserves such fine music.

DANCE CRAZE (Chrysalis) 1981 + 1990

“The Best of British Ska…Live!”

Specials, Madness, Beat, Selecter, Bad Manners, Bodysnatchers

This definitive film soundtrack includes virtually the entire ska revival (aka the 2-Tone roster), all recorded live with appropriately tinny sound. The song selection isn’t perfect but, as the only full-scale chronicle of the era, the album is as important as it is lively. The reissue deletes the Madness material and replaces it with the Specials’ 1980 live 7-inch.

DAS ABENDPROGRAM (German Riskant) 1982

Theatre of Hate, Einsturzende Neubauten, Honeymoon Killers & Aksak Maboul, Gesunden Kommen, Schlaflose Nachte

This Belgian/English/German mixture evidently comes from a televised Berlin festival called Rock Against Junk. How an LP could oppose junk and start with two cuts of Kirk Brandon’s caterwauling is unclear, but Neubauten is at their early bone-crunching best, and the Honeymoon Killers (the Belgian band) contribute two very diverse tracks of lightweight synth-pop and polyrhythmic rhubarb. The other bands play, respectively, post-punk electronics and trance-funk. Good little record.


“13 Tracks of U.S. Rock 1980”

SVT, Luxury, Jim Wunderle, News, D. Clinton Thompson, Ragnar Kvaran, Pylon, Tex Rubinowitz, Razz, Root Boy Slim and the Sex Change Band, Kevin Dunn, Bubba Lou and the Highballs, Robin Lane and the Chartbusters

All the tracks on this uneven LP were originally issued on independent American labels. Despite a lack of musical coherence–the stylistic continuity is minimal–quite a few prime cuts that might have been lost or forgotten are preserved for posterity.


Alice Bag Band, Black Flag, Catholic Discipline, Circle Jerks, Fear, Germs, X

The soundtrack to Penelope Spheeris’ Los Angeles punk scene documentary (which she later followed with an equally distressing look at the indigenous hard-rock scene) has grown in importance over the years, capturing as it does a now-passed musical era at its peak. Besides reasonably exciting speedrock, the record contains some of the all-time greatest audience baiting and heckling ever recorded.

DEUTSCHLAND (das Buro/Cachalot) 1982

Xao Seffcheque, Palais Schaumburg, der Plan, Wietschftswunder, Pyrolator, Einstürzende Neubauten, S.Y.P.H., die Krupps, Doraus und die Marinas, Fehlfarben, Abwarts, JaJaJa, Moderne Man, Malaria, KFC

This is a real ear-opener for anyone whose idea (if any) of German rock is Grobschnitt and Udo Lindenburg. Ranging stylistically from Neubauten’s primal crashes to die Doraus’ kiddie synth-pop to Fehlfarben’s Britfunk to the post-punk bleakness of Malaria and Abwarts, this collection is most edifying.


Husker Du, David Johansen, John Giorno Band, William S. Burroughs, Sonic Youth, Cabaret Voltaire, Diamanda Galas, Coil, Michael Gira, David Van Tieghem, Jessice Hagerdorn & the Gangster Choir

Talk about multi-generationalism: this far-reaching compilation assembled by middle-aged poet/singer John Giorno features everyone from punk’s universal paterfamilias, William S. Burroughs, to bastard sons Sonic Youth. Tracks by Cabaret Voltaire, Husker Du and David Johansen (yet another era heard from), mostly otherwise unavailable, are outstanding, and avant-garde vocalist Diamanda Galas is unlike anything you’ve ever heard. Strongly recommended for fans of new music and literature.

DOGS IN SPACE (Atlantic) 1987

Iggy Pop, Michael Hutchence, Ollie Olsen, Gang of Four, Brian Eno, Marching Girls, Boys Next Door, Thrush and the C**ts, Primitive Calculators, Marie Hoy & Friends

Even those who understandably missed the point of this bewilderingly bad Australian film should find something of interest in the soundtrack album, which contains a pre-Birthday Party vintage track by Boys Next Door. Ollie Olsen put together the LP, convincing vintage scene bands like Primitive Calculators and his own Whirlywirld to reform for the occasion. Following the complex genealogy on the liner notes is a chore, but it turns out that this tantalizing LP offers a sketchy historical overview (sullied, I’m afraid, by INXS’s Michael Hutchence, who sings four songs) of late-’70s Australian fringe music.


Stiv Bators, Real Kids, Dadistics, Blake Xolton and the Martians, Jimmy Lewis and the Checkers, Nuns, Gary Charlson, Rodney & the Brunettes, B Girls, MnMs, Paul Collins, Nikki and the Corvettes, Jukebox Rebel Queens, Sonics, Weirdos, Zantees, Jon and the Nightriders, Lipstick Killers, Last, Hypstrz, Dead Boys, Professor Anonymous, Crawdaddys, Martians, Pete Holly and the Looks, Wombats, Rainbow Red Oxidizer, Cheek, Romantics

Another solid Bomp label sampler — on two records — featuring musicians of all styles and eras, from surf revivalists to power poppers, punks, rockabillies, ’60s holdovers and futurists. The consistency is minimal, but the quality is high and certainly holds something for everybody.


Mekons, Scars, Human League, 2.3, Gang of Four

MUTANT POP 78/79 (PVC) 1979

Mekons, Scars, Human League, 2.3, Flowers, Gang of Four

Edinburgh’s Fast Product was responsible for first releasing records by a number of subsequently major artists; this compilation (retitled in the US, and adding Flowers) puts some of their raw, intense early singles together on one crucial disc.


The Original Adam and the Ants, Robert Fripp, Edikanfo, Killing Joke, Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Phil Manzanera, King Crimson, Brian Eno, Laraaji, Lounge Lizards, Brian Eno & Snatch, Jon Hassell

This 15-track label sampler covers 1977 to 1982 and is available in (otherwise identical) 10-inch and 12-inch versions. Nothing too obscure and hardly musically cohesive (Adam’s 1978 “Deutscher Girls” followed by Fripp’s “Under Heavy Manners”?), but generally indicative of exotic variety and good taste. Compiled by Ian Little.


Dickies, Government Issue, Freeze, White Flag, Kraut, Plain Wrap, Flag of Democracy, T.S.O.L., Scream, Undead, F.U.’s, Black Market Baby, Psycho, Gay Cowboys in Bondage, Borscht, Anti Scrunti Function, Charged G.B.H.

FLIP SIDE VINYL FANZINE VOLUME 2 (Flipside/Gasatanka) 1985

MIA, Decry, Outpatients, Naked Raygun, Roach Motel, JFA, Massacre Guys, Vagina Dentata, Plain Wrap, D.I., Misfits, Necros, C2D, Iconoclast, Cheetah Chrome Motherfuckers, Disorderly Conduct, Catatonics, Braille Party, Germs, GKH, Agent Orange

The first two editions of the album series issued by the venerable LA punkzine both contain tons of blistering rock from some of the best of the business, US and UK. Blistering audio wallpaper for Flipside readers.

GET CRAZY (Motown) 1983

Sparks, Lori Eastside & Nada, Ramones, Marshall Crenshaw, Lou Reed, Malcolm McDowell, Bill Henderson, Fear, Michael Boddicker, Howard Kaylan

Few saw the film (a shame — it’s a brilliant rock parody, with Lou Reed playing a detached rock poet and Malcolm McDowell doing a mad onstage Jaggeresque turn) but the soundtrack is equally worth searching out. All the material is new and otherwise unreleased; Sparks, Fear and Reed make it a real treat.

GO GO CRANKIN’ (T.T.E.D./4th and B’way) 1985

Slim, Redds and the Boys, Trouble Funk, Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers, E.U., Mass Extension

With the warning “This is the D.C. sound attack,” this lengthy go-go sampler has all the top scene bands: ten tracks in all, running time over 50 minutes! Party music presented in the ideal party format. Buy two copies and put ’em on the changer!

GO SOUTH (Meadowlark) 1985

“Dance music from south of the Sahara”

Souzy Kasseya, Thomas Mapfumo and the Blacks Unlimited, Sankomota, Onike, Dele Abiodun, Samba Mapangala and Orchestre Virunga

A rich selection of great music from Zaire, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Trinidad, Nigeria and Kenya.

GREATEST BEATS (Tommy Boy) 1985

Afrika Bambaataa & the Jazzy 5, Afrika Bambaataa & Soulsonic Force, Planet Patrol, Jonzun Crew, Pressure Drop, Special Request, G.L.O.B.E. & Whiz Kid, Keith LeBlanc, Force M.D.’s, Beatmaster

Included in these 15 tracks from the New York hip-hop label are the Bambaataa 12-inchers that got the electronic rap attack underway (“Planet Rock” and “Looking for the Perfect Beat”), as well as the bracing Malcolm X speech’n’beats assemblage (“No Sell Out”) by Keith LeBlanc and a Force M.D.’s ballad. Side Four is a special “Tommy Boy Megamix.”

GUILLOTINE (UK Virgin) 1978

Motors, Roky Erickson, Penetration, Poet and the Roots, Table, X-Ray Spex, Avant Gardener, XTC

A 10-inch mini-album compiling singles by Virgin’s first batch of punk/new wave (plus LKJ’s Poet and the Roots) signings. Not essential, but neat enough. A later reissue teamed this disc up with the live “Short Circuit” 10-inch.

HEROES & COWARDS (Italian Stiff) 1978

Nick Lowe, Ian Dury and the Blockheads, Elvis Costello, Mick Farren and the Deviants, Wreckless Eric, Adverts, Alberto y los Trios Paranoias, Damned, Motorhead

An oddity: This Stiff label sampler issued only in Italy contains some early tracks that are otherwise difficult to locate.


Airkraft, Radio 5, Expelaires, They Must Be Russians, Clock DVA, Section 25, Music for Pleasure, Art Failure, Nightmares in Wax, I’m So Hollow, Ada Wilson and Keeping Dark, Wah! Heat, Modern Eon, Stranger Than Fiction, Medium Medium, Distributors

Designed to introduce England to new English bands not from London, this strong compilation proved to be a launching pad for a hefty proportion of them. The left-of-center music shows tons of potential in need of further exposure. A second volume was issued a year later, entitled Heat From the Street.


Damned, Nick Lowe, Richard Hell, Pink Fairies, Plummet Airlines, Roogalator, Motorhead, Tyla Gang, Elvis Costello, Lew Lewis

Simple concept here: the A-sides of Stiff’s first ten singles, issued simultaneously to their deletion. (All have since been reissued.) A great record, although it seemed more so at the time.


Stranglers, X-Ray Spex, Pirates, Saints, Steve Gibbons Band, Philip Rambow, Wilko Johnson Band, Only Ones, XTC, Steel Pulse, 999, Burlesque, Pleasers, Suburban Studs, Tyla Gang, Roogalator, Dire Straits

London’s tiny but mighty Hope & Anchor pub always enjoyed a reputation and importance far beyond its tiny space. Recorded at the end of ’77, this double-album helped cement the pub’s standing, capturing an all-star pub/punk lineup at a point when you could hardly tell the difference. Although more impressive on paper than on vinyl, it’s a fascinating, significant record, with great sound quality and individualized performances. A lot of these bands never released live records, which makes this all the more useful for fans and scholars alike.


Scraping Foetus off the Wheel, Cabaret Voltaire, Test Dept., Marc Almond, Psychic TV, the The, Coil, Yello, Virginia Astley, Einstürzende Neubauten

The second Some Bizzare label compilation covers a little of everything: industrial noise, pop normalcy, torch singing, synth experimentalism, pastorality and more. Extraordinarily diverse and a must for fans of the outr‚.


Alternative TV, Fleshtones, Brian James, Henry Badowski, Police, Sector 27, Squeeze, Jools Holland, Fall, Payolas, Patrick D. Martin, Oingo Boingo, Wazmo Nariz, Humans, Stranglers, Cramps, Buzzcocks, John Cale, Skafish, Damned, Klark Kent, Chelsea, Fashion

This double album has its musical ups and downs, but it’s a well-assembled sampler by a label that, at the time, had a phenomenal roster. A lot of these bands have since made better records than the items included here; still, it fulfills its appointed mission skillfully, and does contain a lot of good material.


Loft, Jasmine Minks, Primal Scream, Pastels, Biff Bang Pow!, Slaughter Joe, Bodines, Weather Prophets

This compilation from the label that originally had Jesus and Mary Chain contains eight great tracks from some very promising young bands. Most play Nuggets-style psychedelia; some are quite poppy (Jasmine Minks in particular have one foot firmly planted in mod), others (like the Pastels) trippy/dronal. Slaughter Joe breaks suit with a J&MC-minus-the-melody approach. Not a weak cut here. Highly recommended.

KEATS RIDES A HARLEY (Happy Squid) 1981

Earwigs, Toxic Shock, S Squad, Gun Club, Meat Puppets, Leaving Trains, Tunneltones, Human Hands, 100 Flowers

Minimalist artwork and production values make this a difficult prospect, but as a prescient sign of things to come, the band selection indicates good judgment on the part of Happy Squid. For the most part, the music is aggressive and sometimes repulsive, pushing the limits of endurance for all but the most devoted fans of weirdness. In other words, a genre classic.

KRUSH GROOVE (Warner Bros.) 1985

Chaka Khan, Sheila E., LL Cool J, Beastie Boys, Kurtis Blow, Gap Band, Fat Boys, Force M.D.’s, Debbie Harry, Krush Groove All Stars

Top-notch rap, hip-hop and rock soundtrack to the semi-fictional film about the origins of Def Jam Records and the early careers of the Fat Boys and Run–DMC. If nothing else, LL Cool J’s (then-unreleased) “I Can’t Live Without My Radio” justifies the price of ownership; the return to recording of Deborah Harry, the Beastie Boys’ hysterical “She’s on It” and the Force M.D.’s’ beautiful “Tender Love” merely add to the pleasure.

L.A. IN (Rhino) 1979

“A collection of Los Angeles rock and new wave bands”

Kats, Oingo Boingo, Charm School, Rubber City Rebels, Low Numbers, Denny Ward, Twisters, Surf Punks, Ravers, Droogs, Spock, Furys, Weasels

In its early days, Rhino had a roster that mixed odd, silly or nostalgic bands with run-of-the-mill new wavers, and this collection of local rockers (only some of whom ever released records of their own on Rhino) reflects that. Nothing here is in any way outr‚, except maybe the brilliant “Alien” parody cover. Not bad, just ordinary.

LET THEM EAT JELLYBEANS (Alternative Tentacles) 1981

Flipper, Geza X, D.O.A., BPeople, Black Flag, Wounds, Bad Brains, Offs, Dead Kennedys, Anonymous, Circle Jerks, 1/2 Japanese, Really Red, Christian Lunch, Feederz, Voice Farm, Subhumans

Compiled under the supervision of Jello Biafra and released on the Dead Kennedys’ label, this superb compilation helped define and elevate hardcore to international prominence. Not all the bands are punk, but the album’s impact derives mostly from the soon-to-be-world-famous Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Bad Brains, D.O.A., Flipper and the Kennedys themselves. Biafra’s liner notes and poster insert make it an essential release.


Clash, Beat, Jam, XTC, Bad Manners, Stranglers, Specials, Undertones, Peter Gabriel, Au Pairs, Doors [US only], Ian Dury & the Blockheads [UK only], Madness, Echo and the Bunnymen

Rock against nuclear warfare is the theme here: the tracks, while all previously released, share a common political sensibility and are arranged loosely into a cohesive statement in keeping with record’s fund-raising intent. The bands are all top-rank, as is the material. The English and American versions differ in artwork, title spelling and one band/track substitution.

LIVE AT CBGB’S (CBGB & OMFUG) 1976 (Atlantic) 1976

Tuff Darts, Shirts, Mink DeVille, Laughing Dogs, Manster, Sun, Stuart’s Hammer, Miamis

Although the club itself played a crucial role (which, to a lesser extent, continues) in launching the New York scene after the Dolls, this two-record set hardly suggests what the fuss was about. The focus is strictly old-wave bar-band rock’n’roll; half of these bands inexplicably (save the Minks) went on to major-label album contracts. Had any of the era’s more creative denizens of the CBGB stage been included, this might have been an important record; as it stands, it’s more an unfortunate reminder of off nights.

LIVE AT THE RAT VOL. 1 (Rat) 1976

Willie “Loco” Alexander & the Boom Boom Band, Third Rail, Real Kids, Susan, DMZ, Thundertrain, Marc Thor, Sass, Infliktors, Boize

Every local scene had to begin somewhere, and the Boston in-spot in the mid-’70s was the Rat on Kenmore Square, where these two discs of live recordings were made in September 1976. Typical of the time, a lot of the music is faceless rock of no particular merit, although the impressive lineup proved itself far more worthwhile and stylistically diverse as time went on.

LIVE AT RAUL’S (Raul’s) 1979

Explosives, Standing Waves, Terminal Mind, Next, Skunks

Situated near the University of Texas campus in Austin, Raul’s was the focal point for a lot of early scene bands there. This poorly-recorded live album puts the emphasis on raw spirit, not technical refinement, but it does contain noteworthy performances (two each) by Standing Waves and the Explosives. The punky Skunks are the best band here, but their lyrics needed some polish.


U2, In Tua Nua, Elvis Costello and the Attractions, Pogues, Paul Brady, Chieftans, Chris De Burgh, Cactus World News, Boomtown Rats, Clannad, Fountainhead, Van Morrison, Christy Moore/Paul Doran

Recorded at a May 1986 Dublin concert staged to raise money (and consciousness) to combat the nation’s unemployment, the all-star lineup of Irish (and Irish-heritage) performers makes this collection spectacular. U2 starts out singing a Bob Dylan song, but Bono incorporates other material as well; Elvis offers a moving rendition of Jimmy Cliff’s “Many Rivers to Cross”; the Rats do their own appropriate “Joey’s on the Street Again”; the Pogues likewise fish “Dirty Old Town” from their catalogue. The CD adds a Chris Rea track.


“Chiswick Chartbusters Vol. 2”

Radiators from Space, Skrewdriver, Johnny Moped, Motorhead, Radio Stars, Rings, Jeff Hill, Count Bishops, Amazorblades, Stukas

Chiswick was there first; although the London label’s early signings didn’t always make the greatest records, Ted Carroll and company served an invaluable function in moving rock history along, and were capable of flashes of excellence. This second label sampler has such neat things as Motorhead’s first record, an energetic Count Bishops’ cut, a couple of fine tracks off the Radiators debut LP and some now-obscure sides by the Rings and Stukas.


“A Coyote Anthology”

Raunch Hands, Yo La Tengo, Jacks, Trypes, Syd Straw, Last Roundup, Myra Holder, Scruffy the Cat, Kilkenny Cats, Trigger & the Thrill Kings, Deep Six, Rage to Live, Gut Bank, Wygals, Mr. Bonus

Hoboken, New Jersey is just across the river from Manhattan but, thanks largely to Maxwells–the club that is also behind Coyote Records–it has managed to develop a healthy collection of bands all its own. These newly-recorded studio sounds have a lot of country in the rock, but there’s a healthy dose of pop sensibility and experimentalism as well. (Incidentally, the Jacks are Chris Stamey, Don Dixon and ex-Oh-OKer Matthew Sweet.) An invigorating collection.

MACHINES. (UK Virgin) 1981

Gary Numan, XTC, Public Image Ltd., Karel Fialka, Tubeway Army, Thomas Leer, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Dalek I, John Foxx, Fad Gadget, Human League, Henry Badowski

To qualify for inclusion on this LP, a band had to prominently employ synthesizers. The song selection is a bit spotty, offering classics by some and offbeat choices from others. Nonetheless, it’s a well-rounded set of electronic rock and pop from a reasonably good cross-section of artists offering different approaches to the same basic technical challenge.

MADE IN BRITAIN (Polydor) 1980

Comsat Angels, Excel, Protex, Invaders

This album, dividing up one disc among four promising UK bands, was an American label ploy to stir up some interest without having to release entire albums by any of these commercial longshots. As a marketing strategy, it didn’t work (although it did succeed in discouraging Polydor from issuing their albums). There are some great tracks, especially by Ireland’s Protex.

MADE IN FRANCE (Cachalot) 1984

Bernard Lavilliers, Charlelie Couture, Chagrin d’Amour, Octobre, Etienne Daho, KaS Product, les Civils, Gerard Blanchard, Taxi Girl, Marc Seberg, Sapho, Marquis de Sade

An inconsistent but occasionally striking set of French bands, most of whom are little-known outside their homeland. Despite a tendency towards mainstream sounds, there’s some cool stuff amidst the MOR.

MADE TO MEASURE VOL. 1 (Belgian Crammed Discs) 1984

Minimal Compact, Benjamin Lew, Aksak Maboul, Tuxedomoon

The first release in the avant-garde Belgian label’s Made to Measure line, this collection is made up of music recorded for specific artistic events (hence the title). Minimal Compact’s tracks were composed for a ballet; Lew’s atmospheric electronics originally provided background for a fashion exhibit. Aksak Maboul does an all-sampled movie piece and a half-dozen instrumentals (mostly piano) for a play; Tuxmoon’s contribution is three diverse pieces for a film soundtrack. The album stands up to scrutiny as sophisticated background music and shows Crammed’s rich artistic diversity.


“A Twilight Sampler”

86, Train Black Manifesto, Mystery Date, Die Monster Die, Mercyland, Blood Poets, Billy James, Tombstones, Rockin’ Bones, Shades of Shame, Inn, Potatoes

The Atlanta-based Twilight label — a very hip organization with generally fine taste — went out and scouted up these new bands in their greater metropolitan neighborhood. The tracks, with a few exceptions, are otherwise unreleased. Michael Stipe co-produced Die Monster Die.

MAX’S KANSAS CITY 1976 (Ram) 1976

Wayne County and the Back Street Boys, Cherry Vanilla and Her Staten Island Band, Fast, Suicide, John Collins Band, Harry Toledo, Pere Ubu

The first of three compilations issued under the rubric of the legendary New York scene locus. Most of these studio recordings by New York (excepting Pere Ubu) bands that played there regularly are otherwise unavailable but better left that way; only the Fast, Ubu and Suicide are worth the effort.


British Electric Foundation, Heaven 17, Devo, Simple Minds, D.A.F., Magazine, Fingerprintz, Japan, Human League

Recognizing the development of synth-rock as a major neo-disco trend, Virgin dipped into its electronic-savvy roster for a bunch of rhythmic tracks. The collection favors style over familiarity–ignoring hits for grooves–and includes a few rarities as well.

MODS MAYDAY ’79 (Bridgehouse) 1979

Secret Affair, Beggar, Small Hours, Mods, Squire

A neo-mod concert spectacular — lots of energy but scant timelessness — by the scene’s biggest (for a moment) names. A nifty artifact, perhaps, but also clear evidence why the mod revival was a brief one.


Drums of Makebuko, Peter Gabriel, Ekome, XTC, Alhaji Ibrahim Abdulai, Beat, Prince Nico Mbarga and Rocafil Jazz, Mighty Sparrow, Rico, Morris Pert, Pete Townshend, Vic Coppersmith-Heaven, Balinese Ketjak, Jon Hassell, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Peter Hammill, David Byrne, Alhaji Bai Konte and Malamini Jobate, Lonesi Chewane and Joni Hetara, Shankar and Bill Lovelady, Holger Czukay

A milestone in pan-cultural pop. This accompaniment to the first WOMAD festival (1982) presents a large cross-section of African musical traditions, from lilting, jazzy highlife to tribal drumming. Several of the Western rockers contribute uncharacteristic but effective tracks–who’d have expected former Jam producer Coppersmith-Heaven to have a keen interest in Balinese gamelan music? Other countries represented: Pakistan, India and the East Indies.

NEW AFRICA (Celluloid) 1985

“Selections from Celluloid’s African catalogue”

Mandingo featuring Foday Musa Suso, Manu Dibango, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Tour‚ Kunda

This single album offers delectable samples of four African artists whose records have been released in the US by Celluloid. A perfect introduction to these exotic but accessible talents.

NEW ROSE (French New Rose) 1983

Outcasts, Willie Alexander & the Confessions, The Count, Real Kids, Polyphonic Size, Snipers, Warum Joe, Johnny Thunders

The early roster of France’s sharpest independent rock label was split between American (mostly Boston) rock’n’garage bands and indigenous oddballs; this sampler shows off both sides equally well.

NEW WAVE (UK Vertigo) 1977

Ramones, New York Dolls, Patti Smith, Dead Boys, Talking Heads, Flamin Groovies, Damned, Little Bob Story, Boomtown Rats, Richard Hell & the Voidoids, Runaways

Probably the first new wave compilation, this unprepossessing album manages to combine some of the best and most influential tracks and bands (most Phonogram-related) of the day. Slightly predating the wholesale signing of British bands, the album leans to American proto-punk. A great album that still sounds fresh and exciting.

NO NEW YORK (Antilles) 1978

Contortions, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, Mars, DNA

The seminal art-noise album, produced by Brian Eno and heralding a revolution in New York new wave. The Bowery bands (Ramones, Blondie, Heads, TV, etc.) had already moved on to international acclaim, so the local underground spewed up these primordial anti-music bands to rechallenge convention and conception. A real watershed for its introduction of James Chance, Lydia Lunch, Arto Lindsay and others to an unsuspecting world.

NOT SO QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (Alternative Tentacles) 1982

“Deprogramming by 47 Northern California & Nevada Bands”

Intensified Chaos, 7 Seconds, Social Unrest, Unaware, Naked Lady Wrestlers, Frigidettes, M.A.D., 5th Column, Killjoy, Ghost Dance, Fang, Dead Kennedys, Capitol Punishment, Rebel Truth, Ribsy, Pariah, Crucifix, Lennonburger, Square Cools, Impatient Youth, Los Olvidados, Bad Posture, Code of Honor, Demented Youth, Karnage, Millions of Dead Cops, Domino Theory, Maniax, NBJ, Vicious Circle, Whipping Boy, UXB, Angst, Scapegoats, Free Beer, Church Police, Flipper, Deadly Reign, Vengeance, No Alternative, Juvinel Justice, Wrecks, Section 8, Urban Assault, Tongue Avulsion, Bent Nails, MIA

Two discs and a descriptive fanzine make this ambitious undertaking an important entry in hardcore history, collecting more bands than anyone outside California ever imagined existed. By giving a chance to a lot of minor groups (and a bunch of future big deals), the record serves as a nearly definitive scene sampler.


Cockney Rejects, Cock Sparrer, Peter & the Test Tube Babies, Barney & the Rubbles, 4-Skins, Slaughter and the Dogs, Postmen, Max Splodge & Desert Island Joe, Exploited, Terrible Twins, Angelic Upstarts

The intelligence level of this landmark British punk collection, assembled by then Sounds staffer Garry Bushell, may leave some cold, but the energy level won’t. The archetypal skinhead rabble-rousing includes the Cockney Rejects’ album-and-movement-naming, “Oi Oi Oi.” Proving popular among the punk kids, there were a number of further volumes in this series.

ONE POUND NINETY-NINE (UK Beggars Banquet) 1985

“A Music Sampler of the State of Things”

Icicle Works, Cult, Peter Murphy, Fall, Gene Loves Jezebel, Nico, John Cale, Bauhaus, Love and Rockets, Bolshoi, Ramones, Hank Wangford Band

An ace record, and a bargain to boot. A dozen recent album tracks from London’s Beggars Banquet, including the Ramones’ “Bonzo Goes to Bitburg.”

OUT AMONG THE COWS (Off Track) 1987

“The Davis Compilation Album”

10,000 Cattle, Pope-a-lopes, Dave Webb and the Intentions, Ted’s Exploding Head, Ants at Ground Zero, Shep’s Faithful Head, Thin White Rope, G-Bird-A-Go-Go, John Warren Band, Bill Scholer Blues Band, New Ken Hardley Play Boys, Civil Rhythm, Spydelz, Random Access

Northern California isn’t all San Francisco, it seems, and this extraordinarily fine compilation from Davis provides ample evidence. Richly varied and almost invariably excellent, the 14-cut album proves its point handily, with intriguing sounds from a number of bands (including Pope-Alopes, Thin White Rope and Shep’s Faithful Head) I’d like to hear again.


Elvis Costello, Madness, Dave Edmunds, Modern Romance, Altered Images, Pauline Black, Bad Manners, Midge Ure, Sting, Chas and Dave, Bananarama

The soundtrack for a minor 1983 teenager film boasts a solid all-star lineup performing surprising against-type cover versions, all specifically recorded for the project. Loads of fun and filled with otherwise unavailable items from very popular artists.

P.E.A.C.E. (R Radical) 1984

Articles of Faith, Gism, Neon Christ, Kalashnikov, Cause for Alarm, Local Disturbance, Unwarranted Trust, Wretched, O.D.F.X., Afflicted, Declino, Dicks, BGK, Crass, Upright Citizens, False Prophets, Mob 47, Offenders, Contrazione, Scum, Los Violadores, Deadlock, P.P.G., Trash, Vicious Circle, Condemned to Death, Negazione, D.O.A., Dirty Rotten Imbeciles, Porno Patrol, Treason, Shit S.A., Septic Death, Cheetah Chrome and the Motherfuckers, Peggio Punx, Proletariat, Conflict [UK], Iconoclast, Pandemonium, Dead Kennedys, Boskops, Subhumans [UK], White Lie, Wargasm, Slaughterhouse 4, Execute, Reagan Youth, Impact, Butthole Surfers, Kangrena, Porcelain Forehead, Barely Human, Raf Punk, Zenzile, M.D.C.

We could be talking a Guinness book record here: even more ambitious than Not So Quiet on the Western Front or any of Crass’ zillion-band compilations, P.E.A.C.E. (“Peace Energy Action Cooperation Evolution”) presents 55 punk bands (from as far as Japan, Italy, South Africa and Australia) on two discs that are surprisingly well mastered, if noisily pressed. From the prominent to the deservedly obscure, the bands play variations on the theme in assorted languages. The package includes a fat booklet with band info and radical political agit-prop.


Claire Thomas and Susan Vezey, Matt Johnson, Lemon Kittens, Virgin Prunes, Eyeless in Gaza, Lol Coxhill, Kevin Coyne, Thomas Leer, Mark Perry, Five or Six, Ben Watt, Morgan Fisher, Two Daughters, Robert Fripp, Kevin Harrison, A Tent, David Jackman

Studies in fringe music: experimental, progressive, comprehensible and simply weird. A well-ordered label sampler in a nice package with biographies and discographical information, this could serve as either an enticing buffet for the neophyte or a thrilling excursion for the jaded. Proof that avant-garde rock isn’t all synthesizer squiggles.

PILLOWS & PRAYERS (UK Cherry Red) 1983

Five or Six, Marine Girls, Monochrome Set, Felt, Thomas Leer, Eyeless in Gaza, Tracey Thorn, Passage, Ben Watt, Everything but the Girl, Kevin Coyne, Attila the Stockbroker, Piero Milesi, Misunderstood, Joe Crow, Nightingales, Quentin Crisp

Not just a major bargain — 17 cuts for under a pound when originally issued in the UK — but a top-notch sampler from one of the most adventurous and courageous independent labels in London. These previously-issued recordings are astonishingly diverse and, for the most part, worth hearing.

PLAY NEW ROSE FOR ME (French New Rose) 1986

Tav Falco and Panther Burns, Mudboy & the Neutrons, Alex Chilton, Beatnik Flies, Divine Horsemen, Giant Sand, Dead Kennedys, Blood on the Saddle, Imitation Life, Bangsters, Sky S. Saxon, Dino Lee K.O.W.T., The Count, Dramarama, Willie Alexander, Fortune Tellers, Mad Daddys, Reptiles at Dawn, Warum Joe, Psyche, Chris Bailey, Slickee Boys, Primevals, Sirens of 7th Avenue, Charles De Goal, R. Stevie Moore

To celebrate the label’s hundredth album release, France’s New Rose persuaded 26 of its artists to cover (mostly) each other’s songs, issuing the results on two discs in a hot pink envelope sleeve. The Divine Horsemen run over a Cramps tune; Sky Saxon does a Roky Erickson classic; the Slickee Boys do a Saints song; Charles De Goal cover R. Stevie Moore; etc. Fascinating, unique, ambitious and often wonderful.

POTATOES VOL. 1 (Ralph) 1987

“A Collection of Folk Songs from Ralph Records”

Blitzoids, Renaldo and the Loaf, Maria Marquez and Frank Harris, Residents, Terra Incognita, Snakefinger’s Midi-Evil Vestal Virgins, Mark Mothersbaugh, [Artist Unknown], Negativland, Voice Farm, Clubfoot Orchestra, Rhythm and Noise, Step One Nursery School Just Plain Folk Singers

Acknowledging its “seduction by the folk muse,” Ralph assembled this wonderful album of offbeat approaches and strange bits of closet cleaning. The gamut stretches from the Residents’ reading of Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” in waltz time to Mark Mothersbaugh’s winsome ode to “My Home Town.” Snakefinger offers a homemade traditional sea chantey; Renaldo and the Loaf give a fair chance to a real old one. Negativland (with ex-TV chef Graham Kerr narrating) stretches the bounds of convention, but a found recording of an anonymous woman singing “The Billy Bee Song” more than compensates.


Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, INXS, New Order, Suzanne Vega, Echo and the Bunnymen, Smiths, Psychedelic Furs, Jesse Johnson, Danny Hutton Hitters, Belouis Some

The Molly Ringwald film was inspired by the Psychedelic Furs’ song. If the soundtrack had sucked, no one would have gone to see the film, so a lot of care went into assembling a strong lineup. Amazingly, OMD made their American breakthrough with this record; Suzanne Vega and New Order got a lot of mileage out of it as well.

RAINY DAY (Llama) 1983

Susanna Hoffs, David Roback, Will Glen, Michael Quercio, Matthew Piucci, Dennis Duck, Kendra Smith, Ethan James, Vicki Peterson, Spock, Karl Precoda

Most of the 1983 class of the Los Angeles neo-pop family is present on this vinylized mix’n’match collection of classic covers. And a glorious achievement it is. Hoffs (Bangles) sings “I’ll Be Your Mirror” and “I’ll Keep It with Mine”; Quercio (Three O’Clock) does “Sloop John B” and Hendrix’s “Rainy Day, Dream Away”; producer/mastermind Roback (Rain Parade) sings and plays mind-bending acid guitar on an excerpt from the Who’s “A Quick One”; his future bandmate, Smith (Dream Syndicate), excels on “Flying on the Ground Is Wrong” and Alex Chilton’s “Holocaust.” A brilliantly conceived and executed piece of interpretative source-material nostalgia.


Members, Piranhas, Steel Pulse, Mekons, X-Ray Spex, Matumbi, Tom Robinson Band, Elvis Costello and the Attractions, Stiff Little Fingers, Barry Ford Band, Carol Grimes Band, Gang of Four, Aswad, Clash

The featured bands (labeled on the back cover with the dates of their Rock Against Racism gigs) picked reasonably appropriate tracks from their catalogues and donated the proceeds from this fundraiser to the organization. As such, the album is both a musical call to arms and a superb set of rock’n’reggae.

RAT MUSIC FOR RAT PEOPLE (GO!) 1982 (CD Presents) 1983

Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, D.O.A., Bad Brains, Circle Jerks, TSOL, Flipper, Crucifix, Avengers, Dils


D.R.I., Dicks, Minutemen, White Lie, Butthole Surfers, J.F.A., Fang, Big Boys, Tales of Terror, Personality Crisis

Although all these bands are/were hardcore stars, the first album’s actual common element is that all tracks were recorded live in the San Francisco area. It’s a very good record, presenting some of punk’s best proponents in their most conducive milieu: live in front of an enthusiastic slam crowd.

The second volume has another all-star lineup, but it’s entirely made up of previously-recorded studio items. The inclusion of a lyric sheet (for the Butthole Surfers???) makes this even better.

RED WAVE (Big Time) 1986

“4 Underground Bands from the U.S.S.R.”

Aquarium, Kino, Alisa, Strange Games

Producer Joanna Stingray brought tapes of these four groups out of Russia and assembled a double-album: one side per group. Unfortunately, either the country is still in the musical ’50s, or Stingray missed the boat on choosing whose tapes to carry. Aquarium sounds like a polite French jazz-pop group; Kino is likewise too polite to be interesting; Strange Games is a reggae/ska-inflected rock-folk band. Only Alisa–a mildly chaotic noise group with synthesizers and ugly vocals is intriguing, and they’re still not very good. Perhaps valuable as a cultural artifact, this is not as exciting as it is exotic.

REPO MAN (San Andreas) 1984

Iggy Pop, Black Flag, Suicidal Tendencies, Circle Jerks, Plugz, Burning Sensations, Fear, Juicy Bananas

Iggy Pop wrote and recorded the title song for the soundtrack of Alex Cox’s film; the other participants contributed previously-recorded items. Highlights: Suicidal Tendencies’ “Institutionalized,” Burning Sensations’ cover of Jon Richman’s “Pablo Picasso,” Black Flag’s “TV Party” and the Plugz’ Spanish-language version of “Secret Agent Man.”

RHYTHM OF RESISTANCE (UK Virgin) 1978 (Shanachie) 1984 (Virgin) 1988

Babsy Mlangeni, Malombo, Mparanyana and the Cannibals, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Jonny and Sipho, Mahotella Queens, Abafana Baseqhudeni

As good an introduction to mbaqanga (popular music of South African townships) as you’ll find, complete with beautiful harmonies, nasty Zulu guitar and thumping bass.

RODNEY ON THE ROQ (Posh Boy) 1980

Adolescents, Agent Orange, Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Crowd, David Microwave, Fender Buddies, Klan, Nuns, Rik L Rik, Simpletones, UXA, Vidiots, New York


Target 13, Social Distortion, Shattered Faith, Black Flag, Minutemen, Red Cross, CH3, Agent Orange, Red Rockers, Unit 3 with Venus, Stepmothers, Gleaming Spires, Little Girls, Levi and the Rockats, Twisted Roots, Geza X


Kent State, Ill Repute, J.F.A., CH3, Catch 22, Pariah, Red Scare, No Crisis, Rudi, Unit 3 with Venus, Bangles, Action Now, Signals, Gayle Welch, Radio Music, David Hines

Los Angeles rock personality (radio and otherwise) Rodney Bingenheimer selected the tracks for all threee of these albums. The first is effectively (almost exclusively) a Posh Boy label sampler; the second goes further afield — contractually, if not musically. The unimpressive third reflects the stylistic fragmentation of the scene.

All three have a lot of California bands. (“New York” on Volume 1 is, in fact, by Cristina). The superior second edition leans towards hardcore, although Unit 3 is a neat surprise with a pre-pubescent vocalist. Volume 3 has the early Bangles and not much else.

ROKK I REYKJAVIK (Icelandic Hugrenningur) 1982

Theyr, Ego, Thursaflokkurinn, Fridryk, Grylurnar, Bodies, Purrkur Pillnikk, Sjalfsfroun, Thursar, Tappi Tikarrass, Mogo Home, Spilafifl, Vonbrigdi, Start, Jonee Jonee, Fraebbblarnir, Q4U, Bruni B.B., Sveinbjorn Beinteinsson

This two-disc set contains a fascinating cross-section of young’n’hip music from Iceland, a nation which (in addition to the Sugarcubes, whose roots were in some of these bands) has consistently proven to be more advanced and adventurous than many others thought active in the rock world. Functioning as both a live document chronicling all of these bands and as a soundtrack to a punk scene film, Rokk i Reykjavik is unpredictable, weird, varied, inconsistent, unique — a glimpse at how this alien culture has adapted rock’n’roll to its own ends.

THE ROXY LONDON WC2 (UK Harvest) 1977

Slaughter and the Dogs, Johnny Moped, Unwanted, Eater, Wire, X-Ray Spex, Adverts, Buzzcocks

Despite the impressive roster, this live collection of early British punk groups–a remarkably illuminating document of the ’77 London club scene–reduces all of them to a homogenous drone. It’s worth hearing these classic bands onstage, but don’t expect too much in the way of great music. (Beware the utterly different Farewell to the Roxy album on Lightning, which features third-rate bands.)


“A documentary of the San Francisco night club recorded live February 26 to March 1, 1981.”

Tuxedomoon, Cipher, Sleepers, Earl Zero, Skankin’ Babylonians, Ultrasheen, Charles McMahon, Snakefinger, Mutants, Eazy Teeth

Excellently-recorded live scene album that features reggae, funk, progressive, experimental and unclassifiable music of uniformly high caliber. Tracks by Tuxedomoon and Cipher are the standouts in a fine bunch.


Jane’s Addiction, Caterwaul, Human Drama, Francis X and the Bushmen, TSOL, Delta Rebels, Hangmen, Tender Fury, Abecedarians, Kommunity FK

This collection of studio recordings by bands who have played at Scream in Los Angeles leads off with the wretched Jane’s Addiction, and only sporadically improves from there. Harshly commercial and virtually sanitary in terms of original ideas or wit, these obnoxious wannabes (cf. Aersomith, Alice Cooper, New York Dolls, Siouxsie and the Banshees) strut their best stuff here in the hopes of snagging a big record deal so they can be just as big as Poison or Guns and Roses. The inclusion of TSOL (doing an unimaginative version of “All Along the Watchtower”) only adds to the depressing aspect. Bright spot: Francis X and the Bushmen.


X-15, Pudz, Student Nurse, Beakers, Jim Basnight, Fastbacks, Refuzors, Fartz, 88’s, Blackouts, Macs, Phillipo Scrooge, Savant, Body Falling Downstairs, K7SS

Local bands from Washington State fill the tracks on this nicely packaged indie scene anthology. The music covers a wide range–from punk to synth, pop to psychedelia–and conveys abundant talent and enthusiasm. Only a pair of these bands (Basnight, Fartz) ever amounted to anything on a national scale, but that’s no reason to overlook the others.

SENT FROM COVENTRY (UK Kathedral) 1980

Wild Boys, Clique, End, Mix, Machine, Urge, Protege, Solid Action, Wild Boys, Squad, Homicide, Riot Act, V. Babies

In the wake of the 2-Tone craze, which originated in the city of Coventry, this sampler of undiscovered local talent was issued, proving only that there was nothing inherent about growing up there to make bands play ska. There are good tracks and bad tracks, but no stylistic consistency or unknown genii here.


Three Wize Men, Wet Wet Wet, Christians, Wedding Present with Amelia Fletcher, Hue and Cry, Billy Bragg with Cara Tivey, Frank Sidebottom, Sonic Youth, Courtney Pine Quartet, Michelle Shocked, Triffids, Fall

This LP of various artists covering the Beatles’ classic–in its entirety–was put together by Britain’s New Musical Express to benefit a children’s charity. Participants run the gamut from crap-popsters Wet Wet Wet doing “With a Little Help from My Friends” (a big UK hit) to the Fall’s “A Day in the Life” and Sonic Youth’s “Within You Without You.” The latter two actually offer fairly faithful versions; some more unique renditions include the Wedding Present’s rip-roaring “Getting Better” and the Three Wize Men’s hip-hopped title track. Another highlight is Billy Bragg and Cara Tivey’s heartfelt “She’s Leaving Home.” A must for cover (and Beatle) fans.

SHARP CUTS (Planet) 1980

“New Music from American Bands”

Alley Cats, Single Bullet Theory, Bates Motel, Suburban Lawns, Peter Dayton, Billy Thermal, dB’s, Willys, Fast, Know

A commendable effort by a major-affiliated label to expose some promising unsigned Americans. The selection unfortunately proved faulty, bringing together as many duds as worthwhile tracks and bands. The concept was to test-market the groups to radio via this sampler before deciding to go with any of ’em for full albums.

SHE’S HAVING A BABY (Hughes Music/IRS) 1988

Dave Wakeling, Love and Rockets, Gene Loves Jezebel, XTC, Bryan Ferry, Kirsty MacColl, Everything but the Girl, Kate Bush, Carmel, Dr. Calculus

Coyly divided into a “He” side and a “She” side, this soundtrack LP has a theme tune by Dave Wakeling and a Smiths’ song (“You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet”) sung by the wonderful Kirsty MacColl. Otherwise, it contains good-to-better tracks by Bryan Ferry (a UK B-side), XTC (the previously unreleased “Happy Families”), Kate Bush (an otherwise unreleased song) and others. Not great, but worth hearing once and definitely of interest to completists of the bands involved.


Fall, Drones, John Cooper Clarke, Steel Pulse, Joy Division, Buzzcocks

Originally released as a 10-inch mini-album (later repackaged with Guillotine), this early live compilation was recorded at Manchester’s leading venue on the occasion of its closing and virtually covers the city’s significant new music populace at the time. Essential.


Joe Strummer, Pogues, Steve Jones, Pray for Rain, Circle Jerks, John Cale, Gary Oldman

Instead of using original Sex Pistols recordings (or even vintage numbers by others) for his bio pic of Sid Vicious, director Alex Cox assembled an odd collection of semi-relevant bands (including ex-Pistol Jones and onetime rival Joe Strummer) to write and record new material for the soundtrack. Star Oldman sneers his way through “My Way” and “I Wanna Be Your Dog”; otherwise, Strummer’s title song is the best effort in an altogether disappointing LP.


Yukihiro Takahashi, Fiat Lux, Man Jumping, Revox Cadets, Orchestra Arcana, A Flock of Seagulls, Jobson-Nelson, To Heaven a Jet, Bill Nelson, Last Man in Europe

Over its first six years, Bill Nelson’s label did some remarkable things besides releasing the artist’s own endless creative output. This compilation includes a fair proportion of otherwise unreleased material, leaning towards early efforts rather than pop hits.


Sandii, Logic System, M.A.O., Katmandu, Shock, Thomas Dolby, Airport and Dean, Naked Lunch, Fehlfarben, Gina X Performance, Sapho, Classix Nouveaux

Futurist dance bands from all over Europe and Japan. The tracks are slickly rhythmatized, but there’s more here than meets the feet. Some neat stuff, especially Sapho’s bizarre version of Otis Redding’s “Respect.”

SINGLES [tape] (ROIR) 1982

“The Great New York Singles Scene”

Patti Smith, Television, Richard Hell and the Voidoids, Erasers, Model Citizens, Come On, Theoretical Girls, Marbles, Nervus Rex, U.S. Ape, Invaders, Mumps, Speedies, Student Teachers

All of these bands formed and deformed in New York in the ’70s; most of the tracks are from independent singles, although several groups never passed the demo-tape stage. Apart from some classics (Patti Smith’s “Piss Factory” and TV’s “Little Johnny Jewel Pt. 1,” both debuts), there are wonderful pop sides from Marbles, Speedies and Nervus Rex. A small but sweet slice of the Apple.

SOME BIZZARE ALBUM (UK Some Bizzare) 1981

Blancmange, Illustration, Soft Cell, Depeche Mode, Neu Electrick, the The, Naked Lunch, B Movie, Fast Set, Jell, Loved One, Blah Blah Blah

Techno-pop’s watershed compilation came out of left field but in one fell swoop debuted four major-league bands who would go on to change the sound of pop in the ’80s. Stumbling over minimal productions and undeveloped concepts, the record is not as musically rewarding as the bands proved to be; these early efforts seem trivial in light of grander things that followed. Remember, kids: Some Bizzare Album was there at the beginning.


Pete Shelley, Furniture, Blue Room, Flesh for Lulu, Stephen Duffy, Jesus and Mary Chain, Apartments, March Violets, Lick the Tins

Ignore the hopeless film, skip the first side of the album (after Pete Shelley’s fine opening track) and proceed right to a drastically different (and otherwise unavailable) version of the J&M Chain’s “The Hardest Walk,” a spectacular and unforgettable power pop (cf. Katrina and the Waves) cover by the March Violets of the Rolling Stones’ “Miss Amanda Jones” and a mind-boggling Celtic reinterpretation of Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Lick the Tins. Positively brilliant!


Big Country, Nick Heyward, Elvis Costello, Rupert Hine, Dire Straits, Howard Jones, Robert Fripp, Tom Robinson, Peter Gabriel, Pete Townshend, Eddy Grant

This extraordinary album was released to raise money for the deaf in Great Britain. Not only did the artists contribute their material, they all came up with otherwise unreleased items or outtake versions of familiar tunes. A really interesting and entertaining record.

SOUND D’AFRIQUE (Mango) 1981

Mekongo, Eba Aka Jerome, Kambou Clement, Pablo Etoile de Dakar, Menga Mokombi


Lea Lignanzi, Mensy, Vonga Aye, Moussa Doumbia, Pablo Lubadika Porthos, Jeff Louna, Asi Kapela

These two volumes of African pop music are ear-opening excursions into the varied styles of numerous countries. The first covers more ground (literally–Upper Volta, Zaire, Cameroun, Ivory Coast, Senegal and the Congo); the second focuses on dance-driven selections from central Africa (Cameroun, Zaire, Central African Republic, Mali and the Congo).

SOUNDS OF SOWETO (Capitol) 1988

Lumumba featuring Condry Ziqubu, Brenda and the Big Dudes, Condry Ziqubu, Winners featuring Lionel Petersen, Rex Rabanye, Theta, Johnny Clegg & Savuka, Supa Frika, Sankomota, Mara Louw

Two discs of music from South Africa, but not the rural township sounds captured on other ethno-musicological records (like The Indestructible Beat of Soweto). This collection offers a more sophisticated grade of high-tech popsters, like the entirely Westernized Johnny Clegg and Savuka or Brenda and the Big Dudes, both of whom have issued mainstream American product. Most of the artists sing in English with electronic instrumentation and smooth studio sound. There are some good tracks, but a lot of this is custom-made for timid cultural dilettantes.

SPEED TRIALS (Homestead) 1985

Fall, Beastie Boys, Live Skull, Sonic Youth, Lydia Lunch, Carborn, Swans, Toy Killers

Highlights from a five-day festival held at a New York art gallery in 1983, Speed Trials presents a veritable who’s who of local noise bands (plus an out-of-town guest). The Fall contributes two tracks (everyone else has one). Sonic Youth and Live Skull are more pulverising than usual; most of the Swans back up Lydia Lunch; the Beasties’ cut is from their hardcore days.


Bongos, Raybeats, dB’s, Bush Tetras, Fleshtones

These five New York/Hoboken bands were captured (all arguably in their prime) live at London’s Rainbow in February 1981. Of particular interest is the Bongos’ energetic take of “In the Congo,” which is spiced up by members of Throbbing Gristle. Otherwise, this is generally a poor showing by talented bands caught on a bad night.

STIFFS LIVE (Stiff) 1978

Nick Lowe’s Last Chicken in the Shop, Wreckless Eric & the New Rockets, Larry Wallis’ Psychedelic Rowdies, Elvis Costello and the Attractions, Ian Dury & the Blockheads

Recorded live on the road during the first Stiff package tour, this is an amiable collection. The whimsically-named bands are merely reorganized permutations of the same bunch–Lowe plays behind Wallis, Dury behind Eric, Attraction Pete Thomas is in two other groups, etc. A rowdy piece of honest, timeless live rock music by artists who have never issued live albums on their own.

STREETS (UK Beggars Banquet) 1977

“Select Highlights from British Independent Labels”

Doll, Nosebleeds, Members, Drones, Lurkers, Zeros, Arthur Comics?, Pork Dukes, Art Attacks, Exile, Dogs, Drive, Reactions, John Cooper Clarke, Cane, Tractor, Slaughter and the Dogs

Britain’s first independents compilation features previously-issued cuts from a diverse stack of bands, most of whom proved minor characters in the brave new (wave) world. The music is raw and trying in spots, but as an indication of punk’s early stages, a unique and important record. Best track: “isgodaman” by put-on critics’ band Arthur Comics?.


“A Liverpool Album”

Big in Japan, Activity Minimal, the Id, Dead Trout, Jaqui & Jeanette, Tontrix, Modern Eon, Accelerators, Malchix, Echo and the Bunnymen, Fun, Moderates

A very important collection chronicling Liverpool. Although some of the bands turned out to be dead ends, it does feature primordial Echo and seminal outfits who gave rise to OMD and the Teardrop Explodes. A second volume, also on Open Eye, was issued in 1981, featuring five new groups of less note.


“Chiswick Chartbusters Volume One”

101’ers, Count Bishops, Gorillas, Little Bob Story, Radio Stars, Rocky Sharpe and the Razors

A selection of singles (1975–’77) from London’s feisty and fabulous Chiswick Records. The pre-Clash 101’ers inclusion (“Keys to Your Heart”) is essential, as is the Radio Stars’ “Dirty Pictures,” all three Gorillas’ cuts and some of the Count Bishops’.


Chrome, MX-80 Sound, Residents, Tuxedomoon

Typical of Ralph’s totally original outlook, the premise of this album is to give four San Francisco bands the chance to exercise their bizarre talents with only one requirement: that they include an interpretation of “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” The results are as weird as might be expected, and altogether stimulating. Not for the musically conservative (or Tony Bennett fans).

SUN CITY (Manhattan) 1985

Artists United Against Apartheid, Peter Gabriel and Shankar, Keith LeBlanc, Bono, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, Gil Scott-Heron, others

Little Steven and producer Arthur Baker pulled together a remarkable collection of performers (under the Artists United Against Apartheid banner) to appear on the song “Sun City,” which is included on this full-length fundraiser album in two versions. But there’s also a Peter Gabriel song (“No More Apartheid”), a Bono/Keith Richards/Ron Wood number (“Silver and Gold”) and a Keith LeBlanc cut-up workout. A powerful record given weight by the cause and the challenge.

TEN FROM TEXAS (Elektra) 1984

“Herd It Through the Grapevine”

Commandos, Random Culture, David Bean, Optimystics, Dan Del Santo, Johnny Reno and the Sax Maniacs, Secret Six, Vital Signs, Refugee, Tribe

Having once started an Akron upsurge with his Stiff sampler album, producer Liam Sternberg tried the same thing in Texas. He found some good stuff there, but this commercially-minded album touches a lot of bases–pop, funk, jazz, country, techno–without much conviction. Some players are familiar from earlier Austin scene records–Secret Six is ex-Skunks leader Jesse Sublett’s new band, Shona Lay of the Optymistics was in the Standing Waves, David Bean’s cohort is Kris Cummings, who was a longtime sidekick of Joe “King” Carrasco.


Jane Aire & the Belvederes, Bizarros, Chi Pig, Idiots Convention, Rubber City Rebels, Rachel Sweet, Sniper, Terraplane, Tin Huey, Waitresses

Uniquely conceived, prescient and musically entertaining, this album resulted from Stiff’s dispatching an envoy from London to Ohio to check out the musical scene in America’s tire capital. What they found was a heap of exciting bands, with tunes that share a buoyancy and small-town spunk, but cover a wide stylistic range. Lots of fun. (Too bad Chrissie Hynde wasn’t home that week…)


Minutemen, Meat Puppets, Saccharine Trust, Black Flag, Overkill, Stains, Würm, Hüsker Dü


Saccharine Trust, Saint Vitus, SWA, D.C.3, Painted Willie, Dog, October Faction, Angst, Meat Puppets, Minutemen, Black Flag, Gone, Hüsker Dü, Overkill, Würm

SST’s top-notch punk, rock (and more) roster is captured in all its noisy glory on these two fine label samplers. SST is one of the most productive independent labels currently functioning in the US; these albums provide an economical, manageable way to get blasted.


Scott Lea, Junk, Null Set, Punsters, Fireballet, Aerrage, Pete Tomlinson, Hollow Bodies, Joe Hosey, Opium Vala, Smithereens, Jigs & the Pigs, Steel Tips

Re-creating the classic sounds of the ’60s, these New Jersey bands–all fairly obscure save for the Smithereens–each pick a fave old tune and give it their best shot. The ‘Reens turn a film theme (“Hang ‘Em High”) into a surf instrumental; others take on standards by Simon & Garfunkel, the Beatles, Nancy Sinatra, Keith, Tremeloes, Boxtops, Tommy James, Left Banke, etc. The power pop and garage pop performances are all delightful, and there are friendly liner notes for those who can’t place a naggingly familiar tune. A winner!


Screamin’ Sirens, Game Theory, Jet Black Berries, 45 Grave, Naked Prey, Effigies, Tex and the Horseheads, Kraut, Greg Sage, Redd Kross, Chris D. and the Divine Horsemen, TSOL, John Trubee, Channel 3, Rain Parade, Cathedral of Tears, Plasticland, Passionnel, Pandoras, Untouchables, Get Smart!, Pool, Leaving Trains, Scott Goddard, Green on Red, SSQ

Before it went belly up, California’s Enigma (comprising Restless, Pink Dust and other labels) grew from a small independent into a monstrously successful operation. Looking back over the company’s formative stages, this two-disc retrospective (mostly West Coast bands) has several rarities of minor interest; the other tracks, all previously released, are actually much better. (And if you’ve never heard “A Blind Man’s Penis” by John Trubee this record is a must-find.)

THE FRUIT OF THE ORIGINAL SIN (Belgian Crepuscule) 1981

“A Collection of After Hours Preoccupations…”

Virginia Astley, William S. Burroughs, Cecile Bruynoghe, DNA, Marguerite Duras, Durutti Column, French Impressionists, Peter Gordon, Paul Haig, Richard Jobson, Marine, Names, Orange Juice, Rhine River III, Arthur Russell, Soft Verdict, Swamp Children, Thick Pigeon, 323, Winston Tong

Two discs of music, poetry, interviews, audio verit‚, etc.–more a sonic magazine than a traditional album. Despite the seeming incompatibility of the participants, the effect is magical–a fabulous blend of sounds that somehow fit together. The music (most of it otherwise unavailable) is largely progressive/obscure, but always intriguing.

THE GUITAR AND THE GUN (UK Africagram/Cherry Red) 1983

“A Collection of Ghanaian Highlife Dance Music”

Genesis Gospel Singers, Salam’s Cultural Imani Group, Kuntum 13, F. Kenya, African Internationals, Supreme Xian Singers, Baptist Disciple Singers

Three kinds of guitar-heavy highlife for your listening pleasure: gospel (spiritual), concert (party music) and cultural (solo acoustic guitar with traditional percussion).


“Zulu Jive Volume Two”

Udokotela Shange Namajaha, Nelcy Sedibe, Umahlathini Nabo, Amaswazi Emvelo, Mahlathini Nezintombi Zomgqashiyo with Makgona Tshole Band, Moses Mchunu, Nganeziyamfisa no Khambalomvaleliso, Johnson Mkhalali, Ladysmith Black Mambazo

More music from the South African townships sung in “mbaqanga” style, dealing with such hazards of everyday life as loan sharks and marital trouble. The recordings date from 1981 to 1984.


Dexy’s Midnight Runners, Lene Lovich, Lew Lewis Reformer, A. More, Cure, Lori and the Chameleons, Madness, Wreckless Eric, Any Trouble, Chords, Mo-Dettes, John Cooper Clarke, John Otway and Wild Willy Barrett, Motorhead, Cockney Rejects, Damned

Not a label compilation, but one of the neatest batches of contemporary songs ever glued together on one disc. An ideal party record, with a bonus: an unlabeled track of Lene Lovich singing “I Think We’re Alone Now” in Japanese. Brilliant.

THE RARE STUFF? (UK Harvest) 1979

Saints, Wire, Banned, Flys, Rich Kids, Shirts

Dredging up B-sides, Australian-only and small-label releases by a half-dozen bands that never attracted all that much attention in the first place (excepting the two who are suddenly happening again, ten years later) might seem like a dubious commmercial endeavor for a corporate monolith, but it’s a credit to Harvest that this compilation (which is quite good and has grown in value enormously over the centuries) was ever created. Despite a lack of annotation, it’s an impressive batch of obscurities.


Cramps, Damned, 45 Grave, Tall Boys, TSOL, Jet Black Berries, Flesheaters, SSQ, Roky Erickson

New tracks by the Cramps, 45 Grave and Roky Erickson enliven this tongue-in-cheek zombie flick soundtrack; contributions by the Damned, Flesheaters and TSOL add further atmosphere to the graveyard party.


Three on a Hill, Decadent Dub Team, Buck Pets, Shallow Reign, Reverend Horton Heat, New Bohemians, Trees, End Over End, Daylights, Legendary Revelations

This love letter to Dallas, Texas is an exemplary scene compilation: it’s got stylistic variety and consistent quality. All of these bands–none of whom had national reps at the time–could put out albums and fit somewhere between the mainstream and the near edge of weird. Shallow Reign and the Buck Pets are especially good. Cynthia Rose’s liner notes add enough enthusiastic background to start a tourist avalanche.

THIS ARE TWO TONE (Chrysalis) 1983

Special A.K.A., Madness, Selecter, Beat, Rico

These thirteen tracks, all originally released on 2 Tone 45s, changed the sound of British pop music forever. It includes the Specials’ debut (“Gangsters”) and its B-side (“The Selecter”), the Beat’s ska-pop “Tears of a Clown,” Madness’ eponymous tribute to bluebeat legend Prince Buster and lots more. Superb.


Suzi Quatro, Ruts, Pretenders, D.L. Byron, Roxy Music, Lou Reed, Gary Numan, Desmond Child & Rouge, Marcy Levy & Robin Gibb, Garland Jeffreys, Talking Heads, Cure, Joe Jackson, Patti Smith Group, XTC, David Johansen, Ramones, Robin Johnson and Trini Alvarado

The film sucked, but the well-sequenced soundtrack LP contains a sizable dose of real excellence amid the dross. Ignore the superfluous stuff and enjoy a jukeboxful of quality rock from some swell bands.

TOKYO MOBILE MUSIC I (UK Mobile Suit Corp.) 1982

Hikashu, Shokichi Kina, Akiko Yano, Lizard, Earthling, Salon Music, Yukihiro Takahashi

An interesting audio verit‚ outing, this magazine-like album of Tokyo was produced by an Englishman and wrapped in an oversize-Walkman-design cover. The modern music is highly technosized, but exciting and original; the ambient recordings of street (and subway) life add continuity of a sort, elevating it from a simple song collection to a stimulating cultural travelogue.


Big in Japan, Those Naughty Lumps, Dalek (I Love You), Turquoise Swimming Pools, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Teardrop Explodes, Lori and the Chameleons, Whopper

Liverpool’s brilliant Zoo label produced this beautiful package, combining unreleased and obscure items from its vaults with a few better-known catalogue selections. An impressive cast and obvious attention to quality (both musical and graphic) makes it a spectacular blend of music, style and wit that fits together seamlessly and does a proud service to both label and bands.

TOUCHDOWN (UK Fontana) 1982

Higsons, Vital Excursions, Farmers Boys, Dislocation Dance, Animal Magic, Design for Living, Popular Voice, Pinski Zoo, Maximum Joy

British white boys play funk and jazz with lots of horns here. This LP (plus one-sided 12-inch of the Higsons doing a syncopated “I Can’t Get Next to You”) is better for dancing than listening, although not bad for that, either.

TRILOGY (Celluloid) 1985

Tour‚ Kunda, Bill Laswell, Mandingo, D.ST., Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Last Poets, Manu Dibango, Deadline, Shango, Time Zone, Jalaluddin M. Nuriddin and D.ST., Massacre, Material, Lightnin’ Rod, Jimi Hendrix, B-Side, Golden Palominos, Tribe 2

Sumptuous, soul-satisfying, three-record Celluloid label sampler, divided into New Africa 2, Hard Cell and Beat Freaks. The mix of exotic, urban and esoteric is both dynamic and challenging; listen closely and your head will be expanded.


Chris Moffa & the Competition, Martha Hull, Norman Salant, Erector Set, Poli Styrene Jass Band, Shoes, Nerves, R. Stevie Moore, Residents, Pylon, Gary Valentine, Fans, Tweeds, Bunnydrums, Wrinklemuzik, Algebra Suicide, Suburbs, Dub Rifles, Bizarros, Armand Schaubroeck Steals

A tape-only selection of tracks from independent American (one Canadian) bands, compiled by the editors of New York’s late Trouser Press magazine. Most of the material — a mixture of power pop and adventurous experimentalism — comes from obscure singles and albums; a few items are otherwise unavailable.

TUATARA (Australian Flying Nun) 1985 (Strange Weekend) 1986

“A Flying Nun Compilation”

Clean, Gordons, Fetus Productions, Verlaines, Children’s Hour, Marie and the Atom, Chills, Sneaky Feelings, Great Unwashed, Bats, Expendables, Tall Dwarfs

Since its founding in 1981, New Zealand’s Flying Nun label has proven to be a crucial link between the best music in that land and the rest of the world. Now available in an unchanged (save for cover colors) Stateside reissue, this nicely-annotated historical collection (it includes the label’s first-ever release, a Clean single) of a dozen items offers an aid to foreigners hoping to figure out which bands are worth pursuing.

20 OF ANOTHER KIND (UK Polydor) 1979

999, Generation X, Jam, Stranglers, Skids, Plastic Bertrand, Sham 69, Cure, Otway and Barrett, Adverts, Heartbreakers, Boys, Patrik Fitzgerald, Jolt, Stiff Little Fingers, Lurkers


Jam, Invaders, Tubeway Army, Purple Hearts, Cure, Lurkers, Twist, Headboys, Gary Numan, Chords, Carpettes, Sham 69, Xdreamysts, Patrik Fitzgerald, Protex

Two tremendous collections of singles by bands both famous and forgotten, but all worth hearing and knowing about. The track arrangement on the first record isn’t especially clever, but there’s no better way to sample such a diverse group of groups. Volume Two offers 20 more previously-issued 45 sides: lots of great music and a chance to discover some otherwise arcane talents largely lost to the world now, despite transient greatness. Excellent.

2 X 5 (Red Star) 1980

Fleshtones, Revelons, Bloodless Pharaohs, Comateens, Student Teachers

Like the title says: two cuts each by five bands, produced by Jimmy Destri of Blondie specifically for this record. Despite some incipient excitement (the Fleshtones, Brian Setzer’s pre-Stray Cats Bloodless Pharaohs), the album is astonishingly boring and lacking in personality.


Police, Devo, Wall of Voodoo, Echo and the Bunnymen, Toyah Wilcox, Au Pairs, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Cramps, Oingo Boingo, Joan Jett, XTC, Pere Ubu, Members, Gary Numan, Go-Go’s, Fleshtones, Klaus Nomi, Gang of Four, Athletico Spizz ’80, John Otway, Alley Cats, 999, Jools Holland, X, Steel Pulse, Magazine, Skafish

The soundtrack to a madly ambitious live compilation movie contains otherwise unreleased concert performances by just about everybody who was anybody in 1981. The songs are largely the ones you’d want to hear, offering enormous variety and virtually no clinkers. An amazing album. (Footnote: this soundtrack is not precisely the soundtrack. There are some differences in material and bands between movie and record.)


Pointed Sticks, Exxotone, D.O.A., Active Dog, Wasted Lives, Subhumans, U-J3RK5, No Fun, Dishrags, K-tels, Shades, Tim Ray and A.V., [e?]

Energetic and creative, this stack of talent from Canada’s western hot spot proves that life does go on, rockwise, outside of the UK and US. Although the sound level is low (the result of squeezing 20 full-length studio tracks onto one disc), the music’s hot, and sounds well advanced for 1979, displaying traces of hardcore (from D.O.A. and the Subhumans) as well as progressive pop and arty rock. A brochure about the bands provides information not included on the cover or label (like who does which songs).

VAULTAGE 78 (UK Attrix) 1978

“Two Sides of Brighton”

Nicky and the Dots, Peter and the Test Tube Babies, Dodgems, Parrots, Devil’s Dykes, Vitamins, Piranhas

A wonderful collection of amateurish bands from England’s south coast. All the tracks show enormous cleverness and unprepossessing originality, and there’s an overall level of silliness that makes it charming as hell. (Although Peter and the Test Tube Babies went on to major thrash-metal success, here they’re a pop band.) Two more similar (with fewer and fewer exceptional tracks) LPs were issued by the same label over the following two years.

WANNA BUY A BRIDGE? (Rough Trade) 1980

Stiff Little Fingers, Spizz Energi, Delta 5, Kleenex, Slits, Cabaret Voltaire, Essential Logic, Raincoats, TV Personalities, Young Marble Giants, Swell Maps, Scritti Politti, Pop Group, Robert Wyatt

This American Rough Trade sampler, covering the then-young label’s powerful roster, pushes in several non-mainstream directions, from minimalist art-rock to political punk and more. A phenomenal storehouse of talent on one disc.


Sex Pistols, Stranglers, Hollywood Brats, Those Helicopters, Golant Pistols, Slits, Flying Lizards, Devo, UK Subs, Dickies, Hammersmith Gorillas

If you like cover versions, you’ll love this album of punk bands doing material by the Zombies, Moody Blues, Kinks, Easybeats, Monkees and more. The tracks are all previously issued, but a are damnably obscure. A fun romp.

YOU’RE SOAKING IN IT! (Apex/Skyclad) 1988

“Music From Philadelphia & N.Y.”

Electric Love Muffin, Nixon’s Head, Ornamental Wigwam, Gus Cordovox Quintet, 7 Dancing Etruscan Slaves of the 4th Dimension, Wishniaks, Baby Flame Head, Things That Creeped-n-Crawled Right Out-o-the Ground, Dr. Bombay, Da Willys, Kenn Kweder, Wack Mags, Mick Cancer, Buddhist Delite

This very strange 15-song collection, some of it produced by Ben Vaughn (who also plays on the Gus Cordovox and Kenn Kweder tracks), doesn’t stray far from fairly familiar sounds. TTCNCROOTG resemble a punked-out B-52’s; the Electric Love Muffin cut recalls the Meat Puppets; Ornamental Wigwam may cause John Otway fans to scratch their heads. Points for high quality (musical and studio) and plenty of easy likability. (Also kudos to Baby Flame Head for “Badadadadup,” a dual-service title and libretto.)