Ace Records

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  • Various - She Came From Liverpool! Merseyside Girl Pop 1962-1968 (CD)


    Over the last few years, Ace has built up a series of prime British female pop releases, with individual collections drawn from four of the country’s leading record companies of the 1960s. With this compilation, rather than spotlight a particular company, the focus is on a location: the music hotbed of Merseyside. While male beat groups ruled the Merseyside roost in the ’60s, the area was also home to it’s fair share of female talent. To illustrate the point, here are 25 hand-picked girl-pop artefacts from thereabouts. Liverpool’s pop queen Cilla Black is featured with her two most Merseybeat-oriented tracks, including a terrific version of ’A Shot Of Rhythm And Blues’, the first song she ever recorded at Abbey Road. Guitar-toting cover girls the Liverbirds, who released no records in the UK but were stars in Germany – where their repertoire of Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry numbers made them favorites at the Star-Club – also appear twice. The Breakaways, the Vernons Girls and Beryl Marsden – three other acts intrinsically associated with Liverpool – are also featured. Along with a selection of proven fan favorites, the collection contains many lesser-known gems, among them new-to-CD tracks by the Three Bells, Nola York, Tiffany, Lyn Cornell, Cindy Cole and, not least, Samantha Jones, whose hitherto-unreleased-in-any-format ’I Don’t Want To Lose Him’ was recorded with visiting American producer Teddy Randazzo. Read all about these and the other featured artists in the accompanying picture-packed 28-page booklet, which contains a 7,000-word note by compiler Mick Patrick and genre expert Ian Chapman.

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  • Shapiro Helen - Face The Music: The Complete Singles 1967-1984 (CD)


     Before she had reached her 16th birthday, Helen Shapiro became one of the UK’s brightest stars of the early 1960s, with three of her first four singles topping our charts. In the years before the Beatles (who once supported her on tour!) Helen was a permanently visible presence on our charts, and continues to be a fan favorite seven decades on and almost 20 years after she announced her retirement.

    Most of Helen’s early hits can be found on at least one CD. But in Face The Music, Ace brings you the first-ever compilation to pull together the complete A and B sides of every seven inch single Helen released under her own name between 1967 and 1984, with repertoire drawn from five different labels. Face The Music comes to you with the full approval and endorsement of Helen and John, her husband of more than 30 years.

    A sleeve note featuring a specially conducted 2020 ’lockdown’ interview with the artist provides Helen’s own thoughts on both these recordings and this period in her 40+ year career. All tracks appear here in their original mono and stereo single mixes, just as they were released on 45. Around a third of the titles have never been reissued before, in any format. With a booklet stuffed with the usual plethora of ephemera, labels and rare foreign picture sleeves, it’s something no Shapiro fan will want to miss.

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  • Various - New Breed R&B – Saturday Night Special (CD)


    The master tapes reveal more great New Breed R&B dance exclusives – plus rare records and elusive CD offerings from the past.

    New Breed is back with a historical bang. The opening track and title inspiration is Aaron Collins & the Teen Queens’ ‘Every Saturday Night’. Its R&B pedigree is inestimable; Collins was a member of Los Angeles vocal group the Flairs/Flares and wrote songs for Z.Z. Hill, Jackie Day, Cookie Jackson and others. Ray Charles recorded his ‘Every Saturday Night’ for ABC in 1972. The Modern tape vaults have given up this original 1966 R&B take of the song with Collins and his sisters, the Teen Queens, performing at their best – all the more remarkable as Rosie and Betty had not recorded since 1962 and it was to be their last session, both dying tragically a few years later.

    More unissued beauties come from East Coast outfit the Corvairs with ‘I’ll Never Do It Again’, ‘Satisfied’ by Oakland’s funky bluesman Johnny Talbot, Gay Meadows’ Atlanta-recorded ‘Head Doctor’, and gems by obscure Ohio R&B outfits Pee Wee Foster, Little Macey & the Valiants and Big Charley & the Domans. Rare 45s come in the shape of Curly Mays’ ‘I’m Walkin’ On’, Pat Garvis’ ‘Turn Your Lamp Down Low’, ‘Triple Zero’ by Esko Wallace and ‘Your Yah-Yah Is Gone’ by New Jersey girl group the Tren-Teens. There are tracks from Ace CDs that went largely undiscovered by the New Breed crowd from Prince Conley, the Lon-Genes and Rob Robinson. Other highlights include the very recently discovered Freddie Williams track ‘Purty Little Mama’ recorded for Norman Petty in New York, Slim & the Twilights’ New Orleans-sounding ‘Family Man’ and Tony Clarke’s early Detroit rocker ‘Love Must Be Taboo’, all presented digitally from master tape for the first time. The booklet features stunning photos of Margaret Lewis, Flora D, the Metallics, Rob Robinson and Johnny “Guitar” Watson, along with some fax ’n’ info for the serious Breeder.

    ADY CROASDELL (Ace Records)

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  • Various - Dirty Work Going On – Kent & Modern Records Blues Into 60s (CD)


    The blues didn’t stop with the end of the 50s – as soul ruled the charts, the grittier end of black music was well represented by the artists on this compilation. Great guitar playing to the fore.

    20 years after the release in Japan of P-Vine’s limited-edition “Modern/Kent Blues Treasures” CD series, the anniversary isn’t going to spark a lot of commemorations, but it does make a renewed appreciation for these obscure 1950s and 1960s West Coast blues from the vaults of the Bihari Brothers’ labels a little extra timely. Accordingly, Ace has compiled two CDs from the Bihari archives, based strongly on the four-volume P-Vine series but with a few additions (and obviously a couple of CDs’ worth of omissions).

    This first volume, “Dirty Work Going On”, reflects the West Coast band blues of its time. The blues side of the company’s output was largely a blend of the pacesetting B.B. King, rhythm & blues, funk and social consciousness in the lyrics as the civil rights movement brought change and turbulence. Volume 2, “If I Have To Wreck LA”, to follow later this year, will retain the Texas blues base but focus more on gutbucket, downhome blues, which means harmonica will replace horns and the shadows of Lightnin’ Hopkins and John Lee Williamson will loom large.

    Together, these two collections evoke a time and place that feel increasingly remote. Most of these sides never made it to vinyl, and stayed largely or completely unheard for over 60 years in some cases, other than the small-run Japanese CD releases. We have included several versions minus their subsequent overdubs, or probably awaiting some that never happened, and alternate takes. When this music was created it was during a time of change, for the blues and for society, and the music and sociopolitical perspectives heard here are well worth a look back.

    DICK SHURMAN (Ace Records)

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  • Various - Don’t Blow Your Cool! More 60s Girls From UK Decca (CD)


    With the original vinyl compilation Girl Zone in 1986, Ace Records became the first reissue company to plunder Decca Records 1960s female catalogue.

    No-one really knew whether there was a demand, so it was something of a gamble. Happily, reaction was positive and the album sold well. Fast forward 30 years, and their similarly themed Love Hit Me! collection became one of their top-selling releases of 2016. Having established that there’s still a demand, Ace now present Don’t Blow Your Cool!, their latest sumptuously packaged all-female Decca anthology. Along with a hand-picked selection of proven fan favourites, with the more avid of collectors in mind, the compilation includes ultra-rare French language versions of Summer Nights by Marianne Faithfull and You Just Gotta Know My Mind by Dana Gillespie, plus other new-to-CD tracks by visiting American Joy Marshall, folk-rocker Beverley, Marvettes lead singer Margo, much-loved girl group the Orchids and, with her Goldfinger -style theme from cult favourite TV series Adam Adamant Lives, lip-gloss queen Kathy Kirby. Compilation and notes by girl-pop buffs Mick Patrick and Ian Chapman (just like back in 1986).

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  • Various - Boppin’ By The Bayou – Feel So Good (#22) (CD)


    28 cool tracks from the hottest studios in steamy Louisiana, including 12 previously unreleased.

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  • Wray Link - Link Sings Elvis (Ltd) (10``LP)



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  • Various - Rhythm & Bluesin’ By The Bayou – Bop Cat Stomp (#21) (CD)


    28 authentic R&B blasters – many new to CD, including 11 previously unissued.

    Volume 21 of the great musical adventure brings another helping of mid-century rhythm’n’blues from the bayou region of South Louisiana/SE Texas, an area that spreads from New Orleans in the east to Port Arthur in the west. Here are the hot guitars, pounding pianos and honking saxes, spiced here and there with a little accordion or harmonica, all topped off by cool vocals.

    This collection stems from the vaults of the most innovative record men of the region – Eddie Shuler, JD Miller, Floyd Soileau, Sam Montel and Huey Meaux. All had a gift for recognising musical talent and letting it flourish. They were able to encourage and cajole the best possible performances from their artists without corrupting their individuality.

    Shuler (Lake Charles) and Miller (Crowley) launched their first labels in the mid-40s to produce Cajun music and moved into blues and R&B in the early 50s. Soileau (Ville Platte) and Montel (Baton Rouge) commenced their operations around a decade later, with Soileau also starting out with Cajun, whereas Montel began his company with rock’n’roll and R&B. Meaux (Port Arthur) started out in artist management, primarily with Cajun artists but promptly adding a rock’n’roll roster. He first placed artists with Floyd Soileau’s Jin label, but almost immediately recognised that there was more money to be made owning a label and a publishing company. These then are the men who captured the sounds of a generation.

    Of the 28 tracks included here, 11 are either previously unissued or previously unissued alternate takes and the remainder are just plain obscure. Two of the new tracks are by unidentified artists but they are both strong rockers which excited me and I have been looking forward to offering them to fans of the genre. As always, we have a blend of storming rockers, mid-tempo magic and a handful of buckle-polishers, as slower numbers were dubbed in the clubs of the area – together in a collection that will whisk you back in time to the swamps of the deep south where you can lose yourself in the rhythms that engulfed the clubs and bars of the area.


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  • Various - Cyclone ! – Gallic Guitars A-Go-Go 1962-66 (CD)


    When rock’n’roll music hit the shores of France, it was embraced with a fervour more intense than in other European countries. The first wave of French rock bands set the stage for the later yé-yé scene and led a generation of Gallic teens to follow suit and launch their own groups. Many were inspired to form combos by the Shadows, the reigning kings of instrumental rock throughout Europe in the early 60s. Every country had bands vying to be the top instrumental group but nowhere was the competition more fierce than in Paris and, more specifically, at the Golf Drouot, a mini-golf/tea-room turned nightclub that became a rite of passage for every French band. Known also as “le temple du rock”, the club became central to the fertile music scene in France, forming the connecting thread for all the bands heard on this compilation.

    Many of the featured artists included the standards of the day in their repertoire. Their original efforts, though, are often more interesting, illustrating the great French tendency to digest American music as one giant lump, instead of seeing the genre-divided subsets that dictated the way Americans consumed music. This made for some very interesting and original songwriting completely unlike contemporary American offerings, such as Leo Messir’s Django Reinhardt-infused surf rock number ‘T-Shirt’ or the Leo Petit-penned ‘Galaxie’, which featured a melody more akin to European folk music than anything American rock would produce.

    Among the musicians are the same players who contributed to the sound of much-adored artists such as France Gall, Sylvie Vartan and Johnny Hallyday by supplying their musical accompaniment. Some of the contributors are expats, such as America’s jazz guitar great turned French producer/songwriter Mickey Baker, and others hail from closer, among them the UK’s Krewkats, Tommy Brown and Micky Jones, but they all come together to form this quintessentially French collection for your listening pleasure.

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  • Various - Holding Things Together: Merle Haggard Songbook (CD)


    Universally known to his fans and peers as ’Hag’, the late Merle Haggard was one of the prime exponents of the ’Bakersfield Sound’, developed in the early ’60s as an alternative to the increasingly smooth and homogenized country music that was coming out of Nashville. Haggard was also one of country’s most prolific hitmakers and composers, writing more than three quarters of the hundred plus songs he placed on Billboard’s Country charts between 1962 and 1990, as well as numerous album tracks.

    This entry in Ace’s Songwriter Series offers a broad cross-section of premium Hag copyrights, as reinterpreted by artists as diverse as Gram Parsons, Bettye Swann, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Grateful Dead and legendary ’Singing Cowboy’ Roy Rogers, to name but a few. Most of the featured songs are famous enough to be recognized by their titles and are rightly considered to be country music classics but as ever, we have unearthed a few lesser known killers – some of which are appearing on CD for the first time.

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  • Bad Smitty - Smokestack Lightning / Walking With Smitty (7 single/EP)


    Super-crude and gravel-voiced cover of the Wolf b/w stripped-down Frankie Lee Sims cover

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  • Various - Love’s Been Good To Me – The Songs Of Rod McKuen (CD)


    From folk anthems to movie themes and French chanson ballads, 25 songs from one of the great pop culture icons of his time, including three previously unissued tracks.

    Over and over in his work, Rod McKuen proclaimed himself a man apart from the crowd. The secret of his enormous success as a performer, composer and writer is that he spoke for countless other loners across the world. A born outsider, McKuen was embraced by millions of fans who connected with the expressions of desire, nostalgia and self-acceptance found in his songs and poems.

    The jacket copy of his 1972 book And To Each Season… sums up his impact: “Rod McKuen is both the best-selling poet in history and the best-selling author in this country [USA]. In the past five years, his poetry has sold nearly eight million copies, and his songs, which have been translated into at least 10 languages, have sold more than 100 million records.” Television specials, sell-out concert tours, film soundtrack projects and other ventures brought him still more exposure and acclaim. It is no exaggeration to call McKuen as much a voice of his era as Bob Dylan or Allen Ginsberg.

    In the early 1960s, he began to visit France and gain entry into Parisian songwriting circles. By 1964 he was co-writing with a host of leading French chansonniers, most notably Jacques Brel. He both translated and freely adapted Brel’s lyrics, resulting in such international hits as ‘If You Go Away’ and ‘Seasons In The Sun’. McKuen was deeply influenced by the French chanson school both as a writer and a performer. Although his work lacked Brel’s ferocious edge, his blend of romantic idealism and mature fatalism had much in common with European sensibilities.

    His ability to frame plainspoken, emotion-laden lyrics in melodies that drew upon classic pop, folk and European chanson influences continued to earn him covers into the 70s. Frank Sinatra devoted his 1969 album “A Man Alone” to McKuen material, turning in suavely bittersweet renditions of such tunes as ‘Lonesome Cities’, ‘Love’s Been Good To Me’ and ‘I’ve Been To Town’. Meanwhile, McKuen gained even wider exposure by composing songs for the films The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie, A Boy Named Charlie Brown and The Borrowers.

    Still another creative avenue opened up when he collaborated with pop arranger/composer Anita Kerr on a series of thematic albums beginning with “The Sea” in 1967. A soft-pop landmark of its era, the LP featured actor Jesse Pearson murmuring McKuen’s gently erotic poetry over a backdrop of instrumental pieces performed by the San Sebastian Strings and beachside sounds. “The Sea” went on to earn gold certification and spawned further McKuen/Kerr projects built around environmental and seasonal motifs.

    This compilation offers a taste of the breadth and diversity of McKuen’s output as a songwriter. The versions of his tunes gathered here testify to his versatility, craftsmanship and feel for a strong hook. From novelty ditties and folk anthems to movie themes and French chanson ballads, these songs cover exceptionally wide ground. Whatever the style he worked in, he constantly returned to the same topics lyrically: fleeting love, the pleasures of the past, the longing for both home and the need to be free.

    McKuen’s death in January 2015 left some of his dreams still unfulfilled but there was no denying the scope of his accomplishments over a 50-plus year career. Through ability, tenacity and sheer will, he overcame enormous obstacles to become one of the great pop culture icons of his time.

    Barry Alfonso

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