NEW ORLEANS COOKIN': Long time Meters drummer and younger brother of R&B pioneers Art and Aaron Neville, Cyril Neville gets his due with a five CD retrospect, Endangered Species: The Complete Recordings on World Order Entertainment. Editor/Publisher Michael McDowell takes a closer look at the highlight single disc collection, The Essential Recordings below (Click on above image to enlarge).


Jimi Hendrix (Experience Hendrix / Legacy)

Rare is the artist whose catalog is so prolific that unreleased material by them continues to surface decades after their untimely passing. 

To be certain, there have been a select few artists who continued to sustain their momentum in the spotlight in the immediate few years after their careers met abrupt and tragic endings. To wit, following the December 1967 plane crash that claimed the life of composer, vocalist and visionary Otis Redding and several of the Bar-Kays, new releases from the vaults followed that continued to build upon Redding's extraordinary legacy over the next few years, including the multi-million selling (Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay and the two-sided monster classic Amen / Hard To Handle, plus I've Got Dreams To Remember, a cover of James Brown's Papa's Got A Brand New Bag and his groundbreaking Love Man album.

In turn, the February 1959 Iowa plane crash that abruptly ended the careers of Jiles Perry "The Big Bopper" Richardson, Ritchie Valens and Charles Hardin "Buddy Holly" Holley pretty much (with rare exceptions) finalized the legacies of Richardson and Valens. However, unreleased material continued to surface by Holly throughout 1969, with the release that year of the Giant album on Coral Records. Therein, members of the Fireballs provided accompaniment to various demo and home recordings made by Holly in his New York City apartment in January 1959. 

However, there are three artists whose vast and enduring catalogs have continued to provide revelations well past their respective passings. One was the highly prolific and gifted composer, vocalist and actor, James Travis "Jim" Reeves. Although his career was cut short at age forty on 31 July 1964 in a Tennessee plane crash, Reeves was the subject of regular new single and album releases for RCA Victor into the early 1980s.

Likewise, the artist who has long been regarded as one of the jazz idiom's absolute masters, saxophonist John Coltrane (who succumbed to cancer of the liver in July 1967 at age forty) had been so prolific in both the studio and on stage (with dozens of albums to his credit on Prestige, Atlantic, Impulse and other labels), that the closing weeks of 2014 saw the first ever complete release of an album's worth of live material by him, recorded on the campus of Temple University in November 1966. 

Perhaps the most remarkable of that ambitious trio is the subject of the project at hand, guitarist and composer James Marshall "Jimi" Hendrix. For while his career spanned less than a decade (ending with his death in September 1970 at age twenty-seven), the Experience Hendrix team has continued to issue previously unavailable material by the renowned virtuoso on a fairly regular basis to the present day. 

The latest of these, Both Sides Of The Sky is the third in a series of albums that focuses on the highlights of his heretofore unreleased material. Like Coltrane, Hendrix spent copious amounts of time in the studio. As was also the case with Coltrane, a "roll tape" perspective prevailed at nearly all times, enabling even the most rudimentary of ideas and concepts to be preserved for future release, analysis and celebration.

With both Coltrane and Hendrix, the basic template of a project or mission statement was brought into the session, and was often worked up on the spot. For such an approach to produce such unwaveringly brilliant results, it was necessary for each artist to surround themselves with sympathetic musicians who could take charge and execute accordingly. In Coltrane's case, his dream team of McCoy Tyner (keyboards), Jimmy Garrison (bass) and Elvin Jones (drums) pretty much spoke for itself as jazz's most revered ensemble (augmented and/or succeeded in Coltrane's final years by Pharoah Sanders, Alice Coltrane and others). 

Likewise, on Both Sides Of The Sky, Hendrix is joined at various points by such capable contributors as the Buffalo Springfield's Stephen Stills, guitarist Johnny Winter, and long time colleague and saxophonist Lonnie Youngblood, as well as original Jimi Hendrix Experience members Noel Redding (bass) and Mitch Mitchell (drums), plus his Band Of Gypsies partners, drummer Buddy Miles and bassist Billy Cox. 

Recorded between 1968 and 1970, Both Sides Of The Sky takes the recurrent blues theme through a series of trials and experiments, all with unwaveringly satisfactory results. The material ranges from the overly familiar (Muddy Waters' Mannish Boy, which in the hands of his Chess/Checker label mate Ellas "Bo Diddley" McDaniel became the often covered I'm A Man), Hear My Train A Comin' (which has appeared in various stages of development on numerous releases of dubious origin over the years) and an instrumental prototype of his own Sweet Angel (with Mitch Mitchell providing the lone accompaniment for Hendrix's overdubbed guitar, vibraphone and bass), to such pleasant surprises as a faithful take on Crosby, Stills, Nash And Young's Joni Mitchell-penned Woodstock (with Stills reprising his lead vocal here), the ambitious $20 Fine and a respectful yet adventurous take on the like minded Eddie "Guitar Slim" Jones' 1953 Specialty label signature single, The Things I Used To Do. With its acoustic beginnings and abrupt shift into high gear at midpoint, the promising Send My Love To Linda and the Hendrix/Mitchell duet, Cherokee Mist provide the proverbial icing on the cake in this most welcome collection. 

While is unlikely that Hendrix's catalog will continue to provide such a high volume of heretofore unavailable material on a regular basis (although hope springs eternal for the eventual availability of various informal sessions recorded in home settings with members of the Monkees and the Animals in 1967), it is indeed remarkable (and somewhat miraculous) that nearly a half century after his untimely passing, that the faithful (whose numbers remain legion) can still refer to such vital components of that legacy in the present tense.

Cyril Neville 
World Order Entertainment)

Cyril Neville has long been somewhat of an enigma within very prominent musical circles.

As the younger sibling of veteran solo artists Art Neville and Aaron Neville, Cyril Garrett Neville played alongside of his brothers as drummer with the Meters, as well as the Neville Brothers.

But along the way, his brothers also established formidable individual legacies via singles that ultimately defined them.

In Art Neville's case, that early notoriety came in 1958 with the release of his signature single, Cha Dooky-Doo for Art Rupe's Specialty label. Art Neville sustained his momentum well into the 1960s via acclaimed 45s for Specialty, Instant and Cinderella, before forming the Meters in 1965. 

In turn, Aaron Neville became an instant front runner in R&B in late 1966 with the release on George Davis, Alvin Tyler and Warren Parker's Par Lo label of his monster classic Tell It Like It Is single. That track has long been regarded as a hallmark of the genre, prompting numerous covers along the way by such artists as Heart and Billy Joe Royal. Aaron Neville followed that single with several others for Par Lo, as well as an acclaimed album for the label. He subsequently got considerably more mileage for his efforts when the first single's flip side, Why Worry began to draw increasing acclaim among musicologists and connoisseurs. 

As for Cyril Neville, he has persevered alongside of his brothers, recording some unique material in the process. Along the way, he cut some remarkable sides for the Endangered Species label, eleven of which are revisited in this single disc collection.

Interestingly enough, Endangered Species: The Essential Recordings does much to reiterate the enigmatic perception. For while there are points along the way that command attention (such as the drop ins from Doctor Martin Luther King's speeches in the Ray Charles-inspired Lift Every Voice And Sing, as well as a strong Meters-like groove in Love Has Got To Win and a flat out celebratory atmosphere in the Ernie K-Doe/Professor Longhair vein in New Orleans Cookin'), in each case, the observer is encouraged to take note and submerge accordingly, only to draw the inevitable conclusion that there is more to the story to be found elsewhere.

There is indeed more elsewhere, which can be found in the five CD box set, Endangered Species: The Complete Recordings. In the process, this sampler serves to whet the appetite for more. And in the long run, that may well be the road less traveled but no less successful, as the youngest of the Neville Brothers joins his brothers in establishing a cornerstone for his own legacy.

Various Artists (Teensville)

In the years that he has been in the forefront of the reissue movement with stellar compilations on his Sydney, New South Wales-based Teensville and Rare Rockin' Records labels, Ash Wells has for the most part adhered to a thematic approach with each new release. 

For example, Rare Rockin' Records' 2013 Bubbling Under, Volume Two anthology collected thirty-two tracks with the common ground of their having been a part of the bottom reaches of the so-called national charts. Thankfully, that curious theme allowed for healthy musical diversity, with that particular collection including everything from Brian Hyland's high drama 1963 ABC Paramount single, Let Us Make Our Own Mistakes and Dee Clark's equally dramatic Vee-Jay release, Shook Up Over You to Freddy Cannon's anthemic Let Me Show You Where It's At and the Tigers' utterly stupendous, genre defining May 1965 Colpix label hot rod monster classic, GeeTo Tiger.

Depending upon the mission statement, the potential for diversity can vary with each release. In the case of Teensville's most recent outing, Lookin' For Boys!, the collective focus is (with three exceptions) thirty-two tracks of rarities in the so-called Girl Group genre in first time stereo. But true to the richly diverse nature of the genre itself, Lookin' For Boys! is an across the board triumph.

At first glance, the inclusion of such readily familiar fare as Lesley Gore's It's My Party and the Exciters' Tell Him may seem to defeat the express purpose of showcasing rarities. But both are alternate versions here, and the legacies of each are enhanced as a result.

In Lesley Gore's case, a vocal overdub is omitted, leaving Gore to carry each verse alone. Given her considerable vocal acumen, little is lost in the process. And with regards to the Bert Berns-penned Tell Him, the slightly slower tempo in this alternate take enables the group's incredible Brenda Reid to soar to even greater heights, with her co-Exciters taking a more prominent role in the proceedings.

The inherent joy of Tell Him is reflected in much of this collection's material. The opening title track by the Strangeloves-mentored Pin-Ups is a playful re-write of the Angels' My Boyfriend's Back, a concept that would recur with equally satisfying results in the venerable garage rock trio's later work with the Beach Nuts on Bert Berns' Bang label. 

Likewise, the late, great and much missed Bronx, New York native Diane Christian (who passed away in January 2014) first rose to prominence as a member of the Darlettes, whose larger than life Here She Comes single for the Dunes label was covered with equally sublime results by the Jelly Beans. As a solo artist, Christian was best known for her somewhat atypical 1964 ballad, There's So Much About My Baby for Smash Records. Herein, she is rightfully represented multiple times, including an outtake of her 1965 Bell Records Strangeloves production, Wonderful Guy, her Here She Comes-inspired I Want You To Be My Boyfriend with the Chic-Lets, her uncharacteristically bombastic It Ain't As Easy As That with the Elektras for United Artists and two selections from her work with Patty Lace And The Petticoats for Kapp.

In turn, the legendary Marcie Blane (who was incorrectly reported in some circles to have passed away in 2017; as of this writing she is very much alive) has largely shunned the spotlight since terminating her affiliation with the Seville label in 1964. Her premature retirement remains somewhat of a dichotomy, given the evidence at hand. Her recorded legacy is unwaveringly superb, evidenced herein by the relentlessly upbeat What Does A Girl Do.

Like Diane Christian, the Richmond Hill, Ontario-based Sandy Selsie hit the ground running upon signing with Columbia in 1962. Although it was her 1963 When Jimmy Comes Home single that ultimately defined her, the earlier Gonna Get Some Records (included here in a magnificent stereo mix) endures for its lengthy list of name checks of some of her most prominent colleagues, including Rick Nelson, the Highwaymen, Anita Bryant, Bobby Vee, Marty Robbins, Chubby Checker, Jimmy Dean, the Brothers Four and others. 

Regarding the aforementioned Anita Bryant, the Barnsdall, Oklahoma native's move from Carlton Records to Columbia in 1962 did much to sustain and even enhance her momentum. By 1964, Bryant's work was enmeshed in the high drama approach indigenous to the work of many of her colleagues. The evidence is found in her The World Of Lonely People album from that year, in which covers of classics by Ruby And The Romantics, Gerry And The Pacemakers and Peter And Gordon mix well with such dramatic offerings as the track included here, It's Not The Way It Used To Be.

One of the most welcome inclusions in this remarkable collection is the ambitious 1966 take on the Beach Boys' You're So Good To Me (originally featured on their 1965 Summer Days album for Capitol) by the great Debra Swisher. As co-founder of the beloved and still very much active Pixies Three, Swisher persevered as a solo artist for a season when the vaunted trio embarked upon a protracted sabbatical in late 1965.

Immediately signing with the legendary Bert Berns' Boom label (where the Strangeloves cut two of first generation garage rock's definitive masterpieces as the Sheep with Thinkin' About It and their powerhouse cover of Bunker Hill's Hide And Seek), Swisher cut a memorable cover of the Angels' Thank You And Goodnight for the flip side of her Boom debut. Doing so ultimately led to her succeeding Angels lead vocalist Peggy Santiglia in that capacity for much of the Angels' tenure with RCA Victor.

Most recently, the Pixies Three recorded the landmark Timeless album for their own label, featuring covers of classic sides by the DeCastro Sisters, the Ad Libs, Joe Cocker, Champaign and others. The group, which is still comprised of Swisher (now known as Debby Swisher Horn) and co-founder Kaye Krebs, with the third spot having rotated between co-founder Midge Neel and long time member Bonnie Walker Long, has recorded prolifically in recent years.

But it is Swisher's much coveted Beach Boys cover that is in the spotlight here, with her trademark vocal gymnastics and unabashed optimism augmented by a Bassett Hand arrangement that takes the Beach Boys' charts to the next level (complete with sublime minors from the backing vocalists; duly inspired by Erin Adair's utterly stupendous 1965 Just Waiting For Stanley single on Columbia).

"I just listened to my version and the Beach Boys", Swisher said recently.

"They didn't encourage any improvisation. The lick on the beginning and end is the same. I feel we should have put more of our own stamp on the whole production".

Whatever the case, Swisher's version benefits exponentially from the stereo mix. 

To be certain, every cut on this epic stereo release is essential, from the great Bessie Banks' 1964 slow groove masterpiece, It Sounds Like My Baby (flip side of her monster classic, Go Now) and the Dixie Cups' Red Bird era gem, Wrong Direction to Marlina Mars' otherworldly Build The Valley Up and the unerringly brilliant Tokens' work with the Penny Sisters and Pixies, which are the lone monaural offerings in this collection. In other words, thirty-two stellar examples of the results of following what Mars herein terms, The Correct Form.

Various Artists (Teensville)

Once in a while, a concept is more grandiose than individual artists are able to address in and of themselves. As such, it takes the contributions of an array of like minded musicians to do that concept justice.

Such is the case with the so-called "sunshine pop" chronicled in My World Of Make Believe, the latest installment in the vast and impressive catalog of Ash Wells' New South Wales-based Teensville and Rare Rockin' Records family of labels.

In some respects, the lack of like minded material indigenous to a single artist's catalog is due to the fact that such ventures were unique components of a larger and more diverse repertoire. As such, their respective stops along the journey were meant to tip the hat, rather than embarking upon a sustained change of direction.

To wit, many of the artists involved in My World Of Make Believe were long established with acclaimed releases in other genres. Vocalist and New Haven, Connecticut native Peter "Kris" Jensen is one such example. Jensen made his mark in the late 1950s and early 1960s with a series of ambitious singles for Colpix, Leader, Kapp and Hickory, including 1959's rocking Bonnie Baby and his endearing 1961 Three Vanilla, Two Chocolate, One Pistachio Ice Cream Cone for Kapp. A brief affiliation with the prolific White Whale label in 1966 resulted in his upbeat interpretation of the Hollies' I Can't Get Nowhere With You, included here. 

Likewise, the staggeringly prolific and Tulsa, Oklahoma born David Ashworth Gates began his long and impressive legacy as a solo artist in 1958 with a pair of impeccably crafted and executed singles for the Robbins label. Gates followed suit well into the 1960s with a series of diverse releases for East West, Mala, Del-Fi and Vee Jay. By 1967, with such psych oriented masterpieces to his credit as Saturday's Child (recorded by both the Monkees and Herman's Hermits), Gates opted to try his hand at the genre himself. His 1968 demo of Through Spray Colored Glasses (featured here) did not see release at the time, although the increasingly forward thinking Dino, Desi & Billy cut a most impressive rendition of it for Uni Records that same year.

That pattern continued to a lesser extent with the late, great and much missed Don Louis "Don Grady" Agrati, who briefly flirted with straight ahead rock and prototypical first generation garage rock via a pair of singles for Capitol in 1964 - 1965 before embracing and celebrating psychedelia first hand with his groundbreaking releases as a drummer, vocalist, arranger and composer with the Palace Guard, the Windupwatchband and the sublime Yellow Balloon. A solo side project in 1966 for the richly diverse Challenge label, Let It Happen (another highlight of this collection) further enhanced his credentials in that respect, although Grady spent the next several decades mastering a wealth of genres in the studio. Long a dear friend of Blitz Magazine, Grady granted one of his final interviews (still unpublished) to Blitz from his Ventura County, California home in the Spring of 2012, before losing his battle against bone cancer on the twenty-seventh of June that year. 

That pattern repeated itself fourfold with the Tokens, one of the most musically diverse and visionary bands in all of music. Drummer Phil Margo's extraordinary work on the Chiffons' mid-1965 psychedelic masterpiece, Nobody Knows What's Goin' On In My Mind But Me (which was composed by one-time Token Stephen "Brute Force" Friedland) set the stage for the Tokens' over the top and long running affinity for the genre, highlighted by their landmark Intercourse album for their own B.T. Puppy label, as well as the pair of harmony rich sides included here, 1968's Needles Of Evergreen (curiously issued on Warner Brothers under their surnames Margo, Margo, Medress and Siegel) and their exuberant 1972 I Like To Throw Back My Head And Sing for Bell Records. Tragically, the group's six decade momentum was unexpectedly derailed by the sudden passing of beloved front man Mitchell Stuart "Mitch" Margo in November 2017 at age 70.

Indeed, Ash Wells' salute to the make believe is rife with contributions from other veteran greats in various stages of their careers, from the Robbs' Mercury era I Don't Feel Alone to Kenny Young's post-English Muffins sides for Columbia's Date subsidiary as the Seagulls, including Don't Go Out Into The Rain (sublimely covered by Herman's Hermits on their Blaze album in 1967; a fascinating turn of events in light of their being the subject of Kenny Young's good natured 1965 Mrs. Green's Ugly Daughter spoof for Diamond Records) and the group's Leslie "Twiggy" Hornby salute, Twiggs

Others whose enduring legacies also had moments worthy of inclusion here are the Razor's Edge, whose 1966 Let's Call It A Day, Girl single for Pow Records was a sublime exercise in vocal harmony euphoria. The band maintained aesthetic solidarity with their signature single via the track that made the cut here, Don't Let Me Catch You In His Arms.

Clark and Marilyn Burroughs also wrapped up their trilogy of singles for Liberty's affiliate World Pacific label as the Joyride with the relentlessly optimistic The Land Of Rypap Paper, which combines elements of the Beach Boys' I Know There's An Answer and the Parade's Sunshine Girl, with optimum results. Equally essential offerings by the Fireflies' Ritchie Adams (the heretofore unreleased I'll Go Anywhere To Meet You, Baby), the Bristol Boxkite (the folk rocking If You Love Me), the Belmonts' Frank Lyndon (Don't Look At Me) and the Yellow Brick Road (the Ernie Marseca-penned She's My Girl) are among the many highlights of this thirty-two track collection.

While the genre may not have prompted many veteran artists to establish roots therein, My World Of Make Believe decisively underscores that even the brief stops were productive ones. And while, as the Freshmen suggest herein, it might have been an exercise in Halfway To Where, the results were nonetheless (as Bat McGrath and D. Harvey Potter reaffirm with their own contribution to the proceedings) able to Shine A Little Light.

Various Artists (WJBK)

"Lack of critical thinking is hurting my brain".

So said one highly respected entertainment industry veteran recently in a spirited social media discussion about the current socio-political climate. Indeed, while invective has become increasingly commonplace in such settings, it can also be inferred that a seeming lack of critical discernment has likewise clouded the vision of many within the musicologist and record collector demographic.

To wit, there remain many who were instrumental in the critical backlash against the protracted aesthetic slump in which mainstream music at large found itself in the late 1960s and early 1970s. To their considerable credit, the faithful stood their ground and took above and beyond the call of duty action by either forming bands (resulting in the so-called punk/new wave revolution of the mid to late 1970s) or by becoming journalists, who picked up the slack in the mainstream and once again made certain that credit was given where credit was due. Indeed, Blitz Magazine was a part of that movement, and remains the lone still active survivor within the genre.

Most curiously, many of those same individuals who took such a groundbreaking stance more than four decades ago are now a regular presence in the aforementioned social media circles. Yet they now espouse a much more conciliatory and much less imaginative perspective on the very subject which had previously so moved them. For example, many within their ranks will post online various musical selections which are to their liking. Often these are tracks that are celebrated and well respected within their circles, and the artists behind them are routinely afforded the admiration, respect and attention that their work deserves.

But instead of singing the praises of that particular piece's merits, the posting is often accompanied by complaints from the one who posted it along the lines of, "I can't believe this never went any higher than number 92 on the national charts", "Why isn't this artist in the Hall?", or "I'm amazed. I didn't think this record would be any good. It was never a hit".

And therein lies the paradox. If the aesthetic merit of a given musical work is subject to its performance on a so called national chart, or whether or not some hall with no public mandate and no more authority to act in that respect aside from that which they have bestowed upon themselves has deemed them worthy of an autographed picture on their wall, then those making such observations have contradicted themselves. For it is often those same individuals who will champion the works of such beloved musical visionaries as the Pretty Things, Ronnie Self, the Chocolate Watchband, Charlie Feathers, the International Submarine Band and Johnny Powers, each of whom enjoyed only modest (at best) mainstream success.

So does the lack of commercial acclaim for those artists infer that the quality of their work is substandard? If that were the case, the ongoing demand that has kept their catalogs in print for more than a half century would not exist. But what is most disconcerting is that those who should know better remain so jaded by their early indoctrination into a system that drilled into them a "charts and radio" method of shaping their musical perspective (and again, this is supposedly a more discerning audience, not the rank and file peripheral "fan" for whom music was little more than background fodder for their personal revisionist history) continue to make such laments, as if they need the permission of the mainstream to proceed with their opinion of a given artist or recording. In other words, an inability to think for themselves. Or, as the astute entertainment industry veteran noted above, "a lack of critical thinking".

All of which makes the project at hand as much of a seeming incongruity as the limited perspective of those who once espoused the height of critical discernment.

From the onset, Blitz Magazine has acknowledged the impact of the legendary Dearborn, Michigan radio station, WKNR Keener 13 and its vaunted air staff (known as the Keener Key Men Of Music) as the single most impacting and enduring influence on our own work. Our ongoing series of salutes to the station's vaunted alumni (which to date has included lengthy dialogues with Jim Sanders and Frank "Swingin' " Sweeney) will resume soon, featuring long time station mastermind and resident visionary, Bob Green.

So, as a radio station with a 32 singles and four album weekly playlist, how could the likes of WKNR be cited as a catalyst for critical thinking? For the simple reason that each member of its air staff brought to the broadcast booth a thinking outside the box mission statement that Green subsequently (and somewhat infamously) referred to as "intelligent flexibility".

In other words, while a weekly WKNR Music Guide provided a template, it soon after their late October 1963 inception became a template without walls. On the spot creativity could prompt everything from the airing of such off the charts moments as Kenny Young and the English Muffins' Mrs. Green and Norma Tracey's The Skateboard Song to customized renditions of crucial classics (with Edwin Starr re-cutting his landmark 1966 Ric-Tic label Stop Her On Sight single as Scott's On Swingers, as well as first generation garage rock greats the Shy Guys reinventing their signature Palmer/Panik label single, We Gotta Go as The Burger Song as tributes to Keener Key Man Scott Regen, not to mention Keener's J. Michael Wilson himself overdubbing the New Vaudeville Band/Dana Rollin smash, Winchester Cathedral and the Underdogs' Love's Gone Bad with unique vocals by his on air "assistant", Rodney the Wonder Rodent).

Or as Sweeney and Green have both noted, the WKNR experience was a consummate one, not merely filler in between records. That is, the news segments (from their award-winning Contact News team), commercials and inventive (and often adlibbed) banter of the Keener Key Men Of Music was as much a part of the entertainment as the music itself. And instead of the time, temp and call letters soundbite common to much of their counterparts elsewhere (exacerbated exponentially by the rise of the Drake Format prior to decade's end), the Keener Key Men Of Music by example (if not design) articulated their case sublimely, leaving the listener to form their own perspective and draw their own conclusions.

WKNR did this so well, that theirs was the fastest ascent to the top spot in their respective market (Windsor/Detroit) in the history of the medium. By early 1964 (a mere three months after their change of call letters from WKMH, and in the wake of such potentially momentum derailing events as the tragic assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the on air meltdown of morning drive Keener Key Man Mort Crowley as a commentary of sorts against perceived injustices against the station by a local utility company), WKNR was a solid number one, both in its own market and within the industry at large. Throughout those most crucial years in the development of rock and roll (1964-1968), WKNR was one of two stations that routinely broke records nationally, with the rest of the nation's broadcasters following suit weeks (or in some cases, months) later.

While such developments bode well for the WKNR mission statement, it nonetheless came at the expense of others who were long established in the market. Among them was the suburban Southfield-based WXYZ 1270 AM, which at its pinnacle employed such giants of the industry as Dave Prince, Joey Reynolds, Joel Sebastian and Lee Alan (who went on to author an acclaimed book on the subject, Turn Your Radio On). WXYZ soldiered on bravely throughout 1966, finally switching formats to Easy Listening in January 1967.

In turn, the success of WKNR meant the imminent demise of the station that for all practical purposes was its forerunner in terms of that so-called "intelligent flexibility". That station, WJBK made its debut on 07 October 1925 on 1290 AM in nearby Ypsilanti, Michigan. WJBK relocated to Detroit in 1940, at which time it switched its broadcast frequency to 1490.

The station once again took a slight move to the right on the AM dial in 1954, when it ended up at 1500 AM. Two years later, WJBK increased its power to 50,000 watts and concurrently embraced a wide variety of music, with rock and roll in the forefront.

With such formidable and relatively free thinking on air talent as Kemal Amin "Casey" Kasem, Marc Avery, Clark Reid, Robert E. Lee, Bob Edgington and future first generation garage rock giant Richard Terrance "Terry Knight" Knapp (as Jack The Bellboy), WJBK espoused its own version of consummate entertainment, only to be inevitably overshadowed by WKNR's undeniable mastery of the concept. WJBK conceded the race in 1964, persevering throughout the 1960s with a series of variations on the Easy Listening format before changing call letters to WDEE on 26 December 1969 and quickly taking over the reins of the country music demographic from the Royal Oak-based WEXL 1340 AM. Now known as WLQV, 1500 AM features a Christian talk format that includes regular broadcasts by such beloved and influential evangelists as John MacArthur and the late Adrian Rogers, as well as the magnificent John Vernon McGee's renowned five-year Thru The Bible series.

During its formidable run, WJBK also published a weekly Radio 15 Record Review survey, which embraced a much larger and diverse template of seventy-five singles. It is from those most ambitious weekly chronicles that the magnificent CD reissue series at hand takes its cue.

Compiled by sympathetic industry veterans with considerable research and painstaking attention to detail in terms of sonic and visual quality, the WJBK Hits series offers an average of twenty-nine to thirty-two tracks per disc, each taken from the weekly Radio 15 Record Review charts between 1956 and 1964. Every volume features a reproduction of a classic WJBK survey on the front cover, while the back cover chronicles title and artist, year of release, peak chart position on WJBK and whether each track is presented in stereo or monaural (with a most welcome generous helping of stereo whenever possible).

And therein is the key to the thinking outside the box mission statement championed by WJBK, WXYZ and WKNR, and reinforced with this remarkable reissue series. For example, consider the year 1963. While current revisionist history within sympathetic circles continues to summarize the year through a handful of familiar singles (including among others the Kingsmen's Louie, Louie, Steve Lawrence's Go Away Little Girl, Jan and Dean's Surf City, Lesley Gore's It's My Party, the Trashmen's Surfin' Bird, Marvin Gaye's Can I Get A Witness and Dion DiMucci's Donna, The Prima Donna), WJBK (and before year's end, WKNR) took a much broader perspective on the musical landscape, both then and as commemorated within this CD series.

For while those aforementioned singles were a key part of the WJBK canon, so were a wealth of releases that were as integral to their focus, yet which remain largely overlooked by the supposedly sympathetic demographic that curiously continues to defer to mainstream outlets to dictate their taste for them. WJBK Hits sets the record straight accordingly, including among the eight volumes such landmark 1963 releases as the late, great James Louis "Jimmy Soul" McCleese's tongue in cheek romp, Go 'Way Christina, the Temptations' pre-David Ruffin Farewell My Love, the Chordettes' vocal harmony rich True Love Goes On And On, Nina Simone's extraordinarily thinking outside of the box live rendition of Little Liza Jane (which was inspired in part by composer Stephen Foster's 1850 standard, Camptown Races and which was honed to perfection via its impassioned live duet performances by banjo virtuosos Louis "Grandpa" Jones and David "Stringbean" Akeman), Nancy Sinatra's commendable take on Peter, Paul And Mary's The Cruel War, beloved country rock pioneer Big Al Downing's Mister Hurt Walked In, veteran rocker Jimmy Clanton's ambitious Red Don't Go With Blue, Baby Jane and the Rockabyes' Bert Berns-produced exercise in vocal euphoria Hickory Dickory Dock, Preston Carnes' high drama ballad Someone, Herb Alpert's masterful vocal ballad (as Dore Alpert) Dina, the Pennsylvania-based Classmen's Limelight label upbeat rendition of Bobby Helms' My Special Angel, actress and vocalist Noreen Corcoran's essential Vee Jay label Love Kitten single, the great Vic Dana's unique take on Vernon Dalhart's The Prisoner's Song, visionary blues rocker T-Bone Walker's Cold, Cold Feeling, the Darlings' Mercury label mid-tempo tale of woe Two Time Loser, the Jaynettes' magnificent Keep An Eye On Her, the legendary Waylon Jennings' utterly stupendous A&M label ballad Love Denied, Boot Hog Pefferly's cover of Clyde McPhatter's I'm Not Going To Work Today, Danny Wayne's stupendously hard rocking Card label single You're Wrong, the O'Jays' magnificent Stand Tall, the Appalachians' variations on a theme by the Coasters (Over Yonder), and the late, great vocal virtuoso Dean Martin's sublime take on the Ray Peterson interpretation of Corrina, Corrina.

As if that poignant cross section of groundbreaking music from 1963 alone was not enough, WJBK Hits at large combs the station's playlists in depth to emphasize just how richly diverse was the musical landscape throughout their run at the top throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s. Among the many, many highlights are Ruth Brown's repertoire-expanding What Happened To You, the Four Aces' inventive rearrangement of Ace Brigode's 1925 standard Yes Sir That's My Baby, James Hugh "Sonny James" Loden's engaging cover of Hank Williams' Lovesick Blues, Rusty Draper's arguably definitive rendition of the Hollywood Flames' larger than life rocker Buzz Buzz Buzz, the Rev-Lons' wonderfully screwy After Last Night, the Tarriers' Kingston Trio-inspiring Pretty Boy, Hank Snow's uncharacteristic My Arms Are A House, the Delroys' brilliant Bermuda Shorts, the Adorables' euphoric Deep Freeze, Boyd Bennett's risk taking cover of Dickey Doo And The Don'ts' Swan label monster classic Click Clack (risk taking in that covering such a landmark record basically amounts to tackling absolute, utter perfection, which Bennett nonetheless did most admirably here), the Four Tunes' somewhat bizarre take on the Sons Of The Pioneers' Cool Water, the late vocal powerhouse David Whitfield's majestic rendition of I'll Find You from the motion picture Sea Wife (which the legendary Ron Goodwin also recorded as an instrumental for Capitol), the Rockaways' Red Bird label prototypical garage rock and surf rock hybrid Top Down Time, the Couplings' Josie label rendition of the rocking Young Doves Calling (which shared the spotlight with a determined take by the Mudlarks),the late Debbie Reynolds' dramatic I Saw A Country Boy, and the Surfaris' straight ahead hot rod rocker, Boss Barracuda. Others among the too numerous to mention essentials include worthwhile and less than obvious contributions by the Clovers, Del Vikings, Miles Stone, the Secrets, Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, Tony Williams, Bill Haley and the Comets, the Tymes, Bill Doggett, the Fiestas, JoAnn Campbell, Barbara and Brenda, the Dave Clark Five, the Darnells, Jackie DeShannon, Clairette Clementino, Diane Ray, the Cascades, Otis Williams and the Charms, Dee Edwards, Johnny Faire, the Society Girls, Billy Eckstine, Dotty and Kathy, Steve Lawrence, the Percells, La Brenda Ben, the Victorians, Count Basie with Joe Williams, O.C. and the Holidays, the Playmates, Henrietta, Jerri Adams, Kay Starr, the Darnells and the Prodigals.

"Some of the best music ever made", said CKLW veteran and renowned musicologist and music historian, Ric Allen. Allen was not a contributor to the WJBK Hits series, but nonetheless regularly chronicles the subject masterfully via such online sites as Michigan Music, as well as his own Facebook page.

"And some of the rarest, rather than the same 600 to 800 songs we currently get crammed down our throats".

While by its very nature the series is both a very limited pressing and available only in select outlets, WJBK Hits is nonetheless an inspiring and essential enough project to hopefully prompt some of the faithful to reassess their own self-imposed limitations and engage in a bit of that critical thinking necessary to both procure it and raise their own bar back to the high standards they have long professed to champion. Or, in the words of one of this series' most endearing tracks by first generation garage rockers, the Mojos, Everything's Alright.