Chris Carter is a Los Angeles-based disc jockey, producer and music consultant. A founding member of beloved powerpoppers Dramarama, Chris moved into management, handling among others the Wondermints, the members of whom now constitute Brian Wilson’s band. As a producer, he supervised the cult rockumentary about influential LA deejay Rodney Bingenheimer, Mayor of The Sunset Strip, which was nominated for Best Documentary in the 2003 Independent Spirit Awards. Currently Chris hosts two weekly radio shows: the long-lived and popular Breakfast With The Beatles, and Chris Carter’s British Invasion on Sirius/XM radio as part of Little Steven’s Underground Garage.
Various – “Beatlemaniacs!!!”
As host of the worlds longest running Beatles radio show, this has been one of my “go-to” discs since the day the fine folks at Ace put it out. It’s comforting to know I can slip on The Bon Bon’s ‘What’s Wrong With Ringo?’ or the swingin’ Fondettes’ ‘The Beatles Are In Town’ when I have an extra two-and-a-half minutes to spare before a commercial break. The majority of these Beatle-themed novelty nuggets are from prime time 1964, but you also get a few latter-day rarities. One is 1968’s ‘John, You Went Too Far This Time’ from an artist called Rainbo - as it turns out, a teenaged Sissy Spacek. It’s about John’s controversial nude pose with Yoko. Another gem is 1969’s mysterious ‘Saint Paul’ by former deejay and Grand Funk Railroad manager/producer Terry Knight. The song was published by the Beatles’ own MacLen Music, and has long been cited by Paul-Is-Dead freaks as one of their more factual bits of “proof.” But it’s those silly mop-top-inspired numbers that are at the core of this enormously amusing compilation. Twenty-four in all . . . a MUST HAVE!
Various – “Kinked! Kinks Songs & Sessions 1964-1971”
David Bowie said he never heard a Kinks song he didn’t like. I’m with him. Ray Davies’ songs are so good; I even dig Kinks songs when other people cover ‘em! Which is why this is easily my favorite compilation of 2016. Kinks songs you know and love performed by some heavy hitters (Herman Hermits, Peggy Lee, Pretty Things) as well as a few folks you may be less familiar with (Shel Naylor, The Thoughts, The Ugly’s). The proof of a great songwriter is when a somewhat average act covers their work, and suddenly that act sound amazing. You get a lot of that on this disc. Plus some really interesting items like Petula Clark singing ‘Well Respected Man’ in French, or ‘One Fine Day,’ penned by Dave Davies and featuring Jimmy Page on lead guitar. That disc was produced by Shel Talmy, who was of course responsible for all the early Kinks classics, and who shows up more than a few times behind the board on this compilation. Other showstoppers include the US Chocolate Watchband’s version of ‘I’m Not Like Everybody Else,’ and the UK Knack’s take on ‘Who’ll Be The Next In Line,’ both of which are worth the price of admission. But my personal favorite is the lead-off number, Dave Berry’s stunning 1965 interpretation of Ray’s ‘This Strange Effect,’ which did OK in the UK at the time, but was a huge hit in Belgium, Holland - and at my house.
The Zombies – “Zombie Heaven”
Possibly the MOST underrated British group of all time! It could be because they looked like the kids who cut your lawn, and perhaps because the Zombies have one of the oddest discographies ever. They released a bunch of singles, but only made two proper albums during the sixties, and in fact had split up by the time the second (Odessey & Oracle) was released. So owning this comprehensive 119 track 4 disc-set was - and still is - a godsend for any self-respecting Zombies fan. Combining both albums, singles, demos, BBC cuts and much unreleased material, this is literally Zombie Heaven! Like both the Beatles and The Kinks, the melodious consistency of songwriters Chris White, Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone seems to be limitless. Many props to compiler and producer Alec Palao for creating this marvelous collection.
Big Star – “Best Of”
I’m not bragging or anything, but I was one of those power pop “kids” who actually listened to Big Star when their records originally came out. Well, the second LP anyway. I first heard “RadioCity” in the summer of 1974. It was like hearing a record you already knew, but I didn’t. I quickly found the first album, “#1 Record”, which came out in 1972. It was just as great, and maybe even better. So my Big Star records got a bit scratched up throughout the 1970’s and 80’s. Imagine my surprise when they became the one of biggest underground groups of all time, seemingly loved by anyone who ever wrote a record review. You can hear why. It’s mid-period Beatles meeting the Byrds from Memphis with equally great songs, and some spooky Velvets creeping in on their “Third” album. Circa 1972-74, Alex Chilton was at his all-time highest and delivered on all fronts, but it was Chris Bell who had the magic touch. His voice was unlike any other, and when paired with Chilton, they were a magnificent duo and the perfect musical odd couple. Unfortunately they are both now gone. The best of Big Star is better than 90% of everything else.
The Standells – “The Hot Ones!” / “Try It”
Ah, the Standells! If you were a American kid watching TV in 1965, you probably knew who The Standells were. Yeah, I said TV! That’s because the Standells were the fave rock group of young Eddie Munster, from The Munsters hit series. They even performed right in the Munsters’ living room, in a scene that will go down in television history, as it’s one of the coolest moments EVER. Grandpa Munster gets so enamoured by the groovy sound of the Standells during their rendition of ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’, that smoke actually comes out of both his ears! I selected this double package because as with most Standells LPs it contains ‘Dirty Water,’ but it’s the cover versions that most impress me. Their renderings of ‘19th Nervous Breakdown’, ‘Last Train To Clarksville’ and especially ‘Sunshine Superman’ all have a roughed-up garage rock edge that make them fun to play on my British Invasion show to stump our well-educated listeners. And, did I mention you also get ‘Riot On Sunset Strip’? Standells guitar-player Tony Valentino is my neighbour, and I’m gonna show him this Ace Top 10 pick and perhaps he’ll take me to lunch. I won’t wear white!
The Cramps – “A Date With Elvis”
Like the Ramones, the Cramps are a “sound” more than a “song”. It almost doesn’t matter which particular disc you choose, you always know what yer gonna get. If I had to select a Cramps album to play at a party - or before I go to bed - I’d go with their third long player “A Date with Elvis”, as it undoubtedly contains the best-ever Cramps song titles. What party or wedding would be complete without ‘Can Your Pussy Do The Dog?,’ ‘Cornfed Dames,’ or my grandfather’s favorite ‘Hot Pearl Snatch’? Swampy lo-fi /rock’n’rockabilly fun for the whole family!
Various – “The UK Sue Label Story Volume 4”
If you are a true Mott The Hoople fan, then you’re hip to actions of late great Guy Stevens. He was Mott’s Brian Epstein and George Martin wrapped up in one, though with much wilder hair. Stevens split from Mott in 1971 after producing the album “Brain Capers”, just before Bowie sashayed into their lives. But some five years before that, he was driving the train at the British Sue Records. There are four volumes of “The Sue Records Story”, and my favourite has to be this long-awaited fourth instalment, which brings together a nice mixture of soulful rarities and even a hit or two. All first released in the UK on Sue (except ‘I Put A Spell On You’), this collection contains gems like Ike & Tina’s screaming debut ‘A Fool In Love’, Huey Smith & The Clowns’ ‘Rockin' Pneumonia And The Boogie Woogie Flu’, Baby Washington’s ‘Doodlin’’ and even ‘Pork Chops’ by the Dorsets. Most this stuff came out when I was just learning to walk, so a lot of these tracks were new to me upon first listen, but now thanks to the geniuses at Ace, they feel like old friends. Guy would have been proud.
Leon Russell – “Live In Japan 1973 / Live In Houston 1971”
I wouldn’t say he was a guilty pleasure, by any means, but I have always been a closetLeonfan, especially the top-hattedLeonof the 1969-1973 timezone. After a decade of being a hipster studio sideman and then stealing the show from Joe Cocker on his Mad Dog’s tour, Brother Leon released a nice string of top-shelf solo LPs made with some very heavy friends. After scoring his biggest US hit with #2’s “Carney” LP in 1972, he followed with a sprawling 3LP live package, a release that at the time rivalled his buddy George Harrison’s “Bangladesh” set for the sheer amount of music it contained. Imagine my surprise when Big Beat released a Leon live disc from his Japanese tour of 1973. Who knew!? Included is just about everything you need from the early 70’s live Leon experience - ‘Roll Away The Stone,’ ‘Tight Rope,’ ‘A Song For You,’ ‘Superstar.’ If that ain’t enough, there’s a bonus disc with a 1971 show from Houston, Texas– totally unreleased before this release. Superstar!
The Undertakers – “Unearthed”
I got to know Jackie Lomax while hosting my Beatles radio show. He was a regular guest before he passed away a few years back. Jackie was always a “big cat” in the Beatles universe, for as a solo artist he was an early signing to the Beatles’ Apple Records in 1968. His first single for them had a mindblower of a line-up – imagine the Beatles with Clapton instead of Lennon, plus Nicky Hopkins for good measure. As a kid, I always wondered how this Jackie Lomax guy got signed to Apple? Well, the answer is the Undertakers! They only made a handful of singles in the early 1960s for Pye, but if you get this killer compilation you will own twenty-one remastered Undertakers cuts, with many unissued (including a few covers you may have heard before by a handsomer, somewhat more successful Merseybeat outfit!) Perfect listening for parties, driving and ironing.
Creedence Clearwater Revival – “The Singles Collection” (now deleted)
I was born in 1959, and I started to pay attention to rock’n’roll in about 1966. By 1969, I was totally hooked. I knew who was in the Top 10, Top 20 and Top 40. I investigated the groups, the players and even which labels they were on. 1969 was also the last great year of AM radio, before FM started played “cool” records. The Beatles and Stones still needed AM radio to play ‘Honky Tonk Women’ or ‘Come Together.’ Singles still mattered, and no band packed more singles into the Top 40 in such a short period of time than the fantastic Creedence Clearwater Revival. I just counted ‘em . . . 21 charting CCR songs from 1968’s ‘Suzie Q’ to 1972’s ‘Someday Will Never Be The Same.’ And the funny thing - they were – and still are all GREAT!