LOOKING STATESIDE: 80 US R&B, Mod, Soul & Garage Nuggets: Various Artists

This is the fourth collection in the highly successful LOOKING… series, and the series now takes a trip to the USA for its latest theme. The latest Looking set travels from uptempo R&B and Early Soul to Garage Punk, Northern, Frat Rock, Proto-Psych and wild instro’s. Paying homage to American Mod music from the Sixties. Beginning with turn-of-the-decade R&B, Frat Rock and Proto-Soul on Disc 1, a smattering of bonkers instrumentals, plenty of four-on-the-floor Northern Soul congregated on Disc 2, Nuggets-friendly fare on Disc 3 and tracks which flirt with Psychedelia as this four-hour soundtrack draws to a close. Many of the tracks here are drawn from the prestigious back catalogues of Challenge, Scepter/Wand, Etiquette, Swan, Shell, and Select, and a large number of those new to CD.

The three CDs are packed full of great songs that will get you dancing, wanting to bob your head and just plain rock out. You get some names that you’ve heard of, The Champs, Joe Tex, and Gene Vincent, but the real treat is in finding out new bands that you’ve never heard before and now love. The bad part of a collection like this, is that once you hear a band that you like, you now have to try to find more of their music, and that might be very difficult. The songs are a treat for someone who has never heard them before and has an interest in the more obscure tracks that are out there. The quality of the songs is amazing, with song after song of catchy and fun songs that work perfectly together. The compiler of this collection really did a great job finding these mostly underrated and hard to find songs where there is literally something for everyone, and no time to get bored because of the various styles mixed together on these three discs.

With great sound and a booklet full of stories about each of the songs, this is a collection that will keep you listening to it over and over again. This is a great way to hear songs that aren’t the typical, over-played songs from the time period and learn something new at the same time.

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HIDDEN TOWERS: Olympus Mons: CD

Vancouver, BC’s HIDDEN TOWERS formed in 2009 and won CITR radio’s Shindig competition; making them the first heavy band to win the competition since 2001. Their first EP called  Great Conjunctions came out in 2010 and the band was put on hiatus due to incessant line-up changes and careers. Now we have their debut full length album called Olympus Mons, seven tracks of hard rock that bring to mind the classic rock of yesteryear, but updated for today.

“Smoke Cloud” is the first song on the album and has a touch of THE DOORS at the beginning of the song with the Jim Morrison styled vocals by Chris Cantrell on guitar and vocals, then it becomes more of a modern rock song with Chris Cornell style singing and heavy grunge mixed with hard rock playing. The guitar work by Cantrell is very hard-edged and melodic, the bass by Ben Holland rolls along nice a smooth, and Jakub Svoboda’s drums are nice and full. “Gleaming The Cube” has a TEA PARTY feel to it, kind of mystical and a late 1960s rock song, “Son Of The Dragon” has more of the hard rock / modern rock sound with intense playing that draws you in, and “Gainsford, AB (Cup Of Blood)” is the hardest track on the first half of the album with more of that SOUNDGARDEN sound. HIDDEN TOWERS really show off their skill at their respective instruments on this album with tight playing that veers in different directions and eras, but is still a cohesive sound that makes everything work together. Svoboda’s drums are heavy, but very melodic, just like the bass from Holland which complements Svoboda’s playing and Cantrell’s guitar playing goes from being soft and gentle to raging and hard in the blink of an eye, along with his chameleon-like vocals which go from grunge to classic rock sounding. “Nobody Knew How High She’d Get” has a nice groove that is a great 1960s type song with great guitar playing from Cantrell, “Comoving Distance” is an epic with the fast and slower parts of the song drawing you in and making you nod your head along to, and the closer “Drowning in the Baptismal Front” is a fantastic end to the album with everything heard during the previous songs gelling into one intense track.

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