With the Now That’s What I Call Music franchise celebrating one hundred editions this year, it seems appropriate to mention a series of compilations which certainly didn’t sell millions, given they weren’t sold either on or off-line, nor attracted any attention beyond the collectors of the odd and arcane. Lux and Ivy’s Favorites was initially based on an interview with The Cramps duo in the first volume of Re/Search’s Incredibly Strange Music, in which they discuss some of the music that they themselves had collected as fans. Many of the tracks they discussed were obscure R&B tunes with gobbledegook lyrics and blaring saxophone and rockabilly also-rans who played like their lives depended on it but found their careers ending with whiplash abruptness.
At a time when Napster was in its infancy, WMFU blogger Kogar the Swinging Ape took it upon himself to seek out the tracks which were mentioned – no small task considering the obscurity of them – to compile for the amusement of he and his friends. Two discs were eventually assembled, to be traded online at no cost, a doff of the cap to the pittance paid by Lux and Ivy for the records in the first place. Over the years, the compilations have stretched to seventeen volumes, some, alas, being bootlegged and sold, a dizzying nonsense on all levels. All of this leads us to this new release on Righteous Records, which perhaps wisely dispenses with any sleeve-notes and only passingly references the band who did so much to shine a light of such rock curios.
Inevitably in an age when even the rarest tracks are available at the click of a button, there is little to make the eyes pop in an archaeological sense – if not already featured on the aforementioned comps, a good number of these have appeared on Norton Records releases, or similarly reverential ventures to keep sound alive. However, the generous 50-odd tracks are pleasingly sequenced, from the screeching sax of Danny Zella and his Zell Rocks giving right of way to the burnt rumble of Cherokee Dance, a strangely sinister track by Bob Landers with Willie Joe and his Unitar, which sounds like tracheotomy operation gone wild.
Not every artist is wilfully obscure – Johnny Otis, The Ikettes, Little Eva and Basil Kirchin all feature, showing that the leap from unknown to stardom (of sorts) was never an impossible dream, whilst The Marquees’ Wyatt Earp features a pre-”e” Marvin Gay on backing vocals. Like the psychedelic bands who would later fill a zillion compilations themselves, the historical value is immeasurable – tracks regularly feature strong female characters not giving a fuck, and the instrumentation is chaotic to the point of all-out anarchy, out-punking most punk by many degrees. There’s as much Molotov as crème de menthe in these cocktails. If this is indeed the intended link between the featured songs and The Cramps then it’s a fair call, though at the same time rather lazy and opportunist. It feels a little like your hand is being held when there’s really no need – an album that serves to guarantee the question “what’s this you’re playing?” in the car and, perhaps proving why these records remained buried, requiring frantic scrabbling for the CD cover to find out.