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Get Smarter: 60s Instrumental Grooves From Around the Globe

(Past & Present; US: 13 Oct 2009; UK: 5 Oct 2009)

Sixties-era organ funk advocates and record fair crate-miners are likely to find a lot to love about Get Smarter: 60s Instrumental Grooves From Around the Globe. Its tracklist is lined with lesser-known international acts who toiled mostly under the radar when every kid with a Farfisa never let finding a job compromise his important life mission of getting a band together. However, Get Smarter isn’t so much about Paul Revere & the Raiders as it is about raiding television-soundtrack vaults. Get Smarter‘s curators could’ve shot for a little more diversity, but its TV-show-theme sound, blatantly heavy on the Booker T. side of things, doesn’t leave much to complain about.


Scottish mods the Beatstalkers cut a walloping, wordless rendition of Them’s “I Can Only Give You Everything” for Decca in 1966. They called it “Bass Line”—it swaps out Van Morrison’s growl for keys that tuck the original’s memorable guitar deep into the mix. It’s one of the more floor-rattling nuggets here, but it’s in impressive company. After the colorful percussive brew that drives “Pepsi” gets cooking, the Mohawks (surely your hip hop stacks are loaded with samples from “The Champ”), led by session musician/library music composer Alan Hawkshaw, sound as if the band has split along the way, playing competing pieces because so many leads are scrapping for a position up front. With scorching Hammond organ, vocal choruses, and rowdy brass, Hawkshaw and co. give Quebec’s Les Merseys a run for its money. The latter’s “Freakout!” is mighty sparse in comparison, but look no further than the name—kooky hollering and a keys-and-fuzzbox guitar line fit “Freakout!” with an aesthetic that’s practically junk food if you’re prone to indulge in this kind of thing.

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Dominic Umile is a writer based in Brooklyn, NY. His work has recently appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, The Chicago Reader, The Comics Journal, and more. Follow: @dominicumile | Email: dominic.umile@gmail.com | about.me/dominicumile


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