Friday, 23 November 2012

Various - The Spar Records Story - Nashville's Great Unsung Indie Label

3 x CD treasure trove of under-the-radar 60's pop, soul, country, doo-wop, R&B, ballads and all points between.

Just when you think you have the sixties sussed, and feel that there's no musical stone left unturned, that every release has been pored over a million times, a compilation appears that shows just how rich the pickings of that decade are.

Spar Records was set up in Nashville in 1961 and became most famous for being a “sound-alike” label, releasing cut-price cover version records of the hits of the day on their Giant Records imprint, and distributing them through outlets that didn't normally stock records. The irony was that many of those recordings were as strong as the original versions, in some cases better. In fact if the original version was recorded in Nashville, it was highly likely that the same session musicians would end up playing on the sound-alike version. Musicians playing on this compilation also played on big hit records by the likes of Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, The Monkees, George Jones, Linda Ronstadt, Neil Young and Johnny Cash among others.

Click over the jump for more on Spar Records
This compilation focuses on the label's original releases rather than the sound-alike stuff. Nashville's reputation as a hotbed of musical talent continues to this day of course. Jack White and The Black Keys are just two big names that have recently relocated there, such is the town's magnetic pull. But the town's output was surely at its peak in the sixties. Incredible to think that these tracks are considered footnotes by most literature on the subject. Most of the artist names on these three CD's will be unfamiliar, undeservedly so in most cases, as a lot of the stuff here stands up well when compared to better known records from the era.

There's not enough space here for me to list and describe all the tracks so I'll simply pick out a few personal highlights and leave you to choose your own favourite nuggets. There's the uplifting Northern Soul of Henry Thomas' “Someday”, grainy doo-wop from Jimmy Tig And The Rounders on “Small Town Girl” and garage beat-pop complete with falsetto vocal from Dee & Robert on “Come On On”.

Then there's the damaged girl warnings of “You Can't Trust A Friend” by Gail Majors, haunting balladry from Betty Wares on “Losing You” and even some surf influenced tunes - “Whole Summer Through” by Bobby And Bergen. A lot of the original records are now sought after by collectors so the sixty tracks compiled here represent real value for money.