CD Review: The Fifties, The Sixties, The Seventies

The Sixties Album

The Sixties Album - Credit: Archant

Step back in time with these highlights of three very different decades...

The Fifties

The Fifties - Credit: Archant

The best compilation albums are those that deliver on expectations, but also surprise with the inclusion of a long-forgotten classic which justifiably deserves its place alongside more familiar tracks.

These three collections are a journey through some of the most formative decades in musical history, periods which saw the rise and development of genres like rock’n’roll, punk, ska, disco and pop.

Just consider that for a moment – although many of these forms took their roots from earlier musical styles, none of them existed in their later incarnations until they were birthed, kicking and screaming, into the modern world, and their influence can still be felt today, 40 years later.

It is, of course, impossible to capture every musical nuance of a decade in one collection, and the nine discs which compose these three releases barely scratch the surface of the sheer range and diversity of each period.

The Seventies

The Seventies - Credit: Archant

Similarly, sorting songs this way does not truly reflect the evolution of music over the course of time, with unnatural time barriers slamming down to pigeon-hole a track as reflective of one decade, when perhaps it owes more to the year before or after, even if that is in a different decade.

So what are the stand-out highlights of these releases? The songs you love but would never expect to find on the more conventional compilation?

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How often does Red River Rock from Johnny and the Hurricanes make the grade? Or Lonnie Donegan’s Gamblin’ Man? What about Pickin’ A Chicken by Eve Boswell? There are plenty of unexpected gems among the classic staples for sure, showing the transition of popular music during this period, and the growing influences of other genres blending together to form a new whole called rock’n’roll.

Moving on, The Sixties set includes the like of Both Sides Now from Judy Collins, Buffalo Springfield’s For What It’s Worth, and Fleetwood Mac’s Albatross.

The songs included here are intrinsically sixties, but they aren’t the twee, saccharin material which gets dragged out at weddings, but are illustrative of the depth and development of this fascinating period of music.

Finally, for The Seventies, who can resist Warren Zevon’s Werewolves of London, Dr Feelgood’s Milk and Alcohol, and Rappers’ Delight from the Sugar Hill Gang?

The selection here is even more diverse, but when you have a decade which began with the end of the Beatles and ended with the beginning of new wave, it’s a challenge to admirably reflect the sheer range of musical styles which developed during these 10 years. Of course you can’t please everyone all of the time, but this set of songs does its best to prove otherwise.