Well, well. As the year's end approaches and the end of year lists start to crystallise, here comes a stone-cold contender for compilation of the year, potentially even knocking Charles Bals' Club Meduse collection into the second place spot.
This new set in the curious zeitgeisty series of pop archeology from Saint Etienne's Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs is an absolute stormer. And achingly timely. If their English Weather compilation from last year had the air of the morning after a night on multiple jugs of Tetley's, then this is oozing with the dread and unsteadiness that only comes from a night on the rye, bourbon, scotch, repeat until unconscious in a doorway...
This is the sound of the world's most powerful and self-assured nation unsure of itself and frankly, shitting it a bit. It's absolutely compelling. The American Dream is off the rails. The Vietnam War is endless, assassinations, race riots, families falling apart. The cover, a glorious and glossy photograph by Gene Daniels, bears the caption 'Children play in yard of Ruston home, while Tacoma smelt stack showers area with arsenic and lead residue.' It's a shocking, damning image and the perfect entry point to track one. Elvis Presley's socially conscious 'Clean Up Your Own Back Yard.'
Full of curios, career mis-steps, cynical mega stars navel gazing and questioning the way things have turned out, this comp re-contextualises the music of the time by bringing it together in a way that's never been done before. The vibes, on the evidence here, were very much that the questioning of what was going on in the USA was cutting right across american and culture music in a way that maybe hasn't been acknowledged previously, or at least , not beyond the usual suspects. It wasn't simply the fools on the hill, growing their hair and playing their acoustic guitars.
This was Bing Crosby questioning the space race, Eartha Kitt on religion and race, Roy Orbison on the impact of a suicide and Bobby Darin, the vegas lounge mega star, hitting the campaign trail with Bobby Kennedy and the devastating aftermath of that journey.
This is a fascinating collection full of revelations and (whisper it) revolution. Still massively pertinent, if not actually more so today and it's a reminder that the idea of being 'woke' isn't such a contemporary concept - even if it's somewhat disconcerting that the issues being sung about 50 years ago haven't gone away.
Bob Stanley & Pete Wiggs present State Of The Union, the American Dream in crisis 1967-1973 is OUT NOW on Ace Records.