Saturday, May 10, 2008

V.A. - The Polaris Story

This is the first `60s garage compilation I've picked up on CD, and despite my inbuilt skepticism about squeaky-clean digital sound and teeny-tiny size packaging I'm not disappointed. This collection documents the best recordings from the Massachusetts-based Polaris label. Alongside obscure mid-`60s singles we're treated to several equally fine unreleased cuts plucked from the Polaris tape vaults. The most exciting inclusion here has to be that of the Bugs, whose entire two single output (on Polaris' Astor subsidiary) is included here along with the previously unreleased "Gonna Find Me A Girl," a neat, sinewy R&B groover which is well up to the standard of their released stuff. Their incredible "Slide" is a mad, raunchy screamer which most readers will already know from Back From the Grave Vol. 7, and its contracted by its more in-control A-side, "Pretty Girl, " a cool, Beatlesque tune that was a fave Pebbles pick (ever notice how the bridge rips off "Apache"?). The Bugs' second single was the controversial "Strangler In the Night," a spoken monologue credited to Boston Strangler Albert De Salvo with the Bugs providing musical backing. Actually, in a shrewd exploitational move, the label had paid De Salvo fifty bucks for the rights to his "thoughts, feelings and emotions," which were then ghostwritten and spoken by someone else. De Salvo or not, the results are a must hear for lovers of all things sick, stupid and perverse! On the flipside the Bugs flip out with "Albert, Albert," a twitchy, nervous tribute to their homicidal playboy hero on which they eventually conclude, "Albert, Albert, what the heck/You are just a pain in the neck." Real classy stuff! More cool teenage rock'n'roll stylings are provided by the Swinging Epics, the Renegades and the Devonaires, whose "Gone Gone Gone" is an unlikely fusion of `60s punk and jump blues! What else? The New Breed's "Wasting My Time" is a formulaic garage cut dragged a rung or two higher by some strong bass playing and a caustic fuzz guitar break. Even better, "Don't Cry" by Ritchie's Renegades is the kind of plaintive garage ballad that passes by almost unnoticed at first, then comes back to haunt your dreams a few weeks later. A subtle mix of precise, vibrant guitar, droning organ and a simple repetitive bassline, this cut's smooth-as-champagne, supper club vocal is a mask for the song's strange switches between fatalism and reassurance: "I know that our love was meant to be spent in don't cry." This song is proof that you can cut as deeply with a small razor as with a big hunting knife - if the blade's sharp enough. An additional alternate take is looser but holds equal emotional impact. Essential listening. Subtlety and restraint also pay off for the Fantasmics, whose "Heaven & Hell" is brilliant, protest-fuelled folk-rock with nervous harmonies, soft-touch dynamics and an overall impression of a brighter-eyed, junior league Byrds. Elsewhere, Billy Bo & His Arrows come up with some decent but somewhat interchangeable instrumentals, while the Attaras veer towards dullsville on most of their contributions, only coming alive on the unreleased "You Got A Lot To Learn." However, Leigh Spear's psuedo-polka novelty, "Minnie In Her Mini Skirt" (backed by the Bugs!) is the only outright must-to-avoid here, and methinks its inclusion was somewhat tongue-in-cheek. To sum things up, Erik Lindgren and Bacchus Archives have done a commendable job of compiling a retrospective of one of New England's most interesting independent labels of the 1960s.
Mike Stax (Originally published in Ugly Things #11, 1992)

1. New Breed - Wasting My Time
2. New Breed - It's Love
taken from the single Wasting My Time/It's Love (Polaris 711) 1966
Line-up: unknown. Band origin: Worcester (Massachusetts/US)
3. Richie's Renegades - Don't Cry
4. Richie's Renegades - Baby It's Me
taken from the single Don't Cry/Baby It's Me (Polaris 002) 1966
5. Richie's Renegades - Come Alive
[Pepsi Spot]
Line-up incl.: Richie Reynolds (vcls), Bobby Ledger (gtr), Brian Michaels (bs), Bobby Peck (drms), Billy Dunn. Band origin: Lynn (Massachusetts/US)
6. Renegades - Waiting For You
7. Renegades - Tell Me What To Say
taken from the single
Waiting For You/Tell Me What To Say (Polaris 501) 1966
Line-up: Lorin Ruggiero, Kenneth Trainor, Robert Witt, Donald Pendleton.
Band origin: Rockland (Massachusetts/US)
8. Swinging Epics - Run To Him
Line-up incl.: Joe Sacca. Band origin: US
9. Billy Bo & His Arrows - Voodoo Rhythm
10. Billy Bo & His Arrows - Shuffle
taken from the single Voodoo Rhythm/Shuffle (Polaris 400) 1964
11. Billy Bo & His Arrows - Chatter
Line-up: unknown. Band origin: Randolph (Massachusetts/US)
12. Bugs - Slide
13. Bugs - Pretty Girl
taken from the single Pretty Girl/Slide (Astor 002 + Polaris 0001) 1964
14. Bugs - Albert Albert
15. Bugs - Strangler In The Night
taken from the single Albert Albert/Strangler In The Night (Astor 001) 1964
16. Bugs - Gonna Find Me A Girl
Line-up incl.: Eddie McGee (gtr, lead vcls), Rose McGee (bs), James McGee (drms). Band origin: Worcester (Massachusetts/US)
17. Attaras - You Got A Lot To Learn
18. Attaras - Blue Is The Color
19. Attaras - Daniel Boone
taken from the single Daniel Boone/Blue Is The Color (Polaris 601) 1966
20. Attaras - Come On
Line-up: unknown. Band origin: Shirley (Massachusetts/US)
21. Fantasmics - Wild One
22. Fantasmics - Heaven Or Hell
taken from the single Wild One/Heaven Or Hell (Polaris 401) 1965
Line-up: unknown. Band origin: Manchester (New Hampshire/US)
23. Devonaires - Gone Gone Gone
24. Devonaires - Mazzola
taken from the single Gone Gone Gone/Mazzola (Polaris 402) 1965
Line-up: unknown. Band origin: Malden (Massachusetts/US)
25. Leigh Spear - Minnie In Her Mini-Skirt
taken from the single
Minnie In Her Mini-Skirt/Cin Cin (Astor 003) 1966
Line-up: Leigh Spear (vcls). Additional musicians: The Bugs.
Origin: Massachusetts/US
26. Richie's Renegades - Don't Cry [alt. take]
27. Richie's Renegades - Baby It's Me [alt. take]
[unreleased / 1966]
Line-up/Band origin: See Track 3

Get it here (Artwork included)

Listen to New Breed - It's Love

Listen to Attaras - You Got A Lot To Learn


Anonymous said...

thanks for this collection keep up the great job your doing!! Sammy

Anonymous said...

Thanks man..

I love how you post stuff that's not seen on other blogs.

Great blog which I visit daily.

Keep those obscure comps coming!

Steve (in Oz)

Mad Shad said...


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this comp.
Great singles and unreleased material in Polaris label.

zebulon said...

a real great records!
thanks for sharing it.