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51 tracks of Scouse nostalgia? Not quite, as this 3 CD compilation hangs tenuously on the 50th anniversary of the Cavern, with contributions from artists who have played the club in either its original form or the later rebuilt 1984 version.

On the one hand the compilation sets out to trace the 60's musical heritage of the club, and does is superbly well. But it is when it casts its intentions further a field that it loses its way.

For while there is some great music throughout, tagging on some extras like Queen, Elton John, Wishbone Ash and Status Quo with no apparent reference to the chronology of the recording dates doesn't work as well as well as including The Coral's contemporary take on Pop, and the impressive closing bluster of the Arctic Monkeys.

No matter, the compilation opens with an intro from former Cavern compère, stage manager and promoter Bob Wooler, the man who used to write extensively about the Mersey Beat scene in Liverpool and who Alan Williams who persuaded give up his job to help run the Cavern.

There's also the relatively recent Paul McCartney live at the Cavern recording of 'All Shook Up', from his 'Run Devil Run' rock and roll album. But even this would have been better placed at the end of a 60's sequence, while the above mentioned efforts from the 70's could have been collated in between the early 60's material and the closing five tracks.

I'd wager most purchasers of this album would be drawn to it by the succession of 60's classics. Some outings from the likes of The Searchers, 'Needles & Pins', The Fourmost's 'Hello Little Girl', The Big Three 'Some Other Guy' (also covered by the Beatles at the time) hold special relevance.

Ditto, The Merseybeats, and the Swinging Blues Jeans, who made their name in the club. There are also some classic hits from the time from the likes of The Kinks, Spencer Davis Group and Cliff Bennett. Then there are a few curious efforts, like Lonnie Donegan's 'Cumberland Gap' which predated much of this scene. Given that his Skiffle influenced a generation including the Quarrymen (later to become The Beatles), perhaps he should have been placed at the very beginning of the set with some archive audio from the likes of Kingsize Taylor, Rory Storm and even The Remo Four.

And what are we to make of the omission of the likes of Alexis Korner who actually recorded live at the club?

The final five tracks are presumably an attempt to update the project, but sit uneasily with what has gone before. But given the timeless music that makes up much of the three discs that is a minor quibble.

In sum, there is so much good music early on that you suspect most people would have happily paid for the first two CD's alone.


Review by Pete Feenstra

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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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