Various Artists – Boogie Chillen (review)

Various Artists – Boogie Chillen – Early Mods’ First-Choice Vinyl (Fantastic Voyage) review

A bulletproof playlist of early rock, soul, doo wop, & blues, summing up the favorites of the Mod generation.

The Mod culture was something most Americans missed in the 1960’s.  But in Britain, it was a way of life for many youth.  The scooter-riding, pill-popping, snappy dressing kids championed American soul and blues from the previous decade – music that we had already tossed aside here in the States, in favor of rock imported from the UK.

Boogie Chillen is a mammoth, three-disc set, featuring 75 songs, all bona fide Mod classics.  These are the singles that were blaring out of any true Mod’s crash pad back in the day.  But, you don’t have to understand this culture to enjoy the music.  In fact, Boogie Chillen works as a fantastic collection of classic American R&B all on its own.

There are signature tracks from most of the legendary blues guys – Muddy Waters’ “I Just Want to Make Love to You” still sounds scandalous, with Little Walter’s eerie harmonica furthering Waters’ intentions, while John Lee Hooker’s “Walkin‘ the Boogie,” with its strange, echoed production, sounds otherworldly.   Elmore James’ “Dust My Blues” reminds us that he was truly the king of slide guitar, while Slim Harpo’s “I’m a King Bee” lopes along with a groove all his own.

Several songs explore the Bo Diddley Beat: “Wille & the Hand Jive” from Johnny Otis,  “Hey Little Girl” from Dee Clark, and Bo’s own “Who Do You Love,” were all danceable hits.  There’s also some of the all-time great instrumentals – “Rumble,” “Red River Rock,” and “Green Onions.”

Some of the tracks were early staples of legendary British bands – James Brown’s “I’ll Go Crazy” was covered by the Who, the Dixie Cups’ “Chains” by the Beatles, and Benny Spellman’s “Fortune Teller” by just about everyone.

Alongside obvious choices are some surprises too, like “Watch Your Step” from Bobby Parker, which was not only the inspiration for the Allman Brothers’ rendition of “One Way Out,” but also “She’s a Woman” by the Beatles.  Ike & Tina really shine on “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine,” with its Vibroed guitar, while jazz/blues pianist Mose Allison’s “Parchman Farm” is from pure out of left field.  Don Gardner & Dee Dee Ford’s “I Need Your Loving,” with its repeated “whoa whoa whoa whoa,” is pure fun.

If you were into the Mod culture, there has never been a more complete collection of the music surrounding that phenomenon.  However, if you’re just looking for a killer collection of early US Rhythm & Blues, you will not be disappointed.  If you’re looking for good music before the Beatles, you can’t go wrong with Boogie Chillen.  –Tony Peters