In the mid-'60s, Chicago had one of the liveliest rock & roll scenes in the nation, with great bands packing the city's teen clubs and a few even making their way onto the national charts. The most notable act on the Windy City garage rock scene was the Shadows of Knight, but they were far from the only game in town; while they recorded for the local Dunwich Records label (who had national distribution through Atlantic), the Buckinghams, the Messengers, and a number of other notable Chicago groups were signed to U.S.A. Records, an important regional label run by Jim Golden. Most of the U.S.A. masters have been out of print for years, but thankfully, Sundazed Records has stepped up to release a comprehensive sampler of their output (as well as their sister label, Destination Records), and 2131 South Michigan Avenue: 60s Garage and Psychedelia from U.S.A. and Destination Records is a fine, lavishly packaged collection of 40 rare tracks from their archives. Dunwich tended to focus on the tougher and grittier Chicago-area teen acts, while Golden demanded a bit more polish from his U.S.A. artists, so anyone hoping for a set of Back from the Grave-style bashing should look elsewhere. Similarly, the label petered out in 1968, so most of the "psychedelic" material here is of the "Wow, I Feel Strange" variety rather than authentic stuff for connoisseurs. But U.S.A had plenty of acts who could rock out, and Golden and his crew knew what to do with them in the studio; anyone with a serious taste for mid-'60s rock will be impressed with the scope and talent displayed on this set. The Buckinghams were U.S.A.'s biggest act, and their hit, "Kind of a Drag," wasn't available for this set, but their energetic take on "I'm a Man" shows they were heavier than their signature tune would suggest. While Oscar Hamod & the Majestics had one of the least graceful names in the history of Chicago rock & roll, they delivered some forceful R&B-influenced performances, including a great vocal take of the Bar-Kays classic "Soul Finger." The Messengers scored a Midwest hit with their version of "In the Midnight Hour," but the flipside, "Hard, Hard Year," is a great slice of moody folk-rock that deserves a wider hearing. Every scene had at least one all-girl band back in the day, and the Daughters of Eve were a great one, and "Help Me Boy" is top-notch AM pop. A long way from their later horn-infused recordings for Columbia, the Flock offers up some Byrdsian jangle on "Are You the Kind" and the impressively addled "What Would You Do If the Sun Died." The Lost Agency let loose with some deadly fuzztone swagger as they warn the opposite sex about their troubles with commitment on "One Girl Man." And The Cryan' Shames merge tough garage rock guitar with silky harmonies on the terrific "Ben Franklin's Almanac." As usual for a Sundazed project, the mastering makes the most of these rare tapes, the liner notes are entertaining and informative, and there are lots of great photos and label scans to go along with the great music. 2131 South Michigan Avenue is a superb tribute to one of the key labels on the Midwest rock & roll scene in the garage rock era, along with the excellent bands who created music worth documenting, and this is likely to be the landmark garage rock reissue of 2009.