This magnificent anthology currently serves humanity both as a tribute to record producer Joe Meek and as the unparalleled definitive history of the British pop
ock group known as the Tornados. Famous for their recording of Meek's peculiarly unforgettable space age instrumental that was inspired by and named after Telstar (the U.S.A.'s belated answer to the Soviet Union's Sputnik), the group was initially formed by Meek as a nameless backup band for a series of now nearly forgotten pop singers. The cardinal participants were bass guitarist Heinz Burt, lead guitarist Alan Caddy, rhythm guitarist George Bellamy, drummer Clem Cattini, and Roger LaVern, an electric organist who could also rattle away at an upright piano. On "Love and Fury," Norman Hale is heard playing the clavioline; that instrument's haunting tonalities would be immortalized when in July 1962 LaVern played it on "Telstar." Most of this group's recordings are instrumental; although the ten vocal tracks are intriguing tidbits ("Ragunboneman," "Too Much in Love to Hear," "Ready Teddy," "My Babe," "Long Tall Sally," "Rip It Up," "Fortune Teller," "No More You and Me," "Alright," and a swell version of Bill Monroe's "Blue Moon of Kentucky"), most humans still turn to the Tornados for dependably entertaining and pleasantly disorienting instrumentals. Fun items include "Popeye Twist"; a rockin' number called "Earthy"; a superbly improbable version of "Chattanooga Choo Choo"; live performances of "Telstar," "Exodus," and "Czardas"; and "Do You Come Here Often?," which has a melody largely based on "I'm an Old Cowhand" and a contrived conversation between two men at a gay bar. The peppy "Costa Monger" has whistling and a shout at the end of it that brand this tune as Joe Meek's answer to producer Noel Walker's robust creation, Whistling Jack Smith. Everything the Tornados ever recorded appears to have been compiled here: that means their one LP, all of their singles and EPs, and 11 rare, previously unreleased tracks. The enclosed documentation, disclosing nearly all that is known about this group and its producer, is in the form of a glossy, folded double-sided "poster," although a more conventional CD booklet would have been more durable and easier to reference. The lingering influence of the Tornados is detectable throughout Western Civilization, including the recorded legacies of electronic space age pop pioneers Jean-Jacques Perrey and Gershon Kingsley, adventure puppet animation king Barry Gray, and even Frank Zappa in his early squinky "Studio Z" surf mode. Like it says on the CD packaging: Joe Meek Lives.