As something of a less ruthless, more musically inclined Kim Fowley (with whom he briefly partnered in his early career), Gary Paxton was an interesting jack-of-all-trades. Working mostly in Hollywood, between the late '50s and late '60s he had his hand in innumerable records as a producer, songwriter, and performer. This compilation gathers 32 such tracks from that time, some of them previously unreleased, and most from very obscure singles, though it does include several hits with which he was involved: Skip & Flip's "It Was I," the Hollywood Argyles' "Alley-Oop," and Bobby "Boris" Pickett's "Monster Mash." Alec Palao's 28-page liner notes are so thorough, and so evocative of the early-'60s anything-goes Hollywood pop
ock scene, that some collectors will find them worth the price of this CD alone. That doesn't negate the fact, however, that most of the tracks on the CD are forgettably derivative of many trends in the era, from rockabilly, instrumental rock, and doo wop to Ricky Nelson (David & Lee's "Tryin' to Be Someone"), Bo Diddley (Renfro & Jackson's "Elephant Game, Pt. 1" is a pretty transparent takeoff on Diddley's hit "Say Man"), folk-rock (Mickey Rooney, Jr.'s previously unreleased "I Can Read Between the Lines"), Association-like harmony pop
ock (the Four Freshmen's 1966 single "Nowhere to Go"), novelty rock, uptown New York Brill Building soul-pop, and more. In fact, the three aforementioned hits are the best cuts, and as fun as they were, they weren't exactly the most deathless classics of the early rock era. There are some little-known tracks from future stars here that might interest collectors, like Paul Revere & the Raiders' 1961 single "Midnite Ride" and Ritchie Marsh's 1962 release "Darling, I Swear That It's True," which is such trite and sappy teen idol pop you'll have a hard time believing it's the same guy who changed his billing to Sky Saxon and became the singer for the Seeds. Plus there are some reasonably good cuts here and there, like the Art Reynolds Singers' 1966 gospel version of "Jesus Is Just Alright," famously rocked up in the 1970s by the Byrds and the Doobie Brothers. But overall, it leaves the impression of an energetic journeyman willing to try almost everything, rather than of an unjustly neglected genius. Many other Paxton rarities are collected on other Ace compilations of his work in the surf, hot rod, girl group, and country-rock genres, and some of the material on those (particularly the country-rock collections) outshines much of what's on this more all-encompassing compilation.