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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can be a hit with the youngsters now - just as it was 50 years ago, 9 Jun 2007
By 
Keith_Joseph (West Berkshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Rock Island Line - The Singles Anthology (Audio CD)
My daughter sang 'My old mans a dustman' in the primary school choir and asked for the record (well CD). I bought her this anthology as it seemed incredible value for three CDs (and it is). My daughter (now 14) fell in love with the music and it's been on her CD or MP3 player ever since - she now even rates Lonnie as her favourite pop singer. As a child I loved 'John Henry', 'Rock Island Line', 'Cumberland gap' and 'Does your chewing gum lose it's flavour', and the humorous way many of the tracks are recorded. Although being born in the East End in the late 1950s, I missed nearly all of the rest of these tracks first time around though (at 18 I was into Deep Purple, Hawkwind, The Strawbs and Genesis) - although my mother & father taught me the words 'Skiffle' and 'Washing board' at an early age.

The musical variety of tracks on offer here, all delivered in LD's enthusiastic style, is quite impressive, ranging from his early classics to pretty good cover versions of contemporary songs, e.g. The parties over - although most of his 50s hits were covers as well, and none the worse for that. His use of simple 'instruments' like tea chests, tins, washing boards and a cheap Spanish guitar gave the impression that anyone could do it, and he kicked off the teenage garage bands of the 50s and 60s. He became unfashionable in the 1970s (although he wrote 'I'll never fall in love again' for Tom Jones). However his influence on the pop stars from the 60s onwards meant that he was always well respected in the industry, leading to tribute concerts and recordings later in life. In 2002 he died at 71 while still touring. It could be said his music, combined with the Buddy Holly sound, led to the Beatles and British domination of popular music in the 1960s and 1970s.

The triple CD set comes in three separate CD cases, each with neat inserts making them look like Lonnie Donegan 45rpm singles (CD3: The party's over, CD2: Does your chewing gum lose it's flavour) and a 78rpm sleeve (CD1: Rock Island Line). There's also a large detailed folded illustrated pamphlet about Lonnie's life and music. This all fits, rather tightly, into a 1950's period cardboard sleeve. It's all very well presented and clearly made by people who care about Lonnie's part in pop music history. So a great selection of Lonnie Donegan tracks ranging from country classics like The Grand Coolie Dam to a clever duet with comedy legend Max Miller, all in a nicely presented set, and at a bargain price, plus his music can still be a hit with the youngsters today.
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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars They've done him proud, 7 May 2006
By 
Peter Reeve (Thousand Oaks, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Rock Island Line - The Singles Anthology (Audio CD)
This is an extraordinary collection, showing the full range of Lonnie's work. The insert notes unfold into a poster with notes on every track, which is an excellent idea. Lonnie's influence on the British music scene is hard to overestimate. He inspired the generation that produced the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, et al. After Lonnie, every young man wanted to be in a group. I was 7 years old when Rock Island Line was released, and I was immediately recruited into my brother's skiffle group, where I banged an upturned cookie tin and scraped a washboard. Throughout Britain, thousands of kids were doing the same. It was a cultural phenomenon that would later blossom into the British Invasion. According to Paul McCartney, Lonnie 'was the man'.

What happened was this: Various American folk music traditions - New Orleans jazz, Bluegrass, Blues, Gospel - made their way to Europe in the decades preceding and following World War II. Traditional jazz became extremely popular in Britain. Chris Barber's Jazz Band was perhaps the best. If you are a jazz fan and have not heard them, you should. They are spectacularly good. Lonnie was a member of the band, playing banjo and guitar. He became aware of another tradition, called skiffle. This had originated as 'rent party' music in the southern US, and comprised jazzed-up versions of folk and blues played on improvised instruments. Lonnie played skiffle during intervals at Barber concerts, and found an audience.

After the chart success, on both sides of the Atlantic, of his first single, Rock Island Line, Lonnie and his group gradually separated (on good terms) from the Barber band. They were major stars in Britain until the 60s brought Elvis clones like Adam Faith and then finally the supergroups that Lonnie himself had inspired (Mick Jagger once sang with the Chris Barber band). Sadly, Lonnie never accepted that his time had passed. He released records in whatever style was currently popular and continued touring right up to his death in 2002. Fans see this either as a marvelous testament to his versatility and staying power, or as a sad refusal to accept that his star had faded. In this collection, you can hear his later ballads, like The Party's Over and I'll Never Fall in Love Again. They are remarkably good, as are his ventures into other genres. But there is a sense of desperation about it all.

The early skiffle on this album, a blend of trad jazz and folk, is great. Among the later tracks there are some historical curiosities, like the double track featuring the comedian Max Miller, in which he and Lonnie trade gags. Another rarity is Kevin Barry, which was released only in Ireland. It was too politically sensitive for a British release, being a pro-Republican song.

You have probably gathered by now that this collection is indispensable to anyone interested in the development of 20th century popular music. Don't be wary of an upstart Scot tackling American roots music. He does it full justice. Listen to his version of Leadbelly's Whoa Buck and be amazed.
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67 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excited not 'arf, 21 Nov 2002
By 
Boo (Preston, Lancs United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Rock Island Line - The Singles Anthology (Audio CD)
My Dad was in skiffle groups when he was younger so I was brought up on a diet of LD's music amongst others and constantly had to hear, "you like Lonnie who....?" when I was young. Not withstanding you either like it or hate it and he was (still is) the King Of Skiffle if you like it this is for you.
I was lucky enough to see him live a few years ago and this collection does him justice well and truly it has everything - buy this now and you won't be disappointed I promise!!!!
I have listened to this at length and it has rejuvinated my dad, heaven help us if he finds a washboard!!!!!!!!!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Key player in the development of 60's Pop..., 11 Aug 2010
This review is from: Rock Island Line - The Singles Anthology (Audio CD)
"He was the first person we had heard of from Britain to get to the coveted No. 1 in the charts, and we studied his records avidly. We all bought guitars to be in a skiffle group. He was the man." Paul McCartney

"I wanted to be Elvis Presley when I grew up, I knew that. But the man who really made me feel like I could actually go out and do it was a chap by the name of Lonnie Donegan." Roger Daltrey

In retrospect, Skiffle can appear slightly strange in the history of post war popular music. Instruments made from household utentsils? Amercian Folk, Blues and Spirituals sung by Londoner's? Although effectively killed off as a movement with the advent of Beat music in the early 60's, (which itself was more or less defunct by '66 as Pop became more sophisticated and Rock debuted), Skiffle was the bridge for young men who looked across the ocean to the highly sexualized and exotic sounds of the first Rock n' Roller's with awe and wonder. As Roger Daltrey acknowledges in the quotation above, EVERYONE wanted to be like Elvis but it was homegrown British artists who showed how it could be done, (Hank Marvin of 'The Shadows' had the same impact on budding guitarists), and many 60's artists (such as the Beatles) started off in Skiffle groups.

Lonnie Donegan was the pre-eminent Skiffle artist, who, as these singles show, did not simply copy and regurgitate songs from the American tradition, but also reinterpreted them (just as 'The Beatles', 'Stones' and other British acts would do in the 60's). Listening to this collection, the artist that Lonnie Donegan most reminds me of is Pete Seeger, who sung the same kind of material. But where as Seeger treated this material reverently, Lonnie Donegan plays fast and loose with it as is exemplified by his very first single, which kicks off this collection, 'Rock Island Line'. A traditional American Folk song, popularised by Leadbelly, here Donegan soups it up, speeding up the lyrics to breakneck pace, his acoustic guitar backed by drums, bass, and washboard. It reached no.8 in Britain and although he was dropped soon after by Decca, Lonnie Donegan signed with Pye, which is where the majority of this collection comes from.

Over three CD's in slim line cases housed in a cardboard sleeve, this collection takes you through all the A & B sides released by Lonnie Donegan between 1955-1967. The first CD is mainly Lonnie backed by his Skiffle band and includes most of his well known hits from 1955-1958. Along with the aformentioned 'Rock Island Line', there is 'Lost John', 'Don't You Rock Me Daddy-O', 'Cumberland Gap', and the double A-side 'Gamblin' Man/ Puttin' on the Style', plus a host of other great songs played in his inimitable style. What really impresses with these songs is how varied the material is, you have Folk, Country, Blues, Spirituals from American mixed in with British Music Hall and Folk.

The second CD also starts off strongly and includes the great kiddie pop songs, 'Does Your Chewing Gum...' and 'My Old Man's A Dustman' plus all his singles from 1958-1960. Unfortunately towards the end we start being treated to Lonnie Donegan the balladeer, where Lonnie, backed by the Wally Stott Orchestra croons through MOR material. This echoes the trap that many early British artists found themselves in as managers and record labels, thinking that Rock n' Roll was only a passing fad, moved to position their biggest selling artists as popular entertainers. (The same fate befell Cliff Richard who for a time nearly rivalled Elvis in the UK). it is this material that doesn't stand the test of time and will find you pressing the 'skip' button on your stereo. But we also get the wonderful 'Lumbered' a great Music Hall number, a very American-Spanish flavoured 'The Comancheros' and 'I Wanna Go Home', (which was the basis of the Beach Boy's hit 'Sloop John B'). There is also the export only 'Kevin Barry', a song unreleased in mainland Britain because of its Irish Republican theme.

The third CD covers the material from 1962-1967 when Lonnie Donegan started to loose popularity and unfortunately is again dominated by snoozeville ballad material. Out of the three CD's this is the weakest but there are a few tracks still worth listening to including a single released with Max Miller 'The Market Song/ Tit Bits' where Lonnie and Miller trade gags ("I had a nightmare last night." "I know, I saw her.") to great effect.

Each of the CD's contains a tracklist with information on release dates, single nos. and whether they were A or B side. It doesn't include chart placings though nor is there the poster insert mentioned by other reviewers with notes on each of the tracks, which is a pity as this would have really crowned a superb release. But for the price advertised on Amazon this is a great bargain for the amount of material you get. As an overview of a great artist I can't recommend this more highly.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If anybody asks you "Who sung the song?"...., 23 July 2007
This review is from: Rock Island Line - The Singles Anthology (Audio CD)
Influence is curious currency. And Lonnie Donegan as a performing artist had bags of it.
The Quarrymen became The Beatles and the three chord tricks became British R&B. Whilst skiffle itself was not durable in terms of the public eye it spawned a whole era of music that charts British music history.

Mr Donegan then. Here is probably the most comprehensive and best value compilation of the man's material. There are decent alternatives but this collection of Singles (both A-sides and B-sides) does a good job of covering the man's career from the mid-1950s to the mid-late 1960s.

"Rock Island Line" sounds like it's in the eye of the storm when it gathers pace. Magic but accessible magic. Sounds American but quintessentially British.
(Just for note "Diggin' My Potatoes" is curiously risque for the 1950s.)

CD1 documents some of the most essential British popular music. "Lost John" is insistent and bluesy and charming in a ram-shackle kind of way. "Bring A Little Water Sylvie" is insistent and energetic and steamrollers its way into your consciousness.
"Cumberland Gap" is breathtaking.

And yeah so its Britain and its the 1950s and so there is a bit of (coughs) music hall. "Putting On The Style" is of its time but not without its charm. Even if the audience show that intrinsic British sense of rhytmn by clapping along in the only way they know how like parents at a pantomime (it's a live recording).

"Does Your Chewing Gum..." quite possibly should be overlooked. It's not wrong maybe it's just so of its time that it's a peice of work to get enthusiastic about.

CD2 contains the well-known My Father Works For Tendered Out Environmental Services. Once again, this does not do much for Merry Terry... but much else on this CD does.

Two over-looked stunners on here is the majestic single "The Comancheroes" which is a stunner and backed by the intoxicating "Rambling Round."
The blistering "Have A Drink On Me" is infectious and irrestistable. Even for Adam Faith fans who must be forgiving.

CD3 is more reflective and some might say patchy. "Where In The World Are We Going?" is quite charming. But the influence is documented on the first 2 discs.

An excellent package and a worthy document to a huge influence and talent.

This is infectious, joyous music with class and soul. If you can forgive the music-hall tendencies in places and I think I can, this is an excellent 3 CD set from one of the most influential figures in British music in the last 50 to 60 years.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Putting on the agony, putting on the style, 25 Sep 2011
By 
Dangerous Dave (Berkhamsted, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Rock Island Line - The Singles Anthology (Audio CD)
The late Lonnie Donegan deserved at least a knighthood for keeping us kids sane during the early days of so-called British rock'n'roll, that is pre Cliff and pre Billy. In terms of passion, edge and outright rawness his records easily beat the efforts of Tommy Steele, Don Lang, Tony Crombie et al, and some were even a match for the outrageous stuff we were hearing from across the pond. OK they weren't rock'n'roll but they were the next best thing.

British popular music in those days was a closed shop run by big labels. The music itself came from dance bands fronted by crooners - a good flavour of this can be gleaned from the box set "100 Hits: 50's". Covering American hits was also very prevalent enabling British labels to make money out of copying a US hit, often with its complete arrangement intact, and fronted by a UK singer like Jimmy Young or Michael Holliday. This practice continued through the rock'n'roll years and only really disappeared with the beat group revolution in `63. Small labels, which in the US were often used for black music, did not really exist in the UK. Indeed we had no equivalent to the whole US black music scene in this country. It was this scene which effectively lit the spark for rock'n'roll - all the white rock singers were heavily influenced by black music which they will have listened to on radio stations.

The only real "alternative" music in the UK in the early `50's was jazz - bluebeat wasn't to emerge from the West Indian ghettoes of Brixton and surrounding areas until the beginning of the next decade - and it's been well documented that it was from the jazz scene that Donegan came. But the records he made were quite different to typical trad jazz records and worlds apart from smooth hit parade mush. Donegan was anti-smooth; his voice was harsh sounding and that, combined with up-tempo guitar and drums, created a much rawer and more basic form of music. Although he happily pillaged the full gamut of American traditional music - blues, country, work songs, gospel, etc - he didn't sound anything like a folk singer - in those days the latter was a very polite individual with finger picked guitar. It's worth adding that his song selection was even more eclectic than a cursory examination would suggest - "Love is Strange" is certainly not American traditional music and "Putting on the style", one of his earlier numbers, was old but hardly traditional.

There was a singular irony during the period while Donegan was in his pomp. People in the US had much greater exposure to black music than the UK but this was current commercial black music; traditional black and white music was hardly heard in the cities outside of colleges and the more intellectual hang-outs. In contrast, in the UK we had wide exposure to US traditional music via Lonnie - songs like "Rock Island Line", "Midnight Special", "John Henry" etc. were the stuff we grew up with. And blues of course, which is likely to be one of the main reasons for the subsequent growth of the UK R&B scene in the early 60's.

Almost everything you need from Donegan is contained in this set which, I think, was the first on the market. It doesn't have as much of the really early stuff as the Smith & Co set but that does come with several variants of particular tracks (which you may not want). It also doesn't have all the EP material. I should explain here that a lot of early Donegan material came out on EP's rather than singles. I confess to a slight hankering for the EP containing the Conway Hall live tracks which I always liked (particularly the frantic "Glory"). All this material can be found on the "Lonnie Donegan Collection" 5 CD set (for roughly the same price). The downside is that the latter also has loads more of the later tracks which you may not want!

Which does bring me on to the later material. On Disc 2 of this set Donegan gradually moves from a singer leading his own band with self-chosen material to a singer with studio backing and with his songs chosen by the producer or a & r man. Particularly noticeable is the entrance of strings on "I wanna go home". I still tend to associate strings with a sell-out though that may just be my problem (and it's even after Buddy Holly's very brief but also very elegant use of strings very shortly before the crash).

Disc 3 is largely for completists. It contains a few interesting curios but I doubt whether you'd play this one very often. No, if you buy this set it'll be for the music on Disc 1 and to a lesser extent, Disc 2. This music was amongst the most exciting and intriguing on release in this country from `55 up to the end of the decade. Which makes it mega unfortunate that Donegan was largely a forgotten man through the 80`s and much of the 90`s, until Van Morrison brought him back into the public eye and albums like this started to appear. Judging by the positive reviews to this album and to others, his reputation is now fully restored, thankfully.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rock Island Line, The Singles Anthology: Lonnie Donegan - Donegan puts on the style, 27 Mar 2013
By 
Victor (Hull, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Rock Island Line - The Singles Anthology (Audio CD)
This excellent set gathers together all the singles (A and B sides) released by Lonnie Donegan on the Decca and Pye labels between 1955 an 1967. Released by Sanctuary/Castle records, it is a perfect accompaniment to their series of releases of his albums of the time.

Originally known for his raucous covers of Ledbelly and Woody Guthrie songs, and later for his humerous output, Donegan always had aspirations to be a serious balladeer, even if the public wouldn't let him follow that particular dream. So the music on this set might surprise those who only know one facet of this talented man's work, as it covers a range of styles and moods. From uplifting gospel to the humour of `my old man's a dustman', to the rocking `rock island line' to the lamenting `I wanna go home' (later covered by the Beach Boys as Sloop John B), to the unique `Talking guitar blues' (later reworked by Chas n Dave as Strummin', to the mournful `the party's over' and the amazing rendition of `love is strange', this is a collection full of variety and surprises.

This body of music inspired so many - it inspired the Beatles to form a group, songs here were covered by Chan n Dave, the Beach Boys and The Seekers, about as varied a collection of artists as you could get. And it still inspires and entertains today.

The tracks are collected onto three discs, each in a slim line case with a reproduction of a record sleeve for art work. These are collected into a card slipcase. There is a sheet that folds out to poster size inserted. On one side is a poster, on the other detailed notes about the recording. The sound is excellent. This has been put together by people who really care about the product and the music.

Familiar as I am with Donegan's music, having collected the accompanying series of album releases, I was never the less surprised and delighted to find material here that not only had I never heard before but was genuinely interesting. Chief among these discoveries were two recordings made with Max Miller, and `Diggin my potatos', an early hit for Donegan but missing from any other collection that I own.

5 stars for this excellent collection. And thank you to the people who did such a good job of putting it together.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good value for 3 CDs of hits, 21 Nov 2009
This review is from: Rock Island Line - The Singles Anthology (Audio CD)
I actually got this for a friends birthday as its not really my music but it had allthe tunes I expected to be there and even my friend who knows alot more than I do was suprised to find some of the rarer ones on the CD's too.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The track listing speaks for itself, 15 Aug 2012
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This is an amazing collection of Lonnie Donegan's work. As far as I can see it has all of the classic tracks that anyone with an interest in his music will know. "Rock Island Line", "The Battle of New Orleans", Rock o' My Soul", "Tom Dooley", "Does Your Chewing Gum ... " and so on. There are also a few less familiar numbers, such as the excellent "Bury My Body" and the not so excellent "Beyond The Sunset" and "Black Cat". I didn't know that he had recorded stuff like that and so I have read with great interest some of the other more informative reviews on this collection. These are well worth reading; but if you like Lonnie Donegan you won't need to be persuaded - the track listing speaks for itself.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lonnie Donegan, 23 Aug 2009
By 
Robert Ainsworth (Manchester UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Rock Island Line - The Singles Anthology (Audio CD)
As a closet Lonnie Donegan fan (as a musician I once worked a week's cabaret with him in Leigh Lancashire) this is an excellent compilation. I don't like his "comedy" records but the folky/anglicised country stuff is great, such as Stewball (not the Peter Paul and Mary arrangement)Battle of New Orleans, Have a Drink on Me etc. My favourite is a B side of Have a Drink....Seven Daffodils.
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