For all those who have already tuned in to ace researcher-compiler Nick Duckett's fabulous Beatles Beginnings, the good news is volumes 4 & 5 hit the spot just as sweetly as the first three. For those not yet acquainted with this series documenting the influences on the Beatles as writers and performers, then once heard, these new releases are guaranteed to have you seeking out their predecessors. Each volume, ram-jam with the original versions of songs the Beatles covered, is a musical gem in its own right while Duckett's accompanying booklets are essential reading for all Beatles fans; authoritative and informative, they contextualise the Beatles' musical evolution superbly. Volume Four: The Cavern Club directs attention to the rarely noted Latin influence on the Beatles - the conga chorus of She Loves You, the Charleston in Can't Buy Me Love, the rumba in Ask Me Why, not to mention the rhythms of the Cha Cha Cha, Twist and Bossa Nova, all of which found their way into many original Beatles tunes. Volume Five: Star Club documents songs included in the Beatles' set lists around the time Ringo Starr replaced Pete Best on drums and they fulfilled their final bookings at the Star Club. Alongside R&B, dance and rockabilly, the Beatles now included covers of early soul songs, pop and girl group numbers. International fame and acclaim was just a breath away, but even so, live, the Beatles remained essentially a covers band, Lennon and McCartney's originals still largely unheard
The "Beginnings" series strikes again with another spectacular collection of original recordings that in this case inspired or influenced The Beatles. This is the fourth of an extensive six-CD series on the influences on and the inspirations for The Beatles. As with others in the series (2 Rolling Stones collections and one each on The Who and The Kinks), the accompanying booklet has extremely thorough and welcome annotation. I applaud whomever performed the extensive research that resulted in these fascinating choices. I hope they're planning discs on The Yardbirds, The Animals and Jimi Hendrix as well.
Their other series, "How Britain Got the Blues", is every bit as good (if not better, as each of the four in the series is a 2-CD set). Bravo to History of RnB Records for these releases and the outstanding music scholarship that accompanies them.