. Xmas is coming and it's time for the papers, magazines and websites to choose their Albums Of The Year for 2013. I can't believe I haven't spotted this little gem in anybody's 'best compilation' list. Admittedly it isn't quite in the same bracket as Saint Etienne's brilliant 'Trip' double-CD from 2004 (one of the greatest mix-sets of all time, in my view) but it's still well worth the price and comfortably the most interesting compilation I've heard recently.
There are 25 tracks, most of them cool, breezy and obscure, including the occasional familiar tune ('Moon River', 'Stranger On The Shore') but otherwise complete surprises - stuff you are unlikely to hear anywhere else. The standout moments are tracks 2 (Sammy Davis Jr - what a glorious voice he had), 8 (Yma Sumac, the eccentric Lady Gaga of her day), 12 (Gloria Lynne, a great singer whose death earlier this year sadly went virtually unnoticed) and 13 (Dion, teenybob 1961-style). There then follows somewhat of a lull until track 19 (Don Rondo, more cheesy than a pizza) and then two superb songs at the end, 23 (Connie Francis oozing seductive menace) and 24, a beautiful lullaby finale by Artie Garr, recorded before he changed his stage name and hit the big time with Paul Simon.
So many compilations are released nowadays that there is a degree of trust - or a leap of faith - involved when buying one. You hope the whole CD is going to be high quality, not just the couple of teasers inserted at the top of the track listing. In the case of Bob Stanley, the inspiration behind this selection, with his finely-tuned ear for an obscure golden nugget and his gift for putting these sets together, you can be confident that you are in safe hands.
Anyone following the "Saint Etienne Presentes" series know what to expect: A high quality selection of light music from the 50's and the 60's, most of them quite obscure for today's listener. However, the booklet is a slight disappointment as the track information is minimal.