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Various - Lost Highways

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 7 / 10 / 2009

Various - Lost Highways
Label: Viper Records
Format: CD


Lovingly put together and presented compilation of 1920s to 1950s American road trip-themed songs from innovative Liverpudlian label, Viper

This collection of twenty songs, the latest which was recorded in 1957, is released on the Viper label. This independent Liverpool based label has been trading for a decade now and I wonder how many other music fans have the wrong impression of the type of music the label covers. I know I certainly did. My main knowledge of the label was from a few compilations they issued some time back. There were two Christmas-themed collections, ‘I’m Gonna Lasso Santa Claus’ and ‘Papa Ain’t No Santa Claus, Mama Ain’t No Christmas Tree’ which collected yuletide songs from the years when most of us weren’t even born and which were a welcome relief from the usual Slade / Wizard / Cliff Richard seasonal songs we always hear. They were Christmas songs that could be played all year in fact and the Viper collections covered most genres. Then there was their ‘Unearthed Merseybeat’ compilation of which the title says it all. Viper always tried with the packaging too. These were obviously not thrown together in a hurry collection where the main aim was to make a fast buck. So it came with some surprise when checking out Viper’s web site that the label actually have much more recent artists on their label, The La’s and Captain Beefheart are just two on their catalogue which caught my eye. My view that Viper only released songs from artists that were five or six decades old was obviously wrong. But with ‘Lost Highways’ Viper return to what I knew them for from those Christmas collections. Songs from a long-forgotten era. The twenty songs this time are road-trip themed songs, the earliest being recorded in 1930 from what I can tell which is a little confusing given the sub title of the collection but maybe Viper titled the collection that way to cover when the songs were originally written. As with their previous compilations Viper haven’t just thrown together a collection of say vintage rock ‘n’ roll songs. They have loving pieced together country, soul, blues and jazz tunes along with those authentic rock ‘n’ roll tracks. Names like Nat King Cole rub shoulders with Howlin’ Wolf, a Johnny Cash cut precedes a song by Big Joe Williams and Viper even found room for Robert Johnson and Woody Guthrie. There’s the usual Viper informative booklet explaining all you need to know about each song and artist and I have to admit that I was initially surprised when I read that the second song, ‘Down the Line’, which starts like ‘Baby Please Don’t Go’ then morphs into what I thought was an early side by The Everly Brothers is actually an early demo from Buddy Holly and Bob Montgomery. Once I read the notes on this song it was obvious that it’s a Buddy Holly recording which made my guess of the Everly Brothers pretty pathetic, especially as the track also features Jerry Allison on drums and Larry Welborn on bass but as it originates from 1955 I use that as an excuse for not recognising the artist initially. I’m not sure where Viper sourced these tracks from but the sound quality, considering the age of some of the recordings, is more than acceptable and on some songs superb. There are also some unexpected surprises. Compare Nat King Cole’s version of possibly the most well-known American road-song, ‘Route 66’, to that of the Rolling Stones. Cole cut his version in 1946, The Stones put theirs down in 1964 yet Cole’s seems to have eerily stood the passing of time better than the Stones version. There’s also a few selections that will make fans of a particular artist purchase this CD, a radio broadcast recording of Hank Williams and The Drifting Cowboys ‘I’ve Been Down That Road Before’ from 1951 is a particular highlight and the sound quality is good. The closing song, The Soul Stirrers ‘The Last Mile of the Way’ features a young Sam Cooke taking the sweet and soulful lead vocals on the gospel number which again, given the recording date of August 1955, is presented in exceptional quality. This isn’t just a compilation for fans of any of the genres featured or just for followers of any of the artists; it’s a lovingly put together selection of road songs which will appeal to music lovers of any age no matter what their favourite type of music might be.

Track Listing:-
1 David Bowie- I'm Deranged (Edit)
2 Trent Reznor Featuring Peter Christopherson- Videodrones; Questions
3 Nine Inch Nails- The Perfect Drug
4 Angelo Badalamenti- Red Bats With Teeth
5 Angelo Badalamenti- Haunting & Heartbreaking
6 The Smashing Pumpkins- Eye
7 Angelo Badalamenti- Dub Driving
8 Barry Adamson- Mr. Eddy's Theme 1
9 Lou Reed- This Magic Moment
10 Barry Adamson- Mr. Eddy's Theme 2
11 Angelo Badalamenti- Fred & Renee Make Love
12 Marilyn Manson- Apple Of Sodom
13 Antonio Carlos Jobim- Insensatez
14 Barry Adamson- Something Wicked This Way Comes (Edit)
15 Marilyn Manson- I Put A Spell On You
16 Angelo Badalamenti- Fats Revisited
17 Angelo Badalamenti- Fred's World
18 Rammstein- Rammstein (Edit)
19 Barry Adamson- Hollywood Sunset
20 Rammstein- Hierate Mich (Edit)
21 Angelo Badalamenti- Police
22 Trent Reznor- Driver Down
23 David Bowie- I'm Deranged (Reprise)

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