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Various Artists (Label Samplers) - Rockbuster CD (album) cover

ROCKBUSTER

Various Artists (Label Samplers)

 

Various Genres

3.92 | 6 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger

Following the huge success of their "Fill your head with rock" sampler, CBS followed it up with another compilation packed with top name artists. Once again, the packaging was striking, with a black and white image of a young, impossibly muscle-bound Arnold Schwarzenegger (spelled with 3 consecutive G's on the sleeve) on a radiant background. The gatefold sleeve was a work of pop art in itself. Unfortunately, the sleeve imagery probably put many people off buying the album, since in some ways it was the antithesis of the content. Unusually for CBS (Columbia), the LP labels also have an image of Arnie on one side, with the track information for both faces on the other.

The double LP package is literally crammed with a diverse range of then contemporary sounds, the 28 tracks ranging from Bob Dylan to Black Widow. Even with so many tracks included, some of the selections are reasonably long, the longest LP side running to almost 28 minutes.

While "Fill your head with rock" is arguably the best known of the CBS samplers, "Rockbuster" is undoubtedly the most progressive. Among the artists listed on this site who appear on the album are IT'S A BEAUTIFUL DAY, SOFT MACHINE, FLOCK, SANTANA, TREES, ARGENT, BLACK WIDOW, SPIRIT, and ROBERT WYATT. When you add to that artists of the calibre of MILES DAVIS, BLOOD SWEAT AND TEARS, THE BYRDS, POCO, DYLAN, AL KOOPER, and JOHNNY and EDGAR WINTER (and on top of that remember space is not even found for CHICAGO, AL STEWART, and many others) you begin to appreciate what an astonishing roster CBS had. It also shows just how big what we now call prog was in the early 1970s.

The tracks appear to have been grouped together in approximate styles, with side one being dedicated to material with jazz influences, while side two is for folk/country/singer songwriter selections. Side three ventures deeper into prog territory, while the fourth side gathers in those tracks which are more difficult to pin down but might loosely be tied together as American.

How representative the selected tracks are of the bands performing them is variable. It's a Beautiful Day's "Don and Dewey" may open "Marrying maiden", but it is completely different to the rest of the album. Argent's "Where are we going wrong" is an adequate selection from "Ring of hands" (titled "Silver plated" here), but the album was relatively poor by the band's standards. Blood Sweat and Tears interpretation of Joe Cocker's "Something's coming on" offers a good indication of the band's undoubted prog credentials, especially in the freeform instrumental section. The track sits well next to the following extract from "Out-bloody-rageous" by Soft Machine.

Some of the album's highlights might be considered surprising, as they are by the few lesser know artists who are included. Mick Softley's "Time machine" is a soulful song which belies its early 70's origins. Trees contribution "Polly on the shore" is a traditional song with a melody similar to "She moved through the fair". It also resembles some of Fairport Convention's early work with Sandy Denny and Richard Thompson.

After the disturbing and controversial "Come to the sabbat" on "Fill your head with rock", Black Widow's "Mary Clarke" is a much more downbeat affair, although the lyrics still sound somewhat troubling. Robert Wyatt's contribution from his at the time untitled first solo album (it became "The end of an ear") offered an accurate warning that the music on that album would not be at all easy.

Side four is the most eclectic, ranging from Chicano/Native American band Redbone's "Crazy Cajun cakewalk band" (actually Redbone's previous name) to the raw guitar blues of Johnny Winter. The New York Rock Ensemble's "Don't wait too long" completely fails to capture the essence of that unique and innovative combo, who were best known for their use of classical and rock instruments outside their usual boundaries. The album closes with an unusually light and melodic piece by Al Kooper when he covers James Taylor's "Country Road", complete with orichestration.

Overall, "Fill your head with rock" had the more dynamic content, many of the selections being among the best on their source albums. The choices here tend to be neither the best or the worst tracks from the albums. The compiler (David Howells) has clearly put a lot of tough into the sequencing of the songs to make for a double album which not only offers a taster of each of the artists, but flows well as an enjoyable album in its own right.

Easy Livin | 4/5 |

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