Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Downliners Sect - The Definitive Downliners Sect : Singles A's& B's

Of all the British R&B bands to follow the Rolling Stones' footsteps, the Downliners Sect were arguably the rawest. The Sect didn't as much interpret the sound of Chess Records as attack it, with a finesse that made the Pretty Things seem positively suave in comparison. Long on crude energy and hoarse vocals, but short on originality and songwriting talent, the band never had a British hit, although they had some sizable singles in other European countries. Despite their lack of commercial success or appeal, the band managed to record three albums and various EPs and singles between 1963 and 1966, with detours into country-rock and an EP of death-rock tunes. Although they recorded afterwards, it is the Sect's early work that continues to attract connoisseurs of '60s garage and punk.

Definitive, yes -- both sides of all eight of their Columbia singles, both sides of their one Pye single, their 1965 The Sect Sing Sick Songs EP, their ultra-rare self-released Nite at Gt. Newport Street EP from early 1964, and demos of "Cadillac" and "Roll over Beethoven" from 1963 and 1964, respectively. Twenty-nine songs in all, spanning 1963-1967, many of which didn't make it onto the three albums they released during this period. Good? No, not really. As performers the Sect didn't only verge on inept, they were at times downright careless, as if they couldn't be bothered to polish things a bit in the studio. As (infrequent) songwriters, their talent was nearly nonexistent. It's hard to believe anyone thought most of these sides had any commercial potential, either in the band or at the record label; the material is largely lackluster, and not even especially well chosen (a few of the songs on their first and third LPs would have been much better bets). Highlights are the Newport EP, which at least finds them playing things a bit straight and passionate, with a ramshackle version of "Green Onions" and a good cut of Bo Diddley's "Nursery Rhymes"; the 1965 single "Bad Storm Coming" is a fairly moody number. That's a pretty low return on a band that enjoys a vociferous following among some collectors, although they were really a pedestrian British R&B band with a propensity toward parched humor and odd novelty tunes that hasn't age.~ Richie Unterberger

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