Most of you probably know the hit record by Cannibal and The Headhunters called "Land of 1000 Dances." You know them, that band who opened for The Beatles on their 1965 tour including Shea Stadium and The Hollywood Bowl. It is that song with the infectious timeless call-and-response vocal hook that goes:
Nah nah na-nahhhh
Nah nah na-nahhhh
If you don't know Cannibal's version perhaps you know other hit versions including Wilson PIckett's #1 it or the one by a happy fellow named Round Robin. Before Cannibal, the label put out the first version in 1962 by Chris Kenner. But the thing is... the label that first hit it big with The Premier's rowdy cover of Don & Dewey's 1959 hit "Farmer John" was much more than just those songs.
And this is the focus and purpose of a fine new four CD deluxe set coming out on Record Store Day called Land Of 1000 Dances - The Rampart Records Complete Singles Collection. Ten years in the making, this set features 79 tracks issued between 1961 and 1977 documenting the history of the Los Angeles based label and the so called "West Coast East Side Sound."
Of course, "Land of 1000 Dances" gets a lot of airtime here with multiple versions issued over the years in a variety of forms (60s hit radio edit to a late 70s 12-inch remix). However, the label had a lot of other stars they worked with including some bonafide and shoulda-been hits.
I especially liked tracks by The Souljers such as the sassy swingin' party instrumental "Poochum." The Four Tempos' "Showdown (At The Union Hall)" is a fun one to dance the Pony to and Ron Holden's "Girl I Love You" is a perky rhythm rocker from 1965.
There is a lot of groovy music to take in here (I am still working my way through everything!). Fortunately, there is a great informative and detailed hardcover book housing the set with some incredible photos. There you'll see many of the bands, promo poster, 45 RPM single labels and behind the scenes tour pix. You'll also see images of Cannibal & The Headhunters with Herman Munster on a teen pop TV show! There is clearly much to learn about Rampart Records!
But how does Land Of 1000 Dances - The Rampart Records Complete Singles Collection sound, you ask? Fair 'nuff a question as this is Audiophile Review, after all. Well, first off, this set is all on CD so set your 16-bit expectations accordingly.
Also, get your mindset in check that much of the music here, especially on the first couple of discs is raw, almost garage band like rock and rhythm and blues. So there is some rough 'n tumble distortion across many of these sides. And, while I'm not sure, it sounds like some early tracks may have been sourced from best available 45 RPM singles (not surprising for a set like this). But as the 60s and 70s roll along the fidelity on the recordings gets better so go into this with an open mind.
That said, Land Of 1000 Dances - The Rampart Records Complete Singles Collection is an important set if you are into learning about a label and its founder Eddie Davis which gave voice to Chicano artists. These recordings -- some of which have been sampled by no less than The Beastie Boys, such as "Hector" by The Village Callers -- make this collection an essential listening experience.