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Albums Shift Into High Gear With Hot Rods and Sports

*** VARIOUS ARTISTS "Hot Rod Rock" (series) The Right Stuff


Now that record companies have pretty much re-released and/or repackaged everything of worth (and then some) in their warehouses, the corporate energy increasingly is being devoted to clever (they hope) marketing tie-ins.

In the new five-volume "Hot Rod Rock" series, the Right Stuff--a label associated with the EMI-Capitol Music Marketing Group--joins Hot Rod magazine to bring together various recordings that fit into car themes.

At the same time, Tommy Boy Records continues its high-profile relationship with ESPN, the sports cable channel, by delivering another in its series of albums built around "crowd rockin' sports anthems."

The music in "Hot Rod Rock" is generally well chosen, combining nicely some famous recordings from the '50s and '60s with delightful rarities from those decades. Each volume revolves around a specific theme, though many of the upbeat numbers in the series could easily fit into two or three of them.

The amusing thing for a general pop-rock fan is the way the packaging, including the album booklets, focuses more on automotive culture than on music.

Volume 1, for instance, is titled "Rev It Up" and features 16 "100% Asphalt Eatin' Classics," including Jan & Dean's "Drag City," Wilson Pickett's "Mustang Sally" and Chuck Berry's "No Particular Place to Go" (Berry's "Maybellene" is in Volume 4).

But the information in the booklet doesn't detail the history of the songs. Instead, the photos and text salute classic engines and cars. We learn, for instance, about the "Chevrolet Big Block" and "Bill Frederick's Cammer-Urged T-Bodied Dragster." Two pages are devoted to hot rod lingo. Tube steak: hot dog. Low log: the low axle ratio in use by a vehicle.

Volume 2, "Hot Rod Cowboys," includes George Jones' "The Race Is On," Johnny Cash's version of Bruce Springsteen's "Highway Patrolman" and Merle Haggard's "White Line Fever." The material on Volume 3, "Big Boss Instrumentals," ranges from the Ventures' "Walk, Don't Run" to Nelson Riddle's "Route 66 Theme."

Volume 4, "Hot Rod Rebels," features Dion's "The Wanderer" and Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues," while Volume 5, "Back Seat Movers," serves up the Platters' "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" and the Everly Brothers' "All I Have to Do Is Dream."

One of the series' strengths is that the material isn't limited to the products of a single record company or distribution group. Instead, the producers reached out to other labels for records that added flavor to the collections.


*** 1/2 Various Artists, "ESPN Presents Slam Jams Volume 1," Tommy Boy.

You won't find much information about the songs or why they qualify as sporting event favorites, but the music serves as a marvelously appealing sample of '70s and '80s pop-punk and new wave. The lineup ranges from Iggy Pop's splendid "Lust for Life" and Elvis Costello's irresistible "Pump It Up" to the Trashmen's "Surfin' Bird" and the Modern Lovers' "Roadrunner." There's even a special high-energy version of the ESPN "SportsCenter" theme. Solid stuff.

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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