Releasing collections of obscurities or B-sides can be dicey. Mainly for-devoted-fans-only propositions, such albums often merely reinforce why their contents were obscure, more than showcasing the depths of an artist's talents.
None of which applies to the Mighty Lemon Drops' "Young, Gifted, and Black Country." It is not only a reminder that the Lemon Drops (1985 to 1992) might have been better than you remember (if you remember), but listening is like opening a time capsule.
The album opens with a nine-song set the Lemon Drops performed live on KCRW-FM in 1988. The quartet from Wolverhampton, England, displays the taut, vigorous pop that earned comparisons to such bands as Echo & the Bunnymen and the Teardrop Explodes.
Then after the fourth track -- and it's chilling if you don't know it's coming -- the dulcet voice of the DJ, the late Deirdre O'Donoghue, intrudes to identify the performers and her show, "Snap." O'Donoghue died four years ago at age 53.
"I remember having a great time doing her show and I remember her being very supportive," says Lemon Drops guitarist David Newton, now a Burbank resident and a producer who works with several young bands around town. "She was like that with every band she cared about -- she gushed just as much about Downy Mildew as she did R.E.M. She was always there, and it's kinda tough to think that she's not."
The album -- which includes the band's first EP, "Like an Angel," as well as the live material -- was released by Modesto indie label Devil in the Woods, whose owner was a Lemon Drops fan who, upon meeting Newton, asked him to check his archives for material. The release came with the blessing of O'Donoghue's estate.
"It actually sounds better than we remember the band being," Newton says with a self-deprecating laugh. "We didn't think we were that good."
-- Kevin Bronson