In its title, this two-CD set recalls the Chicago street address that headquartered U.S.A. Records and its associated Destination imprint. 2131 South Michigan Avenue compiles 40 tracks that reveal the highly charged garage and psychedelic sounds blowing through the city of Chicago and the Midwest during the late 1960s.
Twenty-two bands are represented by 38 songs and two advertising spots on the discs; the collection is mastered in mono, as most cuts were pressed only on seven-inch vinyl, and few were heard outside of regional radio markets. Two previously unreleased tracks bookend the second CD: The Counts’ “Stop Cheating On Me” is a terrific British Invasion-style track showcasing the early inspiration for garage rock, while The Lost Agency’s alternate take of “Time To Dream” is immersed in the psychedelia of the late ’60s.
The compilation features The Flock, The Cryan’ Shames and The Buckinghams, three groups who gained national reputations and ultimately inked contracts with Columbia Records. Emphasizing an edge muted on their later Columbia hits, the Buckinghams perform brash guitar and organ workouts on the extended versions of “Don’t Want To Cry” and “I’m A Man,” a five minute rave-up from the highly collectible original mono pressing of the Kind Of A Drag LP. Along with “I’m A Man,” 2132 South Michigan Avenue has six additional cover versions of contemporary hits by local bands. These titles include “Midnight Hour,” “I Can’t Explain,” “Til The End Of The Day,” and “Help Me Boy,” which reconfigured the familiar Animals/Outsiders “Help Me Girl” to accommodate The Daughters Of Eve, the one girl group on the album.
With five songs, Oscar Hamod And The Majestics claim the most tracks on the collection. The Indiana quartet’s guitar-based R&B embodies the strengths of the Heartland, while doubling as an American reverberation of Britain’s Mod sound. The Jokers, another group hailing from Indiana, unveil contrasting sides of their Destination label single: “I’ll Never Let You Go” is melodic pop, yet “What’cha Gonna Do” has the threatening bluesy undertow of the early Rolling Stones. The Foggy Notions, a high-school band from hometown Chicago, deliver pure ’60s garage rock with “Take Me Back And Hold Me” and “Need A Little Lovin’,” a two-sided single on a minor affiliated label called Ginny Records.
Brimming with fuzz guitar riffs and Farfisa organ lines, this compilation holds plenty of other rare gems performed by long-forgotten groups dripping with punk-rock swagger or soaring with folk-rock harmonies. These groups carry wonderfully inspired names such as The Sheffields, The Cherry Slush, The Shady Daze, Trafalgar Square and Park Avenue Playground, whose “I Know” sports the complex influences of post-Sgt. Pepper Anglo-pop. The first collection to focus on these independent Chicago labels, 2131 South Michigan Avenue includes an insert showing photos of all singles and most bands, as well as author Jeff Jarema’s comments on each group coupled with impressively detailed musician lineups. (Also available on high-quality vinyl as a three-LP set.)