THE ULTIMATE ACTION (1965-1968; 1980)
1) I'll Keep On Holding On; 2) Harlem Shuffle; 3) Never Ever; 4) Twenty Fourth Hour; 5) Since I Lost My Baby; 6) In My Lonely Room; 7) Hey Sha-Lo-Ney; 8) Shadows And Reflections; 9) Something Has Hit Me; 10) The Place; 11) The Cissy; 12) Baby You've Got It; 13) I Love You (Yeah!); 14) Land Of A Thousand Dances.
The Action should probably hold the official title of "Best 60s Band To Never Release An Album". However, an LP-worth of a few great singles and a ton of filler — which is almost certainly what an Action album would have looked like, judging by the value of Rolled Gold — can't really measure again such a solid collection of excellent singles as placed on this CD.
The Action were a band doomed for early death, because they couldn't properly establish themselves as a songwriting act at an age when you either were a songwriter or you went back to your local manufacturing plant. Not that they were awful at songwriting: the few originals contained here, such as the funny kiddie song 'Never Ever' and the cheery singalong 'Twenty Forth Hour', are lovable and fit in well with the rest. But apparently, they just couldn't establish an individual style that they'd be better at than their cover art.
Because one would be hard pressed to find a better British interpreter of the melodic
Not the Action, though. Taking these trusty Motown and
For some reason, the public didn't appreciate that — maybe because in
Likewise, they manage to put to shame Martha and the Vandellas ('In My Lonely Room'), Bob & Earl ('The Harlem Shuffle'), and even Chris Kenner (the best cover of 'Land Of 1000 Dances' I've ever heard). Sometimes the gloss that cover artists try to put over the originals squeezes all soul out of them, but believe me, this is not the case with the Action: they understand well just where the hook lies, and give it their all — it's only up to George Martin to brush off all remaining dust. Of course, if they wanted to do James Brown, that'd be a whole different thing, but they never did, because their schtick was melody, not rhythm.
Out of the 14 cuts on this collection, there is not one bad choice (I do think that Carole King's 'Just Once In My Life' is one of her schmaltzier and more overwrought tunes, but when you hear it without strings, it's actually good!). It's pretty predictable from the onset, and contains no great breakthroughs, but it's still a unique type of sound that no one except this band had in 1966 and that no one will almost certainly have ever after. Which is why, mentally and cordially, I have no doubts about keeping my thumbs up for this as long as I live.