Various artists

Ed Sullivan was a man of no discernible performing talent, little charm and a physical appearance nobody would confuse with a matinee idol. But he was perhaps the most enthusiastic host of all time, and his weekly CBS variety show ran for 23 years—from 1948 to 1971—during which his guests included any number of plate jugglers, dancing bears, magicians and almost all of the popular musicians and singers of his era.

These three LPs—The British Invasion, Salute to Louis Armstrong and The Mod Sound—are the first in a projected 25-album series of Sullivan show musical performances.

Sullivan didn't let his acts lip-sync, so all of the music was live, but most acts stuck so close to their hit arrangements that these records often sound like a badly rerecorded kind of Top 40 compilation. (The Mamas and the Papas, represented on The Mod Sound, appeared to have problems with Sullivan's mikes.)

Armstrong, for whom Sullivan seems to have had a particular affection, was an exception. He and his small groups—which included such distinguished jazzmen as trombonist Trummy Young and clarinetist Edmond Hall—usually just jammed away, and the Armstrong album's 18 tunes from various appearances are an enjoyable sampling of later period Satchmo, when he had become more of a singer and personality.

While the British Invasion album doesn't include the Beatles' 1964 appearance on Sullivan's show (the Beatles will be part of a planned future LP), the Animals, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Herman's Hermits, the Searchers, Billy J. Kramer with the Dakotas and Freddie & the Dreamers all show up. The Mod Sound includes such acts as the Fifth Dimension, Petula Clark and Dusty Springfield.

Some people may want to wait until the series is available on videotape (the video rights are owned by another company). The liner notes on these albums are singularly uninformative. but it's fun to hear these old tunes again, and Sullivan's voice in the background, constantly imploring his audience, "Let's hear it," will evoke some Sunday night memories too. (TVT)

  • Contributors:
  • Ralph Novak,
  • David Hiltbrand,
  • Michael Small,
  • Craig Tomashoff,
  • Lisa Shea.