Various Artists – some of my favorite albums are by these guys. They are represented in every genre, dusty corner, and forgotten box of tapes in the recording universe. Individual tracks might be by names you know or one’s you don’t know from Adam or no names at all, just some guys on the chain gang or African drums or Mr. Unidentified Fiddler.
These artists might be one hit wonders or someone whose story was so tragic or obscure or deranged that only one side survives. These collections are usually overlooked or underplayed and end up in the cut-out bins, cheap and multi-faceted treasures waiting there for discovery.
They can be a prime source for DooWop or sounds from foreign lands, or bits from the prehistoric beginnings of Rock and Roll. Primitive source documents from rural routes, soulful aspirations from tormented tunesters, or songs once familiar (maybe too familiar) then forgotten and now revived for our nostalgic pleasure.
I won’t say they’re all necessary or essential, but I’d rather err on the side of too many than too few. There’s never enough music and it’s always a treat to hear something new. These Various Artists may just be the most prolific performers of the whole bunch.