There are only a few people out there with “it” — that mystical connection to the heart and soul of music that elevates their performance to the incandescent. These select few may not be the best technicians around — they may be downright sloppy — but what they lose in note-perfect renditions they make up for in verve and spirit.

Such a man is Mick Collins. He of the Gories. He of King Sound Quartet. He of Blacktop. He of the Screws. He of the Dirtbombs. He of an apparent inability to start one band and stick with it. But I’m not complaining. The more Mick the better, says I.

You buy a record featuring Mick Collins because you need — crave, demand, are addicted to — a heaping dose of sloppy garage rock, mountains of distortion and raw soul vocals. His two new projects certainly fit the bill.

There are a few differences between previous Collins projects; the rhythm section of the Dirtbombs has been revamped, and now features a two bassist, two drummer setup. The Screws have a new rhythm section as well. Also, Collins appears to be into the harmonica in a big way these days. Other than that, it’s the same fuzzed-out punk pounders discerning troglodytes know and love, just a little bit more in time.

What’s on offer is 27 tracks, all but one a cover ('Your Love Belongs Under a Rock' on 'Ultraglide'). Two albums of cover songs would normally send me scurrying for the door — but this is Mick Collins, damnit! (Actually It’s more than Mick Collins — as formidable as he’d be by himself, he also always manages to grab a crack crew of crazies to lay down the tracks with.)

Anyone familiar with his finest hour (okay, half hour), The King Sound Quartet’s 'The Getdown Imperative' knows that Mick Collins and the talented ... er, well, spirited ... musicians he works with have a way with a cover. On KSQ’s fab 12-incher they had their wicked way with Sun Ra, Ray Charles and Government Issue. An extra dose of amphetamines and Collins’s soulful rasp are what made those tracks cook, and he (they) have done it again on these two winners. Let’s not forget the crackerjack version of Captain Beefheart’s 'Here I Am, Here I Always Am' and Ritchie Valens’ 'From Beyond', performed by BlackTop. This new slew of covers reaches the high standard laid down by their predecessors.

'Ultraglide in Black' is the more soulful outing; apparently a number of songs are taken from Collins’ older sister’s record collection.

The real killer on 'Ultraglide' — and perhaps it’s raison d’etre — is a throbbing version of Phil Lynott’s 'Ode To a Black Man'. The double bass, double drum section gives the song real punch.

Leading off the album is J.J. Barnes’ 'Chains of Love' — a familiar name to Northern Soul enthusiasts, but a bit of an obscurity in the States. As you’d expect from a native of the Motor City, Motown artists show up for the party: Marvin Gaye’s 'Got To Give It Up', Smokey Robinson and the Miracles’ 'If You Can Want', Stevie Wonder’s 'Livin’ For The City', all get a suitably raucous treatment.

Others performers getting the once over: Swamp stomper Larry Bright’s 'The Thing' stomps even harder, Junior Walker and the All Stars 'Can’t You Feel My Love (For You Growing)', Curtis Mayfield’s 'Kung Fu', Barry White’s 'I’m Qualified To Satisfy You', and George Clinton’s 'I’ll Wait.' The Huff-Gamble-Gilbert team contribute 'Livin’ For The Weekend' and 'Underdog' from Sly and The Family Stone’s first album also makes an appearance. Collins sings every song like he’s lived it (with the exception of the Barry White number — I think I can hear Mick smirking); after hearing the Dirtbomb’s versions I vowed to look into the originals .

By comparison, 'Shake Your Monkey', is a more garagey, punky outing and offers a more diverse series of covers than 'Ultraglide'. This I credit to the presence of Red Aunt Terry Wahl; while the Dirtbombs’ seem to be more Mick’s show, Wahl elbows him aside to squeal a few numbers on the Screws’ sophomore effort. It’s just as well. Collins' vocal chords would be out of place wrapped around The Contortions' 'Flip Your Face', but like the version of The Mad’s 'I Hate Music' on their '12 Hate-filled Classics' disc, Wahl’s ear-cavity cleansing shriek is made for the material.

It starts with 'Storey 16' the same insistent guitar riff that started off the Dutch Outsiders’ debut album is put to similarly good use here. The Otis Rush tune 'Keep On Lovin’ Me Baby' follows it up. This song, in its original form, featured Ike Turner on guitar, but that doesn’t explain how he snagged the songwriting credit for it . Hmmm ....Actually, Ike Turner is all over this album; he performed Sir Rice Mack’s 'Betcha Can’t Kiss Me' with Tina Turner, and also played guitar on the original version of 'If Loving Is Believing' by Sun and Vee-Jay recording artist Billy “The Kid” Emerson. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to here he was associated with other tracks on the album in some way that I’m unaware of.

(Saaay ... didn’t the first Screws album start up with a message left on Ike Turner’s answering machine!?! We're obviously dealing with a full-blown Ike obsession. Enough trainspotting — back to the musical part of our program.)

The Miracles make another appearance with 'In Case You Need Love' (Smokey Robinson is the only person to score more than one songwriting credit over the two albums, but he deserves it). There’s a swell cover of John Lee Hooker’s 'Shake It' (sort of a sequel to the Gories’ version of Hooker’s 'Boogie Chillun'); Johnny Winters’ 'I’m Yours and I’m Hers', with its “I feel like singin’ someone else’s song” verse is appropriately appropriated; and Collins’ indulges in a little harmonica (okay, a lotta harmonica) on Shy Guy Douglas’ 'Monkey Doin’ Woman'. Also in the mix is Chuck Berry’s 'Ramona Say Yes', and ye olde traditional 'Strange Things', as arranged by Jimi Hendrix.

Standing out in left field there’s a cover of London clubbers Groove Armada’s 'I See You Baby', and the Rolling Stones’ 'The Storm' (it’s a b-side to 1994’s 'Love Is Strong', in case you were wondering). Wahl finishes off the album with a petulant take on 'I Ain’t In the Mood', a track originally performed by “Little” Donna Hightower, one of those early soul divas now unjustly consigned to obscurity (or so I hear). There you have it: Mick Collins, as educational as he is energetic.

For my money, 'Ultraglide' is the superior of these two sets, but you should really buy both. Be warned, just about every track on these two albums made me want to check out the original artists (I actually went out and bought a copy of Thin Lizzy’s 'Live and Dangerous' just a few days after hearing the Lynott solo number) so be prepared to spend a lot of time tracking down music if you get these albums; me, I’m going hunting for that harp compilation with those Douglas tracks on it.

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