The showband boom in Ireland is something that’s difficult to explain at this late date. It grew out of a combination of a young, restless population, and a nation where television had not yet arrived, as late as 1960, which helped keep dance halls as a booming business seven nights of the week. Sometime in the mid-’50s, one of the dance bands — the Clipper Carlton dance band from Strabane, County Tyrone, according to historian Eddie Kelly — abandoned the traditional static presentation, and created something of a sensation; mostly, they added excitement in their stage moves and personality to their presentation, and audiences — especially the girls — responded by the hundreds. It might have heralded the equivalent of a rock & roll boom in Ireland, but for the fact that the music was still mostly more pop than rock & roll, with a healthy does of sentimental ballads. But rock & roll did seep into the repertory, along with the attributes it carried — a distinctly youthful, exciting presentation, with a lot of energy and not much care for tradition, apart from some of the repertory. That odd mix of sounds is what is represented on this triple-CD set, which represents the best of the Irish showbands recorded by the Pye label in England during the ’60s — the showbands did represent a small but vital presence on the English rock & roll scene during this period, their releases periodically making it onto the charts and getting featured on television programs such as Come Dancing — the Beatles, still months away from their first full-fledged recording contract, opened for the Royal Showband when the latter played the Pavilion Theatre in Liverpool in April of 1962. The mix of sounds here is decidedly strange to modern ears, jumping from enthusiastic covers of American rock & roll (“Papa-Om-Mow-Mow” by the Freshman, from 1967) to more generic pop and pop/rock, all by acts with names that will probably mean little to anyone not from Ireland: the Real McCoy, Tony Keeling & the Graduates, Alan Dee & the Chessman, Brendan O’Brien & the Dixies, Margo & the Keynotes, Sean Fagan & the Pacific, Butch Moore & the Capitol, Murty Quinn & the Miami et. al. The work isn’t bad in any of the various genres represented, and the enthusiasm on the rock & roll and pop/rock numbers does come through on the recordings — Castle might better have distilled the best of these cuts down to one CD of solid rocking numbers. The set is enjoyable if not exactly essential or revelatory. What’s more, it does shed some light on this little-known (outside of the U.K.) musical phenomenon that took place just adjacent to the British beat boom and the British invasion, and Kelly’s notes — spread across separate booklets for each CD — are highly informative.