Decades before the marriage of music and television, Ed Sullivan was rock & roll's Sunday-evening ally. Come eight o'clock, as the dread of undone homework mounted, there was Ed, ringleading a variety show that, amid jugglers and comedians, presented many of the era's biggest pop stars. Having acquired rights to the show's vast archives, TVT Records has compiled 25 volumes of live performances, everything from country music to opera. With top-notch artists and surprisingly great sound quality (not to mention the host's charmingly formal introductions), The Sullivan Years is a time machine loaded with treasures.
The British Invasion (1964-1966) begins the series with concise pop gems from some of the bands that followed the Beatles to America. Herman's Hermits, the Searchers, Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Animals, and others deliver dandy concert renditions of such transistor-radio staples as ''Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter'' and ''Ferry 'Cross the Mersey.'' Their ebullience gives the music an innocent charm that seems unthinkable today. A