This review was originally posted on the first Toorak Times web site where publications ceased on that site in March 2017. The old site will be permanently closed in 2020 and these reviews are being re-published in order to preserve them on the current Toorak Times/Tagg site.
Cream Of The Crate Reviews 1 to 50 were vinyl album reviews. The following fifty reviews (51 - 100) were originally marked as CD Reviews 1 - 50 and this numbering has been kept to keep consistency with the published CD reviews.
This is number nineteen in the series of albums I’m featuring as part of an on-going retrospective of CD’s in my personal collection.
The series is called, “Cream of The Crate (CD’s)”, and they represent CD albums that I believe are of significant musical value, either because of their rarity, because they represent the best of a style or styles of music or because their is something unique about the group or the music.
CD review #19 is a real ripper among some damn fine albums that I have reviewed!
If one had to point to a single initial salvo that launched the garage rock revival movement in the 1970s and ‘80s, it would have to be the release of Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968 in 1972. This fantastic album led the way for a plethora of similar releases, and this initial release has recently been re-released.
According to Wikipedia, “In the mid-to-late 1980s, Rhino released a series of fifteen albums that bore the Nuggets name.The first twelve of these albums each focused on either a specific garage-rock subgenre or location, while the last three took a more global approach. This series provided much of the source material for the box set.
In 2001, Rhino released Nuggets II: Original Artyfacts from the British Empire and Beyond, 1964-1969, a four-CD box set. While the original Nuggets focused on the American scene, the second compilation shifted its focus to the rest of the world, collecting cuts from the United Kingdom (such as the Pretty Things and Small Faces), Australia (The Easybeats), New Zealand (The La De Das), Canada (The Guess Who and The Haunted), Japan (The Mops), Iceland (Thor’s Hammer), Peru (We All Together) and Brazil (Os Mutantes).
In 2004, Rhino released two more compilations using the Nuggets title, Hallucinations: Psychedelic Pop Nuggets from the WEA Vaults and Come to the Sunshine: Soft Pop Nuggets from the WEA Vaults. Both discs were released through Rhino’s internet-only label Rhino Handmade in limited pressings of 7500 each.
Rhino also released a four-CD set of recordings by bands influenced by the original Nuggets, titled, Children of Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From The Second Psychedelic Era, 1976-1995, in late 2005.”
I have in my collection, Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets (1965 – 1970) which was released by Rhino in 2007, (R2165564)
it is a most wonderful, if not glorious, journey back in time to the city and music that really almost single handedly created the USA West-Coast psychedelic era. We have with this set, BOTH the music and a city, both of which had an impact right around the globe.
Unlike almost all other multi-disc releases, this is not a boxed set! In fact I often wax lyrically about the quality of the booklets that accompany the boxed set releases, or, am scathing if the quality is poor.
This release is in a league of its own.
It is not a box set release, but maybe a more apt description would be, a “book-set release”, that is to say, the CD’s are contained within the book at the rear.
And, what a book. A beautiful hard bound book with a cover that very much represents the era both in finish, materials and style.
It is meant to be, and succeeds, in being psychedelic in form – in fact it was a right bastard to photograph due to the constant changing colours and the fact that the images change as you change the angle of the book.
In fact it hides a secret that I will reveal at the end of the review.
It has 120 A4 pages, covering the most magnificent pictures of the bands, the publicity material, images of the times, and a comprehensive discussion on the tracks. The music is almost redundant! Almost!!
There are four CD’s covering 77 tracks and an amazing range of bands/groups/artists from the period and locality.
There are groups you may never have heard of, such as Teddy and His Patches, the Vejtables and Frumious Bandersnatch. There are groups you have heard of, but in their formative stages such as Country Joe and The Fish, Jefferson Airplane, Sly and the Family Stone, and the Grateful Dead.
Trying to choose tracks to discuss and play was such a nightmare as I was utterly spoiled for choice!
I have mentioned the wonderful pictures, but I can’t over emphasis that many are of superb quality.
Now although I have a significant library of music books, I have nothing that has such a classy array of pictures as this book provides both in regard to the artists from this city and the period.
OK, so there are likely to be far more pictures than music tracks in this retro-review, but let’s make a start!
What I will ‘try’ and do, is look at one track by a group I would expect most readers to know of, and one group that may be unknown to you.
Let’s make a start with CD#1.
1. Let’s Get Together – Dino Valenti – 3:00
2. I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag – Country Joe & The Fish – 2:43
3. You Were on My Mind – We Five – 2:36
4. Number One – The Charlatans – 4:06
5. Can’t Come Down – The Warlocks – 3:01
6. Don’t Talk to Strangers – The Beau Brummels – 2:20
7. Anything – The Vejtables – 1:58
8. It’s No Secret – Jefferson Airplane – 2:30
9. Johnny Was a Good Boy” – Mystery Trend – 2:37
10. Free Advice – The Great Society – 2:06
11. Mr. Jones (Ballad of a Thin Man) – The Grass Roots – 2:55
12. Stranger in a Strange Land – Blackburn & Snow – 2:30
13. Who Do You Love – Quicksilver Messenger Service – 5:56
14. She’s My Baby – The Mojo Men – 3:01
15. Coffee Cup – Wildflower – 2:18
16. Live Your Own Life – Family Tree – 2:54
17. Fat City – Sons of Champlin – 3:04
18. Human Monkey – Frantics – 2:09
19. Bye Bye Bye – The Tikis – 2:46
20. Section 43 – Country Joe & the Fish – 6:44
21. Hello Hello – Sopwith Camel – 2:25
I find myself drawn toward Country Joe and the Fish.
This group first caught my attention way back in circa 1968 when certain substances demanded that my brain be fed something a little more different musically than was being fed to me by popular radio- if you get my drift!.
Now Country Joe and the Fish are variously identified as starting in 1965 or 1966 and I can’t get a definitive answer – but does it matter?
What is undeniable is that Country Joe McDonald (born Joseph Allen McDonald in 1942) was one of the first to bring forth music that was known as Psychedelic Rock, although he at times claimed it was Psychedelic Country Rock!
The track Section 43 by Joe and the Fish, which is track # 20 on CD #1, could rightly be called the very first legitimate psychedelic track.
Big call, but true!
The story goes that their favourite rehearsal space was the “jabberwock Coffeehouse” across the Bay in Berkeley. It was here they put together the then revolutionary sound that became so much a part of the style Joe & The Fish when they constructed Section 43.
Inspired by Greig’s “Hall of the Mountain King” it gained them the notoriety that put them on the world stage and six months after this track was recorded, they recorded their debut album. In fact this version of the track was released on an EP in July 1966.
Enjoy what is truly a classic piece of Country Joe and the Fish, and what was the first of many psychedelic tracks to come out of the San Francisco area.
There were so many groups on CD #1 that I had not previously heard prior to buying this set, that I changed my mind many times before settling on track # 10, The Great Society.
This group was seen as the great hope by the alternate ‘Frisco rock scene, as the members were artists, in as much as they were a bunch of latent bohemians who viewed R&R as an experiment, an art project in fact.
Instead of picking up paint brushes they picked up guitars.
The name “Great Society” was very much a sarcastic reference to the social reform program of the much disliked President, LBJ!
The odd, almost existential, nature of the Society as well as Grace Slicks stage presence and striking voice, caught the imagination of the audiences.
The track Free Advice shows Darby’s infatuation with all things Indian and the musical structure resulted in this unusual track. The biggest shame is that the lead vocals are by Milner, leaving Grace to provide a kind of a backing vocal/come ‘tonal cry’ – you’ll hear what I mean.
It was recorded in December 1965 and I believe was their only record. Not long after Grace joined Jefferson Airplane, and as they say – the rest is history!
1. “Psychotic Reaction” – Count Five
2. “Got Love” – The Front Line
3. “Satisfaction Guaranteed” – The Mourning Reign
4. “Foolish Woman” – The Oxford Circle
5. “My Buddy Sin” – The Stained Glass
6. “Streetcar” – The Otherside
7. “Suzy Creamcheese” – Teddy & His Patches
8. “Rubiyat” – The Immediate Family
9. “Rumors” – Syndicate of Sound
10. “Sometimes I Wonder” – The Harbinger Complex
11. “Want Ad Reader” – The New Breed
12. “I’m a Good Woman” – The Generation
13. “No Way Out” – The Chocolate Watch Band
14. “Hey I’m Lost” – Butch Engle & The Styx
15. “I Love You” – People!
16. “America” – Public Nuisance
17. “Fly To New York” – Country Weather
18. “Thing In ‘E'” – The Savage Resurrection
19. “Hearts To Cry” – Frumious Bandersnatch
CD #2 has some really really good tracks of ‘alternate’ music that was pouring out of the groups around the bay area at this time. However, my choice of two tracks was pretty straight forward. I went for the first and the last tracks on the CD.
Track #1 is Psychotic Reaction by Count Five.
If you are reading this and are of the same generation as I am [Baby Boomers], you will probably remember this track, because it actually charted!
Forget the fact that it is a ‘rip-off’ of the sound the Yardbirds were getting with the distorted guitar, it is a bloody fantastic ‘rip-off’ and deserves to be recognised.
As the liner notes state, “The label was Double Shot, yet Count Five had just one shot. Still, what a shot it was.” The group consisted of John Byrne (vocals & rhythm guitar), John ‘Mouse’ Michalski (lead guitar), Roy Chaney (bass), Craig ‘Butch’ Atkinson (drums) and Kenn Ellner (harmonica).
Recorded in September 1966 it was in its own way, a precursor to the punk music of the 1970’s. It was their one and only hit – but if you are going to have just one – make sure we all remember it, and with this one, we do!
The track was actually banned from the AM radio airways on the basis that its sonic eccentricities were too much for the AM band to cope with.
Well! . . . that alone should have sold it! However, in sound and fury, it represented the high level of disaffection and frustration a generation were experiencing at the time. It was the music that drove the then developing ‘ballrooms’ of San Francisco and even today, can bring chills up the spine.
The second track I will discuss is in fact the last track on CD #2 – track # 19.
It is Hearts to Cry, by Frumious Bandersnatch.
I mean, come on! How could I ignore a group with a name like that. You want an original name? You got it!
The group was indeed one of the great woulda-coulda-shoulda bands from what has been described as the San Francisco second wave. The first wave of band signings in San Francisco was generally 1965-1967, with the second wave being 1968 – 1971.
For all sorts of reasons including equipment theft, the band saw several membership changes but the lineup for this track was Jack King (lead vocals & drums), David Denny (lead guitar), Jimmy Warner (lead guitar), Bobby Winkleman (rhythm guitar & backing vocals) and Ross Valory (bass & backing vocals).
With dual lead guitars the group actually blew away the crowds that came to see them and they thrilled audiences throughout the Bay Area. They recorded a self-released EP in June of 1968, which was resplendent in Owsley-purple vinyl, an EP that is very much prized by collectors today.
The track Hearts To Cry led the way on that EP with whip-lash guitars that do sound “acidic”.
Although their music was driven largely by a chemically fueled fervor, they really should have gained a major recording contract, but it was not to be – so they disbanded. However, Bobby Winkelman, Jack King, Ross Valory, and David Denny) became regular members of the Steve Miller Band, and so it was that Warners eventually gained acclaim for them and with these four for working with Steve Miller.
OK, back to this track! It starts quietly, slowly, it almost invites thoughts of complacency that this a gentle ballad – Ha!
Hearts To Cry
Disc three: “Summer of Love”
1. “Alabama Bound” – The Charlatans
2. “Carl Street” – The Mystery Trend
3. “Somebody to Love” – The Great Society
4. “Superbird” – Country Joe and the Fish
5. “Two Days ‘Til Tomorrow” – The Beau Brummels
6. “Omaha” – Moby Grape
7. “Up & Down” – The Serpent Power
8. “The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion)” – Grateful Dead
9. “Codine” – Quicksilver Messenger Service
10. “Down On Me” – Big Brother and the Holding Company
11. “Think Twice” – Salvation
12. “White Rabbit” – Jefferson Airplane
13. “Roll With It” – Steve Miller Band
14. “Why Did You Put Me On” – Notes From The Underground
15. “Underdog” – Sly & The Family Stone
16. “Summertime Blues” – Blue Cheer
17. “Glue” – The Ace of Cups
18. “Soul Sacrifice” – Santana
19. “The Bells” – The Loading Zone
In regard to CD #3, I found it impossible to go past track # 12, White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane.
There are many ‘classic’ tracks from this period and this would certainly be toward the top. With original singer Signe Anderson leaving the ‘Plane after falling pregnant she was simply forgotten almost immediately.
The reason was that standing in the wings was Grace Slick, who had got her ‘chops’ together in the Great Society and was more than ready to take the next step.
Slick had only been in the group a matter of weeks when for all intents and purposes she made Jefferson Airplane her own.
She did this by not just singing the vocals to two tracks, which would become standards in the Airplane Songbook, but by her amazing stage presence.
She was the missing part of Jefferson Airplane and now they were really ready to fly.
In fact she was responsible for their two major hits – Somebody To Love, and, the amazing and lyrically intelligent, White Rabbit.
The group at this point consisted of Grace Slick (vocals), Jorma Kaukonen (lead guitar), Paul Kantner (rhythm guitar), Jack Casady (bass) and Spencer Dryden (drums).
White Rabbit was recorded on November 1966. It raced to #8 on the Billboard Top 100 in July of 1967 and was eventually put on the fantastic album, Surrealistic Pillow.
This track was really THE track which introduced the world to the ‘media’ trumpeted and so called, San Francisco Sound.
The second track from CD #3 is track #6. The group is Moby Grape and the track – Omaha.
Jeff Tamarkin, the ex-editor of the vinyl collectors bible – Goldmine, summed this group up perfectly when he said, “The Grape’s saga is one of squandered potential, absurdly misguided decisions, bad luck, blunders and excruciating heartbreak, all set to the tune of some of the greatest rock and roll ever to emerge from San Francisco. Moby Grape could have had it all, but they ended up with nothing, and less.”
Now Moby Grape were a five member group consisting of “Skip” Spence (vocals & rhythm guitar), Jerry Miller (vocals & lead guitar), Peter Lewis (vocals & rhythm guitar), Bob Mosley (vocals & bass) and Don Stevenson (vocals & drums).
Get it? All five members were vocalists and what’s more, they could all play!
The group burst onto the SF scene in late 1966 and it’s a wonder that most other local groups didn’t pack it in. These guys were really tight and played effortlessly.
Their appeal was so good that the group actually said no to several lucrative deals before signing with Columbia with experienced producer David Robinson actually getting the best out of the band.
Their debut album was actually quite good with the track Omaha, being just one of a few excellent tracks on that album. So, what went wrong? The answer …. Everything!
An utter over-the-top Columbia campaign along with the simultaneous release of five singles in June of 1977 put both the media press and the all powerful AM stations totally off-side.
Despite all that, Moby Grape did soldier on, but in many ways they missed the real crest of their wave – but the track Omaha stands as an excellent example of what this group could do.
1. “Evil Ways” – Santana
2. “Red the Sign Post” – Fifty Foot Hose
3. “Lemonaide Kid” – Kak
4. “1982-A” – Sons of Champlin
5. “How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away” – Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks
6. “Amphetamine Gazelle” – Mad River
7. “Quicksilver Girl” – Steve Miller Band
8. “Revolution” – Mother Earth
9. “Murder In My Heart For the Judge” – Moby Grape
10. “Light Your Windows” – Quicksilver Messenger Service
11. “I’m Drowning” – The Flamin’ Groovies
12. “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Lady” – Seatrain
13. “White Bird” – It’s a Beautiful Day
14. “Dark Star” – Grateful Dead
15. “Fool” – Blue Cheer
16. “Mexico” – Jefferson Airplane
17. “Mercedes Benz” – Janis Joplin
18. “Get Together” – The Youngbloods
The final disk is no less impressive in its listing of known and unknown groups than the previous three.
My choice of a group unknown or at least lesser known, was easy. I couldn’t go past track #2 – with the group being the Fifty Foot Hose and the track, Red The Sign Post.
Ok, we keep on talking about the drug/psychedelic influence that the groups from the ‘Frisco area had, and sure I have played a couple of examples – but the Fifty Foot Hose threw away all pretensions of being ‘normal’, and they did it very, very well.
This is one seriously avant-guarde electronic outfit, and given this track was recorded in 1968, if they weren’t ahead of the game, they were right up there at the front.
Featuring Nancy Blossum (vocals), Larry Evans (lead guitar), David Blossum (rhythm guitar), Louis “Cork” Marcheschi (electronics), Terry Hansley (bass) and Kim Kimsey (drums), they experimented with an ‘electro-contemporary rock’ formula that was ahead of its time.
Marcheschi had been experimenting with what could best be described as Dada experiments with his earlier outfit, The Ethix, and recorded a track – “Bad Trip“, which ostensibly could be played at any speed and still be ‘enjoyable’.
He built his own equipment based on arrays of oscillators, and a theremin.
Joining up with the melodic skills of David Blossum and the sweet voice of David’s wife, Blossum, it resulted in what was then, very exciting new music.
Like all labels wanting to cash in on the emerging SF music scene, Mercury records signed them and a captivating album titled Cauldron, was released on their jazz label – Limelight, in 1968.
That LP features this track, and is also now very much a collectors item.
However, live performances by Fifty Foot Hose tended to confuse audiences, so when members were offered parts in the local production of Hair, the group quietly folded, leaving this utter gem of psychedelia!
Red The Sign Post
So to the final track being featured in this retro-review and I mean it when I say I really wish I could have retro-reviewed every track in this set.
But that is a task too large for “Cream of The Crate“, so I thought long and hard over who would get the final track.
There were a few contenders, and they weren’t all necessarily well known, well promoted artists such as Santana and Janis Joplin, who I believe are so well known they disqualify themselves.
I could have looked at the next level of artists such as thge Steve Miller band, Qucksilver Messenger Service and the Youngbloods, whose track “Get Together” is a classic from this period.
Instead, I have chosen track # 14 – the Grateful Dead with Dark Star.
Now it would be downright idiotic to try and pass the ‘Dead‘ off as a fringe/unknown group.
Whilst this track and this period represented them in their formative years, they went on to become one of the most popular groups of the ’70’s, and, thanks to the intense and dedicated followers (called the “Dead-heads”), they are unlikely to ever be forgotten.
The lineup is as well known as their music, but for the sake of younger readers, when this track was recorded in 1968 they consisted of, Jerry Garcia (lead vocals & lead guitar), Bob Weir (rhythm guitar and support vocals), Ron “Pigpen” McKernan (organ), Tom Constanten (keyboards), Phil Leash (bass & support vocals), Bill Kreutzmann (drums), Mickey Hart (percussion), Robert Hunter (support vocals) and, an unknown sitar player.
The track Dark Star is very unusual.
It is only 2:28 long, which is a blink of an eye in regard to the general song book of the Dead, but more than that, it is in fact a pop-psych gem!
Garcia shows a deft hand at some subtle and very melodic guitar playing and the percussion, organ and sitar dust through the track in such a way to produce a concise and delicate piece of music. It is without doubt one of their best tracks from the 1968-1969 period and most definitely wears proudly the title of a ‘Nugget’ (of gold).
Not to have shared this track with you would have been a music crime!
Now I need to wrap this retro-review up, and in many ways the music and pictures tell much of the story.
Ben Fong Torres, well know writer and music reviewer for the Rolling Stone magazine said in regard to the ‘San Francisco Sound’, “Actually, there wasn’t one …” And of course he is correct.
The media love categories and pigeon holes, and some styles of music do fit neatly into a single classification.
The music coming out of San Francisco and the ‘Bay Area’ in the 1965 – 1970’ish period is beautifully captured in this set. I believe the tracks I have featured are largely (but certainly not completely) representative of the music across all four CD’s, and this in turn is generally symbolic of the music coming out of ‘Frisco during this period.
To try and put this incredible variety of styles and moods into a single “San Francisco Sound“, is nonsense!
Yet there is no doubt about it. The music being experimented with and freshly generated, was both driven by music from elsewhere, particularly England, but was also very much innovative and new and tied to the culture that was evolving out of the hot-bed of psychedelia and the resulting ‘head’ movement in and around ‘Frisco.
The set is brilliantly presented and done with much reverence and love, and why not, as the title stated, “Love is the Song We Sing“!
The book-set is available on Ebay for a range of prices, but is generally set around $70.00Au.
I cannot finish off without saying, this is a MUST for a music collection, and, it’s not just a ‘sit-in-the-shelf’ set, it is very much playing music.
Oh, that’s right I said at the beginning I’d share a little secret about the cover.
It is very, very difficult to photograph, but if you tilt the cover toward you in the light, the figure that is below the words “Love Is The Song We Sing, reveals the following message.
Make of it what you will!
“May the baby Jesus shut our mouth and open your mind“
Thank goodness for YouTube as it has become the repository of all things video, and I have been able to find a clip of four groups not featured above in discussion but very much part of the set, to add to the story.
We Five – You Were On My Mind
Teddy and His Patches – Suzie Creamcheese
Blue Cheer – Sumertime Blues
Youngbloods – Get Together
Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:
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