Various Artists: Love, Poetry And Revolution 1966 to 1972 (Cherry Red/Grapefruit)
CD Box Set
Cherry Red’s dedicated UK psych imprint Grapefruit has released a 3CD anthology which journeys through the British psychedelic and underground scenes 1966-1972. 65 songs over three discs with 36 page booklet, this important release features much rare material, including previously unissued demo recordings by Tintern Abbey and Blossom Toes. Ian Canty almost combusts with excitement, maan.
This reasonably priced and handsomely presented collection (clam boxed and with detailed and well researched sleeve notes) from Cherry Red offshoot Grapefruit does a good job of charting the seismic change that went through the UK pop scene as the onset of the psychedelic movement took music in an altogether more dreamlike and meditative direction. It features very few familiar tracks and even less of those that have been comped to death on other psych/freakbeat/popsike collections. Plundering the vaults of the great Tenth Planet label among others, this set has a fresh feeling about it.
It does a neat job over the three discs charting the various developments percolating out from clubs like UFO and Middle Earth that touched far and wide, even gaining mainstream acceptance. Better known acts like The Spencer Davis Group and The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown rub shoulders with the substantially less famous but still great The Hi-Fi’s and Forever Amber. Much like punk in the future and before it skiffle, up and down the country everyone wanted a go at this psychedelic lark.
The discs follow each other chronologically and disc one presents the earliest selection 1966 to 1968), where the flashy Mod sounds morphs into Freakbeat and beyond. Recently there has been a lot of talk in magazines like Mojo of the all pervasive influence of The Beatles and particularly Paul McCartney at the time, but what is evident here is the lack of Fabs soundalikes: far more prominent are The Who in the explosiveness of the sound and the Kinks in the storytelling mode of the songs. Even The Hollies are prominent with variations on the type of stately pop they specialised in at the time. Even soul pounding Hammond organ rave ups are still out in force.
The trials and tribulations of ordinary lives is a preoccupation here as well. The Mirage narrate a tale of a jilted bride in The Wedding Of Ramona Blair and Rosemary’s Bluebell Day comes courtesy of the Piccadilly Line. Another highlight is Second Production by Mike Stuart Span who famously were featured in the documentary A Year In The Life starring hapless manager Mike Clayton, was the first step along the line to Spinal Tap (It is really well worth seeking out on YouTube).
Indeed Simon’s Secrets Naughty Boy even predicts Glam by five years with its stomping beat and nursery rhyme lyric. Fittingly the disc ends with one of the Underground’s powerhouses The Deviants with one of their most blissed out numbers (they also have a more lively effort on disc two You’ve Got To Hold On, which is more representative of their protopunk stance). Things were changing.
Disc two deals the psychedelic boom going over-ground and its slow metamorphosis into the underground and prog scenes. The weird folk influence starts to show its hand too and phasing and wah wah guitars take over from the feedback overdrive of disc one. The serious weirdness of the stupendous Liverpool Scene track We’ll All Be Spacemen Before We Die shows the progression into outer space, but as late as 1969 a re-jigged version of freakbeat kings (who I saw live only last year!) The Sorrows managed a stunner with The Makers.
Something not to be underestimated at this time is the massive influence of the pretty much forgotten Procul Harum. Their massive hit A Whiter Shade Of Pale provided a blueprint for many a piece of hymnal psych, Jason Crest’s Teagarden Lane being the prime example here.
The final disc takes us more into prog territory, but the Open Mind’s Magic Potion is a brooding slab of downer protopunk, Taiconderoga featured a young Brian Robertson (a few years later to become Brian James of The Damned) and Second Hand’s family tree included an early member who would go on to play in Oi! band The Last Resort. Future Be Bop Deluxe guitarist Bill Nelson’s early solo work is included along with Hawkwind under their earlier guise as Hawkwind Zoo with Hurry On Sundown. Though perhaps less actual thrills than the preceding two discs this one is vital in showing the development of the sounds up to 1972 when things solidified and the supergroups started to take over.
All things considered this is a pretty great collection of oddities, rarities, misses and early takes which gives as good an overview of the UK music scene in those years as any. There’s enough for to keep your average psych/freakbeat/pop-sike fan happy but even for a newcomer it is a fair bet you will find a lot to like. A high quality compilation.
All words by Ian Canty. More of Ian’s work on Louder Than War can be found in his author’s archive.