SMART SOUNDS by Colin Bell reviewing March Of The Flower Children: The American Sounds Of 1967, 3CD Boxset Various Artists

MARCH OF THE FLOWER CHILDREN – The American Sounds of 1967   (3CD SET)
As anybody that has ever read any of the thousands of reviews I’ve written over the past 50 + years will know only too well, Psychedelia is my first and enduring musical love. So with apologies to those for repeating the fact yet again! but there’s always new readers to consider. This latest compilation from the ever excellent Grapefruit Records could have been compiled especially for me, and I couldn’t be happier settling in for a smorgasbord of sound lasting 4 hours spread over 3 Cd’s in this spanking collection featuring 85 tracks from some of the greatest names to feature in this mind bending musical genre. All the facets that make up the whole Psychedelic movement can be heard here, from hard acid rock, to folk rock. punk garage, toytown & sunshine pop & whimsical solo entries. Big names include Love, Vanilla Fudge, Young Rascals, Moby Grape, The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Steppenwolf, The Velvet Underground & many more, including the band who first got me hooked in 1966/67 the glorious & unique ultimate garage band The Electric Prunes. It was the latter’s use of twisted, distorted fuzz laden instrumentation on ‘I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night’ (not included) that set me out on my voyage of mind bending musical discovery. The big names mentioned are sprinkled across the compilation which is bolstered in the main by the less well known & some outright obscure bands & artistes, although a lot of whom will be known to fellow aficionados, such as The Seeds, The Cryan Shames, Blue Magoos, The Beau Brummels, The Rare Breed, Strawberry Alarm Clock, Lemon Fog etc. Psychedelia had it’s roots in the Haight Ashbury district of San Francisco and the Hippie movement with artistes like The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin & others in 1966 and by the ‘Summer of Love’ in 1967 reached it’s crescendo on both sides of the Atlantic. Here in Britain, which has been covered by previous Grapefruit compilations relating to 1967,we were listening to the likes of Traffic, Tomorrow, Spooky Tooth, The Nice, Cream etc etc, most of whom had drawn their inspiration from the San Francisco movement, although on the whole British psychedelia often tended to come in ‘softer’ form than its American counterparts. Anybody that’s already into the genre will understand what I’m relating, however for anybody new to the genre or want’s to revisit that most magical and experimental period this new compilation is an ideal starting point. There’s little point in me bombarding you with a lot of names to conjure with, especially for newbies, but here from across the 3 CD’s are, in my opinion, some of the standout tracks. The whole set kicks off on Disc1 with a band that I’ve always loved, The Peanut Butter Conspiracy, with a tasty morsel (see what i did there) with the up-tempo mix of snarling guitar & Fifth Dimension style harmonies that make up their excellent offering ‘It’s A Happening Thing’. This is followed by, what for me, are the ultimate & finest exponents of the whole genre, Love. Arthur Lee’s vocal and lyrics have always had the ability to transport me to another world, here represented by iQue Vida!’ lifted from their superb 2nd album Da Capo. As is common with a lot of Love’s songs on first hearing they sound all sweetness and light, but on closer inspection are often unsettling and menacing, yet always superb. Great to see the inclusion of old friend, the late Tim Rose with the original recording he made of the classic ‘Morning Dew’ still the definitive version as far as I’m concerned. I was working with Tim on some gigs when he sadly and unexpectedly passed away in 2002, a great loss. Elsewhere on Disc1 are great tracks from the underrated Paul Revere & The Raiders, The Lovin Spoonful, The Mothers of Invention, The Kaleidescope, Harpers Bizarre & Eternity’s Children. Disc2 gets us underway with a stunning Prunes type track from a band unknown to me The Zodiac with a track entitled ‘Aries’ replete with a solemn spoken part, interwoven with melding Eastern music with rock, all very dark and mysterious. Then it’s on to a stone cold classic, with the majestic strains of Vanilla Fudge with their famous alternative version of the old Supremes hit ‘You Keep Me Hanging On’, here in it’s edited radio 3minute version as opposed to the full length album version that ran to 7 & a half minutes. This is followed by my all time favourite garage/psyche band, the previously mentioned Electric Prunes with ‘Hideaway’ a ‘B’ side of one of their lesser singles, but nonetheless a great track. The familiar names follow on with Moby Grape & The Stone Poneys with ‘Fall On You’ & ‘Evergreen Part One’ respectively. The track that lends the compilation it’s title follows with the splendid The Seeds and ‘March of the Flower Children’ which sounds more akin to something one of our own homegrown esoteric bands might have produced. Other tracks on Disc2 that stand out come from The Byrds with the seldom heard ‘Lady Friend’ & also The Cyrkle, The Lemon Drops, Captain Beefheart & The Endd amongst others. Disc3 features another personal favourite band with Steppenwolf & ‘The Ostrich’, another seldom heard track. The excellent Strawberry Alarm Clock are represented with ‘Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow’ ( a real psyche title if there ever was one!). Buffalo Springfield with ‘Bluebird’ and The Velvet Underground with ‘White Light/White Heat’ put in welcome appearances. There is an additional plethora of great songs from many obscure and unlikely artists such as Nilsson and surfer boys Jan & Dean! An honorable mention must also go to The Chamber Brothers with their classic experimental ‘Time Has Come Today’, a big personal favourite. The compilation concludes with The First Edition fronted by Kenny Rogers, who would of course become a solo Country superstar later in his career. Here he appears with his band who produced some classics of their own, famously with ‘Ruby Don’t Take Your Love To Town’ the wonderful ‘Somethins Burning’ and the psyche offering ‘Just Dropped In – To See What Condition My Condition is In’ (you can enjoy this in the video at the end of this review). It just remains for me to compliment David Wells once again, the head honcho at Grapefruit Records, for another superb compilation, lovingly compiled and accompanied as ever by an informative booklet crammed with info, photo’s & images. So, draw up a comfortable mushroom to sit on, put on your favourite headband, pass the Hookah and drift awa………y…..enjoy.
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Til next time…stay safe….Colin

Stephen Moran… Great review Colin

Mick O’Dowd… This contains so many bands that I never classed as psych! Maybe that’s why I never caught on to it until recently, through your posts Colin. Great stuff by looks of it and as I say i’ve heard and appreciated a lot of these artists

Colin Bell… Mick, I think to be fair, some of the artists you didn’t class as psyche, ultimately weren’t, but went through a period of experimenting during ’66/’67 before returning to, or moving on to other more suitable genres for them

Mick O’Dowd… Got into a lot of these from the samplers The Rock Machine Turns You On & Thr Rock Machine Loves You. Priced at an amazing (even in those days) 14/6d!

Colin Bell… Mick, Great samplers, really got a lot of people interested and as you say cheap, even then

Pete Prescott… So many bands ! Wow !

Claire Lonsdale… Would love to hear it! X

Alan Esdaile… Some great names here and a good sleeve.