Friday, December 30, 2016

Review: 'Let’s Go Down and Blow Our Minds: The British Psychedelic Sounds of 1967'

The psychedelic scene of the sixties has been well covered over innumerable compilations. Most deal in fairly broad strokes, perhaps covering a particular region (usually the UK or U.S.) or strain (maybe the garage rock of Nuggets or twee pop of Ripples Vol. III) in the general zone of 1966 through 1969. As its title blares, Cherry Red’s Let’s Go Down and Blow Our Minds: The British Psychedelic Sounds of 1967 gets more specific.

Stylistically, the set’s eighty tracks are still pretty eclectic with childlike whimsy (The Alan Bown!’s scrumptious “Toyland” and The Picadilly Line’s “Emily Small) sharing space with bubblegum (The Marmalade’s “Laughing Man” and The Honeybus’ “Delighted to See You”), swirling sophistication (Procol Harum’s “Kaleidoscope”), metallic heaviness (The Attack’s “Magic in the Air”), pure raga (Big Jim Sullivan’s “Flower Power), avant garde weirdness (The Pretty Things’ “Deflecting Grey” and The Crocheted Doughnut Ring’s “Nice”), swaggering garage (Mickey Finn’s “Time to Start Loving You” and The Outer Limits’ “Help Me Please”), and bonzo silliness (The Riot Squad’s “Toy Soldier” and The Uglys’ “And the Squire Blew His Horn”). Even with—or especially with—that variety, Let’s Go Down and Blow Our Minds builds a real sense of time and place, and it is quite certainly the most fragrant, exotic, fantastical, straight-up fantastic time and place in pop history. Obviously, a lot of the artists who made 1967 UK so magical are not represented, but if you don’t already own Sgt. Pepper’s, Satanic Majesties, Piper at the Gates of Dawn, and Sell Out, you’re a real odd duck for starting with Let’s Go Down and Blow Our Minds. So kudos to you, I guess.

That being said, you do get such major artists as the aforementioned Procol and Pretties, The Kinks (by way of “solo” Dave Davies), The Move, The Moody Blues, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, The Searchers, and The Spencer Davis Group (alas post-Steve Winwood). For those who are already well versed in the existing psychedelic comps, you will hear quite a few familiar songs, but it’s still exhilarating to hear assorted tracks from Rhino’s Nuggets, Castle’s Real Life Permanent Dreams, See for Miles’ The Great British Psychedelic Trip, and other essential compilations in their most specific context with more obscure wonders by The Scots of St. James, Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera, Paul and Barry Ryan, and The Fresh Windows. This combination of superstars, familiar oddities, and totally unfamiliar obscurities makes Let’s Go Down and Blow Our Minds a consistently super listen, which is ultimately what every multi-disc various artists compilation should be and so few are.
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