Posts Tagged ‘ 1967 ’

Tages “Contrast”

I first heard of the Swedish band Tages through this very site, from a great post on their memorable 1967 album Studio.  Tages actually released two albums that year, and I find the earlier release Contrast to be an interesting foil to Studio (which it preceded by seven months). Both albums are filled with their signature brew of incredibly creative psychedelic rock, but I find myself more attracted to the songs on “Contrast” (with all but four being originals).

What sets Tages apart from many other ‘foreign’ psych bands of the era is their high production standards, which could be credited at least partly to producer Anders Henriksson. The arrangements and unique sounds of Tages’ records elevate them above mere copy-cat status and have helped make both their 1967 albums an interesting listen to this day.

The track “You’re Too Incomprehensible” alone is enough to convert any skeptic to a Tages devotee. Multiple movements, lush yet avant-garde strings, and a myriad of sound effects all bubble around a really lovely tune- progressive psychedelia at it’s finest. “Fuzzy Patterns” would be fairly straight forward, if not for the orchestral freakout placed right in the middle. “Prisoner 763” is an incredibly dark tune- played on a harpsichord heavily treated with delay. The line “I am condemned” hits hard, with the melody owing  much to to the Swedish folk the group was reared on.

Some tracks fall slightly short of the mark, like “Sister’s Got a Boyfriend” and “Why Do You Hide It?”, the latter of which carries the creepy lyric “I think you are the prettiest child a woman ever has born”. Both of these songs contain great production; their shortcomings are simply that they are strange songs (which may in fact be due to their troubles with English).

Opener “I’m Going Out” is an upbeat jaunt in the vein of The Zombies “This Will Be Our Year”, except with the ironic lyrics “I want to cry; I want to die”. It’s this slightly off kilter tendency that has kept “Contrast” fresh; the nuances reveal themselves on repeat listens.

Contrast stands on it’s own as an interesting record, and it was met with deserved success in Tages’ homeland.  It’s yet to be released in it’s entirety on CD, but many of the songs can be found on various “Greatest Hits” collections as well as their retrospective “1964-1968” disc.

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“You’re Too Incomprehensible”

:) Original | 1967 | Parlophone | search ebay ]
:D Anthology |  2010 | EMI | buy here ]

INDEX “INDEX”

INDEX  were a popular local psych rock group from Grosse Pointe, an affluent suburb outside of the Detroit, Michigan area.  Their debut album, commonly referred to as “The Black Album,” was released in December of 1967.  The group consisted of drummer Jim Valice and guitarists Gary Francis and John Ford.  150 original LPs were pressed on DC Records, making this album very rare and super expensive.

“The Black Album” was recorded in mono using a reel-to-reel tape recorder.  This primitive, underproduced recording technique has only added to the album’s mysterious, acid drenched mystique.  Gary Francis played a Gibson 12 string electric guitar on most of the album’s tracks, which were recorded in the ballroom of the Ford Estate.  Of the 9 tracks, 4 are instrumentals while the remaining 5 tracks were recorded with vocal arrangements.  Most of the album’s tracks are quality originals although INDEX adds some interesting basement-garage-raga-surf sounds to well known standards such as “Eight Miles High,” “You Keep Me Hangin On” and “John Riley.”  “Eight Miles High” is probably INDEX’s best known track, being full of superb raga guitar work and downbeat amateur vocals.  Other than the Byrds’ original, this is probably the best version of this song I’ve heard but kudos to English band East of Eden, who recorded a very fine unreleased take of “Eight Miles High” in 1969.  “Feedback,” another popular track that received limited airplay back in the late 60s, is an explosive, feedback laden monster (instrumental) that sounds like the Velvet Underground circa 1968.  Other fine tracks are the acid surf instro “Israeli Blues,” psychedelic folk-rockers “Fire Eyes” and “Rainy, Starless Night” and the wah-wah crazed “Turquoise Feline.”  INDEX is without doubt one of the classic “must own”  American psych albums.

Comparisons are hard to draw upon because INDEX doesn’t sound like anything I have heard before.  The group name check The Who, The Byrds and Jimi Hendrix as influences but the Velvet Underground and Dick Dale can also be heard in the INDEX’s unique sound.   Vinyl reissues have been around for years but are somewhat expensive.  Lion Productions recently released a fine 2 disc set which includes INDEX’s two official albums along with some unreleased studio material.

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“Feedback”

:D Reissue | 2fer | 2011 | Lion Productions | buy ]

The Easybeats “The Shame Just Drained”

The Shame Just Drained was a collection of Easybeats material that slipped out on vinyl in 1977.  The album contained 15 unreleased tracks from the group’s mid 60s prime, 1966-1968.  Most of these songs date from aborted studio sessions with Glyn Johns (Central Sound Studio Sessions – 1968-) and Shel Talmy (Olympic Studios Sessions – 1967).

There were many fine Aussie rock groups in the 1960s but none of them exploded onto the scene with as much excitement or anticipation as the Easybeats. Their live performances and chart smashes firmly established the Australian rock n roll scene. They recorded several fine albums (Friday On My Mind is probably their best) and waxed many classic Oz singles throughout their fabled career. Late 60s tracks such as “Land Of Make Believe,” “Peculiar Hole In The Sky,” “Falling Off The Edge Of The World,” and “Come In You’ll Get Pneumonia” were as good as anything being released in the UK or US at the time. Then there was “Good Times,” a song which famously caused Paul McCartney to pull his car over and ring the BBC to ask for a replay. While some of their best songs were recorded in the late 60s, the groups final albums, Vigil and Friends, are considered major disappointments.

By 1969, drugs and management issues had reduced the Easybeats to a bland good-time pop group, lacking the muscle and adventure of previous years. While their sharp demise was sad, when the Easybeats were on, they were surely one of the best.

The Shame Just Drained strongly recalls the Kinks from Something Else, or more accurately, The Great Lost Kinks Album – a mishmash of aborted late 60’s sessions and raw, mid 60’s material. Great power pop numbers such as “Wait a Minute” and the fiery “Baby I’m a Comin” hold hands with observational Ray Davies-like numbers “I’m on Fire”, “Mr. Riley of Higginbottom and Clive” and “Kelly” – this is the late 60’s Easybeats at their finest. Other songs such as “Amanda Storey”, “We’ll Make It Together” and “Where Old Men Go” are also excellent, featuring more a psych pop vibe with mellotrons, tinkling piano and sophisticated arrangements.

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“Baby I’m A Comin'”

:D Reissue | 2005 | Repertoire | buy here ]
:) Original | 1977 | Albert | search ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

The Golden Earrings “Winter Harvest”

Winter Harvest has 14 tracks from one of Holland’s most popular classic rock groups, The Golden Earrings.  These songs were cut in 1966/1967, during the group’s forgotten early phase.  While all 60s Golden Earrings albums are pretty strong, Winter Harvest is probably the most consistent of the bunch.  While Just Earrings (1965) was a very enjoyable beat album, this disc sees the group branching out into soul, folk-rock and hard rock/freakbeat – think Happy Jack, Rubber Soul, Face to Face or From the Beginning (The Small Faces).

The band delivers Winter Harvest with a special confidence and maturity.  This is one of the essential Nederbeat/Dutch 60s albums, along with releases by the Outsiders, the Q65, the Ro-d-y’s, Les Baroques, Sandy Coast and Group 1850.  No two songs sound alike and the performances are air tight.  My favorite cuts are the tough garage rockers “You’ve Got the Intention to Hurt Me” and the superb “Baby Don’t Make Me Nervous.”  There’s plenty of choatic guitar work, moody vocals and swelling organ on these two gems.  Other worthy cuts are the Beatles/Kinks influenced “In My House”, the blue-eyed soul of “Smoking Cigarettes” and two catchy folk rockers, “Lionel the Miser” and “Happy and Young Together.”  Another great cut, “You Break My Heart,” stands out for its harpsichord playing and ethereal ambience – it’s one of the prettiest songs in the Golden Earrings’ catalog.  The whole album is good all the way through; a hidden gem of mid 60s rock n roll.

I must admit, it took me a while to warm up to Winter Harvest.  At first I thought it was a little derivative of the British Invasion groups, which it is – those groups were highly influential in their day.  That being said, the overall quality shines through and it’s an album I throw on quite often.  The most recent RPM reissue includes relevant singles from around the time this album was recorded.

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“Baby Don’t Make Me Nervous”

:) Original Vinyl | 1967 | Polydor | search ebay ]
:D CD Reissue | 2009 | RPM | buy here ]

The Small Faces “There Are But Four Small Faces”

As it has been said many times before, The Small Faces were, undoubtedly, one of Britain’s most influential rock bands.  Despite being together for only four years in their original incarnation, The Small Faces have gone on to be remembered as one of the most important British bands of the mod/psychedelic era.  Combining the best-of-the-best American soul and R&B and their own special brand of British Beat (and later, psychedelic rock), The Small Faces were definitely unique.  And what is there to say about Steve Marriott that hasn’t been said before?  In many peoples’ opinions, he was the greatest rock & roll singer who ever lived.

1967’s There Are But Four Small Faces holds a special place in my record collection.  Unlike some albums of the same era, this album has held up well without sounding too dated.  Side one kicks off with the flower power classic “Itchycoo Park”.  With its use of tape effects and flanging, it was a song that sounded totally out of this world at the time of its release.  It was also the only major US hit The Small Faces would enjoy in their brief career, reaching a respectable #16 on the Billboard Hot 100.  There was so much more to this band worthy of “hit status” than just that song, though.

“I Feel Much Better”, which closes side one of the LP, contains one of the very first “breakdowns” in hard rock.  The end of the song closes with such power and intensity that it leaves the listener begging for more.  We weren’t used to that much power in a rock song until about two years later when a little band called Led Zeppelin exploded on the music scene.  “I Feel Much Better” was ahead of its time. Side two starts off with one of the most powerful songs ever recorded, “Tin Soldier”.  Originally written for singer PP Arnold (who is heard singing back-up vocals on the track), “Tin Soldier” is a song about unrequited love (and not a sappy one, at that).  Steve Marriott sings this with such fiery passion that it sounds like a man ripping his heart out of his chest, putting it on his sleeve, and begging to be loved by the woman of his dreams.  A masterpiece.  There are very few songs which have made some sort of a spiritual impact on me, but this is definitely one of them.  Listening to “Tin Soldier” is a near religious experience.

“Here Come The Nice” is another lost psych gem.  A drug-influenced song, for sure, it’s about a dealer who’s apparently “always there if you need some speed”.  But, if not for the obvious drug references, “Here Come The Nice” had the potential of being another big hit single, based on its catchiness alone.

Steve Marriott went on to form Humble Pie, and Rod Stewart was brought in to the Faces as his replacement where they enjoyed continued success.  To many, however, nothing compared to the Marriott-era Small Faces.  The fact that the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame has neglected to induct this legendary and important band is an atrocity.  Much has been written about the history of this band and its members; the internet is full of information.  If you have the spare time, read up about them…very interesting band.

If you’ve never heard The Small Faces, I’d definitely suggest to start here.  You can’t really go wrong.  To fully appreciate this band, though, one must seek out their entire discography.  Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.  You may have a new favorite band on your hands.

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“I Feel Much Better”

:) Original Vinyl | 1967 | Immediate | search ebay ]
:D CD Reissue | 2006 | JVC Japan | buy here ]

The Gurus “Are Hear”

With the current level of interest in Turkish and middle-eastern psychedelia out there, this may be
the perfect time to rediscover the sounds of The Gurus Are Hear. Formed in New York city in the
throes of 1966, the Gurus were the brainchild of a certain Ron Haffkine, a jeweler who liked to hang
around at Cafe Feenjon, a hip coffee shop on MacDougal Street that catered to a wild mixture of Arabs,
Israelis, and, apparently, psychedelic rock and roll musicians. His concept was a simple one: combine
the electric rock and roll beat that was rumbling across the charts with the exotic sounds of the middle
east. He put forward the concept to a number of talented local musicians, who not coincidentally also
happened to moonlight as Cafe Feenjon regulars, and they went in to cut a record.

The results could easily be compared to what Kaleidoscope was doing across the country at around
the same time, but the Gurus really kick things up a notch and cut back on some of the eclecticism
that distinguished their musical compadres. The Gurus Are Hear is very much a psychedelic garage
rock record, despite the prevalence of Pete Smith’s oud and the eastern warbling (the liner notes reveal
that these were often simple obscenities mispronounced in order to sound exotic). The record is full
of highlights, including a wonderfully unique take on the old garage band chestnut “Louie Louie”
coated in Smith’s tasteful oud playing. If you thought you’d heard every possible variation on this one
you could bear, you may want to reconsider. It really does speak to the band’s credit that, even when
delving into cosmic territories, the songs never stray far from their heavy go-go grooves. It may be
weird, but it’s always danceable. The single from the record, “Blue Snow Night,” backed with the crazy
album opener “Come Girl,” even managed to do well enough to land the band on the covers of both
Cashbox and Record World magazine.

Despite sounding so ahead of their time, however, the Gurus still come across as being an acquired
taste, due in large part to the eccentric singing of (the rather inexplicably named) Medulla Oblongata.
His faux-eastern vocalizing may lend the record a good deal of character, but also risk confounding
the unsuspecting listener. This is not to say that straighter singing would have made the record any
better, however, as his most accessible vocal just so happens to come with my least favorite cut on the
album, “Rainy Day in London”. Despite some intriguing instrumental flourishes, this one is a rather
turgid, sentimental ballad about walking in the rain and eating leftover cake that doesn’t quite sound
like anything else the band ever recorded.

It may come as a surprise that despite the success of the aforementioned single, The Gurus Are Hear
was to remain unreleased until 2003, when the tapes were rescued from the vaults by the good folks
at Sundazed Records. Five bonus tracks round out this rather belated release, those being a number of
alternate takes of songs already on the record and “They All Got Carried Away,” a moody psychedelic
pop number with some otherwise trying “Polly wants a cracker” vocal interjections.

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“Roads to Nowhere”

:D 2003 | Sundazed | buy from sundazed | amazon ]

The Fallen Angels “The Fallen Angels”

The Fallen Angels were Washington D.C.’s greatest contribution to 60s rock.  They only released 2 LPs and several singles but their reputation as the area’s best act transcends this limited output.

While It’s A Long Way Down is their best offering, their first Roulette album, The Fallen Angels (1967/1968-) is packed with great songs and tight performances.  Admittedly, there are a few weaker jugband-type tracks (just two) but one can’t deny the sublime psychedelic power of rocker “Room At The Top,” the moody “Love Dont Talk To Strangers,” and trippier cuts like “Introspective Looking Glass.”  The group could lay down a groove with the best of them but on LP they favor songcraft over noodling.  Jack Bryant’s moody vocals and the album’s interesting production tricks catch the ear first but the group’s energetic drive, personal lyrics and catchy melodies will win you over in the end.  Personal favorites are the sweeping psychedelic folk-rocker “Most Children Do” and a great acid pop floater with distorted vocals titled “Painted Bird.”  The first of these, “Most Children Do” is really a fabulous mellow folk cut that’s spruced up with horns and sitar.  Harder cuts “You Have Changed” and “I’ve Been Thinking” lean toward the garage psych end of the spectrum but are no less essential.  Also, check out the bizarre Mothers of Invention influenced “Your Friends Here In Dundersville.”

While not an all-time classic on par with It’s A Long Way Down (nor is it as moody or intense as this title), The Fallen Angels is still a good album by a psychedelic group whose music has held up quite well – they were one of America’s best unknown psych rock groups.  Try to look for the vinyl reissues as the Collectables cds are marred by poor sound quality.

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“Most Children Do”

:) Original Vinyl | 1967 | Roullette | search ebay ]

The Swamp Rats “Disco Still Sucks!”

For a brief period in time the Swamp Rats were one of Pittsburgh’s top rock n roll acts, they even needed bodyguards!  The group was basically an updated version of the Fantastic Dee-Jays, a crude garage pop group who released a handful of singles and a fine LP in 1966.  Unfortunately there would be no album for the Swamp Rats but most collectors agree that their original 45s represent some of the best (and rawest) music the genre ever produced.

The Swamp Rats’ Disco Sucks! compilation was released on vinyl in 1979/1980.  The original LP had cuts from the group’s 45s, an outtake, two reunion tracks from 1972 and a few tracks from Bob Hocko’s mid 70s hard rock band, Galactus.  Fast Forward to 2003,  Get Hip releases Disco Still Sucks!, the definitive overview of this great band’s mid 60s output.  The substandard reunion and Galactus tracks are thankfully replaced with quality unreleased Swamp Rats material.  Also, there are three acoustic Bob Hocko tracks that are unlisted but tacked on at the end of this disc. These cuts add nothing to the Swamp Rats’ legacy and are actually quite dispensable.

The Swamp Rats were together for a brief period of time – a year, possibly a year and a half at most.  During that time they released 5 singles (one of them a Dee-Jays track) and recorded quite a bit of studio material (not all of this material has been released).  Their first 45 was a blazing, raw punk cover of “Louie Louie” backed by a fuzzy version of “Hey Joe.”  This single was issued by St. Claire in 1966 and is one of the essential garage 45s – don’t miss this one.  The way I see it is that only two groups other than the Kingsmen did right by “Louie Louie,” one of them was the Sonics and the other was this masterful version put down on wax by the Swamp Rats.  A short while later the Swamp Rats issued their second 45, a cover of “Psycho” backed by a moody folk-rock interpretation of the Beatles’ “Here, There and Everywhere.”  “Psycho” was immortalized on the infamous first volume of Back From The Grave and is probably regarded as the group’s finest effort.  “Psycho” is more guitar oriented than the Sonics’ classic version as it features plenty of fuzz and a stinging solo by guitarist Dick Newton.   It’s every bit as good as the Sonics’ original but is also notable for Hocko’s psychotic vocals and a brief backwards guitar outro.  One of the best fuzz guitar garage 45s ever cut.  Their next 45 was another classic, sneering fuzz monster titled “No Friend of Mine” backed by a mediocre Stones’ cover ( “It’s Not Easy”).  Sadly, the Swamp Rats last 45 in 1967 was their weakest, a so/so cover of “In The Midnight Hour.”

Disco Still Sucks! features all the single cuts plus several unreleased gems.  I can live without their “It’s Not Easy” (there are two versions of this song) and “In The Midnight Hour” covers but everything else here is very good.  They turn in two powerful Kinks covers, a good raw version of “Tobacco Road” and two very impressive originals.  “I’m Going Home” is more of a moody folk-rock cut while “Hey Freak,” as the title suggests, is another fuzz monster that would have been a great followup to “No Friend Of Mine.”   So other than a few throw away tracks mentioned above (10 out of the 13 tracks are really good), this compilation of Swamp Rats material is essential listening.  They were one of the very best local garage punk groups of the mid 60s.

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“No Friend Of Mine”

:) Vinyl Issue | 2004 | Get Hip | search ebay ]
:D CD Issue | 2003 | Get Hip | buy here ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (self-titled)

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band is perhaps best known for helping to bridge the gap between the older generation of American folk musicians coming out of the 1940s and 1950s, and the rock and roll youth of the 1960s. Their seminal double record Will the Circle Be Unbroken presented the band alongside a number of country and bluegrass luminaries such as Maybelle Carter and Roy Acuff, and more or less proved that American musical traditions could span the generation gap.

Listeners dropping the needle on the Dirt Band’s self-titled debut for the first time may be taken aback at how far removed the record sounds from the group’s later material. Indeed, the opening cut “Buy For Me the Rain” is firmly in the west coast folk-rock tradition. The chiming guitars and soaring orchestral flourishes may make it clear as to how this tune landed the Dirt Band their first American chart hit, but they also spotlight the dissimilarity between the 1967 Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and its later incarnations. The band here is more Beatle boots than cowboy boots, despite sporadic country and bluegrass touches. Jug band roots certainly make themselves clear on the second song, “Euphoria,” with funky instrumentation continuing into Jackson Browne’s “Melissa.” Browne had actually been a founding member of the Dirt Band before splitting to pursue a solo career, and though he does not appear on any of their records, a number of his songs remained in the Dirt Band’s repertoire.

In fact, it is another Browne composition that closes the first side of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and provides the record with its second highlight. Banjo and harpsichord drive “Holding,” yet another slice of folk rock featuring strong harmonies. “Song To Jutta” takes the mood into more ominous territory, with its plucky guitar picking acting as a weird foil to the chain gang beat and the slow, monotonous vocal. It’s a rather unnatural mood for the Dirt Band, but they’re quick to catch on and the next couple of cuts are back in the ole jug band tradition again. Mississippi John Hurt’s “Candy Man” receives a great arrangement, comparable to that of the Rising Sons, while the banjo comes back out for “Dismal Swamp,” a rollicking breakdown that calls together bluegrass instrumentation and a rock and roll beat. There is a lot going on during the course of this record, and if it were not for the band’s tendency to lean towards novelty numbers such as the snappy “Crazy Words, Crazy Tune,” it may have established them as pioneers in American music far before Will the Circle Be Unbroken.

Though The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band is currently out of print in its complete form, about half of the tracks found their way onto a 1970 compilation entitled Pure Dirt, which is available on compact disc from Beat Goes On Records. This album is a rather weird combination of tracks off of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and the Dirt Band’s second release, Ricochet. As to why someone chose to reissue this instead of the original records…well, it’s beyond me, but fortunately original copies are still quite easy to find.

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“Holding”

:) Original Vinyl | 1967 | Liberty Records | search ebay ]

Book A Trip: The Psych Pop Sounds Of Capitol Records

Shortly after the sonic experimentalism of Pet Sounds and Sgt. Pepper’s, the rules for creating the perfect pop single changed. A catchy refrain wasn’t enough– producers and musicians were now expected to use studio technology to dress up pop hooks with trippy effects, unconventional instrumentation, and multilayered harmonies. Book A Trip: The Psych Pop Sounds Of Capitol Records collects twenty-six singles that attempted to capture some of that studio magic.

As is to be expected, there’s a distinct Beatles/Beach Boys influence throughout the tracks. Although a few betray perhaps a bit too much influence (such as The Tuneful Trolley’s magical mystery tour through the Fabs’ 1967 recorded output in “Written Charter”), the majority of the acts comped here took the newfound sense of musical adventure as a starting point and charted their own path. I can’t think of a better example than the anything-goes production of Tim Wilde’s “Popcorn Double Feature,” which not only brazenly mixes dit, dit, dits and bah, bah, bahs, but throws in an electric sitar breakdown followed by an exuberant trombone solo. And did I mention the random bubble sounds?

There’s a wide range of psych pop styles represented among the twenty-six tracks, including attempts by decidedly non-groovy Capitol acts such as The Four Preps and The Lettermen to update their sound. Yet even the more conventional numbers contain surprises in their arrangements and are worth a listen, especially Leon Russell’s Pet Sounds influenced orchestration on the Preps’ “Hitchhiker.” On the whole, Book A Trip is loaded with fine examples of psych pop and sunshine pop, with many tracks containing elements of both genres– you won’t find any bad trips here.

A personal favorite is the faux-British psychedelia of The Act Of Creation’s “Yesterday Noontime,” its insistent percussive riff competing with undulating peals of guitar and lysergic backing vocals. Other high points include the handclaps and soaring harmonies of Fargo’s “Robins, Robins,” the pumping harpsichord of Stained Glass’s “Lady In Lace,” and the quirky vaudeville of the Sidewalk Skipper Band’s “(Would You Believe) It’s Raining Flowers In My House.”

Moorpark Intersection’s sole Capitol single (co-produced by David Axelrod) is another highlight. “I Think I’ll Just Go And Find Me A Flower,” ambles along on a sunny acoustic riff, nodding to the country-psych direction the band would later follow as Morning, while the flip, “Yesterday Holds On,” is a much heavier slice of orchestral psych pop.

With Book A Trip, Now Sounds has put together a first-rate compilation, featuring pristine sound and detailed track-by-track information– the CD graphics even replicate the classic Capitol “swirl” 45 label. Whether you’re new to the genre or a sixties pop aficionado, there’s much to recommend here.

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“Yesterday Noontime”

:D CD | 2010 | Now Sounds | buy here ]