The Electric Prunes

California

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In 2004, 37 years after they hit the charts with "I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night," the Electric Prunes were not only still functioning with three of the group's original members on board (James Lowe, Mark Tulin,and Ken Williams), but they cut their most ambitious album to date, a wildly eclectic and thoroughly psychedelic song cycle titled California. While for years conventional wisdom had it that the Prunes' sound was largely the work of producer Dave Hassinger and composer/arranger David Axelrod, California left no doubt that these guys could conjure up plenty of shimmering, effects-laden guitar and lysergic melodies all by their lonesome, and "Makin' Some Noise" and "I'll Drag You Home" could pass for some unhinged outtakes from the Electric Prunes' first two albums. Lead singer Jim Lowe doesn't have quite the same pipes he did as a youngster, but these tales of living through the Summer of Love into the decidedly less groovy New Millennium suit his more weathered instrument quite well, and both lyrically and musically this stretches far beyond what the Prunes accomplished in their salad days, edging past psych-tinged garage rock into the gorgeous folk rock of "Rickenbacker 12-String," the off-kilter Brian Wilson homage "Pacific Ocean Blue," and the surreal set closer "Cinema Verite." California is a long, strange trip from a band who set an unexpectedly high target for themselves and thankfully hit the bulls-eye; fans of the band's vintage music and curious observers of psychedelic will find this well worth a listen.

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