Since the first Nuggets in 1972, the entire series has been grounded in the gritty, dirty sound of garage rock, so much so that Rhino's 2001 box set of British and foreign psychedelic nuggets favored harder rock over the fruity, precious side of British psych. Collectors treasured rare singles before Nuggets, but the series created an aesthetic that emphasized the raw, trippy, wild, and woolly over the soft, lush, harmony-laden psychedelicized sounds of AM pop radio. The Rubbles Collection, Mindrockers, The Trash Box -- all of them were dedicated to freaky guitar rock, and that mindset ruled until the latter half of the '90s, when the well had started to run dry, as labels like Sundazed issued the complete recorded works of obscure garage rockers who had released only one single during their lifetimes. Around this time, collectors -- including many third-generation music fanatics raised in the era of CD reissues rather than record fairs -- began to favor the soft sunshine pop of the late '60s, when square vocal groups started to get hip and record trippy music. Bands like the Millennium, the Association, and Yellow Balloon became hip currency, as did producers like Curt Boettcher and songwriters like Paul Williams. This was close to anathema for the hardcore garage rock fiends because this was not rock & roll, it was pop music whose commercial aspirations failed. Nevertheless, most hardcore record geeks have a fondness for this stuff, since it's not only melodic and well produced, but it's terribly interesting to hear how underground ideas were borrowed and assimilated into mainstream music; often, it's as strange as it was in the underground, if not stranger. Fans of this breed of psychedelic pop were insatiable, and there was a certain thrill to the fact that it was hard to track down, since it was either issued in Japan, buried as album tracks on reissues, or never made it to CD at all. That's why Rhino Handmade's foray into the sound with Come to the Sunshine: Soft Pop Nuggets from the WEA Vaults and its companion release, Hallucinations: Psychedelic Pop Nuggets from the WEA Vaults, is so welcome -- while they're only available as limited editions (primarily sold via www.rhinohandmade.com), they're also the first widely available American samplers of this style. That alone would make them noteworthy, but what makes them essential (at least for hardcore record collectors), is that they're expertly done.
Where previous installments of Nuggets concentrated on singles, Come to the Sunshine is a true excavation of the vaults, picking overlooked album tracks and neglected singles from a cornucopia of WEA-owned labels, including Warner Bros., Cotillion, Jubilee, Valiant, Reprise, and Atco. There are recognizable names here -- more so than on the original Nuggets -- but no charting hits, and it's easy to listen to "Talking to the Flowers" without realizing that it's the Everly Brothers (although Davy Jones' voice on the Paul Williams-composed "Someday Man" is a giveaway that it's the Monkees). There's a certain uniformity of sound here -- lots of luxurious strings, multi-part harmonies, horns, and keyboards, very little in the way of trippy studio effects -- but each group has a different spin on this signature sound, which keeps things interesting over the course of 24 tracks. If there are no outright classics here, as there was on the very first Nuggets (which is truly the comparison point, since that was the first serious multi-artist retrospective of psychedelic garage rock, and this is the first serious multi-artist retrospective of soft psychedelic pop), that's almost beside the point, since unlike garage rock, the song takes a back seat to the production and the overall feel. On that level, Come to the Sunshine is not just successful, but it's a definitive portrait and introduction to appeals of soft AM pop.