Various Artists

Summer of Love: Gold

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The summer of 1967, the so-called Summer of Love, was just that, a brief, flowery explosion that signaled a pronounced shift in social, political, and cultural priorities. The duration was short, lasting just nine months even by the most liberal estimates, from the first Human Be-In in San Francisco in January of 1967 through to the ceremonial "Death of the Hippie" event in the same city that following October. Musically, the opening salvo was the release of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's in June of 1967, an album that created an almost impossible-to-match template for rock music. Seemingly overnight, AM radio was filled with psychedelic-laced pop singles full of vocal and instrument phasing, odd sound effects, and attempts at expansive lyrics and themes. It's impossible to imagine a song like Procol Harum's bizarre and dirge-like "A Whiter Shade of Pale" making the pop charts without Sgt. Pepper's first paving the way, for instance, and songs like the Strawberry Alarm Clock's "Incense and Peppermints" would most likely never even have been written. Unfortunately, nothing by the Beatles is included in this two-disc set devoted to the music of the Summer of Love, undoubtedly due to licensing problems (make no mistake, this new expansive pop music was marketed every bit as much as bubblegum was -- nothing happens in the music business for free and without spread sheets), and a fair amount of what is here actually hails from 1966 (the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations," the Seeds' "Pushin' Too Hard," the Monkees' "I'm a Believer," the Electric Prunes' "I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night"), so this collection really isn't a carefully assembled archival survey of the music from that singular summer at all. That doesn't mean it isn't fun and interesting, but it also doesn't make for a historically accurate document. In the end, of course, love didn't conquer all, and war, hate, greed, racism, and the other insistent scourges of the human spirit remained to torment us all, but for a brief moment there, in the warmth of the sun in the summer of 1967, there was the illusion that everything would be different.

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