The first official Chocolate Watchband anthology was a triumph of sorts, although it also has some flaws that are unusual for a Rhino Records release -- the most obvious of which to real fans of the band is that it over-reaches. Purists may not care for the way the producers have freely mixed the recordings (mostly singles) featuring only the actual Watchband (i.e., David Aguilar, Mark Loomis, Sean Tolby, Bill Flores, Gary Andrijasevich), album sides with extra, overdubbed instruments and redubbed vocals (by sessionman Don Bennett), and sides that (good though they are) were not the Watchband at all, regardless of how they were labeled -- and all without full explanation. On the other hand, as a collection encompassing the totality of recordings issued by (or as being by) "the Chocolate Watchband," this is unquestionably the best one going. "Let's Talk About Girls," which also opened their original debut album, opens this CD, and it's a loud, defiant garage-punk masterpiece -- "Sweet Young Thing," "No Way Out," and "Baby Blue" represent some peak moments for the official, classic Watchband; and then we jump to "Expo 2000" and "In the Past," good tracks (especially the latter) that aren't the Watchband at all, but the work of studio musicians. After that, it's back to the "real" Watchband for "I'm Not Like Everybody Else" and "Are You Gonna Be There (At the Love-In)," which arguably mark the group's high point as a recording act. "Don't Need Your Lovin'" and "Sitting There Standing" from the soundtrack Riot on Sunset Strip are also here, along with "I Ain't No Miracle Worker" off of Inner Mystique and the solid B-side "Gone and Passes By," plus the then-previously unissued "Milk Cow Blues," all tying up some loose-ends on the original band's history -- the trippy, gently orchestrated "She Weaves a Tender Trap" captures their experiment in a softer vein at the outset of the psychedelic era, and "Uncle Morris" represents the final official incarnation of the group and the album One Step Beyond, with its more folk-y slant. All of that would have been enough, and a good place to end this disc, but the makers have also included some more non-Watchband material off of No Way Out and Inner Mystique, which is filler here just as much as it was on those albums. Insofar as it brought out many lost tracks and rarities, and also its sound quality, this CD was welcomed at the time, but has been supplanted by the three early-'90s Sundazed Records' expanded reissues of the group's three original albums. As a single-CD compendium, however, that represents almost all that was best about the Watchband (along with some unfortunate filler). And while the notes are a bit sketchy and unfocused, as well as containing one plainly wrong (and uncorrected editorially) fact in the interview with the group's former manager, Ed Cobb, at least there are notes -- at least one extant anthology offers no information at all. Out of print as of 2000, and well-worth tracking down.
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AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder