Various Artists

Sad About the Times

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Curators Mikey Young and Keith Abrahamsson began their quest to uncover '70s gems of all shades with 2017's Follow the Sun, a collection of tracks gathered from the forgotten past of the Australian music scene. Somehow Young found time between mastering jobs to work on a second batch to release for Abrahamsson's Anthology Recordings. On Sad About the Times, the duo dig deep into the singer/songwriter and outsider rock and folk scene happening in the United States in the early '70s. The songs collected here sound like examples of the one killer track able to be salvaged off a dusty LP found in the back on a thrift store shelf; the kind of record with a weird cover, a funky band name, or just some kind of uniqueness that would compel the trained eye to give it a chance. The biggest name here is Norma Tanega, which should give a sense of how deep the collection goes. Her witchy folk-jazz number "Illusion" is a highlight, sounding like Laura Nyro on a shoestring budget. There are more tracks that fall into that oddball folk category -- like Jim Spencer's mumblingly calm "Lonely Day" or Hoover's jangling and desolate "Absolute Zero -- along with early soft rock ballads, shambling folk rock leftovers, and spacy album rock (a great example being Roger Rodier's excellent "Am I Supposed to Let It by Again (Above the Covers).") It's a charming picture of what was going on at the fringes at the time: a truly alternative scene made up of artists and bands who knew what the mainstream required but were too weird to quite get there. Along with documenting the scene, Young and Abrahamsson unearth tracks that will make the listener go right out and look for more songs by the artist. Space Opera's "Holy River" has all the hallmarks of classic post-psychedelic album rock with spiraling, amazingly blown-out guitar solos and haunting vocal harmonies, Randy & the Goats' "N.Y. Survivor" channels Lou Reed and late period Velvets in swaggering fashion, Boz Metzdorf's "Sails Across the Sea" is an appealingly epic slice of cinematic soft roc, and Oliver Klaus' "Here Comes the Sun" is a sweetly sung pop tune with some wild guitar effects. These songs were the highlight of one spin, the next time through there might be others that leap to the forefront. It's the kind of collection that is so packed with discoveries and great songs that it's hard to pin down but easy to enjoy.

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