P.F. Sloan

Anthology

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This collection shows just how close P.F. Sloan came to becoming a successful recording artist, and perhaps even a star, in his own right. Distilled down from Sloan's first two 1960s solo albums, it's a beautiful, piercing, at times poignant reminder of that point in the mid-'60s when the work of serious, earnest songwriters, rock & roll, and folk music converged. Anyone who enjoys the first three Byrds albums or Bob Dylan's work from Bringing It All Back Home through Blonde on Blonde, or the first two Beau Brummels LPs, will probably like a lot of what's here. "The Sins of the Family" is a cautionary tale, done in a Dylanesque mode, telling of family dissolution and generational tragedy; "This Mornin'" is a moving account of personal transformation and psychic "death," done to a tune that constantly reminds us of "Love Minus Zero/No Limit"; "Halloween Mary" is a put-down song that falls somewhere between "Like a Rolling Stone" and "Positively Fourth Street"; "City Women" falls somewhere between the Beau Brummels and the Leaves, veering slightly toward a folkish garage-punk sound, with alternately shimmering and jangly lead guitar and a slightly too prominent orchestral accompaniment that mars a nice, close, lean bass and guitar sound. By rights, "Karma" should be deadly just from its title, but it's actually a nice piece of quasi-psychedelic folk-rock, close acoustic fingerpicking alternating with shimmering sitars (or is it a phased fuzz-tone guitar?), swooping strings, and a lead guitar break that morphs from Jorma Kaukonen circa Surrealistic Pillow and George Harrison around the Sergeant Pepper sessions. And "This Precious Time" comes off as a deeply personal statement here, in contrast to the smooth piece of folk-rock that it seemed in the hands of the Grass Roots. Some of the stuff here doesn't work except as artifacts of their era -- "Let Me Be" wallows so deeply in teen stridency that it could pass for one of Sonny Bono's creations on his ill-fated, satire-laced Inner Views album; and Sloan went down the Dylan route twice too often on "Lollipop Train" and "Upon a Painted Ocean," though that flaw isn't necessarily Sloan's fault; the Dylanesque sound was obviously what his record label of that time wanted, as a pre-condition for releasing the material. It is interesting, though, to hear his version of "Eve of Destruction," which comes off a lot more sincere, and less a piece of "product" than Barry McGuire's rendition -- built on Sloan's voice, a single acoustic guitar, and a little harmonica, it actually sounds like a sincere and serious song, and not just an effort to sell records. Similarly, his version of "Take Me for What I'm Worth," played on one guitar, is a much more intimate listening experience (and a profoundly different one) than the Searchers' hit.

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