Nirvana

Chemistry

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They meant little in the '60s, even less in the '70s, nothing in the '80s, and should have been completely forgotten in the '90s. Instead, a few well-placed lawsuits and a suddenly acquired gift for creative self-publicity elevated a hitherto marginal English folk psychedelic duo to new peaks of musical and cultural cultdom and, suddenly, Nirvana -- purveyors of such pleasant late-1960s whimsey as "Tony Goddess" and "Rainbow Chaser" -- were operating on the same plane of existence as Seattle's finest grungesters. And this, you might hope, is their story. Hope on. Five albums issued between 1968-1972 have all been reissued elsewhere; two more, dating from 1995-96 (with the latter cheekily including a cover of Kurt Cobain's "Lithium"), at least raised an indulgent smile. Chemistry, however, draws only sporadically from the wellspring of classic Nirvana. 1970s Nirvana (U.K. title To Markos III) appears in its entirety, as do the latter day Secret Theatre and Orange and Blue. But other material draws from Patrick Campbell-Lyons' subsequent, and so patchy, solo career, including 1980s The Hero I Might Have Been album, and singles issued under both the old band name, and a new one, Erewhon. All of which would be fine, but for one thing. Nowhere in the package is there any reference to any of this. Clock the cover and read the liners, and you'd be readily excused for expecting an evening of primal Nirvana at their hippy freaky finest. Instead, a few vaguely passable rerecordings of classic songs notwithstanding, what you actually get is an exhaustive portrait of three albums which really don't bear too many listens, and one which isn't by Nirvana at all. If you must own three CDs by this group, pick up The Story of Simon Sociopath and All Of Us, originally released by Island, but reissued by Edsel; and Local Anaesthetic, care of Repertoire via Vertigo. Cut, respectively, in 1968, 1969, and 1971, they are the sound of Nirvana at their most heavenly. Chemistry, on the other hand, is for collectors only -- and it's not even honest enough to admit that much.

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