Various Artists

Fab Gear: Classic Flower Power Pop from the Summer of Love

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The subtitle of this two-CD British compilation begs a couple minor clarifications. Though the Summer of Love is commonly thought of as being summer 1967, the 49 tracks actually span 1965-1970. And while the term "flower power" usually designates some sort of psychedelic association when applied to rock music, some of this is just pop/rock with uplifting vibes, and not particularly colored by flower power or psychedelia. If you're not too sensitive about the labeling, this is very good collection of many different shades of U.S. and U.K. pop/rock from the era that are usually at least lightly influenced by psychedelic flower power, and sometimes quite heavily so. Now, there's not much heavy-duty psych à la Jimi Hendrix or the Doors here; Traffic's "Paper Sun," and maybe Tomorrow's "My White Bicycle" and Julie Driscoll with the Brian Auger Trinity's "This Wheel's on Fire," is about as intense as it gets. But there are a lot of classic hits here, though they tend to be on the light, summery, and harmony pop side, like the Association's "Windy," Tommy James' "Crystal Blue Persuasion," Scott MacKenzie's "San Francisco," John Fred & His Playboy Band's "Judy in Disguise," Strawberry Alarm Clock's "Incense and Peppermints," and Thunderclap Newman's "Something in the Air." It's not a by-numbers, Time-Life-style selection, either, including some pretty obscure quality non-hits, like Sagittarius' "My World Fell Down" (unfortunately in its edited version rather than the full-length one familiar from Nuggets) and Eclection's "Nevertheless."

Blurring the focus a little more, there are also some classic folk-rock songs that are a little in advance of or after flower power's peak, like the Byrds' "Turn! Turn! Turn!," Donovan's "Sunshine Superman," Tim Hardin's "If I Were a Carpenter," and Matthews' Southern Comfort's cover of Joni Mitchell's "Woodstock." This being of U.K. origin, there are also some British hits that relatively few U.S. listeners will be familiar with, like the Flowerpot Men's "Let's Go to San Francisco," Simon Dupree & the Big Sound's "Kites," P.P. Arnold's "The First Cut Is the Deepest," the Herd's "From the Underworld," Keith West's "Excerpt from a Teenage Opera," and the Love Affair's "Everlasting Love." More dubiously, there are quite a few pop/rock cuts whose main connection to flower-power is that they happened to be cut during the flower power era, like the Grass Roots' "Temptation Eyes," Gary Puckett & the Union Gap's "Young Girl," the Box Tops' "The Letter," the 5th Dimension's "Stoned Soul Picnic," Sergio Mendes' "The Fool on the Hill," the Cowsills' "The Rain, the Park & Other Things," Zager & Evans' "In the Year 2525," Classics IV's "Spooky," and, weirdest of all, Jeff Beck's "Love Is Blue." As a varied mixture of quality pop/rock from the time either tinged or singed by the Summer of Love spirit. however, it's a pretty good listen.

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