Various Artists

Hear It Now! The Sound of the '60s

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This is one of the better compilations that Sony Music or any major label has ever issued on CD, gathering together remastered versions of memorable and notable songs from across the rock spectrum, from Simon & Garfunkel and Scott McKenzie to Janis Joplin ("Down on Me"), the Chambers Brothers ("Time Has Come Today"), and Sly & the Family Stone ("I Want to Take You Higher"), and even a Bob Dylan cut ("Subterranean Homesick Blues"). What's more, the song selection, although predictable, is of a uniquely appealing variety -- they're defining hits, and are perfect representatives of their era. The disc is practically an oldies station's playlist, and is almost worth owning just for the presence of the thunderous remastering of "I Want to Take You Higher" -- the poor audio quality of the Sly Stone CD catalog has long been a vexation, but there's nothing substandard here. You also get a preview of what the upcoming Dylan remasterings may sound like -- "Subterranean Homesick Blues" is pure rolling post-folk thunder as it pours out here in a crisper version than anyone has heard, even as the remastering permits one to perceive the layered acoustic and electric guitars. The most modern digital incarnations of "Sunshine Superman," "San Francisco," "Brown Eyed Girl," "Spinning Wheel," and "Down on Me" are here as well -- what makes these remasterings especially worthwhile is that they're not only bright, but deep -- the bass on "San Francisco" grinds and crunches, and "Kicks" now sounds about as rich and heavy as any '60s track ever put on CD, and more than a match for those old Beatles masterings that Capitol is still selling. The graphics are almost a parody of the period, and the notes by Arthur Levy are the usual historical/musical panorama -- one irony of this collection, by the way, is that with several exceptions (Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, Paul Revere, etc.), the lineup here is almost a tribute to then-Columbia president Clive Davis, who signed or authorized the signing of virtually every other act here.

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