Various Artists

In the Garden: The White Whale Story

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From 1965 to 1970, the White Whale label recorded a lot of pop/rock, though the Turtles were its only consistent hitmakers. This 27-track compilation zeroes in on the company's more obscure singles, in which they seemed to touch on most of the shades of pop/rock from the era, though almost always remaining on the lighter side of things. In truth there aren't any gems here, but there's some interesting (and some dull) stuff for major '60s rock collectors to feast upon, as well as some rare tracks penned by Brian Wilson, Paul Williams, Randy Newman, and Randy Bachman to entice fans of those songwriters. The best goodies are the Dillards' 1970 cover of Bob Dylan's "One Too Many Mornings"; Matthew Moore Plus Four's 1965 cover of Buffy Sainte-Marie's "Codyne (She's Real)," one of the earlier and rawer L.A. folk-rock singles; and Freddie Allen's "We've Only Just Begun," the original version of the song made into a mega-smash by the Carpenters (who put out their version just a few months later). As for songs that might be more interesting for the writing credits than for the music, there's Laughing Gravy's close replication of the Beach Boys' "Vegetables," featuring Dean Torrence of Jan & Dean; the Brothers' renditions of rare though unremarkable early songs by Warren Zevon ("The Girl's Alright") and Randy Newman ("Love Story"); and Sugar & Spice's "Not to Return," written by Randy Bachman (who later recorded it on a solo album). There's a little bit o' MOR soul in Dobie Gray's "Do You Really Have a Heart," released in 1970 during his long stretch between hits; he's the only artist here, actually, who had hits, besides Nino Tempo & April Stevens and (if you want to stretch it) Liz Damon's Orient Express. A few of the cuts cross from pop/rock to easy listening pop, but for the most part it's average period fare, often on the poppier and slicker side of the early L.A. studio rock sound. More successful (and, for the most part, better) White Whale releases are compiled on Varese Sarabande's Happy Together: The Very Best of White Whale Records, which combines flops with hits by the likes of the Turtles, Nino Tempo & April Stevens, Lyme & Cybelle, the Clique, and René & René, and has only one song that also appears on In the Garden.

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