Lou Adler is a giant of Los Angeles and, like many giants of Los Angeles, he could not be contained by a single category. Songwriter, record producer, movie producer, label head, film director -- Adler wore all those hats many times over and, in those capacities, he was one of the key behind-the-scenes men in many beloved 20th century pieces of pop culture: Sam Cooke's "Wonderful World," the Everly Brothers' " Cryin' in the Rain," the Mamas & the Papa's "California Dreamin'," Scott McKenzie's "San Francisco (Wear Some Flowers In Your Hair)," Carole King's Tapestry, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Cheech & Chong's Up in Smoke, Hollywood's Roxy Theatre, and the cult favorite Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains. Ace's wildly entertaining and quite necessary collection, Lou Adler: A Musical History touches upon all of these outside of The Fabulous Stains (which may be appropriate, as its absence preserves the 1981 film as the stuff of legend) and it showcases an entrepreneur who always had his finger on the pulse of what would leap from the underground to the mainstream. Adler was 25 when rock & roll broke through in 1956 -- young enough to know what was happening, old enough to make something of it -- and this savvy blend of the commercial and the hip is evident throughout the 25 songs on this compilation. His big breaks with Cooke are bookended by harder R&B from Johnny "Guitar" Watson and Sam Butera; he rides a surf wave with Jan & Dean, then figures out how to market folk-rock rebellion via Barry McGuire and the Mamas & the Papas. After that, Adler was a star and he put that fame to use, starting Ode Records whose key artist, Carole King, is showcased here through the hit "It's Too Late," and her earlier band the City. Adler perfected the lush, warm sound of the studio but still had a taste for sleaze, evidenced by the ludicrously vulgar Cheech & Chong and Rocky Horror cuts that conclude this collection. He pretty much abandoned pop music after that, but he left on a high note which, in retrospect, offers a road map on how teen culture moved from R&B to surf, through folk and hippies, then split off, either winding up in well-appointed apartments sipping tea or slumming down at the Roxy.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine