This 23-song compilation shows a group who had the pop sensibilities and range of the Tremeloes, and who could do credible soul covers and more than decent psychedelia, but somehow never developed a distinctive sound of their own. The result is an almost dizzying array of styles, represented by eight singles that were perfectly good records but which seldom sounded like each other. The Bystanders' early sides, from 1965, were heavily Beatles-influenced, their debut recalling the Liverpool quartet's early-1963 recordings, but also displaying smooth pop hooks reminiscent of Herman's Hermits on their better singles. By the time of "Have I Offended the Girl" in 1966, they start to sound more like the early Who vocally, but the other side of the same single is the dramatic pop ballad "My Love -- Come Home," and their next single, "If You Walk Away," is somewhere midway between Unit 4+2 and Tom Jones, while their cover of "98.6" is cheerfully upbeat in a way that recalls Herman's Hermits at their most embarrassingly upbeat. And then they come up with a decent cover of "Stubborn Kind of Fellow" in 1967. Beyond that point, the group turned toward a gentle brand of psychedelic pop, represented by "Royal Blue Summer Sunshine Day," "Pattern People" (where they sound a bit like the Association), and the poppish, upbeat "Green Grass," moving into ethereal psychedelia on the sitar-laden "Cave of Clear Light." And then, just as their history as the Bystanders was coming to an end, they plunge into the Bee Gees-inspired sides "This World Is My World" and "Painting the Time" (think the trio's late-psychedelic era). This CD is filled with moments like that, little pop/rock jewels that are widely scattered and don't exactly spell out a full story of anybody, but are pretty satisfying on their own terms. The disc also includes a brace of unreleased tracks, among them a rocking cover of "Cheryl's Going Home" and interesting renditions of "The Little Girl I Once Knew" (where the harmonies intermingle well with the lean instrumental sound) and "Dang Me," plus the two prizes of the 23 songs here, "My Way of Thinking," a hard-rocking piece of U.K.-style garage rock, and "Grapevine," a blue-eyed soul classic that shows what this group was truly capable of in the way of original songs, when they aimed that high.
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AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder