Various Artists

Psychedelic States: Arkansas in the 60s

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Gear Fab's Psychedelic States series, which collects vintage '60s garage rock singles on a regional, state-by-state basis, affords an utterly fascinating look into a time in the U.S. when every basement and garage seemed to have a band rehearsing in it, the visible (and audible) explosion of a true suburban folk movement. Most of the rare and regional singles included in these compilations are badly recorded, poorly performed, and clich├ęd and derivative at almost every level, which, of course, is probably why they're so prized by collectors. This volume, which spotlights the raw razorback garage bands of Arkansas, is heavy on spirit and energy but runs pretty low on originality (and even lower on recorded sound quality). Most of these groups follow the template of the opener, "Baby You Don't Care," by the Light Brigade, which is fast, simple and full of fuzz guitar. The oddly titled "Plight of the Yearner" by the Fone Book sounds a bit like the Lovin' Spoonful after a long and debilitating drinking jag. The Esquires' rushed and ragged "Sadie's Way" could be the very early Kinks on meth. Then there's the Vipers' "In Vain," which wasn't even a badly engineered single but is instead taken direct from a reel-to-reel demo tape recorded in -- you guessed it -- a garage. Not that there isn't talent and potential here to go with the unbridled energy. "He Don't Love You" by the Romans sounds like it could have been a national hit if it had only been better recorded, and "Love Can Be So Fine" by the Magic Sounds shows a Beatlesque flair for melody and harmony. Even at that, nothing gathered here could be deemed essential outside of the historical phenomenon of the '60s garage band explosion, which is often more fun to ponder than actually listen to when all is said and done. That Gear Fab is making this stuff available is marvelous, though, not so much because a perfect lost rock gem might turn up one day on one of these collections (it doesn't seem likely) but because this is really the sound of suburban America singing circa 1965-1967. It's folk music of a sort, the voice of a national community that had no idea it was a community. It didn't matter if you were a garage band in Arkansas or Indiana, Boston or San Diego. Come Saturday night you plugged in, turned up, and pretended it was Shea Stadium. It may have been history on a very small stage, but it was history, and it rattled plenty of windowpanes.

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