Various Artists

Realistic Patterns: Orchestrated Psychedelia from the USA

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When psychedelia began hitting the charts in the latter part of the '60s, the widespread media attention given to the hippie phenomenon helped the music quickly spread beyond the insider community that gave it first life, and many aspects of psychedelic rock were quickly co-opted by the pop music mainstream, leading to a surprising number of pop tunes like those collected on this disc. Realistic Patterns: Orchestrated Psychedelia from the USA has practically nothing in the way of pure psych, but features 20 songs that used the musical and lyrical trappings of the psych movement in the service of studio-crafted pop tunes, often to intriguing effect. While the "peace, love, and purple clouds" lyrics of songs like "Brother Lou's Love Colony" by the Moon, "Dying Daffodil Incident" by A Handful, and "Mr. Tripp Wouldn't Listen" by the Little Boy Blues sound quite silly nearly four decades on, the music is often imaginative and compelling, grafting fuzzy guitars and swirling keyboards to grand-scale studio arrangements and creating something that's fun without usually sounding as hip as they'd hoped. The smooth harmonies of the Byzantine Empire make "Snowqueen" sound like the Letterman in a chemical haze, echoes of the Association are clearly audible through the sitars and dime-store philosophizing of the Mystic Astrologic Crystal Band's "Yesterday Girl," and Natty Bumpo's cover of the theme from Valley of the Dolls amusingly trades one show-biz drug experience for another. The set was compiled and annotated by Nick Saloman of the Bevis Frond, who as usual has done his homework quite well (read the notes and learn which tracks features a former Beach Boy and Bruce Springsteen's former manager), and while some tracks sourced from old vinyl show their age, for the most part collectors will be satisfied with the results. Psych purists won't go for this, but if you have a taste for the more curious side streets of classic pop music, Realistic Patterns is one fascinating trip into the sonic void.

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