Various Artists

Soft Sounds for Gentle People, Vol. 3

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This series of CDs from Pet Records is supposed to be devoted to sunshine pop releases from the second half of the 1960s -- but most of the acts here know a good beat when they find it. Starting with the Mojo Men (billed by this time as Mojo) doing "Candle to Burn," the makers have generally chosen psych-pop sides with a beat. Even the most "produced" side here, "January Girl" by Pipedream (who apparently didn't exist as a group), manages to throw together enough of a rhythm section and effects to make it worthwhile psychedelic rock, even if the song itself sounds like a leftover from a sub-Hair musical. The Fun and Games apparently hailed from Texas, but that didn't stop them from sounding as spaced-out and languidly pretty as their trippy California surroundings on "Close to Carmel." Bryan's mysterious "Learn to Love" actually comes off as closer to psychedelic rock (with a decent beat) than most of the rest here, despite its being the product of a studio ensemble -- Tommy Roe producer Steve Clark evidently knew how to create those sounds on the fly. Leon Russell was one of the prime movers of Le Cirque, along with Marc Benno and Jerry Riopelle of Parade, and for a piece with a fairly conventional brass-loaded accompaniment, it does achieve a colorful effect with its trippy lyrics. The disc gets better as it goes along, the talent of the results (or both) becoming very imposing midway through -- far and away the best cut on this album is "Time Goes Backwards" by Jim & Jean, the folk duo; this psychedelic folk track is a totally unexpected permutation of their sound that lingers long after it's over. The Hung Jury's "Buses" is also pleasant psych pop in a Monkees-like mode, and "Lovin' Day" by the Status Cymbal is a surprisingly garage punk-ish cut to come out of Felton Jarvis' orbit in Nashville. Jacobson & Tansley were a virtually unknown Curt Boettcher project from 1966, whose "Dream With Me" managed to chart in New York and Cleveland, and deserved better. And the Second Helping's mouthful of a title, "Floating Downstream on an Inflatable Rubber Ball" -- which prominently features a pre-Loggins & Messina Kenny Loggins, with sitar and spacey lyrics -- makes for surprisingly pleasant listening. Less interesting and more ponderous is Stained Glass' "A Scene In Between," which is more pure psychedelia than sunshine pop -- produced by Rick Jarrard, it does have a nicely brittle lead guitar part that recalls the 12-string on "Eight Miles High" slowed down a bit.