Various Artists

The Best of the Boston Sound

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The Best of the Boston Sound Review

by Bruce Eder

Best of the Boston Sound is a good example of the notion that less is more. The 18-song compilation at hand is mostly -- but not entirely -- a stripped down version of Big Beat Records' earlier double-disc set Bosstown Sound, 1968: The Music & The Time. Acts such as Ultimate Spinach, Orpheus, Front Page Review, and the Lost, who got three or four songs each on the latter, are reduced to a single track representing them here. This may not always be an accurate account of their sound, but the producers have generally selected the stronger work from the material contained on the earlier set, making for a very pleasant listening single disc, and they've also added some artists: the Colwell-Winfield Blues Band, who sound like a Bay State answer to Paul Butterfield and company, Fabulous Farquahr, whose gentle psych-folk sound recalls the Byrds from their "Goin' Back" period; the harder, electric guitar and keyboard-driven, spaced out (yet goofy) sound of Phluph; Beadgame's more self-consciously sophisticated, languid, and classically influenced brand of psychedelia; the hard-driving sound of Ford Theatre, whose "Theme for the Masses" is the most viscerally exciting on this collection; and the heavy guitar and harmony-driven sound of Listening. None of what's here was terribly influential or successful in its time, as can be attested to by the absence of any full catalog reissues of Ultimate Spinach, but this is a very enjoyable collection, in a generic late '60s sort of way; certainly there was nothing here to make the West Coast bands of the period break stride, though there's plenty of good playing and the occasional exceptional song, and the sound is very good. The notes, such as they are, focus in on the marketing and the failure of the "Bosstown Sound," rather than on any of the artists featured.

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