When the garage rock revolution swept America during the '60s, not every kid with a guitar wanted to be in the Beatles or the Rolling Stones -- plenty were perfectly happy trying to be the Byrds, who were not only one of the first groups in the States to reflect the influence of the British Invasion but had come up with a distinct and influential sound of their own, rooted in their background in folk music. (Doubtless more than a few kids who picked up Stratocasters after cutting their teeth playing Kingston Trio numbers could easily relate.) Considering how widespread the folk-rock movement was in the '60s, it's surprising that there haven't been more compilations that have examined the full depth of the genre, and The Electric Coffee House is a welcome sampler of 20 lesser-known folk-rock chestnuts. As is often the case, a few of the artists here went on to bigger things -- the Allman Brothers Band drummer Butch Trucks can be heard on "Wayward One" by the Tiffany System, and Jimmy Greenspoon, who was a member of the Sound of the 7th Son when they recorded "I'll Be on My Way," later joined Three Dog Night. But if most of the other acts are thoroughly obscure, they left behind some solid and thoroughly enjoyable music, such as the Iguanas (a Mexican group who supposedly learned to sing "This Is What I Was Made For" phonetically), the Guilloteens (whose "I Don't Believe" was later covered by Reigning Sound), Tommy Jay (his moody and soulful "Springtime's Coming" was co-written by Charlie Feathers), the Stream of Consciousness (their "Till You're Through" suggests some early stirrings of country-rock), the Hi-Five (who deliver some lovely harmonies on "You'll Never Know What's in My Heart"), and many more. As with most of Psychic Circle's releases, the selection of music and the annotation on this disc are fine, but the sound quality isn't as clean as usual, with these tunes rescued from worn-sounding 45s (it's especially noticeable on the closing track, "I Wonder" by the Gants, which appeared in hi-fi form on the Nuggets box set). But despite the less-than-perfect audio, this is a great set of first generation jangle pop, and a second Electric Coffee House volume would be more than welcome.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming