The Three O'Clock were one of the mainstays of the paisley underground sound that was born (and quickly died) in Los Angeles in the mid-'80s, probably the poppiest of the bunch, and their 1983 album, Sixteen Tambourines, is a psych pop classic. They were never wrapped up in trying to recapture the sound of '60s psych, though; they were more interested in updating it and giving it a personal twist that came through in the perfect arrangements that weren't afraid to use modern instruments and effects and Michael Quercio's impossibly twee yet never insufferable vocals. The band's Danny Benair spent nearly a decade trying to put together a collection of their recordings for reissue, and 2013's The Hidden World Revealed is the result. Taking tracks from the band's two records for Frontier (Sixteen Tambourines and 1982's fantastic Baroque Hoedown EP) along with alternate mixes, early takes, and some rarities, the collection paints a picture of the band at an early stage of its short career. More an impressionistic portrait than a detailed view, the predominance of unreleased and rare tracks means that someone coming to the band for the first time gets a skewed picture of its sound. It includes the original versions of some of the band's most well-known songs, like "With a Cantaloupe Girlfriend" and "Jet Fighter," but the alternate take of "I Go Wild" does a disservice to the neophyte. Alternately, do fans who know their records inside and out need to hear tracks from them again instead of more from the vaults? As it is, it feels like this compilation is trying to balance between a rarities collection and a hits collection, neither of which it succeeds at fully. The best case scenario would have been a double-disc set with the official records on disc one and a full set of rarities on disc two. That being said, the rarities Benair does include are impressive, ranging from the fan club-only single "In Love in Too" (which is the equal to anything on either the EP or album), a chimingly good version of the Byrds' "Feel a Whole Lot Better" that features David Roback of the Rain Parade on guitar, the jumping rocker "All in Good Time," and an early demo of "Sound Surrounds," a song that made it onto the band's underrated Arrive Without Travelling album. The alternate takes are slightly less impressive, but still worth checking out. "In My Own Time" without horns, "On My Own" with strings, a rough take on "When Lightning Starts" -- these are all a treat for longtime fans and make the set essential. And really, despite its flaws, the collection is essential whether you are just catching on to the Three O'Clock due to their reunion, or have been with them since their days as the Salvation Army. Psych pop doesn't get any better than the Three O'Clock, and even a flawed release is worth celebrating.
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AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra