By the late 1960s, pop music’s vocabulary had expanded to such a mercurial degree that anything and everything not designed of conventional procedures was seemingly placed under the banner labeled psychedelic. Providing a nice glimpse of what some of our British cousins were peddling during this wildly fertile and creative period in rock and roll, Psychedelica involves a thoughtful presentation of big stars and lesser-known entities.
Mainly remembered as the band that featured future Yes guitarist Steve Howe and netted a hit single with the kaleidoscopic wonder, “My White Bicycle,” Tomorrow graces the stage with “Revolution,” a powerful piece of intense freakiness that bears no relation to the Beatles song of the same name and was actually recorded a year before their tune was released. But the Beatles did play a minor role in Tomorrow’s catalog, as the band covered “Strawberry Fields Forever,” which appears here. Not an easy assignment to tackle, they reprise the song with amazing accuracy.
Deep Purple also plunders the Liverpool band’s vaults for inspiration, with a slow and heavy version of “Help” that moans and groans with gothic organ drills. The apparition of the Beatles continues to charge the atmosphere in the form of a credible treatment of “With A Little Help From My Friends” by the Young Idea.
Caught in an uncharacteristically bleak mood, the Hollies check into the premises with the stark and sparsely structured “Clown,” while Twice as Much’s perky vaudeville styled “Crystal Ball” would have fit perfectly on a Monkees album. Further vaudeville influences are captured on the swift and squeaky “Skeleton And The Roundabout” from the Idle Race, a band that included Jeff Lynne, whose resume eventually boasted a host of major accomplishments, ranging from the Move to Electric Light Orchestra to the Traveling Wilburys to producing the likes of Dave Edmunds and the so-called reunited Beatles. There we go with the Beatles again!
An engagingly odd combination of crispy country rock and merry bubblegum music is the matter behind Peter Sarstedt’s “Many Coloured Semi-Precious Easter Egg,” where Simon Dupree and the Big Sound’s “Kites” rings and tings to the exotic tone of a Chinese gong, while curtains of ethereal harmonies and hypnotizing melodies add even more razzle dazzle to the lush psychedelic beauty.
Tucked in the instrumental corner of the room, we find Coliseum’s “Those About To Die,” which relays a jazz rock fusion frequency, a groovy take of The Temptations’ “Get Ready” by S.O.U.L. and the Yardbirds’ strummy, haunting “White Summer” that would quickly be remodeled into “Black Mountain Side” and surface on Led Zeppelin’s first album.
Running the floor from the whimsical to the weird to the innocent to the inventive, Psychedelica (EMI Plus) is a fine example of the numerous shades the genre offered. The title of the collection may not be imaginative, but the music certainly is, and that’s what counts.