Scads of Turtles anthologies are available, but there’s no question this packet ranks as the finest of the fleet. A two-disc collection, Solid Zinc features all the Los Angeles band’s best known songs like “Happy Together,” “She’d Rather Be With Me,” “You Know What I Mean,” “Elenore” and “You Showed Me,” as well as album cuts, a few demos and a chunky booklet charting their history.
The Turtles existed at a time, 1965 to 1970 to be precise, when rock and roll was changing faster than an ice cube melting in the California sun. Masters of diversity, the band had no trouble adapting to the shifting tides, as they efficiently embodied whatever style of music called for the occasion.
Most importantly, however, was the fact the Turtles were tremendously gifted, totally sincere and had a whole of fun doing what they did. They brandished incredible harmony prowess, their rapport was amazingly telepathic and their choice of material was excellent, be it their own tunes or stuff written by other artists.
Situated in chronological order, Solid Zinc (Rhino Records) opens to the ringing folk rush of the band’s spirited cover of Bob Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe,” which provided them with their first big hit single. “Let The Cold Winds Blow,” “Wanderin’ Kind” and duly seething treatments of P.F. Sloan’s “Eve Of Destruction” and “Let Me Be” proceed to demonstrate the band’s ace aptitude for playing genuine folk rock.
Rife with super-charged rhythms and a mass of musclebound instrumentation, “Outside Chance” and “Almost There” explode with the type of high energy tactics practiced by the Who, and the thoroughly jubilant “You Baby,” with its hearty handclapping and sunny disposition, plugs in as a pure power pop prize.
Sculpted of detailed and delicate designs, “Too Young To Be One” and “Like The Seasons” document the softer side of the Turtles, while the dark urgency of “Grim Reaper Of Love” and the ethereal electricity of “She’s My Girl” ripple with psychedelic innovation. Waxing social commentary, “Earth Anthem” addresses ecology issues and “We Ain’t Gonna Party No More,” which deftly blends sweet and sparkly pop textures with a loud angry chorus, is an anti-war anthem.
You’d be hard pressed to find catchier pop songs than instantly infectious goods such as “Can I Get To Know You Better,” “Is It Any Wonder,” “You Don’t Have To Walk In The Rain,” “I Can’t Stop,” “The Last Thing I Remember (The First Thing I Knew),” “Sound Asleep” and “I Know That You’ll Be There.” The band’s main strength, was of course, their blindingly radiant vocals, but the craftily composed tunes matched their talent. Never was a Turtles song not constructed of compact hooks or potent arrangements.
Containing an embarrassment of riches, Solid Zinc is a terrific tribute to one of the greatest bands we’ve had the pleasure to hear. Not only were the Turtles commercially viable, but they were equally inventive. Although the band traveled on pop ground, they sported a unique identity that separated them from similarly inclined peers. The sound of the Turtles is easy to recognize, and what a glorious sound it is!