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The Best of the Boston Sound


The Best of the Boston Sound


Varese Sarabende

various artists CD

Boston SoundTypical of the late 60s, a record executive in 1968, attempting to create a buzz about a region (and in this case follow up the popularity which surrounded San Francisco), Alan Lorber, with the backing of M-G-M, created the "Boston Sound" (or Boss-Town Sound).

After this they rounded up a group of Boston bands and recorded them and released the albums under this one marketing umbrella ploy of a sound. A backlash followed, damning all involved and up until recently most of the music has been unavailable or unheard except by some of us Bostonians.

The Best of the Boston Sound is a first attempt at rectifying this problem. And interestingly, the compilation holds up well, even though there's absolutely no rock'n'roll to be found on here. I think producer Alan Lorber (who put this compilation together and wrote the typically self-aggrandizing liner notes) wants us to remember the "sound" that way and that's fine as far as that goes.

We're left to believe that rock was dead in Boston until Jonathan Richman resurrected it in 1970. Not to say that this compilation isn't good - because it's actually quite excellent with some wonderful gems, just don't expect any lost Nuggets here. True to the time period in some respects, the Rascals, the Association, the Left Banke, Jefferson Airplane and folk rock sounds (always big in Boston) are the influences heard throughout this compilation resulting in low-key, earnest melodies, haunting vocals and gorgeous strings.

In fact the psychedelic influence is felt mainly in the ornate string arrangements and the odd "poetic" lyrics: the Beacon Street Union's The Clown Died in Marvin Gardens is a good example - jazzy backing with off-kilter lyrics and melody. The Lost's Violet Gown (Willie Alexander's first band) is an incredible tune, stylistically inspired by the Left Banke's Walk Away Renee, but read the liner notes on The Lost's CD and you'll see they weren't completely crazy about heading in this direction. They wanted to rock out.

The Rockin' Ramrods song Bright Light Blue Skies is one of the cathier tunes here and a local hit. Orpheus were basically a harmony vocal group similar to the Association, and Can't Find the Time was the only national hit to come out of this era and is a gorgeous record.

Another Day by Pluph has some interesting harmonies, a bouncing rhythm and lilting organ which creates a winning combination somewhat similar to San Fran-inspired Animals. Silver Children continue with Front Page Review, a Door's inspired organ dirge which segues into a Santana- drenched latin guitar and rhythm and a spaced-out lead vocal over echoed acoustic guitar.

Chamaeleon Church (Chevy Chase was in this band!) give us a melodic sitar drone which is quite memorizing. Eden's Children who claimed to be more focused than Cream (but were essentially an ill-conceived 3 piece with no real talent involved - but are fondly remembered in the Boston area) give us Goodbye Girl a mellow ennui filled number.

The Fabulous Farquar give us the maudlin but irresistible My Island. So sure they were of this one they recorded it on both albums they released. The Ill Wind's take on the folk-rock standard High Flying Bird borrows liberally from Jefferson Airplane's soaring arrangement.

The Bagatelle's Back on the Farm, featuring future Velvet Underground/Boom Boom Band member Willie Alexander, is a funky New Orleans-inspired workout.

Bead Game's Sweet Medusa could almost be considered prog rock with sleepy harmonies. Changes by Puff is a dead walking psych piece with head in the clouds. Theme For The Masses by Ford Theater is an intense stilted Zombies inspired rave up. You're Not There by Listening shows a lot of promise sounding like later period Jefferson Airplane crossed with Iron Butterfly.

Earth Opera's Home To You is an inspirational country tune perhaps foreseeing the soft rock of the 70s. And finally, one of the all-time great psych tunes, the Ultimate Spinach's Ballad of the Hip Death Goddess rounds out this compilation with its "ultimate" noodling and plodding rhythm.

Patrick, November 6, 2001