The fact that Rhino Handmade discs are internet only releases hasn't stopped their latest 2 collections from spreading like wild fire to brick and mortar stores (sure they're pricier in the stores, but you don't have to pay for shipping). Rhino Handmade has dug into the WEA Vaults (including labels like Warner Bros., Reprise, and Atco) for these collections - Come To The Sunshine: Soft Pop Nuggets from the WEA Vaults and Hallucinations: Psychedelic Pop Nuggets from the WEA Vaults - both of which veer into the lighter side of 60s music and in the case of Come To The Sunshine into the realm of 60s sunshine pop.
While these compilations aren't the first to dig into the softer side of the 60s (the Morning Glory Daze: Universal Soft Rock Collection series from Japan, the Soft Sounds For Gentle People, and Sunshine Days, Vol. 4: 60's Pop Classics all spring to mind, not to mention labels like Rev-Ola, who have been reissuing entire albums and mining labels for a couple of years now) Come To The Sunshine and Hallucinations are the first ones to be readily available in the US.
As with all Rhino Handmade discs, there's extra care taken in the packaging and liner notes to make these cds worth the extra bucks, and Come To The Sunshine has really cool artwork which includes a rotating kaleidoscope wheel along with the usual liner notes and archival photos. And these won't be around long with only 7500 individually numbered copies, Come To The Sunshine is very limited edition.
Come To The Sunshine spotlights the softer, poppier side of 60s music with some well known and documented groups along side lesser known obscure acts. Some of the well known acts include Harpers Bizarre, The Association, The Vogues, The Bonniwell Music Machine, Dino, Desi & Billy, Anita Kerr, The Tokens, The Cookies, Lee Mallory, and The Monkees - even The Everly Brothers have a go at the sunshine. These well known acts are augmented by lesser known but equally excellent artists like Pat Shannon, Salt, The Morning Glories, The Other Voices, The Street Corner Society, The Gas Company, Uncle Sound, The Coronados, The Looking Glass (not the Brandy band), and The Gates of Eden.
We are treated to the songwriting goodness of the likes of The Addrisi Brothers (4 tracks - who also are heard singing one of their own songs as well) Roger Nichols (2 tracks), Paul Willams (2 tracks - who is also heard in his first group Holy Mackerel), Brian Hyland (1 track), Van Dyke Parks (1 track), Seals & Croft (1 track - before they were known as Seals & Croft), Curt Boettcher (1 track), and the members of The Tokens (1 track).
We also get some great productions by the likes of Mike Rashkow & Ellie Greenwich (a prolific songwriting and production team for a few years in the late 60s and early 70s), Lenny Waronker (who produced Harpers Bizarre, as well as The Beau Brummels, The Mojo Men and Van Dyke Parks' Song Cycle), Dick Glasser (who also produced Boyce & Hart, Jackie DeShannon and Claudine Longet), Richard Perry (who also produced Captain Beefheart's Safe as Milk, Fanny's first album, and Sandy Posey), The Tokens' BT Puppy production team (producing a myriad of obscurities documented on Rev-Ola's Night Time Music), Joey Levine (best known for his work in The Archies, 1910 Fruitgum Company, and Ohio Express), and of course Curt Boettcher (best known for producing The Association's Along Comes Mary, but also known for his band The Millennium).
The collection starts out with Harpers Bizarre take on the Van Dyke Parks' composed tune Come To The Sunshine which was originally done by The Pleasure Fair on their lp in a more folk rocking / old fashioned music Americana style. Both versions are cool, The Pleasure Fair version is more Mamas and the Papas inspired and the Harpers Bizarre version is more subtle, orchestrated with harmony vocals. A Van Dyke Parks' version exists too.
The Association are heard on the tense, building invitation of a tune called Come on In. Interesting to note that this song was originally a folk tune, but here it's a real showstopper.
There couldn't be a soft pop compilation without the work of soft pop god Roger Nichols. Every song Roger co-composed on his lost lone album Roger Nichols and the Small Circle of Friends from 1968 was covered by an artist, long before he finally had hits with The Carpenters.
Here we get treated to the Dick Glasser produced / Roger Nichols and Smokey Roberd's (from The Parade, who also have their own sunshine pop anthem in Sunshine Girl on A&M, not featured here) written Just What I've Been Looking For, a soft pop gem well worth searching out.
Roger's songwriting pen also shows up on The Monkees' Someday Man, a Paul Williams co-penned tune and their last single as their career fizzled. This a great tune which was also recorded by Paul Williams on his brilliant solo album debut, as well as by The Casuals (whose song Jesamine is a Paul Weller favorite, as it can be heard on the Paul Weller Under The Influence compilation, which makes me wonder about their 1969 album Hour World on Decca, which incidentally also has the Addrisi Brothers penned Never My Love). Someday Man is one of those songs perfectly suited to The Monkees, and here Davy Jones can continue in his crooning mode but with a more mature song.
I've been trying to get a hold of Paul Williams first band's record called Holy Mackerel without much luck, so I've been making due song by song. Produced by Richard Perry we get to hear more of Paul Williams early songwriting genius and genesis on the song Scorpio Red which is from the band's sole lp from 1968 and has some hints of prog rock.
Richard Perry also produced the Beverly Hills single Uncle Sound which combines The Token's melodicism with some odd Boettcher psych-isms and vocal melodies.
A real find is Pat Shannon's Candy Apple, Cotton Candy which was also produced by Dick Glasser - in fact Pat Shannon was really Dick Glasser's brother Pat. It's a swirling kaleidoscope of pop goodness with a Boettcher-like verse and flutes augmenting the chorus.
Dick Glasser also produced The Morning Glories' Love-In and The Everly Brothers' Talking to the Flowers neither of which did too much for me - if I had a choice though I'd pick The Everly Brothers melodically sauntering tune which was found on the 1967 platter Sing and was the b-side to the song Mary Jane from July 1967 (The Everly Brothers also worked with Ron Elliott of The Beau Brummels on the Roots album from 1968).
A really exciting pop masterpiece is The Other Voices Hung Up On Love which has a 5th Dimension / Tokens sound to it, really upbeat and chipper in a harmony pop kind of way. This was an Ellie Greenwich/Mike Rashkow project and it's interesting to note that even though they were producing the group, Mike ended up singing the lead vocal. The whole thing really sounds great on cd - a full cd of all of their production and songwriting together is long overdue (which also includes The Hardy Boys and The Definitive Rock Chorale).
Fittingly, The Tokens are next on the compilation with their inspiring tune For All That I Am (which was co-written by the enigmatic Brute Force). Those of us that love harmony pop will love this tune (which was taken from their It's a Happening World lp from 1967).
Probably my most exciting find is the ultra obscure Street Corner Society's Summer Days, Summer Nights. I've had this and loved it on a scratchy sounding cd-r compilation, so it's breathtaking to finally hear this one loud and clear. It's too bad this obscure group was not more prolific, because this song is perfect for those warm summer days (and nights). Fittingly, one of the group members now sings in an a cappella group.
The Addrisi Brothers are all over this compilation. Lee Mallory's Take My Hand is a real nice Addrisi Brothers tune produced Curt Boettcher tune which was reissued recently on Lee Mallory's cd That's the Way It's Gonna Be. Honestly, I didn't listen very closely to Lee's cd, but hearing this wonderful gem of soft pop song has gotten me to take it out for reassessment (the album is comprised mainly of Mallory originals with only one Phil Ochs' song and this Addrisi Brothers tune).
The Addrisi Brothers' Time to Love has a wonderful sound which predates the sound made famous in Midnight Cowboy and by duos like Cashman & West and Mark and Sumley - that mix of pop harmonies and a western country guitar sound and rhythm.
Anita Kerr and her singers were best known for their vocal session work for Nashville country artists and for their easy listening music, here they are given a shot at The Addrisi Brothers' Happiness which is just that. I'm not sure I'd say this is even pop music though it does have those soft pop harmonies, but I still like it.
The Looking Glass do the perky attempt at a cross between the Mamas and the Papas and Motown with a song called Silver and Sunshine (How Wonderful Is Our Love) written by the Addrisi Brothers which really didn't do much for me.
Dino, Desi & Billy were doing their best to emulate the later sound of The Beach Boys' Friends era on Tell Someone That You Love Them. This is a real nice gem and was followed up by the Brian Wilson tune Lady Love, so if you like that sound check this one out.
It's interesting to hear The Cookies do the girl group sound in a soft pop mode on Wounded, though I think I'd say this is more psychedelic than soft (though it is of course soft). Any girl group fan will love this tense, experimental girl group song which is not available on The Complete Cookies cd.
The Bonniwell Music Machine is usually known for their rocking sound, but are certainly known for being unique. So it's no surprise to hear them record a classically inspired tune Discrepency. Luckily, they don't go into anything too artsy and keep the sophisticated melody and song structure within a subdued setting.
What's exciting about this collection is that no artist featured sounds like they are going at this sound out of kitsch value, these are all sincere performances, and even though the liner notes can't help but mention the guilt factor they think is inherent in enjoying this type of music, i think for those of us who never saw it that way, this is a chance to hear this obscure music in great cd sound.
The second Rhino Handmade collection, Hallucinations: Psychedelic Pop Nuggets from the WEA Vaults features a psychedelic edge with artists like The Electric Prunes and Kim Fowley (and The Monkees' lost mono mix of the Porpoise Song from their psych movie Head) - here's hoping I can get my hands on that one soon.