Various - Love, Poetry and Revolution: a Journey Through the British Psychedelic and Underground Scenes 1966-1972
It's been a while since anyone put out a decent early psychedelic compilation, so three cheers to Grapefruit for this lovingly curated 3-CD set covering the genre's initial explorations, through to some early 70s splutterings recorded at a time when hard rock and more pastoral fare had absorbed many of the genre stalwarts. Few of the names are what you'd call household, but alongside The Spencer Davis Group, Kevin Coyne and an early incarnation of Hawkwind, there are cameo appearances from the likes of Greg Lake and (most of) Deep Purple, serving their apprenticeships in acts who rarely got beyond releasing one or two singles.
The earliest recordings show how what become known as 'psychedelia' carried with it the heavy soul and mod influences that sustained the London club scene. The Beatles might have been getting trippy, but for The In Crowd and The Hi Fis it was still Motown and The Who that were the driving influences. The brilliant Tintern Abbey showcase the twee-er elements that began to creep into the genre by late '67; the incredibly evocative Felius Andromeda ('Cheadle Heath Delusions') and Crocheted Doughnut Ring ('Two Little Ladies [Azalea and Rhododendron]') expose the lack of imagination of so many modern acts content to call their material 'Summer' or 'Lights' or such inanity.
By 1968, the UK version of psych was in full-effect. The Mirage's Ebaneezer Beaver' manages to combine a sinister 'Boris The Spider' edge with dreamy harmonies and fretboard fireworks in just over two minutes, while 'Teagarden Lane' by Jason Crest is part-The Move, part-'Lucy In The Sky ...'. Clearly LSD was starting to replace purple hearts as the drug of choice. The Deviants were snottier, channelling an almost MC5 energy on 'You've Got To Hold On', and if you want an indication of how quickly things were evolving, check out the proto-Stooges riffery, feedback and sonic squall on the bad trip of The Liverpool Scene's 'We'll All Be Spacemen Before We Die.' Bummer, man.
The history books will tell you that psych was dead by the turn of the decade, but of course there were still acts making trippy, explorative music, even if it wasn't reflected in the charts or on Top Of The Pops. The Fut appeared on many a Beatles out-take bootleg (in reality, it was one of the Bee-Gees messing about with his pals) and the hand of the Fab Four was also on the shoulder of the McCartney-esque 'Rainchild' by Octopus. With the heavier end of psych morphing into hard rock, Mark Fry's 'The Witch' from the summer of 1972, with its frenzied sitar work and spooky ambience, is a good example of what we now call 'acid folk', where the expansive sound of psychedelia increasingly turned inward and personal.
While it's fair to say the best of British psychedelia is not on these three discs - the killer tracks have already been compiled elsewhere - for sheer attention to detail, value for money and dedication to the material and cause, this is an essential purchase.