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Various Artists - Green Crystal Ties Volumes One To Ten (1998) review

Various Artists "Green Crystal Ties Volumes One To Ten" (Collectables Records, 1998)

Spurred by the historical British Invasion of 1964, which involved incredible acts such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Kinks, the Animals, the Who, the Dave Clark Five, the Searchers and dozens of other comparably amazing groups that forever altered the context and complexion of pop music with their hip sounds and looks, kids everywhere started forming their own bands patterned after these guitar wielding warriors sporting soup-bowl haircuts, turtleneck sweaters and pointy-toed boots. A thriving scene was expectedly born, and this series celebrates an assortment of American groups from the wildly fertile era, meaning the mid to late sixties of course. Considering none of these bands scored major hit singles, commercial radio listeners are apt not to recognize their work. But a fair number of these groups acquired stardom within their own community, which was possible to do back then. Steady live gigs provided the bands exposure and many of them also sired independently distributed discs that sold well in the local shops and attained healthy regional airplay. Ok, so now that you've been handed the basic rundown on what "Green Crystal Ties," which nicks its name from a Zakary Thaks song, is about, here's a brief synopsis of what each installment entails...

Volume One "60s Garage Band Rebels" Focusing strictly on Texas groups, "60s Garage Band Rebels" features "Green Crystal Ties" by Zakary Thaks, and a previously unreleased version at that. Manned by driving acid rock pulsations, the track smokes with force and fury. Awash with choppy rhythms and nervous energy, "Face To Face" and "Won't Come Back" are additional Zakary Thaks tunes on "60s Garage Band Rebels," and a sleepy-eyed Pretty Things styled blues feel materializes on "I'm A King Bee" and "Taste Of The Same" from the Bad Seeds. Compellingly quirky, Michael's "People See IV" marries abstract Bob Dylan flavored poetry to a sparkly pop finish ala Gary Lewis and the Playboys, while the Outlaws turn in a couple of solid garage rock winners with "Worlds Apart" and "Fun, Fame And Fortune." And for a double dose of potent psychedelic rock, cock your ears towards the Liberty Bell's "Reality Is The Only Answer" and the bizarre tempo shifting swirls of "Situations" by the Nomads.

Volume Two "Best Of The 60s Garage Band Scene" Coming together in 1961, King Richard and the Knights reigned supreme as an instrumental surf rock combo in their hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico until our European kin arrived and pretty much rendered the genre obsolete. But King Richard and the Knights plugged on and adapted to the changing times as evidenced by the catchy pop rock of "How About Now" and the falsetto-flecked "I Don't Need You" that borrows equally from the Four Seasons and Merseybeat bands. Elsewhere, the Basement Wall's haunting "Never Existed" cribs a cop from the semi-jazz leanings of the Zombies and the Penthouse 5 reveal a chamelonesque nature, first with the gruff and tough Animals inspired "You're Gonna Make Me," then with "You're Always Around," a warm and shimmering slice of attentively crafted flower pop.

Volume Three "Gloria Meets 96 Tears" An olio of highlights are to be had on "Gloria Meets 96 Tears," especially the scratchy fuzztone fervor of "Don't Hurt Me" and the ringing twelve-string folk rock sensations of "Change My Mind," which are both by the Beefeaters. The Chevelle 5 check in with a pair of shining nuggets too, with the harmoniously glowing "I'm Sorry Girl" and the crude and rugged blues based "Come Back Bird," while the Sidewinders combine rising classical chords with sophistcated pop aspects on the absolutely beautiful "Tears From Laughing" and the Infinite Pyramid's "On A Windowsill" bounces relentlessly to a snappy beat and an impossibly contagious chorus. To be frank, Thursday's Children's copy of "Gloria" doesn't quite match the killer waxings by Them and the Shadows of Knight, but the Connecticut band does unveil a stimulating slab of psychedelic urgency with "Love And Things." Las Cruces, New Mexico was the stomping grounds of the Keyman, whose frat rock fixations are flaunted on "Shop Around" and "Little Latin Lupe Lu," and from the Bonnevilles, there's a charming take of "96 Tears," which was, needless to say, orginally done by Question Mark and the Mysterians.

Volume Four "Mind-Expanding 60's Psychedelia" Don't be fooled by the title because only a few entries can actually be classified as psychedelic music. Among these treats are Hydro Pyro's "Id" and "Hydro Pyro" that exert the kind of quirkiness embedded in the wares of the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, along with the brooding tenor of Knights Bridge's "Make Me Some Love" and "CJ Smith." Fueled by grit and determination, the Outside In's "You Ain't Gonna Bring Me Down To My Knees" serves as a priceless Animals imitation, and the Exotics strut their stuff on the hard-edged garage rock of "I Was Alone" and "Queen Of Shadows." Dwelling in the cover field, there's the Uncalled For's recycling of Bob Dylan's "Masters Of War" and the Beatles and the Byrds are saluted on "It's Only Love" and "It Won't Be Wrong" respectively by the Stowaways.

Volume Five "Gems From The Garage Band Vaults" The pride and joy of Hayes, Kansas, the Blue Things flex their folk rock muscles to fine effects on "Hollow" and "Waiting For Changes," as SJ and the Crossroads deliver a couple of fetching punky pieces via "London Girl" and "Funny Woman." Fusing pop sensibiities with a saucy garage bite, Morning Dew's "No More" is a certified corker, and ditto for the incisive grip of the Nickel Bag's "It's A Hassle" and "Two Timer" from the Tempos. A legendary New England band, North Atlantic Invasion Force donate a couple of tasty tricks to "Gems From The Garage Band Vaults" with "I Won't Be Back" and "Blue Light In The Window," and the Movin' Morfomen's herky-jerky "What's Happened To Me" and fanny-kicking reading of "Try It," which was previously recorded by the Ohio Express and the Standells, also register as not to be missed marvels.

Volume Six "Rarities From The Psychedelic Vaults" Appropriately coined, "Rarities From The Psychedelic Vaults" is packed with unissued material of the hallucinogenic variety. Possessed by the soul of Jimi Hendrix, the Buzzsaw trip and flip on the woozy "Saturn Is Just A Few Days Away" and the dark and dreary "Death Calls," while Sunset Love's heavenly harmonious "Reach Out" and "Run To The Sun" yields impressions of the Mamas and the Papas on a pot-infested paisley binge. Loud, crazy and laced with acid-dotted jazz doodles, Seompi's "Summer's Coming On Heavy" is a guaranteed brain-rattler, where the Frantics offer the heady happenings of "Relax Your Mind" and the chugging Buffalo Springfield fashioned riffage of "Just For A While." Rusty, crusty demos of the Human Expression's reedy Seeds-stained "Calm Me Down" and weirdly hypnotic "Optical Sound" further flood the landscape, and the Love Flowers tickle our fancy with "Nirvana" and "Peace And Love," which begin on soft and pristine footing before climaxing into rousing cheers. Last but not least, the Arkay IV's "Demotion" and "Valley Of Conneaut Creek" rock with the sort of brawn and bluster characterized by Steppenwolf.

Volume Seven "Mind-Expanding Punk Of The 60s" If you can forgive the misleading title, as there is nothing mind-expanding about these pure and simple tunes, there's still plenty to dig here. The Tidal Waves prove to be the best of the bounty, as attested by the clinging and crunchy clutch of "Action (Speaks Louder Than Words)" followed closely by the Kings Court, whose "Don't Put Me On" is a teen punk prize through and through. The Sting Rays show their love for John, Paul, George and Ringo on a cute and excitable cover of "Eight Days A Week," while our friends from Louisiana, the Basement Wall, say thanks to the Blues Magoos by way a fast and frenzied version of "We Ain't Got Nothing Yet" and then there's the enthused and economical garage pop of "Baby What You Want Me To Do" and "Baby Please Don't Go" by Tony Lane and the Fabulous Spades.

Volume Eight "Stomping Garage Band Legends" There's no doubt the state of Michigan was flush with boss groups during the sixties, and the Unrelated Segments were one of the sharpest of the flock. Here on "Stomping Garage Band Legends," they wail and whine about rotted romance on "The Story Of My Life" and rumble and grumble about alienation on "Where You Gonna Go" in a most convincing punk attitude. Peppered with screechy harp drills and a nagging hook, "I'm In PIttsburgh And It's Raining" by the Outcasts owes a nod to the early etchings of the Rolling Stones, and likewise for the thumping "Bad Day Blues" from the Headstones. Marked by jumpy danceable grooves, "Catch A Thief" and "The Haul" by the Fronts weigh in as other memorable songs on the disc.

Volume Nine "The Great Lost Psychedelic Garage Bands" Perhaps my favorite of the lot, "The Great Lost Psychedelic Garage Bands" is consistently excellent. From the ghostly air of the Lemon Fog's "Summer" to the Deep's repetitiously mesmerizing "Pink Ether" to the Nuchez's nimbly speedy "Open Up Your Mind" to a spellbinding version of Hal David and Burt Bacharach's "Walk On By" from the Outcasts, here's a record where not a weak link is to be found. Stacked to the skies with goosepimply choruses and arresting breaks, "Mystic Cloud" by the Pagens, the Kreeg's slow and heavy version of the Yardbirds "For Your  Love" and jaunty and jolting tracks from the Lemon Drops such as "It Happens Everyday" and "I Live In The Springtime" count as further picks to click on "The Great Lost Psychedelic Garage Bands." And let's not exlcude the Smokin' Bananas, whose "Wait Wait" and "Will You Love Me Tomorrow," the latter not to be confused with the Shirelles song of the same moniker, pour surf guitars and surf drums over screaming vocals in a mettlesome manner.

Volume Ten "60s Garage Band Flashback" Hailing from Washington DC, the Mad Hatters boasted a talent for pinching elements from the hot acts of the day, then posting their own unique stamp onto their musical letters. A folk rock masterstroke, "A Pebble In My Sand" mixes the grainy, grumpy vocals of Bob Dylan with the crispy punch of the Blue Things and "Go Fight Alone" rests on the bluesy Yardbirds side of the fence. A Michigan band, the Trees embrace psychedelic exploration with gusto on the utterly astounding "The Only Life For Me," which wiggles and wooshes with seizing sound effects and fuzz guitar flourishes. Properly dubbed, "Temporary Insanity" by the Intruders is a demented dish of raw but right art damaged goofiness and "Gingerbread Man" from the Shades reels and races with untamed tension, complete with a perverted chuckle.

So there you have it - ten volumes of the good, the bad, the ugly, the cool, the corny, the strange and the stupendous. Clearly rooted in the vein of compilation albums like "Nuggets," "Pebbles," "Mindrocker," "Psychedelic States" and "Fuzz, Flaykes And Shakes," these discs capture how remarkably diversified rock and roll was in the sixties. Restrictions were nil, as bands were so motivated to have the opportunity to create music that they basically threw ideas at the wall to see what stuck. Ten volumes may be a bit much to digest, but those with a yen for authentic psychedelic garage rock will not grow bored or tired of the contents strewn across this splendid representation of an iconic movement.

Review made by Beverly Paterson/2013
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