Various Artists: Where The Action Is! Los Angeles Nuggets 1965-1968


RIYL: Byrds, Beach Boys, Love

One would think that it wouldn’t have taken six volumes before the renowned Nuggets series finally got around to the fertile music scene that dominated Los Angeles in the mid ‘60s. With ample sets devoted to London and San Francisco, and extensive treatment given New York and the Northeast, cynics might perceive Where the Action Is! almost as an afterthought, coming, as it does, this late in the Nuggets progression. Nevertheless, it’s a welcome addition to the canon, given that the ‘60s were practically defined by the folk rock, psychedelia and experimental sounds that echoed through the Southern California canyons, its sprawling suburbs, white, sunny beaches, and the haunts and hangouts on the Sunset Strip. And while the roll call of musicians birthed in those environs encompasses some of the more formidable figures of modern rock and pop, the L.A. scene was also responsible for would-be innovators who etched only a momentary foothold in that innovative era.

This, of course, is where Nuggets has always served its purpose, to bring to light the obscure and unlikely artists that have slipped through the cracks, both the one-hit wonders and early permutations of bands that would ultimately achieve stardom under some later aegis. And in the case of Where The Action Is!, that mission has never been better served. The obvious examples from that era are, of course, well-represented, from Captain Beefheart and the Byrds to the Beach Boys and Buffalo Springfield, while bands like Love, the Seeds and the Turtles, transient teen idols Dino, Desi & Billy, Kim Fowley and Keith Allison, and preposterous pretenders such as Peter Fonda and Noel Harrison also find a good fit. As befitting those heady, innocent days, there are plenty of band brands that give cause for chuckles, given that the psychedelic ‘60s propagated groups with names like the Everpresent Fullness, London Phogg, Farpardokly, Limey & the Yanks, Ken & the Fourth Dimension, the W.C. Fields Memorial Electric String Band and, of course, the Peanut Butter Conspiracy.

Happily, though, beyond a few laughable attempts to keep up with the times – note Rick Nelson’s attempts to get all druggy and descriptive with “Marshmallow Skies” and the Monkees’ psychedelic “Daily Nightly” – most of the music is surprisingly engaging. To the producers’ credit, less obvious entries from the better-known bands are tapped for inclusion, even to the extent of providing a rare alternate take of “Heroes and Villains” that differs dramatically from the final version. The real mother lode comes in the form of an early, heretofore undiscovered recording of “Sit Down I Think I Love You,” recorded by ex Au Go-Go Singers Steve Stills and Richie Furay prior to their later union in Buffalo Springfield.

Likewise, early works by Taj Mahal, Warren Zevon, Randy Newman, Nilsson and Little Feat’s Lowell George also serve historical interest and add value to a set that seems worthy enough – given its four discs, over a hundred songs and an extensive chronicle – to substantiate its $64.98 suggested retail price. An excellent compendium from a Day-Glo period, this may be the nicest Nuggets of all. (Rhino 2009)

  

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