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.

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Buckwheat Zydeco: Lay Your Burden Down

It really says something about the enduring appeal of an artist’s sound when his 30th anniversary announcement is surprising not only because of how far he’s come, but because it seems like he’s been around much, much longer. Such is the case with Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural, Jr., leader of the venerable Louisiana combo Buckwheat Zydeco; his music is tied in so tightly with its rich traditional roots – but constantly brimming with infectious, life-affirming energy – that it’s never sounded anything but timeless. To celebrate his three decades in the trenches, Dural has enlisted a drool-worthy array of special guests for Lay Your Burden Down, including Warren Haynes, Sonny Landreth, JJ Grey, and Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews – not to mention Steve Berlin behind the boards (and sitting in with the horn section). With all that talent in the studio, it’d be a shame if Burden was weighed down with pedestrian material; thankfully, the album shines on that front, too – it kicks off with a cracking cover of “When the Levee Breaks” and keeps on strutting through a combination of solid originals and equally inspired covers (including Bruce Springsteen’s “Back in Your Arms” and Captain Beefheart’s “Too Much Time”). Typically stellar stuff from Buckwheat Zydeco, in other words. May Buckwheat’s accordion ring for another three decades. (Alligator 2009)

Buckwheat Zydeco MySpace page


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