Album Review: Various Artists — We All Shine On

When thinking back on a particular year in music, there’s often a temptation to focus on a specific subgenre. And most compilations surveying a period tend to organize their selections around a theme. But a new various-artists set takes a very different approach.

We All Shine On: Celebrating the Music of 1970 casts a wide net across the musical landscape of that pivotal year in music. The Spyderpop label is best known for a specific type of power pop (most notably the work Lannie Flowers), but here the music doesn’t limit itself to that substyle.

As with any collection of this type, We All Shine On is a mixed bag. But it features plenty of compelling readings of songs from a wide array of styles: soul (“Are You Ready?” covered by Petsche/Raines), AM pop (“Mama Told Me Not to Come” covered by the inimitable Bill Lloyd) and much more. Mark Lindsay’s “Arizona” (Darian) coexists with “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind this Time)” (by Mitch Easter) and Neil Diamond’s “Cracklin’ Rose” (The Brothers Steve).

Some acts reinvent the tunes, but in general the tone is a faithful one. Sparkle*jets UK have one of the best cuts, but you’ll likely have your own favorites. Danny Wilkerson’s cover of “Everything is Beautiful” is nearly as saccharine as Ray Stevens’ original, and one supposes that in context, that’s as it should be. In a bit of typecasting, Jonathan Pushkar covers the Partridge Family. In contrast, Marc Jonson expertly strips away (some of) the twee-ness from Melanie’s “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain).”

AM gold-type material does dominate the set, but covers of rockers by The Guess Who (“Share the Land”), George Harrison (“What is Life”) and even The Stooges (“Loose”) keep listeners on their toes. Some long-forgotten tunes are unearthed, like The Armoires’ bouncy reading of “Yellow River” and Bobby Sutliff’s cover of “Indiana Wants Me.” Yes, you can go back there, and the nearly 20 artists who contributed to We All Shine On can take you there in style.

The cover art is a wonderful bit of Ronco/K-Tel-styled color splashiness, and the thick liner note booklet will tell you a good bit of what you’ll want to know re. who-and-what.

Nota bene: the title is a bit misleading; you won’t find any John Lennon covers here. Irene Peña’s tuneful reading of “Come and Get It” will have to suffice.