Album Review: Various Artists – March of the Flower Children

A strong case can be made that Lenny Kaye started it all. When Nuggets appeared in the early 1970s, the idea of curated archival releases wasn’t a common one. Kaye’s compilation was very much a subjective creation, reflecting his interests and tastes. Luckily for us, his taste is superb. And in the wake of Nuggets’ slow-burn success, an entire cottage industry of sorts wold develop. It’s hard to even imagine a label like Rhino even existing without the precedent that Nuggets set for thoughtful compilations.

That said, in its current guise, Rhino has largely moved away from creating genre-defining collections like Loud, Fast and Out of Control, Can You Dig It and the like. But other labels have appeared to fill that void, ding the yeoman (yeoperson?) work of crate-digging and research necessary to bring collections like March of the Flower Children: The American Sounds of 1967.

On one level, March of the Flower Children is simply the latest in a long string of CD comps that examine some of the more shadowy corners of the music scene. This collection homes in on a narrow slice of the music landscape: one country, one year. But it does so in a manner that is ceaselessly entertaining and often enlightening.

Certainly, psych and garage aficionados will have heard many of these tracks. They (you?) may even have the songs in your collection, perhaps several times over. In fact, a number of the cuts on this 3CD set are actually on the original Nuggets or one of its muilti-disc expanded reissues.

But for every “No Time Like the Right Time” (The Blues Project) or “A Question of Temperature” (The Balloon Farm) there are several deep cuts the likes of which you haven’t heard and don’t own. In and of itself, that fact makes March of the Flower Children worth investigation.

Add to that the fact that many of these deep obscurities are very good – sometimes even great – and the collection soars toward the designation of essential. Add to that some superb liner notes that fill in the blanks (when able) to provide context and background on the tracks, and March of the Flower Children reaches the category of indispensable.

Way back in the ‘90s I participated in a fan-driven project, one with goals quite similar to the mindset that brings us March of the Flower Children. That project – known as U-SPACES – served up some wildly obscure tracks, sourcing them from crackly vinyl (as if they could be found in any other format). To this day, many of the tracks on those comps – the number of which figures into the dozens of CDRs – remain officially uncomped. But then along comes March of the Flower Children, unearthing some of those nearly-lost cuts.

For those whose tastes in music run toward the psychedelic, or popsike-a-delic or garage-adelic and such – March of the Flower Children is sure to provide many hours of enjoyment. So thanks to Lenny Kaye for that original Nuggets, and thanks to Grapefruit Records for this (and related) sets.