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VA - Circus Days. Pop Psych Obscurities 1966-1972 (2010)

This massive set brings together all six of the Circus Days collections, and taken as a whole like this, it’s about as much British late-'60s psych-pop as anyone outside of an insane asylum could possibly handle. One wonders what these musicians were putting in their tea. Opening with Clover's “Ice Cream Man” (the lyrics begin “Riding down the road like a giant toad in rubber boots” and then unravel from there), this set is part flower power, part circus clown act, and part tongue-in-cheek put-on (one hopes). It’s difficult to know whether to laugh, cry, or walk away quickly from tracks like Johnny Burton's “Polevault Man,” Dry Ice's “Running to the Convent,” the Fingers' “Circus with a Female Clown,” Scots of St. James' “Eiderdown Clown,” and the Majamood's “200 Million Red Ants,” and these are just a handful of the odd, silly, and bizarre sides presented here. Not everything baffles, of course -- the Mirage's version of the Beatles' “Tomorrow Never Knows” is actually pretty cool, for instance, but on the whole, the flowery mushroom lyrics of these cuts accumulate to possibly dangerous levels. That said, it’s also kind of fun hearing these extremely rare recordings, and it’s sort of like listening to a giant Monty Python soundtrack. It’s all in the head -- or the tea. Oh, and if the opening version of “Ice Cream Man” isn’t odd enough for the braver listeners out there, a second take (labeled the “psych” version) comes around later in the set. --- Steve Leggett

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