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Various Artists - The Psychedelic Scene (1998)

The 25 tracks on this single-CD title have been derived from the mid-'60s archives of U.K.-based Decca Records and associated subsidiaries, such as their progressive and psych-intensive offshoot, Deram. The Psychedelic Scene (1998) is a key entry in the label's critically respected and listener-lauded "scene"-related releases. This installment thematically links harder-to-find cuts from a variety of groups, many of whom issued only a handful (if that many) of 45s. In some cases, the artists left more in the vaults than ever made it to store racks. In fact, all but the most scholarly enthusiast probably won't be familiar with the vast majority of the featured names. However, what is lacking in instant recognition is more than compensated for by the consistently clever and sonically stimulating sides. Producers likewise chose to highlight exceedingly obscure songs from the "name" acts as well. The Moody Blues' trippy pop fare "Love & Beauty" dates prior to the band's virtual re-invention on Days of Future Passed (1967). "Turn Into Earth" is one of singer/songwriter Al Stewart's earliest efforts, although it would be a decade before he garnered success stateside with "Year of the Cat." While the mournful waltz was not really a precursor to his more lucrative direction, Stewart's ethereal voice is unmistakable. "That Man" is a "lost classic" in the sense that while the Small Faces may not have been fundamental contributors to the British psych movement, the strength of material such as this demonstrates the combo's uncanny versatility. "14 Hour Technicolour Dream" is from the short-lived Syn, whose personnel at one time or another included future Yes men Peter Banks (guitar) and Chris Squire (bass). Among the other appealing platters are the Accent's proto-punk-ish "Red Sky at Night," the Poets' "In Your Tower," Virgin Sleep's soulful and catchy "Secret," and the Societie's (sp) "Bird Has Flown." Interestingly, the latter band was discovered by the Hollies' Allan Clarke. Although some may find the 12-page liner booklet a bit sparse on discographical and biographical information, there are plenty of photos and vintage graphics amid the text. The Psychedelic Scene is recommended for inclined parties and is likewise a copious and worthwhile primer.  --- Lindsay Planer

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