Back in the seventies, then rock critic and armchair music historian Lenny Kaye put out this great two-record compilation featuring all of the great garage bands of the sixties called Nuggets.
For record collectors, the original Nuggets was a gold mine. Fans who had long since given up on trying to track down those long out of print elusive tracks by the likes of one hit wonders like the Electric Prunes and the 13th Floor Elevators — bands whose raw, fuzzed out guitar jams only slightly predated psychedelia — had at last found the holy grail of sixties garage punk.
The original Nuggets compilation soon became something of a franchise, spawning an entire series dating well into the eighties and even the nineties. These days, you can find the best of those discs on the boxed set Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era.
The thing is, you could even say the original Nuggets pretty much served as the blueprint for things like Sirius Satellite Radio's Underground Garage format, hosted by Little Steven. Meanwhile Lenny Kaye — the man who created the eventual series — went on to play guitar for the Patti Smith Group, where he remains to this day.
I'm not sure exactly what, if any, connection there is between the just released four disc set Love Is the Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-1970 and that original series — well, outside of the name anyway. But the idea and the spirit here are pretty much one and the same. This time around however, they are applied specifically to psychedelia, and what most will agree was the scene of the crime — San Francisco circa the 1967 Summer Of Love.
As with the original Nuggets discs, compiler Alex Palao here delves deep into the music underground of that time, uncovering such long forgotten psychedelic bands as the original Charlatans (non U.K.), the Count Five, and the Chocolate Watch Band. Of course, the bands you already know from that period are here too — from the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead to Quicksilver Messenger Service and Big Brother And The Holding Company (with Janis Joplin).
In the extensive liner notes here, Palao puts it all in a historical perspective, connecting the dots between pioneers like Country Joe & The Fish (represented here with the EP version of "Feel Like I'm Fixing To Die Rag"), and more peripheral players like Dan Hicks And His Hot Licks.
Bottom line is that as a great collection of the best psychedelic music from the period, it just doesn't get much better — or more complete — than this. You've got the better known songs like the Airplane's "Somebody To Love," the Dead's "Dark Star," and the Youngbloods' "Get Together." But you also get rarities from the likes of Blue Cheer (arguably the first true heavy metal band), Moby Grape, and the Beau Brummels.
There have, of course, been a ton of these type of boxed sets this year celebrating the 40th anniversary of the so-called "Summer Of Love." What sets this one apart is both the historical depth it covers, and the obvious labor of love involved in its creation.
Somewhere in rock and roll heaven, you gotta think that the Godfather of Bay Area rock critics — Ralph J. Gleason himself — might just be spinning Love Is the Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-1970.
And smiling like a Cheshire cat, man.