'Nuggets' from pre-punk vault

CD REVIEWS

September 17, 1998|By J.D. Considine Jazz Joshua Redman

'Nuggets'

Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era 1965-68 (Rhino 75466)

In 1972, Elektra Records released a double-LP set called "Nuggets." Compiled by critic and guitarist Lenny Kaye (who would later rise to fame as Patti Smith's principal collaborator), the set offered 27 "Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era" - that is, singles ranging from the Count Five's "Psychotic Reaction" to "Don't Look Back" by the Remains.

At the time, the notion behind "Nuggets" was pretty radical. Most critics saw the rock canon as being a matter of great albums, with an emphasis on arty, ambitious efforts like "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and "Tommy." That an important part of the rock aesthetic could be encoded in a handful of amateurish, half-forgotten singles seemed unthinkable to them; wasn't rock on its way to becoming serious art?

Well, no. If anything, it was headed in the opposite direction, moving to the visceral primitivism of punk, and "Nuggets" became the road map for thousands of musicians and fans. By 1976, when the set was re-issued (this time by Sire, home of the Ramones), fledgling punk rockers were scouring record stores for singles by the Sonics, the Standells and other "Nuggets" of rock and roll gold.

Among those rummaging through the oldies bins were Gary Stewart and Bill Inglot, two of the producers who helped Kaye expand his original album into a four-CD boxed set. Both men were clearly inspired by the original, because the expanded "Nuggets" not only conveys all the excitement of the original, but manages to be just as enlightening.

Augmenting Kaye's classic 27 with an additional 91 singles, this new "Nuggets" is a veritable treasure trove of garage-rock gold. Even better, its presentation is a rock archivist's dream. Not only are the bulk of the tracks offered in the original mono, but there are extensive liner notes, including the producer, personnel (when known) and release date for each single. The set is almost an education in itself.

Then, of course, there's the music. "Nuggets" isn't about hits, and though there are a smattering of classics included - "Woolly Bully" by Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs, "Louie Louie" by the Kingsmen, "She's About a Mover" by the Sir Douglas Quintet - most of the bands are utterly obscure. Who but fanatics would be familiar with the likes of the Litter, the Daily Flash, Unrelated Segments or Harbinger Complex?

Yet each of these acts had something to say and an interesting way of saying it. Some tracks, such as "I Want Candy" by the Strangeloves or "Mr. Pharmacist" by the Other Half, inspired memorable remakes (by Bow Wow Wow and the Fall, respectively); others, like "Can't Seem To Make You Mine" by the Seeds or "Run, Run, Run" by the Gestures just deserve to be remade. But all are worth hearing, and the care with which they were collected makes this new "Nuggets" worth its weight in gold. **** Timeless Tales (For Changing Times) (Warner Bros. 47052)

Usually, jazzmen are drawn to standards by the musical possibilities the songs contain - the ways their melodic and harmonic structures inspire improvisation. But Joshua Redman was attracted to the standards anchoring "Timeless Tales (For Changing Times)" for different reasons. "Summertime," "Love for Sale" and "Yesterdays" aren't just great tunes; they've also accumulated a certain cultural weight, and it's to Redman's credit that he is able to respect these songs' importance while bringing fresh perspective to their interpretation. Redman and his quartet (especially pianist Brad Mehldau) invariably avoid the obvious, offering solos so fresh that each piece seems cast in an original voice. That's especially true of "The Times They Are A-Changin'," which serves as a launching pad for an impassioned modal improvisation. **1/2

J.D. Considine

Pop/rock

Hootie & the Blowfish

Musical Chairs (Atlantic 83136)

Although the phenomenal success of Hootie & the Blowfish's "Cracked Rear View" may have been unexpected, it's no fluke that the band rose to prominence. "Musical Chairs," the group's third major-label album, is strong, smart and tuneful, confirming the band's continued growth. Although "Musical Chairs" opens with "I Will Wait," a dramatic, melancholy ballad that evokes the sound of "Let Her Cry," the album's most interesting songs are those that go beyond the group's signature strengths. There's more in the way of rock aggression, for one thing, with "Answer Man" and the R.E.M.-ish "Wishing" providing more than their share of air-guitar fodder. But the most charming moments are country-ish, acoustic numbers like "Desert Mountain Showdown." ***

J.D. Considine

They Might Be Giants

Severe Tire Damage (Restless 01877 72965)

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