Review: Where The Action Is (Los Angeles Nuggets 1965-1968)
Ever listen to some dusty old music and become consumed with the feeling “damn, I think I was born too late”?
That’s the sense I had as I listened to Rhino’s latest entry in their ongoing garage rock vault excavation, Where The Action Is, a four-disc scoop of music relating to mid-to-late 60s Los Angeles scene. Wrapped in a tall, thin package with the look and shape of a children’s book, it’s dense with details on over 100 tracks, plus a load of contemporaneous artwork from the Sunset Strip milieu.
Credit curators Andrew Sandoval, Alec Palao and Cheryl Pawelski for doing their best to steer clear of well-trod ground. Sure, anyone willing to fork out for this set probably already owns Love’s Forever Changes (represented here by “You Set The Scene”) or The Doors’ debut (“Take It As It Comes”) or possesses a Buffalo Springfield album (“Go And Say Goodbye” isn’t exactly a rarity). The latter gesture is redeemed by the inclusion of a previously unreleased demo by Stephen Stills and Richie Furay harmonizing on “Sit Down, I Think I Love You.” Likewise, although the Monkees’ creepy “Daily Nightly” is included, so is a rare Boyce & Hart demo for another Monkees proto-psych nugget, “Words.”
The real value in a box set of this kind is not in reaffirming the merit of the already celebrated, it’s to unearth the forgotten, the stuff history has ignored — for better or worse. Little Feat leader Lowell George’s outfit The Factory sounds like a pilled-up Dylan (well, more pilled up that Dylan) on the jittery jangler “Candy Cane Madness.” The Sonny & Cher b-side nasal singalong “It’s Gonna Rain,” the Bobby Fuller Four’s snarling “Baby My Heart,” Peter Fonda’s surprisingly accomplished “September Nights” (with Hugh Masekela on horns), the W. C. Fields Memorial String Band’s must-be-heard-to-be-believed “Hippy Elevator Operator,” or “My Girlfriend Is A Witch” by October Country — it’s like turning over rocks and marveling at what you’ll find amid the pop cultural castoffs squirming underneath.
The music and accompanying material creates an alluring, vivid portrait of a time and place. Gone but not forgotten.