Tuned In To Music

Reflections from a lifetime

Review: Various Artists, Summer of Love, The Hits of 1967

The Summer of Love, The Hits of 1967 is a two CD +  one DVD collection released by Time-Life to comemorate what was an extraordinary year in music.  The DVD is entitled “My Generation” which is Part 6 of Time-Life’s 10 DVD The History of Rock ‘N’ Roll set.  The CDs are labeled AM and FM and are supposed to capture the different types of music being played on the two radio formats at the time.  The collection comes with a booklet that contains an introduction by Jorma Kaukonen the lead guitar player for Jefferson Airplane and fluff paragraphs on each of the songs included on the two CDs.  As a set devoted to the music of 1967, there’s good news and bad news here.

The good news is that the collection contains a lot of good music that people who were into rock and pop music at the time will remember and enjoy.  Although the set is called “The Summer of Love”, it doesn’t focus on either the San Francisco music scene or tracks released in the summer.    Anything released in 1967 is fair game.  (See the Tuned In To Music podcasts on 1960’s San Francisco Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 for a more thorough coverage of the SF music scene.)  The AM set includes often collected songs such as “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)” (Scott McKenzie), “A Whiter Shade of Pale” (Procol Harem), and “Happy Together” (The Turtles) along with some less common, and therfore more enjoyable to hear again tunes like “Talk Talk” (The Music Machine), “Sunday Will Never Be the Same” (Spanky and Our Gang), and “Little Bit o’ Soul” (The Music Explosion).  Other tracks on the AM disc include “Darling Be Home Soon” (The Lovin’ Spoonful, a personal favorite), “Creeque Alley” (The Mamas and the Papas), “Gimme Some Lovin'” (The Spencer Davis Group) and “Let’s Live for Today” (The Grass Roots).

Splitting the collection into AM and FM discs was a good idea in that it was around this time that FM radio became a home for exciting music programming that featured album cuts and few if any ads.  As you would expect, the FM disc is more varied but it’s also more hit or miss.  Among the hits are “I Feel Free” (Cream), “Friday on My Mind” (The Easybeats), “(We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet” (The Blues Magoos) and “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” (The Byrds).  Among the misses are “It’s a Happening Thing” (The Peanut Butter Conspiracy) and “Paper Sun” (Traffic, a miss considering the great “Dear Mr. Fantasy” is on the same album).  In general, the FM disc is a disappointment as many of the tracks such as “Somebody To Love” (Jefferson Airplane’s biggest selling single) and “Brown Eyed Girl” (Van Morrison) should have been on the AM disc or that cuts like “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” (Vanilla Fudge) are presented in the sub 3 minute AM radio version rather than the 7+ minute version that was regularly played on FM stations at the time.

The bad news comes when you realize the extraordinary music that was released in 1967 that is not included in the collection.  It is almost certainly the case that legal barriers prevented the inclusion of almost all of this music.  Still, when you take into account what is missing, The Summer of Love, The Hits of 1967 looks weak indeed.

Soul music and R&B are particularly poorly represented.  We get “Reflections” (Diana Ross and the Supremes) and “I Was Made to Love Her” (Stevie Wonder).  Which sound fine until you realize that Aretha Franklin released “Respect”, “(You Make Me Feel) Like a Natural Woman”, “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You”, and “Chain of Fools” all in 1967.  In addition, “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” (Gladys Knight and the Pips), “Funky Broadway ” (Wilson Pickett), “I Second That Emotion” (Smokey Robinson and the Miracles), “Soul Man” (Sam & Dave), “Tramp” (Otis Redding and Carla Thomas) and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough (Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell) all came out in 1967.

Other genres of music don’t fare any better.  On the AM side of the equation 1967 saw the release of a number of important singles that are not in the set including “Ode to Billie Joe” (Bobbie Gentry), “The Beat Goes On” (Sonny & Cher), and “Groovin'” (The Young Rascals) among many, many others.  And, of course, there’s that 800 lb gorilla we haven’t mentioned.  The Beatles released “Penny Lane”, “Strawberry Fields Forever”, “All You Need is Love” and “Hello, Goodbye” as singles in 1967.  Yikes!

When you look at albums, the omissions in The Summer of Love, The Hits of 1967 become even more apparent.  1967 saw the release of debut albums from The Grateful Dead, Moby Grape, Buffalo Springfield (“For What It’s Worth”), David Bowie and The Doors (“Light My Fire”).  The Doors and Buffalo Springfield also released their second albums in 1967.  Other important and unrepresented 1967 albums include Disraeli Gears (Cream), Forever Changes (Love), and Days of Future Passed (The Moody Blues).

All of this pales into insignificance , however, when you realize that three of the most influential albums of the modern era were released in 1967 and none of them are represented on The Summer of Love, The Hits of 1967 .  In 1967 we were treated to Jimi Hendrix’s debut album Are You Experienced? (as well as his second, Axis Bold as Love), the Velvet Underground and Nico’s self-titled debut album and perhaps the most important of them all, The Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  All those iconic singles and Sgt. Pepper’s?  The Beatles alone made 1967 a watershed year.

We found the DVD mildly interesting.  It focuses more on the American counterculture symbolized by the term “Summer of Love” than the CDs and, although shallow, it attempts to provide some social and political context for the music.  There is some brief but great footage of Jimi Hendrix.  You can also watch Keith Richards throw a TV off of a hotel balcony as a stunt for the camera and Pete Townsend be a belligerent whiny asshole if that’s the kind of thing that turns you on.  I don’t expect I’ll watch it a second time.

1967 may well have been the most extraordinary year for recorded music of all time and it’s hard to fault The Summer of Love, The Hits of 1967 for not doing it justice.  Even if you were able to get all of the necessary releases, there’s no way this unbelievable year could be effectively surveyed on a two disc collection.  The Time-Life set is likely to have the most appeal to listeners who were listening to AM and FM radio at the time and who will find almost every track in the collection familiar.  Listeners who were not there and want to hear what was current in 1967 would do better to seek out the material that isn’t in the set.  I’m not an “oldies” listener who is mired in the music that was current when I was young, there’s too much good music coming out every year for that.  However, to this day, I return to many of the songs and albums of 1967 on a semi-regular basis.  But almost all of the ones I return to are the ones left out of The Summer of Love, The Hits of 1967 .
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08/10/2008 - Posted by | CD reviews, DVD reviews, music, music reviews | , , , ,

1 Comment »

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    Comment by pitak | 08/11/2008 | Reply

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