Various Artists

Glimpses Vol. 1 & 2

Rating: 3.0/5.0

Label: Past & Present

Via crate-digging U.K. label Past & Present comes to us a re-release of the early ’80s compilation Glimpses – a sort of me-too collection made up largely of what was left over from the compiling of the like-minded Nuggets, Pebbles and Boulders, to name the ones that immediately come to mind (for what it’s worth: on the rock ‘n’ roll political spectrum, I lean toward late ’60s psych rock a lot more than your average listener, and I hadn’t ever heard of this compilation). As with many musical sub-genres whose better days are inextricably tied to bygone eras and technologies – rockabilly, surf, funk – there is a tendency among fans to fetishize obscure, hitherto unheard tracks, resulting often in a song or band’s quality depending entirely upon their relative unfamiliarity rather than on any merit of their material itself.

That said, it’d be unfair to harshly criticize anyone included on Glimpses; this was music made during a time when instruments were affordable to many and cutting a 45 was well within means. And because just about any kid, working class and up, could have a band, that meant a generous amount of borrowing from popular artists of the day – many Glimpses tracks sound like approximations of better U.K. bands’ tracks. What makes one remember these copycat tracks, in many instances, is some element of the song – wholly whacked-out vocals, guitar that’s just a little too fuzzy, shambolic drumming – that pushes the amateurishness into a realm of savant-like genius.

The sides included here, strangely predominantly from Michigan area bands, unfortunately don’t veer too often into that accidentally brilliant realm, though, for what it’s worth, nothing gets especially horrifyingly bad, either. Most of the time, Glimpses catalogs a handful or two more little-heards and never-weres from those halcyon days of ’66 through ’68 who were little-heard or never-were for a reason. Typical is a track like the Yorkshires’ “And You’re Mine,” a forgettable song that sounds like the product of a former surf band (twangy guitar) who came of age with folk (proper enunciation) trying their hand at a more R&B influenced sound (rigid delivery).

About every three tracks, though, you get a song like “Hot Smoke and Sassafras [sic],” U.K. band’s (Nite People) cover of a Texan band’s (Bubble Puppy) lone “hit;” though this song pushes it, being released in ’69, it’s interesting to hear emergent metal and prog in both the guitar attack and organ curlicues present in Nite People’s take. Another highlight, “Don’t Want to Cry” by the Buckinghams, neatly shows that they knew their way around a fuzzbox before the AM popularity of “Kind of a Drag.” Philadelphia’s Wellington Arrangement is represented by its “Love,” a tune that sounds, oddly enough, kinda close to the sweltering overdrive of Love’s Four Sail. Things get murkier and creepier on the second disc, with the Galaxies IV’s “Don’t Lose Your Mind”‘s effects-laden solo, the Pastels’ nice use of what sounds like a Leslie on its main riff and the goofy Doors approximations of the Baroques’ “I Will Not Touch You” and Mystic Tide’s “Mystery Ship.” Once in a while, though, you get the aging, electric piano hipster B.S. of the Roy Sorensen Group’s “If You Could Read Me,” the faux-lysergic, C.P.A.-day jobbed ruminations of the Marauders’ “Nightmare” and Hopi and the Beau Heems’ “I Missed My Cloud,” a song so inept and off-the-mark, it makes one positively ache for the track its aping so poorly (“96 Tears”).

Glimpses does miss a little more often than it hits. Its two perhaps most famous inclusions were already used on the expanded Nuggets set (the Balloon Farm’s ludicrously titled “A Question of Temperature” and Mouse and the Traps’ “Maid of Sugar, Maid of Spice”), so those surprises are taken out of the running for folks fixing for fuzz. Instead, Glimpses spends most of its two discs deliberately straddling the line between amazing and mind-numbingly bad, which is fine for a collection that serves as more of a documentation, than one that seeks to be the be-all, end-all best-of.

by Chris Middleman

Key Tracks: The Buckinghams – Don’t Want to Cry, The Wellington Arrangement – Love, Mystic Tide – Mystery Ship

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