The London-based record label Mushroom gained a reputation in the ‘70s for a versatile repertoire that spanned Indian music, avant-garde jazz, prog rock and singer-songwriter folk. Spaced Out, the first anthology to compile the label’s noted breadth, is sullied by a hideous clip-art mushroom, and while that inauspicious cover holds some good music, it’s just the most visible sign of poor judgement to come.

The set opens promisingly with Pandit Kanwar Sain Trikha’s “Folk Piece in Kharwa,” which crosses Indian music with a pop sensibility by means of a mesmerizing drone and short, shifting motifs that play like a rhythmic melody. If this was somehow a manifesto for the label’s entire output, it would forebode a wonderful album. Unfortunately, this is followed by Les Flambeaux’ listless cover of Willie Bobo’s “Evil Ways,” made famous by Santana. Steel drums are a weak substitute for the horns and guitar of the original version or the swirling psychedelic organ of Santana’s better-known recording.

The baroque pop of Second Hand’s “Hangin’ on an Eyelid” is more promising, but its vocal chorus is sung so terribly out of tune it’s as if the singers indeed have something painful hanging from their eyelids. Originally released on the 1971 album Death May be Your Santa Claus, such distortion may be of a piece with the nightmarish circus music underneath it, but it’s not the only example of wandering notes (and not just vocal). It makes you wonder if ingesting mushrooms isn’t a prerequisite for enjoying some of these pieces. This isn’t Second Hand’s only spot on Spaced Out— the more conventional “Funeral” and the noodly synth fragment “Take to the Skies” make it clear the sour melody is a deliberate alienation, but in the context of such a wonderful opener, it’s a bad first impression.

The gentle folk of Callian-Flynn’s “Fortune for the Finder” puts the listener back on more solid ground, but you’re still left thinking that if this is the best the label has to offer, maybe it’s not worth further investigation. Still, the group makes a better impression deeper into the album with the catchier folk number, “We are the People (The Road to Derry Town).”

Tracks by such acts as Andreas Thomopoulos or Heather Adrian & John suggest an unusual, slightly spaced out variety of folk music. Magic Carpet’s “The Phoenix” blends what seems to be the labels strengths, mixing British folk with traditional Indian instruments; but this too is marred by a sometimes wavering vocal.

A second disc gets into the label’s history before its founding in 1970. Opening with The Attraction’s fuzz-toned cover of the Kinks’ “Party Line,” these are more consistently appealing tracks that come off like a volume of the Rubble series of British psychedelic freak-beat obscurities. Felius Andromeda’s “Cheadle Heath Delusions” was in fact previously compiled on a Rubble disc. Andromeda provides one of the best songs on Spaced Out with “Rainbow Chasing,” a psychedelic pop gem originally relegated to an obscure B-side.

Naturally, the compilers can’t be trusted to leave a good thing alone, and follow this with Oliver Bone’s unnecessary cover of “Knock on Wood,” and Mel Turner’s “White Christmas” would have been better left in the vaults.

There’s a good single-disc selection buried in this wildly inconsistent material. In the vinyl era, time limitations might well have forced the producers of Spaced Out to come up with 45 minutes of four-star music from the label’s history. But over the course of two and a half hours, mold sets in, overshadowing choice shrooms that a more discerning picker could have highlighted to better effect.

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