Various Artists: Creative Outlaws. U.S. Underground 1962-70 (2008)
A themed compilation like this is revealing not only of the highs, but also the lows in arguably the most important decade in the history of popular music. As defined here it reveals also that the U.S. underground of that time was as open to cynical opportunists as it was to fervent idealists. Thus for every MC5 there's a Tiny Tim.
There's also a Captain Beefheart and, for all of the degree to which he falls between those two stools, his "Dachau Blues" is still the soundtrack for an emerging world, at the same time as it dwells on a sickening incident from the world it's ostensibly leaving behind.
"Sic' em Pies" by Canned Heat, a band named after the brand of alcohol favored by blues man Tommy Johnson, comes across as almost emblematic of that world, but that might just be the product of hindsight. The same might be said of Moondog's "On Broadway," even whilst it has all the hallmarks of something Sun Ra might have put together in the previous decade.
If the underground was perceived as some kind of threat to mainstream U.S. society then the Stooges' "1969" might epitomize it through the use of inflammatory yet nihilistic lyrics, and a sonic assault that was the offspring of restriction. Unlike a lot of the material here it's still a gas, its edge not blunted by the passing of time.
Nina Simone's "Mississippi Goddamn" is one of the most subversive things here, the weight of history heavy in every word and backed up by the kind of experience that's never easily gained. For all its overdriven ambience, Blue Cheer's cover of Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues" sounds only petulant next to it.
Lothar And The Hand People's "Machines" is another matter, however, and not because of its trite, of-the-time lyric but, rather, because it sounds like a musical forerunner of Pere Ubu. This could almost be the underground in microcosm, so intent does that element of the song seem on breaking with established practices.
The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band's "Suppose They Gave A War And No One Came" is similarly mired in the times. It encapsulates the fact that the overthrow of society was viewed by some as being easy and has the effect of making even the grimmest reality seem preferable.
Track Listing: Star Spangled Banner; Machines; Tip Toe Through The Tulips; Dachau Blues; I Feel Like I'm Fixin' To Die; On Broadway; Turn On; Kick Out The Jams; The Garden Is Open; You Don't Know What's Going On; Summertime Blues; Have Another Expresso; Uncle John; Suppose They Give A War And No One Comes; Cocaine Blues; Keep Your Mind Open; Somebody To Love; Hey Joe; Sic'Em Pigs; Time Has Come Today; Mississippi Goddamn; 1969.
Personnel: Jimi Hendrix; Lothar And The hand People; Tiny Tim; Captain Beefheart; Country Joe & The Fish; Moondog; The Godz; MC5; The Fugs; Exuma; Blue Cheer; Shel Silverstein; Pearls Before Swine; West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band; The Holy Modal Rounders; Kaleidoscope; Grace Slick And The Great Society; Tim Rose; Canned Heat; Chamber Brothers; Nina Simone; The Stooges.
Record Label: Trikont