Times are tight, for sure. A box set is a luxury that few can afford these days. Given the choice between a 4 cd collection and paying the phone bill or buying a bottle of Scotch, well, let's just say you can't download a bottle of Scotch.
But if you're at all curious about the history of the Los Angeles rock scene, the upcoming box Where the Action Is! Los Angeles Nuggets 1965-1968, which comes out on September 22, is an essential document. Comprising 101 songs, the Rhino set concentrates on the shockingly fertile scene, centered around the Sunset Strip, that flourished at the peak of the British Invasion. Among many others getting their start in LA during those three years were the Doors, Randy Newman, the Byrds, Love, Sonny & Cher, Captain Beefheart & his Magic Band, the Seeds, Tim Buckley, and Harry Nilsson.
It's not hyperbole to call this the most comprehensive collection of LA garage rock ever issued. It contains an insanely varied array of three- and four-minute bursts of guitar rock, and sounds amazing while rolling with the sunroof open down Venice Boulevard.
Which isn't to say that Action! contains 101 brilliant moments; half these bands didn't make it to the next level for very good reasons. They didn't have that certain something that, say, Jim Morrison did, didn't understand songwriting like Newman, couldn't sing like Cher, Nilsson or Buckley, and weren't as wildly outre as Captain Beefheart. The Rolling Stones should get royalties for half these riffs, Bob Dylan should have sued a few of these bands, and let's just say that the Beatles were apparently very popular in Los Angeles. But the lesser known acts featured in the box, with stereotypically atypical names like The Lamp of Childhood, Pasternek Progress, The W.C. Fields Memorial Electric String Band, and Hearts & Flowers, retain that spirit of action, and offer amazing context.
The set is divided into four sections: Disc 1, called “On the Strip,” features bands who rose on the thriving Sunset Strip scene, and includes early obscure music from The Byrds, Love, the Seeds, and Lowell George & the Factory (the singer of whom would later become Little Feat, and help birth daughter Inara George of the Bird & the Bee). Disc 2, “The Studio Scene,” concentrates on the hit factories around town that sought to temper the sound of the streets for a mainstream audience (The Monkees, Dino Desi & Billy, the Mamas and the Papas and Jan & Dean).