Graded on a Curve:
The Association,
Just The Right Sound: The Association Anthology

The Association didn’t exactly win friends and influence hippies with their square-john antics in the mid- to late sixties; they may have been the first band to perform at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, but most of your smirking counter-culture types considered them about as authentic as a cheap plastic peace symbol.

But hey–as that great philosopher Huey Lewis pointed out it’s hip to be square, and all of your REAL swinging girls and boys know The Association are the Nazz. So what if they flunked the Acid Test and would have been more at home at Tricia Nixon’s wedding than a Human Be-In? The Association rose above it all, producing a rapturous dream pop that Tricky Dick himself might have tapped a toe to.

And you can hear The Association in all their vocal glory on the 2018’s Anthology: Just the Right Sound. Its 51 songs are a definite case of overkill–and I’ve docked it a half-grade accordingly–but it’s worth the purchase price (and more!) if you want to hear not only the songs that melted your heart but such berserker numbers as “Pandora’s Golden Heebie Jeebies,” to say nothing of a couple of cuts off 1972’s justifiably neglected Waterbeds in Trinidad!

Just about everybody knows their big ones. “Windy” is a sunshine pop classic about a girl with stormy eyes; its opening guitar riff and superlush vocals are for the ages, and I die a little every time I hear that flute. And then there’s the motorvatin’ “Along Came Mary,” with its handclaps and badass (by Association standards) vocals. And who could forget the moon-eyed “Cherish,” which makes the perfect mate for the lovely “Never My Love,” both of which say I’m going to love you forever by means of those perfectly pureed vocals that were The Association’s bread and butter.

As I noted above, the LP’s superabundance of tracks makes it a for better or for worse proposition, but here’s the thing–the bad ones are just as much fun as the good ones. “Enter the Young” is the sound of the Jefferson Airplane if the Jefferson Airplane had said no to drugs and voted for Nixon instead. As for “Pandora’s Golden Heebie Jeebies,” it’s a craven attempt to win over the lysergic crowd–I can just hear Larry Ramos telling the boys, “Let’s smoke some banana peels, grow our hair a half-inch over our ears, and show those Beetles how it’s done!”

And then there’s the hilarious “Requiem for the Masses,” which is half-Gregorian chant and half lame anti-war folk song and so bad I’ll betcha people enlisted to go to Vietnam just to get away from it. As for “Time for Livin’,” it’s a swinging gas about saying to hell with time on which the boys ACTUALLY TAKE OFF THEIR WATCH! And manage to keep it off (you can tell it’s killing them) for the duration of the song!

That said, some of these deep cuts are real keepers. “Wantin’ Ain’t Gettin’” is a bona fide anomaly with its sitar and groovy sixties vibe, and as much a souvenir of the year 1967 as anything else that came out of the great country of California. And then there’s “No Fair at All,” which is lush dream pop at its best. And I would be remiss if I failed to mention the very breezy “Like Always,” on which the Association announce in a very Beach Boys way that they’re broke like always but don’t care because they’ve got their girl. Except, uh oh, there she goes too.

The Association may not have been hippies, and their garage may have been a supper club, but they came closer than anybody to bridging the Great Cultural Divide of the Sixties–when it came to “Windy,” radicalized college students and housewives from Peoria finally found common ground. Which makes them the greatest peacemakers of their time, and I for one think they should have gotten a Nobel Prize.

GRADED ON A CURVE:
B+

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