Graded on a Curve:
Think I’m Going Weird: Original Artefacts From The British Psychedelic Scene 1966–1968

Many fans and collectors of music from the 1960s have a particularly soft spot in their hearts and minds for psychedelic music. The genre broadly encapsulates a variety of styles, yet is narrowly slotted into a very brief time period, roughly late 1965 through late 1968.

When one thinks of ‘60s psychedelia, two British groups, and specifically a handful of singles and albums they released in the ‘60’s, come to mind. Those two groups are, of course, The Beatles and Pink Floyd. Yet, when many music fans think of psychedelia from the ‘60s, American groups, particularly from San Francisco, are usually thought of first. British psyche, other than the aforementioned, are often forgotten.

Thankfully, a glorious new 5CD set, Think I’m Going Weird: Original Artefacts From The British Psychedelic Scene 1966-1968, has been released, and it will remind everyone how rich and varied the British psychedelic scene was from 1966 through 1968. This set is particularly welcome, as the only other such box set to be produced that included almost as much music as this new one, is sadly out of print. That one, Nuggets II: Original Artyfacts from the British Empire and Beyond, released by Rhino in 2006, covered more years (1964–1969) and was just as lovingly produced as this set, but decided it would be cool to spell artefacts incorrectly.

The Beatles and Pink Floyd are not included on this set and they may be the only serious omissions. Also, not only was the music here wisely chosen, spanning 122 tracks and including 50 minutes of previously unreleased music, but the packaging is unbeatable, including period photographs, album and singles cover art, and a 60-page book, with an informed and entertaining 25,000-word essay. This is a package to keep one busy for months at a time and it can be dipped into for listening, reading, or just tripping out on the artwork.

While there is no Beatles or Pink Floyd on this set, there are plenty of big names including The Who, The Kinks, the Bee Gees, Genesis, Traffic, The Spencer Davis Group, The Yardbirds, The Moody Blues, Procol Harum, Manfred Mann, The Zombies, The Small Faces, The Mindbenders, The Nashville Teens, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Denny Laine, The Move, Status Quo, The Pretty Things, Tyrannosaurus-Rex, Family, Fairport Convention, The Incredible String Band, The Strawbs, The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band and others. While some of the music and artists here may not be exclusively psyche, they fit perfectly with the concept of this box and the evolution of the genre in England at that time.

More importantly, the groups and artists who were not household names but who truly defined the genre in England at that time, are included. Both the Soft Machine and Pink Floyd became the obligatory house bands at the first psychedelic events in London and, thankfully, they are included here, along with Tomorrow (featuring a very young Steve Howe, future guitarist of Yes), and Nirvana. And that is the original British Nirvana, not the short-lived American grunge band who only released three studio albums between 1989–1993.

There are some other wonderful artists included here such as Kaleidoscope, Creation, The Smoke, Tintern Abbey, The Attack, John’s Children (featuring a pre-Tyrannosaurus-Rex Marc Bolan), The Idle Race (featuring future Move and ELO members Jeff Lynne and Roy Wood), Barclay James Harvest, Rupert’s People, Blossom Toes, The Piccadilly Line and The Misunderstood. One could argue that The Graham Bond Organization, Alan Bown, and the Downliners Sect are all part of the British R&B scene, but, like many others here, though seemingly from a different musical world, they fit right in.

Unlike the Rhino psyche box, this set comes in a more compact, book-styled size and the booklet is bound in as part of the package with the CDs in slotted leaves. The Rhino box was CD-long-box-styled and the four CDs were in separate jewel cases, and the booklet was also CD-long-box-sized and came separately. There is a certain amount of duplication between the sets. The Rhino box does include some worthy additions missing from the new Grapefruit set, such as music from the artists The Easybeats; The Fleur de Lys; The Eyes; Marmalade; Los Bravos; Tages; Them with Van Morrison; The Birds (from the U.K.); Golden Earring; Timebox (featuring future Rutle John Halsey); Davy Jones and the Lower Third (featuring David Bowie); Love Sculpture (featuring Dave Edmunds); The Guess Who; The Outsiders; and Os Mutantes. Which takes nothing away from the Grapefruit set, especially given how reasonable the price is for a 5CD box set.

Considering that the music here was recorded more than 50 years ago and from so many different sources, the sound is quite good. While original analog tapes were used whenever possible, some of the tracks, according to the liner notes, are sourced from “well-worn acetates and crudely-recorded private tapes.”

Presenting the British psychedelic salad days, this box set is a cosmic trip.

GRADED ON A CURVE:
A

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