MARMALADE SKIES RESIDENT CHIN-STROKER PROUDLY PRESENTS HIS PICK OF THE YEARS RELEASES.
"I think youll agree that 2002 was a landmark year in the history of UK psych.
It became a full-time occupation trying to keep up with the plethora of compilations, re-issues and bootlegs which seemed to emerge on an almost weekly basis. Coverage and interest on the internet reached an all time high with news forums like Shindig, Cherry Smash and Regal Zonophone and the neo-biblical Sweet Floral Albion e-zine leading the way. 2002 also saw the launch of internet radio show Chocolate Soup FM which broadcasts a choice blend of recent releases and unknown delights to an ever increasing audience.
Even this very page, my home from home Marmalade Skies, got so big the web space people asked Jim Mac to start paying or move on. Wisely, he moved on. It didnt stop MS becoming the last word in cyber-delia, the ultimate reference site for the ultimate music.
We love you."
Sir Maxwell Plumb OBE NSU NIB, London, December 2002
In ascending order
10. VARIOUS ARTISTS - JAGGED TIME LAPSE VOLUME FOUR (Flashback Productions CD)
So high was the number of compilations, some familiar, some fledglings, released this year that they account for half of my ten choices. The most recent instalment in the Jagged Time Lapse series continues its Rubble-esque blend of shiny pop-psych, demonic proto-prog, kitsch tiger-beat and frankly uncategorisable late 60s lunacy.
Maxs magic moments: The Mindbenders "Yellow Brick Road" (at last!), The Barriers "Uh!", The Epics "Henry Long".
9. THE AEROVONS - THE AEROVONS (Private Pressing LP)
OK, OK, I know theyre American but Ive included them as honorary Brits by virtue of the album being cut at Abbey Road and the general Anglo-centric sounds contained within. This limited vinyl edition of their previously unreleased 1969 album has, unsurprisingly in the current climate, already been bootlegged on CD! Look out for an official version in 2003.
Maxs magic moments: "World Of You" (see also Fading Yellow), "Shes Not Dead", "Everythings Alright".
8. CHAD & JEREMY - OF CABBAGES AND KINGS (Sundazed CD)
More rule-bending here as this album was cut in the States with an American producer and musicians. However, messrs Stuart and Clyde are Brits to the core. Just witness them wrapping their plumby accents round lines like "Here lies Fred, hes better off dead". If you enjoy hearing sitars fighting with string quartets and songs about funerals and underage pregnancy, youll enjoy this. Roll on the expanded version of The Ark.
Maxs magic moments: "Rest In Peace", "The Family Way", "Epilogue".
7. VARIOUS ARTISTS - RUBBLE 20: THRICE UPON A TIME (NOTHING IS REAL) (Past & Present LP)
Well, it finally arrived, the great lost Rubble album. Kind of. Sadly its a fairly inauspicious end to the greatest series of psych compilations man has ever known. The track listing has been diluted down from the proposed typically righteous Rubble selection to what is essentially a ragbag collection of tracks youve already got three times and some entertaining but hardly mind-melting lesser-known cuts, one of which is Dutch not British. Ah well, it was great while it lasted.
Maxs magic moments: The Soft Machines "Love Makes Sweet Music" (on vinyl at last), Argosys "Mr Boyd" (this is what Rubble albums were made for), The Beatstalkers "Silver Tree Top School For Boys".
6. THE SMOKE - HIGH IN A ROOM: THE ANTHOLOGY (Sequel CD)
The Smoke need no introduction to lovers of UK pop-psych. Their brief but wonderful 1967/68 peak exemplified by such genre classics as "My Friend Jack", "Have Some More Tea" and "Sydney Gill" has been re-packaged more times than a Morecambe & Wise Christmas special. This latest collection adds a couple of previously unreleased 1968 cuts and an entire disc of the bands hit-and-miss 70s recordings.
Maxs magic moments: An alternate, wildly different version of "Sydney Gill", a cover of Nirvanas "The Girl In The Park", "Thus Spake Alice".
5. VARIOUS ARTISTS - HAUNTED: PSYCHEDELIC PSTONES II (Sequel CD)
The Pye back catalogue has been plundered to death by Sequel in recent years which makes it all the more impressive that there are so many great unfamiliar cuts on the second volume of their Psychedelic Pstones series. Its more pop and psych based than volume one which leant too heavily on the progressive for my liking and features a number of previously unreleased cuts from the likes of Episode Six, Tuesdays Children and The Rockin Berries.
Maxs magic moments: West Coast Consortiums "Colour Sergeant Lillywhite", Consortiums (the same band a year later) "The Day The Train Never Came", The Montanas "Roundabout".
4. HONEYBUS - SHE FLIES LIKE A BIRD: THE ANTHOLOGY (Sequel CD)
Despite releasing only a handful of cuts that could loosely be described as psych, Honeybus have become dear to many through their mastery of gentle baroque pop. This set sees the first official release of several 1967/68 BBC sessions including a number of otherwise unrecorded gems as well as several hard-to-find early 70s cuts. Pure class.
Maxs magic moments: Live BBC recordings of "Francoise" and almost identikit versions of "Do I Still Figure In Your Life" and "I Cant Let Maggie Go", an acoustic version of "For Where Have You Been".
3. VARIOUS ARTISTS - SWEET FLORAL ALBION (Past & Present CD)
You wouldnt expect anything less than excellence from the people who bring you e-zine extraordinaire Sweet Floral Albion every month and, thankfully, they havent let us down. In keeping with their remit to cover sounds from Europe and Australia as well as the UK, and not afraid to throw in a clutch of big name artists, Dave Thubron and crew have crafted an eclectic and often surprising melting pot of psych, sunshine pop and freakbeat thats crammed with unheard and unavailable cuts, not least The Uglys "Mary Cliento", currently rated as the rarest UK psych single ever! A resounding success.
Maxs magic moments: Made In Sheffields "Amelia Jane", The Loots "Little Roland Lost", Normie Rowes "Sunshine Secret".
2. BARRY BOOTH - DIVERSIONS (Sequel CD)
Well, what can you say about this little gem? A true curio from the psychedelic era that has more in common with Vera Lynne than Jeff Lynne. Pre-Pythons Jones and Palin wrote the lyrics and Mr Booth wrote the music and put it all together. Nostalgic, sentimental, bittersweet, euphoric and melancholy in equal measures. A timeless classic and undoubtedly the discovery of the year.
Maxs magic moments: "The Hottest Day Of The Year", "Henry Smith Addresses A Butterfly", "A Concise History Of Harry Shoes".
And the winner is
1. VARIOUS ARTISTS - FADING YELLOW: TIMELESS POP-SIKE & OTHER DELIGHTS 1965-69 (Flower Machine CD)
Fading Yellow first appeared without much ado a few years ago as a fourteen track vinyl album and faded (sorry!) as secretly as it had arrived. Earlier this year a CD baring the name Fading Yellow and featuring a number of the same cuts began attracting interest on web forums such as Shindig and Cherry Smash. Very soon, almost the entire psych community was singing its praises and ensuring its rapid distribution.
More similar in spirit to Ripples than Pebbles and free from the generic restraints of most collections, Fading Yellow takes a broad swipe through the brighter side of the British and European underground, picking up 25 largely unknown gems along the way.
If there is a thread here, its one of soft, underplayed, almost baroque tones utilising acoustic and electric guitars, stately harmonies and tasteful strings with occasional bursts of lysergic otherworldliness and heaps of period charm. As soon as the soaring chorus of Kates majestic orch-pop opus "Strange Girl" goes through the roof, you know this aint your usual fuzz n phasing territory. By the time The Aerovons piano-heavy torch song "World Of You" has finished sixty minutes later, youll be convinced youve known these songs as long as "I See The Rain" and "Excerpt From A Teenage Opera".
Conversely, many of these cuts retain an air of newness, even after repeated listens, until a hook or a break reminds the listener that theyve actually been humming the song all week. Cries of "Agh! This is the one with the amazing middle eight" can regularly be heard during FY sessions chez Plumb.
Not since the bygone days of the early Rubbles, Chocolate Soups and Perfumed Gardens has a compilation been so instrumental in bringing a hitherto neglected pocket of 60s pop to so many with such success. Even the occasionally woolly sound and mild distortion (not of the Big Muff variety) doesnt distract from the consistent quality of the music.
Two further volumes featuring American material have followed with two more volumes of UK-only goodies on the way in the new year. If theyre half as good as volume one, I for one will be over the moon. Quite simply the best compilation Ive heard for years.
Maxs magic moments: Too many to mention but The Jackpots "King Of The World" still gives me uncontrollable goose-bumps every time I hear it and Mike Batts sublime "Fading Yellow" stood up to daily listens for a month!