Top critical review
A lavish if less than comprehensive intro to '60s punk
on October 11, 1998
Elektra Records'1972 NUGGETS double LP compilation occupies in legendary place in pop archeology, as the first testimonial to the disingenuous charms and reckless abandon of pre-hippie '60s rock'n'roll. For all the significance attached to the original NUGGETS as a template for the punk ethos, nobody I knew in the '70s had even heard of it, and I've only seen one copy (for $25) in all my years of record scrounging. Rhino picked up the ball in 1984 with a NUGGETS series that has not been comprehensively reissued on CD. In a state of digital-era confusion Rhino put out three NUGGETS CDs that mixed the better-known cuts from the LPs with decidedly non-garage numbers from the Monkees and the Chambers Brothers. With Elektra and Rhino both absorbed by Time/Warner, this four CD box set combines the 27 original nuggets with 91 tracks culled primarily from the Rhino series.
NUGGETS doesn't represent a single genre; here you'll find frenzied, fuzz-drenched psychedelia, Kinks-like frat rock slammers, Beatlesque harmonizing, and overly affected, suburban R&B knock-offs. In a welcome departure from the upscale aspirations of Rhino's earlier documents of the era, this collection mines the rich vein of psych/punk ravers that previously only surfaced on low-fi compilations like PEBBLES, BOULDERS, and the inimitably titled TURDS ON A BUM RIDE. The Third Bardo's "I'm Five Years Ahead of My Time," the Bees' "Voices Green and Purple," the Groupies' "Primitive," and the Other Half's "Mr. Pharmacist" receive better sonic presentation than previously seemed possible. Sound quality is excellent throughout, with original mono mixes preserved where appropriate.
A 100-page booklet packed with vintage photographs provides erudite track-by-track annotation by "Ugly Things" editor Mike Stax. The incredibly tacky-and glaringly inappropriate--Peter Max-style cover art of the 1972 LP has been adapted for the box set. Max's tasteless reiteration of the San Francisco poster idiom was a '70s excrescence entirely unrelated to the mid '60s garage rock scene. We had Peter Max placemats when I was a kid, and they made me want to vomit.
If you own any of the NUGGETS LPs or CDs, you're certain to be disappointed by the excessive familiarity of certain selections, as well as by some heart-rending omissions. While this set reprises 26 tracks from the poorly planned NUGGETS VOL. 1-3 CDs, highlights like Rumor's hypnotic "Without Her," the Association's raga rock confection "Pandora's Golden Heebie Geebies," the American Breed's power pop milestone "Bend Me, Shape Me," and Cherokee's "Girl, I've Got News for You" remain in vinyl limbo. But for the uninitiated, this collection will provide an excellent (if overpriced) introduction to a short-lived era defined by exhilarating energy, innocence, humor, and unalloyed adolescent passion.