Thursday, April 10, 2014

V.A. -- Sing Me a Rainbow / A Trident Anthology (1965-1967) 2CD

In the mid-'60s, Trident Productions, run by Kingston Trio manager Frank Werber, recorded quite a bit of San Francisco Bay Area rock, usually but not always leaning to the folk-rock side. Though they had a big hit right away with the We Five's 1965 smash "You Were on My Mind," that single (and, to a lesser extent, the We Five group) represented the only real success Trident managed, despite distribution for some of their recordings through A&M and Verve. Sing Me a Rainbow is a two-CD set of tracks cut by Trident from 1965 to 1967, the great majority of them previously unreleased.

Those tracks that were released will be familiar to the San Francisco '60s rock fan, including "You Were on My Mind" and a few other We Five singles, as well as Blackburn & Snow's neglected folk-rock classic "Stranger in a Strange Land" and the Mystery Trend's garage-psychedelic 45 "Johnny Was a Good Boy." Otherwise, though, this is virgin territory for all but the most insider San Francisco '60s rock collectors, even if some of the artists (particularly the Sons of Champlin and John Stewart) went on to release reasonably high-profile records.

While it would be unrealistic to expect most of this to measure up to the better San Francisco rock of the early psychedelic scene, it does contain its share of cuts worth hearing, as well as generally contributing to a wider picture of the Bay Area scene at the time than is available through commonly available discs. Certainly not many people have heard the four We Five singles here other than "You Were on My Mind," which generally present a more straightforward and gutsier folk-rock combo than their LP tracks did. John Stewart and Randy Steirling's "Leave Me Alone" is a surprisingly early (August 1965) and brooding venture by then-Kingston Trio member Stewart into folk-rock; the Front Line's "Got Love" (later re-recorded for an official 45 outside Trident) is superb spiky garage rock; and the New Tweedy Brothers, known to San Francisco psychedelia aficionados for their rare 1968 LP, offer strong folk-rock on "Time," a song later re-recorded for that album. While much of the rest is rather average period folk-rock (though some British Invasion-influenced garage pop is present too), sometimes with a soft pop bent, even much of this is invested with some of the bittersweet yet uplifting spirit particular to San Francisco rock of the time and place. Ace/Big Beat also deserve credit for giving dedicated collectors of the style something different from the few familiar names, including a few alternates, demos, and backing tracks of recordings from Blackburn & Snow (the best of Trident's acts, the We Five included), the Sons of Champlin (in a much poppier style than their later, more psychedelic incarnation), and the Mystery Trend. Compiler and annotator Alec Palao also deserves much credit for rescuing this quite extensive archive of a nearly forgotten, but vital, corner of early San Francisco rock history for commercial release.

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