Cherry Red’s Grapefruit imprint has continued its series of box sets – including Love, Poetry and Revolution and I’m a Freak Baby – with another musical journey through the world of British psych and rock. Let’s Go Down and Blow Our Minds is a more focused collection than either of those past two releases, concentrating solely on the U.K.’s psychedelic sounds of 1967. Of course, you won’t find selections from two of that year’s landmark psych-rock releases, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band or Their Satanic Majesties’ Request, here, but you will find 80 rare and fascinating cuts from the likes of The Alan Bown, Episode Six, The Mickey Finn, The Pretty Things, and John’s Children, just to name a few.
The 3-CD box set derives its name from the very first lyrics of the opening track, The Alan Bown’s “Toyland.” This melodic, catchy tune is on the pop end of the psychedelic spectrum, with a bit of a baroque Bee Gees feel from the group formerly known as The Alan Bown Set. Let’s Go Down and Blow Our Minds covers all areas of 1967 psychedelia, including pop and rock selections alike from artists both known and unknown, on labels including Pye, Regal Zonophone, Polydor, Columbia U.K., CBS, Parlophone, Immediate, and beyond.
A clutch of familiar names dot the landscape here, such as Episode Six, the pre-Deep Purple band for Ian Gillan and Roger Glover. The latter penned the colorful, musically shifting “I Can See Through You,” which may not bear much resemblance to Purple but showcases the band’s mastery of the rock idiom. Marc Bolan was a member of John’s Children before Tyrannosaurus Rex; the rocking “Desdemona” earned a banning from the BBC. The Crazy World of Arthur Brown is best known for “Fire,” but is heard here on “Give Him a Flower,” a gently ribbing, organ-driven ode to flower power. Jackie Lomax is represented on The Lomax Alliance’s CBS side “See the People,” issued before the blue-eyed soul man was signed to The Beatles’ Apple label. Swinging London vets The Spencer Davis Group is heard on “Sanity Inspector,” and none other than Cat Stevens supplied twins Paul and Barry Ryan with “Keep It Out of Sight,” a baroque-meets-Phil-Spector nugget.
Nobody on the box went on to a bigger career than superstar David Bowie, who wrote and sings The Riot Squad’s quirky, Velvet Underground-influenced “Toy Soldier.” The track was originally unissued, not seeing release until 2012 on a digital compilation. The future Starman wrote another rare song here, The Slender Plenty’s criminally unknown “Silver Tree Top School for Boys.” The Kinks’ Dave Davies was backed by his famous band on “Funny Face,” issued as a solo 45 but earlier included on Something Else by The Kinks. The Move certainly qualifies for inclusion on any psych box, as evidenced by “Vote for Me,” another originally unissued track. It found its way to disc in the 1990s. Murray Head is best known for singing the role of Judas on the original Jesus Christ Superstar concept album, and then for his smash hit “One Night in Bangkok” from another Tim Rice-penned concept album, Chess. His Immediate single “She Was Perfection” is a jaunty, string-laden psych romp. Procol Harum, The Moody Blues, and more unexpectedly, The Searchers, all make appearances here with “Kaleidoscope,” “Life’s Not Life,” and “Crazy Dreams,” respectively. (And Procol is called to mind via “Reflections of Charles Brown,” from Rupert’s People. Released just a couple of months after “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” it drew on the same Bach composition that inspired the hit.) Tony Rivers and The Castaways made waves in the U.K. with their Beach Boys-influenced pop, which can be sampled on the soft “Mr. Sun.”
Then there are the unfamiliar groups with irresistible names, too: Crocheted Doughnut Ring (a track which John Peel deemed too far out!), Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera, The Peep Show, Peter and the Wolves, and the classical-inspired Felius Andromeda just to name a few among them. Two vintage tracks make their debuts here, George Alexander’s “Dear Delilah” and Tintern Abbey’s “Tanya.”
Like Grapefruit’s other sets, Let’s Go Down and Blow Our Minds is copiously annotated. The compact, clamshell box includes a colorful 40-page booklet with compiler David Wells’ detailed track-by-track annotations on every cut, including the most obscure of them. Simon Murphy has remastered all three discs, which are housed in individual paper sleeves with credit and discography. This musical trip is packed with rarities, including many tracks which only saw the light of day years after their recording. It may be the strongest set from Grapefruit yet, training a sharp focus on a year of incredibly fertile musical creativity and boundary-breaking.