10 years ago Rhino released two fine 24-track CD compilations, Come to the Sunshine and Hallucinations, both subtitled “Nuggets from the WEA Vaults.” These compilations made thematic sense and included a lot of unfamiliar music. The sound was consistent as most of the songs came from the Warner Bros./Reprise labels, with a smattering from labels like Cotillion, Atco and Valiant.
I was hoping this approach would be repeated for this 3 CD set, Dig That Underground Sound! Rare Garage Rock from the Vaults of Warner Bros., Elektra & Atlantic Records. It’s a well-programmed selection of music, mixing familiar songs with the obscure, but that’s about the only thing I like about this release.
Unfortunately, there’s no unifying theme to this compilation. “Farmer John” follows “Black Roses”, and is followed by the Association. Most selections are singles, but then there are album cuts by the Fugs and Iron Butterfly. A few UK singles are mixed in, for no particular reason other than that they were released on Atco or Elektra. There are even a couple Flamin’ Groovies cuts from 1976, originally released on Sire!
Nor is there anything approaching ‘rare’ on this set. The only song that hasn’t already been reissued on CD is the Waphphle’s “I Want You”, which is hardly essential. There are no previously unreleased tracks. 13 tracks appeared on Rhino’s earlier CD set, Where The Action Is! Los Angeles Nuggets: 1965-1968 including the most inspired choices of obscure songs, such as “The Rebel Kind” by Dino, Desi & Billy, and “Come Alive” by the Things to Come.
A third of the selections come from the Warner Bros./Reprise labels, including oft-reissued fare by the Electric Prunes, the Music Machine and the Premiers. This set would have benefited from songs like the Magic Mushroom’s “I’m Gone”, the New Order’s “Why Can’t I” & “Meet Your Match”, and the Gates of Eden “Elegy”, all originally released on Warner Bros and never officially reissued.
Other than three songs from Love, Elektra is only represented by Leviathan’s “Remember the Times”, Clear Light and the Waphphle (the undeserving “I Want You” instead of the better “Goin’ Down”).
Atlantic/Atco provides the Vagrants (three songs), The Common Cold, Rose Garden, Iron Butterfly, and a couple UK artists: Vamp (“Floatin'”) and Sharon Tandy. The rest of the tracks are from other labels controlled by Warner Music Group, such as Dunwich, Mustang, Roulette, Mira, Original Sound, Autumn, many of which are good selections.
The sound quality is generally good but suffers on certain tracks, such as the Shadows of Knight’s “I’m Gonna Make You Mine” which is brittle and lacking in bass. The clipping was obvious when I opened the file up in an audio editor.
Other than a few nice Record Store Day 7″s, the Rhino Custom imprint seems to specialize in unexciting rehash of old music. The six page booklet has short bios on the three primary labels and ten of the bands. It’s a cheap package, but at 15 tracks per CD, it’s not even a bargain.