For those who weren’t there in ’66 and ’67, the oldies radio shorthand for the Electric Prunes has been their one big hit, “I Had to Much to Dream (Last Night),” as anthologized (as the lead off track, no less) on Lenny Kaye’s legendary Nuggets compilation. The few strokes of shading inclues their chart follow-up, “Get Me to the World on Time,” and an oft-anthologized ad for Vox Wah-Wah pedals. It’s an abbreviation that shortchanges the band’s recorded legacy. Reissues of their albums along with single- and double-disc compilations (including Birdman’s Lost Dreams and Rhino’s Too Much to Dream) expanded the group’s posthumous reputation, and are now joined by this collection of twenty-four mono single mixes. As a group whose tenure spanned across AM Top 40 and the birth of underground FM radio, their singles are just as interesting as the stereo album tracks.
Like several other groups of their era, including the Chocolate Watchband and Grass Roots, the Electric Prunes name was applied to several wholly different aggregations of musicians. The original lineup shifted subtly through the group’s first two albums (I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night) and Underground), but with their third, the David Axelrod-produced orchestral Mass in F Major, the original band essentially broke up. The album was completed with studio musicians, and its follow-up, Release of an Oath, was produced similarly by Axelrod. The final album released under the Electric Prunes name, Just Good Old Rock and Roll, was recorded by a newly recruited group of musicians, wholly unrelated to the original lineup.
The singles gathered here span all three eras of the Electric Prunes – variations of the original lineup on the first two albums (1-12, 15 and 24), the Axelrod years (13-17), and the “new and improved” lineup (18-23). Original members James Lowe and Mark Tulin appeared on two of Axelrod’s productions (“Sanctus” and “Credo”), but the compositions and productions are so far divorced from the group’s earlier garage psych as to be nearly unidentifiable as the same band. The new lineup held on to only hints of the original group’s roots, bringing hard rock, boogie, funk and soul sounds to the Electric Prunes name.
As latter-day prune Richard Whetstone notes, the group’s identity remains anchored to the garage psych of their hit single and first two albums; the follow-on material remains more curious footnotes than integral parts of the legend. The collection’s rarest find, the one-sided single “Shadows” (from the film The Name of the Game is Kill) turned up on Rhino’s earlier compilation (along with mono mixes of the band’s early A-sides), but here proves itself the last gasp of the original Electric Prunes sound. Getting the group’s entire legacy of mono singles (including the bleeped-for-airplay version of “You’ve Never Had it Better”) is a great find for collectors, but those new to the group’s catalog should start with the first two albums. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]