Although the Turtles had a parallel life as album artists, it was their singles that first reverberated in listenersâ€™ ears. Starting with a 1965 cover of Dylanâ€™s â€œIt Ainâ€™t Me Babe,â€ the group navigated folk-rock and harmony-laden pop to the top of the charts with 1967â€™s â€œHappy Together.â€ They scored nine Top 40 hits and five Top 10â€™s, all of which are included in this more-than-complete recitation of their singles. â€œMore than,â€ because the full slate of commercial 45s is augmented by unissued singles, and sides released under nom de plumes. Tieing it all together is a 20-page booklet decorated with record label and picture sleeve reproductions, and stuffed with encylopedic (and microscopic) notes by Los Angeles music historian Andrew Sandoval.
The hits include titles written by Dylan, P.F. Sloan (â€œLet Me Beâ€ and â€œYou Babyâ€), Gary Bonner and Alan Gordon (â€œHappy Together,â€ â€œSheâ€™d Rather Be With Me,â€ â€œYou Know What I Meanâ€ and â€œSheâ€™s My Girlâ€) and Jim McGuinn and Gene Clark (a radically reimagined version of the Byrdsâ€™ â€œYou Showed Meâ€). But they also wrote their own hits (notably 1968â€™s â€œElenoreâ€), as well as a host of fantastic low-charting singles and B-sides that ranged from folk to sunshine pop to garage rock to psychedelic and progressive rock. The bandâ€™s reach wasnâ€™t always evident on their hits, but their lower-charting singles and flipsides tip the even greater breadth of their albums.
That same inventiveness led the group to reimagine Kenny Dinoâ€™s â€œYour Maw Said You Criedâ€ as a Dave Clark 5-styled rave-up, and Vera Lynnâ€™s WWII-era â€œWeâ€™ll Meet Againâ€ (a song that had been renewed in the mid-60s consciousness by Dr. Strangelove) as Lovinâ€™ Spoonful-styled good-time music. They stretched themselves even further with original material â€œRugs of Woods and Flowers,â€ â€œSound Asleep,â€ and â€œChicken Little Was Right.â€ The latterâ€™s sitar arrangement differs greatly from the album track, making this single version unique. B-sides were often given to artistically rewarding material, such as Warren Zevonâ€™s â€œLike the Seasons,â€ rather than throwaways (though there are the Red Krayola-styled freakout â€œUmbassa the Dragonâ€ and Brian Wilsonish â€œCanâ€™t You Hear the Cows.â€).
While some of their A-sides may have been ill conceived commercially as singles, others simply failed to gain the response they deserved. Sloan & Barriâ€™s deliciously sweet â€œCan I Get to Know You Betterâ€ has all the hallmarks of a Turtlesâ€™ hit, yet struggled to only #89, Nilssonâ€™s â€œThe Story of Rock & Rollâ€ was scooped by a same-week release from the Collage, and three Ray Davies-produced singles from Turtle Soup failed to cracked the Top 40. Ditto for the beautiful â€œLady-O.â€ There are several B-side gems, including Warren Zevonâ€™s â€œOutside Chanceâ€ and the original â€œBuzz Saw,â€ that managed to find their own form of popularity – the former as a favorite of the Beatniks, Sounds Like Us, Bangles and Chesterfield Kings, the latter as a much loved break-beat sample.
The setâ€™s bonuses include two singles that never saw release. First is the original 1966 mono single of Goffin & Kingâ€™s â€œSo Goes Love,â€ and its Al Nichol-penned B-side â€œOn a Summer Day.â€ Though the former was included on 1967â€™s Golden Hits, and the latter on 1970â€™s Wooden Head, the mono single mixes are previously unreleased. The second is an early version of the Ray Davies-produced â€œHow You Love Me,â€ featuring Howard Kaylan on lead vocal. Additional rarities include a horn-free single mix of â€œMaking Up My Mind,â€ the holiday single (as The Christmas Spirit) â€œChristmas is My Time of Year,â€ a cover of Lee Andrews and the Heartsâ€™ â€œTeardropsâ€ (released as the Dedications), its unreleased B-side cover of Jan & Arnieâ€™s â€œGas Money,â€ and the promo-only â€œIs It Any Wonder.â€ Also included are unlisted tracks at the end of each disc featuring period Turtles-sung commercials for Pepsi and Camaro.
Having bought their White Whale masters at auction, Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman have issued this set (along with a parallel set of the Turtlesâ€™ albums) on their own FloEdCo label. The love they have for this material shows in the attention to detail, and in the extensive song notes Sandoval elicited from Kaylan, Volman, Al Nichol and Jim Pons. The two discs and 20-page booklet are packed in a tri-fold slipcase. All tracks are mono except for #16-21 on disc two, and as Sandoval notes, the mono sides are especially revealing for 1968-69 when the albums were stereo only. Taken together with the previously unreleased and promo-only material, this is an absolutely essential companion to the album collection. [Â©2016 Hyperbolium]