The Turtles: All the Singles

Turtles_AllTheSinglesComplete collection of singles – the hits and well beyond!

Although the Turtles had a parallel life as album artists, it was their singles that first reverberated in listeners’ ears. Starting with a 1965 cover of Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe,” the group navigated folk-rock and harmony-laden pop to the top of the charts with 1967’s “Happy Together.” They scored nine Top 40 hits and five Top 10’s, all of which are included in this more-than-complete recitation of their singles. “More than,” 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 (“Let Me Be” and “You Baby”), Gary Bonner and Alan Gordon (“Happy Together,” “She’d Rather Be With Me,” “You Know What I Mean” and “She’s My Girl”) and Jim McGuinn and Gene Clark (a radically reimagined version of the Byrds’ “You Showed Me”). But they also wrote their own hits (notably 1968’s “Elenore”), 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 band’s reach wasn’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 Dino’s “Your Maw Said You Cried” as a Dave Clark 5-styled rave-up, and Vera Lynn’s WWII-era “We’ll Meet Again” (a song that had been renewed in the mid-60s consciousness by Dr. Strangelove) as Lovin’ Spoonful-styled good-time music. They stretched themselves even further with original material “Rugs of Woods and Flowers,” “Sound Asleep,” and “Chicken Little Was Right.” The latter’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 Zevon’s “Like the Seasons,” rather than throwaways (though there are the Red Krayola-styled freakout “Umbassa the Dragon” and Brian Wilsonish “Can’t You Hear the Cows.”).

While some of their A-sides may have been ill conceived commercially as singles, others simply failed to gain the response they deserved. Sloan & Barri’s deliciously sweet “Can I Get to Know You Better” has all the hallmarks of a Turtles’ hit, yet struggled to only #89, Nilsson’s “The Story of Rock & Roll” 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 “Lady-O.” There are several B-side gems, including Warren Zevon’s “Outside Chance” and the original “Buzz Saw,” 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 set’s bonuses include two singles that never saw release. First is the original 1966 mono single of Goffin & King’s “So Goes Love,” and its Al Nichol-penned B-side “On a Summer Day.” Though the former was included on 1967’s Golden Hits, and the latter on 1970’s Wooden Head, the mono single mixes are previously unreleased. The second is an early version of the Ray Davies-produced “How You Love Me,” featuring Howard Kaylan on lead vocal. Additional rarities include a horn-free single mix of “Making Up My Mind,” the holiday single (as The Christmas Spirit) “Christmas is My Time of Year,” a cover of Lee Andrews and the Hearts’ “Teardrops” (released as the Dedications), its unreleased B-side cover of Jan & Arnie’s “Gas Money,” and the promo-only “Is It Any Wonder.” 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 Turtles’ 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. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

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