Revolution 1968

Various Artists – Revolution: Underground Sounds of 1968

Taking 1967 as a cultural “Year Zero”, this fine compilation, featuring over three and a half hours of what back then would have simply been called “underground sounds”, takes an in-depth look at the year that followed Sgt. Pepper. Almost inevitably the introduction in the comprehensive and informative booklet mentions that over-referenced album as the launch point for bands seeking a new a way of doing things, away from the boy-meets-girl pop world. Which of course it was, but equally, and sadly almost as inevitably, no mention is made of Are You Experienced, released a fortnight before The Beatles’ masterwork, that along with Cream’s even earlier output was just as – and in some cases more – influential on a lot of the sounds on display here, and what would become known as rock music.

Right, that’s got that off my chest, on to the album. If, like me, you are an avid student of Rock’s Rich Tapestry, you will love the 46-page booklet, which offers a potted history of every group on the compilation, and you will be well into poring over it to see if there’s anything revealed that you didn’t already know, or had forgotten. There almost certainly will be. For instance, although I was aware that the band The Gods became Uriah Heep, I didn’t know that at various times the group also had Mick Taylor, John Glascock, and Greg Lake pass through its ranks! Their track on the album, I Never Knew, is every inch proto-Heep, and in my never humble opinion, actually better than a lot of Heep’s somewhat lumpen debut album.

There are some real psychedelic oddities on here, like The Bystanders’ Cave Of Clear Light, probably the one of the finest examples of UK psychedelia that you’ve never heard. The Bystanders as I’m sure you know, later became the Welsh wizards Man. One of the fun things us rock history nerds can indulge in is connecting together the bands showcased here, and seeing where they ended up. Drummer John “Twink” Adler is on here twice, as part of Tomorrow, and later The Pretty Things, and of course, one Steve Howe was in Tomorrow. This is just one small example, hours of fun to be had!

Another curio is We Are The Moles by, err… The Moles, who are most definitely “underground”, I see what they did there! This is a fun fact I had forgotten – The Moles were in fact Simon Dupree and the Big Sound attempting to escape the pop shackles of that band. They released one single featuring said track over its two sides. Part 1 is here, but Part 2 is sadly absent. The song itself is as wiggy as wiggy can be, in an obviously nascent prog way, and evidence of the burgeoning talent in this Portsmouth band. Simon Dupree… etc. eventually went into hiatus and emerged in 1970 as the very wonderful Gentle Giant. You knew that, of course.

It isn’t all psychedelia, we get two tracks by Deep Purple (Mk 1), more emergent hard rock from Gun and The Jeff Beck Group (errantly listed as just ‘Jeff Beck’ on the tracklist), bluesy folk almost-prog from the Mick Abrahams’ Jethro Tull, and quirky pop from the first version of Van der Graaf Generator. Oh, and the b-sides from the first two singles by a certain Charterhouse group are included, no doubt as a draw. They are interesting from a historical point of view, but otherwise largely forgettable.

In fact everything is included from the ten years too early punky anger of Mick Farren’s The Deviants to the classic British blues of John Mayall and Fleetwood Mac, to The Incredible String Band’s lysergically soaked Arran sweaters, and the folk-jazz supergroup Pentangle, to Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity’s version of Dylan’s This Wheel’s On Fire, which nowadays everyone recognises. We also have wonderful under the radar obscurities like Second Hand, Eyes of Blue, and Dantalion’s Chariot, to name but three. The only proviso for everything here is that it was released in 1968 and would have been called “underground” at the time, and more than likely got played on John Peel’s Top Gear show.

The music on Revolution: Underground Sounds of 1968 soundtracked a rapidly changing culture and a generation finding its own voice, a time that was opening up and changing for the better under “the white heat of technology”, and as such it reflects the true progressive spirit at large in the U.K. 50+ years ago that sadly these days is but a dim memory for some, and not even acknowledged as a positive thing by the current dominant regressive thought processes on these benighted lands.

Enough of the serious shit, there are some great sounds on this album, and what seals this for me is the highly readable booklet, crammed as it is with the kind of detail and trivia we culture vultures all love. A must for the rock historian!

Disc One:

01. AND THE ADDRESS – Deep Purple
02. THIS WHEEL’S ON FIRE – Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity
04. WORLD WAR THREE – Dantalian’s Chariot
05. A SAYING FOR TODAY – The Action
07. SUNSHINE HELP ME – Spooky Tooth
08. EARLY MORNING – Barclay James Harvest
09. ALL DAY, ALL NIGHT – Blonde On Blonde
11. REVOLUTION – Tomorrow
12. WE ARE THE MOLES (PART 1) – The Moles
14. ONE EYED HOUND – Genesis
15. ON A SATURDAY – Keith West
16. SOVAY – Pentangle
17. CAVE OF CLEAR LIGHT – The Bystanders
18. SOMA (PARTS ONE & TWO) – Dantalian’s Chariot
19. FIRE! – The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown
20. I’M THE URBAN SPACEMAN – The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band

Time – 73:24

Disc Two:
01. SHAPES OF THINGS – Jeff Beck
02. BLACK MAGIC WOMAN – Fleetwood Mac
03. PEARLY QUEEN – Traffic
04. PEOPLE YOU WERE GOING TO – Van der Graaf Generator
05. REALITY – Secondhand
06. LOVE IS THE LAW – Eyes Of Blue
07. DUSTY – John Martyn
08. IN HER MIND – Eclection
09. SUMMERTIME – Love Sculpture
10. FLY TOMORROW – John Mayall
11. PLACE OF MY OWN – Caravan
12. NO TITLE – Ten Years After
13. CHILD OF MY KINGDOM – The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown
14. I NEVER KNEW – The Gods

Time – 72:39

Disc Three:
01. MY SUNDAY FEELING – Jethro Tull
02. SABRE DANCE – Love Sculpture
03. FLAMES – Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera
04. SOMEWHERE TO GO – The Deviants
05. COLD EMBRACE – Sam Gopal
06. SHINE ON BRIGHTLY – Procol Harum
07. PARADISE FLAT – Status Quo
08. THAT’S ME – Genesis
09. SUITE NO. 1 – Giles, Giles & Fripp
12. MR. SUNSHINE – Barclay James Harvest
13. JUST FOR YOU – Dave Mason
14. S.F. SORROW IS BORN – Pretty Things
15. MAGIC MAN – Caravan
16. THE HALF-REMARKABLE QUESTION – Incredible String Band
18. MANDRAKE ROOT – Deep Purple

Time – 71:42

Total Time – 3:37:45

Record Label: Esoteric Recordings
Catalogue#: ECLEC 32662
Year of Release: 2019

Revolution: Underground Sounds of 1968 – Website