CD Review of Monterey International Pop Festival by Various Artists

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Monterey International Pop Festival
starstarstarno starno star Label: Razor & Tie
Released: 2007
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The Summer of Love turns 40 this year, old enough to run for president, contemplate prostate troubles, get regular mammograms, and reminisce about getting high back in 1967. Monterey Pop was its centerpiece, a pre-Woodstock, pre-Lollapalooza, pre-Reading, pre-Warped festival that wasn't so much a commercial endeavor but rather a proof of concept: That the younger generation had learned lessons of peace, love, and tolerance that the older generation hadn't.

And oh baby, was it a smashing success. Ravi Shankar, the Memphis soul monsters, Hugh Masekela, British invaders, San Francisco popsters, and blues-rockers like Electric Flag, Jimi Hendrix, and Paul Butterfield all conducted a beautiful, noisy summit, the kind the United Nations still wishes it could put together.

From a rock history point of view, Janis Joplin was the debutante here, with a voice so strong and powerful it made some people quake in fear, and others cry in joy. On this two-CD set, her band Big Brother & the Holding Company steal the show with "Down on Me" and "Ball and Chain." Otis Redding, backed by Booker T. & the MGs, also put on a polished little set here, along with Jimi Hendrix doing "The Wind Cries Mary" and Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone." The Airplane's on top of its game here, performing "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit." You get a taste of Masakela and Shankar, but (thank goodness) not an overdose.

On the downside, a couple of unreleased Simon & Garfunkel tunes ("Homeward Bound" and "Sounds of Silence") show up here for the first time. Why haven't they been included on the more exhaustive Rhino 4-CD box released in the 1990s and updated since? Because the quality of the tape's just not up with the others. While it's a nice teaser to put these two new tunes from the pop folkies on the promo stickers – it certainly will sell a couple more copies – they should have been left on the cutting-room floor because they really disrupt the vibe, man. The rest of the music is made from quality tape and digitally polished to a high sheen. Simon and Garfunkel's contribution just doesn't cut it.

Speaking of that Rhino 4-CD set, if one really wants to deeply get into the festival and dig the tunes, that's the way to go. The soul set on the Rhino box, especially, is phenomenal: A couple Booker T. tunes, and then the Mar-Keys (the horn section) come out and join them on stage for "Philly Dog," and the whole ensemble backs up Otis for five whole cuts. In fact, the Rhino box is a 70-cut, three-course meal, and this shorter (and much cheaper) 26-track set is an appetizer. But hey, some people just want the highlights, and they're all here: "California Dreamin'" by the Mamas & The Papas, "Scott McKenzie's "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)," the Who's "My Generation," and all of the above. If somehow this double-disc scoop of Monterey helps a new generation of rock-loving youngsters mellow out and develop enough political conscience to prevent the third Iraq war and concomitant invasions of Syria and Iran, it's done its job. Peace. Out.

~Mojo Flucke, PhD