CD Review of Summer of Love: The Hits of 1967 by Various Artists

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Summer of Love: The Hits of 1967
starstarstarno starno star Label: Time Life
Released: 2007
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The musical selections are downright pedestrian and remarkably blah. No Sgt. Pepper's, no Doors, no Dead, no Hendrix. The songs that do appear here are fastballs right down the middle of the plate (Scott McKenzie's "San Francisco," "Somebody to Love" by Jefferson Airplane, and of course the two most famous psychedelic one-hitters, "I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night" by the Electric Prunes and "Incense & Peppermints" by the Strawberry Alarm Clock). As if someone who wasn't actually alive during the era looked at some charts and which songs appeared most frequently on other compilations of 1967 tuneage. How on Earth this got stretched into two whole CDs, it's hard to fathom – although here's one clue: Steve Winwood shows up all over the place, with two Spencer Davis Group hits (you can guess them) and Traffic's "Paper Sun."

Honorable mention for including the Blues Project, Blues Magoos, and the less-obvious autobiographical song "Creeque Alley" by the Mamas & the Papas, which is an interesting cultural note looking back on the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love. But the interesting cuts are few and far between, as in, you gotta wade through lightweight pop like the Association's "Windy" and the Monkees' "Pleasant Valley Sunday" to get to them.

The real value in this box is the DVD. In classic Time Life style – the label is the Reader's Digest Condensed Books of the music world – the one-hour rockumentary “My Generation” attempts to accomplish the impossible task of giving viewers the full flavor of the Summer of Love counterculture on through Woodstock two years later and beyond. You can't do that in 10 hours, no way. But damn it, these guys give it the college try, and through commercial-free postage stamps and extraordinary editing, Time Life manages to synthesize art, jazz, poetry, folk, rock, drugs, jamming with the Dead, Janis and Jimi, ‘Nam, youth discontent, the Who and Stones, Wavy Gravy, free love and sex, Neil Young, Airplane, and everything else that made rock an interesting medium for the hippies. They even cut to members of the Clash and Eddie Van Halen commenting on the events of the day. Jorma Kaukonen (Airplane), Pete Townshend, and Carlos Santana gave extended interviews for the production, and they steal the show – who'd have guessed?

“My Generation” doesn't quite accomplish what it sets out to do, but it does what all good rockumentaries do, and that is leave watchers wanting more. So be warned: buy this box and it will send you scrambling to Google, Barnes & Noble, your local library, late-night TV, wherever to seek deeper understanding. Because the Summer of Love, we all know, wasn't necessarily about sex and drugs and peace and euphoria. It was also about overdoses, sexually transmitted diseases, unplanned pregnancies, getting busted, and draft-dodging, too. This DVD pulls no punches in that regard, and hey man, tells it like it was.

~Mojo Flucke, PhD