By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
The few legitimate hits on hand are equally amiable, and Nuggets II's compilers wisely resist the temptation to make too much of them: "Friday on My Mind," the Easybeats' finger-snapping tribute to the weekend, turns up toward the tail end of disc 2, and Status Quo's eccentric "Pictures of Matchstick Men," once covered by Camper Van Beethoven, is dropped into the middle of the third CD. Likewise, well-known artists receive no special favors -- or at least not many. For reasons that aren't entirely clear, Them's gritty, organ-drenched "I Can Only Give You Everything" is credited to the act's lead singer, Van Morrison, but the Davy Jones who turns up on the sloppy, schizophrenic "You've Got a Habit of Leaving" isn't the diminutive cutie-pie from the Monkees but the future David Bowie performing under his given name. Bowie's mewling vocal on the choruses of "Habit" will likely be a revelation to his aficionados -- and not necessarily a pleasant one.
Other discoveries are much more agreeable. Several fairly prominent British combos that somehow failed to achieve superstar status in the States receive their due -- not only the aforementioned Creation and Move but also Kaleidoscope ("A Dream for Julie," "Flight From Ashiya"), the Small Faces ("My Mind's Eye," "Here Comes the Nice"), the Pretty Things ("Midnight to Six Man," "Rosalyn," the shoulda-been-a-smash "Walking Through My Dreams") and John's Children ("A Midsummer's Night Scene" and "Desdemona," featuring the suitably psychosexual line "Lift up your skirt and fly"). Bands with loyal cult followings also turn up, including Brazil's Os Mutantes ("Bat Macumba") and Los Shakers ("Break It All"), a wonderfully twisted Beatles knockoff from, believe it or don't, Uruguay. You can't beat a Liverpool accent as attempted by someone from South America.
But best of all are the opportunities to hear smile-inducing one-shots by outfits that only the nerdiest, most hermetic collectors remember, period. Consider the fabulously dated "Imposters of Life's Magazine," by the Idle Race (ELO's Jeff Lynne was a member), and the lugubrious, shape-shifting "I Read You Like an Open Book," by Sweden's Tages, on disc 1; the Craig's convincingly deranged "I Must be Mad" and the Syn's drop-out manifesto "14 Hour Technicolour Dream," from the second installment; disc 3's "Social End Product," a sneering fuzztone challenge by the Bluestars, and the Downliners Sect's wonderfully amateurish "Glendora"; and, on the fourth CD, the freaked-out nonsense of "I'm Just a Mops," by a Japanese quintet called, logically enough, the Mops, and "Dance Around the Maypole," by the Acid Gallery, whose members may have been on hallucinogens when it was recorded. Lick those stamps with caution.
Not everything here qualifies as a lost masterpiece, but even the lesser offerings inspire a few grins of their own. Although Timon's "Bitter Thoughts of Little Jane" is far too fey, it does sport the peppy line "She'll find a head to pound on," and "Reflections of Charles Brown" by Rupert's People earns points for the manner in which it lifts simultaneously from Charles M. Schulz and Procol Harum's "A Whiter Shade of Pale" (the song's author swears he'd never heard "Pale" before penning his opus -- yeah, sure).
Cuts such as these shouldn't be dismissed as mere filler. After all, their daffiness provides context for the numbers around them, many of which turn out to be awfully daffy as well. In the end, Nuggets II achieves the seemingly impossible task of extending the legacy of its model even as it paints a picture of an era when loud, nasty rock and the search for higher consciousness weren't seen as contradictory pursuits. Just as the record geeks knew all along.