Over the last few years, it’s become de rigueur for young bands to slap the “psychedelic” label onto their sound, even though more often than not they’re about as psychedelic as The Brady Bunch. But for those wanting to dig deeply into the real thing by exploring the psychedelic substrata of the ’60s counterculture, especially the U.K. variety, this three-disc anthology is an amply annotated, sonically succulent set to covet. Love, Poetry and Revolution eschews overexposed first-tier psych practitioners to illuminate the fulsome scene smoldering beneath the mainstream. In a few cases, that means spotlighting names known to most serious ’60s rock geeks (The Misunderstood, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown), and documenting the fleeting psych-pop phases of aboveground acts like The Spencer Davis Group. But most of these 55 tracks are occupied by acts whose esoteric status is so succinctly described in David Wells’ liner notes that it would be folly to try topping him: “artists who weren’t even household names in their own households.”
These intrepid forays into the paisley-patterned underbelly of ’60s Britrock touch upon everything from literal flower-power paeans like The Crocheted Donut Ring’s harpsichord-kissed baroque-popper “Two Little Ladies (Azalea and Rhododendron)” and The Cortinas’ lone single, the falsetto-filled orchestral-pop rarity “Phoebe’s Flower Shop” to Peter Howell and John Ferdinando’s kooky, creepy psych-folk reboot of Lewis Carroll’s absurdist poem “Jabberwocky” and the haunting, organ-drenched trippiness of “Strange Ways” by Please, a group from whom only previously unreleased demos exist. The cumulative effect of it all can be a heady one — few will emerge from The Liverpool Scene’s deliciously demented, feedback-frenzied stoner’s sci-fi tale “We’ll All Be Spacemen Before We Die” unaffected. But tune for tune, there are also a striking number of opportunities to wonder, “Why was this one not a hit?” From freaky adventures in the stratosphere to perfect pop nuggets, Love, Poetry and Revolution offers a lovingly curated, appealingly rendered alternate history of England’s original psychedelic era.