"British pop-psych" can be defined in so many different ways that one approaches judging the value of a compilation described as such with some trepidation. It's fair to say, however, that the 20 rarities here are not all that similar to what some listeners might think of as British pop-psych, whether they're thinking of giants like the Sgt. Pepper's-era Beatles, respected cult bands like Tomorrow, or even more pop-inclined exponents of the genre like the early Bee Gees.
This is truly more pop at its core than psychedelic, and that might also be said of the early Bee Gees -- but, alas, the quality (and even the strangeness factor) is not on par with vintage Bee Gees. These items are more like late-'60s-era U.K. pop with some mild psychedelic dressing in the arrangements (often of the orchestral variety) and lyrics. Only this era could have generated a song titled "The Fantastic Story of the Steam-Driven Banana," to take the most egregious example represented on this anthology (on a 1968 single by Legay).
That angle isn't necessarily a drawback, except that the material here is usually fairly mediocre, to be blunt, and below the standard even of the usual rarity CD comps on this theme, let alone the hits and cult classics of the genre. The lack of too-catchy tunes or overly clever lyrics can't compensate for the more imaginative and sometimes odd arrangements, but some of the more noteworthy tracks include Peppermint Circus' pleasing pop-soul-psych mixture on "Keeping My Head Above Water" (though this cut in particular seems not to have been transferred to CD at a consistent speed); the aforementioned "The Fantastic Story of the Steam-Driven Banana," which slightly recalls some of the wackier electric keyboard-driven pop-psychedelia of U.S. bands like the Mystery Trend; Alexander Bell's "Alexander Bell Believes," which is, even by this style's lofty standards, a quite fey and precious observational narrative based on a vintage historical character; and Bill Kenwright & the Runaways' fairly good cover of a little-known Motown song, "I Want to Go Back There Again" (originally done by Chris Clark).
Collectors looking for obscure connections to stars might want to hear the Cat Stevens-penned, sardonic "Never Play a B Side" (a 1968 single for Sasha Caro); Perfect People's Manfred Mann-written 1969 single "A House in the Country"; and Bubblegum's 1968 45 "Little Red Bucket" (written by Harry Vanda and George Young of the Easybeats), though none of these songs is up to the caliber of the more renowned work of the composers.
by Richie Unterberger
Artists - Tracks
1. K.G. Young - Spider - 2:52
2. Sasha Caro - Never Play A B Side - 2:48
3. Gentry - Sing Me A Sad Song - 2:44
4. Peppermint Circus - Keeping My Head Above Water - 2:38
5. Legay - The Fantastic Story Of The Stream-Driven Banana - 3:00
6. George Bean - The Candy Shop Is Closed - 2:32
7. Wishful Thinking - I Want You Girl - 2:39
8. Suspect - Belinda - 2:45
9. Perfect People - House In The Country - 1:58
10.Barbara Ruskin - Pawnbroker, Pawnbroker - 2:13
11.Chris McClure - Hazy People - 2:11
12.Bubblegum - Little Red Bucket - 3:11
13.Kool, The - Step Out Of Your Mind - 2:38
14.Alexander Bell - Alexander Bell Believes - 3:06
15.Roger Denison - She Wanders Through My Mind - 2:05
16.George Bean - Smile From Sequin - 2:23
17.Gervase - Pepper Grinder - 2:42
18.Bill Kenwright And The Runaways - I Want To Go Back There Again - 2:41
19.Mike Raynor And The Condors - Turn Your Head - 2:58
20.Zuider Zee - Provocative Child - 1:56
The Piccadilly Sunshine flavours
1968-70 Piccadilly Sunshine Part 1