For a band that scored two major hit singles in their first year as recording artists, the Electric Prunes were given precious little respect by their record label, Reprise Records; the group was allowed to perform a mere two original tunes on their debut album I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night), and when their second, Underground, didn't sell, they became glorified session men under composer and arranger David Axelrod on Mass in F Minor. When the Prunes couldn't play Axelrod's charts to his satisfaction, they were replaced by session men, and the original bandmembers weren't even invited to participate on two "Electric Prunes" albums later released by Reprise, Release of an Oath and Just Good Old Rock and Roll. Despite it all, the Electric Prunes' best work is still the stuff of legend among garage rock enthusiasts, and with good reason -- the freaked-out, fuzz-enhanced guitar lineup of Ken Williams, Jim Lowe and Weasel Spagnola created a wild and distinctive sound most of their peers would envy, and they fused the energy of the garage generation and the sonic experimentation of the burgeoning psychedelic scene with a skill few have matched before or since. Reprise finally gives the genuine Electric Prunes the tribute they deserve with Too Much to Dream -- Original Group Recordings: Reprise 1966-1967, a two-disc set that features the albums I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night) and Underground in their entirety, as well as handful of non-LP singles, unreleased tracks and monophonic mixes. Disc one, featuring the debut album, is more enjoyable, featuring the group's biggest hits and most memorable tunes, but Underground suggests the real tragedy that the Prunes were not allowed to follow their own muse in the studio again -- the group sounds tighter, more creatively unified and more mature on Underground, and it's not hard to imagine they could have had several more fine albums in them if they'd had the chance to chart their own path. As it is, this set collects some superb and atypical '60s garage stuff, the bonus material is solid and intriguing if not always revelatory, Jim Lowe and Mark Tulin tell the band's story in the thick liner booklet, and the Prunes' famous radio ad for Vox wah-wah pedals even makes the cut. This is a first-rate anthology from a wildly underrated band, and folks with a jones for mid-'60s rock will want to find room for this in their collections.
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