Anthology (Rhino ’90) Rating: A
Formed by John Sebastian and guitarist Yal Zanovsky amid New York City’s folk rock scene of the mid-60s, the Lovin’ Spoonful enjoyed a spectacular 2 year run of great success (and great music) during which they had 7 top 10 singles. One of those great second tier singles bands of the sixties, the band had an excellent songwriter in Sebastian and an eclectic sound. Songs such as “Good Time Music,” “Younger Girl,” and “Jug Band Music” presented simple and catchy party tunes, but the band also tackled a dizzying array of other styles (bluegrass, country, ragtime, orchestral pop, gentle ballads, dramatic rockers, etc.) during their brief tenure. Though the band had a lighter (i.e. unpolitical), less groundbreaking agenda than other major rock acts of their time (’65-’67), the best songs of the Lovin’ Spoonful have a timeless feel. Those of you who are unfamiliar with the band will probably find yourself saying “wow, I didn’t know they sang that” to several of these classic songs, many of which will undoubtedly brighten your mood and make you nostalgic for a bygone era – they simply don’t write ‘em like this anymore. Classic tracks include the naïve “Do You Believe In Magic,” whose timeless pop melody far outweighs the dated grooviness of its lyrics, as well as disarmingly innocent ballads such as “You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice” and “Didn’t Want To Have To Do It.” Other highlights include the sing songy “Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind” and the whimsical “Daydream,” while the dramatic rocker “Summer In The City” is an all-time oldies favorite for good reason. For that matter, you’ve also probably heard the delicately acoustic “Rain On The Roof” and the orchestrated pop of “Darling Be Home Soon” at one time or another. Granted, with Anthology jam packed at 26 songs, not everything else here is top tier, but most of the rest of these album tracks and b-sides are also surprisingly strong, as the band’s pleasant harmonies and Sebastian’s diverse songwriting rarely resulted in anything that was less than extremely appealing. As a bonus we get treated to Rhino’s typically excellent sonics and informative liner notes, including commentary about specific songs from Sebastian himself. All of which makes this collection all that most fans will ever need from this highly underrated and influential (just ask Randy Newman) ensemble.