The Tuneful Spoonful's Best on 180 Gram Vinyl

One of the most underrated of all ‘60s bands, the puppy-dog earnest The Lovin’ Spoonful sounds better and better as the 20th Century fades from view. This was their 3rd album, issued late in 1966 and the first containing all originals, many of which are stamped indelibly into the brains of Baby Boomers. The band combined folk, rock, jugband, country and of course, the influence of The Beatles.

Gravity escaped them because they were having too much damn fun cross-pollinating their musical tastes and play-acting at rock stardom to formulate a focused image that would play well in the hip “underground” scene forming around the time Hums was issued. Humor infused most of their music, and when they weren’t being funny or exuberant, they were being sincere.

Whether paying homage to the pickers in Nashville (“Nashville Cats”), or dealing with the excruciating pain or being picked on as a kid (“4 Eyes”), or extolling the pleasures of love and friendship (“Lovin’ You,” “Darlin’ Companion,” “Full Measure,” and “Bes’ Friends”) The Lovin’ Spoonful—and head songwriter John Sebastian— kept it breezy and light, but never vacuous. As good as those tunes are, they pale next to the moody, cinematic “Coconut Grove,” the intimate “Rain on the Roof,” and the album’s masterpiece, the #1 hit “Summer in the City” (with lyrics co-written by John’s younger brother Mark), the soundtrack to everyone’s summer of 1966. The song reeked of steamy sidewalks, sweltering fire-escapes, oppressive heat, and ultimately, sexual release. It had a pile-driver of a rhythm track in place of the band’s usual shuffle beat and drove home its message with devastating accuracy.

Back in 1966, buying “stereo” rock records was both difficult and risky. Finding them was tough enough—they were usually segregated in a small section—but determining if they were “real” stereo or “fake” stereo was nearly impossible. With Kama-Sutra being a small subsidiary of MGM—a label that issued many “fake” stereo records labeled either “stereo” or “Sounds Great in Stereo,” (which had me quipping at the time, “yea, it would sound great in stereo, but it’s not”), I remember buying the “stereo” version of the first Lovin’ Spoonful album Do You Believe in Magic? with great trepidation. The sound was superb, and real stereo, as was the sound on Daydream, the group’s second album. Hardly surprising since Hums and Daydream were engineered by the great Roy Halee, best known for his work with Simon and Garfunkel and The Byrds.

With Halee at the board, the sound had remarkable transparency, dimensionality, purity, dynamics and extension at the frequency extremes. Halee had an uncanny ability to create just the right sonic environment for each tune—something this Sundazed reissue demonstrates with great clarity. While these tunes are simple on the surface, if you pay attention to the small things—like the reverb choices—you will be rewarded. The tunes are riddled with ingenious use of both instruments and studio gimmickry, but applied so tastefully and discreetly, you won’t notice unless you consciously tune in. A genuine sonic treat.

Sundazed’s remastering is brighter, sharper and somewhat more antiseptic than the original, and what it loses in warmth and midrange suppleness, it makes up for with greater detail, transient speed and clarity—listen to the tack piano and jingle bells on “Full Measure,” or the juiciness of the harmonium on “Bes’ Friends.” Add worthwhile bonus tracks (instrumental versions of “Rain on the Roof” and “Voodoo in My Basement,” an alternate, extended take on “4 Eyes,” and Sebastian’s solo demo on “Darlin’ Companion”), gatefold presentation with excellent annotation and archival images of singles jackets, sheet music and other memorabilia and you have an exemplary reissue priced right. Recommended!

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Among their albums, this one really remains on me. The songs in there are truly amazing. How I wish I can hear them again in their new album. I never get to hear them play. But my parents told me they were a good band before. - Carmack Moving and Storage