Solid Zinc: The Anthology
Considering their rather minor impact on the pop music world, there sure is a lot of Turtles music available. All of their individual releases have been remastered and reissued by Sundazed (with extra tracks no less), there is an excellent 20-song single disc collection of hits already out from Rhino, and now this. Compiled with full cooperation from the band (who contribute detailed tune commentary in the lavish 40 page book) this 51-cut double CD is about all The Turtles anyone but a completist needs.
Starting appropriately with their first hit, a cover of Bob Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe,” the group led by the double vocals of Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan (later known as the Florescent Leech and Eddie when they went solo and were forbidden to use their own names for legal reasons) began as a West Coast psychedelic pop combo. Somewhere between The Beach Boys, The Kinks, The Lovin’ Spoonful and The Byrds, The Turtles had some good ideas, but they seldom flourished into great songs the equal of their influences.
Their most famous singles were also their best. “She’s My Girl,” “Eleanor,” “You Showed Me,” and of course, “Happy Together” were all top 10 pop hits that still create instant smiles when they regularly appear on oldies radio. Only happy together for four years from 1965-’69 — during which they released five albums — the group went from crafting pleasant but now terribly dated pop to attempting to record their own Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in Turtle Soup, their final project.
Although their intentions were lofty and ultimately ahead of their time (especially on the concept album The Turtles Present The Battle of the Bands, where the group aped a variety of styles including their own), the results were only fitfully successful. Even bringing The Kinks’ Ray Davies in to produce Turtle Soup, their most ambitious recording, didn’t result in anything other than an interesting and remarkably well-crafted curiosity. Volman and Kaylan split amid acrimonious lawsuits with their White Whale label and did high-profile backing work with Frank Zappa, T.Rex, and The Psychedelic Furs before touring again in a reformed Turtles, singing their hits on oldies package tours and in state fairs.
Fans of the era, or of pop music in general, will relish this double-disc’s completeness. Rarities, B-sides, demos, soundtrack recordings, and other oddities add to the package’s historical appeal. The music’s remastering from the original tapes is the best it has ever sounded. The curious, though, can suffice with the existing 20 Greatest Hits that covers the band’s highlights without this anthology’s almost anal attention to detail.