Written by Shannon Moore
In terms of pop culture review, very few years rival the passion, and mystique that is associated with 1967. This was the year that The Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, and the Summer of Love were at the forefront of American society, creating a volatile mix of culture, counterculture, protest and nationalism. Over 40 years later, the amount of historical records/academic studies that examine the respective impacts of these events is staggering, and shrouds this particular year in a fog of fantasy. Soundtracked by new releases from The Doors, The Beatles, and a slew of protest songs, The Summer Of Love has been especially fetishized.
Many music fans view this year as one of the most important moments in music history, while others condemn the drug culture and hippie movement all together. Whether you see The Summer of Love as a period of beautiful expression that led to some of the greatest music of the century or as a gilded, naivete-fueled hiccup on the rock n’ roll timeline it is impossible to ignore the eclecticism and magnetism of the artists that were active during this year.
That is what makes Mint 400’s latest compilation, Mint 400 Presents 1967, such an interesting exhibition. The label has already showed its infatuation with mid-to-late-60s rock on a previous compilation featuring covers of The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, but this time around they have given their roster free reign over one of the most controversial and saturated catalogs in the history or pop music.
Full disclosure: While I was exposed to many artists whose material is covered on this record growing up, I recognize that their cultural context is something I simply cannot completely grasp having not lived through that time. The great thing about a compilation such as this though is that these contexts are manipulated and reworked to reflect the influence and direction of modern music.
Right off the bat, Midwestern singer/songwriter The Duke of Norfolk capitalizes on the potential for experimentation that 1967 offers with their folk-pop rendition of “The Song Of Seeonee,” a deleted cut from The Jungle Book Soundtrack. Though fairly straightforward in its delivery it adds new life to a song that has mostly been lost in time. No other track on 1967 is quite as obscure as this one, but even some of the more immediately recognizable track such as The Kink’s “Waterloo Sunset” (covered by label forefather Fairmont) and The Door’s “Love Me Two Times” (covered by multi-instrumentalist Jack Skuller) benefit from a bit of a face lift. The former receives a garage-pop adrenaline boost, while the latter trades the acid-shuffle of the original for a more down-tempo surf/psych approach.
The most liberal re-working of source material comes about half-way through the record, where neo-folk outfit Murzik puts a glitchy electro spin on Tommy James and The Shondell’s “I Think We’re Alone Now.” While it’s sure to be one of the more polarizing cuts on 1967, Murzik’s take on the song brings out a dark and lovesick dimension that contrasts the more pop-oriented feel of the original. Shortly after, New Jersey dream-poppers Netorare Fan Club deliver another electronic rendition of Franky Valli and The Four Season’s “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You.” The horn arrangements are replaced by various retro synths, creating sonic textures that convey are more somber longing similar to the Murzik track discussed above.
As interesting as these arrangements are, it is refreshing to see groups like The Maravines subscribe to the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. Their cover of “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere,” which was written by Bob Dylan during his self-imposed exile, is a true-to-form rootsy performance. Given the song’s solitary overtones, this is a very appropriate treatment. The Rolling Stone’s “Let’s Spend The Night Together,” get’s a similar treatment from The One & Nine’s, though their cover of “The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game” proves to be the more enjoyable of the two.
Closing out the album is renowned steel-guitarist Zach Uncles, who delivers a psychedelic instrumental rendition of Love’s “Bummer In The Summer.” Though the general direction of the song isn’t altered much, there is sure to be a split between those who admire the instrumental approach and those who resent the removal of the source lyrics.
This split is representative of the entirety of 1967 though, and it’s really what adds a sense of excitement to the whole outing. These covers have lots of room to fail. Depending on where the listener stands it could be considered either blasphemy to touch these tracks, or beating a dead horse who never had much life to begin with. Even for those who don’t feel strongly one way of the other it is difficult to rework a song with so much historical context, especially when many of these songs succeeded due to the charisma of their performers. While not every moment on 1967 is perfect, each artist puts their respective covers through a unique prism, making for some imaginative and enjoyable results.
Download Mint 400 Records Presents 1967 here.