BY FRED MILLS
An unintentionally hilarious notation leads off The Turtles’ Wikipedia page: “not to be confused with Turtles (South Korean band).” It’s for clarity’s sake, obviously, and it’s reasonable to presume that in some countries (particularly South Korea?) the American Turtles are not a household name. But still… any sentient music lover should have at least a passing acquaintance with some of The Turtles’ tunes from the ‘60s, be it their first hit, a cover of Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe,” or the equally captivating “She’d Rather Be With Me,” or the across-the-board smash “Happy Together,” all of which still crop up in regular rotation on oldies radio and occasionally find their way onto movie soundtracks.
The estimable FloEdCo, which of course would stand for the Flo & Eddie Company, aka the Phlorescent Leech & Eddie, aka Turtles co-founding members Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan, has resurrected all of those hits along with some singles that didn’t exactly storm the charts but still retain their charm for a delightful 8×45 singles box.
The aforementioned Dylan tune remains one of the most vital covers of St. Zimmerman ever, easily as important as anything in the Byrds’ Dylan songbook. Speaking of the Byrds: the McGuinn-Clark composition “You Showed Me” that the Turtles pushed effortlessly into the Top Ten is as spookily elegant as ever; it additionally showcases the group’s impeccable vocal harmonies, which at times were the equal of the Beach Boys. “Happy Together,” of course, is one of the most memorable 2:50 in rock history. And “Elenore,” yours truly’s personal fave here, is perhaps the greatest baroque/pop/rock hybrid ever attempted, a case study in how to structure tension and dynamics into a joyous explosion of hormonal excitement. As an original, it was also one of several Turtles hits not secured from a pool of estimable songwriters, which at the time included Dylan, McGuinn/Clark, Harry Nilsson and go-to guy P.F. Sloan.
But after you’ve scanned the hits, don’t forget to flip ‘em and prepare to be floored. “Outside Chance” is the B-side to “Elenore” here, a rousing, cowbell-powered anthem penned by — speaking of other songwriters — Mr. Warren Zevon well before his “Werewolves Of London” days. “Grim Reaper Of Love” may have only peaked at #81 on the Billboard charts in ’66, but this waltz-time minor-chord slice of nascent psychedelia is one of those coulda-shoulda-woulda numbers that fans love to debate to this day. The Brit Invasion-styled “Love In The City” fared even more poorly, reaching a miserly #91, but as another example of the Turtles’ own songwriting braintrust in operation, it’s a underrated gem just itching to be rediscovered. And Didja know? All you Kinks kompletists take note: Ray Davies produced it.
Sixteen tunes in all—collect ‘em all! The 45s are housed in a sturdy, attractive cardboard box, with each disc housed in its own sleeve and the label design reminiscent of the original label, White Whale. It would’ve been a nice touch to feature picture sleeves rather than the generic die-cut type, and the box cries out for a liner notes booklet. But to lovers of ‘60s pop and rock, the band’s story is so well known that none of that is really necessary. The music itself holds up perfectly, and that’s all that counts.
DOWNLOAD: What? Only digital dumbasses download stuff this vital, ya gotta own the artifact, jack! If you must, cue some of ‘em up on Spotify, but it’s always a (white) whale of a lot of fun spinning 45s, my friends.