The reviewer who so righteously panned this album apparently didn't think at all about what he was getting into by purchasing this CD and expected it to be something it's obviously not: Before getting incensed that this album isn't Velvet Underground (and why should it be?!), he should have remembered this is British psychedelic rock from the late 60's. Fans of the genre's most famous (in the mainstream) albums like Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Pink Floyd's The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, the Zombies' Odessey and Oracle and less-famous but equally worthwhile albums like Tomorrow, The Pretty Things' S.F. Sorrow, and Kaleidoscope's Tangerine Dream know that British psychedelia more often than not includes gloriously lush production (orchestras, and yes, even slide whistles), very British vocals, songs full of stories that are often whimsical, a sense of melody that sometimes borders on the sing-song and, maybe most importantly, an effort to make the music and recording recreate or enhance drug experiences. When taken in this context, The World of Oz's only album not only makes a lot more sense, it's also pretty good and easy to appreciate as a well-crafted collection of pop songs.
Really, the album's cover gives a bit of the wrong impression--aside from the artwork (which delightfully reproduces a plethora of characters from the Wizard of Oz books), the band and the songs have absolutely nothing to do with the Wizard of Oz. In fact, in comparison with many other British psych bands, these guys aren't quite as psychedelic as they are marketed. Their primary connections to psych lies in the subject matter of the songs (delightfully playful hooks and song premises) and the presence of a full orchestra on most of the tracks. Other than that and the odd guitar effect on "Humgum Tree" and "Like a Tear," the album is less of a psychedelic trip and more of a sly and light-hearted pop record, which makes a lot of sense--the World of Oz put out a clutch of moderately-successful to totally unsuccessful singles, which were eventually collected with a few other tracks to make up this album. In this sense, it's not really as much of a proper studio album as a compilation of pre-recorded singles with other songs (really not uncommon in all areas of pop music at the time, since most labels required bands to release successful singles before allowing them to make a whole album).
As for the music and songs themselves, they tend more toward the Bee Gees' brand of sunny (if occasionally melancholy) psych pop than something with a tougher edge like the Move or the Pretty Things. "The Muffin Man" is a slice of pop heaven, with some great brass parts and soaring harmonies. "Bring the Ring" is one of my favorites; a gentle-to-rocking ballad. Despite the orchestra, you can clearly hear in the left channel a pretty tough, rocking rhythm section with driving bass and pounding drums. I think the lack of a strong, forward guitar presence on many of the songs account for the slight misinterpretation that it doesn't "rock."
The intro to "Jackie" always makes me think the band is going to launch into the Bee Gees' "I Started a Joke." A couple of my other favorites include the great verses of "We've All Seen the Queen," the lamenting ballad "King Croesus," and the rollicking "Mandy-Ann." From a pop standpoint, there's not really a weak song in the bunch, as they're all laden with hooks and slick production. The only song that really gets on my nerves is "Jack," ostensibly about a child playing in a park with his grandparents, which takes whimsy in the least interesting direction it could go.
If you're a fan of British psychedelic music and know what to expect, you'll probably get plenty of enjoyment out of this album--it's pretty obscure, and if you've exhausted the genre, it'll be an enjoyable addition to your collection. If you're a fan of harder rock, you'd probably do best elsewhere. If you've never purchased a Repertoire reissue before, you'll probably be delighted with the packaging, liner note mini-poster, and attention to detail with regards to package and remastering. The bonus tracks are pretty unnecessary--they're all mono mixes of the songs from the album that were also released as singles with the exception of "Peter's Birthday," which is one of the coolest and weirdest in the bunch. I appreciate when a record label goes the extra mile to add some extra tracks, but I'm not so sure that anyone's such a big World of Oz fan that they want mono and stereo versions of every single.