More than most '60s garage hopefuls, the Electric Prunes found themselves falling prey to the machinations of the music industry, failing to read the small print when they made the ill-advised decision to sell the rights to their name, resulting in the band being usurped by session musicians after a promising start to their career. This great value box set tells you all you need to know, although completists will point out that this release contains no additional material, resulting in a handful of non-album singles being left off, although they are easily available elsewhere (check out the excellent "The Complete Reprise Singles" which will fill in the gaps).
Here's an album-by-album rundown of what you get for your money:
Disc 1: "The Electric Prunes" (1967) Featuring their two classic US/UK hits ("I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night" & "Get Me To The World On Time"), their debut LP was close to being a garage/psych classic, although they found themselves under pressure to record several tracks from outside songwriters resulting in a handful of bubblegum/novelty-style tracks which slightly diluted the band's impact, nevertheless, an enjoyable period piece. 6.5/10
Disc 2: "Underground" (1967) This time around, the band wrote most of the material, the result being a more consistent set. The Electric Prunes' fusion of minimal garage-punk and psychedelia coming good on what was the original line-up's finest hour. 8/10
Disc 3: "Mass In F Minor" (1968) Here's where the going gets weird: At the behest of their manager, composer David Axelrod was bought in with a brief to create a psychedelic version of the Christian mass - sung entirely in Latin! The complex music the band had to record resulted in many delays during the initial sessions, the outcome being the decision the bring in session musicians halfway through the recording, although they managed the replicate the the original group so well you can barely notice the difference. The end product was a spiritual/psych/prog cult-classic with baroque flourishes that was far-removed from the band's original sound as Latin chanting, psychedelic guitar and proto-prog arrangements intertwine to great effect. 8/10
Disc 4: "Release Of An Oath" (1968) By the time this was recorded, the original line-up had split, although the name lived on as the session crew who had completed the previous LP simply became the Electric Prunes (a consequence of the group's decision to sell the rights to their name). "Release Of An Oath" was the sequel to "Mass In F Minor" (this time based on the Jewish Nol Kidre prayer), with David Axelrod again composing the entire album, resulting in yet another psych/prog workout which is well worth a listen - even allowing for the duplicity involved. 8/10
Disc 5: "Just Good Old Rock And Roll" (1969) For this, the final Prunes LP, the session crew wrote all the tracks themselves - Axelrod's involvement with the band having ceased. The end product saw a return to a more basic guitar rock sound, although it was still far-removed from the original line-up's garage sound of yore. Left to their own devices the "new improved" Electric Prunes (as credited on the cover) managed to create a typical-sounding late-'60s hard-rock album, nothing exceptional, but it has its moments. 6.5/10
So there you have it, the Electric Prunes brief, flawed, at times brilliant career given the boxed treatment, which each album being housed in a replica album sleeve - all very concise, not to mention great value. Try it.
This is great value for those on a budget who want a comprehensive low cost way to acquire or reacquire this fantastic (literally) late 60s psychedelic US rock. Musically it is wonderful stuff all. Some of the albums are pure "band", and some are led by David Axelrod, with whom the band did not entirely agree artistically, but who was great too. It was actually an Axelrod-led track that got onto the Easy Rider soundtrack - my intro to the Electric Prunes back in the day. Axelrod liked turning religious music into psychedelia. And it worked!
The first 4 albums are great. Apart from the contentious way the original band were tricked out of their name during he third album, it is hard to believe the fifth album was recorded by the band that delivered Release of an Oath. Add to that the description "THE NEW IMPROVED ELECTRIC PRUNES" well, they could only get away with that because their was no trade descriptions act back then.They sound like a demented English Blues Band strangling cats, bound together by a barely capable organist. Thank goodness for Artifact, California and Feedback.