Nuggets II: Original Artyfacts From the British Empire & Beyond

When Elektra Records released the two-record compilation Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From the First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968 in 1972, it was a godsend. Assembled by rock writer/Patti Smith Group bassist Lenny Kaye, the 30-song set documented that pivotal period in rock when all those kids, who got inspired by the Beatles and other British invasion bands, went out and bought guitars and started bands of their own. “Garage rock,” some called it. Whatever it was, it was immediate and exhilarating and shot through with the rush of discovery; the music—mostly three-minute singles—ranged from the atavistic amped-up equivalent of grunting and beating on stuff with big sticks to pop experimentation that was one grand neo-baroque slouch toward Brian Wilson’s hilltop aerie in Bel Air. Rhino, the reissue arm of Warner Music (Elektra’s corporate parent), fit all of Nuggets onto one CD and smartly expanded the set to four discs. If the original Nuggets had one major flaw, it was that its material was so, well, resolutely American. Nuggets II corrects that problem with 109 songs spread, again, over four CDs, most of them obscure and English (other non-American nationalities represent, too), many of them interesting because of what happened after the era of swinging hit singles gave way to druggy album sides, when crisp rave-up combos mutated into dope ’n’ roll prog-rock bands. A few familiar acts are on tap here, such as the Small Faces and Van Morrison. Others, like the Move and Idle Race, had members who later formed Electric Light Orchestra, or the Mockingbirds U.K., who formed 10 c.c. The set leads off with what may have been the coolest band that never made it big in the U.S., the Creation, and what follows is hours of prime rock ’n’ roll yas-yas that, unless you’re already an ardent Anglophile who’s gotten blasé from these boffo sides, should provide you with listening and dancing pleasure for years to come.