Liner Note Author: Sam Szczepanski.
Illustrators: Sam Szczepanski; Vicki Fox; Tony Rounce; Mick Patrick.
This is a nifty idea for a compilation: collect a bunch of '60s hits, singles, and oddities inspired by classical composers. The key differentiating factor here is that these are "gassers," not art-inspired stabs at prog profundity (in other words, Procol Harum's famed "A Whiter Shade of Pale" is here only in a version by Shorty Long). These are all pop singles, some so popular that their classical origins may not be evident to some fans. James Darren's "Goodbye Cruel World" conveys a mad circus that overshadows its roots in Fucik's "Entry of the Gladiators," the Mindbenders' stately "A Groovy Kind of Love" obscures its Clementi debt, and Roy Orbison's "She Wears My Ring" also disguises its classical melody. Elsewhere, the nods to classical compositions are overt. Love Sculpture's hypercharged "Sabre Dance" is a psychedelicized cover of Khachaturian, the Toys' "A Lover's Concerto" winks that it's based on Bach, and Kim Fowley's studio concoction B. Bumble & the Stingers gleefully trash up Tchaikovsky with "Nut Rocker" -- and that's not even mentioning Allan Sherman using Ponchielli for his novelty "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah (A Letter from Camp)," Sounds Incorporated roaring through "Hall of the Mountain King," or Harpers Bizarre skipping through "Peter and the Wolf." Collecting all these singles in one place demonstrates that this really was a '60s fad, and that alone makes Classical Gassers a worthy historical document, but it's also fun because it swings between the effervescent and strange. It's odd to realize the Toys went back to the classical well after "A Lover's Concerto," and it's strange to hear Lesley Miller fit Grieg's "Hall of the Mountain King" into the teen drama "Mountain of Our Love" and Waldo de los Rios turn Mozart into easy listening (this is the only cut that's not from the '60s). Such footnotes to pop history are worth preserving, and that's why this collection is such a gas. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine