The Turtles – The White Whale Albums
When I was a young buyer of 45’s I thought The Turtles were great. Melodic, witty, uniquely harmonic, & clever. This wasn’t just any pop band.
I was a big flipside explorer of 45’s. That’s where I discovered weird innovative songs like “Rugs of Woods & Flowers,” “Buzz Saw” & the wacko Americana-country romp “Chicken Little Was Right.” I was convinced these guys could play with Frank Zappa & the Mothers & if that didn’t work — the Holy Modal Rounders. Their musical expertise was impressive. My friends laughed. But, obviously, Frank was listening too.
The Turtles, with 6-studio LPs (1965-70) & their first 3 the motherlode was Howard Kaylan (lead singer), Mark Volman (guitarist-vocals), Don Murray (drums), Al Nichol, Chuck Portz, & Jim Tucker. Later, John Barbata (drums), Joel Larson (drums), John Seiter (drums), Chip Douglas (bass/keys), & Jim Pons (bass/guitars).
Together, they racked up 9 solid Top 40 hits plus a classic: “Happy Together.” To this day “You Baby,” with a bright Kaylan vocal & Beach Boy structure shimmers. When it shifts gears to bass guitar & drums, & Kaylan sings — “a little ray of sunshine, a little bit of soul…” – I still get chills. These were so well-thought out blueprints.
They had songs by the likes of Dylan (“It Ain’t Me Babe”), a young Warren Zevon (“Like the Seasons,” who was also signed to White Whale as part of a duo Lyme & Cybelle – “Follow Me”). P.F. Sloan, Harry Nilsson, Jim McGuinn & Gene Clark (The Byrds), Steve Barri, the team of Bonner-Gordon. The Turtles wrote originals & had great instincts & an irresistible style.
Some songs didn’t age well. None of us have. But the majority rise like mercury on a hot day. The Turtles certainly knew how to make 2-3-minute songs work.
White Whale Albums (Manifesto Records – drops June 26) will be digitally remastered on vinyl as well. Included are LPs: “It Ain’t Me Babe,” “You Baby,” “Happy Together,” “Battle of the Bands,” “Turtle Soup,” (produced by The Kinks’ Ray Davies), & “Wooden Head” (B-sides, rarities).
Along with hits are charming orphans. Howard Kaylan’s original “Wanderin’ Kind,” is excellent. Here the Turtles approach Byrds/Grateful Dead perfection.
The vocals were consistently superb. The drums on “Happy Together,” simple, sturdy, cleverly original with the subdued brass & its arrangement delicious. They knew how to dress a song up commercially & toss in a snake charmer horn for effect. “She’d Rather Be with Me,” idealistically a hit from the first intro has a captivating vocal.
One rock dynamo is a 1961 cover tune “Your Maw Said You Cried in Your Sleep Last Night,” – so hot it was covered years later by Robert Plant. Then to finger pop. Cocktail jazz lounge piano intro for ‘She’s My Girl,” a pop confection vocally ingenious.
However, they ventured into areas the record label didn’t see dollar signs in. White Whale wanted “instant” pudding not slow stirred, thick mousse. “She Always Leaves Me Laughing” is still pop creative but it wasn’t enough. But…
The “new” Turtles jelled as Flo & Eddie (Howard & Mark with the Mothers of Invention) during a hiatus. Their “I Been Born Again,” is Turtle/Mothers. This group still exists.
Which means The Turtles in some likelihood — alive in 2020. That sounds great to my ears.
The compilation: available at Amazon. Website: http://manifesto.com/