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Beau Brummels box set a wondrous way to preserve aural legacy

Eight-disc box set, "Turn Around: The Complete Recordings 1964-1970," is a consummate example of how to properly preserve a band's aural legacy.
BEAU BRUMS

The Beau Brummels

Turn Around: The Complete Recordings 1964-1970 

(Cherry Red/Now Sounds)

The consummate example of how to properly preserve the aural legacy of an important (and sorely underrated) band, Turn Around collects pretty much everything anyone would need to hear from the Beau Brummels. The exhaustive eight-disc, 228-track box includes the Brummels’ five albums proper released on Autumn and Warner Brothers Records between 1965 and 1968 (with tons of demos, alternate versions and outtakes appended as bonus tracks), as well as a disc of 1964/1965-vintage demos, another containing 32 demos and home recordings from head Brummels Sal Valentino and Ron Elliott recorded between 1965 and 1967, and a disc titled The Singles: As & Bs, which presents the band’s 45s in their original mono versions. All told, there are 24 previously unreleased cuts sprinkled among the eight discs.

Best known for their two 1965 top 20 hits “Laugh, Laugh” (#15) and “Just a Little” (#8), Turn Around proves that there was much more to the Beau Brummels than those enduring singles. Their early sound contained elements of the then-current British Invasion, but there was also a pronounced folk-rock bent (owing a debt to artists such as the Byrds and Bob Dylan), particularly on the Volume Two album. A few nifty curios also appear as bonus tracks on Volume 2: the Sly Stone-penned “Underdog” and “Are You Sure.” The former is a garage-rockin’ stomp with Valentino affecting a rapid-fire, Dylanesque vocal delivery, while the later is a more sedate folk-rock number. (Stone—under the name Sly Stewart—produced the Brummels’ first album and is listed as the producer on Volume 2, although his participation there has been questioned.)

The only semi-misstep among the Brummels’ original albums is Beau Brummels 66, an all-covers effort that their label apparently arm-twisted the band into recording. While the take of “Monday, Monday” is undeniably pretty and the closing of “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” is hilarious, by and large most of the album is relatively unnecessary. The bonus cuts save the day, though: a cover of Dylan’s “One Too Many Mornings” (a failed single) is pretty great, musically channeling the Stones and Byrds simultaneously, and the first A-side penned by Valentino, the loping “Here We Are Again,” is a definite treat.

Later Beau Brummels efforts such as 1967’s Triangle and 1968’s rustic Bradley’s Barn would become even more sophisticated, touching on baroque-pop and country-rock quite successfully and showcasing the BB’s musical and lyrical growth. Most everything on Turn Around features the assured—and often quite beautiful—lead vocals of Sal Valentino, who could go from the understated sweetness of tracks such as “Sad Little Girl” to the slightly odd, full-on Johnny Cash (with fuzz guitar!) soundalike, “Gentle Wand’rin’ Ways.”

Other selling points on Turn Around: all the tracks have been newly remastered, and the box contains an absolutely amazing 88-page booklet jam-packed with interviews, song notes, photos, ephemera, and more. Along with the stellar music, it provides a comprehensive look at a band that should have been much bigger and one whose influence is still being felt today. An exemplary release, to be sure. Grade: A