Essential New Music: The Turtles’ “The Complete Original Albums Collection”


By the time you make your way through their considerable bona fides—“Happy Together,” “Elenore,” five albums as members of Zappa’s Mothers Of Invention, backing vox as Flo & Eddie on T.Rex’s “Get It On (Bang A Gong)” and Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart” and a lawsuit vs. De La Soul that essentially changed sampling clearances and hip-hop economics forever—it’s easy to lose sight of just how musically adventurous the Turtles really were. Aside from the inescapable radio hits, this L.A.-based combo evolved, over the course of six LPs issued from 1965 to 1970, from early Byrds- and Dylan-influenced folk rockers (“It Ain’t Me”) to a strangely ingenious fusion of the Animals and Zombies (“You Baby,” “Happy Together”), whatever you’d call the track-by-track impersonation act that is “The Turtles Present The Battle Of The Bands” to their shambling West Coast approximation of the Lovin’ Spoonful (the Ray Davies-produced “Turtle Soup”).

Along with a posthumous odds ’n’ sods collection largely drawn from the group’s early outtakes, Wooden Head, the Turtles’ long-out-of-print catalog of original albums is given a fresh recasting here, plus bonus tracks salvaged from throughout their run as the thinking-man’s pop group for the 1960s. The sheer depth and breadth of the body of work is stunning—it’s hard to believe the Elephant 6 posse wasn’t name-dropping the Turtles in the same fell swoop as Brian Wilson and Left Banke—and Zappa’s talent for unearthing eccentric weirdos is validated repeatedly over the course of a baker’s half-dozen of the finest slices of frizzle-frazzle pop the Woodstock era managed to serve up.

—Corey duBrowa