Upon first cracking open the Turtles’ new box set, comprised of eight 45 RPM vinyl discs, the straightforward presentation is a little surprising. Actually, given the super-powered hype of box sets these days, with new and exciting packaging, trinkets, and extended liner notes, this one seems… underwhelming. There are no liner notes. No rare photographs. There aren’t even any picture sleeves for the singles. Basically, what you see is what you get: a box (albeit a high quality one) covered in a collage of photographs that resembles the band’s 2009 Save the Turtles compilation album (also produced by FloEdCo/Manifesto Records, so not surprising), and a stack of 45s in nondescript trappings.
Yet, what more do you need? Contained on the eight 7″ discs are 16 of the Turtles’ biggest hits accompanied by other crucial links in the band’s evolution from mid-’60s folk-rock wannabes to the psychedelic outfit they were becoming at the end of the decade. It goes without saying that “Happy Together” is here, along with “She’d Rather Be With Me,” “Elenore,” and their first big score, a cover of Bob Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe.” But there’s also the Ray Davies-produced “Love In the City” from 1969, P.F. Sloan‘s “Let Me Be” and “You Baby,” Warren Zevon’s “Outside Chance,” and the Gene Clark/Roger (Jim) McGuinn composition “You Showed Me,” the last Turtles track to crack the Top 10. While I wouldn’t call these selections “rarities” or even “deep tracks,” for someone just beginning to tunnel into the band’s catalog, this is an excellent entree.
Besides being presented in their original incarnation — real, holdable, turn-overable vinyl records — the appeal also comes with limitless ways to mix and match the tunes. “But Allison,” you say, “a Spotify playlist can do this just as well! Do you live in the Dark Ages?” Believe me when I say there are few things more satisfying than solely crafting a playlist using vinyl. Especially when it’s heavy, good-quality vinyl like these discs. As you begin to flip this one over, and stick this one between two others, and then rearrange the whole pile, you begin to get an entirely new sense of the band’s breadth of material. Even the most jaded, spoiled Turtles fans will find something new in hearing these tracks presented in this format, whether it’s really hearing the wacky arrangement on “Sound Asleep” or just having a morbid chuckle over the fact that “Happy Together” is backed with “Grim Reaper of Love.”
Now, that being said, I wouldn’t call this an essential buy, but I would recommend it for both budding Turtles enthusiasts and compulsive completists. Had it included at least liner notes, it may have solidified its place in the “must-have” category (says the writer). But for what it is, which is a no-frills compilation that places the emphasis squarely where it belongs — on the music, of course — it surpasses all expectations.
“It Ain’t Me Babe” b/w “You Don’t Have to Walk in the Rain”
“Let Me Be” b/w “In the City”
“You Baby” b/w “You Know What I Mean”
“Happy Together” b/w “Grim Reaper of Love”
“She’d Rather Be With Me” b/w “The Story of Rock and Roll”
“Can I Get to Know You Better” b/w “She’s My Girl”
“Elenore” b/w “Outside Chance”
“Sound Asleep” b/w “You Showed Me”
The Turtles 45 RPM Vinyl Singles Collection is available now from FloEdCo/Manifesto Records. For more information or to purchase a copy, head over to theturtles.com.