Nirvana - Topic

Thumbnail Forever Changing: An Introduction to Nirvana Play

Forever Changing is a good 14-song distillation of Nirvana's late-'60s Island records, albeit one that leans heavily on material from the first two of their three Island LPs, The Story of Simon Simopath and All of Us. Just one song from the third LP, To Markos III, is represented, that being the six-minute "Love Suite." But a couple of their non-LP single tracks are here too, and one of those ("I Believe in Magic," their first B-side) was one of the best things they recorded, though the other B-side ("Darling Darlene") isn't much of a song. Some would contend that early Nirvana's best appreciated by listening to their whole albums, but unless you're a real big fan, this compilation is actually a preferable listen to any of those individual albums. For Nirvana's orchestrated pop-psych-lite albums could get tiresomely twee taken in full doses, and with some of the fat cut out, listening simply becomes a lot easier and more enjoyable. Their best-known songs -- the singles "Rainbow Chaser," "Tiny Goddess," and "Pentecost Hotel" -- are all here, of course. Yet the astute programming also allows appreciation of some obscure LP cuts, as well as (perhaps inadvertently) highlighting the influence of Ray Davies on "In the Courtyard of the Stars," though it's more fey than anything the Kinks did during the same era. So why doesn't this attractively packaged release rate as the best Nirvana collection? Simple -- for some unforgivable reason, it uses a different, inferior version of "Rainbow Chaser" (minus its psychedelic phasing effects) than the one that was a European hit single in 1968. It's not explained anywhere in the liner notes what the origin of this alternate version is. But regardless of where it came from, its inclusion here is an unforgivable mistake that keeps this comp from being definitive, though fortunately the familiar "phased" version of "Rainbow Chaser" is available on Universal/Island's CD reissue of Nirvana's All of Us. ~ Richie Unterberger, Rovi

Thumbnail The Story of Simon Simopath Play

One of the most entertaining things to do on websites that allow customer reviews of CDs is read the apoplectic fury Kurt Cobain's fans have for the original Nirvana, the cultily-adored British psych-pop group from the late '60s. Much of that misguided and ill-informed venom seems to be directed toward this album, Nirvana's 1967 debut. An unashamedly twee early concept album, The Story of Simon Simopath (subtitled "A Science Fiction Pantomime," suitably expressing the deliberately childlike tone of the album) sounds, like most rock concept albums, like a collection of unconnected songs forced together by the story written in the liner notes. Ignoring the rather silly story (something about a boy who wishes he could fly), what's left is a regrettably brief but uniformly solid set of well-constructed psych-pop tunes with attractive melodies and rich, semi-orchestrated arrangements. Although the core of Nirvana was the duo of singer-guitarist Patrick Campbell-Lyons and keyboardist Alex Spyropoulos, the group is here expanded to a sextet including full-time French horn and cello players, and the semi-Baroque arrangements are particularly memorable on the singles "Pentecost Hotel" and "Wings of Love." Although The Story of Simon Simopath has no individual songs as instantly delightful as "Rainbow Chaser," the hit single and key track from their next album All of Us, it's a much more consistent record than that somewhat patchy follow-up. ~ Stewart Mason, Rovi

Thumbnail Chemistry Play

They meant little in the '60s, even less in the '70s, nothing in the '80s, and should have been completely forgotten in the '90s. Instead, a few well-placed lawsuits and a suddenly acquired gift for creative self-publicity elevated a hitherto marginal English folk psychedelic duo to new peaks of musical and cultural cultdom and, suddenly, Nirvana -- purveyors of such pleasant late-1960s whimsey as "Tony Goddess" and "Rainbow Chaser" -- were operating on the same plane of existence as Seattle's finest grungesters. And this, you might hope, is their story. Hope on. Five albums issued between 1968-1972 have all been reissued elsewhere; two more, dating from 1995-96 (with the latter cheekily including a cover of Kurt Cobain's "Lithium"), at least raised an indulgent smile. Chemistry, however, draws only sporadically from the wellspring of classic Nirvana. 1970s Nirvana (U.K. title To Markos III) appears in its entirety, as do the latter day Secret Theatre and Orange and Blue. But other material draws from Patrick Campbell-Lyons' subsequent, and so patchy, solo career, including 1980s The Hero I Might Have Been album, and singles issued under both the old band name, and a new one, Erewhon. All of which would be fine, but for one thing. Nowhere in the package is there any reference to any of this. Clock the cover and read the liners, and you'd be readily excused for expecting an evening of primal Nirvana at their hippy freaky finest. Instead, a few vaguely passable rerecordings of classic songs notwithstanding, what you actually get is an exhaustive portrait of three albums which really don't bear too many listens, and one which isn't by Nirvana at all. If you must own three CDs by this group, pick up The Story of Simon Sociopath and All Of Us, originally released by Island, but reissued by Edsel; and Local Anaesthetic, care of Repertoire via Vertigo. Cut, respectively, in 1968, 1969, and 1971, they are the sound of Nirvana at their most heavenly. Chemistry, on the other hand, is for collectors only -- and it's not even honest enough to admit that much. ~ Dave Thompson, Rovi
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