Album Review of Bouquets from a Cloudy Sky: The Complete Pretty Things Collection [Box Set] by The Pretty Things.
Release Date: Mar 17, 2015
Record label: Snapper UK
Genre(s): Blues, Pop/Rock, Album Rock, Hard Rock, Rock & Roll, Psychedelic/Garage, Regional Blues, British Psychedelia, Prog-Rock, British Blues, British Invasion, Freakbeat
Like so many British rock bands of the '60s, the Pretty Things both anticipated and followed trends. They were at ground zero for the British blues explosion and wound up with trailblazing concept albums like 1968's S.F. Sorrow, but they usually seemed a year or two behind the times, arriving a hair too late to ride the zeitgeist. This is best seen with 1970's Parachute, a piece of lush psychedelia accomplished enough to earn legendary status, and named Album of the Year by Rolling Stone, but it sounded as if it belonged to a year or two earlier, which also could be said of the Baroque middlebrow pop of 1967's Emotions or the massive arena rock of 1976's Savage Eye.
Without him, the band collapsed – though there’s a certain poetic justice in their eventual reformation resulting from the other Pretties joining him on a solo project. And there’s something heroically noble at their continued existence, intermittently performing and releasing LPs like 2007’s Balboa Island, whose “The Beat Goes On” offers an autobiographical overview of the life and times of those “dirty Pretty Things… back in the day we stole the blues”. The fame has gone, they concede, but regardless, “the beat goes on inside me and you”.
To their original fans The Pretty Things were snottier, scruffier kindred spirits of the Stones, who snatched a handful of hits during the British R&B boom of 1964/65. Their run of singles was as good as any in that rich era, notably Don’t Bring Me Down and Rosalyn, both laced with a derisive sneer, carrying on through to what is now recognised as the classic garage rock of Can’t Stand The Pain, LSD and Midnight To Six Man. Commercially, however, the Pretties failed to follow the Stones and Kinks in their transition from relying on an R&B-based repertoire to creating a mega-selling self-penned album.
Founded in London in 1963 by singer Phil May and an original Rolling Stone, guitarist Dick Taylor, the Pretty Things took their name from a 1955 Bo Diddley single and covered four of his tunes on their debut LP. The Pretties also supercharged Diddley's iconic shuffle and tremolo strum into an avenging-R&B mayhem — caught right away on the 1964 45s "Rosalyn" and "Don't Bring Me Down" — that was the delinquent model for garage rock, punk and glam (David Bowie covered both songs on 1973's Pin Ups). That would have been legacy enough for most bands.