Local Customs: Cavern Sound - V/A LP

(Numero Group, 2014)

(“Measured against other historical rock archives devoted to unearthing hidden gems from the fertile period of psychedelic exploration in the late ’60s and early ’70s, Numero Group’s Local Customs: Cavern Sound is no Nuggets in terms of being truly indispensible, but then few such compilations are. It is, however, easily the equal of, say, the Pebbles series; that is, these groovy period ditties may not be treasures you’ll wonder how you ever lived without, but they do make for a pleasant and trippy soundtrack, delivered with the Chicago label’s usual loving care toward presentation, annotation, and audio quality.

The story this time centers on one aptly named recording studio located deep underground in Independence, Missouri’s Pixley limestone mine. Cavern Sound was active until the late ’80s, but Local Customs focuses on 1967-1973, years when the local rock-minded teens, like those across the U.S., were all growing their hair long, dreaming of being the Beatles, and imitating that group’s studio innovations and sonic journeys toward the white light, whether or not they actually had the enhancement of psychoactive substances.

Aesthetic ambitions and a similar time and place aside, two dozen tracks from two dozen bands can make for an inconsistent ride, but when Numero is doing the compiling, the range is still from pretty darn great to slight but fun, with no downright stinkers. Among my highlights: the strutting, horn-augmented “Aunt Marie” by American Sound Ltd., which somehow makes the 63-year-old titular heroine sound hotter than the contemporary Nancy Sinatra; the sunny but nasty “I Don’t Really Love You” by a band called Sheriff; the rollicking “Little by Little” from Morningstar, and the Dylan-meets-the Seeds trip of “One Day Girl (Twenty-Four)” by Burlington Express.

Tune in, turn it up, and dig deep, and thanks again, Numero.” - Jim DeRogatis for WBEZ