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July 8, 1997:  Alibi Value Scale Formula:
Total minutes of good music @ 50¢/minute minus total minutes of bad music @ 25 ¢/minute = Value

Various Artists The Monterey International Pop Festival: June 16, 17 and 18, 1967(Rhino)
Good Minutes: 245:53 ($122.77)
Blah Minutes: 33:49 (no cash value)
Bad Minutes: 4:54 ($1.14)
Actual Retail Price: $49.98
Value: $121.63

This is why they called it the Summer of Love. From John Phillips' opening address on Disc One to the festival finale on Disc Four, featuring an inspired version of "Dancing In The Streets" by The Mamas & The Papas, it is apparent that June 16, 17 and 18, 1967, were three of the most perfect--not to mention vital--days in the history of music. Nearly 180,000 people, representing an entire generation (the one that's currently in office, incidentally), came out of their respective closets, ushering in an entirely new era of music and society. And the musical aftershocks that originated during those three magnificent days can be felt today in all of pop music. From the R&B soul searching of Lou Rawls and Otis Redding to the stage fanatics and artistic abandon of The Who and Jimi Hendrix, the festival at Monterey, Calif., set the stage for the music of the future and continues to directly influence musicians one, two and three generations down the line.

This collection, consisting of ex-cerpts from the sets of 20 of the 31 artists who appeared at the festival, is an effective collection of concert highlights--including some of the more memorable performances offered on stage, but it falls short as a complete historical documentary of the event. And the Monterey International Pop Festival was important enough to be represented in its entirety, or at least representative of all of the artists whose motto, Music, Love and Flowers, has carried on for two decades. Several key and pivotal acts are shamefully missing from this collection: Buffalo Springfield, the Grateful Dead, Simon & Garfunkel, Moby Grape and Laura Nyro among them. But the ones that are here provide an admirable cross-section of the overflowing talent present in Monterey for those three days.

The three most remarkable moments on this four-disc collection are the five-song Otis Redding set, six blistering British rockers--including "Substitute," "Summertime Blues" and "Happy Jack"--delivered by The Who and five awe-inspiring numbers courtesy of Big Brother and the Holding Company. Some of the other represented sets, that by Eric Burdon and the Animals for instance, are simply too short to do the artists much justice. But the learned compilationists at Rhino did do the listener a great service by choosing material that wouldn't necessarily make the cut if this set were a greatest hits collection rather than a sampler. Joplin's scat-wailing on Big Brother's "Harry," for example, might not have fared so well out of the context of falling in between "Combi-nation of the Two" and "Road Block."

And yes, herein lies the infamous performance by the original Seattle rocker, Jimi Hendrix, that culminated in a burning Stratocaster and 180,000 dropped jaws. Hendrix's set is one of the few complete programs here, and it's one that all but defines the festival's atmosphere. Hendrix, for one, sounded better live on this occasion than any other subsequently recorded, and the Experience were at their prime. On the video version of this collection (also available on the Rhino label), the teeming audience appears completely blown away by Hendrix and similarly devastated by the guitar-smashing finale provided by Pete Townshend. And only when one considers that no one prior to the Monterey Pop Festival had any idea just how powerful and liberating the event would be is it possible to understand the depth of these performances and what they still mean.

One can only hope that more volumes of The Monterey International Pop Festival will follow the first four, filling in the blanks left here. But this is a thoughtful--and well thought out--collection of important music from one of the most important musical events in pop history. And even though it's a puzzle incomplete, The Monterey International Pop Festival boxed set offers enough to frame the bigger picture at the very least. At its best, the collection delivers powerfully.

--Michael Henningsen

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