The Tangerine Zoo - Outside Looking In. 1968 USA

Outside Looking In is The Tangerine Zoo's second and last album. In reflection, it's amazing just how many great psychedelic bands the United States housed in a relatively short time frame. From 1967 to 1969, you would find psych bands cropping up in every nook and cranny inside America. And the epicenters of the movement, along each coast, were primarily in San Francisco and Boston. It's the latter where The Tangerine Zoo hails from. Previously known as The Flower Pot, the censor boards (that were alive and well in those days) insisted on a name change. Anything with a fruit and the word Zoo was considered hippy enough, so The Tangerine Zoo was deemed safe (Twentieth Century Zoo was to come along shortly).

And then in 1970 it all basically just died. Not a single one made the transition over to the new progressive rock phenomena happening in England and the rest of Europe. Seems like a good dissertation topic for another day.

I bring this up in the review for this album, because The Tangerine Zoo were already heading in that direction, as were a few of their brethren. There's no mistaking this for a late 60s American psychedelic album, with the harmony vocals, old organ, dippy lyrics, and stinging bumble bee fuzz guitars. And the epic closer was de rigueur following the success of The Doors and Iron Butterfly. But as one listens closely to the album, there is an advanced songwriting. Meter, color, and dynamic changes are subtlety tossed in within each track. There's not a dud among the compositions here, almost all quite inventive, even within the short time duration afforded. 'Another Morning' is the only song here that is relatively straightforward (it's a cover of The Moody Blues song), though certainly worthy of hit single status.

If you're looking for a bit more gusto in your psychedelia, similar in that way to Neighb'rhood Childr'n or Strawberry Alarm Clock, then Outside Looking In will certainly delight.

Personal collection
LP: 1968 Mainstream

Another one of those albums where there isn't a date listed anywhere but is generally accepted to be 1968. The band themselves, on their own webpage, corroborate this but without any recording or historical detail at all (do they even remember?) beyond it was recorded in the fall of '68 in New York City. That's not a release date. And they disbanded in 1970. Of course they did - they ALL did.

So I laid out some good coin for an original of this album - for all the reasons listed in the review - only to find out it pretty much sounds like crap. I don't mean the pressing quality or condition, but rather the muddy and tinny production. Or at least that's what we got to hear it on vinyl. It is my sincere hope that the masters are a different story, and a high quality CD/LP reissue could do wonders.

Of course, there's a problem. All the Mainstream releases are locked up tight by Sony with what appears zero desire to reissue any of them. So bootlegs abound everywhere. The band, for their part, are helping resell the bootleg CD (I contacted them a few years back to learn this)! And this is because they already know they're screwed out of royalties, so what difference does it make (at least that's how they see it). But it would be so nice to have their contribution to a quality reissue (and yes, hopefully some cash too).

Mainstream is arguably the greatest psychedelic label from America, and almost no one gets to hear them properly. Jeesh.

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