Trip-O-Meter: 4 out of 5
Hearts and Flowers were a group of musically-inclined time travelers who arrived in 1967 from the futuristic year of 1970 in order to attempt and make the world a groovier place. Yeah, the more likely story is that this So-Cal band was just a touch ahead of its time, but they do so in such strangely specific ways. Sure, the early Byrds and acoustic folk music are pretty obvious influence, but how is it that they seem to channel the sounds of the later Byrds, Crosby, Stills, and Nash, and and late 60's-early 70's L.A. hippy cowboy rock in 1967? I suppose that we'll leave that one to the quantum physicists, and turn our attention to this stellar set of psychedelically-tinged country rock, which comes straight at you dressed in a sonic Nudie suit. A few months ago, I reviewed a few Beachwood Sparks album and noted their clear affinity for the Byrds and Gram Parsons 'cosmic American music,' but now I'm thinking that that band simply had a few Hearts and Flowers tracks stashed away in the more secretive layers of their brains. Hell, as much as I dig Gram Parsons, I think these guys are a better fit for the whole 'cosmic American' thang. It could be their harpsichord that seals the deal.
This plays as a great complete album. None of the tracks are duffers. The folk influences infuse "Try For the Sun" in a purer way that most rock bands tend to muster. "The View From Ward Three" provides us with a country two-step, a quivering fiddle, and a touch of psychedelic guitar in a very groovy mix. Head for "Rock and Roll Gypsies" or "Save Some Time" to hear these guys vocally predict the Crosby, Stills, and Nash blend. "Please" sounds sort of like the Byrds if they were led by Lee Hazelwood, which turns out to be a pretty fine idea if you accept this tune as evidence. While we're on the topic of the Byrds, "I'm A Lonesome Fugitive" would've fit right on their "Sweetheart of the Rodeo," which didn't see release until a year later. While they don't betray their earthy roots, the band save their most psychedelicized blast of sound for the closing "10,000 Sunsets."
I don't know why I've never come across this band until recently. It's a pretty top shelf collection of hazy country rock. They certainly had the game down ahead of some of the A-listeners, and most of these tunes are pretty much in the same league as those more famous folks. I'd definitely be willing to grant this one a 'lost classic' status. There's apparently a second, more psychedelic pop album from a somewhat different line-up of the band as well, although I've yet to hear it.