The Association had quite a few singles and album tracks other than the four or five big hits that everyone remembers from constant radio play. This thoroughly annotated two-CD, 51-song compilation, though, has way too much stuff to pore through unless you're an unforgiving sucker for their light harmonies and clever arrangements. Those are matched to material that's sometimes good, but often too airily lightweight and closer to the Lettermen than Brian Wilson. On the positive side, this does have all five Top Ten hits, the odd, interesting low-charting singles like "Pandora's Golden Heebie Jeebies" (their most psych-pop-conscious outing), plenty of LP cuts that haven't been on CD before, and the obscure, pre-"Along Comes Mary" folk-rock covers of "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" and Bob Dylan's "One Too Many Mornings" (both from 1965, and both decent). Some of the tracks are presented in single versions that aren't easily available, and there are a couple of previously unreleased outtakes from their 1966 album And Then...Along Comes the Association, neither very memorable, though "Better Times" is reasonable bouncy California harmony pop
ock. There's a rare 1966 Columbia single by Larry Ramos and Jules Alexander recorded in the 1970s by Russ Giguere and the side project Bijou (again, rarer than they are exciting). There's also the occasionally ambitious effort, like the cover of P.F. Sloan's fine "On a Quiet Night," the moody "You Hear Me Call Your Name," or the queasily morbid "Requiem for the Masses," which is interesting if not wholly successful. But much of this is pleasant, too-wholesome puffery, edging further into blandness on much of the late-'60s and early-'70s material that occupies disc two, including their cover of Jimmy Webb's "P.F. Sloan," which is a more interesting idea than it is a good song. The two 1975 and three 1981 tracks that close the set are for the most part going to stretch the patience of all but the most devoted fans. Unless you're a sunshine pop fanatic, a basic Association greatest-hits comp (or their frequent spins on oldies radio) should be enough to maintain your tan.