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In any great scene - social or film - it seems there are always a few frames that get left out. And this, the latest installment in Big Beat's Nuggets From The Golden State series restores some lost footage to the sprawling epic that was San Francisco in the 60s. Necessarily comprised of demos, rehearsals and concert performances, the Ace of Cups' It's Bad For You But Buy It! documents the music of one of the few SF bands that, regrettably, never got a go at the full recording studio experience. Fillmore and Avalon regulars - I recall seeing them, too, at Golden Gate Park events - this all-girl quintet rocked, soothed and cooked, from 1967 to 1970, making its own distinctive contribution to that diverse period. Distinctive" is the operative word. Sure, there are occasional (early) Grace Slick vocal referents, but the Cups' music doesn't generally resemble that of their bigger brothers and sisters, tending, to borrow a phrase from the Beach Boys, more toward an appealing mix of funky/pretty."
IT'S BAD FOR YOU BUT BUY IT! is rich in local lore (the subjects of Waller Street Blues and Pretty Boy are, respectively, the Cups' Haight practice pad and Blue Cheer singer-bassist Dickie Peterson)-.-imaginative interpretation (covers of the Parliaments' I Wanna Testify and Mongo Santamaria's Afro Blue)-.-and impressive originals. Glue is a punky, organ-pushed critique of consumerism with a Quicksilver finish, and Stones an earthy driver with deliciously gnarly guitar-ing (Mary Ellen Simpson's solo sounds like she's vamping on the 13th Floor Elevators' Fire Engine). The ballad Simplicity and the appropriately soulful a cappella opener Music disclose the group's more reflective side - and Denise Kaufman's considerable skill as a lyricist - while Kaufman's ultra-rare pre-Cups garage single from 1966, Boy, What'll You Do Then, walks the wilder side with raw-throat vocals, wailing harp and insistent 12-string. Indeed, it's bad for you, but ...
By Gene Sculatti
(Gene Sculatti began writing about music as staffer at the first rock fanzine, Mojo Navigator, in 1966. Amongst his many other achievements since is the definitive psychedelic textbook, San Francisco Nights)