Of all the bands that almost made it in the swingin' '60s, the Creation are one of the most storied and most anthologized. Thanks to a small number of classic singles, especially the brilliant "Making Time," their incendiary stage show, and their guitarist Eddie Phillips' use of a violin bow to conjure otherworldly sounds out of his guitar, the art-pop freakbeat group is often seen as the quintessential lost band of the era. The Numero Group's double-disc set Action Painting
is the latest effort to make sure the Creation's music is given the attention it deserves. From the exhaustive booklet to the pristine remastering done by the group's original producer, Shel Talmy, it's the best-looking and best-sounding set yet. It gathers up all their singles, tracks that never saw the light of day at the time but were later issued on compilations, a handful of songs cut by the band in its pre-Creation Mark Four
incarnation, a small number of backing tracks, and, most interestingly for Creation obsessives, 15 new stereo mixes done by the collection's producer Alec Palao
and approved by Talmy. Hearing the songs yet again, it's clear that given a break here or there, or if they had managed to keep a stable lineup together, the Creation really could have been as big as the Small Faces
or the Who
. Songs like "Making Time," "Try and Stop Me," and "Biff, Bang, Pow" have the powerful crunch of the latter and the swaggering attitude of the former. Add in Phillips' startling guitar work, Kenny Pickett's powerfully soulful vocals, and the punchy overall sound and you've got some timeless stuff. Even when the band reconfigured and lost Pickett's vocals, the other guys stepped up to fill the void, and later songs like "How Does It Feel to Feel" and "Life Is Just Beginning" have all the energy and power of the best music coming out of the U.K. at the time. All their best songs are here, interspersed with the R&B covers and novelties bands had to do to survive the '60s. Even at their dorkiest though, when covering "Cool Jerk" or singing about dancing girls on "The Girls Are Naked," the Creation always had that special something that made everything they did sound alive and important. In the years since the band split up, smart labels have made sure to keep the Creation's work available with varying degrees of quality. The Numero Group have done their usual top-notch job, and Action Painting
is the best Creation collection yet. The remastering is clear and strong, the booklet is a great read, and the stereo mixes on the second record are an interesting diversion, opening up the sound a little and giving the guitars more room to breathe. The band is a classic just-missed story, detailed in painstaking fashion in the booklet, but as Action Painting
shows, the Creation's music lives on as some of the most exciting, most impressive sounds of the '60s.