Rolling Stone - p.814 stars out of 5
-- "The reckless joy of the acid-garage tumult and utopian dreaming on these four CDs proves once and for all that San Francisco, in the second half of the Sixties, was the most exciting rock & roll city in America..."
Dirty Linen - pp.55-56
"[T]his is a wonderful tutorial for those who missed the golden age of Bay Area rock, and a memory-filled souvenir for folks who were there."
Liner Note Authors: Ben Fong-Torres; Gene Sculatti.
As the fourth Nuggets box from Rhino, LOVE IS THE SONG WE SING: SAN FRANCISCO FRANCISCO 1965-1970 is easily the most specific and idiosyncratic yet, a set devoted to a time and a place: namely the Bay Area that sowed the seeds of the Summer of Love in 1967. Released in conjunction with that 40th anniversary, LOVE IS THE SONG WE SING is surely a time capsule, but it may not be as much interest to those who lived through it as those who pine for the glory days of free love, hippies, and psychedelia. No less of an authority than legendary rock critic Greil Marcus noted in his Interview magazine review that many of these bands are obscure to him -- and he lived through the time, in the Bay Area, so he should know. Chances are the average listener looking for a heavy dose of nostalgia will also find LOVE IS THE SONG rather overwhelming in its reliance on momentary sensations and obscurities, but that's kind of the point of all the Nuggets sets: to dig way deeper than the surface and find the best of its chosen subculture. Fans of Nuggets know this, but the odd thing is that they may not be entirely satisfied with this set either, as it deviates from the Nuggets formula in a couple of crucial ways. First, there are some genuinely huge songs by genuinely huge bands -- like Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit," Country Joe & the Fish's "I Feel Like I'm Fixing to Die Rag," Blue Cheer's "Summertime Blues," and Santana's "Evil Ways" -- a few more marquee names than normal (including the Grateful Dead, Steve Miller Band, Janis Joplin, Sly & the Family Stone, and Moby Grape), and bands are occasionally repeated, but the biggest musical difference is that this is a decided shift away from the wild, wooly guitar rock of the previous Nuggets, lacking both the raw garage and hard, swirling psychedelia that has been the hallmark of the series. Instead, LOVE IS THE SONG WE SING is firmly within the camp of the hippies, documenting their rise, their peak, and softly disguising their fall by ending the set in 1970, when the Summer of Love was still echoing strongly but just beginning to fade.
This set takes its time to get to 1967, as that legendary summer doesn't roll around until disc three, but the pace never seems leisurely, as the first two discs document how that summer came to be, beginning with Dino Valenti's "Let's Get Together" (which provides the chorus to the Youngbloods' "Get Together," the '60s standard that closes the set), then winds its way through a lot of folk-rock before tougher, bluesier, trippier sounds work their way into the mix toward the beginning of the second disc. Just like the hippies, LOVE never really abandons these folkie beginnings and that communal vibe is always present even as soul, jazz, bluegrass, blues, and avant-garde bubble toward the surface. Ultimately, it's best to view this box set as a document of the era of the hippies, a piece of pop culture anthropology that might not be perfect but there is no comparable compilation to this, no other set that has the same scope or ambition.