The Best of The Free Design

A delightful yet inexplicably obscure late '60s band that had a remarkable brief resurrection in 2000, to call them merely "sunshine pop" would probably be unkind and certainly unsatisfactory. Entirely a family affair for eight core albums between 1967 and 1972, this exceptional collection of their brightest and most beautiful outings hits almost all the high points of their surprisingly large discography. Don't write off the band's airy ambience as insubstantial; even for lyrically uncomplicated songs like "Kites Are Fun" and "Bubbles," the soul-soothing feeling of gentle innocence can penetrate the heart of even the most cynical listener, while solid and mature pieces like "Never Tell The World," "Love Me," "Tomorrow Is The First Day of the Rest of My Life" (a song that went endlessly through my head on my wedding day) and — the album's peak — "Butterflies Are Free" inspire delight and melancholy in equal measure with their complex harmonies, moving lyrics and impeccable production. An unerring musical talent on par with Brian Wilson at his best, but far more consistent, this album is nevertheless not for everyone: listeners desiring a harder edge in particular from their music will find this indefatigably smooth album exasperating, the flower and rainbow stylings don't always age well, and the track selection is also occasionally suspect with lesser works such as "Love You," "Daniel Dolphin" and the flatly meandering "Love Does Not Die" maintaining the same level of quality but failing to reach the emotive value of the other, more superior tracks. Their inadequacy is merely by comparison, however, throwing the witty words of the band's frustration in "2002 A Hit Song" into sharp relief: "We’ve done it all right and sealed it with a kiss/There’s just one fact that we can’t quite shirk/We did all this last time, and it did not work!" Unfortunately it still didn't work in the real 2002, and the saddest thing about their lovely music gems is that no one seems to remember their brilliance. (Content: no concerns.)