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1001 Albums: White Light/White Heat

#104

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Artist: Velvet Underground

Album: White Light/White Heat

Year: 1968

Length: 40:13

Genre: Experimental Rock / Noise Rock / Proto-Punk

“White light, White light goin’ messin’ up my brain
White light, Aww white light its gonna drive me insane
White heat, Aww white heat it tickle me down to my toes
White light, Aww white light I said now goodness knows, do it”

This might be the album that has me liking the Velvet Underground. Their debut just didn’t really do it for me and felt more like a Hipster’s wet dream than anything else. But here, they take on a completely different approach to their music and it’s one that captivated me and kept me hooked… for the most part. If I had to choose between the two I would definitely pick this one over their debut any day. I’m not sure about their future albums and how they are, since I have never listened to them, but if the band continues in the direction that this one started, than it’ll be a band I’ll slowly gain a liking to.

A big contrast here is that they take a proto-punk and noise rock sound to their music, which is an incredibly different approach than their more artistic and “pretty” sounding melodies that they expertly crafted. Here they left place for improvisation (their final song just goes on for 14 minutes on pure improvised guitar solos) and a hard rock sound before hard rock really even existed. The distorted guitar sounds would be incredibly influential for future punk bands and this album can easily be seen as paving the way for punk music.

The opening track sucked me in. Wait this was Velvet Underground? I was surprised in the best possible way. If the entire album was like this, I was set. Unfortunately it was followed by an almost 9-minute song that is basically just John Cale doing story time in a deadpan way. It’s a hit or miss song, you either love it or hate it. I unfortunately hated it. it felt long and repetitive and you catch the twist of the ending incredibly early that you feel like the rest of the time is just wasted time. Nothing wrong with telling stories in your music (most do) but here it just feels out of place with the rest of the songs and just doesn’t do it for me. This album (in my opinion) could have done without this song and had a different one in it’s place that matched the rest of the album.

Going through the album once, I wish I understood the lyrics. I only found out afterwards what the lyrical content was while doing some mild research for it and had to do a double-take because I missed it completely. Tales of Drag Queen Orgies and A Transvestite’s botched Lobotomy… Jesus, I wish I had understood the lyrics, I might have had a much different experience (in a good way because that just sounds pretty fucking great). I should probably explain this though. It’s not that I don’t pay attention to the lyrics or I just don’t get it, my problem is and I have this in general life in general is that I have a hard time understanding what people say. I’m not deaf, I can hear perfectly well but I constantly seem to misunderstand or mishear what people say. This happens especially with music, if the vocals get drowned out or the singer has a thick accent or mumbles, I never know what the lyrics are. I’m like the king of misheard lyrics or you know, it just sounds like Gibberish to me. If you want to understand what I’m saying, I always watch movies with subtitles on because sometimes I just couldn’t understand what they said. For music, once I know what the lyrics are, I can finally hear the singer saying it, but mostly… unless the singer sings in a very comprehensible and clear way… I have a hard time catching what the lyrics are, hence why I missed out on this weird and strange lyrical content that would have made me love my first experience much more. This is also why I’m really bad at quoting things… I can’t explain this phenomenon, it’s something that just is.

Anyway, I think it was a smart decision for the band to get rid of Andy Warhol and part ways with Nico (who is, thank god, not on this album anywhere) which allowed them to experiment more with the noise rock genre. I’m glad they did because not only did we get to see a different side to the band but they got to show off their expertise on a completely different level. Might not be a fan of the first, but definitely enjoyed this one.

Thanks for the pleasant surprise Velvet Underground, you did good.

Song of Choice: Sister Ray

-Bosco

 

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1001 Albums: Call of the Valley

#103

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Artist: Shivkumar Sharma / Brij Bushan Kabra / Hariprasad Chaurasia

Album: Call of the Valley

Year: 1967

Length: 1:10:55

Genre: Hindustani Classical Music

“Twanging Sitar Sounds Cascading Into Your Ears”

Now for something completely different.

Don’t ask me to explain this album to you. Don’t ask me to delve deep into the musicality of it all. Don’t ask me to break down each individual song. Don’t ask me to even explain to you what’s happening in each song. I have no idea how to answer any of these. I wish I was an expert on Hindustani Classical Music and the arrangements of Sitar playing. But sadly, I don’t, so all I have is my experience with what this album was.

It’s actually really cool that the list includes a lot of world music on it. Albums like this one would probably not really be heard by modern day western audiences if it weren’t for lists like this mentioning them and I think that’s pretty great that it’s giving the chance for young listeners (like myself) to discover some great world music. Didn’t expect something straight out of India that is basically a suite of classical Indian music as a throwback to days of old, but I’m happy it was there because it was an incredibly fresh listen in the vast pool of rock music I was listening to.

I really wish I knew more about this style of music because I really have no idea how to break it down. Already the entirety of it was instrumental and every song just blended together for me as it all sounded the same to my ears. I mean, yes there were differentiations between the songs… but to my untrained ears it’s hard to detect them exactly. I really just got lost in the beautiful sitar playing and flute arrangements and honestly didn’t pay attention to details. Nothing wrong with that. Almost like the jazz albums from the 50s, you put them on and get lost in them and it’s a very calming and relaxing experience. If you were to tell me the whole suite was telling a story of a the day in the life of a shepherd in Kashmir and used various ragas to let the audience know what time of the day it was… I wouldn’t have known that to be true. That’s exactly what they did and if I knew more about the music I probably would have caught that. Maybe one day I’ll relisten to it having this story in mind, but until then all I have is what I got. Not much.

Apparently this album was historically incredibly important. It was the album that introduced these stylings to western audiences and was beloved by musicians such as George Harrison, David Crosby, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan and Roger McGuinn, and heavily influenced a lot of these artists to include sitar into their work. So if you hate or love this inclusion in 60s rock, you have this album to thank for that. (Fun Fact: it’s also one of the most successful Indian albums. So… the more you know).

What else can I really say? (Something I’m starting to say a lot). I enjoyed it and maybe if I find it in the bin at a record store mgiht even buy it so I can continue to play it in the background and not really pay attention to it. It sets the mood more than anything… whatever that mood is.

Song of Choice: Dhun-Mishra Kirwani

-Bosco

 

 

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1001 Albums: Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind)

#102

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Artist: Loretta Lynn

Album: Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind)

Year: 1967

Length; 28:24

Genre: Country

“Well, you think you’re the hardest thing a goin’
The way things come to you, you think you’re in
But one of these days that wind’s a gonna start blowin’
You may not lose the big boy, you won’t win

‘Cause the devil gets his dues and you’ll start payin’
When he collects, you know you’ve paid your debt
The devil gets his dues like I been sayin’
You hurt just like you’ve hurt me, you can bet”

I slowed down on the listening because I knew this was the next album on the list and part of me really didn’t want to start the new year with a country album. For anyone who has read these posts (all three of you) it’s fair to say I am not a country music fan at all. I avoid it like the plague, so this wasn’t how I wanted to start the new year at all. First album of the year is a country album just doesn’t sound good to me. But was it as bad as I expected?

No. In fact, it was the complete opposite. I loved this album. Love, love, loved it. Ok, maybe not to the point that I’ll buy it and listen to it again but as far as country goes, I absolutely loved it (which means in general it was ok for me). Maybe I just needed a female country singer to change my mind about it all. Who knows. But Loretta Lynn was definitely a beautiful gem within a large field of crap ( I really hate country) and it felt like such a change of pace for the genre. Loretta Lynn set some high standards and is easily an important icon for the country music genre (and just for women in general).

For the first time, we have a woman in the 60s standing up for herself against her really shitty husband. This whole album is basically Loretta standing her ground and telling her husband to fyck off. The title song is basically her saying he ain’t getting nothing from her if he decides to come home drunk and get frisky. She’s saying NO (It’s weird how some people don’t understand the word no) and standing by it. Even throughout every song feels like such a great feminist anthem, especially today with the rise of the #Metoo campaigns and the attack on sexual predators and just douchebags with “I’m horny so I feel entitled to have sex with you” mentalities that many women have been dealing with. It’s great to see someone out there back in the 60s was doing that and wasn’t afraid to do so. Forget whoever there is today, Loretta Lynn is the real feminist icon. And that’s how it should be. Some douchebag is objectifying you, stand up to him and tell him how much of a piece of shit he’s being. No one should ever treat you that way, ever (guy or girl, I’ve been specific to women because Loretta Lynn is a woman, but neither men nor women should be treated that way). Too many douchebags get away with their shit attitudes because we seem to still be in a time where it’s not “Ok” to speak up and stand up for yourself, but I’m happy to see times are a changing and these people are getting what they deserve. I have never been objectified but I know people who have and I have their backs every step of the way.

Other than that, Loretta Lynn has a really interesting life as a whole. She was born in a coal mining family and got married at 15 years old (her marriage was highly inspirational for this particular album). Oddly enough, her husband despite being a shit was the one who highly encouraged her to become a musician… so… pros and cons I guess. Her life was even turned into a movie “The Coal Miner’s Daughter”, which I have not seen but it is on the 1001 movies list, so I will get around to it eventually because I am tackling it (but unfortunately no blog posts for that one). So, Loretta Lynn has really left her mark in history.

The only song I could have done without was the final one where she basically tries to justify the fact that she cheated on her husband because he’s a pro at it and it’s only bad because he caught her? I’m sorry but I feel that just takes away from the whole standing up for yourself against douchebags message because cheating is never justified. it doesn’t matter if your significant other cheated on you, by cheating as a response it just brings you down to their level and you are no better than them. So it took me out of it a bit (even though I did enjoy the song I just think it takes away from the rest of the album). SO as an experience I’d stop before that one, but still listen to it cause I do think it’s great as a song.

What else can I say? I found a country album that really engaged and captured me for once and I honestly think it should make a comeback with all the politics going on today.

You go Girl.

Song of Choice: The Devil Gets His Dues

-Bosco

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1001 Albums: I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)

#101

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Artist: The Electric Prunes

Album: I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)

Year: 1967

Length: 29:47

Genre: Psychedelic Rock / Garage Rock

“Last night your shadow fell upon my lonely room
I touched your golden hair and tasted your perfume
Your eyes were filled with love the way they used to be
Your gentle hand reached out to comfort me
Then came the dawn
And you were gone
You were gone, gone, gone

I had too much to dream last night
Too much to dream
I’m not ready to face the light
I had too much to dream
Last night
Last night”
Keeping up the pace with this list. If I want to make it to 1001 before I die (which I think is the goal in general) then I really need to pick it up. To be honest the listening part is the easy part. The writing the blog posts and doing the photoshopped covers is really what usually slows me down otherwise I probably would be way farther in the list by now. It’s hard to find time sometimes to sit down and crank one of these out, especially if a lot of time has passed since I heard the album and I basically forgot about it. When I started this challenge, I made it a point to write a post the night of listening to an album, but things change and it’s become tougher in general. But no more of that. Time to take my life into my own hands and get back on track.
I really liked this album. It’s another one of those bands that appeared in my famous Psychedelic music class (forgot to mention Jimi Hendrix did too but that wasn’t important). So, I had exposure to this band and have heard of them before. I got excited because as much as I’m getting bored of psychedelic music, I love 60s garage rock and that outweighed my boredom with psychedelia. How does it compare to other fusion bands? Not sure if I can say the best, but their mix of Psychedelic and Garage blends together almost seamlessly that it’s hard to tell where each begins and ends. That was an aspect I really liked about it. Other than two songs (The King is in The Counter House and The Toonerville Trolley) which had more of a ragtime, children’s story feel to them, the rest of the tunes hit you hard with that raw garage rock sound and muddy noise with backwards tape and psychedelic acid attached to it. The singer screams and yells at the right moments and takes it easy at others. And you get different tempos for different vibes. Fast ones for those like me who love to get pumped up (Get me to the world on time) and slower ones for people who like to enjoy their time (About a Quarter to Nine).
There’s definitely a cheeky feel to a lot of the lyrics but I think they decided to go more the psychedelic imagery route along with slight cheekiness thrown into it. It’s really hard for me to find things I didn’t enjoy about the album. The album is in no way perfect or even the greatest thing ever, but for garage rock lovers it’s really a great album that holds up from beginning to end (even at the slightly weirder parts). It flowed really well and it’s short run time seems to feel even shorter than it really is. Maybe it’s my personal taste bias that feels this way, but what you gonna do?
I don’t really have much else to say about this album mainly because it’s a little hidden gem from the big year of 1967. It was a garage rock album that really made an impact and stood out as being it’s own unique specimen but definitely got overshadowed by all the big albums that came out that same year. Shame because it’s a great album all the way through and deserves more recognition than it gets. (Unless it’s getting tons of recognition that I’m unaware about. If that’s the case than excuse my ignorance).
Now excuse me while I go sleep and possibly dream too much (lame I know… fuck you, whatever).
Song of Choice: Get Me To The World On Time
-Bosco
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1001 Albums: Are You Experienced

#100

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Artist: The Jimi Hendrix Experience

Album: Are You Experienced

Year: 1967

Length: 40:12

Genre: Acid Rock / Psychedelic Rock

I know, I know you probably scream and cry
That your little world won’t let you go
But who in your measly little world
Are you trying to prove that
You’re made out of gold and, eh, can’t be sold

But first, are you experienced?
Have you ever been experienced?
Well, I have

It’s happened folks. It’s finally happened. I’ve broken into the triple digits, I’ve finally hit album 100! And perfect timing for celebration since it is Christmas too (or was at the time I’m writing this). I’m officially at about 10% of the entire list. I started about a year ago so at this rate I’ll finish the entire list in ten years. Ten years… gotta pick up the pace a bit I think. Either way, it’s a big milestone in this challenge and one I’ll hold dear to myself because it’s proof I won’t give up and will keep doing it no matter what. I will make it to the end.

And what an album to do number 100 on. I think currently one of the best albums I’ve heard so far on this list. From beginning to end it’s just a powerhouse of guitar playing and psychedelic music. I’ve heard songs from this album before (Are You Experienced, Third Stone From The Sun, The Wind Cries Mary, Purple Haze (the last two from countless hours of playing guitar hero)) but had never listened to a full Jimi Hendrix Album before. Believe my shock when a ton of his biggest hits all appeared on his debut along with some other fantastic songs. To call this one of the greatest debut albums of all time is a bit of an understatement. This sounds like a band that have been playing together for years and years and been developing their sound. They managed to do in their first album what many bands and artists don’t achieve until their third. I really wish I hadn’t missed out on this album when I first heard about Jimi Hendrix, but I didn’t because I wasn’t really into Psychedelic music at the time and two I was as open-minded as I was today.

Jimi Hendrix is easily one of the greatest guitarists of all time. I’ve heard that phrase so many times and everyone I ask always puts him in their top 5 lists. Listening to this album, I now know why. Putting aside the fact that he has such a distinct sound to his guitar. I mean, you hear it play and you know exactly who it is. There’s no one else that sounds like him and he’s managed to really capture his own sound that people would try to emulate but no one can sound like Jimi Hendrix, it’s his sound not yours. Putting that aside, his playing his also really unique, fusing rhythm and blues influence, with some free-jazz stylings and psychedelic music, he clearly was trying out new things that suited what he wanted and it worked very well and to his advantage. He didn’t care what people said, he wanted to play his way and he did. His producer even made sure he had full creative control over the album so the band wouldn’t have to compromise over their songs. Smart choice because this whole album just oozes with Hendrix (I think, I don’t know, just talking out of my ass again).

There’s such a fascinating and long history about this band an dhow Jimi Hendrix got to where he is. Wasn’t successful in the Rhythm and Blues scene, moved to England, met a manager who loved his rendition of Hey Joe, got a band together and boom, dynamite album. That’s the most brief and condensed version I can tell you because I’m not going to sit here talking about the whole thing. I’ll leave it to you to find it yourself and also it’s been said many times before, I don’t want to just reiterate.

Speaking of which, what can I really say about this album that hasn’t been said already? Everyone has talked about this album to no end already so there isn’t much I can add to the conversation. All I can say is as a first-timer, it was a great experience through and through and I feel I really need to listen to it a second time to truly experience the full experience of Are You Experienced.

Not sure what else to say so I will end this post with a cover of Are You Experienced by my favourite band Devo:

 

Song of Choice: Purple Haze

-Bosco

p.s I’m not sure what version of the album I listened to… doesn’t seem to be the Uk or Us release or any of the other versions… Spotify seems to have it’s own unique version that included every song from both releases, hence why I said Purple Haze despite it not being on the original UK release… oh well.

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1001 Albums: I’m a Lonesome Fugitive

#99

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Artist: Merle Haggard

Album: I’m a Lonesome Fugitive

Year: 1967

Length: 31:02

Genre: Country

“I’d like to settle down but they won’t let me
A fugitive must be a rolling stone
Down every road there’s always one more city
I’m on the run, the highway is my home”

 

Hooray! My favourite genre of all time! The genre I love the mostest! MMMMM… mmmmm time for some goooooooood ole’ country music. Damn do I love country music, god it’s so amazing. I just can’t help myself when a country tune pops up. I pull on my best cowboy boots and my nicest cowboy hat and put on some assless chaps and do a nice hoedown jig. I don’t care who is looking or who sees my ass, but country music fills my heart and soul in a way I can’t describe. YEEEE-Fucking-HAW!!!!!

I hate country music. It’s my least favourite genre. So Imagine my thrill when this album started and it was you’re very straightforward country sounding music. The twang of the guitar, the flow of the notes, the style, that irritating mellow-dramatic strings, that southern drawwwwlllll. I just can’t do it. I mean, occasionally I’ll find a country tune I’ll enjoy (as I did with this album) but those are exceptions to the rule because as a whole I cannot stand this genre and avoid it like the plague. I even knew someone who loves country tell me “How can you hate a genre but like some tunes? That makes no sense”. Yes it does… I shouldn’t even have to explain that.

Either way, based on my hatred for the entire genre I still ended up enjoying this album anyway. Ok sure, for the most part it’s pretty skippable for me, but if you’re a big country fan I can see why you would love this album and it’s definitely one to have for any big country fan. Being a little biased i did love the more upbeat tunes while the sadder, mello-dramatic ones turned me off. However, that being said, there was one aspect of the whole album that really drew me in and that was it’s honesty.

It seems Merle Haggard (with a name like that you were destined to be a country music singer) actually did spend time in prison and according to his wife at the time he was in a very dark place when writing this and that all comes across very clearly. He sings with truth in his voice and you feel and understand every emotion he’s saying. It’s not just telling stories to the audience but he’s revealing a part of himself and making himself vulnerable. That’s really the highlight of the whole album and one I was able to pick up on the whole way through. It’s funny how you can sometimes listen to a piece of music and just sense that kind of thing. I can’t explain it, it’s just something you feel when it’s genuine.

So, I wrote this piece in two parts. Everything above this I wrote two days ago and I had time to think more about it. I still don’t like Country music, but the more I thought the more I flt the subject matter resonated with me a lot. Ok, I’ve never been to prison like Merle has, but the idea of feeling trapped in your mind and running with no where to go and these themes of feeling lost and isolated did. These past few days a lot has happened to me which I guess I didn’t expect and it hasn’t been the most positive. For months I’ve been stuck in my mind with stupid invasive thoughts almost controlling me and it took something big to happen for me to sort of realise I have to turn myself around and make changes to take care of myself. It hasn’t been easy, it never is, and these past few days have been really hard which is why the material suddenly resonated with me after having listened to it. I mean, it’s almost Christmas and I’ve had so many negative things happening I wonder if things actually will turn around.

Only time can tell…

I guess I’ll just have to put in the effort is all.

Song of Choice: Skid Row

-Bosco

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1001 Albums: Sunshine Superman

#98

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Artist: Donovan

Album: Sunshine Superman

Year: 1966

Length: 42:59

Genre: Psychedelic Folk

“Sunshine came softly through my a-window today
Could’ve tripped out easy a-but I’ve a-changed my ways
It’ll take time, I know it but in a while
You’re gonna be mine, I know it, we’ll do it in style
‘Cause I made my mind up you’re going to be mine”

Wait… Hold up a minute… Am I reading this correctly? What the hell is going on? I must be going crazy here. This can’t be right. Does that say… 1966? 1966?!?!? 19 fucking 66??? I spent all this time listening to album after album in 1967 only to be setback to 1966?? How is this even possible? How do they order these fucking albums on this list? I always thought it was chronologically but now I don’t know what to believe anymore. Just when I thought I was making it to the end it turns around and goes in reverse. What, is the next album back in the 50s? Will I hear something from the 40s? Doesn’t make any sense but at this point I would believe it could happen.

I digress.

What truly is amazing is that I’m making two posts in one day. That rarely ever happens. I usually try to avoid that because one of the two entries always gets lost in the ether of the internet doomed to only a small amount of views. But I need to catch up, I’m already halfway through the next album and don’t want to get bogged down with all the posts I need to write and also I don’t want to forget the album itself either. When you listen to an album once and listen to many others after, it’s easy to not really remember it that much, unless it really captivated you in some way, and even then my memory isn’t the greatest. I’ll remember loving it but ask me to recreate the songs and I will barely remember how they sounded. Sounds odd but it makes sense because I remember how I felt while listening more than the details of the song.

That kind of happened with this album. I remember listening to it and the general feeling of the whole album I had while listening to it, but I can’t remember the details of it. This actually happens with most albums I listen to but it was especially with this one. It’s another mix of Psychedelic folk that I guess I just wasn’t that crazy about. Loved it with Jefferson Airplane but here Donovan really takes the folk root with some long (one going as far as 7 damn minutes) and repetitive tunes that feel like a bore and a struggle to get through. Thankfully he contrasts those tunes with some fantastic ones, with Sunshine Superman and Season of the Witch clearly being the stand-out ones, and a fun folk tune called The Trip that even though is long and repetitive, it’s upbeat enough to keep you engaged the whole way through, it never feels boring is what I’m saying.

The psychedelic tunes are easily the best songs on this album and although a lot of the folk tunes delve into medieval imagery and stylings, which if you’ve read my posts you know I am a sucker for medieval things, no idea why. That’s something I’ll eventually look into. But really isn’t important at the moment… is it? I don’t think so… no, it isn’t…

As I was saying, even though the folk tunes still captured an image of something that captivates me I still found it a bit of a struggle to make my way through them (Legend of a Girl Child Linda comes to mind). But what really makes up for it is Donovan’s delivery of his vocals. He’s a damn good singer and sings with a youthful quality that really adds to the whole experience. Even if you don’t like the music at least his vocals will win you over.

So as a whole the album is really hit and miss, but the high points are really strong and well worth the time invested. I have a strong feeling this album was mainly included for its two biggest songs, but Donovan does seem to blend psychedelic with folk in a really strong way and it’s nice to hear some well needed sitar sprinkled throughout. I’ll always feel half and half about this album, but at least the half I do like I really like and that’s all that matters to me.

Song of Choice: Season of the Witch

-Bosco

 

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1001 Albums: Something Else by The Kinks

#97

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Artist: The Kinks

Album: Something Else by The Kinks

Year: 1967

Length: 36:17

Genre: Rock / Baroque Pop

“I am a dull and simple lad
Cannot tell water from champagne
And I have never met the Queen
And I wish I could have all that he has got
And I wish I could be like David Watts”

The Kinks are back! Should I be this excited? No, not really, I’m actually not. I thought it’d just be a great way to start the post… with energy and stuff… you know? I honestly couldn’t even remember how many Kinks albums I actually listened to on this list. I checked… it was only one… I seriously thought it was two or three… don’t know why. It’s possible all these albums are starting to blend together into one big mashed potatoes of music and I’m having trouble distinguishing between them (despite most albums have their own unique sounds). It could be because of my really long hiatus from listening to the albums that I figured I listened to Face to Face months ago, I surely had listened to more than one Kinks album… right? RIGHT?

Either way, that’s unimportant. Point is The Kinks are back and are for the most part really fun and enjoyable. It honestly didn’t feel like much of a step forward from their last album and felt more like an extension of it with a continuation of their tongue in cheek observations of English life. Each song feels like a portrait of a character or situation that you’d typically find in their daily lives but what makes it more than straight forward is the satirical take on them with a dash of cynicism and wit. I had a ton of fun listening to this album, heck I saved most of the songs on my Spotify playlist, which I hadn’t expected at all.

This feels like it’s  hidden gem of a Kinks album. I mean, I don’t know if it actually is or not since I haven’t listened to any other Kinks albums and I’m basically talking out of my ass right now but I feel like it is mainly based on the fact that this album apparently didn’t sell well at all… anywhere upon it’s release. Due to it competing with cheaper Kinks compilation albums mostly, people just didn’t seem interested in picking up this album for whatever reason (the reason I mentioned above). Kind of odd seeing how fun the album is. It really has a sentimental and nostalgic vibe to it that feels like a snapshot of 60s England that never feels dated either. It feels like this album despite sounding old has aged very well and still works even today, as if it was a stylistic choice to be the way it is… I don’t know, I’m not The Kinks. I especially love their use of harpsichord, but I think I’ve always been a sucker for it. It gives this sort of medieval sound to it that I always enjoyed, I really hope there’s more harpsichord in future albums (not just The Kinks) because I really do feel there just isn’t enough harpsichord in general in this world.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE HARPSICHORD!

…Please…

Song of Choice: Death of a Clown

-Bosco

 

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1001 Albums: Surrealistic Pillow

#96

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Artist: Jefferson Airplane

Album: Surrealistic Pillow

Year: 1967

Length: 34: 48

Genre: Psychedelic Rock / Folk Rock

“When the truth is found
To be lies
And all the joy
Within you dies

Don’t you want somebody to love
Don’t you need somebody to love
Wouldn’t you love somebody to love
You better find somebody to love, love”
Winter has been slowly approaching. Temperatures have dropped considerably forcing me to pull out my tuque and scarf and wear my oversized winter coat. But do you think I’d wear any boots? Of course not, Converse all year, every day. I also don’t own a pair of boots so that kind of factors in to the whole not wearing boots thing. You would think I’d be prepared for winter seeing as I lived in Montreal my whole life where winters are pretty brutal, but the exact opposite effect has occurred. I’m so used to it I’ve trained myself to survive through it with the least amount of effort. I hate boots, absolutely hate them. They’re clunky and big and just awkward. The least amount of time I can go without wearing them, the happier I will be.
I digress, I’m not here to talk about boots and winter. I’m here to talk about albums. A whole list of albums from 1967 it seems because I feel like I’ve been stuck in this year for eternity. It never ends. Everytime I think I’m closer to the end, it just swoops me back in. 1967 must have been one hell of a year for music because it’s like the never-ending story here with musical albums. Maybe it’s not actually that bad and my perception is just a little warped due to not listening to the albums as frequently, but I’m so close to the 70s that I just want the 60s to end so I can move on. I don’t think I can take anymore psychedelic albums. I mean, they were great at first because they felt like a break from all the pop music from the early 60s and just added a little flavour to something different, but now I feel like I’m stuck in the flower power era of hippies and acid and t feels like it just goes on and on.
It’s funny you would expect me to hate this album since it’s a mix of folk rock and psych music with a heavy-dose of flower power hippie ideals and the age of the summer of love and woodstock feelings. A great ombination for me to just despise. But, I actually love this album very much. I was already a huge fan of their big hit “Somebody To Love” a song I was widely addicted to for a very long time and their other hit “White Rabbit” brings back memories to such a memorable scene in a movie I love, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, so Surrealistic Pillow is the exception to the rule for me I guess.
Ok, so I could probably do away with some of the pure folk tunes. Especially the ones near the beginning like My Best Friend and Today. It’s such a tonal shift after the first two songs that it really took me out of the album. Started strong only to transition into two pretty cheesy songs that I feel just don’t fit in with some of the rest of the tunes. The best music off the album was either their high-energy folk tunes or their blend of folk and psych tunes, the pure folk stuff feels like filler and just brings the album down since it doesn’t really add anything new and stands out as bad especially compared to the rest of the album.
That being said, the good tunes are really good and hit nice and hard into your ears. The title Surrealistic Pillow gives me the idea that it’s supposed to be some sort of acid dream, where you fall asleep and let your mind get lost into a drug-induced trip. I don’t know if they achieved that here but there is definitely a dream like quality to it that you can just lie down and get lost to throughout. I don’t know, either way it’s a great album and considered the quintessential album of the 60s counter culture, so that’s gotta mean something.
Now excuse me while I enjoy some pancakes and mentally prepare myself to brave the cold.
Song of Choice: Somebody to Love
-Bosco
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1001 Albums: Groovin’

#95

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Artist: The Young Rascals

Album: Groovin’

Year: 1967

Length: 34: 34

Genre: Rhythm and Blues / Blue-eyed Soul

“Whatcha tryin’ to do to my heart
Whatcha tryin’ to do to my heart
You go around, tellin’ lies, and now you wanna compromise
Whatcha tryin’ to do to my heart
You better run, you better hide, you better leave from my side, yeah”

Are the 60s over yet? Am I almost done? I don’t know how much more I can take especially when I encounter albums that are so very 60s sounding. How many more albums that delve into psychedlia can I take? Do we really need to hear every single band that decided to try their hand at Psychedelic music? Is it really necessery? WELL IS IT???

The Young Rascals are less Psychedelic and more radio friendly pop (or as the book would tell me one of the few white bands that can really deliver a soulful performance that stands against their African american counterparts… sure I guess). All I remember from The Young Rascals was their big hit Groovin’ playing on one of my dad’s old 60s compilation albums. Didn’t like it that much then and… I guess it’s grown on me a bit but is still skippable in my opinion. I find this album is emblematic of the sound of 60s pop music. All you need is to check this one out to get a good idea of the sort of music that was at the top of the charts. It’s easily digestible, a little cheesy and good, clean fun. Any goof who only listens to radio music sure would love this kind of stuff but if you’re looking for something with a little more depth to it than this is probably not for you.

I’m not saying it’s bad, not at all. It’s a decent album, the band clearly is skilled and the singer knows how to sing damn well but… come on… it’s pure 60s nostalgia music here at this point. I found myself at odds because there would be moments where I felt damn this band is doing something cool here and then moments where I’d groan because it was just another single. No joke, eight of these 11 songs were fucking singles. That’s what you get when you listen to an album by a band notorious for singles and patchy albums, an album where they at least try to give you something cool but still feels like a collection of singles. By the time I hit the final song that tried hard to at some psychedelic vibes to it with interesting experimentation, I just felt it wasn’t deserved at that point.

I’m actually at a loss of understanding as to why this was included on the 1001 albums list. I mean it seems to hold the great distinction that it holds a number 1 hit and the band tried something new… Ok? I feel the biggest distinction that this album can say for itself is that it’s included on this list because I honestly don’t see anything special about it. I mean, the tunes are good and I can see where the book says that they’re incredibly soulful white guys and do a good job at it but the entire run time I just felt like I was listening to some typical 60s music. Is that why it’s there because it’s a great time capsule to the 60s pop charts? Is that it??? What is it???

I mean… I liked some tunes. I remember enjoying a few very much… but… Jesus this album just feels a little forgettable. Not as forgettable as Fred Neil mind you, it at least has something to it, but I just don’t really see myself listening to it again. Maybe I just need to give it a second chance, maybe I went into it expecting it to be this way, maybe I had formed my opinion before I even listened to it because honestly it’s a pretty decent album…

I’m overthinking this. Maybe I’ll revisit it one day but for now it’s left a meh taste in my mouth (or ears) and I guess I can say it was pretty ok. That’s that. Like they had a song called Find Somebody which just felt like a slightly mediocre version of Jefferson Airplane’s Somebody To Love. Seriously the lyrics at some points are almost exactly the same.

Man, I’d love to listen to Somebody To Love again, just recently sang it at Karaoke. My friends wanted me to sing it like Jim Carrey did in The Cable Guy but I decided to just do it in my own way.

Why am I talking about Jefferson Airplane? What album is next? oh…. (nice sequeway…. :|…)

Song of Choice: You Better Run

-Bosco

 

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1001 Albums: Younger Than Yesterday

#94

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Artist: The Byrds

Album: Younger Than Yesterday

Year: 1967

Length: 29:11

Genre: Psychedelic Rock

“Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now
Half-wracked prejudice leaped forth
Rip down all hate, I screamed
Lies that life is black and white
Spoke from my skull I dreamed
Romantic facts of musketeers
Foundationed deep, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then
I’m younger than that now”

The Byrds are back and at it again. I honestly didn’t expect to see The Byrds appear so often on this list, but that’s mainly because I only knew two Byrds’ songs so I was kind of surprised to see how much influence and impact they made, especially in the 60s. Younger Than Yesterday doesn’t feel like anything spectacular or really new when it comes to the band. It’s exactly what you’d probably expect from The Byrds, I know it was for me. The minute the opening notes of the opening song started I knew I was in for a very straightforward Byrds album. Nothing more and nothing else.

That being said I thoroughly enjoyed it and thought this album was a blast. It was a ton of fun from beginning to end. It threw in some nice surprises once in awhile showing off the groups experimentation with psychedelic rock. A mix of reverse tapes, odd instruments and some mind-melting sections of their songs added some decent touches to the album that at least made it feel like a step forward from their previous efforts so it wasn’t 100% just more of the same. It honestly doesn’t disappoint as a Byrds album and it’s uniform enough to keep you engaged the whole way through, with some tunes slowing down to allow you to take a breath and others just being a ton of fun.

This album reminded me a lot of The Beatles’ Revolver in a lot of ways and for some reason I felt a sort of parrallel. If I was to make an analogy I would call this the Byrds’ Revolver, a maturing band trying new things but still keeping what made them them. But where I felt Revolver was a bit of a mess and felt more like a compilation than an album this one stands out as being incredibly cohesive and despite the different styles they do try out (folk and country being an example) it somehow still flows really well from one song to another and no song ever appears in a jarring way. There’s such a natural progression to the whole album that you don’t even feel the time pass. I remember checking to see which song I was at only to find I had two songs left. That’s always a good sign in my books. I honestly do feel like The Byrds were the American equivalent of The Beatles and although The Beatles had emerged as bigger and more mature by this point, especially musically, it does sound like The Byrds are working their way up to that point. That could just all be speculation since I’ve never heard any of their later albums, but they do have a few more yet to come on the list, so it’s very possible they could meet that expectation (although I read they sort of delve into country rock later on and seeing as I’m just not a fan of country music it’s possible I might either hate it or love the Byrds take on it… who knows).

If you like The Byrds this is definitely one to check out. I feel it stands the test of time better than their previous albums. Their first albums feel sort of stuck in their time but this one comes across a little more timeless, even with the very obvious 60s vibe. Put it on today and it still feels a little fresh. But just a little. I guess I could say this is currently my favourite Byrds album but I’m not about to start ranking the albums of every band that has multiple albums on this list. So, I’ll just leave it at that, a fun and enjoyable Byrds album that I’ll probably take a listen to again at some point in my life… possibly.

Song of Choice: So You Want to be a Rock n’ Roll Star

-Bosco

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1001 Albums: The Doors

#93

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Artist: The Doors

Album: The Doors

Year: 1967

Length: 44:48

Genre: Psychedelic/Acid Rock

“This is the end, beautiful friend
This is the end, my only friend, the end
Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end
I’ll never look into your eyes, again”

I am both happy and sad a this moment. Happy because I absolutely love this album and I would easily rank it as one of the best albums of the sixties. Sad because for the first time in my blog I have not been able to meet something I wanted to do. You see, I wanted to play this fun game called Albums I Actually Own. It wasn’t really a game to be honest but the idea was everytime I encountered an album I own on Vinyl I was going to post a picture of myself holding it up. Yes it’s a little self-indulgent, but my vinyl collection is one of my most prized possessions and I’m really proud of it. We all have hobbies and things we love dearly, vinyl collecting just happens to be one of those things for me. Unfortunately since I moved to Toronto I had to stop with the vinyl purchases due to monetary issues (suddenly paying rent and bills and having a job that can only pay for that really makes it tough to spend on luxuries) so my collecting has halted until I start making enough to go back to it. Also unfortunately my entire collection is still back in Montreal meaning when it came to playing Albums I Actually Own I couldn’t get a snapshot of me holding it. Oh well…

But that being said, I won’t give up.

So the first album to appear on my very special edition of Albums I Own is in fact The Doors!

[insert photo one day]

Ok enough of that, let’s hit the album. Metaphorically of course, not… physically… that would be bad.

The Doors was another one of those bands for a long time I was kind of avoiding out of fear I’d be disappointed since I met so many people who considered them in high regard. I eventually caved in and discovered their debut and immediately fell in love with it. I’ll be honest I never really checked out their later albums and it’s really just this one I’m familiar with but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s one hell of a fantastic album. I honestly could listen to this one on repeat and never get fed up of it. Everything about it just works so damn well and is easily one of the best debut albums out there. Top 10… if not at least Top 20… if not at least Top 50… definitely Top 100… or 200…

It really is a milestone in rock music and a step forward for the psychedelic genre. The Doors blasted onto the scene with their own style, their own music and tried things that hadn’t been seen before. With a mix of flamenco influenced guitar, jazz trained drumming and some of the best organ playing ever heard, it made for a unique blend that only heightened the song writing of the group. Throw in Jim Morrison’s incredibly theatrical style of performing and you get a band unlike any other at the time. There’s no denying that The Doors really stood out as being their own band and redefining what we knew about music at the time. It was unlike anything at the time and even today holds up incredibly well and still stands out as it’s own unique piece of rock music.

I want to talk about my favourite part of the group and that’s easily their strongest and best player: Mr. Ray Manzarek. Maybe it’s because I have a soft spot for keyboards and keyboardists and have high respect for them since for the most part they’re often overlooked as people scramble to talk about guitarists and drummers (sorry bassists) but Ray Manzarek is easily the superstar of this album. Without his incredible organ playing this album just would not be the same. From the opening chords of Soul Kitchen that just bring you in and to the crazy note playing and solo of Light My Fire, which is just a mind-bending crazy experience, there’s no way these songs would work if it wasn’t for Ray’s keyboard licks and riffs. And the crazy part? While he was doing this kick-ass organ playing, his left hand was also playing the bass notes of each song. Now that’s some serious skill that not every group has (The only other one I can think of off the top of my head was The B-52’s, but I’m sure there’s more). He’s definitely in my top 5 keyboardists of all time.

I don’t really know what else I could say about this album because it’s really an experience that you as a listener need to experience for yourself. Maybe it won’t do anything for you, but it definitely does a lot for me and this is one I love to always listen to again when I’m in the right mood. It never fails to make me happy, even the long depressing final song of The End manages to make me smile, not because of its themes but just how great the music is. And The End really ends (haha) the album in a great way. It’s consistent in sound and flows beautifully where it’s almost 45 minute run time doesn’t feel that long at all. You immerse yourself in the album and just have a great time the whole way through (and clearly the band is having a great time as well).

This is definitely one for the history books in terms of rock music and one that will continue to stand the test of time for years and decades and centuries to come.

Never forget.

Song of Choice: Light My Fire

-Bosco

 

 

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1001 Albums: Francis Albert Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobim

#92

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Artist: Frank Sinatra

Album: Francis Albert Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobim

Year: 1967

Length: 28:05

Genre: Bossa Nova / Traditional Pop

“Quiet nights of quiet stars quiet chords from my guitar
Floating on the silence that surrounds us
Quiet thoughts and quiet dreams quiet walks by quiet streams
And a window looking on the mountains and the sea, how lovely”

pffff… Well, I guess I need to speak about this album to some extent. It’s music alright and it’s pretty decent music. Hearing Frank Sinatra team up with Jobim to create a nice blend of Bossa Nova and traditional pop that Sinatra was famous for. Hearing Sinatra sing such classics as The Girl From Ipanema (which appeared on a previous Bossa Nova album on this list originally sung by Astrud Gilberto) was definitely quite a treat, but overall I didn’t feel it really captured my attention in any way as a whole.

All I can really say is that it’s very nice music. It felt like a good throwback to when I started the list, like listening to the albums from the 50s again. It was a nice feeling, gave me memories of the winter night when I listened to Sinatra’s In The Wee Small Hours, waiting for my bus late at night. Times were very different then. I was working in Montreal at a film company, was still living with my parents, got to see Sandra on a regular basis (and our relationship was still relatively fresh at that time), I felt more confident and comfortable with my life having less responsibilities and getting the chance to relax in a very comfortable environment. Boy have things really changed since then. Am now living in Toronto and back in school, living on my own with basically all the responsibilities of a full-grown adult, still with Sandra and hitting close to a year and a half in our relationship, met new friends and lost old ones and am in a place where I just don’t feel as comfortable and relaxed (but that’s definitely the new responsibilities that have suddenly been thrust onto me). I’ve grown a lot since then and my Montreal days all feel like distant memories even though they weren’t that long ago. It’s funny how big changes in your life can do that.

As a whole the album was really just that, a nice album. I had it playing in the background as me and Sandra made some supper when she came up to visit and it really is the perfect music to just relax to. I always associate winter weather with this style of music, but that could really be because it was winter when I was making my way through the 50s and early 60s and it really felt like more peaceful times at the time. It was a nice break from all the 60s rock music I was going through and it felt good to get that throwback.

But with that finished it’s back to 60s rock music.

Song of Choice: The Girl From Ipanema

-Bosco

p.s What a terrible mouthful of a title for this album. Great creativity just naming it your very formal sounding versions of your names.

 

 

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1001 Albums: The Velvet Underground & Nico

#91

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Artist: The Velvet Underground

Album: The Velvet Underground & Nico

Year: 1967

Length: 48:51

Genre: Art Rock

“Teenage Mary said to Uncle Dave
I sold my soul, must be saved
Gonna take a walk down to Union Square
You never know who you’re gonna find there
You gotta run, run, run, run, run”

Let’s add this album to the long list of famous albums that I just don’t really get. I was never a fan of the Velvet Underground and in the past I have tried to listen to this album with big failure. Part of me dreaded having to listen to it but part of me was intrigued because I never really did. It was a bag of mixed emotions going into it and that bag remained the same once it was done. I still have very mixed emotions about this album and honestly don’t know what to think of it.

It’s not my thing, that’s for sure. It’s not that I don’t like Art Rock or anything with experimentation, although I’m not a fan with some notable exceptions. There’s no denying these guys have talent and love to experiment in interesting ways. And I definitely will not deny the influence they’ve had on bands and how much skill went into creating this album. But it’s really an acquired taste, a difficult to swallow album that really isn’t for everyone. I get why some people love this album but I also get why people could be turned off by it. I’m unfortunately in the latter of this group, recognizing the achievement of the album but just not being into it.

One of my friend’s dared me to do a track by track review. which I thought was a terrible idea since I don’t like this album, but hey he dared me and that’s a challenge so why not. Let’s see a track by track review from the perspective of someone who isn’t a fan.

Sunday Morning:

Already a poor start for me. This feels beyond cheesy to me and if this is setting the mood for the rest of the album then we’re off to a bad start. Thankfully it’s apart stylistically and the rest of the album never returns to this cheese-fest. Please never let me endure this song again.

I’m Waiting For The Man:

Now this is what I’m talking about. Almost a proto-punk feel to it, hard guitars and a big beat. I was loving this song… until it just never ended. What the hell was going on… just the same repetitive thing over and over and over for almost 5 minutes. As much as I liked it, it just became dull after 2 minutes as I realised it just wasn’t gonna change at all.

Femme Fatale:

For those who have read my Nico review already know how I feel about this song. This would have been way better if I didn’t have to listen to Nico’s stupid voice. I hate her singing, sounds like she has a muffin stuffed in the back of her throat. I can see why the band and Andy Warhol like her being a bunch of underground pretentious arteeests, but honestly I just can’t stand it. Good song, better off with a different singer.

Venus in Furs:

Ugh. I guess this song is good, if you like high-pitched wailing sounds similar to bagpipes blaring in your ear. Big points for the whole art rock, experimental aspect, lose points because I found this obnoxious to my ears. Couldn’t wait for it to end and of course it was over 5 minutes long. Lucky me.

Run Run Run:

Solid tune. Really liked this one, probably my favourite. Nothing more to say, just really enjoyed it.

All Tomorrow’s Parties:

Snooze… another Nico song and of course this one is 6 minutes long. I was honestly just bored with this one and couldn’t grasp it at all. Maybe I just wanted to be over with this album by now but this song just didn’t do it for me. It’s one of my friend’s favourites… good for him I guess, maybe he’ll explain it to me one day.

Heroin:

Here is a great example when experimental music works very well. Dark subject matter mixed in with the instrumentation as a recreation of an experience. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and really liked what they set out to do. Thumbs up from me.

There She Goes Again:

Enjoyable. Sounds like they’re doing their best at a Bob Dylan impression, as tons of bands were doing at the time. Mostly just in the intonations of the vocals. Good stuff.

I’ll Be Your Mirror:

I honestly don’t remember this one and it seems to be the shortest of the album, so maybe that’s why. Need a quick re-listen to jog my memory. Give me a second…

Just as I suspected… another Nico song. I must have blocked it out of my memory and thanked god it was so short. Oh well, next.

The Black Angel’s Death Song:

My friend wanted me to write a whole paragraph on this one. I really didn’t want to seeing as I am obviously not the right person to write a retrospective on this album or delve deep and go into analysis since I’m not a an at all. But a challenge is a challenge so I figure I can fill up space with nonsense just so I can fill up a paragraph’s worth of words. Another bag-pipe sounding song, but not nearly as annoying as the other one, here it’s way more enjoyable and pleasant. I wish I could break this one down more than currently am (which is barely anything to begin with so whatever) but who knows, I’ll let the fans break this one down and I’ll just move my way through, enjoying the experience and broadening my horizons in music knowledge. Is this enough words for a paragraph? I guess so, he better be happy.

European Son:

Longest song on the album but wholly deserving of it’s length. I was really quick to save this one to my playlist before it took a sudden turn into weird territory. The beginning is a little misleading for what’s to come in the rest of the song. Loved it then got caught off guard and then got lost in the wild experimentation that was this song. It was a brain-melting experience but I’ll give it to them it was one that was worth sitting through this entire album. Great ending to an otherwise meh experience.

 

So there you have it, my brief and underwhelming track by track review of this album. Funnily enough, when this album first came out it bombed completely being deemed a financial and critical failure, selling barely any copies and just not getting the reviews it probably, maybe deserved. It’s only until years later when musicians of those times started talking about this album and the part it played in influencing them that it started to get the recognition it deserved. So who knows, maybe history will repeat itself and years from now I’ll finally rediscover it as the masterpiece it is. Or maybe I’ll stay stuck in the 60s mindset and be like… meh.

We will see.

Song of Choice: Run Run Run

-Bosco

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1001 Albums: The Who Sell Out

#90

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Artist: The Who

Album: The Who Sell Out

Year: 1967

Length: 38:46

Genre: Psychedelic Pop / Power Pop

“If you think that I don’t know about the little tricks you’ve played
And never see you when deliberately you put things in my way”

 

Those cheeky bastards are at it again.

After a long, long, long hiatus (probably the longest one I’ve ever had) I have returned and boy have I returned with a doozy of an album. I have to admit so far I do think this is one of the best albums I’ve heard so far, and if not my favourite, it definitely has a spot in the top 5 thus far. I always liked The Who and remember listening to this album over a year ago. But back then I was kind of just listening without listening, going through the discography and the motions and ending each one with a “yeah I liked that”. Thankfully this one appeared on this list because it allowed me to rediscover it and I have to say it has firmly placed itself as my current favourite Who album.

I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people feel this way. It’s easy to put one of their later albums as a favourite to due to the maturity of their songwriting and even their first due to it’s raw rock power, but this one just resonates on so many levels. It’s important to note that this is The Who’s first concept album and arguably their greatest one, or at least their most successful as a concept. Unlike their later album Tommy, which depended on a narrative flow and story to hold it altogether, this one was able to have each of their songs stand on their own as mastered works but together bring out a much clearer picture.

For those who don’t know The Who have managed to successfully create a concept for an album that is masterfully executed in it’s pure simplicity. With the rise of Pirate Radios and rock music, they decided to create an entire album that gave the experience of listening to one of these channels. In between all their songs they have included radio adverts and jingles that never distract from the album but rather add a lot to it. It doesn’t end there, as if these guys weren’t cheeky enough, their songs satirize consumerism as a whole. It does this so masterfully by both glorifying the consumer culture while at the same time poking fun of it. It’s subtle but there’s never a moment that these boys don’t have their tongues firmly placed in their cheeks.

Outside of the concept, the songs on this album are just purely fantastic. I could listen to a vast majority of them on repeat and still be just as engaged by it as my first listening. Including their hit I Can See For Miles, other great ones include Odorono, Tattoo, I can’t Reach You as some that stood out for me. Even a humourous song like Silas Stingy which sticks out a little manages to still feel just as great (although the humour is cranked up in this one). It’s only by the end of the album that I sort of get out of it with Sunrise and Rael 1 and 2 just not really doing it for me, but that’s personal preference as they hold up well with the rest of the album. They managed to take on psychedelic sensibilities and turn it into a pop sound. It’s very much a psychedelic album disguised as pop rock (or is it the other way around?) and this is really what gives it it’s personality. Mixed with fantastic production and great harmonizing vocals and you have a classic.

One could easily break this album down and if we did we would be here for a very long time, which isn’t my intent, I’m mostly just here for the experience. But what an experience it was. The Who Sell Out has easily placed itself very high on my list of favourite albums. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll attempt a song by song analysis of this album, but until then I’ll just enjoy it for what it is: One of the greatest concept albums of all time.

Song of Choice: I Can See For Miles

-Bosco

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Worst to Best: Sparks Albums

For anyone who knows me, it’s no secret that I am a big Sparks fan. They’re one of my all-time favourite bands and when I tell people, conversations usually go like this:

“One of my favourite bands is Sparks”

“who?”

“Sparks”

“Sparks?”

“Yes”

“Never heard of them”

I’m not surprised, unless you’re one of the lucky few who are part of the cult following that is the Sparks fandom chances are you’ve never heard of them. Which is really a shame because their one of the most diverse and talented bands out there. To call them underrated is a bit of an understatement and it’s a real testament to their skills that they’ve been making albums since the late 60s and are still producing music up to today.

That’s actually why I decided to write this Worst to Best. With the release of their newest album “Hippopotamus” that came out in September, I wanted to take a look back at their discography and rank their albums.

It should be noted that this is not a definitive ranking and can change in the future. i mean, they do have 22 albums. Their sound musically has changed drastically throughout their career, touching on glam rock, synth wave, disco, orchestral, orchestral rock and new wave and have been hugely influential for many, many bands. That being said every album has that Sparks flavour and they manage to still be themselves despite the stylistic shifts. With Russel Mael’s unique falsetto singing style and Ron Mael’s satirical and humourous lyrics, the Mael brothers managed to create a catalogue of truly unique music.

They have a very long history and I’m not here to talk about that, I’m here to rank some albums. Having listened to their entire discography on four separate occasions I feel I have the capability of doing just that.

*It should be noted I stuck to their musical discography and did not include their newest album “Hippopotamus”, live albums, The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman or their collaboration with Franz Ferdinand called FFS (which always makes me laugh because all I can think is “For Fuck’s Sake” when I see that name).

So here it goes, Sparks Albums ranked from Worst to Best (In my humble opinion of course):

21. Interior Design

15 interior design

I felt like this one was a no brainer, but I might be heavily biased too because I just plain don’t like this album. It’s the only Sparks album I cannot sit through and avoid every time. The funny thing is, it’s technically not a bad album… just in terms of a Sparks album it really falls flat. It sounds like they were experimenting with something new that just didn’t deliver, which would explain why they never went back to this sound. It was so disappointing they wouldn’t even produce a new album for another 6 years. For the most part I find this album to just be boring. That’s honestly what it is. It feels tedious to get through and is just a big snore fest (with the exception of Madonna, which is the standout tune). If you enjoy it, that’s great, but as far as Sparks albums go it just doesn’t hit the mark at all.

20. Pulling Rabbits Out of a Hat

13 pulling rabbits out of a hat

This is such a strange Sparks album in the sense that it’s not bad but it’s incredibly underwhelming in terms of what you’d expect from Sparks. Other than the title song, which is actually fantastic, the rest of the album just never seems to hit that high and just feels disappointing. It’s almost as if Ron Mael wrote all the music in his sleep, as if he was on auto-pilot while writing it all. This is Sparks putting in the least amount of effort (which if anything is a testament to how good they are because it’s still good work, just not good Sparks work).

19. Plagiarism

17 Plagiarism

Sparks did an interesting thing with this album. Rather than recording new material, they decided to rework some of their old songs. It’s basically a Sparks cover album done by Sparks themselves (with some guest appearances by Erasure and Faith No More). It’s actually pretty great to hear new renditions of their songs and reimaginings but at the end of the day it’s still a heard that already situation and it doesn’t help that they put some songs on there more than once. So unless you want to hear two different versions of “This Town Ain’t Big Enough For the Both of Us” (which to be fair one of them is an extended version which is pretty cool) and “Something for the Girl with Everything” than I guess this is one to check out. Almost feels like a greatest hits of sorts. Interesting experiment but nothing new in material which is what puts it so low on the list.

18. Music That You Can Dance To

14 music that you can dance to

I want to say that starting at this album, every Sparks album is pretty damn good. This might be a biased opinion on my part because I love the band so much, but they’re discography really is full of incredibly strong material. You might experience some Sparks albums that you’re not crazy about because they do touch on so many different styles and one of those style just might not be your thing and that’s ok, but there’s no denying they managed to creat some damn good music. So why is this one considered the worst of all the good? Mainly because it’s half great and half forgettable. In a lot of ways it sort of feels the same way as Pulling Rabbits Out of a Hat but actual effort was put into this one. Other than the title track, Change and Let’s Get Funky, the rest do sort of feel like Sparks going through the motions but unlike Rabbits this one actually has personality. To add to their humour they would eventually re-release this album as “The Best of Sparks” confusing their fans who expected a best of compilation and were just met with this exact same album.

17. Balls

18 Balls

A great album with a title that always makes you double-take that unfortunately just did not have the impact it should have. Continuing the evolution of their sound from Gratuitous Sax they manage to create such a great atmosphere with this album with many highs and rarely any lows. However, that being said, this is one of those albums you need to listen to a bunch of times before realising it’s true worth. As great as it is it doesn’t leave a first impression and you might immediately forget about it after listening to it once (which is what happened to me), it was only after the songs came up on shuffle on my Ipod and I stopped to listen did I discover how great the tunes were. It’s definitely an experience as far as Sparks albums go and is one worth checking out.

16. In Outer Space

12 in outer space

Sparks step into the synth pop world is one that’s just a ton of fun. It’s hard not to have a blast listening to this one as you feel the dance beats carry you away and the poppy synth notes tickle your ears. As I go through this list part of me feels I should have placed this album a little higher. Looking back on the tunes this album contains some of my favourite Sparks songs, All You Ever Think About Is Sex and Rockin’ Girls. Ron’s humour is at a high on this album with endlessly hilarious lyrics and we even get a great guest appearance from Jane Wiedlin of the Go-Go’s on Cool Places. Even Russel gives a great deadpan performance on the song Popularity giving the impression of a hollow shell of a human left over from their glowing days of being so popular. Ok so there isn’t much in terms of depth on the album, it’s a lot of what you hear is what you get, but what you get is a ton of fun.

15. Introducing

7 Introducing

Introducing is a bit of a mess of an album, it sounded like they were trying a lot of things which resulted in great tunes but a slightly uncohesive album. It doesn’t flow as well as it should but it still provides the listener with great tunes such as Occupation, Forever Young, Over the Summer and my personal favourite Goofing Off, which borrows it’s style from a russian waltz of sorts and has a kick-ass guitar solo that you don’t see (or hear…) coming at all. It’s a bit of a forgotten album that gets lost amongst the great ones that came out around it (70s was a good time for Sparks). It was easily overshadowed and although doesn’t compare to some of the others that came out around the same time, it still holds it’s own.

14. Gratuitous Sax and Senseless Violins

16 gratuitous sax and senseless violins

After the very disappointing Interior Design and a six-year break, Sparks came back with this one and boy did they make a comeback. New sound, new ideas and a brand new album that surprised everyone. With their singles, When Do I Get To Sing “My Way”, When I Kiss You (I Hear Charlie Parker) and Now That I Own The BBC managed to put them back on the Top 40 charts across Europe since their single Beat The Clock in 1979. Deservedly so, the songs on this album succeed in sticking with you and leaving an impression long after the album has finished. Only problem is that there are a few meh songs that just don’t seem to have the same effect and the album does sort of blend together, with some songs becoming difficult to differentiate from one another, but the high notes are really high and leave this album with a strong impression.

13. Exotic Creatures of the Deep

21 exotic creatures of the deep

What do you get when you mix Ron Mael’s writing abilities, Russel Mael’s Falsetto voice, violins and other orchestral type instruments and some pounding hard rock guitars? You get the sound of Exotic Creatures. Every-time you hear sweeping violins and organ you know the rockin’ sounds of that hard hitting guitar is right around the corner creating a truly unique album in the orchestral rock genre. It truly is it’s own album and doesn’t fail to leave you both entertained and amused especially with songs like Lighten Up, Morrissey, Good Morning and I Can’t Believe You Would Fall For the Crap in this Song. They even tackle modern day ideas such as Photoshop and poke fun at the modern day technology boom with This is the Renaissance. This album would also launch their most ambitious tour to date, where they performed every single one of their albums from front to back live. 21 nights, one entire album every night. Quite the feat which required relearning a ton of songs they probably had never even played live before. Kudos to them.

12. Hello Young Lovers

20 hello young lovers

Continuing with the sound they started to develop in Gratuitous Sax but also predicting the sound they would eventually create in Exotic Creatures, this album sort of acts as a transitional piece between the two and where most transitional albums of artists stuck between two sounds in development, this one hits the mark very well. Even though every song has that unique brand of Sparks quality to it, with humour and enough absurdity to leave you wondering what they were on when they wrote this, this album also has the distinction of having one of their greatest songs of all time: Dick Around. A masterpiece of Sparks that lasts for almost seven minutes but keeps you engaged the entire time as it sweeps and changes, adding layers upon layers of music throughout the running time and keeping to form with it’s theme of just dicking around. It had become a big fan favourite and remains a highlight of their entire career (and probably the biggest reason why this album is ranked this high). It does overshadow the rest of the album, especially since it is the opener, but it leaves you so pumped that you just need to stick the rest of the way through and it delivers, maybe with a few valleys here and there, but enough that when As I Sit Down To Play The Organ At The Notre Dame Cathedral (a personal favourite) comes on, you’re more than satisfied.

11. Lil’ Beethoven

19 lil beethoven

I’ll be honest, I am not a fan of this album at all. It’s one of the few I have a hard time sitting through and if it was up to me (which technically it is, I am writing this) it would be much lower on the list. However, it is widely considered by many fans and even some critics as being one of their best. So I compromised and put it about halfway up the list to make everyone happy. Despite not liking it, I do see why it’s hailed as the supposed masterpiece it is. Ron manages to write 9 “Classical pieces” in the only way Sparks can. Considered their career-defining Opus, they have moved to a purely orchestral sounding… sound and have decided to take on classic music influences to create this album. The end result is a wildly debated masterpiece of sorts that has people divided. It seems on both sides of the same coin, the exact same arguments can be used to why they like or dislike this album. My biggest issue is how repetitive it is. Every song, despite being their own unique song, feels long as hell because it’s so damn repetitive the whole way through, with most songs just have the title repeated over and over and over and over. And while most people would be turned off by this… others realise… well, that was the point. Sparks purposefully made every song incredibly repetitive and even threw in some humour (Your Call’s Very Important To Us. Please Hold comes to mind). This is one of those albums where you have to listen for yourself and make your own opinion, but there’s no doubt that they were definitely on top of their game when creating it.

10. Whomp That Sucker

10 Whomp That Sucker

I’m about to have a fanboy moment here because (bias alert) this is my favourite Sparks album. I’ve listened to this album more times than I can count and I believe it was the album that solidified my love for Sparks. Understanding my bias I put it lower than I normally would have to at least be fair, but goddamn is this album such a fun ride. It’s full-energy from start to finish, Ron’s sense of humour shines throughout and the whole band just sounds like they’re having a blast. There’s a reason it’s called Whomp That Sucker because I honestly feel like I’ve been whomped by the end of it. SIde A of this album whch includes the ever funny Tips For Teens (what teens are asking you for tips exactly Mael brothers?), Funny Face (about a good looking model who just wants to look ugly), the ever catchy and engaging Where’s My Girl (which has one of my favourite guitar solos, it’s truly mesmerizing), The high-energy Upstairs (which is my all-time favourite Sparks song) and I Married a Martian (which concludes Side A in such a pleasing way) is one of the best Side A’s I’ve heard and is one I constantly replay all the time. Taking advantage of the New Wave sound that was becoming quickly popular in the early 80’s. they jumped onto the high-pitched synths, obnoxious music (That’s Not Nastassia ends in the most deliciously annoying way that you’ll want to close the song) and danceable beats (David Kendrick just wails on his drum). *Side Note: I actually put this album on as I wrote this*

9. Terminal Jive

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Continuing to work with Giorgio Moroder after No. 1 in Heaven, they decided to leave the pure synth disco sound and create a more disco-rock album. Smart choice as the disco sound probably would have overstayed it’s welcome and the infusion of rock guitars really makes the album sound fresh for a Sparks Album. As a whole the album has an endless supply of great tunes, with Stereo and The Greatest Show on Earth (which has some of the funniest deadpan lyrics) being standout songs. They even poke fun at their new sound with the song Rock n Roll People in a Disco World. The only fault this album has is a repeat of their opener When I’m With You at the end of Side A in instrumental format, which is honestly just useless filler for absolutely no reason. No idea what they were thinking when they added it. But if you’re able to look past that, the rest of the album is incredibly solid, leaving you with catchy tunes and fun riffs. Their song Stereo even experiments with the stereo format, having sounds jumping back and forth from left to right on your speakers, playing into the theme and subject of the song in a very clever way.

8. Big Beat

6 Big Beat

Sparks at their most Rock n Roll. Stripping away their synthesizer and piano (although it does make appearances throughout) guitars and bass take the stage and dominate this album unlike any other they’ve done. True to the name of their album, he drums bang away loudly and proudly and you’re left with no choice, you have to bang your head. With Big Beat they don’t leave any man behind, even giving the bassist some sick riffs to play with (Throw Her Away and Get a New One,  hilarious song that at live shows Ron has to state to the audience that their songs should not be taken literally). Russel is in full form here, giving all his energy and sweating like a madman as he makes his way through every song. Fill-er-up, Confusion, Screwed Up, Everybody’s Stupid and the aforementioned song above are highlights of this album which never gives up and makes sure you the listener are having a blast of a time. This also remains one of Sparks most accessible albums (which is truly a feat for them to do) and can have anyone listen to it and enjoy it.

7. Angst in my Pants

11 Angst in my pants

I half-lied when I talked about Whomp That Sucker. It’s not my favourite album exactly. It’s in a tie with this one. But whereas Whomp That Sucker can be a little alienating at points for people who know nothing about Sparks, Angst in My Pants is usually a great place for newcomers to start. It has a perfect blend of accessibility and Sparks flavour, remaining both unique to the Sparks sound and sensibilities yet still managing to create something digestible for new listeners. I had shown this album to a friend who had never heard Sparks and he really enjoyed it, he even pointed out that this was definitely a concept album. I never thought of it that way and it’s something I’ll have to look into for sure, but it would definitely give this album a whole new perspective if that’s the case. What’s great about this album is that you can go into in-depth analysis of every song. Ron Mael really shows his skills with lyrical and thematic content here and plays up the satire and tongue-in-cheek sense of humour of the band, almost peaking with it. With Angst in my Pants describing the difficulty of dealing with ones sexual urges, I Predict giving off incredibly obvious predictions in a way that’s supposed to be considered incredible (with one of the funniest endings to a song, where the singer predicts the song will fade out and it never does), Nicotina describing love as an addiction to cigarettes, and The Decline and Fall of Me as a satirical look at the band itself, just to name a few. It’s quite an experience from start to end.

6. Halfnelson

1 Sparks Halfnelson.jpg

Well, here we are. Sparks debut album. Before becoming the duo of the Mael Brothers, Sparks was a full band that shared writing credits amongst it’s members. This debut album stands apart from the rest of the discography mostly in sound and lyrical content. The humour is sort of there, but not fully. The sound can be heard, but not quite. Here we have Sparks as a pretty straightforward Glam Rock band, but what sets them apart from most is that they actually experimented with their sound and tried to create unique sounding pieces for the time. Sure they weren’t noticed, except for their single Wonder Girl, which was a small hit, and they didn’t really make an impact, but Halfnelson is truly a hidden gem in their entire catalogue. For a debut album it’s incredibly strong and solid the whole way through and has it’s place as one of the best Sparks albums.

5. A Woofer in Tweeter’s Clothing

2 A woofer in tweeter's clothing.jpg

Continuing from their debut, Sparks had just gone up instead of down. The sound from their debut leaking onto this one, the band was tighter and better and managed to make even stronger material. It’s not much different from their debut and sounds like extra songs that didn’t make it onto the first album, but it feels like they saved the better music for the follow-up, which leaves Woofer on par with their debut with a slight edge to it putting it a little higher. There isn’t much else that can be said about this album that wasn’t said about their debut other than it’s the band getting together one last time before the Mael brothers would move to England and creating an incredibly strong album that proved their musicianship as a band. They may not have garnered any attention or major success but remains a treasure hidden deep in the music of the early 70s.

4. No. 1 in Heaven

8 No 1 in Heaven.jpg

Sparks and Girogio Moroder got together and made one of the greatest Disco albums of all time, that is disco from the warped perceptions and minds of the Mael brothers. Mixing Girogio’s production was a nice touch for Sparks and really creates a completely unique album that mixes Sparks sensibilities with an almost dying genre. They take a completely fresh take on the disco genre, turning what was once shallow into an art project. With the ever amazing Tryouts for the Human Race, Fast dancing Academy Award Performance, Mesmerizing La Dolce Vita, the dance club hit Beat the Clock, the artistic endeavours of My Other Voice which sued syntheziser and voice modulation beautifully as part of the song that actually makes sense and the eponymous Number 1 Song in Heaven that ends the whole thing beautifully, leaving the listener beyond satisfied with what they’ve just heard. It is as much music as it is an experience. Sparks and Moroder make the perfect combination on this album, constantly being on the same page of where to go and supporting each other musically so well. There’s nothing quite like this album and it definitely sets it’s mark in the Sparks discography.

3. Kimono My House

3 Kimono My House

The seminal Sparks album. The widely considered Sparks-defining album. The everyone must listen to this Sparks album Sparks album. The Sparks album that is part of the 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. The Sparks album that finally got the band noticed and garnering success. Their career launching album. It has a lot of distinctions and there’s no surprise why, it’s fucking great. This was the first Sparks album I ever heard and I remember sitting there and being completely blown away by it to the point I just had to get this album right away. I didn’t but I eventually did, brand-spanking-new… which sucked because the remaster is awful sounding, but that doesn’t take away from how great the album is. The album starts with the ever famous This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us, a song so confusing lyrically that it just captures your attention so well and sticks with you forever and ever (and still remains one of my all-time favourites). You could go on and on about this album and how great it is with Amateur Hour, Talent is an Asset, Thank God It’s Not Christmas, Falling in Love with Myself Again, Here in Heaven, Equator, etc. SO many people have talked in depth about it so I won’t waste my time repeating what has already been said but this album flows amazingly from one song to another and has such a unifying sound throughout that you never have a moment that takes you out of it. There’s no way that anyone could listen to this album and not enjoy it, it just doesn’t seem possible (but as usual, I could just be biased). After leaving the rest of their band behind, moving to the UK and becoming a duo, this album truly showed the musicianship of the Mael brothers and is the defining Sparks album.

2. Propaganda

4 Propaganda

How do you top an album like Kimono My House? How about proving how good you are by releasing an album in the exact same year with all new material that still manages to be an incredibly strong album. The only reason this album tops Kimono is because of the work and effort that had to be put in the create this album to have it released the exact same year of their monster hit and to still manage to be a solid and strong album. That takes a lot and is one hell of a feat that they succeeded in doing and as a whole it still manages to be it’s own album with it’s own sound and it’s own flavour. When the acapella Propaganda opens the album, you already know what you’re in for and how it just blends and transitions so well into At Home, At Work, At Play, it’s guaranteed the album will be great and it delivers and doesn’t disappoint. It might be a little more alienating than Kimono but truly is for the hardcore fans and has it’s place at number 2.

That being said, if their two best albums are at the number 2 and 3 place, then what could possibly take number 1? (for those who know their discography you already know what it is and it might be a bit of a shock for most) but here it is… the best Sparks album…

 

1. Indiscreet

5 Indiscreet

Indiscreet? Really? I know a lot of you may not agree with this and it makes sense. It followed the behemoth shadow of Kimono and Propaganda and was doomed to be overshadowed by both and fall into relative obscurity. No matter how hard it tried it wouldn’t have been as well received because the two previous albums were just way to good that they had nowhere to go but down. When the bar is set so high, there’s no way to pass it. That’s what happened with Indiscreet. They continued to improve their sound and sense of humour and created something that was even more alienating than Propaganda, which obviously turned people off to it. In retrospect, it holds up and is truly a Sparks masterpiece. Here they try their hand at so many different styles and themes and ideas and manage to make it flow super well. It’s not super showy and over the top and Sparks takes a much more mellow mood compared to to their previous efforts which just creates such an atmosphere throughout the album that most f their other albums would not be able to recreate. The opener Hospitality on Parade sets the mood up perfectly of what’s to be expected and stands as one of their greatest songs, remaining simplistic but eerily layered. We bust into a classic Sparks sounding song with Happy Hunting Grounds, that takes from the page of Propaganda and then follow up with Without Using Hands, that is funnily enough more literal than expected. Three songs in, three different styles and it doesn’t stop there as we go through Get in the Swing, Under the Table with Her and How Are You Getting Home? All different and yet somehow it all works so perfectly together. (Let’s not forget the ever hilarious Tits and one of my personal favourites In The Future which is just a high energy song that predicts some of their future sounds they would work with). Sparks were trying a lot of new things with this album and they managed to put it altogether in a cohesive sounding album that in retrospect deserves way more credit and praise than it has. It might be a bit of an acquired taste, but so is good wine and like wine it has aged fantastically.

 

So there you have it, Sparks from Worst to Best. Do you agree with it? What are your opinions? How would you rank them? Do you even like Sparks? Let me know, I’d like to hear what you think.

Oh what’s that? What did I think of Hippopotamus? Where would I rank it?

Briefly, Hippopotamus feels like a Sparks album. If you know Sparks and their sound and brand of humour, this album is exactly what you’d expect. Nothing new, nothing crazy, but nothing disappointing either. It’s exactly what you’d expect and it pleases and amuses you enough to be satisfied with a new Sparks album (heck they have a song called So Tell Me Mrs. Lincoln Aside From That How Was The Play? which is hilarious and shows that the Mael brothers are still packing a punch with their sense of humour). If I’d rank it it would probably be around 10 – 12, in that area. Its a stripped down Sparks, simplified yet still doing what they do best.

That’s it. I’m done. Bye.

 

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1001 Albums: Piper at the Gates of Dawn

#89

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Artist: Pink Floyd

Album: Piper at the Gates of Dawn

Year: 1967

Length: 41:51

Genre: Psychedelic Rock / Experimental Rock

Why’d’ya have to leave me there
Hanging in my infant air
Waiting?
You only have to read the lines
They’re scribbly black and everything shines

And it happened. I was wondering when I’d get to Pink Floyd. I knew they would come around eventually, I mean obviously they would be on the list… how could they not? They’re one of those bands, you know? The kind that evveryyoooone talks about as being soooooo amazingly amazing that they’re amazingness cannot be topped by how amazingly amazing they are? Also, I knew because I’ve already looked at the list and know they have at least three more albums on it… so… yeah….

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to listening to this album… or any Pink Floyd album really. If you didn’t catch on my sarcasm in the last paragraph… I’m not a fan at all. I had the pleasure/displeasure (depending how you look at it) of listening to their entire discography a little over a year ago. Boy was I met with such a mixed bag of feelings and had no idea how I felt about them at all. To this day I still don’t know how to feel about them. All I know is that, I’m not crazy about them and you won’t find me seeking out to listen to their work or buy their albums, however… I can see why people would love them.

And I mean normal music-loving people and not pretentious stoner dudes who think getting high and listening to Dark Side of the Moon somehow elevates them to a transcendent state of mind that is awe-inspiring and mind-blowing, because seriously if you need drugs to enjoy something… that’s not a good sign. I hate those people. But… I do have good friends who re level-headed and grounded who love Pink Floyd and I can see their point-of-view.

This really is something different and unique. To call this psychedelic music is a little bit of an understatement. This takes the idea of psychedelia and turns it up to 11. If you told me Syd Barrett was high on LSD (which he was) then I would not be surprised. I’m actually more surprised that the rest of the band were pretty much sober. Only the whacked out mind of a man whose mind was slowly deteriorating would be able to come up with something like this. Which, sad story, actually happened to Syd Barrett. There’s a really heart breaking story where Pink Floyd were recording an album and some fat kinda sad dude walked in and it took them a long time before they realised it was their old friend Syd. They mentioned it as one of the saddest moments they ever experienced in their life. Even around this time, Syd would sometimes be so far gone, they’d have to drag him on stage and he’d just stand there with his arms hanging down. The crowd went nuts anyway because they just loved Syd, for better or worse. Syd seemed to have that kind of power over people and I think this debut album perfectly encapsulates everything that Syd Barret was, from the mind-warping to the insanely genius.

Every song is a little bit of him. You could get a straight-forward psych song such as Lucifer Sam and then have to sit through 9 minutes of almost hard-bop style jazz (Interstellar Overdrive). There’s even songs that trick you, starting off as a straight-forward song only to switch over and take you on a mind-bending trip (Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk). Anyone whose really into this style would easily put this at the top of their lists, and as much as I recognize all this… it still wasn’t for me.

No matter what anyone tells me and no matter how much I see it, I’ll never be into Pink Floyd. I just don’t get it, I guess. First time I heard this album a little over a year ago, it actually gave me a massive headache. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing in retrospect, but headaches are never a good thing for me. I wish I could love them. I wish I could see what dorm room stoners see when they put a Pink Floyd album on. But I just don’t… maybe my personal tastes in music just suck, or maybe their just different, or maybe I’m counter-counter-culture and like just being against the norm… who knows?

Pink Floyd will always be one of those bands that left a mark on music history, alongside The Beatles and Led Zeppelin of every cliched top 10 list. But looking past my personal feelings… I guess I can see it and I guess that’s all that matters… I guess.

Well, I might be slowing down with the albums again for the next week or so. One of my favourite bands just released a new song and I have plans to write a separate article ranking their albums from worst to best. They have roughly 23 albums… so that might take awhile to plan out. But I’ll still try my best to get an album on the list checked off once in awhile.

Song of Choice: Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk

-Bosco

 

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1001 Albums: Disraeli Gears

#88

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Artist: Cream

Album: Disraeli Gears

Year: 1967

Length: 33:37

Genre: Psychedelic Rock / Blues Rock

“It’s getting near dawn,
When lights close their tired eyes
I’ll soon be with you my love,
To give you my dawn surprise
I’ll be with you darling soon,
I’ll be with you when the stars start falling”

My mood’s been kind of weird these days, hitting a bit of a down. Not going to go into details so I’m going to try my best to stick to talking about Cream.

Cream was a nice little treat for my otherwise crappy day. I already knew their big hit “Sunshine of my Love’ thanks to Guitar Hero and just… you know life in general. It’s a pretty big song for them, hard not to have heard it at all unless you’ve been living under a rock. I actually didn’t expect it to suddenly come on… I mean I should have, but I didn’t look ahead or even think about it in general, so when it came on I definitely got excited. You know the type of excitement when  a song you know plays and you’re all like “Hey I know that song! I KNOW IT! EVERYONE I HAVE HEARD THIS SONG!!!!!!! HEY!!!! HEEEEYYYYY!!!!!” I was alone so screaming that out didn’t really have much purpose or effect in general.

As much as the band was trying to get away from their blues rock roots, they still managed to incorporate it with their new psychedelic sound they were aiming for,  creating a nice blend of both styles. Was nice to hear Eric Clapton again after hearing him on The Bluesbreakers album. I should have know it was him just based on the sound of the guitar work, which is very much his own sound, but I never caught on it seems. To be honest I should have just known he played on Cream in general because that’s just general music knowledge but whatever we all have brain farts once in awhile. My point is, it was nice to hear him play again. I know a lot of people aren’t crazy about Eric Clapton but there’s no denying he does what he does very well and can really create a guitar groove that you can get lost in.

Musically I feel I don’t really have much to say. For the most part it’s just some really good shit. I thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish and didn’t find a weak moment in the whole album. It was such a treat to sit through this album and feel myself grooving to Ginger Baker’s drum beats and Eric Clapton’s solos. The song writing is overall damn solid and the album really evokes a mixture of the summer of love with some hard rock sensibilities which I’d take over any type of hippie-dippie music any day. It’s like if you grabbed everything good about it and pumped it up to make it rock a little more then you would probably have Cream… probably. I honestly don’t know what I’m talking about.

There’s some interesting stories surrounding this album. Ok, not that interesting but more… amusing. One interesting note is that they actually recorded this album in a record three days which if you have heard the album know that’s one hell of an impressive feat. I think they were on a race with time because apparently their work visas expired their final recording day, so they really had to crank this out as quickly and efficiently as they could. Well, it definitely paid off because the final result is simply amazing.

Another funny story is where the title came from. I mean, Disraeli Gears is a rather odd title for an album and isn’t mentioned anywhere in any of the songs or seems to have anything to do with the album. According to Ginger Baker it was a slip of the tongue by one of the roadies who called the Derailleur Gears racing bikes Disraeli Gears by accident. The band found it so funny that they just had to name their album that. What do you expect from a band who gave themselves such a self-indulgent band name. We all know they named themselves Cream from the expression “Cream always rises to the top” to show off their over-confidence as a band. I guess they just knew they were the top of the top. Or at least believed that. Maybe not the top, but definitely up there.

I’m going to start mentally preparing myself for the next album, which I am not looking forward to at all. Until then, I’ll try to keep Cream in my mind to keep me sane.

Song of Choice: SWALBR

-Bosco

 

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1001 Albums: Forever Changes

#87

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Artist: Love

Album: Forever Changes

Year: 1967

Length: 42:05

Genre: Psychedelic Rock / Baroque Pop

“What is happening and how have you been
Gotta go but I’ll see you again
And oh, the music is so loud
And then I fade into the

Crowds of people standing everywhere
‘Cross the street I’m at this laugh affair
And here they always play my songs”

Well, well, Love, we meet again. Feels like not too long ago we encountered each other for the first time and here we are again. What will you bring for me today? What wonders and marvels will be at my ears this time around? I loved Da Capo, will I love this one as much? Who knows but the excitement and anticipation is killer as usual (even though the album has already started playing as I write this). We shall see.

It seems there’s a lot of history associated with this album. Coming so soon off Da Capo, the band was in jeopardy of breaking up due to a lot of struggles within the band itself. Members doing drugs, fighting for control and just not agreeing (especially between Arthur Lee and Bryan MacLean, the two main songwriters) with the former even refusing to tour for some time, it seemed they had one last shot to give it a go. Trying to capitalise on the whole flower power and summer of love movement happening t the time, they decided to make it a more hippie style album, especially compared to the last one. It seems Arthur Lee, despite being part of the counter culture never subscribed to the whole flower power idea, stating that sunshine wasn’t enough to cure all the darkness in the world. SO as much as this album has those sensibilities of the hippie movement, there’s Arthur’s frame of mind sprinkled throughout to never get it to that point.

This is considered one of the greatest psychedelic music albums of all time and I guess I can sort of see why that is. Musically it’s incredibly strong and the band seems to be tighter than ever. They’ve expanded their talent and have grown considerably from the last album, delving more artistically into their work and pushing their song writing to the limits. However, it’s not really doing much for me. I think that’s more due to the style rather than the music itself. There’s a lot of elements of Folk here and we all know my sentiments towards folk, a genre I respect but just am not into. The only song I’ve previously heard from this album is “The Red Telephone” while taking my psychedelic music class. It was that and “7 and 7 is” that introduced me to the band. I always loved the latter way more than the former… so maybe that should have been an indication of how I’d feel about this album.

You really do get a sense that Arthur Lee is trying to take snapshot of how things were. A moment in time, a memory that he wanted to preserve before things got really bad. You can hear it in the music and in his vocals. He sings with a sort of desperation that’s hard to recreate. A desperation to just keep things together and make sure that they stay together. It’s almost sad, but never quite gets there.

As “The Red Telephone” plays it brings back vague memories of when I was in that class. Times seemed great. Had a best friend at the time (we’ve sadly parted ways in a really bad way) and we were in the class together, cracking jokes and all around just having a good time. It’s funny how life goes, eh? You think you have things set and things will stay that way. But sometimes even the best things turn bad. One second you’re super close to someone and love them and the next you find yourself hating everything about them. How does that happen? How do you go from being so close to so distant like you’ve never known them. Feeling like you suddenly are nothing and are made to seem useless and worthless in someone’s life is never a good feeling… but how can someone do that? How can someone just click that part of their brain off and throw someone away so easily like they’re a toy that they’re done playing with? How can some people be that awful?

God dammit album… what are you doing to me? I wanted to be happy not reminisce about sad shit. This album seems to have a weird power over me as it plays. It must be the vibe. Definitely has this solemn aura that just affects you. Funny, how music can do that to you sometimes…

Before this gets worse, I’ll sign off here and let the album finish.

Song of Choice: A House is not a Motel

-Bosco

PS. Finished it and I have to say it’s a really solid album and is strong overall. Good shit.

 

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1001 Albums: Goodbye & Hello

#86

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Artist: Tim Buckley

Album: Goodbye & Hello

Year: 1967

Length: 42:41

Genre: Folk Rock / Psychedelic Rock

If you tell me a lie I’ll cry for you
Tell me of sin and I’ll laugh
If you tell me of all the pain you’ve had
I’ll never smile again

Everywhere there’s rain my love
Everywhere there’s fear”

Ever wake up having one of those existential crises? You know which one I’m talking about? The doubt of where you are in your life, what you’re currently doing with you life. That fear of where you’re headed and what you’ll become. That feeling that you haven’t made a name for yourself at your age even though you thought you’d have way more to your name by now. That feeling of existential dread that you might never amount to anything and continue to feel the way you are.

That one.

I mean, it’s not as bad as it seems. We’ve all gone through those feelings. We’ve all been afraid of our own futures and worried about where we were headed and what we’ll become in our lives. As anything, you stop yourself and realise that you’re the master of your own destiny (unless of course everything is in fact pre-determined in our lives and no matter what we do we can’t change that… but that’s pretty depressing to think about). All we can really do is keep moving forward, learn to better ourselves and become stronger as people and continue to grow. And most importantly, get off our asses and go out and do the things we want to do, no matter how scary.

Easier said than done of course, but possible no matter how difficult. Easier for some, harder for others. At the end of the day we all have our own struggles, the biggest difference is whether we choose to let them over-consume us and control our lives or choose to move past them and come out stronger and bigger than you were before. It’s tougher but I would choose the latter every time.

I woke up with that feeling the other morning after two months of not having that feeling, I guess I was due for it. I don’t know if it’s because I’m 25 and going through a sort of quarter life crisis and just terrified of what am I gonna do with my life, or because I’m just an incredibly anxious person who overthinks everything, either way it was there and kind of shook me up. I realised I sort of need to get up and move… which is taking baby steps, but I feel like if I keep going, things will work out for sure.

This was meant to be more inspiring than sad, but whatever, take from it what you will, I have an album to listen to.

I know absolutely nothing about Tim Buckley and the wikipedia page for this album really has nothing to say so I’m going in absolutely blind with this one. I’m about four songs in and already I’m starting to see the uniqueness that is Tim Buckley. As I’ve said in previous posts, Folk is not my favourite or strongest genre of music, however, Tim seems to completely redefine what it means to be Folk by blending in all these psychedelic qualities to it without ever becoming psychedelic music itself. It’s still very much folk rock all around.

I honestly don’t really know what to say. I am at a loss of words in a lot of ways. Not because it’s boring or uninspiring, far from it actually, it’s a really fascinating album, but because it’s such a unique take on an old genre that I really have no idea how to express it. This ain’t Bob Dylan’s Folk rock, I’ll tell you that. Odd sound effects, trippy, mythical lyrics, strange effects added to the instruments, it’s like what folk rock would be if it tripped on acid. Just a little acid though. Heck, the song that just passed was called Hallucinations… sure felt like one too.

This seems to be one of those albums on the list that were for the most part forgotten or ignored when first released but in retrospect garnered a huge respect and following. The little critique I read called it groundbreaking and revolutionary, which as each tune goes by, I can definitely feel that sentiment. Nothing I’ve listened to has quite been like this and it really stands as being it’s own thing. Even Tim Buckley’s voice, which I honestly thought was a woman singing for a second, is quite unique and adds that extra layer to the music that really makes it pop. But not pop as in popping a balloon or popping corn… that would be ridiculous…

Speaking of popping corn. My friends somehow convinced me to go see It this week. I know that doesn’t seem like a big deal to lots of you, but to those who know me know that it is. I don’t hate Horror movies, I actually have a lot of rspect for them and have been trying to watch all the classics to broaden my movie knowledge in general. But Horror movies don’t sit well with me. Already being an incredibly anxious person and scared of the dark, watching a horror movie is the perfect recipe for making sure I have sleepless nights and nightmares. Can’t control that, has always been that way since I saw Halloween H20 in grade five. Why did an elementary school teacher think it was ok to show this movie to a class of 10 – 12 year olds is beyond me. Lack of judgement? Probably, but then again I had the choice to not watch it if I really wanted to. My curiosity had the better of me. My curiosity seems to do that to me. Screw me over emotionally all the time. You think I’d have learned by now, but nope. Lesson is… never listen to your curiosity. There’s a reason the expression Curiosity killed the cat is a thing. I mean, curiosity is good when used well… but I’ve come to a point that it makes me want to know every detail of everything and believe me… some things… you just don’t want to know. *SHUDDERS*

So yeah, It was good. Thoroughly enjoyed it, didn’t find it scary. Creepy at times for sure, but never scary. Nice story about facing your fears and overcoming them, which is a moral I kind of needed slapped in my face at that moment (no joke).

I’m not here to do a movie review though. Actually I’m not here to review anything technically. I know my posts have slowly become reviews as I listen to more and more albums and get a slightly better ear when it comes to music, but I remember my initial intentions always being about chronicling the journey of listening to the albums, not critiquing them. It’s honestly hard not too. How do you talk about an album without breaking it apart? Especially in a review-like setting? Oh well, I do what I do what I do what I do.

Three songs are left on the album and I still don’t have a favourite. I feel this might be one of those where I have difficulty picking a song of choice. Usually it’s for albums I didn’t really care for and I always feel like following up the song of choice with a little (…I guess) because at that point I just had to pick something. In this case, that’s not the case. I feel a little mesmerised by the whole experience of this album that… I’m not sure exactly what to pinpoint out of it all.

I’m for sure overselling the album a bit, but you have to put it into context. I just went from psychedelic music and The fucking Monkees to suddenly be met with this piece of majestic folk rock. And I’m not joking about majestic, with all the themes of kings and queens and castles. The song of the same name as the album is an 8-minute epic that illustrates imagery of lutes and fools and knights. Tim Buckley almost sounds like a modern day bard playing on the green of the castle, telling medieval style stories to the local peasants.

oh… I think I got it now… cool.

Song of Choice: Goodbye and Hello

-Bosco

 

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1001 Albums: Headquarters

#85

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Artist: The Monkees

Album: Headquarters

Year: 1967

Length: 31:10

Genre: Pop Rock

“Love is understanding
Don’t you know that this is true?
Love is understanding
It’s in everything we do

In this generation (in this generation)
In this lovin’ time (in this lovin’ time)
In this generation (in this generation)
We will make the world shine”

Well, I’m happy I’m getting a little break from psychedelic music. Unfortunately that little break is The Monkees, also known as a poor man’s Beatles. If I had known I’d be getting some straightforward mushy pop rock in place of psych music I would have never made that wish… but what can you do?

It’s not that The Monkees are bad… they’re just listenable as a whole. Another easily digestible and accessible band for the masses to enjoy ad nauseum. I wouldn’t have expected to see The Monkees on this list at all especially knowing their big pop hits as a whole. Everyone knows “I’m A Believer” which is a catchy tune but nothing to really brag about as being amazing music for the history pages. This album does have the distinction of being the first album where The Monkees had full creative control over. It seems in the past they had studio musicians and writers creating the music for them and it was really here where they fought hard to get their creative control and write all the music themselves. Which is cool, I guess… but really, who cares? It’s the fucking Monkees, I don’t think they really hold that kind of weight that someone who picked up this book was so excited to hear about their album where they finally gained full creative control. Like wooooooow, jesus.

Ok, I know, I sound a little bitter here. Did The Monkees hurt me in some way in the past? Where is this all coming from? Honestly no where. I don’t hate The Monkees at all. I’ve found myself enjoying their music in the same way anyone enjoys pop music. It’s fun, you enjoy for the three minutes of play time and then you move on to the next. I find it difficult to understand why it’s even here on this list. I’m currently six songs in and absolutely nothing has really stood out as being that outstanding. “Band 6” comes close as this little piece of absurdity that’s only 40 seconds long within a whole heap of pop songs that follow your rather generic and bland love themes. But even then it was so short that you barely notice it go by.

I mean, so far nothing has been bad… the music is decent and the tambourine playing is ok. Lyrics are nothing out of the ordinary for pop music and the vocals are good… I honestly can’t think of anything really to say that has any real weight or merit to mention, except that it’s pretty great that at least the band can say they did it all by themselves. Fantastic, participation medal for you. You’re all big boys now. Congratulations.

These songs for the most part aren’t even that catchy, none are sticking in my head or catching my ear, and I’m listening man, I’m listening hard. It’s really doing nothing for me at this moment. And hey, if you love this album, that’s cool, I’m happy for you… It’s unfortunately doing nothing for me at this moment. Maybe I need more of an open mind to really really… and I mean REALLLLYYYY get it. But… nah fuck it, I don’t feel like it. It’s straightforward pop music and there’s really nothing else to say about it. It’s formulaic, shallow and bland… good family friendly radio music.

From the last paragraph to this one I decided to go do my dishes as the rest of the album played. I figured it’d be a better way to spend my time rather than staring at this blank screen trying to figure out what to say. Shame too, because side b decided to become slightly more interesting, unfortunately the album at this point had already lost my interest enough to really care to stop my dishes and come back. There was an experimental track “Zilch” which was basically just spoken word that I felt this album just did not earn to have on it. You can’t give us all this pop music only to suddenly throw in this piece of experimental spoken word. Other than that and some upbeat tunes, I can’t really say anything noteworthy occurred. The final tune is pretty cool… so I guess that’s something.

Ugh, final thoughts… Straightforward pop music with some interesting tunes sprinkled about here and there but for the most part nothing really extraordinary or worth mentioning. Unless you like this kind of music, just skip it, you’re not really missing out on much.

Song of Choice: No Time

-Bosco

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1001 Albums: Triangle

#84

Album_84_Original

Artist: Beau Brummels

Album: Triangle

Year: 1967

Length: 28:50

Genre: Psychedelic Pop

“Painting the faces
Where no faces are
They are bizarre and
Lovely to see
Selling to emperors
Kings and queens
Each of his dreams”

 

WOOHOO, I’m in 1967 finally. Thought I’d never get out of 66, but honestly I feel like I’ll never get out of the 60s in general. I keep checking the list and it feels like the end is never coming closer. Baby steps I guess.

The play-by-play review was so successful for me in my last post I decided to do it again for this one. I think I may have heard the Beau Brummels before (in my psychedelic music class of course, where else?) but I have no idea what the song was and for the life of me can’t remember it at all, so I’m basically going in blind with these guys. I feel like with the 50s and all the jazz, I’m now on a psychedelic music bend. So much psychedelic music one after the other. It’s cool shit but man… it’ll make a man go insane. I don’t know how many trips I can really go on at this point.

Ok, I’m two songs in now and so far I’m not super crazy about these guys but there’s no denying they definitely have musical skill. their songs sound very well crafted and there’s this nice parisian thing going on in the second song that’s really captivating me. The vocalist sounds a lot like Bob Dylan, he seems to be channelling his inner Dylan, especially on the first song. Every time he says How Do You Feel, it gives me flashbacks of Dylan singing How Does It Feel on Like a Rolling Stone.

Third song already… these songs are much shorter than I expected. I feel I barely have time to get into one and the next one is starting. Is that a good thing or bad thing? I don’t know. What I do know is that apparently the band tried to deviate away from the formulaic pop music their record contract was trying to get them to do and took the time to really make something new and different for themselves. Once again, I haven’t heard their previous stuff, but they’re definitely doing a good job at being different. One critic called this the bridge between pop and psychedlic music, the album that merged the gap… I guess? I guess I can see that… but… I don’t know? I’ve been listening to so much psychedelic music these days it’s hard for me to really tell. I guess they can make a good argument for it. Don’t know what that argument is… but I’m sure it’s a good one.

Geez, again, the song just seems to end… come on at least give it a solid ending instead of just fading out halfway though the chorus. At least I’m met with an upbeat tune, The Keeper Of Time. This is a pretty fun tune, I’m enjoying it. I have to say, despite all the psychedelic music I’ve been listening to, this album does manage to set itself apart as it’s own thing, which is a nice achievement.

Song ended suddenly again… I guess I’ll have that to look forward to the entire fucking album. Oh well, I could sit and enjoy a song but it seems right as I do it fades out and the next one starts, so what’s the point? Ok you can still enjoy them. It’s like songs on the go almost. Tunes you can listen to in short amounts of time, which is a good thing for speedy listening. It helps that they are really solid songs too.

The next song seems to incorporate a staple of psych music by including sound effects. In this case it’s the annoying sound of what sounds like a coin being flipped. I mean, that’s great… if you’re a banker… but jesus is it ever loud and echo in your ears. thankfully it doesn’t last long and let’s the song do it’s thing for the rest of the time.The song is also called Nine Pound Hammer… so maybe it’s the clanking of an anvil… I guess it has a purpose…. sure… why not? That beat is pretty infectious though, with an egg shaker shaking away like nobody’s business, really got my booty shaking.

Magic Hollow was apparently a big deal for the band. Was their sort of hit single and has managed to appear on numerous lists such as 100 greatest psychedelic classics. It’s a bit of a downer as a song, with sad strings and melancholic vocals. There’s an air of fantasy to it, almost like walking through an enchanted wood… but once again that fits the name of the title and is probably what they were going for. They really do seem to be exploring this idea of the fantastic and enchanted throughout the album. In a lot of ways it does feel like it could be the soundtrack to some sort of fantasy mini series and if not certain songs can definitely easily appear on one. It’s cool that they set out to create that sort of vibe, which is one I feel hasn’t been explored just yet on any of the albums I’ve listened to, and believe me there has been many, many concepts explored so far. The Fantasy genre always seems to get the short end of the stick as kid’s stuff that shouldn’t be taken seriously. But done well, like here, it can actually create something quite inspirational.

Album is almost done, I guess this is where I give my final thoughts. Not bad as a whole, not my thing but I can see psych music lovers enjoying this one. Has a nice mix of upbeat tunes and more atmospheric ones. It was annoying to have a lot of the tunes just kind of… end suddenly but doesn’t really take away from the pretty solid song writing all around. Not my favourite but a good listen nonetheless.

Song of Choice: The Keeper of  Time

-Bosco

 

 

 

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1001 Albums: Da Capo

#83

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Artist: Love

Album: Da Capo

Year: 1966

Length: 35:54

Genre: Psychedelic Rock/ Baroque Pop

“When I was invisible
I needed no light
You saw right through me, you said
Was I out of sight?

Whoa-oh-oh-oh, my love she comes in colors
You can tell her from the clothes she wears”

I’m doing something I’ve only done once before, I’m writing this as I listen to the album. I figured it’d be an easy way for me to get back into it and not worry about writing a post almost two weeks after originally listening to an album. To be honest, I don’t know what to expect from a band that calls themselves Love. I’ve had exposure to two of their songs (7 and 7 is and Red Telephone) the former of which is actually on this album and if this album is anything similar to 7 and 7 is then I’m in for a treat for sure.

Stephanie Knows Who just played, basically ended almost as quickly as it started. Real shame, I was enjoying that tune quite a bit. Great opener to start an album, it’s dancey and vibrant and full of energy and has some great harpsichord on it, which is always a plus. I wish it was a little longer though, especially compared to the 19 minute song found at the end of this album. Ugh… that’s gonna be fun to sit through. Not like I haven’t before, I mean I’ve listened to Kraftwerk’s Autobahn… many times, which is a 22 minute song that takes up a whole vinyl side like their finale, so it shouldn’t be so bad… will it?

So, I’m halfway through Orange Skies, big difference from Stephanie Knows Who (which is currently my favourite). Definitely hitting on the psychedelic side a little more. It’s got a summer of love feel to it with an essence of being high and floating, which I guess suits the name. There’s some cool flute on it too which I didn’t expect. Overall Decent tune.

Woo, QUE VIDA! I sound way more excited than I am about this tune. It’s along the same lines as the previous one and according to critics is a little unclassifiable as a tune. I guess? I mean it sounds pretty psychedelic with elements of pop… I don’t know maybe that’s just me. It’s interesting actually… apparently this album was a big flop when it first came out and even retrospective reviews are like… I guess it’s ok? With big criticism coming from the finale 19 minute song being the one that busted the album (but in retrospect was… ok they guess?). I don’t know if this is supposed to make me look forward to that finale, but hopefully it won’t be a torturous 19 minutes (which it could very easily be). Que Vida! is still playing and is really growing on me. One of those songs that at first I was like… ok not bad, but kind of stuck by the end. Always give songs a chance.

Fucking yes! Fucking yes!!!! the Proto-punk stylings of 7 and 7 is. Oh man, that fast drumming and guitar strumming, the screaming vocals and the all-around energy of this tune is just so infectious. Another highlight from my famous psychedelic music course. I remember this song just sticking with me hardcore. Another guy in the class hated it. he can go fuck himself, this song is amazing and the exact pure energy I need to get me running through a mine field.

The Castle is hitting it back with the psychedelic style. I feel like this song is always on the verge of becoming something exciting, but always stops itself before it does. It’s pretty smooth and sensual for the most part, but then there’s these drum kicks and bass grooves that kick in and I keep thinking it’s going to Rave-up, but it never does. What a cock tease. But that harpsichord that just kicked in is pretty fabulous, I seem to be getting a new favourite instrument. It so far hasn’t failed to amuse me on any album it has appeared on. Interesting tune, by the end of it it seemed to have shifted gears a little. Still sticking to it’s style but changing in tune a little. Solid stuff.

As She Comes In Colours plays I’m starting to wonder why this flopped. At first I was wondering why this was included on the list at all if it flopped that badly, but 6 songs in and I’m starting to wonder why it flopped. This is a pretty solid album that flows very nicely. The music is accessible enough for everyone to enjoy but still manages to really be it’s own thing. To my knowledge Love was trying out something completely new with this album. I’ve never heard their debut but it sounds like they did an excellent job. (Also that harpsichord is giving me an orgasm… oh man, you never expect it to come in but when it does it’s pure pleasure to the ears, especially in this song). I loved this tune more than I should have but what you gonna do… what you gonna do when they come for you…

Now here it is, the song I’ve been waiting for the entire album. Revelation, the 19 minute song. Strong start, harpsichord opening (which we all know is a huge bonus for me on this album) and kicking into a groovin’ guitar chord riff. A little different than the rest of the album, probably more reminiscent of their debut (which I haven’t heard so this is just speculation). But an informed assumption since this was a jam they did at their live shows way before this album came out. It actually influenced the Rolling Stones to make Coming Home, their 9 minute rock tune, but because Aftermath came out before Da Capo, they got accused of copying them. But does it matter? Their’s was 9 minutes, this is a solid 19 minutes. Another beats completely and should have no comparison. Especially stylistically they may be similar but are really their own beasts entirely. The goal with this song was to capture the energy of their live performances (sounds familiar… I think I read that with John Mayall’s and the Bluesbreakers…). I’ve got a pretty sweet harmonica solo blaring away, did not expect that especially since the harmonica has basically been absent the whole album (or maybe it was there and I just wasn’t paying attention).

Ugh… I’m only 5 minutes in. This song is lucky that so far it’s listenable and pretty great. It changes enough that it doesn’t feel monotonous and there’s always something new happening, with some groovy guitar solos permeating throughout. Actually… these are some solid guitar solos, like damn… I’m engaged and invested in these solos. Not sure where this song is headed and what adventure I have left. I still have a good 11 minutes left on it… so we shall see.

I’m finding myself tapping my foot to the beat. That’s a good sign. I’m really getting into it. Man, this album is way better than I expected it to be. I guess when you enter something with low expectations all it can really do is impress you. And boy has this albums impressed me. I’ve saved every song to my playlist that I share with Sandra. You see, I started this playlist called Bosco and Sandra’s Never Ending Playlist on Spotify, where we basically add any and every song we want to it to make one huge playlist that encompasses both our tastes in music. It’s a nice couple thing to engage in I feel. Speaking of which, me and Sandra celebrated our 1-year anniversary just last month! This is incredibly exciting for me. I know to you, the reader, it means absolutely nothing, but for those who know me know a year is a big deal. I’ve only had one previous relationship that lasted more than a year (2) while all the others never made it past 5 months (except my last one which was 8). Why? I usually tend to lose interest by the 5 month mark, no idea why, many reasons and factors I guess that play into it. So the fact I’ve hit a year and still am crazy about this bubbly ball of positivity is really a good sign. Who knows.

Anyway, like I was saying, the playlist. So every time I listen to an album from this list I add my favourites to our playlist and it’s rare that I’ll add an entire album. It has happened a few times and a few albums have that distinction of being a full save (The Monk’s Black Monk Time and Moby Grape are two members of that club). This is one of them. Especially now as I hit some… saxophone? solo that is just purely amazing. I was nervous about this song but it is really taking me on a trip here, and not the drug-induced type of trip, a musical trip from instrument to instrument, that never veers away from what it set out to do but still manages to pull many surprises out of it’s pocket. Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy.

As Revelation comes to an end, I’ll finish this write-up.. up, as well. Final thoughts: Solid album that I did not expect to enjoy as much as I did. I was pleasantly surprised with it as a whole and feel it should be on a list of albums more people should check out (and it is! hurr hurr). I think it’s pretty fitting that the song ends with a marching band type drum solo that stopped abruptly to give way for that magical harpsichord sound.

Oh Harpsichord… my love… please don’t leave me aloooone, I’ll miss you…

Song of Choice: 7 and 7 is

-Bosco

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1001 Albums: Moby Grape

#82

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Artist: Moby Grape

Album: Moby Grape

Year: 1967

Length: 30:47

Genre: Psychedelic Rock

“What is this feeling my heart gets when I see you smile?
And why can’t I say to you “Come with me just for a while”?

I guess I’ll never know why
I’ll just lay here and decay here”

I’ve slowed down quite considerably. I realise I start most of my posts these days with how I keep delaying them and how I ain’t as speedy as I used to, so I’m going to try and avoid repeating that, but just like any marathon, there’s bumps in the road where it seemingly comes to a halt and doesn’t want to move forward. I think this is the longest I have gone without writing a post, more than two weeks, which is crazy for me. If my goal was to complete the list within three years I’m definitely doing a bad job at it. But hey, the goal is to listen to the entire list as long as I eventually do that, that’s all that matters, no matter how long it takes.

It doesn’t help I’ve been a little distracted with life. I seemingly never get a moments rest. I have school during the week then work weekends and if I’m lucky, I’ll have one day off. Sometimes Sandra comes up to visit me, sometimes my parents do. On free nights I hang out with friends… or I sleep. The blog seems to have taken a step into the background and has dropped on the list of priorities and motivations, which on one hand I get why but on the other… I’m not really happy about it. It also doesn’t help that I started doing this new thing with my friends where we’d each suggest three albums we love to each other and would listen to all of them to broaden our music horizons and get to know each other’s tastes better. I’ve been doing that a lot. Still listening to music just not the 1001 albums list. In between those albums I should play one of these so at least I can keep up the rhythm of it and get back into things. That’s always the hardest part when you fall out of routine, getting back into it.

No matter, on with the blog.

I listened to this album about three times. One, because I love it and Two, because of the delays I kept forgetting it. It’s also one of those albums that for whatever reason is only partially on spotify. Like half the songs are there but the other half are grayed out… not sure why. I know that it’s up to the artist or publisher to release the music on spotify and what can and cannot be heard… but why only half an album? Whys hare some but not all? It’s a weird phenomenon that seems to happen regularly on Spotify, but thankfully the whole album was on Youtube. I had to replay it a ton of times so I can listen to it straight through without any ads popping up throughout, which is really fucking annoying, but what you gonna do, beggars can’t be choosers.

So like I said, I really love this album. I had been exposed to Moby Grape years ago in my Psychedelic Music class. Teacher showed us Omaha and I immediately fell in love with it. My friend at the time and I would sing it out loud all the time and would have it play on repeat. Funny story, when the exam came around and it was the listening portion where the teacher plays a song and you have to say the name, artist and two fun facts, this one came on and my friend had no idea what the name of it was. See, he was relying on the fact that most songs sing the name of the song in the song itself, that would jog his memory. Jokes on him because Omaha never appears as a lyric in this song. HAHAHAHAHA.

It’s not that funny, sorry.

It’s kind of sad that more people don’t know about this band. I mean, I would have never heard of them if it wasn’t for that class and I really do thing they’re an incredibly undervalued band that should get wayyyy more recognition than they do. One listen to this album and you know why. They manage to blend so many different styles of music into one album that it’s shocking how well they were able to make it flow despite the stylistic shifts. One second you’re listening to a bluesy rock song, the next a sample from psychedelic music history, and then followed by country influenced riffs, some proto-punk, folk stylings and ballads. An album this uncohesive shouldn’t work on paper but works amazingly in practice and it is mainly due to the talent of the band. Every single member shares in writing credits and it’s a rare moment where every member appears as lead singer at least once and even features a guitar trio the only other band at the time to do this was Buffalo Springfield). And they do it very effectively too. Three guitarists fighting to win a guitar battle and creating a collage of sound that just works so beautifully together.  It’s just a really fucking good album that I honestly feel needs to be noticed way more than it is. There isn’t one bad track on the entire album and even if you’re not crazy about one song, you’ll most definitely love another just because of the variety of styles they offer. This is hailed as a masterpiece and I could argue to agree with that statement. It’s rare that I listen to an entire album on the first sitting and am completely enamoured by it, I thoroughly enjoyed every single song off of it.

I also love some of the history behind this band. The album cover itself generated a lot of controversy mostly due to Don Stevenson flipping the bird on the cover (which would be airbrushed out in future pressings) and the use of the American flag in the background, which for some reason was a big deal and was airbrushed a solid colour (either red or black depending what issue you have) so it looked like a regular flag. They also had issues with their band name. It seems after some weird legal contract they signed, their manager was the full owner of the band causing the band to release future music under names like Grape Moby, Maby Grope, The Melvilles, etc, in order to legally perform publicly without conflict from Katz (their manager). I think this is a big factor as to why Moby Grape sort of fell away from the mainstream eye, their follow-ups would never be as good as this one and thanks to all their legal disputes and lawsuits with Matthew Katz, they seemed to just be in a constant decline of unnecessary headaches and woes. They would probably have been way more successful and even considered in the same light as The Beatles and Rolling Stones if it weren’t for all those troubles.

Fascinating, yet sad story.

I’m glad to see within the music enthusiast’s community Moby Grape is held in quite high regard and deservedly so. If only we could bring their greatness to the masses then that would just be great.

Song of Choice: Omaha

-Bosco

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1001 Albums: Safe As Milk

#81

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Artist: Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band

Album: Safe As Milk

Year: 1967

Length: 33:40

Genre: Blues Rock / Acid Rock / Garage Rock

“Singin through you to me
Thunderbolts caught easily
Shouts the truth peacefully
Electricity”

I know what everyone is thinking and believe me I know you want to know. I told myself I wouldn’t but I know at this moment you’re all aching to find out and you won’t be satisfied until I acknowledge it. That’s fine, but I can’t always do this for you guys but I will make an exception this one time. I know you’re all dying to know… how did I do in karaoke on Friday? I realise I mentioned it in my last post and it left you guys aching for me to talk about it and I kind of felt it was either irrelevant or just didn’t really fit with this particular blog post. But looking back on all my posts I consistently talked about life and things that had absolutely nothing to do with the album so I figured what the hell, why not.

I absolutely slayed in karaoke. I killed it. I was nervous because the last time I went I butchered it but this time around I just tore it apart. I started the night with “Ballroom Blitz”, nothing great, just a ton of fun. Second song, I killed. sang ABC’s “Poison Arrow” and just owned it as my own. It was sad that nobody really knew the song, but I did well enough that it did not matter. Unfortunately with my next tune I didn’t do as well. Sang Elvis Costello’s “Radio Radio”. Fantastic tune but unfortunately I followed to assholes who chose to sing “Bohemian Rhapsody” which honestly there’s an unwritten rule that unless the whole bar is doing it together you do not pick that fucking song. Following that with a song that barely anyone knew wasn’t great and I did ok… but I got to sing it which was all I wanted. About an hour later me, Luis and Aziz broke out into “TubThumping” where I samg all the female vocals and immediately got to sing my final song, Abba’s “Does Your Mother Know”, another I’ve been wanting to belt out for a long time and never did.

There, happy? That was my night.

what?

What more do you want?

Oh…

Oh right…. Safe As Milk. I forgot… I actually listened to an album by Captain Beefheart.

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An early photo of him when he was just a cabin boy.

Ok, I promise I’ll stop making these band name puns… maybe…

Despite what it sounds like I actually really love this album. My biggest problem (which is unrelated to the album itself) is that I’ve just been so tired these past few days that I barely remember much details of this album. I can definitely talk about the general feelings I had for it, but specifics are going to be really difficult at this moment. I’m adding this album to the revisit list and will eventually give it a relisten and a second blog post because my current feelings and mood just will not give it the justice it deserves.

So what can I say about it? It’s definitely it’s own thing. There’s no denying Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band managed to create something that is uniquely their own. Heavily influenced by Blues Rock, they managed to take on the genre and tackle it in a completely unconventional and unique way to the point that their original label dropped them for being too unconventional (Due to the song “Electricity” in particular). He also seems to take a page from the book of Zappa (which makes sense since he was a part of Zappa’s band) incorporating weird time signatures, strange noises, sound clips (such as a radio host introducing one of the songs), unusual and surreal lyrics and funny singing voices. If you love Zappa, Beefheart should definitely be one to check out.

I actually heard some people express they find Beefheart harder to get into than Zappa, Beefheart surprisingly somehow being more alienating. I don’t know if I agree with that. Maybe Beefheart’s later work gets a little more difficult to the ears, but this one feels way more accessible than Zappa’s work, incorporating enough weirdness to stick out but still remaining traditional enough to keep the average listener hooked. Maybe it’s just because I like the unconventional but this was definitely one of the top listening experiences I had on this list so far, so we’ll see once Trout Mask Replica hits us if I still feel the same way.

So there you have it, don’t really have much to say at the moment which is a real shame because I really loved this album but my mind has been so bogged down and cloudy this past week for so many reasons that it was really difficult to form any sort of coherent analysis or critique, especially for an album of this caliber.

So until I revisit it, check it out for yourself and enjoy the kookiness that is Captain Beefheart.

Song of Choice: Dropout Boogie

-Bosco

 

 

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1001 Albums: Buffalo Springfield Again

#80

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Artist: Buffalo Springfield

Album: Buffalo Springfield Again

Year: 1967

Length: 34:07

Genre: Folk Rock/Bues Rock

“Look what’s happen’ to me,
I’m going blind, please help.
There I sat until three,
Gettin’ further behind myself, by myself.
And I’m hung upside down,
And I’m hung upside down,
And I’m hung upside down,
Come on, come on,
Hung upside Down.”

I’m going to try to speed through this one. I’m quickly eating supper as I write and am off to meet some friends for karaoke a little later but I wanted to make sure I got a post in before I did. My go to song for karaoke is usually “Turning Japanese” by the Vapors and “This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us” by Sparks, but I might try new ones tonight, like “Ballroom Blitz” or even “Crazy Train”, who knows. Last time I did karaoke I totally slayed “Bad Touch” but completely massacred “Kiss From A Rose”. With me, you never quite know what you’re going to get.

So without delay, Buffalo Springfield…

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No, no, no… I don’t have time for puns based on the band’s name. I need to speed through this otherwise I’ll be late for karaoke and miss Luis hitting on the girl behind the bar.

This album seems to be mirroring the last one in a really weird way. I’ve currently experienced two albums in a row that have left out the band’s most popular and definitive song. This was actually brought to my attention by Sandra and Graham, who both knew the song and sounded rather disappointed that it didn’t appear on this album. And although for Country Joe and The Fish, the famous song would eventually appear on their next album, the Buffalo Springfield one had a very different path. Lots would correct me in saying, “But Hey! It appears on their first album, derpaderpadurrr…”. Which isn’t false, but it actually doesn’t appear on the original pressing and instead suddenly appeared as the opener of their debut album in a 1967 pressing, which if you’re observant is the same year that this album came out. Why didn’t they just put it on this one? Who knows. But for you’re listening pleasure, here’s the famous Vietnam protest song (yes coincidentally it’s also a Vietnam protest song like The Country Joe and The Fish one), “For What It’s Worth”:

 

There. Happy? now we can move on.

Here’s another album where I recognized a song from my Roots of Rock N Roll class, “Bluebird”, that unfortunately also didn’t get much airplay on my ipod. Why? I don’t know, other songs just took up more time and I never really gave this one a chance. I did now. It’s pretty good. Pretty Damn good.

That’s basically this album in a nutshell, damn good blues infused folk rock. I mean, you can’t fail when you have Crosby, Stills and Young writing music. Yeah, that’s right, the main dudes of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young were here writing music before forming their super dupe power band (and before Neil Young would explode in his solo career). However, despite this, the album does feel a tad inconsistent and lacks in flow as a whole, coming off as a greatest hits compilation rather than it’s own album. If anything this is a testament to how great the music on it really is. Sure, it may not all work together as a whole, but individually they are all great tracks (except for “Sad Memory” in my opinion, which comes across as a sappy love tune that I’d skip 99% of the time). And that’s where the inconsistency comes in. Songs like “Sad Memory” and “Expecting To Fly” sound like they should be on completely different albums. Especially knowing that Neil Young rented out a studio to record “Expecting To Fly” on his own time with studio musicians who all believed it was part of his solo album. No other member of Buffalo Springfield actually appears on this song. And when you have every band member kind f just sharing in the songwriting, doing their own tunes and putting it all together, it really just adds to that compilation feel.

That being said, there’s no denying the music itself is great. “Expecting To Fly” may stick out, but in a good way, playing off as a beautiful piece of music with strings and atmosphere, a nice little break in the middle of the album. The opener “Mr. Soul” is a great upbeat blues rock song, with layered guitar performances that has you tapping your toes and “Hung Upside Down” has you hanging on, wanting to continue for more. The closer “Broken Arrow” seems to be an arrangement of live and studio performances melded together, with small breaks and pauses in the song itself. Odd choice, but works quite well.

That’s all I have to say for now. Going to finish my supper and run off to Karaoke. Block your ears, you’ll be in for an unpleasant night.

Song of Choice: Hung Upside Down

-Bosco

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1001 Albums: Electric Music For The Mind And Body

#79

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Artist: Country Joe and the Fish

Album: Electric Music for the Mind and Body

Year: 1967

Length: 43: 30

Genre: Acid Rock/Blues Rock

“She hides in an attic concealed on a shelf
Behind volumes of literature based on herself
And runs across the pages like some tiny elf
Knowing that it’s hard to find
Stuff way back in her mind
Winds up spending all of her time
Trying to memorize every line
Sweet Lorraine, ah sweet Lorraine.”

Man was this a throwback to a few years ago. three to be exact (could be two, I don’t know anymore). Around my final year of university I had taken a course on the history of Psychedelic Music. Knew nothing about it but took it because I enjoyed the teacher’s Rock n’ Roll history class and was excited to learn about a music genre I barely knew anything about and wanted to expand my music knowledge. It was a pretty good class, looking at all sorts of genres that would act as precursors to psychedelic rock, looking at bands such as Syndicate of Sound, The 13th Floor Elevators, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. One of the bands we had briefly looked at would be one that stayed with me since then, one of their songs getting some good playtime on my ipod. It was none other than Country Joe and The Fish.

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No, not that country joe and the fish, although I’m sure he’s doing just fine.

I’m talking about the band. That quirky sounding band that incoporated odd guitar sounds and rhythms, strange vocals and wacky riffs.  Well, that’s what I believed at least from the song that I kept listening to. I was curious to hear what a full length album by them would sound like based on knowing that one song and wouldn’t you believe it, it was nowhere to be found on this album.

For those wondering what it was, it was their live show staple and fan favourite “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die-Rag”. A protest song that tackled their feelings towards the vietnam war that had you hooting and hollering along as you danced to kazoo like sounds. It was such an important protest song at the time that I’m completely surprised that they didn’t include it on their debut album.

For you’re listening pleasure, here it is:

It’s honestly such a fun ditty that it’s a shame that it’s nowhere to be seen in this album’s 43 minute run time.

But… on second thought, it’s not crazy that they decided to exclude it. Listening to the album, it would have stuck out like a sore thumb. There doesn’t seem to be an appropriate place in the album to put it without it killing the pace and vibe that the album was working so hard to create. I honestly should have expected it from the other song that didn’t get as much airplay on my ipod that we heard in class “Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine”, a staple of psychedelic rock history due to it’s strange and absurd lyrical content of introspection and possible drug induced imagery and it’s swirling keyboards. Wasn’t crazy about it then as I cranked up their protest song, but hearing it here I definitely acquired much more admiration for it.

I really enjoyed this album. Found myself going on quite a trip from start to beginning and never felt a moment where I was taken out of it, each song contributing to that solemn yet peppy vibe that The Fish were permeating throughout. The first half of the album keeps you on your toes with some upbeat blues infused psychedelic rock which slowly deteriorates into harsher and trippier psychedelia throughout the second half. Even though it’s technically acid rock, it feels more like a toned down version of what we would eventually get to know as Psychedelic music but the elements are still there and I can definitely see how this would have helped in developing the genre. From their song “Death Sound” that has some fantastic reverb effects on the guitar to “Section 43” one of the greatest instrumental tracks I ever heard, that takes you on a trip and actually seems to tell a story… in sections, similar to what prog rock would eventually do with their music. Multiple instrumental tracks put together to tell one coherent story. By the time you hit “Sad and Lonely Times” you know you’re in for a bit of a trip as each song starts to get dipped into the acid pool of textures and feelings. “Bass Strings”, “Masked Marauder” and “Grace” (a tribute to Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick) feel out of this world and although it’s never at the heights of psychedelic music to come it definitely set the groundwork for it’s successors to reach higher heights that the Fish didn’t hit.

May have been overshadowed by future acts ad albums within the genre but definitely worth a checkout if you can, especially for those keys. Man I love that keyboard work.

Song of Choice: Section 43

-Bosco

p.s. “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die-Rag” would appear on their second album of the same name. So it wasn’t completely excluded from their discography.

 

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1001 Albums: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

#78

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Artist: The Beatles

Album: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Year: 1967

Length: 39:52

Genre: Pop Rock / Psychedelia

“We’re Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
We hope you will enjoy the show
We’re Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Sit back and let the evening go”

 

I think I delayed writing this post for far too long. I initially listened to this album about two weeks ago and from then on have been trying to gather my thoughts about it and really put into words how I felt, which honestly has so far been the toughest out of every album I’ve listened to. It required me listening to the album a second time and discussing it with a good friend of mine who is a bit of a music connoisseur just to see if my thoughts could really fall into something decent and coherent.

Well… no more delaying, time to sit down and just crank this out for what it is, with the goal to not repeat myself from previous Beatles posts. Can’t promise anything.

So… this album… is a doozy of an album. It’s a big album and I don’t mean the music itself, I mean culturally. This album had such a huge impact on the culture at the time, being cited as painting a picture of the current trends and moods, considered one of the most influential and important albums of all time, seen as a sign of a clear maturation of the Beatles artistically, being one of the first albums to influence both art rock and progressive rock and single-handedly starting the album era and hanging rock music as we know it (for better or for worse depending what your feelings to the roots of rock n roll are). This was a lot to take in and probably heavily influenced my first reaction to the whole album, which was rather sour and negative. I mean it’s hard to really feel the full power of an album when all you’ve had were people yelling in your ear about how amazing it is, all you have left to really go is down. Too much hype always sets you up for disappointment. But I’ve been trying to keep an open mind. So I set my initial reaction to the side and decided to listen to it a second time without any of that pre-existing hype, which helped.

Here’s a interesting thing about this album. There’s no denying that it definitely had a significant cultural impact when it first came out. People loved it and were taking it in, soaking up Beatlemania like never before. This was it, The Beatles were peaking and getting better and better for the population. This was the greatest thing around… or was it? It’s really easy to get lost in all the positive reviews of the album that you might not realise that critics at the time were really torn about it. Either they loved it or hated it and there seemed to be no in between. Richard Goldstein at the time wrote a scathing review of this album in the New York Times calling it “Ultimately Fraudulent” and was met with an onslaught of letters and hate mail, aggressive, abusive and even down-right scary, responding in disagreement to his review (Considered one of the biggest responses to a musical review ever). Even the retrospectives don’t seem sure about this album’s legacy, claiming that people’s reasoning stands more on the side of it’s cultural impact rather than it’s actual music. (I realise I’m only sharing the negative reviews, but come on, you all already know all the positive criticism said about it that I feel I don’t need to say it). So what’s the truth? Is this really the most influential and greatest rock record of music history or is it incredibly overrated?

To be honest, who knows. There’s no truth to the matter, that’s the beauty of art critiques, it really boils down to subjective feelings explained in smart and nuanced ways as to why their opinion is what it is. So whether you believe one side or the other, that’s a perfectly valid opinion of this record because… it really is a tough one to crack, leaving people very divided but with no real answer.

Ok, that was a bit of a cop out on my part. Enough of all that… what do I think of the album? Which side of the fence do I sit?

I think it’s going to come as no surprise that I do feel this album is incredibly overrated. I’m just going to say that right away so I’m not beating around the bush. That being said, do I think it’s horrible? Absolutely not. If anything this might have been the Beatles Album I enjoyed the most. And here in lies the problem. The big issue I had when gathering my thoughts. How could I feel so negatively towards an album I really enjoyed? Why is it I found myself loving the music and enjoying every moment yet still left it feeling dissatisfied? It didn’t make any sense to me and I had to figure this out.

So, the positive. There’s no denying that The Beatles were artistically at their most mature and grounded in this album. They managed to finally create an album that was incredibly cohesive and flowed beautifully from one song to another. The concept of the album definitely helped with that. Creating the fictitious Sgt Pepper band and treating this album as if it were a live performance by said fictitious band allowed for the Beatles to create a steady flow and even experiment musically and evolve even more from their last album. The sitar is back and better before, they take on influences from vaudeville and circus themes (most apparent in “Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite” which breaks out into a delicious circus tune that I think I enjoyed a little too much) and work with special effects (for example backwards tapes in “Day in the Life”). They continued to grow their psychedelic sound and managed to create a solid album that had a uniform sound but still managed to make each song it’s own unique entity. You can distinguish between each one very easily.

There’s no denying that The Beatles are incredibly talented. There’s no denying that they really showed off that talent on this album. There’s no denying that the music on this album is very well-crafted and played.

So what’s the problem?

It took me awhile to figure this out. That feeling that something… just… wasn’t right. Talking to my friend I grew to realise what didn’t sit well with me despite my enjoyment. The album felt fake to me. It felt shallow and hollow. At the surface we experience the artistic integrity of The Beatles but with nothing under the depths. It’s pure show and razzle-dazzle, The Beatles showing off how well they can play music and take you in without really putting any soul into it (With the exception of “A Day in the Life”). When Frank Zappa critiqued this album as saying The Beatles were only in it for the money… he wasn’t really that wrong. You have to remember to, concept albums like Freak Out! were very alienating to the population. It was music made for the musician himself, music he believed in and felt and wanted to create with a message to be told. Sgt. Pepper is a concept album made for the masses, easily accessible and digestible, an album that literally anyone can put on and enjoy… but that’s all it is, just a show that they’re performing for your pure entertainment. Music that is heavy in artistic integrity minus any of the transcendence, almost like they created an illusion to trick you into thinking there was more. Is this necessarily a bad thing? No, not at all. Music is entertainment and a lot of great bands create music with that in mind. They don’t want you to think, they just want you to have a great time. and that’s what this album is. A fun time for the whole family.

Obviously a lot of people are going to disagree with me and that’s good, that means you have your own opinion and won’t be influenced by mine. However, I do feel I’ve been a little hard on The Beatles and it does sort of boil down to I just don’t get it. So, I decided to do something a little different this time around. I got someone who does get and love The Beatles to write out their opinion of their favourite album to hear the voice of the other side of the metaphorical Beatles fence.

Here is my good friend, Luis:

“I never thought The Beatles could be a polarizing subject. No, not for a beatlemaniac. I just assumed that not everyone love them as much as I and other millions of die-hard fans. But for a long time I was under the impression that everyone at least liked them. And it’s good to encounter those rare people that not necessarily dislike them (which would be fine too), but just don’t see them as the most exciting music phenomenon ever, like I do.

Why is it good? Because it’s different. Because if it is especial for everyone, then there’s nothing truly especial about it. And the other reason is that for the longest I can remember, I hadn’t had to explain to another person why do I feel that way about The Beatles. Until I made a new friend: Jonathan P. Bosco (who claims that just doesn’t see them as greatest, but it’s not a dislike).

And that what’s great about diverging opinions. ‘Cause that conversation got me here, guest writing for his very well written music journey experience. And here I am for a big one, the legendary ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’.

Deemed by many (like yours truly) to be the best album by the best band in the history of music. Like my good friend Bosco, I don’t see any of what I’m writing here as the final word, for I’m just a music lover. Not a connoisseur of music history, theory, metric and etc. And even if I was, I find it music to be such a subjective matter, that in the end, no one has the final saying of what it’s best. We just know what’s best for ourselves.

But saying that, I for long believed (and still kinda do) that The Beatles are, if not the most important, at least the most accomplished band that have ever been. This album is no different. If you go after lists of best albums ever, best rock albums, most sold albums, most well reviewed albums, 1001 albums to hear before you die (nudge nudge wink wink), you’ll definitely find Sgt Pepper’s among them. And often in the first positions, if the list happens to be ranked.

And as a die-hard Beatles fan, I just agreed, and saw no error whatsoever on placing this masterpiece “virtually”everywhere as the no.1 album, by the no.1 band. I believed that wholeheartedly. Until Bosco got me thinking, with a simple “Why?”.

When you love something so much, you never bother to ask why. You just do. And The Beatles have always been in that untouched pedestal for me. Until my man Jonathan got me thinking. And I’m not saying I’ve changed my opinion, I don’t think I have. But try and analyze just why I think ‘Sgt Pepper’s’ is the best of the best actually made me even more in touch with the album and with what it means to me.

I apologize in advance, for you won’t find in this text factual reasons of why The Beatles are the greatest and ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ is their piece de resistance. No theory, no long lectures on sound designing, instruments usage, notes, chords, singing, tempo. Nothing technical that guarantees The Beatles are truly above all.

Because as I said firstly, I face music as subjective. It evokes emotions, memories, sensations. It’s a personal journey, so it has a personal impact on each of us. For example: The Beatles remind me of a simple time; car trips with my family; singing drunk with my dad; rehearsing with my band. They’ve always been with me for those moments and others. Their music calm me, and almost bring me back to that happy place. Or a sad memory, we all got those bittersweet ones, but The Beatles been there for me too.

They speak to me, like my dad does. I share this whenever I can. That I inherited my taste for music from my dad. The Beatles are his favorite band, and Sgt. Pepper’s is his favorite album. So, what a surprise! You must be thinking I can’t think for myself. But, see, when it comes to music it’s not about thinking at all, it’s about feeling.

And I feel everything in all of Sgt. Pepper’s songs, because it’s part of my history, like I said. It’s one of the only LP’s I own, which I got from my father. And I used to listen it with him all the time. So much, even my mom got sick of The Beatles for a while. We sang all the songs together, in particular ‘She’s Leaving Home’, from this album. One of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard, and also my dad’s favorite.

I love everything in it. The Sgt Pepper’s themes, full of energy, like a concert opener. The ode to friends sang beautifully by Ringo in ‘With A Little Help from my Friends’ (Shout out to my friend Bosco here). The well acclaimed ‘LSD’. The perfect circus song that is ‘Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite’. George’s spiritual take on ‘Within You Without You’, with the brilliant incorporation of the sitar.

That’s just to say a few about my favorites. But I even love the seemingly generic tune which is ‘Getting Better’. The not-so clever ones: ‘Lovely Rita’ and ‘When I’m Sixty-Four’. And the ever forgotten, but not by me, ‘Fixing A Hole’. All of them hold a very special place in my heart.

I haven’t heard the album cover to cover in a long time. Why? I don’t know. But the feelings are still the same now that I’m hearing it again. So thanks Bosco, for the invite, and to reaffirm my faith and love in the lads of Liverpool. Did that explain to anyone of you that the Beatles are indeed the greatest and so is Sgt. Pepper’s? I doubt it (I warned it wouldn’t). But it makes perfect sense to me.

P.S.: My dad just conveniently called me by the end of ‘A Day in The Life’ (of course it’s a masterpiece, and no I didn’t forget to put it there among the others, I was just saving it for this post-scriptum), just to talk about his day, how much he misses me and loves me. So yeah, I haven’t changed my mind. Except for one small word. I don’t think The Beatles are the best band ever. I feel The Beatles are the best band ever and that Sgt. Pepper’s rule.”

 

Song of Choice: Fixing A Hole

-Bosco

P.s. Lennon says “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” is NOT about LSD. I am willing to believe it isn’t but I’m sure LSD had a huge part to play in creating the song.

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1001 Albums: Chelsea Girl

#77

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Artist: Nico

Album: Chelsea Girl

Year: 1967

Length: 45:04

Genre: Folk-Pop/Chamber-Folk

“Here they come now
See them run now
Here they come now
Chelsea Girls”

It’s rare that I stumble upon an album on this list that I didn’t like. Even The Beatles ones I found myself enjoying to a certain extent and as far as I can remember an album I don’t like is more an exception to the rule than something I’ll come to expect. Unfortunately this album is one of those exceptions. It’s not that I thought it was bad, it just didn’t do anything for me. Although I think it was pretty funny that it followed the other two relaxing albums and added to my attempts to relax (musically it remains calm but unlike the other two is a little more chilling and has that gloomy subtext that made it a little difficult to truly relax, but whatever).

Nico was known for her work with the Velvet Underground, a band I never really listened to and the little I tried to I just wasn’t into that much (this was awhile ago so maybe my feelings will have changed now to being more open-minded but if it’s anything like this one chances are slim). And there’s a good chance it’ll be like that because her Velvet Underground band mates join her as her backing band throughout the album. There’s no denying they are all very talented musicians who capture that mellow gloom (guess the word of the day) that underlies the entire album. And there’s no denying that Nico herself is one hell of a singer, although I’m not crazy about her particular voice especially when she sings deeper notes, she has a one-up on most singers today in that she actually sings with emotion. Though she does come across as that emo girl from your high school what she does well is she never crosses the line into full-on melo-drama and feels relatively genuine.

Ok, now what didn’t I like? Well, the production of this album is pretty awful. Apparently, Nico herself was extremely disappointed with it to the point it actually drove her to tears. She was so upset with the final product that she grew to hate her album. The producers were really tough on her and she wasn’t able to get the album she originally wanted. She asked for drums, they said no, she asked for this, they said no, they asked for that, they said no. Then behind her back they added fucking flutes and strings tot he whole mix, which is what made her cry. The fucking flutes. They sound awful, they add absolutely nothing to the music and they’re simply just terrible those fucking flutes. If it had stayed with the simple guitar arrangements I probably would have liked it way more than I did and the music itself would definitely have been more powerful, but nope instead we have to endure those cheesy string arrangements and stupid ass flutes.

Also, “It Was A Pleasure Then” was an incredibly difficult song to sit through as the instrumentation goes into a wild distortion that hurts the ears rather than gives you a musical experience. This song sticks out too much as musical experimentation within an album of chamber folk and could have probably done without.  That being said there are some good songs that blanket this one, the self-titled “Chelsea Girls”, which was named after an Andy Warhol film Nico acted in, and “I’ll Keep It With Mine”, originally a Bobby Dylan song he recorded but never released.

Apparently Nico’s work gets even darker as her career progressed (according to my friend Graham, because I would have no clue about this) and based on what I was told, it’s not surprising. Nico was apparently raised by Nazis, her dad having fought for the Germans in world war 2, and she was raised with fascist ideology that definitely stuck in her subconscious even if she disagreed with it. She was also a complete nutcase it seems. My friend told me a story about this one time she was at a restaurant with a few other people. Seeing how she wasn’t getting any attention, it seemed the best solution was to exclaim she didn’t like black people, smash a bottle and stab the black woman at their table in the eye with it. Andy Warhol had to drag her away, that’s right, the weirdo Andy Warhol had to drag her away for being too much. I don’t know if any of it is true, but if it is we’re dealing with one crazy psycho here.

There’s not much else I can really say about this album. I can definitely see people loving it and why they would love it but it didn’t do anything for me. But hey, we can’t like everything, right?…. RIGHT?!…. oh…

Song of Choice: Eulogy to Lenny Bruce

-Bosco

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1001 Albums: Beach Samba

#76

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Artist: Astrud Gilberto

Album: Beach Samba

Year: 1967

Length: 27:38

Genre: Bossa Nova

“You didn’t have to be so nice
I would have liked you anyway
If you had just looked once or twice
And gone upon your quiet way”

Taking the day to recuperate has been doing wonders for me. Didn’t realise how much I needed it until I actually took it. But I realise I do need to make other efforts in my life to make sure I stay healthy. Consuming lots of water is definitely one of them and I plan to remove coffee and soda out of my life (except for special occasions or suppers). Taking a good walk every day would be great as well. But what I really need to do is try my best to focus on what I want to do, be a little productive everyday and learn to be able to just relax and calm my mind. Sandra keeps suggesting I do yoga and meditation. Not sure if it’ll really work for me but I guess if she drags me one day it won’t hurt to try.

With my day to recuperate it seems I was able to get through another album on the list. Part of me wanted to play catch-up but at the same time music has always been therapeutic for me so it was a no-brainer. I was very fortunate that the next string of albums I happened to listen to were relaxing as all hell. Already with Wild is the Wind I felt lucky that it happened to be 50s style vocal jazz, but this one was another throwback to two albums I had listened to in the early 60s. I didn’t think I’d hear any Bossanova again, thinking it did it’s due enough with the two Stan Getz albums, but here it was leaking from my speakers and into my ears. If you recognized the voice of the singer (why would you? I listened to the album not you) then you’d remember her from the Stan Getz album singing on the incredibly famous song “Girl From Ipanema”, That’s right it’s the same one. Here she goes solo and takes her signature singing style and created an entire album of pure, sensual beach samba. Once again dealing with an album with a very straight-forward title… but hey whatever works.

There’s really no other way to describe this album other than sensual, smooth and cute. That’s really what it was. Astrud doesn’t have much of a range when it comes to singing to she uses her strengths to her best advantage. She sings with such sensuality that it’s hard not to fall in love with the voice you’re hearing. She sings every lyric with a calm and soothing tone, almost like a lullaby made specifically for adults. There’s no denying what she does she does very well and this essence of sensuality (yeah I’m using this word a lot) hits your ears as if she’s trying to seduce you in the most innocent way possible. There’s no doubt any man could become putty in her hands just from her speaking softly into his ear. It brings chills down your spine al the way to your privates and sends you into a state of peace and calm. If there was a perfect follow-up to Wild is the Wind for my day of relaxation, this was definitely it. The music really makes you feel like you’re chilling on the edge of a beach, sun in your face, napping away as the waves hit the shore. Pure Bliss.

To add to the cuteness, but let’s remove the sensuality for this one, Astrud’s son, Marcello, joins her on “You Didn’t Have To Be So Nice”. It’s an incredibly cute duet and her son seems to capture the soft spoken, claiming voice of his mother, not only supporting her but managing to impress on his own terms. The two come together harmoniously and beautifully creating one of the stronger songs off the album.

So this is where some might be a little turned off by it. The album doesn’t really provide with the listener with anything spectacular. It’s a lot of pop oriented music and doesn’t do anything different or inventive. If anything, it’s kind of an underwhelming album especially when comparing it to everything else that came out around that time. It doesn’t even seem to reinvent or introduce new ideas to the Bossanova genre, being almost exactly the same as the two Stan Getz albums. But that’t the thing. You don’t go into this album expecting a transcending masterpiece that will blow your mind, you go into it to get lost in the peaceful calm that is Beach Samba and the soothing and sensual voice of Astrud Gilberto. Nothing more and nothing less.

Song of Choice: Oba, Oba

-Bosco

 

 

 

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1001 Albums: Wild is the Wind

#75

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Artist: Nina Simone

Album: Wild is the Wind

Year: 1966

Length: 39:08

Genre: Jazz/RnB

“You’re life itself
Like a leaf clings to a tree
Oh my darling, cling to me
For we’re creatures of the wind
And wild is the wind”

Just last week I remember thinking to myself that I kind of missed the vibe of the 50s. Don’t get me wrong, I’m loving all the rock music especially as it starts to get heavier and more aggressive (I’m a big fan of punk and New Wave), but I did find myself missing a little variety in the music. I didn’t think I’d find myself actually missing jazz my old friend after listening to album after album after album of jazz and jazz related music, but I kind of did. I found something soothing about moving my way through the 50s, from Sinatra’s crooning to swing and piano, Billie Holiday’s raspy singing, Ella Fitzgerald’s beautiful tunes, Sarah Vaughn’s playful jazz stylings and trumpet master Miles Davis’ melodic and soothing jazz. There really was a particular feel to the whole decade that quickly dissipated once the mid 60s hit. It’s not that I wanted to suddenly go through a series of albums that would do that, but just getting one would have been really nice.

Thankfully, just as I thought that I found myself listening to Nina Simone. The answer to my wishes. If this isn’t a throwback to the jazz vocal and songwriting styles of the 50s than I don’t know what is. It came at the perfect time too. The past week has been really rough on me mentally. With final assignments, exams and no break between both semesters at school, on top of a crazy work day sunday and barely any sleep, I have felt mentally exhausted all week and needed to take a break to rest my mind today. As I lay on my couch relaxing I had the album playing in the background and boy was it the right type of music to just lose yourself in. The simplistic arrangements, specifically asked by Nina to only be piano and bass drone, really gives for a soothing experience as every piano chord is gently played. For the most part it would have been nice to see a little variety in the album itself as most songs sounded almost exactly the same, but that being said, it did what it had to do for what I wanted and needed at that specific moment, so credit is due for the album there.

Music aside, Nina Simone really seems to shine on this album. I don’t know her or ever been exposed to her, but here she seems to be heavily inspired by the spirits of Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, finding a perfect blend of both those women. She manages to sing with the soul and emotion of Billie Holiday and the elegance of Ella Fitzgerald, while still managing to hold her own. I bet those women would e proud to hear what Nina had to offer, both acting as an extension of their styles and a throwback to the women Nina clearly idolised. She manages to recreate a sense of romance in her music that never crosses the line into cheesiness. It’s pure personal emotion being evoked through song that feels like it’s really coming from deep inside her and never feels artificial or shallow. It seems this album was put together from recordings that didn’t make it onto her last album, which is good because they seemed to save the best for here.

A few of her songs would go on to be covered by the likes of David Bowie and Jeff Buckley and one of the songs would even be banned due to some of it’s lyrical content (“Four Women”), which would only help garner attention to the album than anything. if you’re looking to set the mood for a romantic evening with your loved one, this would definitely be an album to put on.

Song of Choice: Four Women

-Bosco

 

 

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1001 Albums: Roger The Engineer

#74

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Artist: The Yardbirds

Album: Roger the Engineer

Year: 1966

Length: 35:52

Genre: Blues Rock

“Sit spellbound by a flickering screen,
Watch the ever changing scenes,
Listen to the rising screams,
Of children of today.
Lock your doors and stay within,
Upon your face the stupid grins,
Penalty for unrealized sins,
Committed on your way.”

Oh boy am I excited. I’ve been waiting anxiously to get to this album. As it quickly approached I grew more and more excited. Every passing album a reminder that I was another album closer to listening to this one. Now, I’ll be honest, I had only listened to Roger the Engineer once before, so my memory of it wasn’t the greatest but I did remember loving it very much so the thought of experiencing it anew a second time was a thrilling one.

Around this time last year was when I had decided I wanted to start listening to as much music as possible. It was around this time that I had made the decision that I would take the challenge of listening to every album on the 1001 albums list. But before I got organized about it and chose to write about each album, I had started in the 80s, listening to only those albums. Before that, I had started listening to band’s complete discographies. That’s where the story truly began. I felt at this point, with my love for music, there were bands I should listen to. This started with the “important” bands that every has heard, so at least I can say I’ve listened to them. This included The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, bands I felt I needed to listen to just because I felt like I had to. I mean these were bands everyone was talking about all the time, at least now I wasn’t in the dark about them.

So, as I was making my way through various bands, I took a look at the big ones that were part of the British Invasion. This led me to discover what I feel is my favourite of them, The Yardbirds. I honestly feel like the Yardbirds is grossly under-rated. Most people I know haven’t heard of them and are shocked to discover how big of a band they really were. I mean, it makes sense. The Yardbirds were eclipsed by the giants that were The Beatles, Rolling Stones and The Who and although they garnered critical praise, their legacy would only be remembered by music fans. Remember when I made the analogy of the British Invasion being like a family? If the Beatles were the cute younger brothers, the Rolling Stones the sexy, mature older brothers and The Who were the rebellious teenagers then The Yardbirds were like the forgotten fourth child, shadowed by the success of his older brothers. Which is really a shame because I personally think they’re the best of the four.

The Yardbirds were a powerhouse of a band that managed to yield not one, not two but three of guitar playing history’s greatest legends. They are: Eric Clapton, who was part of the original line-up and left to be part of the Bluesbreakers and eventually Cream, Jeff Beck, who is featured on this album and Jimmy Page, who would go on to form Led Zeppelin. That’s right, Led Zeppelin, everyone’s favourite band to put on their top ten list would never have existed if it weren’t for the Yardbirds (especially since Jimmy Page would heavily borrow from The Yardbirds music to create Led Zeppelin songs, but that’s a story for another time). I’m actually surprised at how many people I’ve talked to who loooooove Led Zeppelin yet have never even heard about the Yardbirds (personal experience, I’m sure there are tons who do).

Ok, so I’m rambling about the band itself, what about the album? Well, there’s a few great things to note. This one is a rather special one in their catalogue as it’s their only album to feature only original material. And boy do they really show off their talents with this one. The real hero is definitely Jeff Beck, infusing blues rock riffs with psychedelic effects such as reverb and long sustained notes that whammy their way to your heart and soul. This is in part what makes this album so great. Unlike the previous album, the Yardbirds don’t play straight blues rock but play around with it to create something new and unique by incorporating psychedelic rock elements. It never becomes an actual psychedelic trip and always remains in the blues rock world (with elements of pop) but it’s this small infusion that really makes it memorable.

People who know me know I love a band that knows how to use their bass. This is one of those bands. With songs like “Lost Woman” and “What Do You Want” that have nice, loud and infectious bass lines that pop out and stick with you. You can feel the bass groove leaking through your headphones and into your body, taking it over and getting you lost in it.

Ok, the album isn’t perfect and does have some pop filler, “Farewell” comes to mind, but these lows are contrasted with great tunes like “Over Under Sideways Down”, which was the name of the US release, Jeff’s Boogie, an infectious dance beat that is true to it’s name, “Hot House of Omargashid” and “The Nazz are Blue”, two songs I feel you should just check out for yourself. The flow of the albums makes it easy to get through the slightly poppy tunes as they’re mashed between the great ones. it doesn’t matter if you’re not enjoying one, chances are you’ll love the next.

The album remains an incredibly memorable one and I loved it even more listening to it the second time around. If there’s ever an album I would suggest my readers (all four of you) to listen to, it would be this one.

But then again… that’s just… like… my opinion, man.

Song of Choice: What Do You Want

-Bosco

 

 

 

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1001 Albums: Blues Breakers With Eric Clapton

#73

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Artist: John Mayall and the Blues Breakers

Album: Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton

Year: 1966

Length: 37:39

Genre: Blues Rock

“You’ve been mistreated, little girl,
But I swear, I swear it’ll be outgrown.
You’ve been mistreated, little girl,
But I swear, I swear it’ll be outgrown.
I’m gonna give you a love, child,
Something you’ve never known.”

So, I’m basically 95% done with this semester. Have all my exams written and just have to complete one final assignment. Decided to kick it old school and do one of my Green Screen videos again. Haven’t done one in awhile but have been wanting to, so took advantage of this assignment to finally do another. With all that mostly done and new free-time being presented to me, I hope to go back to how I was and try cranking out one post at least every two days. I think it’s fairly do-able at the moment, at least until I hit mid-terms and finals of the next semester.

So… John Mayall and the Blues Breakers. They’re not kidding when they call themselves the Blues Breakers. This is one fine blues rock album. From the very first guitar riff to the final notes, I found myself snapping my fingers and tapping my toes to some upbeat and hard rocking blues music. I am actually willing to debate that the opening notes of the opening track, “All Your Love”, is some of the most iconic and memorable openings of any song (Not the most, that award goes to Van Halen’s “Jump”, but definitely up there). Since I first heard it up to this moment that I am writing about it, it still plays clearly in my head on a constant loop. Anybody familiar with it would recognize that song instantly just from the opening riff. There’s really no low points on this album and it succeeds in keeping you engaged the whole way through. However, I should note that this is mostly thanks to Eric Clapton’s guitar playing and the actual Blues breakers themselves (but to be fair to them, they are very talented and bust their ass to give you some rocking blues).

I can back up what I said. You see, before this album was created it was originally intended to be a Live Album. John Mayall wanted to show off the energy the Blues Breakers had on stage, but specifically, he also wanted to show Eric Clapton’s skills. After a botched recording of their live show, they decided to go into the studio to record an album with the sole purpose of recreating their high energy performances but once again, focusing on Eric Clapton’s guitar playing. Why else do you think Eric Clapton gets special mention in the title of the album? This is more his album than the rest of the band’s and boy does it show. His guitar work is at the forefront of every song and he doesn’t disappoint. If their goal was to show off their energy and his talent, they succeeded tremendously. A particular high is the instrumental track “Hideaway” that just lets Clapton go all out on his own, riffing and playing to his heart’s content. This album would become highly influential mostly due to Eric Clapton’s playing, which would set a standard for the development of rock guitar playing (although we really should credit Chuck Berry for revolutionizing the rock guitar, but he’s not on this list because he was more of a singles guy, so Clapton will take the honor for it for now) and he would become one of rock history’s first Guitar Heroes (around this time graffiti was appearing everywhere on the streets calling Clapton a god).

I have quite a number of friends who actually aren’t crazy about Eric Clapton and think he’s a highly overrated guitar player. I guess I can see why. Listening to it now, he might seem a little dated and in comparison to other guitar legends who would appear on the scene after him, he does sort of pale in comparison. So, I can understand where they’re coming from. Unfortunately for them I think differently and still believe Eric Clapton can hold his own weight in guitar playing even to today’s standards.

As a whole, there are some forgettable (yet really good) songs on the album and I wouldn’t say the album itself is really top 10 material. I mean, without Clapton this album would have probably fallen into obscurity as just another ok blues rock album. (In all fairness I should be giving credit to John Mayall as well for doing solid work). Before coming into this band, Clapton was part of the Yardbirds but had to leave due to creative differences. He felt they were too pop for his tastes and wanted to tackle more blues-inspired music with a mix of hard rock. The meeting of John Mayall and Eric Clapton was a stroke of luck for the two men, who thought identically about what they wanted to do. If it weren’t for that I don’t think this album would even exist as it does. Even though the rest of the band is talented, I feel a lot of it’s success did fall on the shoulders of Eric Clapton who gave it it’s blues-inspired energy and rock infused riffs.

Ok, ok, I’ll stop mentioning that. I realise I’m repeating myself about Clapton and the band, but that’s honestly what I feel about it. So instead of repeating myself once again I’ll leave you with some of my own blues-inspired lyrics:

I got out of bed
had me some lunch
It tasted real bad
So I took a cat nap
lasted three hours
Oh, little girl
I’m sorry I missed your show
But the fact of the matter is
I never wanted to go

*Harmonica blairs, guitar explodes, everyone cries*

Song of Choice: Hideaway

-Bosco

 

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1001 Albums: The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators

#72

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Artist: The 13th Floor Elevators

Album: The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators

Year: 1966

Length: 34:31

Genre: Psychedelic Rock / Garage Rock

“Oh yeah!
Ahh!
You’re gonna wake up one morning as the sun greets the dawn.
You’re gonna wake up one morning as the sun greets the dawn.
You’re gonna look around in your mind, girl, you’re gonna find that
I’m gone.”

Woo-hee, what a week I’m experiencing. Nothing really out of the ordinary. I’ve hit the end of my semester at school so all my assignments are due and I have about five exams to study for. On top of all that, I was at a shoot all weekend and am trying to make a demo reel (2 actually) for another class. It’s nothing crazy, but oh boy is is overwhelming when all piled on at the same time. Especially the demo reel. I don’t know why but I can’t seem to wrap my head around it, like my brain goes into overload when thinking of how to go about making one. I need one, it’s important. Every job I apply for asks me to submit one, so it’s absolutely necessary that I have one. But man… am I having difficulty doing it. How do you show off your best work in 60 seconds or less? I don’t know… I don’t know!!!!

Either way, I got to lose myself in the crazy psychedelia that is known as the 13th Floor Elevators. A garage band that delved into psychedelic music, they managed to take the best of both worlds and blend the two styles quite seamlessly creating a sound that can only be characterized as their own. I remember hearing their biggest hit “You’re Gonna Miss Me” in a psychedelic rock class I took back in University. From the second Roky Erickson blares his voice in that raspy, aggressive way, wailing and screaming with all the angst of a 19 year old, I knew I was in for something special. But it didn’t end there. Backing him up is some dirty, raw sounding guitars, heavy drum beats and some rave-up instrumentals enough to send you on one hell of an acid trip. If that wasn’t enough, accompanying these instrumental is a strangely, odd bubbling and gurgling sound, an instrument not easily recognizable. What could this mystery instrument be?

Obviously it’s the electric jug.

41X1F0KEBWL

wait… what? A Cuisinart?

Ok, so it’s obviously not that type of electric jug, but this seems to be an instrument so obscure I couldn’t even find a picture of it on Google. So please if you do, do share it because that’s something I’d love to see.

In all seriousness though, the band was actually using an electric jug. How they made the jug electric in the first place is beyond my understanding and falls in the realms of when we all make the joke that we’ll join a band and play the electric triangle. Everyone who finds this out is always beyond astonished, but in the best way possible. The fact that they incorporated such a ludicrous instrument just adds to how awesome they really are.

When listening to the album part of me was a little sad that Count Five’s Psychotic Reaction wasn’t included on this list. But, in hindsight, I can see why. Psychotic Reaction is another great example of a garage band that blends psychedelia with it’s style very well and has some amazing rave-ups in their songs. But, they don’t really do anything different from the 13th Floor Elevators and I guess if you had to choose one or the other the 13th Floor Elevators is the obvious choice. But if you like this, check out Psychotic Reaction, you won’t be disappointed.

What makes this album so great is its aggressive nature that overlaps and mixes into mind-bending psychedelia. Just listen to a song like “Roller Coaster”. With the guitars twanging away angrily, the electric jug player bubbling the jug like a fucking madman and the build-up to an insane mind trip into the warped minds of a group of teenagers grasping desperately to hold on to the little they have left of reality. It’s kind of weird for me to say that especially knowing the singer, Roky Erickson, would later be convicted into a mental institution after being diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Knowing this adds a much darker undertone to the whole album, especially since Roky screams and wails like he’s trying to expel a demon from his very core.

believe it or not, the band was also known for doing live shows and recording their albums while under the influence of LSD, which in a lot of ways makes a lot of sense. Everything from their lyrics to their acid-drenched guitar work, where Stacy Sutherland would revolutionize the use of reverb and echo to create their unique sound. They really wanted to keep the drug-fuelled lifestyle and experience alive and they made sure the listener experienced it with them (which would become a staple of Psychedelic music).

This definitely set a lot of groundwork and would be an important album for Psychedelic Rock, often being credited as the first psychedelic band and have gone on to influence bands such as ZZ Top, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Primal Scream, the Butthole Surfers and REM. Words can’t really properly explain what this album does and it can only really be experienced as a lens into the mind of a drug addled angsty teen with a severe mental disorder. There’s really nothing else quite like it and it manages to really stand out as it’s own thing at the time it came out, leaving it’s mark in Psychedelic history.

Song of Choice: Roller Coaster

-Bosco

Note: Schizophrenia is an incredibly debilitating mental disorder that can deeply affect those who have it and their loved ones. It should never be romanticised or taken lightly. (Having personally known people affected by it).

Edit: Found out the secret to the Jug. Seems they just held a microphone up to the jug… a little anti-climactic.

 

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1001 Albums: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

#71

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Artist: Simon and Garfunkel

Album: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

Year: 1966

Length: 29:14

Genre: Folk Rock

“In the early evening gloom
Impaled on my wall
My eyes can dimly see
The pattern of my life
And the puzzle that is me”

Isn’t it great when you discover something you didn’t think you’d enjoy but found yourself loving it very much? I find myself doing that a lot these days. I think it’s great. It’s not only giving me the opportunity to find and enjoy new things but also allowing me to expand my knowledge on things I love (Mainly movies and music). In the past week I got to watch the Italian Neo-realist film, Bicycle Thieves and despite the lackluster response from the class, it really grabbed my attention. So much that I watched it a second time to see it again. I never knew much about the neo-realist movement in Italy but that film alone made me want to explore the movement and in the span of the next month I will probably be checking out more films.

This album did the same thing. I was never really crazy about Simon and Garfunkel. I kind of entered this album indifferently, no high or low expectations, just another album on the list to listen to. Little did I know I would be surprised by the fact that I would actually love it. I’ve said it before and probably won’t be the last time I’ll say it, but I’ve never really been crazy about folk music. I’m happy to say since I’ve started this list my opinions on folk has changed and I find myself slowly starting to enjoy it more than I used to. I guess I always misjudged it and this album is a perfect example of that.

I wish I hadn’t made some preconceived notions of what I felt Simon and Garfunkel to be. The little I heard of them I honestly found them boring, but as my musical tastes have been expanding and I’ve had more of an open-mind towards all genre, I now realise this duo were much more than I thought they were. What I used to brush off as slow and uninteresting acoustic music was actually emotional and kinda beautiful. These two have managed to create music that connects with you, with underlying themes of alienation, loneliness and melancholia with songs that ask questions about life and meaning. When they’re not taking a more straight-forward approach, singing with haunting vocals and sorrowful guitar accompaniment, they’re taking a page from Bob Dylan and adding that bitter-sweet flavour, upbeat music with sad themes. There’s no denying the duo has considerable talent and this album is a great showcase of what they can do.

Right from the beginning, the listener is met with the incredibly haunting “Scarborough Fair/ Canticle”. The duo sings in the most eerie sounding harmonies, that overlap and come together to make a chilling and beautiful song. From there, the first half of this album did something I really liked, created an amazing progression of musical styles. From “Scarborough Fair/ Canticle” to “The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine”, it slowly grows more and more upbeat instrumentally. It’s a nice steady progression as it builds up becoming more and more exciting as every song goes by. The build-up is done so masterfully and cleverly that it makes the first half one of the most cohesive side a’s I’ve ever heard.

When side B comes along, it’s a little more all over the place, taking elements from all the songs in side A but mixing them up in a different order so it doesn’t flow as well, but still provides some really strong material. One song in particular, “A Simple Desultory Philippic” stands out a bit for being different than the rest. Here, Paul Simon does his best to sound like Bob Dylan and openly satirises pop culture phenomenon that has been happening at the time. Whether he’s openly mocking Dylan or praising him is hard to tell and while the ranting can be humorous at times, you don’t know if he’s against it or just poking fun at it. The side eventually ends with “7 O’Clock News/Silent Night” which mirrors the eeriness of the opening, but this time through collage and juxtaposition rather than haunting harmonies. Mixed in with their pretty vocals of “Silent Night” is news coverage from big events that were occurring at the time (Like the Vietnam War). The contrast of happy Christmas sentiments with the sad news makes for a chilling song, especially as the news reports slowly get louder and the vocals get quieter as the song progresses.

This marked an interesting time for the duo. Their last album was incredibly underwhelming causing the duo to take full control of their music for this one. Unsure of where to go with their music, they decided to take a step back into what they felt was familiar territory and took some of Paul Simon’s old arrangements from a solo project he had years back. Honestly, that was a smart move on their part because the end result was an album that widely connected with the youth, having themes that they could easily relate to and they managed to create an album that is timeless. Although some songs do date them, with references of being super groovy and as a piece of the 60s flower power movement, their few and far between and don’t take away from the rest of the album.

This has been a happy discovery and like Dylan before them, I’m actually excited to see what they’ll have next in store for me (They appear a few more times on this list).

Song of Choice: The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine

-Bosco

 

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1001 Albums: Aftermath

#70

Album_70_Original

Artist: The Rolling Stones

Album: Aftermath

Year: 1966

Length: 53:20

Genre: Rock, Pop

“Spendin’ too much time away
I can’t stand another day
Maybe you think I’ve seen the world
But I’d rather see my girl”

I’m glad I’m slowly getting back into the routine of writing these posts. When I listened to Freak Out I had also listened to both Aftermath and half of Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. I realised my intentions to get through the list more efficiently also put me way behind in cranking out these posts, especially since it took me almost two full weeks before I would actually write them. Like I said, a lot of things sort of happened at once, end of semester at school is hitting, so all my assignments are piling up, personal issues (something really big happened that really affected me), and just general occurrences (travelling back to Montreal, to Ottawa and visiting friends and family) have all taken up a lot of my time and these posts were put to the side.

I couldn’t leave it that way. I said I’d do this and I will. Even if it is just a personal project, it’s the principle of finishing what you started. And even though I’m only 70 albums in, which is only 7 % of the list (…jesus), I will not give up. That’s a promise.

This particular post might feel incredibly underwhelming compared to my last one. As much as I love The Rolling Stones and they’ve definitely left an impact on musical history, Aftermath just doesn’t really leave much to be talked about. I hate to say this but I can see why The Beatles were much bigger than The Rolling Stones. I didn’t want to believe it, I always felt The Rolling Stones were a much stronger band. But, seeing the timeline clearly now, The Beatles at this point had made efforts to evolve their sound, push boundaries and do something new with every album. At this point I feel The Stones should have been doing the same, but they sound almost the same as they did in their first album. I mean sure they’re getting better at songwriting and playing, but aren’t really breaking barriers here.

When it first came out this album was seen as a big deal. This was the first time The Rolling Stones produced an album that was pure Stones. Every other album featured a cover or two on it, but here it was 100% original material from the minds of Richards and Jagger. By now, The Stones had already made Satisfaction and were a hot item, so to hear that they were releasing an album of just original songs was definitely an exciting thing… at the time. In retrospect… I actually find myself a little disappointed. I think that’s due in part to the fact I’ve been listening to this list and seeing what was being released around the same time which does make this album slightly underwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a solid album that still holds their blues-based influences and there’s no denying they’re still as cool as they were. Anyone could put this album on and enjoy it the whole way through.

But looking back, it seems the only reason this album was included on this list was because it was The Stones first album of only original material. OK? I hardly see why that should be criteria for it appearing on the list. Is it because The Stones were just that big, so an album like this was an important milestone that needs to be shared with everyone. I mean, it’s also one of the first pop rock albums to reach the 50 minute mark and they were one of the first rock bands to create a rock song that was longer than 10 minutes. Brian Jones would also experiment with new instruments like the sitar, Appalachian dulcimer, marimbas and Japanese koto.  That’s pretty cool that the Stones were trying new things but… it kind of had been done before and The Stones weren’t really doing anything special with this. Goin’ Home was hailed as a feat in rock music, but looking back at it, it seems this is purely to it’s length, since it’s lyrics and instrumentation are pretty straight-forward. It seems my general conclusion is that… it’s an ok album.

I did something a little different this time around with the albums. The Rolling Stones have a very confusing discography between 1964 and 1967. At the time they were releasing their albums in the UK first and in the US a little later. This caused the albums to either have a different title, different album cover and even a different set list. The US would even release an album that wasn’t connected to a UK one that was basically a compilation of songs from their UK albums that didn’t make it onto their US versions… jesus. So, in honour of this confusion, I listened to both the UK and US version of Aftermath.

You would hope there wouldn’t be major changes between each, but it’s almost like fraternal twins. Kinda the same but not really. The US version clocks in at 42:31, which is almost ten minutes shorter than the UK version. Songs like “Out of Time”, “Take it or Leave it”, “What to Do” and “Mother’s Little Helper” were removed, with the last one being replaced with their single “Paint it Black”. That’s right, “Paint it Black” was not on the UK release, only the US. Honestly, this is the first time I’ve said this, but I actually liked the US version better. It feels like they made more efforts to have an album that flows very nicely, opening with “Paint it Black”, which is an amazing way to open an album, and having it all culminate to “Goin’ Home”, which was found smack-dab in the middle of the UK version, which I thought was a really odd choice for the ten minute song. And maybe you’re asking, maybe the list meant to have the US version and it isn’t the UK one. Well, I finally bought the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die and it is indeed the UK version that is on the list and not the US, which I find really odd as you would think they would include the version that has “Paint It Black”, the first rock song to hit number that had the Sitar. It would have made more sense, not only because “Paint it Black” is just an amazing song, but it actually did something pretty impactful.

But nope. They went for the slightly weaker UK version, which is a shame because I do find the revamped US version to be the stronger one. If you had to pick one of the two to listen to, I would say pick the US one. You won’t regret it.

Song of Choice: Mother’s Little Helper (UK), Paint it Black (US)

-Bosco

 

 

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1001 Albums: Freak Out!

#69

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Artist: Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention

Album: Freak Out!

Year: 1966

Length: 60:55

Genre: Experimental Rock

“Mr. America, walk on by your schools that do not teach
Mr. America, walk on by the minds that won’t be reached
Mr. america try to hide the emptiness that’s you inside
But once you find that the way you lied
And all the corny tricks you tried
Will not forestall the rising tide of hungry freaks daddy”

After a long delay, I finally decided to crank this one out. I had been pushing it for far too long and figured it’s better late than never. There’s quite a few reasons why but the main one was I really wanted to do this album justice. You see, I really love Frank Zappa, he’s one of my all-time favourite musicians. His album Sheik Yerbouti is in my top 5 and his vast and extensive catalogue remains one I am constantly visiting to discover and re-discover and re-re-discover (because it’s really difficult to remember everything he’s done, the man has like 80 albums spanning the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and even post-humously). There’s a lot I’d love to say about Zappa and honestly you could write full books on every single one of his albums. There’s a whole lot to say and I was really nervous about sitting down and writing it out. In the end, I decided I’ll try to be as concise as possible and just stick to what I feel. If I forget anything, well, there’s still two other Zappa albums to talk about on this list and make sure to mention it there.

So here goes.

Frank Zappa is one of my all-time favourites. Not just one of my favourite musicians but one of my favourite people. He is everything I aspire and hope to be one day and is one of the people I look up to in terms of ideology, attitude, philosophy and politics. He was able to speak his mind and opinions in a cool-mannered and intelligent way, deflecting criticism and rebuttals with wit and a calm demeanour. Nothing phased him as he had the confidence to defend every single one of his controversial opinions, taking down both the right and the left politically. It’s funny how he had an incredibly liberal-minded attitude but still considered himself a conservative. Socially Liberal, but Fiscally Conservative. Believed the country should have social programs if people were willing to pay for them. Would tear down the conservative, traditional attitudes related to religion, misogyny, racism and sticking it to the man, while simultaneously distancing himself from hippies and leftists (who saw him as their revolutionary hero) calling them fascists and being against protests and censorship. If you don’t believe me, he says it himself in the documentary Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in his Own Words, a documentary purely centered around Zappa interviews and live performances. Everything said in that film comes from his own mouth and there’s nothing more satisfying than when he explains how there’s no such things as dirty words. “If you want to tell someone to ‘get fucked’ than ‘get fucked’ are the best words to use”. I always identified with him, but he was a much more confident, intelligent and articulate person, more than I’ll ever be, but I will always look to him as a spiritual mentor of sorts.

He was incredibly perceptive when it came to social observations. He seemed to understand society and people better than anyone else and was able to predict where they were headed as well. Lyrically and musically he was way ahead of his time, with most of his music being incredibly relevant and possibly even more poignant today than it was back in the 60s and 70s and even 80s. Calling Zappa a mad genius is a bit of an understatement and he comes across as your third party philosopher, watching things as they unfold and criticizing what’s going wrong. One could call him the perfect stoner if it weren’t for the fact that he was highly against drug use of any kind (A fact that is shocking to many people, especially if you’ve listened to his music). He would ban his band from doing drugs during tours and practice and thought it was a stupid idea to partake in drugs for artistic enlightenment. If anything Zappa proves that you don’t need to do drugs to reach that level of artistic integrity, just confidence and a slightly warped view on things.

Freak Out, Zappa’s debut, is the perfect introduction to his world. It holds the achievement of being one of the first double-lps and the first debut double lp. It was hugely influential in creating both the Prog Rock genre and Art Rock genre and would be looked to as a source of inspiration for some of the biggest artist’s of the time. The Beatles cite this album as their inspiration for Sargeant Pepper, stating it was their Freak Out. Zappa would call them copy cats and criticise them as “Only being in it for the money”, which would become a title for one of his next albums and a jab at The Beatles. Zappa took extra care with every single one of his songs on every album. He hated the idea of filler and made sure every single song had a point to it. He even cites this album as having a wide demographic, something for everyone between the ages of 6 and 80.  He didn’t take the pressure of producing a hit single and being forced to create an album around it, he made sure every song had something to say and usually had a satirical element to it, making this album one of the first concept albums as well. The themes either centred around social commentary, satirical jabs at puppy love and pop rock or a deconstruction of traditional music (or anti-music if you’d like).

Because of this, I decided to do a track-by-track review (My very first and not my last) of this album. I will try to keep it brief for each song so as not to ramble on, but I am not making any promises.

Here goes:

“Hungry Freaks, Daddy”

I have to say this is not only a great opener on this album but possibly the perfect song to open all of Zappa’s extensive catalogue and musical career. It’s the perfect blend of everything Zappa, from odd, satirical lyrics to unusual sounds. It perfectly mixes his accessible music with his stylistic tunes creating a song that sets the tone for everything that is to come. A Zappa lover will recognize his eccentricities but a newcomer will be intrigued enough by it to keep on listening. Even lyrically it encompasses everything Zappa, with a general satirical look at American society. He doesn’t latch on to anything specific but rather questions how ideal American society really is, mentioning the school system, government and consumerist culture. Who are the Hungry Freaks? Probably Zappa and his band (and like-minded people). The freaks willing to question society and are hungry for the truth. A classic and a good place to start.

“I Ain’t Got No Heart”

The first of Zappa’s anti-love songs. Poking fun at the puppy love themes of most pop rock music that was coming out at the time, this turned it on it’s head. A person questioning fools in love and exclaiming they don’t have a heart to give to a girl who’s pining for their love. It’s interesting to see the other side of this conversation, where most songs talk about the person they want who gave them that feeling of pure love only to have their hearts broken. Zappa deconstructs this idea from the other point-of-view, making claims against their ego (“Why do you think you’re so fine?”) and about their confusion between lust and love. Infatuation can often be confused for love and with this song he laughs at those who proclaim their love from brief moments of ecstasy ( “Why should an embrace or two, Make me such a part of you?”). A cynical look at love from a narrator who was just in it for a quick fling makes for a decent Zappa song.

“Who Are The Brain Police”

Zappa’s art rock sensibilities are starting to shine through with this song. An absurd art piece that rattles the brain (ha!) and mesmerizes you, keeping you in a trance the whole way through. I had difficulty with this song at first, but upon relistening to it a couple of times you start to notice the genius of it all. Lyrically it’s quite a poignant song, asking the question Who are the brain police still sounds incredibly relevant today. With everything happening today with the regressive left and the so-called Social Justice Warriors (a term I hate to use but am using for lack of a better way to talk about it) it isn’t crazy to feel like they’re trying to police our thoughts. It’s taking a page out of George Orwell’s 1984, where people can be imprisoned based on Thoughtcrimes. Zappa was highly against censorship and felt every opinion and thought should be expressed freely and when it comes to the point that we’re being scolded just for our thoughts, it’s practically a dystopian time. Mentions of plastic and chrome in the song refer to the fake fronts everyone puts when out in society, putting on a plastic face as to not offend or keep things in line. But what happens when you go home and the plastic and chrome melts away and you’re back to you’re normal self and thoughts? Who will stop you then? Who are the brain police coming to get you for what you think? What would the brain police think if they only knew what you actually thought? Zappa asks some poignant questions with this one and it’s a question that has yet to be answered.

“Go Cry On Somebody Else’s Shoulder”

Another one of his anti-love songs and this time it’s in the style of doo-wop (a genre he would later explore in more depth in his album Reuben and the Jets). Once again it’s a cynical look at the puppy love he clearly hated with the narrator basically telling an ex to fuck off. His wishes for her to “Go cry on somebody else’s shoulder” reveals the true feelings of someone who just doesn’t give a shit after a relationship turned sour. He’s dealing with none of her bullshit to try and get back together and gets right to the point without beating around the bush. There’s even a nice jab at the shallowness of it all by the end of it, where the person can’t understand why they don’t want to be with them after they’ve revamped their look with consumer products to seem more attractive. the narrator isn’t having any of it and it’s a refreshing look at those typical break-up songs.

“Motherly Love”

It’s about fucking groupies. It’s as simple as that. Through clever wordplay and euphemisms the band tricks the listener into thinking this is just another sweet, love song until you realise the Mother in Motherly Love actually refers to the band (The Mother of Invention). Zappa has said he finds groupies to have sold their souls, but at the same time is totally OK with what they’re doing. As this song says: “Nature’s been good, To this here band”. Once you know the double meaning, the song is pretty straightforward with Zappa calling out for groupies to come get their sweet motherly love.

“How Could I Be Such A Fool”

Another song satirizing the idea of teenage puppy love. In this case, the narrator takes on the position of the one who is heart-broken and questions how could he be so stupid as to be so madly in love when he knew it wasn’t going to last. Zappa criticises young couples and the over the top infatuation they have for each other, giving them the blind belief that they’ll last forever when it rarely ever does (it does, but those are exceptions to the rules). Young love should never be taken seriously and only a fool would be gullible enough to have not seen the end of it coming.

“Wowie Zowie”

Sometimes in order to make fun of something you have to become what it is. Embrace the stupidity in order to reveal it’s truth. Exaggerate certain elements to show it for what it really is. This is the perfect example of this. What Zappa claims to be the song he made for children, Wowie Zowie takes on pop sensibilities and exaggerates it to a annoyingly stupid level with the narrator claiming Wowie Zowie due to their newfound puppy love (There’s that puppy love again that Zappa clearly hated). he openly mocks pop rock by being a corny piece of pop rock. It’s mushy, it’s cringe-worthy, it’s cheesy and gooey and in the hands of Zappa it’s fucking hilarious. Whether you like it because you’re into that mush or love it because you get the joke, it’s one that can be enjoyed by everyone.

“You Didn’t Try To Call Me”

Zappa continues what he did with Wowie Zowie and mocks the love ballads of narrator’s yearning for a lost love and mending a broken heart. What he does so well here is by taking on the role of the broken-hearted he reveals the creepy stalkerish vibe that a lot of these songs tend to have and the whole thing reaks of desperation and is seething in teenage loneliness and horniness. He shows off how pathetic a lot of these musicians sound with their exclamations of how lonely they are without them and how badly they need them, not realising how creepy it actually all sounds. Another gem from this album that continues the satirical look of teenage love pop songs.

“Any Way The Wind Blows”

One of Zappa’s most straight-forward songs and even a little autobiographical. At the time he made this song he was divcorcing his wife and attempting to start a new relationship. That’s essentially what the song is about, ending one relationship to start another. When things turn to shit sometimes the best thing to do is go your own way rather than stay in it. Toxicity is never good and when you can’t fix what’s toxic it’s best to be rid of it. In some ways it’s a rather weak Zappa song, a little void of satire and too straightforward. Zappa even says if he “wasn’t getting divorced, this piece of trivial nonsense would have never been made”. Zappa may hate it but it still stands as a pretty solid piece and making it personal added a personal layer that would not be seen again in his music, which was often more alienating and disconnected from society, while this one connects a little deeper.

“I’m Not Satisfied”

Another brilliant piece of satire, this time from the point of view of an apathetic man. When you’ve come to the point that nothing is satisfying and you just don’t care anymore all you can do is wallow in you’re own misery and pity. The song’s narrator is an incredibly sad person who feels unwanted and alone, but what Zappa does cleverly here is he mocks this person’s attitude of giving up and not trying to make things better without putting down his actual problems. Things get hard, but wallowing in your tub of self-pity is not the way to do it. By taking on the point-of-view of this person, he reveals how self-deprecating it is and how unhelpful it is for someone to constantly put themselves into that vicious cycle. It is tough to see if it’s a genuinely sincere lament of one’s personal and social downfall or a mocking piece of satire. Knowing Zappa it’s probably the latter. He was good at understanding the human condition and revealing the ugly truth found in each and everyone of us. This is probably no exception.

“You’re Probably Wondering Why I’m Here”

Zappa’s battle cry to society. You’re probably wondering why I’m here was probably a common phrase running through Zappa’s mind as he made his way through live shows, baffling and mesmerizing those who just didn’t get what he was doing. He openly mocks the audience’s need to abide by social norms and only enjoy that which is familiar and safe. The minute something new comes along that challenges the norm, it’s always met with confusion and resentment. Remember, Freak Out didn’t achieve commercial or critical success when it came out, mostly due to how strange and absurd the album was. People didn’t get it and didn’t really want to get it and the inclusion of this song basically answers what was going through the audience’s head: If you don’t want to make normal music, why the hell are you here? People don’t like things that are different, especially if they’re having their ideas challenged. This song is basically the band’s reaction to people’s reactions, questioning their beliefs and staring at them with the same confusion they’re receiving, not understanding how they could be so plain and boring, abiding by the social norms.

“Trouble Every Day”

This is the song that got Zappa and his band a record deal. One that was loved so much that they were given carte blanche to produce their album, having unlimited funds (a decision that the label both regrets and doesn’t). They were brought into the studio with the belief that they were another talented blues-based band, not knowing what Zappa was about to unleash on them. This is definitely a stand-out song on the album, not only because it’s a damn good blues-based song but because it hits hard with the social commentary. What’s interesting about this one is Zappa doesn’t rely on satire and humour to get his point across, he says it as it is, directly and honestly. In pure blues fashion it makes for quite a depressing song, not because it’s emotional but because it reveals sad truths of society. The narrator sits and watches the news hoping for something good to happen, but is only met with horrifying story after horrifying story. Society is a bleak place where bad things happen all the time. When he says there’s trouble every day, he doesn’t say it as a way to make a jab at society, but rather believes what he says. It isn’t sarcastic but honest. In his words: “There ain’t no Great Society as it applies to you and me. Our country isn’t free and the law refuses to see, if all that you can ever be is just a lousy janitor, unless your uncle owns a store. You know that five in every four just won’t amount to nothin’ more. Gonna watch the rats go across the floor
and make up songs about being poor” pretty much sums up the feelings of the song and the sad truth that has dawned on the narrator about what society really is.

“Help, I’m A Rock”

This is one hell of a song. A predecessor to what would eventually become prog rock, this song is essentially three different songs melded together to form one long one and it’s a brain teaser. What it means and what it’s about is really up to interpretation, especially since a majority of it is drowned in experimentation and almost non-sensical lyrics that don’t really seem to mean anything. But his exclamations of “Help, I’m a rock” and the lyrics of the final part seem to all add up. It’s the desperate cries of a person who hasn’t made it anywhere. The heavily experimental parts create the atmosphere and mind-set of this person, slightly going crazy and racking their brains over what-ifs and what could have beens if only. A person undecided of what they’d like to be eventually finding themselves being a nothing, another rock lost in the sea of pebbles on the ground, unnoticed and uninteresting. To this person anything would have been great and now they let out their cries of help, anything they can do, just to become a someone or something, just to have someone acknowledge them. No one wants to become a rock. It’s a constant fight for individualism and creating an identity that your worst fear is to become another face in the crowd. Once you realise you are, all you can really exclaim is “Help, I’m a rock!”

“The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet”

If you can survive through the entirety of this song without losing your mind than you’re a strong, strong person. This is the most absurd, highly experimental, brain melting, incredibly artistic piece of art rock anti-music. With a mix of spoken word, weird noises, hypnotic beats, backwards and sped up audio and sound collage with music concrete, this becomes an incredibly difficult piece of music to listen to that can easily alienate anyone who had been enjoying the rest of the album. Believe it or not this is actually an incomplete piece, Zappa wanted to add more to it to make it full but the producer said no. Apparently he was incredibly high on LSD while listening to it, an image that makes Zappa laugh as he could only imagine what the producer was experiencing with this one. In some way sit’s an ode of being yourself and not being afraid to create the art you want and being considered really weird, perfectly done by itself being an incredibly weird piece of music that Zappa knew wouldn’t be enjoyed at all. In some ways it could also be seen as a drugged up experience, not seen through the user but seen through the outsider. As I said before Zappa was against drug use and this seemingly incoherent piece of music could be how he saw people on drugs, yammering on incomprehensibly, repeating the words cream cheese over and over due to some fascination with it or the way they sound. To him, who knows what was going through their minds while under substances, but boy do they sure look stupid. Now, this is purely left to interpretation and with Zappa having passed we may never know what this piece of pure absurdity was really all about, but boy can we enjoy it (or not) for what it is.

There you have it. The king of the counter-counter-culture and his debut album that would go on in history as an exemplary piece of satire and art rock in music. This is a rare treat as Zappa would soon start to experiment with his albums, mixing live performances with redubs over them to polish them up. This is rather unique in his catalogue as it was purely in-studio recordings and was before he would have full control over every aspect of his albums. I don’t think anyone could predict where Zappa would go from here, but being a lover of music with his own unique vision, he would go on to produce some of the most absurd yet amazing pieces of work out there. He’s not for everyone and you either love him or hate him, but there’s no denying, he was one mad genius.

Song of Choice: Hungry Freaks, Daddy

-Bosco

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1001 Albums: Midnight Ride

#68

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Artist: Paul Revere and the Raiders

Album: Midnight Ride

Year: 1966

Length: 29:08

Genre: Pop Rock/Garage Rock

“Girl, you thought you found the answer
On that magic carpet ride last night
But when you wake up in the mornin’
The world still gets you uptight
Well, there’s nothin’ that you ain’t tried
To fill the emptiness inside
When you come back down, girl
Still ain’t feelin’ right”

Oh boy, it’s a little dusty here. For a second I almost forgot that I even had a blog sitting out there on the internet. I waited a little too long to do this one that I came out of the routine of listening to the albums and posting regularly. It happens I guess, you get into a good routine and everything is running smoothly an then suddenly something happens and stops the routine. You figure, the next day, the next day, another day. It becomes easier to just wait another day then do it now. You think, it’ll happen, I’ll do it, but find yourself a week or two later realising you haven’t. Whoops. Honestly, my perception of time has been warped a bit these days and although I know exactly what day we are (Monday, woohoo) I have no idea how much time has passed. It’s like I can’t feel the passage of time and it’s all going by in a blur and a haze, three hours could feel like ten and one minute could go by in a day and I won’t even notice. Should I be concerned? Nah…

A lot has happened since my last post. I went down to Montreal to watch Sandra perform in a modernized adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, set in a post-apocalyptic world. She played Juliet and fucking killed it. Knocked it out of the metaphorical park and nailed the performance. I was both blown away and impressed (are they the same thing?) by it and it made me fall for her even more. Sappy, I know, shut up.

I also moved in to my newest apartment this week. Officially on my own and doing my own thing and I gotta say it’s been amazing… ly terrifying. Amazing nonetheless, but scary as all shit, especially since I still don’t have a job. Money is going but none is coming back, which anyone can say isn’t the greatest feeling. I know I’m not the only one who has gone through that and and won’t be the last, it’s part of being an adult and life, it happens to all of us, but it’s currently what’s going on now and it’s a doozy of an anxiety blanket on my shoulders. But I apply as much as I can everyday so something is bound to come up soon… right? RIGHT?

At least I don’t have to worry about food for awhile. My mom in all her Italian Motherhood brought up three months worth of food for me. As much as I feel I should be doing these things on my own, I sometimes am really happy that I have an Italian Mother. And if you’re wondering, yes all the stereotypes about Italian Mothers are very true, so that means no matter what I will always be well fed.

Part of the reason it took me so long to listen to this album was the fact that the entire album wasn’t on Spotify. Yeah it was one of those weird ones where only a few of the songs are missing… for some reason. The entire album is there except for one song. One damn song. WHY?! I’ve come to understand that it’s not up to Spotify to decide what can be played or not and it actually comes down to the artist and labels themselves. But why would they put the entire album available for play by the public and make one song off it unavailable? Is it to annoy people? Because I just feel annoyed by this. In order to listen to it I had to have it readily available on Youtube (which thankfully that one song was). But since I do most of my listening outside of the house and I was out of data on my phone for the month… it made the whole situation a little complicated. And it’s a shame to because the song that was missing, All I Really Need Is You, was a solid tune for the album and blended their rock heavy, proto-punk attitude songs with their more pop-sounding ones. If you ever do decide to listen to this album on Spotify, get the missing song ready on a different tab, it’ll be worth it.

So, enough was enough, I had woken up early this morning and figured I have more than enough time to listen to it and so I did. I’m happy I finally did because I really enjoyed this album. I had been eagerly awaiting this one because I had already known and loved their song Kicks, which I’ll get into after, and wanted to hear more from them. I was not disappointed. What we get is a very enjoyable rock album, with elements of garage and proto-punk thrown in for extra flavour. There’s a nice level of aggressiveness barely breaking the surface of the music, which adds a lot to the subtext of what you’re listening to and never crosses the threshold of being in your face or obnoxious. Even with that it still manages to keep it upbeat and happy, even with the anger festering and boiling underneath it all. At times this is used perfectly as a juxtaposition with the lyrics. Ballad of a Useless Man, I’m Not Your Steppin’ Stone and There She Goes by all means should be depressing songs but Paul Revere and the Raiders manage to turn them into darkly upbeat tunes. Sure the lyrical content talks about themes such as bad romance, being played and dumped, feelings of worthlessness and being used, but thanks to the delivery of the vocals and the rockin’ instrumentals, we instead get the bitter musings of someone who is both angry at their shitty situations and yet mildly apathetic to the point that you question how upset they really are. It’s honestly beautiful.

Kicks still remains a stand-out song to me. Not for it’s musicianship but for it’s lyrical content. I remembering studying this song years back in University when I had a class on the history of Psychedelic Music. At the time it was weird to hear a song that was incredibly anti-drug use. With all the bands and musicians around them dropping acid, doing drugs and going on trips, it was really controversial of them to release a song that was very against what all their peers were doing. Sort of the beginning of the counter-counter culture, the people who were counter culture but were also against what the revolutionaries were doing. (Funny I say this because SPOILER ALERT Frank Zappa is up next who was the king of the counter-counter culture type). It’s such a clever questioning of the whole drug culture that was springing up. Do you really find your answers on your magic carpet ride? Do you really come out of it feeling different and understanding everything? From their observations, no, most of their peers would come out of their trips still feeling the same bitter way they did before and seemed to come up with the whole “It opens your mind” mantra as an excuse to continue to get their kicks that aren’t helping in any way to begin with.

Drug culture always baffled me. I never understood someone’s want or need to do drugs. I guess, to an extent, I can understand the idea of trying everything at least once, but when it comes to something that fucks up your mind… I don’t know if it’s really worth it. For some maybe, they love the experience and the trip, so much that they will go back for more if the first one was exceptionally amazing. For me, it’s a solid no every time. I’ll be honest, I’ve tried weed a few times in my life, the experience was so mundane and boring that all I could think was “This is what all those stoners are going on about? Jesus, no wonder most of them aren’t really exciting people”. (I have met exciting people who smoke a lot, but their exceptions to the rule from my experience). I ran into on old classmate from high school once, he was a real pothead back in the day. It was a strange experience altogether. He was the same guy but… slightly different. His speech patterns had slowed down immensely and he looked like he was walking around as if in a cloud. He wasn’t high at that moment (Trust me I knew him high) and part of felt a little sad. I can’t blame the drugs because I don’t know if that’s why his brain seemingly slowed down incredibly since I last knew him, but it’s not crazy to think that was the cause, especially since he was smoking heavily during his teen years, when you’re brain is still in development.

As you can tell I am very anti-drug, but I will never be preachy about it, I will just have my opinion on it all. If someone is with me and wants to indulge in some drugs, by all means they can do whatever they want, it’s their choice. As long as they respect the fact I don’t want to (and believe me it’ll take way more than peer pressure to get me doing it) then we’re all good. Nobody has convinced me that drugs are worth doing ever and every experience I’ve had with people who do drugs has always turned me off completely.

I once went to a house party that I thought was going to be a classic house party but ended up being a pill party. Everyone around me was crushing pills, snorting powder, ingesting things from Ecstasy to Speed. It was a nightmare fuelled night as I stumbled from room to room (completely sober, I was afraid to drink that night because who knows what could happen while inebriated) and just witnessed people on the floor, eyes barely open, smiling stupidly at nothing and giggling with their peers, it cemented my ideals of never doing drugs ever. Someone my family knew had developed schizophrenia thanks to smoking too much weed (brief explanation, drugs don’t create mental illness but can trigger the mental illness and speed up the process in people who already have it or are prone to developing it) and as someone who in his early adulthood found out he had OCD, Social Anxiety and Depression, it just made the idea of drug use even more terrifying. Did I really want to make any of these things worse than they already were? No, not at all. That’s a risk I am never going to take no matter who tells me how good the trip will be.

So, I went on a bit of a tangent there, didn’t even expect myself to do that. That’s the beauty of free-writing though, you never know where it’s going to take you. Overall, the album was a very enjoyable rocker that anyone can really enjoy. Even though there are some filler songs that the album could have done without, Little Girl in the 4th Row and Melody for an Unknown Girl come to mind not because they’re bad but stylistically they stick out and feel out of place on this album, it’s still a solid piece of work.

Song of Choice: Get It On

-Bosco

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1001 Albums: If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears

#67

Album_67_Original

Artist: The Mama’s and the Papa’s

Album: If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears

Year: 1966

Length: 33:42

Genre: Pop Rock/Folk Rock/Sunshine Pop

“Got a feelin’ that you’re playing some game with me babe
Got a feelin’ that you just can’t see
If you’re entertaining any thought that you’re gaining
By causing me all of this pain and making me blue
The joke on you”

I have officially signed a lease and am moving in to my very own apartment within a week. It’s exciting stuff. No more mooching off my cousins, now I will truly be an independent adult. Free to do whatever I want whenever I want (within the limits of the law and my monthly budget). Finally I can see what it feels to be a full-functioning adult… alone with the pressures of the world and society crashing down on me and the burden of the sudden influx in bills to pay. I can’t wait.

So, that’s one thing of my checklist and a weight off my shoulders. Now all I need is a job and I’ll be set for now. It’s surprising how easy yet difficult it has become to get a job. I think I’ve sent my CV to a good 30 places and only heard from roughly two. I keep getting emails that say my application has been viewed… but then hear nothing from that company. Oh well… Isn’t it funny how you’re always told to go to places in person because it shows determination and perseverance but when you do go they tell you to apply online? Getting a lot of mixed signals from everyone. You’re always told to do one thing and then when you do it they tell you another but then you’re supposed to do the first thing because people like that, yet they don’t like it either. What the fuck… no wonder we’re so confused all the time.

I’ll give myself a mental break from that because I have to tell you guys about The Mama’s and the Papa’s. Oh man, these guys. Monday Monday and California Dreamin’ were two songs that were part of my childhood song diary that played on my dad’s music compilations. I used to hear both those songs so many damn times, they’re part of the repertoire of music engraved in my head forever. Not complaining, I actually enjoyed those songs. When I was a kid and was attending day camp during the summer, my group actually performed a dance routine to California Dreamin’ that I got a little to into that it garnered some weird looks from the other kids. Hey, don’t hate cause I love to dance.

I find this album is really a testament of it’s time. A lens into a specific group of people circa 1966. This whole album just reaks of hippie flower-power folk rock that it can turn you off if you’re really not into it. That’s kind of a shame because musically it delivers with particular attention to the harmonies created by the four members of the band, specifically Mama Cass and Michelle Phillips, who, when blended together, create angelic harmonies that can only please your ears.

If you don’t pay attention you might miss some of the lyrical content, which is easy to assume is just your typical love cheese. Being catered for their hippie love, the lyrical content kind of grasps every aspect of the flower power lifestyle: Peace, Love and Promiscuous sex. That’s right, it’s a little shocking what they sing about at times (mostly for the time they came out) that there were nerves when it came to selling the album. Heck, the album cover itself garnered enough controversy and it’s only crime was it featured a toilet on it. Oh no, not a toilet. It’s interesting to see how The Mamas and The Papas are considered a little risque, especially when considered to today. I guess companies were run by very conservative people who didn’t like the idea of sleeping around being thrown out there. God forbid people like sex.

I got to say though, as much as Michelle Phillips is a bomb shell, I wouldn’t be surprised if Mama Cass was the one getting way more action. Her singing voice, with that rare soprano quality, was enough to get any man to cream his pants and I’m sure everyone’s wanted that experience with a BBW. For larger woman, she was definitely a good role model as she proved size and weight didn’t matter and you can still be a banging lady.

mama cass

Don’t lie, you would.

So, this got oddly sexual, but hey can you blame me? That was a big thing for the hippies. The sexual revolution was a big deal and changed how people viewed the act. No longer was it a taboo subject to hush in giggled whispers, they normalised it as a fun thing that everyone enjoys and removed the judgements that came with it. And STDs… that was a big thing to… probably should have used condoms buddies.

Whatever your stance on it, approve or dissaprove, it was still a big part of the 60s and this album is a nice time capsule to that era. From the musical vibes to the themes of the music, it really grabs your hand and takes you back to that time to experience it for yourself.

I’ll end this with something humorous for your viewing pleasure. French and Saunders did a style parody of The Mamas and The Papas on their tv show back in the 90s (early 2000s?) and I think they captured their style almost perfectly. Man, I love these two ladies:

 

Song of Choice: California Dreamin’

-Bosco

 

 

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1001 Albums: Face to Face

#66

Album_66_Original

Artist: The Kinks

Album: Face to Face

Year: 1966

Length: 38:32

Genre: Rock Pop

“Rock ‘n’ roll or vocal star
A philharmonic orchestra,
Everything comes the same to him.
He is a session man,
A chord progression,
A top musician.”

I’m tired. Not in a bad way. I’m just really tired. Normal, everyday tired. Not enough sleep and an early morning and you have one tired individual who’s wondering how he’ll make it though his incredibly long day ahead of him. When you have class non-stop from 9 am to 6 pm plus errands to run involving getting a new student ID for a bus pass that’s at a specific subway station fr away and are moving to a new apartment soon but the details haven’t been fleshed out yet and it’s the beginning of the month tomorrow and you also have the crushing weight of life and money (especially since I don’t have a job yet) pushing down on your shoulders, it makes for a tiring day. Ok, so maybe there’s more at play than just being tired but… shush, I’m just going to feel tired and leave it at that.

I’m probably going to keep this brief, mainly because I’m writing this while we watch King Kong in class, but also because I don’t really have much to say about this album. When I saw The Kinks were next on the list a part of me was happy. The little I’ve heard of them I’ve really enjoyed, they had a raunchy sound to them and almost had a bit of a hard rock feel (for the 60s). This was not what I was hoping for. I really shouldn’t jump into these albums with expectations any more. I mean, it’s difficult when it’s a band that has a reputation for being a certain way or just one that is hugely popular in general. Hard to shake that off when you already have a preconceived notion of what a certain band is supposed to be like.

So to my surprise this wasn’t The Kinks I knew but a different era of Kinks when they gave up their raunchy sound and instead changed to a more pop-oriented sound (I feel a lot of these albums are only on this list because it represented a band’s change in musical style (Like The Beach Boy’s Today! for example)). Of course I didn’t know this going into it and felt like I was listening to an early era Beatles rip-off rather than The Kinks. I guess The Beatles had gone on to a new sound so someone had to fill the void that was their old sound. The Kinks jumped into it at the right moment.

About five songs in I stopped myself. I stopped the album and stopped listening for a bit. This wasn’t fair for The Kinks. Based on some unnecessary judgement I seemed to have already made an opinion of the album before I even listened to it. One song in shouldn’t have set how I felt about it immediately (Although arguably the first song on the album is supposed to set the mood of the entire album and is incredibly important, but in this particular case it was based on my expectations rather than what it was). I took a few hours to rethink it and decided to give the album a second chance with an open-mind.

As much as the opening song still feels like an early era Beatles ripoff, the rest of the album is actually not that bad (and I’ll even admit the opening song is actually kind of fun). As it progresses you really hear The Kinks falling into their own pop sound and it’s an interesting evolution to listen to as it slowly progresses from song to song. What I particularly liked was the muffled effects on the vocals and the keyboard sound that gave the feel of a twangy medieval sound (which I always enjoyed myself). These were nice little touches that really gave them their own feel and kind of set them apart from just a typical Pop Rock sound.

I read somewhere that this was one of Rock’s first concept albums and even though we’ve already seen a few, this one feels like the least… concepty compared to previous ones we’ve heard (Frank Sinatra’s In The Wee Small Hours comes to mind). I mean, I’ll trust the critics when they say it’s a concept album but… I had a hard time deciphering what the concept was exactly. At first it almost sounded like it was going to be a lens into youth culture. Giving us an image of each faction, from partying, staying out late, sleeping around and worrying parents. But by the fifth song it confused me since it felt like it didn’t relate to the ideas of the first and as it progressed it lost me even more. Maybe I wasn’t listening hard enough and it really all did relate to commentary on youth culture, but I find it hard to believe that a song like Session Man or Sunny Afternoon has anything to do with the youth. I tried to figure it out and the best I could find is that the concept was Observations. Yeah… observations on… I guess society at the time, which I can stand by and seems to fit the mold of the album perfectly. But… observations is a really vague concept to the point that can we really consider it a concept? It’s almost like saying an album is a concept album with the theme of storytelling because every song tells a story, in that case almost every album is a concept album. I’m not denying or saying this wasn’t in fact a concept album, I’m just questioning it. With a concept that vague it’s hard to really go against.

So who knows, maybe circa 1966 the idea of even a remotely vague thread throughout was considered a concept and in that respect I’ll go “Sure, I see it”. As a whole the album is pretty solid and The Kinks show off some decent songwriting that is relatively accessible for any listener to enjoy. It apparently didn’t sell very well when it first came out and actually went out of print for awhile, which is a shame, really.

I’m glad I decided to give it a second chance because overall I did enjoy it. Not my favourite and I felt it loses steam by the three quarter mark, but there’s some great tunes on here that is enough to keep you listening.

Song of Choice: Dandy

-Bosco

 

 

 

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1001 Albums: Black Monk Time

#65

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Artist: The Monks

Album: Black Monk Time

Year: 1966

Length: 29:48

Genre: Garage Rock/Proto-Punk

“Alright, my name’s Gary
Let’s go, it’s beat time, it’s hop time, it’s monk time now!
You know we don’t like the army
What army?
Who cares what army?
Why do you kill all those kids over there in Vietnam?
Mad Viet Cong
My brother died in Vietnam!
James Bond, who was he?
Stop it, stop it, I don’t like it!
It’s too loud for my ears
Pussy galore’s comin’ down and we like it
We don’t like the atomic bomb
Stop it, stop it, I don’t like it . . . stop it!”

I’m a negative person. I think that’s been pretty apparent. It’s just kind of who I am. I’ve always been relatively negative, but as the years go by I find my negativity slowly growing and growing. I’m not really a pessimist. More of a realist. Depending on the context I could either be an optimistic-realist or a pessimistic-realist. If you ask me if the glass is half full or half empty, my response would be it depends, was the glass emptied or filled? If someone poured water into it, it’s half-full, but if water had been removed, it’s half-empty. That’s usually how I see it. I’m optimistic or pessimistic based on the context of the situation and the possible outcome.

That being said, I’m still negative even when I’m feeling optimistic. My go-to emotions usually tend to be sadness, anger or envy, which anyone can tell you are terribly negative emotions to have. I don’t do it on purpose, it just seems to be the initial response to most situations… unfortunately. It’s not great, but every day I fight those negative feelings and try to overcome them and am taking baby steps to pick up my positivity. It helps to that it’s all balanced out by Sandra, who’s a super positive and bubbly person. If it weren’t for her balancing out my negativity, I don’t know how bad I’d be right now. Probably really bad… scares me to even think about it.

So, when I am met with great moments of positivity, I usually tend to bask in it and enjoy it while it lasts. These days it’s been few and far between, so it’s really a treat when it occurs. One thing that creates this effect is discovering new music I love. This is exactly what happened when Black Monk Time started to play on my Ipod. We all know that feeling when we discover something new that just connects with us. The initial “What’s this?”, the growing excitement, the pure pleasure of it all and the final satisfaction of happiness that was this new discovery. That is what happened with this album.

I had never heard of The Monks before and the very simple album cover left much to the imagination. Who is this band? What style are they? What would the music be like? I could only imagine the endless possibilities of what I might experience and all my expectations were exceeded. It helps that this was Proto-Punk too. Being such a huge fan of Punk, New Wave and Post-Punk, this was sort of the missing link of those styles that I’ve been waiting for my whole life (or since I was 18 at least).

What happens when an american rock band goes to Germany to record? You get this album. Without the american companies controlling the music they create and shaping them to be marketable and accessible to the masses for profit, The Monks were able to let loose with their music and create exactly what they wanted with no one breathing down their necks. If you take time to listen to their lyrics, there’s no way any american producer would have let them keep that (for the 60s that is). This album would become heavily influential to the Punk genre, with it’s simple yet aggressive musical arrangements, it’s angry “Fuck you” lyrical content and it’s devil-may-care attitude. I wouldn’t be surprised many Punk bands were heavily influenced either directly or indirectly by this album. I definitely hear a little bit of Stiff Little Fingers and Pylon in this. Thanks to it’s production in Germany it would also open the door to Kraut-Rock (a genre I haven’t heard much of, but the little I have heard I have enjoyed immensely).

Upon it’s release it was not a commercial success, only getting attention later on once people started to realise it’s influence. That makes sense since none of the songs found on this album adhere to the pop formula. I can see listeners tuning in to the record and being turned off by what they heard back when it came out. Even though some garage bands managed to make some mainstream notice, what separates The Monks from… say… The Sonics, is that they really did their own thing and managed to create something completely different. The Sonics may have sounded dirtier and raw, but they still had covers of popular tunes in their repertoire, The Monks were 100% original.

What’s interesting about this album is that it’s a perfect example of repetition being used masterfully. The music gets incredibly repetitive with the same riff being used throughout, with slight variations to make it seem different. For the most part it feels like the same beat and tune being played, with some fills and additional changes thrown in for spice and flavour. But where repetition can be incredibly annoying, here it’s completely infectious. You find the beat sticking with you, invading your core and making you feel the music, dancing and tapping away. As it goes on it grows on you and overtakes you rather than pushes you away.

I’ve lost track of what my current favourite album on the list is. I sort of stopped mentioning which one it was but my best bet was Jerry Lee Lewis – Live at the Star Club, Hamburg, (Which Sandra got for me on vinyl for my birthday, imported from Europe!!!!) but it’s safe to say, this one has overtaken it and is now my current favourite. I had listened to this twice already in a short amount of time and am already ready to listen to it a third time, I loved it that much.

Nothing better than new discoveries and I hope there are many more to come. (Probably are).

 

Song of Choice: I Hate You

-Bosco

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1001 Albums: Blonde on Blonde

#64

Album_64_Original

Artist: Bob Dylan

Album: Blonde on Blonde

Year: 1966

Length: 72:57

Genre: Folk Rock

“Well, Shakespeare, he’s in the alley
With his pointed shoes and his bells
Speaking to some French girl
Who says she knows me well
And I would send a message
To find out if she’s talked
But the post office has been stolen
And the mailbox is locked
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end
To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again”

Remember in my last post how I talked about my Birthday always being disappointing? I honestly went into it this year with zero expectations. Removed any sign it was my birthday so I didn’t have to worry about people wishing me a Happy Birthday and just had the attitude that it was just another regular, average day. Somehow it still managed to disappoint me. All I wanted to do that night was sit back and watch a movie. That’s it. But of course, there had to be something.

The most insane thing happened right that evening. I had sat down to play with my keyboard. Right when I hit the opening chord of The Final Countdown, the power went out. Ok, I thought, no big deal, it’ll probably be back on soon. I go upstairs and find my cousins in a panic and looking outside. I go to see what’s up.

It seems there was a power surge in the power lines that made it’s way to the transformer. It wasn’t able to handle it so it blew up, cracked the pole in half and plummeted to the ground, fire burning on both ends of the cracked pole. Fire truck pulled up, police blocked the street, Hydro came to check it out. Wouldn’t be fixed until the next morning. That was it. All I wanted was to do the simplest task of watching one god damn movie and I couldn’t even been given that for my Birthday. Since I turned 19 the world was out to make sure I was disappointed on my Birthday (with the exception of my 21st Birthday which was arguably my best). I had zero expectations and I still managed to receive a surprise that would just bring that down. On top of all that, because there was no power, I managed to have some of the worst sleep ever. Already I found myself in bed at 10 pm, which is early for me and was met with non-stop waking up, tossing and turning and not one, not two, but three solid nightmares just to add the icing on the cake of what was otherwise a really lackluster Birthday.

I know in the grand scheme of things, this really isn’t a big deal. But when all you want for your Birthday is to have a good day and you can’y even get that, for just one freaking day, it really gets to you. It’s an accumulation of small annoying things that usually hit you harder than one big thing and when all you want to do is just watch a movie and can’t even be given the joy of doing that one simple thing… it’s not fun.

On a happier note, I spent the weekend on a film set, which was glorious for me. I haven’t been on one in a long time and it felt great to finally do it again. When it cam to film I had lost my confidence after a good friend of mine basically turned his back on me and made me feel like I was worthless and useless. It’s taken a lot for me to climb over that wall and move on from those negative feelings. I don’t think being on this set necessarily cured that, but it’s definitely the baby steps I need to regain that confidence back and as the weekend came to an end, I felt slightly better over all. thankfully there are many, many other shoot dates to get through, so by the end of it, I will hopefully be back to my old self.

Ok, enough about me. Let’s talk about my best friend in the whole world, Bob Dylan. I’ve really been on a good Dylan streak here, discovering the beauty and joy of his music with each of his albums I’ve stumbled upon on this list. I’ve said it before where I used to avoid his music almost like the Plague, but upon actually listening to it I realised I was so, so wrong all those years. I wish I had taken the chance on him sooner, but it’s never too late to get into it and there’s nothing wrong with having your opinions change over time, we’re only human afterall.

I was beyond excited to hear what Bob had ins tore for us this time around. What leaps and bounds had he made from his last effort? How has he evolved since Highway 61? What new things was he trying? What growth had he made?

The answer is… well, not really that much.

What? This… this was what he had for us? After the greatness that was Highway 61, I really wanted to see how he could possibly go even higher and… he didn’t really. He sort of made the same thing. Stylistically it’s really not far off from Highway 61, which was the first disappointment of the album I got. This doesn’t mean it’s bad at all, it’s still a fantastic album, just… when you’re building us up to something that should have been a major explosion and then are met with the same fireworks display you’ve already seen… it kind of feels anti-climactic. I went in expecting a piece of work that would possibly blow my mind and was met with an extension of his last album. Nothing really different. Sure, he added a few little new things here and there and his hardwork was still shining through, but… this is not what I expected from Bobby Dylan himself. But I guess that happens when you throw in too high of an expectation, you only leave room for disappointment.

There’s seems to be a pattern with me. Something I’m noticing as I go through these albums. It seems that every time I’m met with an album that’s considered the greatest of all time, I never seem to really be that into it or engaged. That was my second disappointment with this album, I wasn’t engaged at all. Except for maybe a handful of songs, I didn’t find myself really into it as much as his previous efforts. I can’t really explain why, it just didn’t really do anything for me that his last album didn’t already do. Critics have hailed this album as one of the greatest of all time and just like Revolver I find myself questioning that. Why is this one his greatest? What exactly is the criteria for deciding what makes a “One of the greatest albums of all time”?

This is the tough part. I thought the more music I listened to and the more I began to learn about it, it would become easier to understand it. If anything, the more I go into it the harder it’s becoming to understand what really makes something great. Music is heavily subjective, everyone gets engaged with different things. There’s so many different genres out there with different styles and different rules and different formulas that it makes it impossible to say what really makes great music great music. I mean, you really have to look at the music within it’s genre, kind of like movies. You can’t critique a horror film the same way you do a Drama. They’re vastly different genres with their own tropes that you can’t compare the two (which is primarily why Horror films usually get the short end of the stick because people look at them compared to Citizen Cane rather than their respective genre). Now for sure there’s a lot that goes into deciphering what makes an album great: The Musicianship, the performance, the emotion, the lyrical content, the arrangements (just to name a few). But even then you always meet exceptions that are praised for breaking the rules, for simplicity, for trying new weird things never seen before. Take all this into consideration, how do we know what truly is great? How do we tell when a critic is being genuine, pretentious, against the grain or just full of shit? When you see an album getting praised by one critic but despised by another… who is right?

See what I mean by this is getting way more complicated than it should be? I guess at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether you thought something was good or bad, what truly matters is why. The why is the most important. It’s so easy to go “I didn’t like it” but if you don’t give any reasons other than “I just didn’t like it so it must be bad” there’s really no weight to what you’re saying. The why is what draws the line between good criticism and bad criticism. Two people might disagree with each other but if they both have reasons they can explain than neither of them are wrong. Someone might like the an album for the exact same reasons that someone else didn’t like it. Who is wrong? Well, no one, because it honestly always comes down to opinion. The only factor here is can you back up your opinion and explain it?

That’s not always easy to do. Sometimes you just plain don’t like something and can’t put your finger on why. You struggle to find words to express you’re dislike and can’t seem to do it, which is beyond frustrating, especially when everyone else thinks it’s great.

So, here’s where I stand with Blonde on Blonde. I think it’s a damn good album, but I do think Highway 61 should have gotten the praise this one was getting instead. I didn’t really feel like Bob Dylan was making any jumps forward with this album and was just continuing what he started on his previous one. I mean, there’s definitely some cool things he was trying out here. Blonde on Blonde is one of the first double LP’s, which in itself is a feat, and he incorporated some carnivalesque, marching band stylings in some songs, which was definitely new for him (whether you liked it or not). He left New York and went down to Nashville to record, putting himself in a fish out of water circumstance. And whether it has any worth or not, this was Dylan’s perfect vision. This was exactly the album Dylan had wanted to make forever and it came out exactly how it was in his head. This, in some ways, can be considered THE Dylan album since it’s the music that has been playing in his head that he’s been trying to recreate forever.

However, just because it’s your perfect album as an artist, doesn’t mean you made a perfect album for the consumer. His vision was finally out there and to him, on a personal level, it will always be the perfect album.

If you’re not Dylan however, the opening song could be a huge turn-off. it does absolutely nothing to set the tone of the album and it feels almost as if it’s a false start or a cold open. Unrelated but still part of it. Once you get past the carnival music that is that song (Unless you like it and that’s your thing), you can finally understand the mood of the album hitting the next one. The first half of this album is truly the remarkable part. Here we’re met with the strongest songs on the album and the ones that will hit you emotionally in the strongest way. With One of Us Must Know, the upbeat yet sad I Want You (Classic Dylan), the angsty yet beautifully done Stuck Inside a Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again (Easily one of his strongest songs, ever), and even the satirical and humourous Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat, which isn’t his strongest but is definitely a ton of fun and comical enough to get you laughing. Critics praise Visions of Johanna as being his masterpiece to which I say, ” Sure, Ok. If you say so.” I have nothing to say or add about that one, so I’ll just go with it.

What really lost me was the second half, for the most part it felt like Dylan just going through the motions, doing what he does best and ultimately being relatively forgettable in the grand scheme of things. Especially when you have the rest of his catalogue running through your head. The final song on the album Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands, comes across as an impressive feat. Dylan created a song for his wedding and this was the result, 11 minutes of just pure feeling and beauty. Unfortunately, this would have hit a higher note for me if it didn’t come across as Dylan trying to create another Desolation Row. As much as this song can stand on it’s own as a great piece of work, it just feels too similar to Desolation Row. As it was playing, I kept thinking to myself that I should just put on Desolation Row instead if I wanted to listen to 11 minutes of Dylan just rambling on. He seemingly was just trying to rehash what made Highway 61 so great and even though this struck a chord with so many people, this is ultimately why it disappointed me.

So, is it his greatest? Not to me, but it definitely ranks up there as some of his best. Definitely a little overrated, but still deserves the praise it gets for being a good album. It was a solid end to a trilogy of Folk Rock that Dylan set out to make and concludes it all nicely. The three albums really do work as a whole and when put together I’m sure make for one hell of a journey. I shouldn’t have gone in with such high expectations, but then again, it is Bob Dylan, we shouldn’t expect any less from him.

Song of Choice: I Want You

-Bosco

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1001 Albums: Fifth Dimension

# 63

Album_63_Original.jpg

Artist: The Byrds

Album: Fifth Dimension

Year: 1966

Length: 29:59

Genre: Folk Rock /Psychedelic Rock

“I don’t know who you think you are
I don’t know what you’re doing here

I don’t know what’s going on here
I don’t know how it’s supposed to be

I, I don’t have the vaguest notion
Whose it is or what it’s all for”

I actually listened to this album about a week ago. It’s taken myself a little time to sit and write it. It happens. Things happen. Felt like it was one thing after another just hitting me, one big thing falling on my shoulders at a time, bringing me down and beating me deeper to the ground. It’s hard to pick yourself up sometimes, but it’s doable and here I am, finally getting this post written.

Today is my Birthday. To most that sounds exciting and like a reason to celebrate. Not to me. In recent years I started detesting my Birthday. Dreading for this day to come around. I remember when I was young, when Birthday’s actually felt special. You’d wake up feeling like the king of the castle and parading around going “WOW I’M SEVEN!”. Nowadays it’s become a reminder that I’m getting older and instead of embracing it I find myself thinking “What have I done thus far in my life?” It’s a scary transition from youngling to adult and as the years slowly go by I find my Birthday slowly becoming more and more depressing. I’m not even old, I’m only 25.

25… the milestone birthday. I am now officially a quarter of a century. I still have no idea what I’m going to be doing a year from now and I feel like I don’t really have much to show for myself. But I’m guessing that’s normal. It’s also my champagne birthday. I’m 25 on the 25th. Will i celebrate in a big way for this milestone of milestones? Probably not. I’ll leave school, go home, do some stuff and then go to sleep. That’s how exciting Birthdays have become for me. I’ve quickly become disillusioned about it as I tried to keep that string of feeling special alive. But disappointing birthday after disappointing birthday just cut that string and made me realise, it’s just a day. Just a day like any other. It comes, it passes and then will be done. Nothing different. It’s just how it is I guess.

I barely got any birthday wishes either. Just parents, Sandra and some cousins. Big reason for that is because I removed it from Facebook. I’m not complaining. Part of the reason was I was fed up of receiving all these hollow, shallow birthday wishes from people I never talk to and barely know. It means nothing. It’s just people who got a ding on their facebook telling them some obscure friend they have has a birthday and in almost auto-pilot mode writes a quick message. The intentions are good and its nice… but it’s also completely meaningless. That’s what it’s become. So, I removed it and I actually feel better. The weight of the illusion of feeling special lifted from my shoulders and I can go about my day with no expectations whatsoever.

So, here I am, sitting in one of my classes, no one knows what today is and I’m writing this post. I wish I could say this album really shook my world and changed everything. I really wish I could say this album blew my mind and turned everything upside down. I only wish I could say that so I’d have way more to talk about. But it didn’t. If anything, it was just a really enjoyable album that I was able to listen to while cleaning and organising my room.

The Byrds seem to have grown quite a bit from their first album and are slowly transforming their sound from Folk Rock to Psychedelic Rock. A lot of this is due to the departure of Gene Clark, who was their main songwriter, and their lack of Bob Dylan covers, which is a surprising zero on this album. That being said, you can still hear the Dylan influence, especially on their first song, 5D, where the singer still sounds like he’s trying to do his best Dylan impression. But here they really sound like they’re falling into their own sound and even when the experimenting isn’t the greatest, there are moments of greatness on this album.

Eight Miles High was a huge hit for them, which s funny because it actually got banned from radio stations for it’s apparent references to drug use. What’s funnier is that it was actually just about aviation and flying a plane, absolutely nothing to do with drug use at all. But I guess they heard the word High and jumped to conclusions. 5D would also suffer the same fate, but where 5D was just a solid tune, Eight Miles High would become an important part of music history, being heavily influential in creating not only the sound of Psychedelic Rock and pioneering it but also opening the doors to the themes of drug use and acid trips that the genre was so famous for (even if that’s not what the song was about, future bands of the same genre would also find their songs getting banned from assumed drug references). Hiding the real theme of the song behind metaphors that evoke references of drugs would become a staple of a lot of psychedelic bands and where some were actually making direct references to it, others would just do it to fuck with the radio stations.

For the most part some of it is mostly forgettable and the rest is pretty good. The final song of the album was easily the most interesting, with it’s aviation theme and incorporating sounds of jet engines and wind to recreate the feel of being part of a jet flight (done as an ode to their good friend who made jets). It’s really a nice little lens into what bands were doing musically at the time. Experimenting with various sounds, reinventing genres (Folk Rock was used as a foundation and The Byrds were building up on it, mixing in Raga Rock and Indian influences to create the sound of Psychedelic Rock) and incorporating sound effects, which was still very new for mainstream music at the time.

Solid album, not my favourite. They were trying new things and this album really reflects the construction of a genre and the build-up to the phenomenon. Other bands would do it better, but The Byrds made solid contributions to pioneering the genre.

 

Song of Choice: Hey Joe (Where You Gonna Go)

-Bosco

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1001 Albums: Fred Neil

#62

Album_62_Original

Artist: Fred Neil

Album: Fred Neil

Year: 1967

Length: 39:09

Genre: Folk Rock

“Everybody’s talkin’ at me
I don’t hear a word they’re sayin’
Only the echoes of my mind

People stoppin’, starin’
I can’t see the faces
Only the shadows of their eyes”

 

From two giants of music to… this… guy. Fred Neil. Fred Neil, man. It’s Fred Neil guys. Fred Fucking Neil. Oh man, It’s Fred Neil. Everybody! Fred Neil! Give it up for Fred Neil everyone. Fred Neil!

Ok, so clearly I have no idea who Fred Neil is. Not my fault, I’m not into folk music, so I’m not aware of the icons of folk or anything. Wait… was this guy even a folk icon at all? I mean… did he even leave an impact in music? My research brings up almost nothing about him. Hell, he went practically unnoticed and wasn’t even a commercial success. His claim to fame is that other, more famous folk musicians covered some of his songs. He barely even toured. I’m so at a loss of what to say here. I might need a little help…

I asked a bunch of my friends what they could tell me about Fred Neil and this is the responses I got:

“Unfortunately not much… American Folk Singer born in 1936… I’m shocked I know that too… I absolutely did wikipedia that information, I honestly know nothing about him”

-Marc

 

“Never heard of him. I just had to Google him to even know who he was”

-Stephy

 

“Fred Neil? I have no clue. Never heard of him before”

-Vishesh

 

“Uhh never heard the name… He is a musician”

-Sandra

 

“Who?”

-Henry

 

“Nada”

-Sean

 

“Personally nothing. I don’t know him… Google him. I have no clue who he is… Tell you what?… I told you I don’t know him… He is old… Are you being silly? I told you I have no clue who he is”

-Mom

 

“Poop Emoji”

-Dad

 

“The one and only!… JK. I have no clue who the fuck that is”

-Graham

 

Fantastic… I received zero help from any of my friends, even the ones who have a vast knowledge of music. It seems like no one has heard of this guy. But he’s on the list… so someone must have heard of him… right? I mean, he must be good otherwise they wouldn’t have included him here, right? RIGHT?!

I’ll be honest, the reason I’m having such difficulty coming up with things to say about him is because this whole review can basically be summed up in three words:

“It’s Folk Rock”

That’s it. That basically sums up the entirety of the album. Whatever you’re thinking folk rock is, this is exactly what it is. Nothing more and nothing less. Just straightforward folk rock. If Bob Dylan was the spirit of Folk Rock than this album is the essence of it. It blends electric with acoustic seamlessly and he sings with a nice, deep voice to keep you listening tot he stories he’s telling. There’s some great harmonica in there and he even whistles rather nicely at one point. But… that’s it. That’s really all there is. He hits every point on the Folk Rock checklist and does it well. There you go. You know the album now. Whatever you’r picturing in your head is probably right on the mark (Unless you’re way off than don’t trust what you’re thinking).

I mean, I could try talking about each individual song, but what is there to really say? The opening song is called The Dolphins because… he fucking loves dolphins. No joke, he spent the later years of his life assisting the preservation of dolphins (Woah! Hey! An actual fun fact!). He just really loves dolphins. I could go on, but seriously, every song just went straight through my ears and I could barely even force myself to form any opinion on it.

But… if I really had to try, I guess I could muster one or two things. Here’s some fun trivia: Remember that song that played constantly throughout the movie Midnight Cowboy? Everybody’s Talkin’? Yeah? No, he didn’t play that version of it, Harry Nilsson did. But Fred was the original songwriter. I knew I recognised that song. The minute it played I had a feeling I had heard it somewhere and the first thing that popped into my head was visions of Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight. But… it didn’t sound the same, so it couldn’t be that. But my instincts were right and… that’s pretty cool, I guess.

Now, if I were to speak of one song, and that’s a big if, I would talk about the last song on the album. Don’t ask me to tell you the name from memory because it’s a beast of a fucking name. A name so absurd that I couldn’t even spell it out, I had to copy paste it. The song is very simply called: Cynicrustpetefredjohn Raga. Dear fucking lord, what kind of a title is that? Why would you ever name you’re song like that? What is this bat shit insanity of a title name? Is it even relevant to the song? NO! It’s not. It’s 8 minutes of pure folk rock instrumental. That’s what it is. And by god it’s one hell of a tune. It’s like Fred decided to just take a 180 with the end of the album and finish it off with a grand finale. Almost like the folk-rock version of a free-form jazz tune. It takes you on a journey that you don’t even expect, with twists and turns around every bend. You end in a place that you didn’t even start in. This song is a big surprise at the end of this album and catches you completely off guard. I am happy for this.

So that was Fred Neil. I hope you learned something today… even if it is wildly underwhelming.

God…

 

Song of Choice: Cynicrustpetefredjohn Raga

-Bosco

 

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1001 Albums: Pet Sounds

#61

Album_61_Original

Artist: The Beach Boys

Album: Pet Sounds

Year: 1966

Length: 35:57

Genre: Pop Rock/Progressive Pop/Psychedelic

“Maybe if we think and wish and hope and pray it might come true
Baby then there wouldn’t be a single thing we couldn’t do
We could be married
And then we’d be happy

Wouldn’t it be nice

You know it seems the more we talk about it
It only makes it worse to live without it
But lets talk about it
Wouldn’t it be nice”

 

From one giant album to another. How perfectly timed that Pet Sounds was placed directly after Revolver on this list. Was it pure coincidence or strategically placed by some madman? We will never know. I’ll let the conspiracy theorists figure that one out.

I was happy that this one followed The Beatles because I was looking to hear something that actually deserved all or most of the praise it got. It’s funny, fans seem to really be butting heads over which was the best. Was it The Beatles’ Revolver or The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds? No one can seem to agree and it’s the never ending battle between Beach Boys and Beatles. It doesn’t help that the two were constantly trying to one up each other, producing albums that were better and better, blurring the lines of who was actually better in the end. Historically we all know The Beatles were able to handle the pressure much better than Brian Wilson could. They did have their internal conflict and eventual break-up, but that’s no where near the sheer insanity that became of Brian Wilson, who suffered his incredibly famous meltdown during the Smiley Smile sessions. He was one hell of a madman whose pursuit of musical integrity caused him to go clinically insane. Poor guy.

But before getting to that point, Brian Wilson produced what is also considered one of the greatest rock albums of all time: Pet Sounds. You may have noticed that I stopped referring to them as The Beach Boys and am only mentioning Brian Wilson. Simple reason. After getting his first of many nervous breakdowns, Brian Wilson took on the role as leader and primary songwriter and started creating the albums practically by himself, with the rest of the band just being guided to follow his vision. Here he took on more of a dictatorial role, making sure his vision and only his vision were followed. Although Smiley Smile is the clear work of someone whose gone completely insane, Pet Sounds seems to be where his insanity matched his artistic integrity.

It’s worth noting that if you’re a big fan of their earlier work then you are going to be in for one hell of a shock with this album. It’s completely unlike any of their other work. Continuing the path they started with The Beach Boys Today! Brian Wilson distanced himself even further from the surf rock, beach themed music that originally made them famous and decided to delve deeper into an art rock sound, practically setting a standard (Alongside The Beatles) in the music industry and even grabbing a little taste of Psychedelia mixed into it. He definitely went all out with this album, including odd arrangements that had never been heard before and a whole array of instruments including flutes, harpsichords, organs and some unusual choices of dog barks, Coca-cola cans and Bicycle bells. This is also the first instance of the electro-theremin being included on a rock album, an instrument he would perfect in subsequent releases.

Brian Wilson took a page out of the Phil Spector handbook and used the Wall Of Sound technique here. I’m proud to say I recognised it almost immediately and got really excited about it. I won’t go on to explain what it is because I already did a good job at doing it in my Phil Spector review (which did you know that Christmas album was Brian Wilson’s favourite?). So I won’t bore you with the details, unless of course you really want to know, then just go check out The Christmas Album. I’m not giving you the link, don’t be lazy. Brian Wilson really seemed to master the technique in this album, with every instrument blending together seamlessly to the point that it just creates a sound that you can lose yourself into without being distracted.

Ok, Ok, I understand, I’m kind of just listing a sort of generic check-list of what makes the album so great. Everything I’ve said has already been said to death by hundreds of people already. Absolutely nothing new that you probably haven’t heard already. That was one of the things I struggled with when writing this post. I didn’t really know what to say that hadn’t already been said before. I mean, it’s one of the most talked about albums out there. It’s almost impossible to really give a fresh perspective on it all when everything that can be said about it has already been said. Almost makes it useless to even attempt writing about it to begin with. Knowing this it makes it kind of surprising that it almost fell into the cracks of musical history as it was practically overshadowed by the release of Revolver. I’m glad people took a second look at it before discarding it.

Ok, so what do I really think about Pet Sounds? My Revolver post kind of went on trying to understanding why it was considered the greatest album of all time it only makes sense that I’d start questioning this one too right? RIGHT?!

Well, yes and no. No because I didn’t want to make a repeat of my last post and yes because it makes for an interesting viewpoint. So what did I take away from this grand spectacle?

Well, Brian Wilson created this as a response to Rubber Soul, trying to top it. On that account I say he succeeded with flying colours. I would even go as far to say he created an album that’s tremendously better than Revolver. But I may be a little biased on that point since I do like The Beach Boys way more than The Beatles. I remember the first time I listened to this album, I was completely blown away by its production and left feeling incredibly satisfied musically. This being my third time listening to it, I did feel the magic wore off a bit. I do miss the days of faster Beach Boys music as this does feel like it can drag on a little a times. But when it hits, it hits hard. Right from the beginning when you hear the classic notes of Wouldn’t It Be Nice, you;re set into the right mood and ready for the experience. Also, I just really love that song. It has been perpetually stuck in my head since I first heard it at the age of 12. I don’t think I will ever not love that song and the day I don’t will be a very sad day. Throw in a classic like Sloop John B and you know you’re in for something great.

Brian Wilson also seems to have done something truly spectacular with the harmonies here. They have already proven on previous records that they’re masters of the harmony, but here he manages to create something that is truly chilling and haunting. Accompanied with the music, the blend of vocals creates an atmospheric harmony that transcends your ears into levels I didn’t even know existed. I couldn’t believe what i was listening but it truly was something magical.

Ok, so I know the album itself can feel a little repetitive musically. The whole album does have a very uniform sound to it and it all feels like each individual song is really part of a whole in the grander scheme of it all. That’s because this was a concept album, not lyrically or thematically (Although themes do recur throughout) but musically. Brian Wilson set out to create an album that had no filler songs. An album where each song could stand on their own yet come together to create a full entity. That’s really what Pet Sounds is all about at the end of the day. Songs that work like puzzle pieces to create a full image. You can’t have the whole if you’re missing just one and I feel that none of these songs can really be removed from the album. It’s as cohesive as it can get and I think Brian Wilson succeeded in reaching his goal.

The album is definitely not for everyone, especially if you’re going in expecting classic Beach Boys. I know for myself, I did find myself not really getting into some of the slower songs but they never really hit a low point for me. The highs are super high and the lows are still pretty high, which is as good as any album can get really. It’s really an album I’d put on if I was in the mood to just get lost to the music. it’s an experience all right and it’s one that’s definitely worth the ride, even if you’re not into that sort of the thing.

 

Song of Choice: Wouldn’t It Be Nice

-Bosco

 

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1001 Albums: Revolver

#60

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Artist: The Beatles

Album: Revolver

Year: 1966

Length: 34:43

Genre: Pop Rock/Psychedelic Rock

“We all live in a yellow submarine
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine
We all live in a yellow submarine
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine
We all live in a yellow submarine
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine
We all live in a yellow submarine
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine
We all live in a yellow submarine
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine
We all live in a yellow submarine
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine
We all live in a yellow submarine
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine
We all live in a yellow submarine
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine”

Oh Boy!… The Beatles… Again… I’m so excited…

As you can tell from my blatant sarcasm, I’m still not sold on The Beatles. As usual, I don’t hate them, I don’t even dislike them, I actually do enjoy them, I’m just not crazy about them. I guess you can say the ever popular comeback to this, I just don’t get it. It’s true. I don’t. I thought I was starting to get it when Rubber Soul went by, but then Revolver hit and I have no idea what to think any more.

I can already hear you saying: “But Revolver is the greatest Beatles album, even the greatest album of all time period. How did this one not turn you? HOW COULD YOU LIKE MUSIC IF YOU CAN’T EVEN SAY THE BEATLES ARE YOUR FAVOURITE BAND?”

You think I’m exaggerating, but someone actually told me that last one and yes, they even yelled it rather angrily at me.

I guess they bring up a fair point. The Beatles and especially this album, are widely considered to be the greatest music of all time. It’s become almost common sense at this point. There’s absolutely no way I can listen to Revolver and say that it’s bad because it’s been called the greatest album of all time by literally almost everyone.

So what does that say about me?

Well, a lot of factors go into how I felt about this album. It was over-sold being the main one. Everyone’s been in that position where someone praised something to the high heavens to them and told them they must enjoy and love it now like everyone else because it’s sooooooo amazingly amazingly amazing, only to finally experience it and go… that was it? That was the amazingly amazingly amazing thing I was supposed to find so amazingly amazingly amazing?

Don’t get me wrong, like I said above, I do enjoy a good Beatles tune. I liked Rubber Soul and was ready to be wowed by this one. But instead I found myself with mixed feelings. I din’t really know how to feel about it. If anything the whole thing left me more confused than anything. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. I didn’t get it. Who knows, maybe one day It’ll finally hit me and I will have the revelation of a lifetime and I’ll finally understand it all. A Beatles tune will pop up on the radio and in that moment it will all come rushing into me and I’ll snap fingers and go EUREKA! But until then, I’ll still be confused.

I actually wonder what it is that people who love The Beatles think. So far, in my search of understanding, I’ve come across two types of answers to my question of why are The Beatles the best?

The first is the ever useful: ” Because it’s The Beatles duuuuuh”. Unfortunately, that’s doesn’t give me much insight into… well, anything. Other than being completely useless as a statement it also proves that this particular person is probably just jumping on The Beatles bandwagon and doesn’t want to be judged for saying anything other than their the best.

The second, much better, response I usually get is usually a in-depth look at their collection of greatest hits. This makes more sense and I definitely get some good insight into how The Beatles were incredibly influential and the impact they made on rock, pop, psychedelic and just music in general. When I have this kind of in-depth conversation with someone, I usually tend to agree with them. But it’s easy to when all your examples are some of their greatest songs. Like any fanbase, it’s easy to show off their strengths when you pick and choose which songs to talk about. You’ll obviously pick the best of the bunch and leave the weaker ones to rot in the basket. It makes sense, you want people to be on your side, not convince them you’re wrong. That being said, I will say it is hard to find a really shitty and awful Beatles song because they were very talented blokes and actually made the effort to write decent music.

So what do I think of Revolver?

Well, it’s ok in my opinion. There’s a lot that’s there to really strengthen the idea that The Beatles are the best, but for the most part the album ranges from Spectacualrly Good to Mildly Mediocre. That’s still very good for an album to achieve especially since every album always has that one song that it could have done without (this one included) but in their case they managed to never go under the belt and write something awful, which that deserves mad respect.

The Beatles were definitely evolving and trying out new things with this one. Things that were unheard of in rock… ever. From playing tracks backwards, to incorporating an octet of strings, to using sound effects, perfecting their harmonies, creating memorable melodies and just all-around creating both a rocking  and mellow vibe at the same time. This marked the beginning of Psychedelic Music in popular culture and opened the door for bands of the genre to really go all out. Only The Beatles could have paved the way for such a mind-bending genre and if it weren’t for them opening the door to the mainstream, Psychedelic Rock might have easily stayed in the counter-culture. But that’s pure speculation.

I know it sounds like I contradicted myself there, but where I got confused wasn’t the musical expertise on the album, but was the songs themselves. It’s hard not to listen to the beautiful strings of Eleanor Rigby, that support the themes of loneliness, and not react emotionally in some way. It’s a really sad song that gets to your heart strings and really tugs at them as if they were being played by the violinist instead. George Harrison’s Sitar work was incredible on Love You To and it’s nice to see them incorporating their hindi influences from their escapades in India. Even songs like I’m Only Sleeping (despite it’s almost grating vocals), Here, There and Everywhere and For No One manage to evoke some decent feelings (whether it’s eerie, mellow, transcendental or even cheery) and shows of their musical expertise. I even found myself really enjoying She Said She Said, which despite the dark lyrics almost felt like an ode to their older pop style. Funny coming from me after disliking that pop sound so much, maybe it was due to the mix of the lyrics or maybe I’m just full of shit (Hey, I’m only human, we’re all full of shit at some point).

But then, there’s the other songs. The album opens with Taxman, which to this day I still have no idea whether to call this a great Beatles song or an odd miss on their part. It was an odd way to start the album (except maybe the obvious countdown at the beginning) and almost felt like it should belong on another one of their albums. And then there’s the lyrically lame Good Day Sunshine and the rather mediocre Doctor Robert, which I feel both do nothing to really show off the progress they’ve made as musicians. Almost like music they could do in their sleep, as if they were on auto-pilot when writing it. Even Got To Get You Into My Life feels a little forgettable as far as The Beatles go. And then, close to halfway through the album we’re met with Yellow Submarine.

I want someone to tell me with a straight face that this song is the epitomy of amazingness. I want someone to seriously tell me this is a fantastically great song. This song is awful. Let me rephrase that. This song would be great, if this was a an album for children. It’s not. It’s an album with adult themes and dark, melancholic vibes. This song does not fit at all. Other than the fact that it just sounds incredibly stupid, especially when compared to the rest of the songs on the album, it’s also laughably dull. Even the vocals sound completely bored of the song, as if the spirit of Ben Stein overtook them when recording it. Everytime the chorus hits they sound so enthused to be singing it that the monotone delivery really packs a punch. This is a song that we used to sing all the time as kids and when we did it was always to mockingly imitate that damn chorus line. At least it managed to make us laugh. But of all The Beatles albums it could have been on, it was on this one to my astonishing surprise. Did they put this on as a joke? Or were they just incredibly high when making this album.

I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if they were. They became notorious for their LSD taking and were definitely on some sort of substance while recording in the studio. That’s what this album feels like most of the time, some weird LSD trip, as if they were able to capture what they saw into their music (which that in itself is an amazing feat). And this all culminates into the final song of the album: Tomorrow Never Knows. A song so absurd, so trippy, so deep into psychedelia that I honestly can’t tell if they just lost their minds and created noise or this is a fucking masterpiece. It’s so easy to get lost into the song and depending on your mood it’ll either be in a good way or bad way. Either way, it’s one hell of a song to end the album with.

So, what can I conclude from all this? Is this really the greatest album of all time? Maybe… who am I or anyone to say, really? Objectively they were doing a lot of new and interesting things musically that really set a whole new standard of what rock and pop should be. It impacted the musical world so hard that most artists look back to this as the one that really started it all for them. But then again, considering something great is a very subjective thing. What a lot of people might have loved about this album, I might have disliked and vice verse (me liking, you disliking). I really feel The Beatles were a product of their time. A vessel into music history. A portrait of what it was like for music in the 60s. I don’t think it stands the test of time as well as some say, but it definitely gives good insight as to what was going on at the time. There’s no doubt that they were trailblazers, setting stones, paving ground, opening doors for everyone to come and that in itself deserves all the respect that it gets. But is that factor alone enough to call something the greatest? Chuck Berry redefined guitar playing in rock n’ roll (The Beatles and The Stones were both heavily influenced by him), but people rarely cite his work as the best. Heck, classical composers like Mozart and Beethoven really set a standard for music and melodies, but people more readily talk about modern musicians than the classical ones.

But who am I to judge, I’m only one person with one set of opinions. I can only add to the conversation, not sway it.

 

Song of Choice: Eleanor Rigby

-Bosco

 

 

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1001 Albums: My Generation

#59

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Artist: The Who

Album: My Generation

Year: 1966

Length: 36:13

Genre: Rock

“Well, people try to put us down.
Talkin’ bout my generation.
Just because we get around.
Talkin’ bout my generation.
The things they do look awful cold.
Talkin’ bout my generation.
I hope I die before I get old.
Talkin’ bout my generation.”

MOTHER’S DAY EDITION

Today is the day. The wonderful day where we celebrate the women in our lives who raised us and took care of us and shaped us into the whiny, ungrateful and unappreciative people we all are. Today we give thanks to those women who never get enough praise for putting up with all our crap and who never get the attention they deserve after having carried us around for nine months and then shooting our big, fat heads out of their vaginas. Take a moment to call your mom and tell her you love her. Do it quickly, we only have one day of the year to do it because why would any of us do it any of the other 364 days (265 on a leap year) in the year? Crazy talk.

Despite now living six hours away, i was still able to surprise my mom with a special delivery to the house. It was a weird Mother’s day since this was the first Mother’s day that I wasn’t home. Was weird for both of us, so I did the best I could and managed to make her feel special better than any other year. It took me moving away to finally do it it seems. Love you Mom, have a great day. Don’t let dad pester you too much.

On that note, what a perfect day to talk about what I like to call “The Sons of the British Invasion”. If the British Invasion was a mother than the bands within it were her children. It’s an odd comparison to make, but believe me it makes sense in my head and that’s all that matters, right? RIGHT?!

A few posts back I talked about how The Beatles and Rolling Stones were kind of like brothers under the umbrella of the British Invasion. If The Beatles were the cute, younger sibling and The Rolling Stones were the sexy, older brother than that would put The Who as the rebellious, teenage, middle child. If you really think about it, it’s exactly what they would have been. Not as popular as the other two, they had to be loud and crazy in order to get noticed by their ever-loving mother. While The Beatles were going on dates and The Stones were getting laid, The Who were out in the streets causing vandalism and trouble and being brought home by the cops to get a scolding from their mother. They truly were the unruly middle child.

I realise the way I described them sort of sounds like I’m saying they weren’t popular. That’s absolutely false. They were big, people loved The Who and they did receive the praise and attention they deserved. But in comparisons to the other bands coming out during The British Invasion it’s easy to see they may have gotten a little overshadowed in terms of being noticed. But that didn’t stop them. They rocked and they rocked hard. At this point in time nobody rocked as hard as The Who rocked. They were a band you had to see live because they put on such a spectacle. Every night they’d end by destroying their equipment. Keith Moon would pound away at his drum until it was beat dead and Pete Townshend would smash his guitar into the amps. There’s a famous live performance of My Generation on the Ed Sullivan show which ends with Keith Moon’s drums exploding into Pete’s ears, causing him some permanent hearing damage. If this isn’t the essence of what it is to be a crazy rocker, I don’t know what is. Keith Moon was so notorious for his hotel shenanigans he actually got banned from so many of them that I’m surprised it’s not in the Guinness Book of World Records (or maybe it is, I’m too lazy to check). This is a guy who made a taxi turn around and return to the Hotel because he forgot to throw a piece of furniture out of the window. This is a guy who puts a whole new definition on destroying a toilet. Keith Moon is one bad ass fucking drummer and will forever live in the hearts and souls of every punk out there.

That’s really he thing, at this point in their careers, The Who were an amazing live band and I feel the album itself doesn’t give them enough justice in how hard they actually rock. It almost feels sterilized or tamed down compared to some of the footage of them performing live. There are definitely some shining moments where Keith Moon bangs away at his drum with some hard drum fills and Pete clangs away at his guitar almost as if he’s trying to break the strings as he plays, but it sort of pales in comparison to how they were up on the stage. The band claims they felt rushed when creating this album and I guess I can sort of see it. That being said, rushed or not, they still managed to make one hell of a solid rock album that would go on to be heavily influential for garage, punk and hard rock bands of music’s future.

It doesn’t stop there. Amidst the music with sexual themes and fuck you’s to older generations, they have one song that’s more pop-oriented that shows off their musical abilities. The Kids Are Alright stands out as being almost apart from this album, yet still manages to blend itself nicely within. We see The Who taming themselves for one song and just playing the music in a calm and dignified way. It was their way of showing that they weren’t just a bunch of hoodlums but they had some class to when they wanted it.

The Who really set the standard for what it meant to rock out that many bands would not only try to catch up to their ways of performing but even try to emulate them. Pete Townshend’s unique guitar playing style will forever be emulated by every young musician who’s trying to show off how rock n’ roll they are. Even the idea of destroying their equipment had never been seen before (it was also highly advised against because of the cost of replacing all that equipment). The Who showed that they just didn’t give a shit about what you thought and did whatever the fuck they wanted and the result was nothing short of spectacular.

 

Song of Choice: A Legal Matter

-Bosco

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1001 Albums: Highway 61 Revisited

#58

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Artist: Bob Dylan

Album: Highway 61 Revisited

Year: 1965

Length: 51:26

Genre: Rock and Roll/Folk Rock

“How does it feel, how does it feel?
To have on your own, with no direction home
Like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone”

Driving down the highway.

Traffic stops to a crawl.

25 minute drive is now almost an hour long.

No sight of change in the conditions.

Google maps doesn’t have a quicker route.

It’s getting hot in the car.

Air conditioning blasting.

Was a looooong day, fatigue kicking in hard.

Want to get home and lie down now.

Only solace in this time of need: Bobby Dylan.

That’s right, as I was stuck in traffic after driving Sandra to the bus station, the only thing keeping me awake and sane was this album. Originally I just thought it’d be a great opportunity to continue listening to the albums on the list, for once I might actually get to sit through one in one sitting rather than multiple listens. So far, I’ve really liked Bob Dylan and have been pleasantly surprised with every album that has been thrown my way by him. Each one getting better and better. And when I thought “There’s no way he can top Bringin’ It All Back Home, along comes this one.

Is it safe to call Bob Dylan a musical genius at this point? I never use this term ever, and there was a point in my life where I avoided Bob Dylan because I thought I’d hate it so much. But I was wrong, very wrong indeed. He only seems to get better and better with time, which is an incredible feat considering he started with a high. How does he keep doing it?

One word: Evolution.

Bob Dylan doesn’t stay the same. He evolves drastically with every album, trying new things but still keeping his Bobby Dylan flair. This time he decided to take even more steps to distance himself from his folk sounding roots that made him famous and went with a full studio band to record this album. This, obviously, didn’t go well with his big fans. He was even famously booed at The Newport Folk Festival just for even daring to do something different and evolve his musical stylings. Fucking shocking, I know. I mean, how dare he try and become a better musician and do new and exciting things? He should just be stuck in one place and create the same album over and over again to please the crazy fans. I can’t imagine what would have happened to Bob Dylan if he kept producing folk albums with just him and an acoustic guitar, I feel it just wouldn’t have had the same impact. I’m sure it would have been great, but seeing how Bob Dylan was getting bored with himself, I doubt he would have gone any further if he was stuck in the same place.

Did you know that? He was actually getting fed up with himself. He was doing so many shows that he couldn’t stand listening to himself sing. He felt like he was in a sort of rut and was losing his passion for the music. Because of this he puked out a super long poem of sorts that just spewed all his feelings into words. Apparently this was enough to get him back to enjoying his music once again. He would reduce this vomit into a smaller form and it would become the first song on the album: Like a Rolling Stone. I knew I felt a sense of deeper sadness within the song that was hard to point out. At first I couldn’t tell if he was being sincere or mocking people who are feeling lost. But it seems sincere was the right mood (but I wouldn’t put it by him to make fun of himself while he’s at it).

 

It seems too that Dylan had a double meaning when he came up with the title for the album. It wasn’t just his own revisiting of the famous Highway that got him back in the mood to make music but was also his way of creating a throwback to the classic Blues musicians of older days. You see, Highway 61 actually passed by the birthplaces of many famous and influential musicians including Muddy Waters, Son House, Elvis Presley and Charley Patton. It was also, famously, where Bessie Smith died in a car crash and where Robert Johnson was believed to selling his soul to the devil at the crossroads of route 49 and Highway 61. To Dylan, this was more than just revisiting a place that he felt one with and that he described as being a part of him and running through his veins, this was an ode to those musicians and their music.

That’s what he does best on this album, he blends good old blues styling with his poetic nuances and lyrical cynicism of the modern day america. This is really what sets this album apart from his previous efforts. He’s continuously trying to distance himself form his folk roots, which has alienated his fan base increasingly. But what’s great about him is he doesn’t care. He’s in it for the love of the music and doesn’t cater to what the fans want but what he feels will make him happiest. That being said, he still retains his dark sense of humour and cynical look of America as he continues to speak as the voice of the troubled youth (even if at this point he’ll never admit that’s what he’s doing). The themes of fear and anxiety of society are even grander in this album and he even gets a little more personal with it. Songs like Like A Rolling Stone, which captured his feelings of being lost at that point in time musically, and Ballad of a Thin Man, which was his response to the media’s expectations of him and not understanding who he was and what he was doing musically. Whereas before he would capture a moment in America and ramble on about the issues at hand, here we see him mixing in personal conflict in a more direct way, which not only adds an extra layer to his lyrics but also creates a sense that he is being more vulnerable than before and opening up in a bigger way. This creates music that is still protesting but a much more pure and innocent type of protest compared to his more punk attitude of earlier works.

We also find Dylan at his most incomprehensible so far. Here is the voice I knew him to have. The typical Dylan drawl that doesn’t sing but just sort of speaks with weird intonations and with a slur that makes it hard to actually understand what he’s saying half the time. The biggest show of this Dylan characteristic was most definitely his final song on the album, Desolation Row. 11 minutes of pure Bob Dylan rambling, where he stripped away the rest of the band and went for his old school-sound of pure folk. Just him and his guitar, riffing away and rambling on and on, creating a portrait of 1960’s america. Upon first listen this sounds like the most incomprehensible and non-nonsensical song ever. It’s constant references to famous figures, political and pop culture, and strung together with non-linear storytelling and often times pure non-sequiters. In the hands of anyone else this would have been terrible, random for the sake of being random, but in Bob Dylan’s hands he creates a somewhat non-sequiter masterpiece that definitely requires multiple listenings before you can even grasp what he’s getting at with it. I’m sure if I took the time to sit and really look at the lyrics, I mean take a long, hard look at them, I can take something away from it.

That’s really what’s remarkable about this album. It’s not a one-time listening album. It’s one you have to listen to multiple times to truly enjoy and get the most out of it. That’s always the sign of a great piece of art, one that gets better the more you experience it. It’s fine if you didn’t get something the first time around, you might notice something new the next time and the next and the next and hey maybe even the 20th time! That’s always a fun experience, when there’s something you’ve experienced so many damn times and you’re still experiencing new things, it’s really a magical sort of feeling. We all like that feeling of discovery, and I’m sure the next time I listen to this album (If I ever do… probably… maybe) I’m sure I’ll experience that as well.

 

Song of Choice: Tombstone Blues

-Bosco

 

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1001 Albums: Mr. Tambourine Man

#57

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Artist: The Byrds

Album: Mr. Tambourine Man

Year: 1965

Length: 31:35

Genre: Folk Rock

 

“Words in my head keep repeating
Things that you said when I was with you
And I wonder is it true
Do you feel the same way too
It’s so hard bein’ here without you,
Bein’ here without you”

 

What better way to say “Welcome To Toronto” than getting into a nice collision on the street. Oh boy was that something I really needed. Especially since I was on my way to visit apartments, guess I wasn’t doing that anymore that day. I knew from all the troubles I was having, the difficulty settling in and dealing with being alone, I really needed to get into a collision on top of it all. That’s exactly the thing I was missing in my current life to set things right. The perfect moment for the perfect week.

On a more positive note, Sandra came up to visit me the same day the collision happened and stayed for a few days. So that easily got my mind off it all. You always hear people saying that long-distance relationships won’t work and it’s so difficult. To be honest, I don’t understand where these people are coming from who feel this way. It’s been way easier than I expected it to be. Sure, I miss the actual intimacy and having her physically there in front of me, but we talk regularly everyday, have Skype conversations and are always on the phone. It’s not like we’ve suddenly disappeared from each other’s lives. I guess for those who it didn’t work out it’s because the relationship just wasn’t meant to be to begin with.

“But won’t you be tempted by other girls and her by other boys and it’ll be difficult because they’re not there?”

No. Not at all. That’s stupid, there’s no other girls that would tempt me because there’s no other girls who are Sandra and also I’m not a cheater. I’ll never understand the concept of cheating on someone. If it’s gotten that bad that you need to cheat, dump them first, that simple. The long distance is definitely a new challenge, but totally an easy one. No worries there.

It took me about three times to get through this album with everything going on. I wanted to make sure I really listened to it from start to finish (and even then I couldn’t successfully do that in one sitting). I have to say, this was everything I expected and not what I expected all thrown into one album. The only exposure I have had to this album was Mr. Tambourine Man, which would play continuously in the house on one of my dad’s 60s compilation CDS. I knew this song very well and that’s part of what made me a little hesitant about this album. It’s not a bad song in any way, but it had been ingrained in my head and became part of my musical nightmares. If I had to suffer through an entire album of songs like that, I’d shoot myself.

Surprisingly, I was both right and wrong with this. Let me explain this contradiction. I was right in the sense that, the music overall really has it’s style and sound that fills up the whole album and never really deviates from it. But wrong in the sense that I actually enjoyed what they did with it following the Title song. It seemed my pain was more to the specific song itself rather than what they did with it. Of course, when you’ve heard something on repeat one too many times, it can really get to anyone.

Mr. Tambourine Man itself is interesting. Originally a Bob Dylan song, the vibe changes considerably when put into the hands of The Byrds. Whereas Bob’s version feels like a typical Dylan song, filled with remorse, sadness and the deeper psychological thoughts of a lost bohemian wanderer trying to understand life, The Byrd’s version comes across as some hippie fun love song. I can just imagine a bunch of shirtless hippies dancing in a circle with their tambourines and flower power get-ups, shaking their heads to the love of the music. Same song, but totally different vibes.

Speaking of which, they seem to have quite a few Bob Dylan covers on this album, almost to the point that it seems they might be relying a little too much on Dylan to give them material. In future albums they would prove this to not be true, but I can imagine someone picking this up when it first came out and being like “These guys are a little bit of a Dylan knock-off, eh?”

They would be half true. The true spirit of this album is almost the perfect blend of both Bob Dylan and The Beatles. Remember that famous meeting they had together? Well, imagine if that meeting produced an offspring. That offspring would be The Byrds. They seem to mash the lyrical and philosophical content of the Folk genre with the beats, harmonies and instrumental work of the rock genre The Beatles made famous. At times it’s really hard to tell if The Byrds are trying to do their own thing or just emulating the two other bands. A song like You Won’t Have To Cry sounds more like an homage to The Beatles than their own piece and the singer even goes as far as to try and imitate Bob Dylan’s voice on Spanish Harlem Incident and Chimes of Freedom.

But when they do blend the two styles together perfectly and become their own thing it really shines through. The harmonies at times come together really nicely and add almost a haunting feel to the songs their in. When they’re not trying to emulate the harmonies of The Beatles, they really create their own atmosphere that is kind of chilling in a fun way. At times, the album does feel a little repetitive as they never deviate from the sound  they created, often re-using the same formulas from previous songs and just continuing what worked on the precedents, but its’ never enough to really take you out of it.

This albums can also be marked as the beginning of the Folk Rock movement. Although other artists had dabbled in mixing rock elements into folk and folk elements into rock, it’s really The Byrds that mashed them together perfectly in a way that pleased both rock lovers and folk aficionados. The musical work on this album would go on to define the sound of Folk Rock and even heavily influence other artists into incorporating the sound into their work (notably Simon and Garfunkel, Sonny and Cher and even REM). The Byrds may not have known it at the time but in trying to blend two of the biggest musicians into one, they single-handedly created a whole new style.

And to think the producer wanted session musicians to play because he didn’t feel confident in the band’s musical expertise. Would have probably been a whole different album.

 

Song of Choice: I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better

-Bosco

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1001 Albums: Bert Jansch

#56

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Artist: Bert Jansch

Album: Bert Jansch

Year: 1965

Length: 39:19

Genre: Folk

“When sadness fills your heart
And sorrow hides the longing to be free
When things go wrong each day
You fix your mind to ‘scape your misery
Your troubled young life
Had made you turn
To a needle of death”

This wasn’t a good album for me at the moment. Not because the album was bad, more just the timing of it. If you’ve ever heard the album you would know it’s a pretty depressing and sad album. Sadness seems to pour through every moment and it really is a bit of a downer, especially if you’re not in the best mood.

I know a lot of people like to listen to sad music when they’re feeling down in the dumps. I never understood that. It makes no sense to me. Why would you want to listen to depressing shit when you’re already feeling really shitty? Wouldn’t you want to listen to something that makes you feel better? That pumps you up? That lifts you and brings your mood to lighter pastures? Maybe that’s just me. I know when I’m really stressed or down I like to listen to upbeat, fast-paced music that really gets me going. Usually punk or new wave from the late 70’s and early 80’s is always a good choice. It allows me to let out aggression, I find myself dancing, I find myself getting super pumped and by the end of it I feel ten times better. Isn’t that what anyone would want to do?

“But I relate to this. It’s sad like how I’m feeling and expressing feelings I am currently feeling”

OK, fair point. I guess it’s nice to know that you’re not alone in feeling the way you do and there’s a type of reassurance to that. As if it’s letting yourself know the feelings you’re feeling are perfectly normal and you’l get yourself through it. You’re not alone. I get it, but it still makes no sense to me personally.

Let me explain (I guess). I’ve finally made my move to Toronto and for the most part I’ve settled in quite nicely and am getting into the groove of things. But, at the same time it’s been getting really difficult. I’ve felt a lot of pressure on my shoulders, I’ve been scared of money (having no job to give you income will do that) and I slowly feel my confidence dropping and my loneliness increasing as I’m pretty much alone, with no friends. It’s been tough and my anxiety has been tested with visiting apartments (something I’m both new at and not very good at). Yesterday in particular wasn’t a good day that brought me down pretty badly and I’ms till trying to pick myself up from it. I figured continuing this list would make me feel better, that feeling of productivity always made me feel good. Unfortunately it was this album that just made me feel kind of down.

There’s nothing wrong with sad music, especially when it’s sincere and genuine and comes from a real place. I actually think music that hits you on a deeper emotional level can be really powerful and is difficult to accomplish without sounding sappy, self-indulgent or melodramatic. But in context of things that have been going on, it’s not what I needed. Already I wasn’t doing my best and I was met with songs that sang about a friend’s death, loneliness and relationship hardships (to name a few). Really uplifting subject matter. it doesn’t help that Bert’s guitar playing sells the sadness vibe and matched with his on the verge of crying vocals, it really puts a downer on the afternoon, which is never ideal.

That all being said, how was the album despite all this?

Not bad. It’s a fairly decent album. It doesn’t offer more than it really needs to and gives you exactly what you’d expect from a début folk album. I don’t think Bert set out to impress or prove anything, he just wanted to play some music and share some stories and he does that very well. It’s almost like listening to that one guy at a party who picks up the guitar and sings in the corner with a group of people around him, admiring him. He’s talented enough for you to stop and look but you’ll probably forget about him the next day. He’ll always be that one guy who played guitar at the party you were at this one time, never left a big impression, but enough that you’ll look back in a “Oh yeah that guy!” kind of way. There’s nothing truly impressive about it, but it’s not bad either, it’s exactly what it needs to be and nothing more. Bert sings every song with enough sincerity in his voice that you believe what he’s saying and lyrically it’s poetic enough to leave you satisfied. It’s an all around solid folk album.

Now if you don’t mind, I’m going to put on something a little more upbeat. I have some steam I need to blow off.

Song of Choice: Angie

-Bosco