1001 Albums: Truth

#128

Album_128_Original

Artist: Jeff Beck

Album: Truth

Year: 1968

Length: 40:16

Genre: Blues Rock / Hard Rock

“Soon I hope that I will find,
Thoughts deep within my mind.
That won’t displace my kind.”

What is Truth Jeff Beck? What is THE Truth? Does Truth even exist? I don’t know how it was in the late 60s but now in the good year of 2018, truth seems to be a non-existent thing. We live in a world where dishonesty, manipulation and keeping secrets seems to be what’s encouraged, tolerated and enabled. People are in a constant state of justifying their lies and dishonesty, coming up with non-stop excuses as to why they did that, why they were like that. No one takes responsibility for their actions any more and it’s baffling to see why people would go through the struggle of doing this when it’s so much easier to just tell the truth, mainly because then you don’t have to worry about what you’re saying any more, if your story is still working and if you tell the truth, you never have to worry about remembering things any more. But people don’t. It’s baffling how people say they want true honesty but turn around and act like completely dishonest people. “But I’m scared to hurt you, The truth might destroy you”. Continuous bullshit you hear from these people who find justified reasons as to why they lied to you because they can’t admit to themselves that it was shitty to be dishonest. Honesty is honestly the lost virtue, and the handful of people who still practice it are for some reason called the assholes. But they only are because the bullshitters don’t like when they get called on their bullshit so they find it easy to just call the honest person an asshole, which is irony at it’s best because in reality, they’re the actual asshole. But as we all know society is ass-backwards on a lot of things, and honesty is one of them.

I digress, why did I go on a tangent about this? This literally has nothing to do with Jeff Beck’s first debut solo album that is considered a seminal piece of hard rock and heavy metal. Can you believe he infused blues rock with Hard Rock sounds?? Un – Be – Lie – Va – Ble. Jeff Beck shows off his guitar skills on this 40 minute cover album, where he cranks out solo after solo, riff after riff on a plethora of songs that he apparently has zero writing credits on (Not even the one with his name on it “Beck’s Bolero”, which has the writing credit going to Jimmy Page). Heck, we’re even introduced to the vocal stylings of none other than Rod Stewart himself, the man who asked the world that if you think he’s sexy and you like his body then come on sugar tell him so. TELL HIM! What an album this is, truly remarkable. The one sentiment I get from it is:

Meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

An album that’s considered such a seminal piece of work just didn’t really do it for me (which I guess isn’t that surprising based on my history with these types of albums). I just didn’t feel engaged with the music, it didn’t resonate in anyway with me and didn’t leave a lasting effect or mark. Jeff Beck’s guitar work, as usual, is really good and I will say I loved it, but not enough to walk away from it all going “Damn what fine piece of album”. For a debut solo I was expecting more than just a bunch of covers. It would have been nice to see Jeff Beck shine as a songwriter than just a guitar player, we know he can play guitar and play it well, but can he write? That’s the real question I want answered and I’m sure he can, he is considered one of the guitar gods, so why waste his time doing covers? This is the late 60s, not the 50s where everyone was essentially covering each other. Even Elvis took the time to write new material and his own stuff, so Jeff Beck could have done that too.

I have nothing against covers, especially when done well. A good cover is when an artist or group adds their own flavour to it, repurposes it their own way and creates something new from it. I hate covers that essentially sound exactly like the original, like the band didn’t even try to do something new with it, what’s the point at that point? If you want to play song you love live, then by all means do it but don’t record it and package it as something on your album when you don’t even take the time to add anything to it. (Hot damn, hot take). Thankfully Jeff Beck is original enough to add his own flair to the music he’s creating so it doesn’t fall flat or boring, I just wish he took the time to write original material… that’s all.

I mean, that’s not too much to ask from one of the greats right? He can do it, I believe in him. I really hope he has another album on this list that can show that off and maybe I won’t be as disappointed second time around. I like Jeff Beck and just want what’s best for him.

Song of Choice: Beck’s Bolero

-Bosco

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1001 Albums: Music From Big Pink

#127

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Artist: The Band

Album: Music From Big Pink

Year: 1968

Length: 42:22

Genre: Americana / Roots Rock

“Forefather pointed to kingdom come
Sadly told his only son
Just be careful what you do
It all comes back on you

False witness spread the news
Somebody’s gonna lose
Either she or me or you
Nothing we can do”

What happens when you’re the backing band for one of the most iconic artists of the 60s and your left to your own devices to create an album without said artist?

You get what is retrospectively considered one of the most influential rock albums of all time. That’s what you get.

I wish I was joking, but 1968 seemed to be a really big year for music and rock history. I evens tumbled upon a magazine at a local pharmacy that had an issue that explored the entire year of music in 1968. That’s how big that year was. From Hendrix to The Beatles to The Who to The Rolling Stones to Sly and the Family Stone all releasing ground breaking albums that would shatter the very foundations of music as everyone knew it, there was one band that came out of the shadow of their main leader and produced an immensely rich and tight album that would would not only introduce Americana to the world but set the foundations for roots rock as well.

This was The Band, aptly named not because they were a band and thought it would be on the nose to call themselves that way, but because they were THE band that supported one of the greats of music history. Yes, this was the band that backed none other than Bob Dylan himself. If any band needed their moment in the spotlight, it was definitely them and boy did the world give them the chance. Bob Dylan, who had major respect for them, even opted to not be their lead singer as he wanted their talents to not be overshadowed by his presence on the album (but he does make some guest appearances as a writer and co-writer on a few songs).

And boy is there talent on this album. After gathering together in a house that they called Big Pink (due to it’s front being painted pink (also why the album is called Music from Big Pink, they weren’t very creative with their album titles it seems)), they improvised and cranked out tunes that would set the bar for this album. It’s undeniable that this band was incredibly tight and had developed a sound long before it came time to record this. They actually had a set of basement tapes they had previously recorded with Dylan years back that they used as their influence to create the sound heard on this record. What we get is a group who are incredibly laidback and grooving to the music, taking their time with each well-crafted note. Every moment here counts and they knew it. The album just oozes with talented musicianship that it’s hard to really pinpoint a low moment on the album.

That being said, I’m not really a fan. I won’t deny the amount of work that went into this and how well-crafted it is, but it’s just not my thing. Remember how I said it’s very laidback? Almost like a relaxed summer day, sitting by the pool, sipping on margaritas? That’s how this album feels. Although I do love kicking back and relaxing, this music fits when you’re in that mood, but when you’re not, it can feel long and boring, which is what I felt the first time I heard it. Obviously, I can see a lot of people being able to really enjoy this, my dad being one of those people, but if this style is not your type of music than it’s possible you can find yourself getting bored really easily. It’s a shame really because when that happens you can miss out on the sheer skill that went into these tunes. Luckily, I like to keep an open-mind about things and try and look past my own personal tastes.

I remember hearing the song The Weight when I was a kid. It appeared on one of those 60s compilations my dad used to listen to a lot. I remember long drives with the song coming over the car speakers and evenings with it playing in the house. I never really thought of the song, but when it came on I always immediately recognised it. I remember looking on the compilation cd, I always liked reading all the songs and band names and memorizing them, and laughing at the idea that this group was called The Band and had a song called The Weight (what a stupid song me 8 year old self thought). Flash forward about 15 years later, I hadn’t heard that song since I was a kid and imagine how my eyes lit up when it started to play and I instantly recognized what it was, all these memories flooding back into my head.

Music is a powerful thing and even if it’s not a song that you care for, it can still manage to do incredible things. A song that you heard from your childhood can years later return into your life and recapture those moments that you thought you forgot. A lot of people underestimate the power of music. I never will.

Song of Choice: The Weight

-The Band

P.s. Their original name was The Crackers before they took on The Band. Good choice.

 

1001 Albums: Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake

#126

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Artist: Small Faces

Album: Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake

Year: 1968

Length: 38:27

Genre: Psychedelic Rock

“Once upon a time in a land of greens
Where the sky was silky soft
And full of colored dreams
Deep inside a rainbow
Lived Happiness Stan
In a small Victorian charabanc”

Piano Riff starts playing, a happy feeling comes over you.

*Sings Along*

“Ah-wouldn’t it be nice to get on with me neighbours?”

Guitar plays for a short amount of time.

“But they make it very clear they’ve got no room for ravers”

Guitar riff plays again

“Doodly-main. They stop me from groovin’ they bang on me wall. They’re doing me crust in it’s no good at all!

Laaaaaazy Sundaayy Afternooooon. Clooose my eyes and drift awayyyy”

Piano riff plays again, you kick back and smile at how fun this tune is and the overwhelming joy you get from it. Nothing can go wrong from this point on.

If it isn’t clear, I absolutely love their song “Lazy Sunday Afternoon”. Years ago, when I was 18, my girlfriend at the time told me I had to check out this song and the video that accompanied it. That’s right, this tune from 1968 actually had a music video and it’s pretty funny. It has the band standing around lazily (Duh!) and running around. No lip-sync involved so we get to see these four brits smiling awkwardly at the camera. We even get an old lady doing her damn best. It always felt like a novelty song, but man was I hooked from the moment I heard it, it was just beyond fun as a song. For years, I wanted to check them out, explore their discography because I loved this one song… but never did for some reason. No idea why, it just never happened. One of those things on the back of my mind that I never thought to really pursue.

But now, it finally happened. I finally got to listen to the four cockney-accented dudes, blasting their way through each song, unafraid of hiding their accents and just having a ton of fun. Was it everything I had hoped for? Were my expectations met? Was I disappointed? Was I so excited that shit blew out my ass and propelled me through the roof?

The minute that instrumental started at the top of the album, I knew I was going to take one hell of a journey (funnily enough there is even a song called The Journey). This has surpassed a ton of the albums I’ve listened to as being one of my absolute favourites. I had a feeling I’d love it and I’m so happy that feeling was right. I’m a little sad that Itchycoo Park was not on this album, another of their tunes I knew very well and love, but really even without it, this album was still a joy from start to end. I’ve talked about psychedelic music a whole lot (kind of had to since the 60s was just a non-stop psychedelic music party), but I haven’t heard a psychedelic music album that sounded like this. These guys made it fun and if more psychedelic music sounded like this, I would probably be enjoying this run of the 60s way more than I currently am. To say it was a breath of fresh air within an over-saturated genre (only because I’ve listened to way too much in a short amount of time) is an understatement. As each song passed it felt like it was getting better and better and there was no down in sight.

Once again I was faced with a half-concept album. Two in a row, my lucky day. However, unlike the last one, this time they put it on the second half of the album, to end it off rather than start it. I think that’s a much better choice as you get Side A as an opening act, a taste of what’s to come, easing the listener into the story that Side B presents to you. Rather than getting us hyped on the story and ending the album with a compilation of leftover tunes. Even then, the beginning didn’t feel like a compilation, it was well-crafted tunes with purpose that fit into the soundscape of the entire album.

Oh yes the concept! Let’s get into that. Side B tells the story of a character named Happiness Stan who one night sees a half-moon and sets out on a journey to find the other half of the moon (Because he’s clearly a moron). Along the way he encounters various characters and a wise old dude who basically goes “Idiot, the moon does that, if you’d just waited you would have seen that it’s ow full. Look!”. Happiness Stan looks, goes oh, and is back on his way home. It’s a quirky little story, but fits the aesthetic of the band very well and they ell the story with a mix of upbeat fun and trippy acid music, creating a sound that suits each part of the story. In between each song we even have a narrator telling us little parts of the story to bridge the tunes together. This whole side is apparently so complicated that they can’t play it live at all. They did get the chance a couple of times but usually avoid playing it live altogether.

Another cool thing about this album that you may or possibly may not notice is the album cover is actually a parody of Ogden’s Nut-Brown Flake, which was a popular brand of tobacco that was sold in Liverpool. They even went so far as to sell the album inside a metal tin as if it actually was a tin of tobacco. This proved to be a novel idea that was better in theory than practice. The tin constantly rolled off shelves in stores and the vinyl was incredibly difficult to pull out of the tin. They don’t sell it this way anymore and this idea would eventually be used by the band Public Image Ltd. for their album Metal Box (which I will talk about eventually as it is also on the list). I guess John Lydon didn’t get the memo.

If I ever get the chance, I probably would get the metal tin since it’s definitely a collector’s item now, plus it gives me a chance to own this album that I enjoyed way more than I had hoped for. Maybe I’m exaggerating my reaction a bit, maybe my love for this album was a result of context and not really pure joy. But I don’t need to over think that for any reason. Why ruin my experience? Why sabotage how I felt? WHY CAN’T I JUST LET MYSELF ENJOY THINGS????

I can and I will.

Song of Choice: Lazy Sunday Afternoon

-Bosco

 

 

1001 Albums: Bookends

#125

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Artist: Simon and Garfunkel

Album: Bookends

Year: 1968

Length: 29:51

Genre: Folk Rock

“Cathy, I’m lost, I said though I knew she was sleeping
And I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They’ve all come to look for America
All come to look for America
All come to look for America”

You beautiful bastards.

Why have I avoided Simon and Garfunkel all these years? Ok, I didn’t avoid them, it’s not like I was trying my best to make sure I never listened to them, but I never actively sought out their music to listen to. Like most people I knew their biggest hits and thought they were decent but the style was never my thing and I had no interest in digging deeper into their material. Maybe it’s good I didn’t because I just wouldn’t have had the appreciation for it then as I do now. So maybe I was meant to be exposed to them now and this was just the right time for me to truly appreciate the music they were creating and what they did. Maybe, I don’t know, I’m kind of talking out of my ass right now.

Maybe it was the right music at the right time. Last weekend I moved to a new place and everyone knows how fun and joyful moving is. With stress levels high, frustration on the brink of rage, injuries increasing in number and the hot, sweltering heat destroying us all, having some soothing music was exactly the dose of calming I think I needed. I mean, I didn’t listen to it as I was moving, but around the time, so good enough for me to make it count. I’m happy to say I am now moved in to a place I really like. No more basement apartment for me. I have big windows that look out into an amazing backyard, a cabin like aesthetic for my room (with fireplace included, functional? I am not about to try and find out) and my own little living room. Before I was living on my own but am now in a house with 7 other people. I figured it’d be an experience, one that I needed, never lived in a shared environment with others my age before, so will give me a chance to grow as a person I feel.

Bookends is a pretty simple album with a lot of depth to it. Instrumentally I can’t say anything interesting about it, it’s our duo playing away on their acoustic guitars, and for the most part evokes very black and white, yet mostly grey imagery, but that’s kind of the point. The only time I really noticed the instrumentation was at the beginning where a bass line was played by a Moog synthesizer which caught me off guard completely. Did not expect that on a Simon and Garfunkel album. It added a nice colour to the story of a drug abusing mother and her ill-fated child. Oh yeah, Simon and Garfunkel are not the cheeriest of people on this album I should add. There’s a lot of themes of adulthood, disillusionment, loneliness, mortality and growing old, which doesn’t make for the happiest of music. Even when their tunes sound upbeat, lyrically they’re coming from the minds of two cynical young adults who are having difficulty coming to terms with society around them. I guess this is why this album really resonated with the youth of America as it represented the feelings they were going through (almost A La Bob Dylan). Actually, Dylan is a great comparison because the album as a whole feels very Dylanesque, especially “Freewheelin'”. It definitely fits into the same realm of that album and though it never quite hits that high it still hits it’s mark exactly where it aimed to be.

As a concept album it works very well. The Bookends theme fits very nicely, opening and ending Side A as a cycle of life. Side A tells a story from childhood to old age, going through the motions of you’re average life cycle. We see a couple trying to find their own version of America that they feel they’ve lost, disillusioned and wandering. We are even met with a song that is basically just a compilation of old farts having conversations (tedious to sit though but fits in nicely within the themes of the album). However, the concept seems to end on Side A and doesn’t continue on for the entirety of the album, which is kind of odd. Why only make half the album a concept album? So what’s on Side B? Essentially songs they created for the movie The Graduate that didn’t make it into the soundtrack. That’s it. Not to say it isn’t good because they are great tunes, some of my favourite off the album. It’s just a weird choice to end the concept halfway through and make the other half a compilation album of sorts. Did they just give up after creating a handful of tunes and figured that was enough? Or was it planned that the concept only needed that amount of tunes and they figured they’d use the rest of the album to show off other work that hadn’t been released?

Hard to say, but really looking at it, oddly enough the Side B tunes fit rather well with the themes of the album. They wouldn’t have fit into the main concept as none really tell a story within the cycle of life, but Paul Simon’s (he was the main songwriter) cynicism is heavily oozing through every single one of these tunes and it becomes a bleak and sometimes satirical take on what’s happening around him. Fakin’ It almost feels like he’s expressing how he feels about his current relationship with Art and At The Zoo takes an almost Orwellian look at society, comparing humans to different breeds of animals. Whether you like it or not, Paul Simon was a damn good songwriter and what really sells this album above everything is the lyricism and painful emotions that seep through the vocals (Those harmonies will never not be beautiful). Apparently, Paul Simon was in a constant state of being high, which he stated exaggerated those emotions within him as he got way to introspective and that’s how he was able to get that pain across on his music. Whatever works I guess.

This was also the album that made Simon and Garfunkel the biggest rock duo of the time. It blasted them into super stardom and with the hit “Mrs. Robinson” under their belt, there was no way they could fall from this (they would keep their fame until they broke up and moved on to solo careers). Listening to it, I actually found it hard to put myself in the perspective of 1968 when it came out. Don’t get me wrong, It’s a fantastic album, but to the point of impact it made I’m finding it hard to put myself in that time-frame and truly understand how it happened. Usually I could, even with albums I don’t enjoy (cough cough Beatles) but this one doesn’t sound like it would have the impact that it apparently did. Maybe it is just how it resonated with the youth and that was enough to propel them far and beyond the point they ever imagined.

Honestly, I can try to wrap my head around it but it doesn’t really matter because at the end of the day it did have that impact and no sense of questioning or analyses can change that. I’m happy it did because it holds up today and is a solid album all around and I hope that it’s legacy continues on into the future.

Song of Choice: Fakin’ It

-Bosco

 

1001 Albums: S.F. Sorrow

#124

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Artist: The Pretty Things

Album: S.F. Sorrow

Year: 1968

Length: 40:59

Genre: Psychedelic Pop / Rock Opera

“For ten weeks now number three stood empty
Nobody thought there would be
Family laughter behind the windows
Or a Christmas tree.
Then a couple from up north
Sorrow and his wife arrived
Before the sun had left the streets
They were living inside.
Then before too long
The street it rang with the sound
From number three there came a cry
S. F. Sorrow is born.”

I’m frustrated. Very Frustrated. I would even say extremely frustrated. Ever have one of those situations where you have a lot to say but have no idea how to say it? The words for whatever reason just aren’t coming out, you’re sentences make no sense, you try to string together thoughts and ideas into a cohesive structure but only nonsense comes out. You want to sound smart but instead you sound dumb. You try your best to understand something but no matter how many times you try, you look, you listen, you just can’t grasp what’s happening.

I’m frustrated.

I’ve listened to this album 4 times. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every single time I’ve listened to it. Actually, every time I’ve listened to it it got better and better to my ears. Actually, I’m starting to love it so much I actually want to actively look for it and buy a copy for myself. It was definitely a pleasant surprise and I am willing to even call it a secret gem of the 60s (I’ll get into that a little later). But I had one issue. No matter how many times I listened to it I couldn’t remember the details of what I listened to. No matter how many times I heard each song, I couldn’t hold onto to any lyrics. It seems to be a problem I’ve been facing a lot these days and I’m not sure why. It’s frustrating to say the least. I love music, always have and always will and I love digging deep into what I’m listening to, understanding it and breaking down why it’s good. This is something I pursue to do and felt starting this blog would help me do that. But as each album goes by I find myself struggling more and more to say things in new ways. My vocabulary isn’t as rich as I’d hope it to be and my knowledge isn’t as vast as I wish it was. I found this album great in so many ways, but can’t seem to find the words to describe it.

Thankfully, google exists and I can do enough research on the album to talk a decent sized amount about it (Plus a reminder that I started this blog to chronicle my experience listening to the 1001 albums and wasn’t supposed to be reviews and analysis. But being who I am I couldn’t stop myself from doing that, maybe I should go back to how I started this blog). But until that happens, which will take me a lot to just separate myself from trying my hardest to break these albums down, let’s talk about S.F. Sorrow.

What makes this album so important is that it’s one of the first Rock Operas ever. The Sweet Things have even stated that this album was a huge influence on The Who’s Tommy, but The Who have gone on the record to say that is completely false and S.F. Sorrow played no role in influencing them at all. What’s the truth? Who knows, no one ever will at this point, but it’s clear to see they made their mark in history. Or did they?

If it was this important… why does no one talk about this band? I’ve never heard of it, no one I know has ever heard of it, this didn’t even appear in my famous rock n roll and psychedelic music class. So what gives? Why wasn’t this album more successful than it was? I mean, it’s fantastic from start to finish. I won’t go into details of the story of this rock opera (I’m not here to summarize), but it essentially tells the story of a boy named Sebastian F. Sorrow, born in a nameless town to normal parents, and the trials and tribulations of his life, from joyful adolescence to lonely old age. Side A has an upbeat and joyful feel as we hear Sebastian growing up and falling in love and getting married and going to war, but the album takes a sudden shift at Balloon Burning (an oddly macabre song that sounds super fun and happy but is about the protagonist’s wife dying in a Hindenburg type accident). Side B takes the listener on a completely different journey, going on an acid trip into Sebastian’s mind as he deals with depression and introspection, especially after he meets Baron Saturday who becomes the guide to this spirit quest. Where Side A takes on a Folk Rock approach with joyous undertones, the second half goes full on psychedelic, bringing you down with the protagonist. The shift is done so wonderfully and seamlessly and despite it being risky, the band managed to pull off a story that is incredibly engaging, that makes you feel what the protagonist is feeling and takes you on his journey with him. Unlike most Rock Operas though, the story wasn’t told through the lyrics of the song and instead was told through liner notes in between the songs lyrics on the vinyl and CD. In live performances they even had Arthur Brown perform the paragraphs in between songs.

This album had everything going for it, so why did it fall in the cracks? There seems to be many reasons. Firstly, it was released the same week as two monster albums, The Beatles’ White Album (which needs no introduction) and The Kinks’ The Village Green Preservation Society (which I have already talked about in a previous post). It was easily eclipsed by the incredibly large shadows these two albums created and there was no way it could overcome them unless for some miracle. Secondly, there was very little promotion done for the album causing it to go a little unnoticed until MoTown Records decided to pick it up to give it a boost, but Tommy had been out for months at that point and S.F Sorrow looked disappointing in comparison with critics giving it negative reviews for being pretentious and one critic even went as far as to say they “should be shot for what they’ve done to English rock lyrics”. A little harsh. It seems people also didn’t like the fact that the album told a story that was incredibly sad. They weren’t to thrilled about the fact that they left it feeling worse than when they started and that turned most listeners off to it.

I think in terms of storytelling it may have been a little ahead of it’s time. It may not have struck a chord when it first came out but I think in retrospect definitely can be hailed as a much more deserving piece of work than when it originally came out. Hopefully more and more people will discover this hidden gem and be as thoroughly entertained as I was listening to it every time.

Song of Choice: Balloon Burning

-Bosco

 

1001 Albums: In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida

#123

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Artist: Iron Butterfly

Album: In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida

Year: 1968

Length: 36:15

Genre: Acid Rock / Hard Rock / Psychedelic Rock

“In a gadda da vida, honey
Don’t you know that I’m lovin’ you
In a gadda da vida, baby
Don’t you know that I’ll always be true

Oh, won’t you come with me
And take my hand
Oh, won’t you come with me
And walk this land
Please take my hand”

I listened to this album weeks ago. I’m five albums ahead. What am I doing? Why am I doing this? Keeping up a blog is much harder than it seems. I used to be able to crank these out quickly because I had set a routine for myself (and I guess my motivation was much higher when I had started as well compared to now where I have a lot of other priorities, like moving to a new apartment soon). I really want to get through this list because I’m genuinely excited to listen to all these albums I’ve either never heard of or know about but never listened to. But life is tricky sometimes and you do what you gotta do.

That being said, I have been given more motivation to crank these out quicker. I’ve run into a bit of a challenge with a friend (who also writes a blog!) where basically we each have to crank out at least two posts a week. If this is not met by the deadline, then we each have to do a dare for each article we didn’t post. And because she lives all the way in Boston, I’ll need photo proof of it. I’m usually really great at these dare games where I always succeed in not having to do the dares (my friend Luis can tell you all about that) and I am not going to start failing now.

As a side note if you do want a really fun dare game to play, here’s one I play with my friends (especially when we are out drinking). The game is simple, yet explaining it is difficult, so bear (bare?) with me. You think of a dare (must be something reasonable. Essentially nothing that will get you punched, kicked out of where you are or that tampers with people’s food or drinks) and then you turn to the daree and say “Out of how much to (insert dare here). They pick a number between 1 and 100 (1 being they’ll absolutely do it and 100 being the least likely). You both pick a number between 1 and the chosen number and count down “3…2…1”. You both say the number at the same time. If it’s the same number the person has to do the dare and if it isn’t you move on and forget about it. What make the game so fun is that sense of anticipation if you’ll have to do something relatively embarrassing or not. My friend hates playing with me because he can never get me and I guess his number all the time. I’ve had him stand up in front of an entire bar and declare that he was coming out of the closet (he’s not actually gay). But credit to my friend, he does the dares and doesn’t half-ass them. But I know he’ll get me one day and it’ll be an incredibly big one. I have to brace myself for when that day comes. Lets’ be fair, I’ll deserve it.

Iron Butterfly is widely know for their one big hit: In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. They’re 17 minute epic that seemingly feels like it never ends, that captures you in and mesmerizes you not only by it’s monstrous size but it’s transcending instrumentals. There’s no denying that this song has a very well-deserved place in rock history (Which also made an appearance in my famous psychedelic music class), which is what made me question the inclusion of this album on this list. Obviously I was familiar with the hit song because… well, who isn’t? The iconic riff and simplistic lyrics have appeared everywhere, including a famous scene in The Simpsons where Bart switches out the organ player’s music with a reworked version of this song called In The Garden of Eden, having everyone sing for the full 17 minutes and causing the organ player to pass out from exhaustion. Funny story, the song was originally supposed to be called In The Garden of Eden, but when coming up with it the main songwriter was so incredibly drunk that he slurred the words coming out with In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. They liked it so much they kept it. It is also the first song to have a long drum solo, this drum solo goes on for an eternity, but is absolutely magnificent in every way. The drums were mostly always there to keep a beat but this song revealed how much more it can do and the band stepped aside to let the drummer have his moment in the light (something that doesn’t happen too often in bands).

What I was getting at was, when I saw the album listed on the… list, I questioned if the album was only here because of their hit song. Did they put it on here just because In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida was such a bit hit and such an epic feat that they just had to include the entire album? I see a lot of albums on this list that are basically just that, an album that included a big hit and must just be on this list because of the hit (But I don’t know until I listen, it’s just speculation). At that point, if the song was that worthy why don’t they just put it on their 1001 Songs list and call it a day? So with this idea starts a new game I want to play called: Big Hit or Worthy Album? Where I see if the album was only included because of it’s big hit or was a worthy album that just happened to be eclipsed by it’s big hit.

What is the case for Iron Butterfly? Was In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida the only reason this album is here or was the rest of the album just as good?

I’m going to give this one a Worthy Album pick. I was pleasantly surprised by Side A and wasn’t sure what to expect as the whole band is mainly known for their one monster hit. I didn’t know if all their songs would sound like that one or they had more to offer. They definitely had more to offer. In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida seems to be a stand alone product as the rest of the album plays more into a hard rock vibe than as psychedelic one and although elements of psychedelic music appear throughout, they never have that acid trip vibe that their hit has. For the most part I do feel the rest of the songs could seem a little underwhelming and come across more straight-forward in terms of Hard Rock, but what really saves them is the singer’s unique vocals and that Organ. That organ is beautiful and comes in with licks and splits and jumps and spurts and adds a unique flavour to otherwise ordinary hard rock songs. Everytime that Organ came in it all made sense to me and put a smile on my face. This albums has definitely become a favourite of mine off the list so far and I plan to search for it in my local vinyl bins (although I saw it for 60 bucks at one store… yikes!!!).

Iron Butterfly were definitely putting their own unique twist on Psychedelic music and fusing it with hard rock was a smart choice on their part. Even though Hendrix was already doing that, the inclusion of their organ sound is what would set them apart and allow them to create an album that although was eclipsed by their big hit is an incredibly memorable one. It would become the biggest selling album of 1969 and become Atlantic Record’s biggest selling album until Led Zeppelin 4 would come around (which I get but… come on, yuck). No easy feat for a sophomore album but definitely worthy.

Song of Choice: Are You Happy

-Bosco

P.S. Do listen to the whole 17 minutes of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, it’ well worth your time.

1001 Albums: Gris-Gris

#122

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Artist: Dr John

Album: Gris-Gris

Year: 1968

Length: 33:12

Genre: New Orleans RnB / Psychedelic Rock

“Walk thru the fire
Fly thru the smoke
See my enemy
At the end of dey rope

Walk on pins and needles
See what they can do
Walk on guilded splinters
King of the Zulu”

It’s been awhile, I advanced by about five more album and never got around to actually sitting and writing these posts… oops. To be fair I’ve had a lot going on in my life, from financial woes to apartment hunting, I’ve had a lot on my plate and this sort of fell to the bottom of my list of priorities.

I also turned 26 last week. Another birthday comes and goes. I’m not crazy about my own birthday, especially since I’m past the age that birthdays feel important. For the past bunch of years my birthdays haven’t been so great and I sort of accepted that this is what my birthdays have now become (and I assume anyone hitting this age feels the same way for the most part (unless you’re one of those people who has like 20 friends who throw you surprise parties and go all out, but you are seriously an exception to the rule)). I found myself looking back in my past year and got really introspective about it. I went through a lot within my 25 years old year and it was possibly my worst year I’ve ever had in my life, for many many reasons. I won’t go into any details, they aren’t important, but the way I see it, that’s life and everyone will experience that one bad year. I don’t feel hopeful (I’ve realised it’s a useless emotion) but I do feel that there will be a calm after the storm. Life has a weird way of balancing itself out, so I do feel things will turn around as the year goes by until my next birthday, which will probably be just as uneventful as always. Joy.

If you found the vibe of my last paragraph to be a bit of a downer than I’m sorry but this album would probably not be for you. This album from start to finish feels bleak and dark, but not in a sad kind of way but in a voodoo kind of way. There’s definitely some creepiness factor playing here and I find it adds so much to the music since it’s giving an already exhausted genre it’s own unique flavour. Unlike most of the psychedelic albums I’ve listened to, Dr. John approaches the genre with his own voice and style and it feels absolutely fresh. It helps that he mixed New Orleans RnB into it to give it that little flavour, but it is very much a psychedelic album as a whole and like I said, the vibe of the whole album is really what sells it for me. If you’re not into that type of grungy villain pub. deep in the woods, wrong part of town, Tom Waits type vibe, than I can see this not being for you at all.

In all fairness, I didn’t really know what to make of this album the first time I heard it (I had already heard Guilded Splinters in my famous psychedelic music class but never really cared much for it). It was only on my second listening that I really discovered how great it actually is (for what it’s trying to do). It really succeeds in giving the listener something they’ve never heard before. It’s odd in the best way possible and absurd in many ways, half of the lyrics just sound like complete gibberish, but I’m sure mean something… maybe… either way that’s besides the point because you don’t listen to this type of music to go in depth of the lyrics, you listen to it to get lost in the experience. And if you give this album a chance you definitely get lost to the vibe of the whole thing.

It should be noted that Dr. John is not a real person and is actually a persona created by the artist Malcolm Rebennack. The creation of the character was heavily influenced by a medicinal and spiritual healer who had the same name as the titular character. Heavily inspired by voodoo, Malcolm wondered what a stage show would look like from a character based off these two ideas and hence Dr. John the Night Tripper was born. I think that was a smart idea because it’s really what holds the whole album together, this persona singing and performing his way through each song. Malcolm originally wanted to find someone else to play the character, but was told by his producer just to do it himself. Good thing he did because his unique deep raspy voice is what turns the album form great to relatively iconic (He may not be well known for the average listener but people who are deep into the genre definitely know who this is (To my knowledge at least… I could be wrong)).

I really do think this album is worth a check out if you haven’t heard it before. Might not be your thing but hey! At least you tried something new and that’s pretty cool… right?

 

Song of Choice: Croker Courtbullion

-Bosco