1001 Albums: Midnight Ride

#68

Album_68_Original.jpg

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

1001 Albums: Black Monk Time

#65

Album_65_Original

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

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

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

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