1001 Albums: Buffalo Springfield Again

#80

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Artist: Buffalo Springfield

Album: Buffalo Springfield Again

Year: 1967

Length: 34:07

Genre: Folk Rock/Bues Rock

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

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

So without delay, Buffalo Springfield…

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

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

 

There. Happy? now we can move on.

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

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

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

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

Song of Choice: Hung Upside Down

-Bosco

1001 Albums: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

#71

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Artist: Simon and Garfunkel

Album: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme

Year: 1966

Length: 29:14

Genre: Folk Rock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Song of Choice: The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine

-Bosco

 

1001 Albums: If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears

#67

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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: Blonde on Blonde

#64

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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

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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

 

1001 Albums: Highway 61 Revisited

#58

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Artist: Bob Dylan

Album: Highway 61 Revisited

Year: 1965

Length: 51:26

Genre: Rock and Roll/Folk Rock

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

Driving down the highway.

Traffic stops to a crawl.

25 minute drive is now almost an hour long.

No sight of change in the conditions.

Google maps doesn’t have a quicker route.

It’s getting hot in the car.

Air conditioning blasting.

Was a looooong day, fatigue kicking in hard.

Want to get home and lie down now.

Only solace in this time of need: Bobby Dylan.

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

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

One word: Evolution.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Song of Choice: Tombstone Blues

-Bosco