1001 Albums: Headquarters

#85

Album_85_Original

Artist: The Monkees

Album: Headquarters

Year: 1967

Length: 31:10

Genre: Pop Rock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Song of Choice: No Time

-Bosco

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1001 Albums: Triangle

#84

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Artist: Beau Brummels

Album: Triangle

Year: 1967

Length: 28:50

Genre: Psychedelic Pop

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Song of Choice: The Keeper of  Time

-Bosco

 

 

 

1001 Albums: Aftermath

#70

Album_70_Original

Artist: The Rolling Stones

Album: Aftermath

Year: 1966

Length: 53:20

Genre: Rock, Pop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Bosco

 

 

1001 Albums: Midnight Ride

#68

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Artist: Paul Revere and the Raiders

Album: Midnight Ride

Year: 1966

Length: 29:08

Genre: Pop Rock/Garage Rock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Song of Choice: Get It On

-Bosco

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: Face to Face

#66

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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: Pet Sounds

#61

Album_61_Original

Artist: The Beach Boys

Album: Pet Sounds

Year: 1966

Length: 35:57

Genre: Pop Rock/Progressive Pop/Psychedelic

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

Wouldn’t it be nice

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Song of Choice: Wouldn’t It Be Nice

-Bosco