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

Album_66_Original

Artist: The Kinks

Album: Face to Face

Year: 1966

Length: 38:32

Genre: Rock Pop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Song of Choice: Dandy

-Bosco

 

 

 

1001 Albums: Pet Sounds

#61

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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

 

1001 Albums: Revolver

#60

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Artist: The Beatles

Album: Revolver

Year: 1966

Length: 34:43

Genre: Pop Rock/Psychedelic Rock

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what does that say about me?

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

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

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

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

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

So what do I think of Revolver?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Song of Choice: Eleanor Rigby

-Bosco

 

 

1001 Albums: A Girl Called Dusty

# 45

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Artist: Dusty Springfield

Album: A Girl Called Dusty

Year: 1964

Length: 32:54

Genre: Blue-Eyed Soul/ Pop

 

 

“If a sea of fire, it was surrounding you
Oh, don’t you know, don’t you know?
I would find a way to get through
Because nothing, nothing, nothing, I said no, not nothing
Nothing in the world’s gonna keep me away from you”

Oh Dusty. Dusty, Dusty, how I yearned to hear you sing. Really but not really at the same time. You see, I already knew of Dusty Springfield’s songs and have heard a few of them. She always came across as a 60s high school sweetheart and I found myself actually enjoying it when she came on the radio (60s on 6, Xm radio, you know it). Needless to say I had a bit of a crush on Dusty. Hard not to. She sings with such a great blend of innocence and sensuality that she’s practically every guy’s dream girl (theoretically of course). If she was much younger, Or I was the age I am now in 1964, I’d probably be in love with her. But I’m 24 in 2017 and she’s dead, so that doesn’t work at all (Unless you’re into that kind of thing… please no).

There was a part of me that was excited to get to this album, but this week another part of me just didn’t really want to do anything. I’ve slowed down a bit, with my blog, with other projects, with productivity in general. Why? Briefly, I’ve hit a down and it’s been hard getting over it. I’ve been having one of those weeks where you walk around like a zombie, doing your day-to-day routine at work, not really being happy but not sad either. You just are. Nothing to it. But as the end of the week was coming near I knew I had to push myself to be productive, even if it was only baby steps. I told myself, It doesn’t matter how I’m feeling, It doesn’t matter if I don’t feel like doing anything, the only way I can fight this is by doing anyway and proving it wrong. That’s what I did and I’m happy I did.

It’s as if Dusty Springfield came up at the perfect time in the context of my life. Right away the first song sang lyrics that said ” Mama Said There will always be days like this”. Wow… how relevant. Yeah, she’s right, I will always have days like this, no point fretting over it. Damn, thanks Dusty. And that song was immediately followed by what I’d like to call a Strong Woman’s Anthem, declaring to the men she’s seeing that she isn’t their object and she’s her own person, so don’t go treating her like she’s a trophy to display and tell her what to do. She ain’t taking shit from you. Damn Dusty, you’re starting this album off strong. I found that particular song to be quite poignant, especially considering the time it came out. In the 1960s the feminist movement was on the rise, woman getting together to fight for their rights and get the equality they both wanted and needed. If anything, Dusty would prove to be a great role model for these woman. Here was a genre of music that was mostly dominated by men and Dusty pushed her way through the crowd and would become one of the first Female rock icons at a time where it was probably laughed at or frowned upon. She didn’t care, she showed off that she could do it to and she tapped into a group of people that hadn’t been yet: the frustrated young adult women. Sure big pop icons like the Beatles and Elvis were being followed and loved by huge groups of women, but Dusty was different. Where they loved the men for being cute and sexy, they loved Dusty for being someone they can look to and say “Hey, that’s me, she gets me”. She wasn’t just Dusty Springfield, she was a representation of all the young adult women who just wanted to do their thing and have fun too. And that’s what Dusty did, as she sings through every song with beauty and a sort of hidden sensuality, she reminds the world of 1964 that women were just as capable as doing what the men were and “You Don’t Own Me” is proof of that. With that one song she was showing that women could stand their ground and be their own without men telling them otherwise. If she wasn’t a role model, she really should have been.

That being said, the power kind of ends there as the rest of the album is mostly just straight forward pop songs and some mo-town influenced music. For the most part, they’re enjoyable but not the most memorable, except possibly the hit Wishin’ and Hopin’, which god damn I can never get out of my head. This song has plagued me since my parents forced me to watch My Best Friend’s Wedding with them when I was a kid. But plagued in a good way, because there’s such an innocence to it that just makes you feel nice inside. But it was stills tuck in my head, which is never fun, no matter what the song.

This doesn’t make the album bad, a little dated maybe, but it seems that most pop albums from the 60s are pretty dated. That’s what I’m learning as I go through each one. But if you think about it, an album full of pop songs was exactly what she needed to do to get noticed. If she had an entire album in vain of “You Don’t Own Me” it probably wouldn’t have made such an impact as the male-dominated sector of music would have tried to hide it in fear of some revolution that needed to happen at the time. She needed the pop hits to get on the charts with everyone else and get noticed. It’s the idea of doing what you need to do to get your name and face out there and once you do, you hit hard with what you want. Classic in the art world. So, the album as a whole may not be the greatest, but it helped Dusty cement herself as a rock icon and showed that even the females could do what the men were doing in rock and pop, singing and dancing and dressing as they did and still being hits.

As a side note, I might have to revisit this album because I don’t know if I listened to the proper version of it. The songs were all the right songs, but as I was listening to it there seemed to be a stylistic change between some of the songs that sounded odd and one of them was in french… which is just wrong. I still got a good gist of the whole thing because it was still all the same songs, but a quick search told me that the remastered version of the album actually has different takes and sounds completely different than the original… well fantastic (Seriously, why do groups do this? It’s incredibly frustrating). So I think I got a blend of both and the french song came from her album of french recordings. Thankfully I understand french so I didn’t miss out on the experience of the song, but I would still like to revisit this album when I find all the songs in their original format to truly experience the whole album.

This doesn’t change anything I’e said though.

Song of Choice: You Don’t Own Me

-Bosco

1001 Albums: With The Beatles

# 35

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Artist: The Beatles

Album: With The Beatles

Year: 1963

Length: 32:24

Genre: Rock Pop / British Invasion

 

 

“She’s got the devil in her heart
No she’s an angel sent to me”

Brace yourself, I’m about to say something completely controversial. I don’t think you the reader are ready for what I have to say. I mean, I’m terrified of saying it because we live in a time where having differing opinions is apparently a bad thing and you can easily get shit on for being in the minority of it. So make sure you’re in complete control here before I say it. are you good? You sure? Ok, here it goes…

I’m not a fan of The Beatles.

Yeah, I know. Horrible. How could I not be a fan of the greeeeeaaatest band to ever walk the earth? Do I not know music? Am I stupid or something? It’s the Beatles how can anyone not love The Beatles just because they’re the freaking Beatles?

It’s absolutely crazy I know, practically blasphemous that I would say such a thing. Me, not a fan of The Beatles. I can already picture people foaming at the mouth for having heard me say that (and believe me I’ve seen it happen to as if The Beatles are completely immune to criticism just because they are The Beatles, give me a break). So before you raise your torches and pitchforks, let me explain.

I am not a fan of The Beatles and it’s not for lack of trying. Believe me I’m very familiar with their music. I know their catalogue. My dad has this large compilation CD of The Beatles he used to play on repeat a lot when I was a kid, so trust me, I am not in the dark when it comes to their music. So you can’t tell me I haven;t given them a chance. Heck just last year I listened to their entire discography from their first album to their last, I’ve heard it all.

I am not a fan of The Beatles, but I don’t dislike them.

Wait, what?! You… but you just said… I… WHAT?!

Yeah, confused you there? That’s right, I don’t dislike them, I do think they’re a fun band and I do find myself singing along to their songs when they come on. I will never actively seek out their songs to listen to, but if they are playing I won’t mind and cans till enjoy them. I think they’re good, but are they best? Probably not. Who is? Well that’s an impossible question to answer, and who knows I might get a bunch of us together and try to answer it, but for now let’s talk Beatles.

Some people might be confused at this point. How is it that controversial that I like them but am not a fan? Big whoop I’m not a fan, right? At least I still respect them and can understand why people are fans. You would think it was that simple. But meet anyone who has jumped hardcore onto the Beatles bandwagon and you’ll see how quickly they get defensive and attack you for simply not being a fan. As if you have two choices, either be a hardcore fan because they can’t comprehend why people have their own tastes and opinions on things or you hate them and you’re an idiot who doesn’t know music. Now, I’d like to believe you reading this are not one of these people and you’re a rational human being who can understand that we may not all disagree on things and can respectively talk about why some of us may or may not like things. If you are, fantastic, I love you. But, these other people exist in the many… let’s hope I haven’t struck a nerve with them.

If ever there’s an album of theirs that pushes me away rather than pulls me closer, it would probably be this one. If it was great in the 60s, then I can safely say it has aged horribly. For people calling The Beatles the greatest band on Earth, I would not suggest showing non-fans this album as a starting point, because it’ll be a major disappointment.

“Really? This is it?”

This album doesn’t have much to offer both musically and lyrically. It’s pure pop rock music that is simple and accessible and for the most part, easy on the ears of the casual listener.

HERESY! I hear you say.

Well, don’t believe me just watch.

(I am not including a pic of Bruno Mars)

Here’s the lyrics to the song that opens the album:

“It won’t be long yeah, yeah, yeah
It won’t be long yeah, yeah, yeah
It won’t be long yeah, till I belong to you
Every night when everybody has fun
Here am I sitting all on my own
It won’t be long yeah, yeah, yeah
It won’t be long yeah, yeah, yeah
It won’t be long yeah, till I belong to you
Since you left me, I’m so alone
Now you’re coming, you’re coming on home
I’ll be good like I know I should
You’re coming home, you’re coming home
Every night the tears come down from my eyes
Every day I’ve done nothing but cry
It won’t be long yeah, yeah, yeah
It won’t be long yeah, yeah, yeah
It won’t be long yeah, till I belong to you
Since you left me, I’m so alone
Now you’re coming, you’re coming on home
I’ll be good like I know I should
You’re coming home, you’re coming home
So every day we’ll be happy I know
Now I know that you won’t leave me no more
It won’t be long yeah, yeah, yeah
It won’t be long yeah, yeah
It won’t be long yeah, till I belong to you, woo”

Brilliant. Truly the words of high-grade poets. I’ll give credit to them though, as their albums went on they definitely improved their song writing and wrote lyrics that actually had some effort put into them. Unfortunately, we’re not on those albums, we’re on this one.

Look at it. It’s incredibly repetitive (which I guess helped getting their songs stuck in people’s heads), way too simplistic (I’m alone because you’re not here… brilliant once again) and honestly, doesn’t really leave a lasting impression as a song. You would think this is an exception to the album, but it isn’t. This perfectly sets up what you’re in for the entire album as each song basically copies this pop lyrical formula of simple themes and repetitive words.

But you have to remember this, at this point The Beatles were still in their early stages, merely a pop sensation that was sweeping the nation. they hadn’t grown into their actual talent yet and were still just trying to make hits to get noticed and appease their large female fan base who probably just wanted to hear the cute boys sing about how much they loved them. It was capitalising on puppy love and I guess they did that very well. It wasn’t time for them to experiment just yet.

Actually, while I’m on the subject, why don’t I make another controversial statement, or in this case more of an observation. This one will probably get more people against me and start using them fighting words. This observation is what has made me understand why I can’t get into the Beatles as much as most people, especially when it comes to their early albums. Are you ready?

I believe that Justin Bieber is the modern day equivalent of The Beatles… to a certain extent.

There you go, I know I’m going to be tarred and feathered for that one. Time to get the mob out and lynch me. But give me a second here. I just made a bold statement here, I at least should be given the chance to explain it.  He is the modern equivalent to The Beatles… to a certain extent. Meaning, there are a lot of similarities between the two, but also few big differences, which I will get into. But first let’s look at the similarities.

-Both had music that hit the top of the charts.

-Both had a legion of screaming fan girls that were completely obsessed with them in a creepy way.

-Both could sell out big venues for their shows.

-Both had simple lyrics with simple ideas of love, girls, loving you, don’t leave me alone, holding hands and yeah, yeah, yeahs.

-Both had stupid haircuts.

-Both can play their own instruments (Justin Bieber can play the drums, piano, guitar and the fucking trumpet).

-Both needed producers to make them sound halfway decent (The Beatles had George Martin to thank, especially for their later sound that people love).

-Both redefined themselves as artists (The Beatles when they went to India and tripped acid and Bieber with his last album, where he tried to show off a more mature side to him. Which believe it or not people accepted as being pretty decent. People I know who hate Bieber actually found themselves saying “It’s not actually not that bad.”)

-Both were apparently nightmares behind the scenes to work with (Bieber goes without saying thanks to the media, but there’s tons of stories of The Beatles being childish and immature behind the scenes and just, overall, difficult people to work with).

So there’s no denying that the two had some pretty large similarities. You might find it hard to accept, but the similarities in a lot of ways are pretty striking. But now for the differences, and this is where I’ll win you back probably.

Other than the obvious one that The Beatles were a whole band that actually wrote their own music, there’s the one big difference that really separates them:

Historically The Beatles made an impact and Bieber didn’t. Years from now people will remember Bieber as this one off pop sensation that came and left and hey that was a thing, while The Beatles made a lasting impression to the point that people still talk about them today, still love them today, are still listening to all their songs and know them by heart.

If their early albums were just some simple pop rock, then why is it they made such an impact? Here’s what I think: They were a product of being in the right place at the right time. The Beatles were big not because they were a pop sensation (although that helped) but because they were also new and fresh. The idea of a boy band wasn’t really known and especially since rock n’ roll was still developing, The Beatles had a sound that sounded completely different than what the American Audiences were used to. Remember, The Beatles playing on the Ed Sullivan show was what opened the door to the British Invasion in the US. People tuned to their TV’s and saw these four cute boys, who were incredibly tight as a band (from already playing together for years) and were laying a style of rock they had never really heard before. People’s ears exploded with glee. Step aside Elvis, these were the guys we needed to hear. And although they weren’t the best (The Who, Rolling Stones, Yardbirds definitely had more artistic integrity than they did), they were the first to reach the American airwaves.

And that’s really what this album is, a product of it’s time, historically a milestone in American music. This was their first album released in the US and already sold over half a million copies before it was even released. Justin Bieber may have sold as much, but he will never go down in history like The Beatles did for the main reason that Bieber wasn’t anything new. The idea of the boy band and pop icon goes way, way back, and although some have managed to make an impact, like Michael Jackson, King of Pop, most have fallen through the cracks (Backstreet Boys and N’Sync, come to mind?). They weren’t really doing anything new, just copying what made their “ancestors” so great and that is why they didn’t leave a mark like The Beatles did.

So, I’ll give you this, you can have their later work as arguments to why they’re so great. You can have your Revolver, Sargeant Pepper, Abbey Road, White Album and Let it Be. But there’s no denying With The Beatles is pure pop rock that is truly a product of it’s time that hasn’t aged well at all. Heck, they’re best songs off this album are covers… so they can’t even be credited for writing those.

But I do have a lot of respect for them, they grew as musicians and artists, really got themselves to a high standard and kept pushing to be better and better, which is an admirable thing. A lot of artists kind of get stuck in the same loop of their own music, but The Beatles tried to do away with their old teeny bopper pop music and grow into more mature sounds and lyrics.

So I may not be a fan, but I can see why they’re as big as they are.

Except this album… god.

Song of Choice: Roll Over Beethoven

-Bosco