1001 Albums: Odessey and Oracle

#131

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Artist: The Zombies

Album: Odessey and Oracle

Year: 1968

Length: 35:18

Genre: Psychedelic Pop / Baroque Pop / Chamber Pop

“Tell it to me slowly (tell you what?)
I really want to know
It’s the time of the season for loving”

This album is the sound of a group giving it their all for one last hurrah before disbanding and moving on to do bigger and better things. I would assume, what those things are I don’t know as my research didn’t go that deep, but I’m hoping they’re doing just fine. (One of them is dead, oops).

Ok, so it’s kind of weird to say they did that when this was only their second album. (They seemed disheartened that their live shows weren’t doing as well as time went on and they were losing traction. I don’t know maybe that has something to do with the fact you didn’t release another album util three years after. Kind of gets boring seeing the same shit for three years.) And, it’s not like they didn’t release any other albums either. Sure, it was about 25 years later, but the band didn’t just disappear forever into the annals of history. Actually, they seemed to do the complete opposite, they seemed to have left an ever-lasting mark specifically as a group that made an album that garnered a major cult following that refused to let this album not be known. No joke, go onto any retrospective/review site and it’s just filled with people hailing this album as some sort of 60s psychedelic/baroque pop masterpiece. Usually any piece of media that’s gathered such a strong niche following will have that attitude from its fans, so it’s not at all surprising to be honest. But is it really a masterpiece?

I’m not the person to say. This is the sound of a group putting in everything they’ve got to create the best work they possibly could. Did they succeed? According to many yes. But when it was first released it basically fell into obscurity really quickly and barely made an impact on sales or reception, garnering very mediocre reviews. The most famous song off the album, which is also one of the most famous songs of the 60s, didn’t even hit the top of the charts until two years after it’s release and long after the band had already disbanded. It happens a lot though that something isn’t well-received when it was first released and only gets recognition years later when someone picks it up and is like “Holy shit, this is pretty damn amazing, what gives, why aren’t more people talking about it?”. And that’s the very basic (and probably butchered) story of Odessey and Oracle in a nutshell.

You saw that correctly by the way. That is not a typo on my part. I know how to spell the word Odyssey. The band apparently did not. They say it was intentional the bad spelling… I think they’re making that up and trying to cover their mistake. Just own up to it dudes, nobody will hate you for it. I think the spelling mistake does add to the album as whole, especially knowing the status this album picked up. It adds to its charm and personality and in some weird, mixed up way, fits with the whole tone of the album. Can’t explain why, but the spelling mistake goes by unnoticed because it just sits so snugly within the aesthetics as whole. Or maybe most of us just don’t really see the word Odyssey spelled out enough in real life that the typo gets past us out of pure ignorance. Either answer is acceptable to me.

Ok, I’m blabbering on about nothing now because I’m struggling to actually talk about this album. I’m currently re-listening to it as I write this out, hoping I’d get inspired to write something more detailed and intricate about it. Unfortunately, I’ve got nothing more than it’s a pretty solid psychedelic album. Compared to most, it has a prettier and more graceful sound that evokes feelings of autumn and breezes. It’s a chilled out version of the acid trips we’ve become accustomed too. A relaxed vibe rather than a psychotic hallucination. What really stands out to me though is the passion and heart that went into making this album. Sometimes you can really feel the energy and work that an artist or group has put into their work permeate through it and this is a great example of that. Even if this isn’t your type of album (it’s not really mine) you still feel that strong sense that the band has a deep love for every note they’re playing and that feeling comes through. You can’t help but admire just how much soul they really put into it all and I think at the end of the day that’s really why after all these years it managed to get such a big cult following. Fans recognized that vibe and clung to it, feeling what The Zombies felt as they created what would become their most seminal piece of work. Even if this music ended up being crap, the same effect would occur because you can sense how much they were putting into creating one final grand… finale to their career.

Luckily for them the music they did create was not only great but very lovely. Almost like psychedelic music for my dad and his romantic sensibilities. I think my dad would love this album if he put down The Beatles greatest hits for one second. Either way, it’s an easy-listening psych album that people have given the status of masterpiece. I don’t see the masterpiece part, I, personally, didn’t engage with it nearly as much as the fans did, but I do see a piece of art that was given a lot of love in it’s creation and I will recognize that for what it is.

Song of Choice: Time of the Season

-Bosco

 

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1001 Albums: Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake

#126

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Artist: Small Faces

Album: Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake

Year: 1968

Length: 38:27

Genre: Psychedelic Rock

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

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

*Sings Along*

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

Guitar plays for a short amount of time.

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

Guitar riff plays again

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

Laaaaaazy Sundaayy Afternooooon. Clooose my eyes and drift awayyyy”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can and I will.

Song of Choice: Lazy Sunday Afternoon

-Bosco

 

 

1001 Albums: S.F. Sorrow

#124

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Artist: The Pretty Things

Album: S.F. Sorrow

Year: 1968

Length: 40:59

Genre: Psychedelic Pop / Rock Opera

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

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

I’m frustrated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Song of Choice: Balloon Burning

-Bosco

 

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

#123

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Artist: Iron Butterfly

Album: In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida

Year: 1968

Length: 36:15

Genre: Acid Rock / Hard Rock / Psychedelic Rock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Song of Choice: Are You Happy

-Bosco

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

1001 Albums: Gris-Gris

#122

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Artist: Dr John

Album: Gris-Gris

Year: 1968

Length: 33:12

Genre: New Orleans RnB / Psychedelic Rock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Song of Choice: Croker Courtbullion

-Bosco

 

 

1001 Albums: The Notorious Byrd Brothers

#119

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Artist: The Byrds

Album: The Notorious Byrd Brothers

Year: 1968

Length: 28: 28

Genre: Psychedelic/ Folk / Country Rock

“No I’d rather go and journey
Where the diamond crescent’s glowing
And run across the valley
Beneath the sacred mountain
And wander through the forest
Where the trees have leaves of prisms
And break the light in colors
That no one know the names of”

It’s a plane! It’s Superman! It’s a Lead Zeppelin! No, It’s The BYRDS!!!! Again. It’s one of the few bands that I always sort of anticipate will show up once again in my playlist but I always sort of forget about at the same time. I’m actually quite surprised at how extensive their catalogue is having only known their early sixties hippie-dippie sounding tunes and never knew they had this sort of impact and growth and evolution within the music world. If you asked me if I ever thought The Byrds would be considered a band that left a mark on history I probably would have said no. But I didn’t know any better at the time having known absolutely nothing about The Byrds. Discovering their evolution has been quite the journey and that journey isn’t done yet with at least one more album to come on this list.

Ok, so what can I say about this album? According to reviews this is considered their greatest piece of work, their debatable masterpiece, the album that would leave the biggest legacy for them. It was The Byrds at their most experimental, utilizing all sorts of studio techniques and psychedelic cliches to their best. This was also their transitional album into their eventual Country Rock days but was used very subtly here with a nice blend of genres from psychedelic, folk, baroque pop and jazz. They were at the height of their songwriting bringing in everything they had t create a massively cohesive album with nary a bad moment. All this despite the many issues they had behind the scenes, from tension with David Crosby, who would be fired halfway through the session, and their drummer leaving as well. Gene Clark would return but it is uncertain what he actually provided for the album in terms of songwriting. All these issues and they still managed to release what’s considered their greatest album of all time (and sometimes even appears on top 100 albums lists).

If this is the case, then why was it so forgettable for me? No joke, I can’t remember anything of this album. it’s as if once it was completed my mind just swiped the memory of this album away form me completely. I remember the style that played throughout and the vibe I got form it for the most part, but it’s just a vague idea of the thing as a whole and I can’t go into specifics at all. Nothing from this album stuck with me in any way, shape or form. There were even times when I’d check the playlist and notice I had missed a song completely, not even knowing I had listened to it. I had to go back several time to relisten to songs to make sure Spotify didn’t just skip it, which is how I felt it was. Maybe the songs just blended in together a little too much (which is a credit to the album’s cohesiveness I guess), but I just can’t tell you about any songs in particular because I honestly don’t remember any of it.

Maybe this will go into the pile of albums I’ll revisit one day because if it really is considered their greatest work then there’s got to be something there I obviously missed (which seems to be the whole thing). Almost as if it sort of passed by me and I didn’t even notice it go. I find it such an interesting phenomenon how some albums can stick with us and others just don’t. Especially when it’s a highly valued album, you’d figure it would stick with you in some way or another, but this one just didn’t at all and I have no idea why.

That being said, there’s not much else I can really say about it. Took me doing extensive research to get to know anything about this album so I could at least talk about something related to it, but I’ve reached my capacity to say anything about it. Sorry to disappoint but sometimes that’s how it is and with 1001 albums on this list I’m bound to hit a ton that just don’t resonate with me in one way or another and I have nothing to say about. Can’t like everything and can’t connect with everything. That’s the sad truth. I really do try to at least have something to say about every album I listen to and try my best to form an opinion of sorts and to go into it a little, but I’ll have to face the facts that sometimes I just can’t do it and will be faced with an album that I just have nothing to say about. I do feel bad because it is The Byrds and I was getting into their evolution as a whole and even though I recognised it as I was listening to it and felt “man this isn’t The Byrds we started with, cool, good for them” that was as far as my feelings went for it. Hopefully I’ll have more to say for their next one which is full-on Country Rock, so there’s a good chance I might.

Also, I love how there’s a horse in that fourth window on the cover. Gives me the impression that a horse was part of the band and played on this album. Don’t know about you, but the image of a horse in a recording studio playing an instrument makes me giggle.

Song of Choice: Old John Robertson

-Bosco

 

1001 Albums: Electric Ladyland

#113

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Artist: The Jimi Hendrix Experience

Album: Electric Ladyland

Year: 1968

Length: 75:47

Genre: Psychedelic Rock / Hard Rock / Blues Rock

“Well, I make love to you
And Lord knows you’ll feel no pain
Say, I make love to you in your sleep
And Lord knows you felt no pain
(Have mercy)
Because I’m a million miles away
And at the same time I’m right here in your picture frame
(Yeah! What did I say now?)”

Here we are. Back to Jimi Hendrix. That would be three Jimi Hendrix albums in the span of roughly 13 album, they come at you quickly. It would also be the third and final album of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, marking this one as the final in a trilogy of sorts. And just like any finale, it’s bigger, bolder and more monstrous than it’s predecessors. It hits you in the head and knocks you out. A grand slam of finales. An explosion of music and fireworks to mark the end of a legacy that will live on forever.

If you hadn’t guessed by my last paragraph there, I really liked Electric Ladyland. I felt they had stepped it up from what I felt was a rather meh second album that I just didn’t engage with and went back to their first album with some hard rocking riffs, his famous guitar sound and some added layers to add that extra oomph the two other albums were missing. Clocking in at almost 76 minutes, which I was shocked to find out because it honestly did not feel that long and I felt like I zoomed through the album (which just proves how it sucks you in very well), it is quite the impressive musical feat. Jimi Hendrix would be both producer and director on this album for the first time having complete control and the album really shows off his perfectionist attitude to perfection as everything here sounds like it was meticulously crafted from start to finish. He was also notorious for doing multiple takes until they got it absolutely right and it really paid off here.

I’ll be honest, the first two songs made me nervous. They gave me flashbacks to Axis: Bold As Love and I was worried I’d have the same exact experience from that one. But once Crosstown Traffic hit, my attitude changed and I’m happy to say the rest of the album was really one hell of a great experience from there (one would even say it was a… Jimi Hendrix… Experience… HAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA……ha). Voodoo Chile, which I always thought was called voodoo child and I kept reading it as Voodoo Chili (which to me sound deliciously spicy), is the longest song and despite going on and on it rocks hard enough to keep you going for it’s entire 15 minute length of time. And oh! Did you know Steve Winwood, my very own personal firetruck, has a guest appearance on it as the organ player? In fact, a ton of musicians had guest appearances on this album. It was said that the studio would end up so crowded with all these guests that it felt more like a party than a recording session. It would get so crowded that it was hard to move around. I don’t know about you but a bunch of top notch musicians creating some great music together sounds like one hell of a party to me. Sign me up anyday.

Electric Ladyland is also part of the ever growing list of albums that had controversial covers. I’m not talking about the one you see up there, which is completely harmless as far as covers go (unless you’re really disturbed by the fact he’s red and yellow and that doesn’t look like people! OH MY GOD!) but I’m talking about THE cover that had record stores ban this album or even sell it inside out as not to disturb the young, innocent eyes of everyone who enters. If you’re familiar with it than you know what I’m talking about. The famous nude women cover that look like this:

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To be honest, this one at least makes more sense than the album covers that were considered controversial because they had a picture of a toilet on it. God forbid we see a god damn toilet. Apparently, Jimi Hendrix hated this cover and wanted it to be something completely different (he also hated the cover for Axis: Bold as Love but realistically he’s also a perfectionist so he was probably never happy anyway). This is nowhere as near to being like the famous Penis Landscape controversy from the Dead Kennedy’s album Frankenchrist, but I can easily see people having a hard time dealing with a cover like this back in 1968. Times are defintiely different now. Although it’s debatable if as a society we’ve become more prudish or desensitised to this kind of imagery, especially if it was sold out in the open, but with an argument for it being “art” who knows. I am curious to know what would have occurred if this came out in 2018 with this cover and what debates and conversations it would spark. But that’s not for me to start, just to wonder.

What else can be said of this behemoth of a double rock LP that hasn’t already been said? I can’t really personally add anything new to the table but I will share that it was a fantastic album that I thoroughly enjoyed and was happy that My Jimi Hendrix Experience (teehee) ended on this high note. If I had listened to the albums like I used to (meaning one a day) I probably could have sense a bigger journey form their first to here. Heck, I could always just listen to all three back to back and who knows, maybe Axis: Bold as Love will finally make sense to me. I really do feel there is a story to be told musically by listening to all three back-to-back, especially as you watch the evolution and growth of the band through each one. One day I might just do that, but for now I’ll leave with the happy memory that was me enjoying this four-sided beast of an album.

Song of Choice: Crosstown Traffic

-Bosco