1001 Albums: Blues Breakers With Eric Clapton

#73

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Artist: John Mayall and the Blues Breakers

Album: Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton

Year: 1966

Length: 37:39

Genre: Blues Rock

“You’ve been mistreated, little girl,
But I swear, I swear it’ll be outgrown.
You’ve been mistreated, little girl,
But I swear, I swear it’ll be outgrown.
I’m gonna give you a love, child,
Something you’ve never known.”

So, I’m basically 95% done with this semester. Have all my exams written and just have to complete one final assignment. Decided to kick it old school and do one of my Green Screen videos again. Haven’t done one in awhile but have been wanting to, so took advantage of this assignment to finally do another. With all that mostly done and new free-time being presented to me, I hope to go back to how I was and try cranking out one post at least every two days. I think it’s fairly do-able at the moment, at least until I hit mid-terms and finals of the next semester.

So… John Mayall and the Blues Breakers. They’re not kidding when they call themselves the Blues Breakers. This is one fine blues rock album. From the very first guitar riff to the final notes, I found myself snapping my fingers and tapping my toes to some upbeat and hard rocking blues music. I am actually willing to debate that the opening notes of the opening track, “All Your Love”, is some of the most iconic and memorable openings of any song (Not the most, that award goes to Van Halen’s “Jump”, but definitely up there). Since I first heard it up to this moment that I am writing about it, it still plays clearly in my head on a constant loop. Anybody familiar with it would recognize that song instantly just from the opening riff. There’s really no low points on this album and it succeeds in keeping you engaged the whole way through. However, I should note that this is mostly thanks to Eric Clapton’s guitar playing and the actual Blues breakers themselves (but to be fair to them, they are very talented and bust their ass to give you some rocking blues).

I can back up what I said. You see, before this album was created it was originally intended to be a Live Album. John Mayall wanted to show off the energy the Blues Breakers had on stage, but specifically, he also wanted to show Eric Clapton’s skills. After a botched recording of their live show, they decided to go into the studio to record an album with the sole purpose of recreating their high energy performances but once again, focusing on Eric Clapton’s guitar playing. Why else do you think Eric Clapton gets special mention in the title of the album? This is more his album than the rest of the band’s and boy does it show. His guitar work is at the forefront of every song and he doesn’t disappoint. If their goal was to show off their energy and his talent, they succeeded tremendously. A particular high is the instrumental track “Hideaway” that just lets Clapton go all out on his own, riffing and playing to his heart’s content. This album would become highly influential mostly due to Eric Clapton’s playing, which would set a standard for the development of rock guitar playing (although we really should credit Chuck Berry for revolutionizing the rock guitar, but he’s not on this list because he was more of a singles guy, so Clapton will take the honor for it for now) and he would become one of rock history’s first Guitar Heroes (around this time graffiti was appearing everywhere on the streets calling Clapton a god).

I have quite a number of friends who actually aren’t crazy about Eric Clapton and think he’s a highly overrated guitar player. I guess I can see why. Listening to it now, he might seem a little dated and in comparison to other guitar legends who would appear on the scene after him, he does sort of pale in comparison. So, I can understand where they’re coming from. Unfortunately for them I think differently and still believe Eric Clapton can hold his own weight in guitar playing even to today’s standards.

As a whole, there are some forgettable (yet really good) songs on the album and I wouldn’t say the album itself is really top 10 material. I mean, without Clapton this album would have probably fallen into obscurity as just another ok blues rock album. (In all fairness I should be giving credit to John Mayall as well for doing solid work). Before coming into this band, Clapton was part of the Yardbirds but had to leave due to creative differences. He felt they were too pop for his tastes and wanted to tackle more blues-inspired music with a mix of hard rock. The meeting of John Mayall and Eric Clapton was a stroke of luck for the two men, who thought identically about what they wanted to do. If it weren’t for that I don’t think this album would even exist as it does. Even though the rest of the band is talented, I feel a lot of it’s success did fall on the shoulders of Eric Clapton who gave it it’s blues-inspired energy and rock infused riffs.

Ok, ok, I’ll stop mentioning that. I realise I’m repeating myself about Clapton and the band, but that’s honestly what I feel about it. So instead of repeating myself once again I’ll leave you with some of my own blues-inspired lyrics:

I got out of bed
had me some lunch
It tasted real bad
So I took a cat nap
lasted three hours
Oh, little girl
I’m sorry I missed your show
But the fact of the matter is
I never wanted to go

*Harmonica blairs, guitar explodes, everyone cries*

Song of Choice: Hideaway

-Bosco

 

1001 Albums: Aftermath

#70

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Artist: The Rolling Stones

Album: Aftermath

Year: 1966

Length: 53:20

Genre: Rock, Pop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Bosco

 

 

1001 Albums: Freak Out!

#69

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Artist: Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention

Album: Freak Out!

Year: 1966

Length: 60:55

Genre: Experimental Rock

“Mr. America, walk on by your schools that do not teach
Mr. America, walk on by the minds that won’t be reached
Mr. america try to hide the emptiness that’s you inside
But once you find that the way you lied
And all the corny tricks you tried
Will not forestall the rising tide of hungry freaks daddy”

After a long delay, I finally decided to crank this one out. I had been pushing it for far too long and figured it’s better late than never. There’s quite a few reasons why but the main one was I really wanted to do this album justice. You see, I really love Frank Zappa, he’s one of my all-time favourite musicians. His album Sheik Yerbouti is in my top 5 and his vast and extensive catalogue remains one I am constantly visiting to discover and re-discover and re-re-discover (because it’s really difficult to remember everything he’s done, the man has like 80 albums spanning the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and even post-humously). There’s a lot I’d love to say about Zappa and honestly you could write full books on every single one of his albums. There’s a whole lot to say and I was really nervous about sitting down and writing it out. In the end, I decided I’ll try to be as concise as possible and just stick to what I feel. If I forget anything, well, there’s still two other Zappa albums to talk about on this list and make sure to mention it there.

So here goes.

Frank Zappa is one of my all-time favourites. Not just one of my favourite musicians but one of my favourite people. He is everything I aspire and hope to be one day and is one of the people I look up to in terms of ideology, attitude, philosophy and politics. He was able to speak his mind and opinions in a cool-mannered and intelligent way, deflecting criticism and rebuttals with wit and a calm demeanour. Nothing phased him as he had the confidence to defend every single one of his controversial opinions, taking down both the right and the left politically. It’s funny how he had an incredibly liberal-minded attitude but still considered himself a conservative. Socially Liberal, but Fiscally Conservative. Believed the country should have social programs if people were willing to pay for them. Would tear down the conservative, traditional attitudes related to religion, misogyny, racism and sticking it to the man, while simultaneously distancing himself from hippies and leftists (who saw him as their revolutionary hero) calling them fascists and being against protests and censorship. If you don’t believe me, he says it himself in the documentary Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in his Own Words, a documentary purely centered around Zappa interviews and live performances. Everything said in that film comes from his own mouth and there’s nothing more satisfying than when he explains how there’s no such things as dirty words. “If you want to tell someone to ‘get fucked’ than ‘get fucked’ are the best words to use”. I always identified with him, but he was a much more confident, intelligent and articulate person, more than I’ll ever be, but I will always look to him as a spiritual mentor of sorts.

He was incredibly perceptive when it came to social observations. He seemed to understand society and people better than anyone else and was able to predict where they were headed as well. Lyrically and musically he was way ahead of his time, with most of his music being incredibly relevant and possibly even more poignant today than it was back in the 60s and 70s and even 80s. Calling Zappa a mad genius is a bit of an understatement and he comes across as your third party philosopher, watching things as they unfold and criticizing what’s going wrong. One could call him the perfect stoner if it weren’t for the fact that he was highly against drug use of any kind (A fact that is shocking to many people, especially if you’ve listened to his music). He would ban his band from doing drugs during tours and practice and thought it was a stupid idea to partake in drugs for artistic enlightenment. If anything Zappa proves that you don’t need to do drugs to reach that level of artistic integrity, just confidence and a slightly warped view on things.

Freak Out, Zappa’s debut, is the perfect introduction to his world. It holds the achievement of being one of the first double-lps and the first debut double lp. It was hugely influential in creating both the Prog Rock genre and Art Rock genre and would be looked to as a source of inspiration for some of the biggest artist’s of the time. The Beatles cite this album as their inspiration for Sargeant Pepper, stating it was their Freak Out. Zappa would call them copy cats and criticise them as “Only being in it for the money”, which would become a title for one of his next albums and a jab at The Beatles. Zappa took extra care with every single one of his songs on every album. He hated the idea of filler and made sure every single song had a point to it. He even cites this album as having a wide demographic, something for everyone between the ages of 6 and 80.  He didn’t take the pressure of producing a hit single and being forced to create an album around it, he made sure every song had something to say and usually had a satirical element to it, making this album one of the first concept albums as well. The themes either centred around social commentary, satirical jabs at puppy love and pop rock or a deconstruction of traditional music (or anti-music if you’d like).

Because of this, I decided to do a track-by-track review (My very first and not my last) of this album. I will try to keep it brief for each song so as not to ramble on, but I am not making any promises.

Here goes:

“Hungry Freaks, Daddy”

I have to say this is not only a great opener on this album but possibly the perfect song to open all of Zappa’s extensive catalogue and musical career. It’s the perfect blend of everything Zappa, from odd, satirical lyrics to unusual sounds. It perfectly mixes his accessible music with his stylistic tunes creating a song that sets the tone for everything that is to come. A Zappa lover will recognize his eccentricities but a newcomer will be intrigued enough by it to keep on listening. Even lyrically it encompasses everything Zappa, with a general satirical look at American society. He doesn’t latch on to anything specific but rather questions how ideal American society really is, mentioning the school system, government and consumerist culture. Who are the Hungry Freaks? Probably Zappa and his band (and like-minded people). The freaks willing to question society and are hungry for the truth. A classic and a good place to start.

“I Ain’t Got No Heart”

The first of Zappa’s anti-love songs. Poking fun at the puppy love themes of most pop rock music that was coming out at the time, this turned it on it’s head. A person questioning fools in love and exclaiming they don’t have a heart to give to a girl who’s pining for their love. It’s interesting to see the other side of this conversation, where most songs talk about the person they want who gave them that feeling of pure love only to have their hearts broken. Zappa deconstructs this idea from the other point-of-view, making claims against their ego (“Why do you think you’re so fine?”) and about their confusion between lust and love. Infatuation can often be confused for love and with this song he laughs at those who proclaim their love from brief moments of ecstasy ( “Why should an embrace or two, Make me such a part of you?”). A cynical look at love from a narrator who was just in it for a quick fling makes for a decent Zappa song.

“Who Are The Brain Police”

Zappa’s art rock sensibilities are starting to shine through with this song. An absurd art piece that rattles the brain (ha!) and mesmerizes you, keeping you in a trance the whole way through. I had difficulty with this song at first, but upon relistening to it a couple of times you start to notice the genius of it all. Lyrically it’s quite a poignant song, asking the question Who are the brain police still sounds incredibly relevant today. With everything happening today with the regressive left and the so-called Social Justice Warriors (a term I hate to use but am using for lack of a better way to talk about it) it isn’t crazy to feel like they’re trying to police our thoughts. It’s taking a page out of George Orwell’s 1984, where people can be imprisoned based on Thoughtcrimes. Zappa was highly against censorship and felt every opinion and thought should be expressed freely and when it comes to the point that we’re being scolded just for our thoughts, it’s practically a dystopian time. Mentions of plastic and chrome in the song refer to the fake fronts everyone puts when out in society, putting on a plastic face as to not offend or keep things in line. But what happens when you go home and the plastic and chrome melts away and you’re back to you’re normal self and thoughts? Who will stop you then? Who are the brain police coming to get you for what you think? What would the brain police think if they only knew what you actually thought? Zappa asks some poignant questions with this one and it’s a question that has yet to be answered.

“Go Cry On Somebody Else’s Shoulder”

Another one of his anti-love songs and this time it’s in the style of doo-wop (a genre he would later explore in more depth in his album Reuben and the Jets). Once again it’s a cynical look at the puppy love he clearly hated with the narrator basically telling an ex to fuck off. His wishes for her to “Go cry on somebody else’s shoulder” reveals the true feelings of someone who just doesn’t give a shit after a relationship turned sour. He’s dealing with none of her bullshit to try and get back together and gets right to the point without beating around the bush. There’s even a nice jab at the shallowness of it all by the end of it, where the person can’t understand why they don’t want to be with them after they’ve revamped their look with consumer products to seem more attractive. the narrator isn’t having any of it and it’s a refreshing look at those typical break-up songs.

“Motherly Love”

It’s about fucking groupies. It’s as simple as that. Through clever wordplay and euphemisms the band tricks the listener into thinking this is just another sweet, love song until you realise the Mother in Motherly Love actually refers to the band (The Mother of Invention). Zappa has said he finds groupies to have sold their souls, but at the same time is totally OK with what they’re doing. As this song says: “Nature’s been good, To this here band”. Once you know the double meaning, the song is pretty straightforward with Zappa calling out for groupies to come get their sweet motherly love.

“How Could I Be Such A Fool”

Another song satirizing the idea of teenage puppy love. In this case, the narrator takes on the position of the one who is heart-broken and questions how could he be so stupid as to be so madly in love when he knew it wasn’t going to last. Zappa criticises young couples and the over the top infatuation they have for each other, giving them the blind belief that they’ll last forever when it rarely ever does (it does, but those are exceptions to the rules). Young love should never be taken seriously and only a fool would be gullible enough to have not seen the end of it coming.

“Wowie Zowie”

Sometimes in order to make fun of something you have to become what it is. Embrace the stupidity in order to reveal it’s truth. Exaggerate certain elements to show it for what it really is. This is the perfect example of this. What Zappa claims to be the song he made for children, Wowie Zowie takes on pop sensibilities and exaggerates it to a annoyingly stupid level with the narrator claiming Wowie Zowie due to their newfound puppy love (There’s that puppy love again that Zappa clearly hated). he openly mocks pop rock by being a corny piece of pop rock. It’s mushy, it’s cringe-worthy, it’s cheesy and gooey and in the hands of Zappa it’s fucking hilarious. Whether you like it because you’re into that mush or love it because you get the joke, it’s one that can be enjoyed by everyone.

“You Didn’t Try To Call Me”

Zappa continues what he did with Wowie Zowie and mocks the love ballads of narrator’s yearning for a lost love and mending a broken heart. What he does so well here is by taking on the role of the broken-hearted he reveals the creepy stalkerish vibe that a lot of these songs tend to have and the whole thing reaks of desperation and is seething in teenage loneliness and horniness. He shows off how pathetic a lot of these musicians sound with their exclamations of how lonely they are without them and how badly they need them, not realising how creepy it actually all sounds. Another gem from this album that continues the satirical look of teenage love pop songs.

“Any Way The Wind Blows”

One of Zappa’s most straight-forward songs and even a little autobiographical. At the time he made this song he was divcorcing his wife and attempting to start a new relationship. That’s essentially what the song is about, ending one relationship to start another. When things turn to shit sometimes the best thing to do is go your own way rather than stay in it. Toxicity is never good and when you can’t fix what’s toxic it’s best to be rid of it. In some ways it’s a rather weak Zappa song, a little void of satire and too straightforward. Zappa even says if he “wasn’t getting divorced, this piece of trivial nonsense would have never been made”. Zappa may hate it but it still stands as a pretty solid piece and making it personal added a personal layer that would not be seen again in his music, which was often more alienating and disconnected from society, while this one connects a little deeper.

“I’m Not Satisfied”

Another brilliant piece of satire, this time from the point of view of an apathetic man. When you’ve come to the point that nothing is satisfying and you just don’t care anymore all you can do is wallow in you’re own misery and pity. The song’s narrator is an incredibly sad person who feels unwanted and alone, but what Zappa does cleverly here is he mocks this person’s attitude of giving up and not trying to make things better without putting down his actual problems. Things get hard, but wallowing in your tub of self-pity is not the way to do it. By taking on the point-of-view of this person, he reveals how self-deprecating it is and how unhelpful it is for someone to constantly put themselves into that vicious cycle. It is tough to see if it’s a genuinely sincere lament of one’s personal and social downfall or a mocking piece of satire. Knowing Zappa it’s probably the latter. He was good at understanding the human condition and revealing the ugly truth found in each and everyone of us. This is probably no exception.

“You’re Probably Wondering Why I’m Here”

Zappa’s battle cry to society. You’re probably wondering why I’m here was probably a common phrase running through Zappa’s mind as he made his way through live shows, baffling and mesmerizing those who just didn’t get what he was doing. He openly mocks the audience’s need to abide by social norms and only enjoy that which is familiar and safe. The minute something new comes along that challenges the norm, it’s always met with confusion and resentment. Remember, Freak Out didn’t achieve commercial or critical success when it came out, mostly due to how strange and absurd the album was. People didn’t get it and didn’t really want to get it and the inclusion of this song basically answers what was going through the audience’s head: If you don’t want to make normal music, why the hell are you here? People don’t like things that are different, especially if they’re having their ideas challenged. This song is basically the band’s reaction to people’s reactions, questioning their beliefs and staring at them with the same confusion they’re receiving, not understanding how they could be so plain and boring, abiding by the social norms.

“Trouble Every Day”

This is the song that got Zappa and his band a record deal. One that was loved so much that they were given carte blanche to produce their album, having unlimited funds (a decision that the label both regrets and doesn’t). They were brought into the studio with the belief that they were another talented blues-based band, not knowing what Zappa was about to unleash on them. This is definitely a stand-out song on the album, not only because it’s a damn good blues-based song but because it hits hard with the social commentary. What’s interesting about this one is Zappa doesn’t rely on satire and humour to get his point across, he says it as it is, directly and honestly. In pure blues fashion it makes for quite a depressing song, not because it’s emotional but because it reveals sad truths of society. The narrator sits and watches the news hoping for something good to happen, but is only met with horrifying story after horrifying story. Society is a bleak place where bad things happen all the time. When he says there’s trouble every day, he doesn’t say it as a way to make a jab at society, but rather believes what he says. It isn’t sarcastic but honest. In his words: “There ain’t no Great Society as it applies to you and me. Our country isn’t free and the law refuses to see, if all that you can ever be is just a lousy janitor, unless your uncle owns a store. You know that five in every four just won’t amount to nothin’ more. Gonna watch the rats go across the floor
and make up songs about being poor” pretty much sums up the feelings of the song and the sad truth that has dawned on the narrator about what society really is.

“Help, I’m A Rock”

This is one hell of a song. A predecessor to what would eventually become prog rock, this song is essentially three different songs melded together to form one long one and it’s a brain teaser. What it means and what it’s about is really up to interpretation, especially since a majority of it is drowned in experimentation and almost non-sensical lyrics that don’t really seem to mean anything. But his exclamations of “Help, I’m a rock” and the lyrics of the final part seem to all add up. It’s the desperate cries of a person who hasn’t made it anywhere. The heavily experimental parts create the atmosphere and mind-set of this person, slightly going crazy and racking their brains over what-ifs and what could have beens if only. A person undecided of what they’d like to be eventually finding themselves being a nothing, another rock lost in the sea of pebbles on the ground, unnoticed and uninteresting. To this person anything would have been great and now they let out their cries of help, anything they can do, just to become a someone or something, just to have someone acknowledge them. No one wants to become a rock. It’s a constant fight for individualism and creating an identity that your worst fear is to become another face in the crowd. Once you realise you are, all you can really exclaim is “Help, I’m a rock!”

“The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet”

If you can survive through the entirety of this song without losing your mind than you’re a strong, strong person. This is the most absurd, highly experimental, brain melting, incredibly artistic piece of art rock anti-music. With a mix of spoken word, weird noises, hypnotic beats, backwards and sped up audio and sound collage with music concrete, this becomes an incredibly difficult piece of music to listen to that can easily alienate anyone who had been enjoying the rest of the album. Believe it or not this is actually an incomplete piece, Zappa wanted to add more to it to make it full but the producer said no. Apparently he was incredibly high on LSD while listening to it, an image that makes Zappa laugh as he could only imagine what the producer was experiencing with this one. In some way sit’s an ode of being yourself and not being afraid to create the art you want and being considered really weird, perfectly done by itself being an incredibly weird piece of music that Zappa knew wouldn’t be enjoyed at all. In some ways it could also be seen as a drugged up experience, not seen through the user but seen through the outsider. As I said before Zappa was against drug use and this seemingly incoherent piece of music could be how he saw people on drugs, yammering on incomprehensibly, repeating the words cream cheese over and over due to some fascination with it or the way they sound. To him, who knows what was going through their minds while under substances, but boy do they sure look stupid. Now, this is purely left to interpretation and with Zappa having passed we may never know what this piece of pure absurdity was really all about, but boy can we enjoy it (or not) for what it is.

There you have it. The king of the counter-counter-culture and his debut album that would go on in history as an exemplary piece of satire and art rock in music. This is a rare treat as Zappa would soon start to experiment with his albums, mixing live performances with redubs over them to polish them up. This is rather unique in his catalogue as it was purely in-studio recordings and was before he would have full control over every aspect of his albums. I don’t think anyone could predict where Zappa would go from here, but being a lover of music with his own unique vision, he would go on to produce some of the most absurd yet amazing pieces of work out there. He’s not for everyone and you either love him or hate him, but there’s no denying, he was one mad genius.

Song of Choice: Hungry Freaks, Daddy

-Bosco

1001 Albums: Midnight Ride

#68

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Artist: Paul Revere and the Raiders

Album: Midnight Ride

Year: 1966

Length: 29:08

Genre: Pop Rock/Garage Rock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Song of Choice: Get It On

-Bosco

1001 Albums: If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears

#67

Album_67_Original

Artist: The Mama’s and the Papa’s

Album: If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears

Year: 1966

Length: 33:42

Genre: Pop Rock/Folk Rock/Sunshine Pop

“Got a feelin’ that you’re playing some game with me babe
Got a feelin’ that you just can’t see
If you’re entertaining any thought that you’re gaining
By causing me all of this pain and making me blue
The joke on you”

I have officially signed a lease and am moving in to my very own apartment within a week. It’s exciting stuff. No more mooching off my cousins, now I will truly be an independent adult. Free to do whatever I want whenever I want (within the limits of the law and my monthly budget). Finally I can see what it feels to be a full-functioning adult… alone with the pressures of the world and society crashing down on me and the burden of the sudden influx in bills to pay. I can’t wait.

So, that’s one thing of my checklist and a weight off my shoulders. Now all I need is a job and I’ll be set for now. It’s surprising how easy yet difficult it has become to get a job. I think I’ve sent my CV to a good 30 places and only heard from roughly two. I keep getting emails that say my application has been viewed… but then hear nothing from that company. Oh well… Isn’t it funny how you’re always told to go to places in person because it shows determination and perseverance but when you do go they tell you to apply online? Getting a lot of mixed signals from everyone. You’re always told to do one thing and then when you do it they tell you another but then you’re supposed to do the first thing because people like that, yet they don’t like it either. What the fuck… no wonder we’re so confused all the time.

I’ll give myself a mental break from that because I have to tell you guys about The Mama’s and the Papa’s. Oh man, these guys. Monday Monday and California Dreamin’ were two songs that were part of my childhood song diary that played on my dad’s music compilations. I used to hear both those songs so many damn times, they’re part of the repertoire of music engraved in my head forever. Not complaining, I actually enjoyed those songs. When I was a kid and was attending day camp during the summer, my group actually performed a dance routine to California Dreamin’ that I got a little to into that it garnered some weird looks from the other kids. Hey, don’t hate cause I love to dance.

I find this album is really a testament of it’s time. A lens into a specific group of people circa 1966. This whole album just reaks of hippie flower-power folk rock that it can turn you off if you’re really not into it. That’s kind of a shame because musically it delivers with particular attention to the harmonies created by the four members of the band, specifically Mama Cass and Michelle Phillips, who, when blended together, create angelic harmonies that can only please your ears.

If you don’t pay attention you might miss some of the lyrical content, which is easy to assume is just your typical love cheese. Being catered for their hippie love, the lyrical content kind of grasps every aspect of the flower power lifestyle: Peace, Love and Promiscuous sex. That’s right, it’s a little shocking what they sing about at times (mostly for the time they came out) that there were nerves when it came to selling the album. Heck, the album cover itself garnered enough controversy and it’s only crime was it featured a toilet on it. Oh no, not a toilet. It’s interesting to see how The Mamas and The Papas are considered a little risque, especially when considered to today. I guess companies were run by very conservative people who didn’t like the idea of sleeping around being thrown out there. God forbid people like sex.

I got to say though, as much as Michelle Phillips is a bomb shell, I wouldn’t be surprised if Mama Cass was the one getting way more action. Her singing voice, with that rare soprano quality, was enough to get any man to cream his pants and I’m sure everyone’s wanted that experience with a BBW. For larger woman, she was definitely a good role model as she proved size and weight didn’t matter and you can still be a banging lady.

mama cass

Don’t lie, you would.

So, this got oddly sexual, but hey can you blame me? That was a big thing for the hippies. The sexual revolution was a big deal and changed how people viewed the act. No longer was it a taboo subject to hush in giggled whispers, they normalised it as a fun thing that everyone enjoys and removed the judgements that came with it. And STDs… that was a big thing to… probably should have used condoms buddies.

Whatever your stance on it, approve or dissaprove, it was still a big part of the 60s and this album is a nice time capsule to that era. From the musical vibes to the themes of the music, it really grabs your hand and takes you back to that time to experience it for yourself.

I’ll end this with something humorous for your viewing pleasure. French and Saunders did a style parody of The Mamas and The Papas on their tv show back in the 90s (early 2000s?) and I think they captured their style almost perfectly. Man, I love these two ladies:

 

Song of Choice: California Dreamin’

-Bosco

 

 

1001 Albums: Face to Face

#66

Album_66_Original

Artist: The Kinks

Album: Face to Face

Year: 1966

Length: 38:32

Genre: Rock Pop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Song of Choice: Dandy

-Bosco

 

 

 

1001 Albums: Fred Neil

#62

Album_62_Original

Artist: Fred Neil

Album: Fred Neil

Year: 1967

Length: 39:09

Genre: Folk Rock

“Everybody’s talkin’ at me
I don’t hear a word they’re sayin’
Only the echoes of my mind

People stoppin’, starin’
I can’t see the faces
Only the shadows of their eyes”

 

From two giants of music to… this… guy. Fred Neil. Fred Neil, man. It’s Fred Neil guys. Fred Fucking Neil. Oh man, It’s Fred Neil. Everybody! Fred Neil! Give it up for Fred Neil everyone. Fred Neil!

Ok, so clearly I have no idea who Fred Neil is. Not my fault, I’m not into folk music, so I’m not aware of the icons of folk or anything. Wait… was this guy even a folk icon at all? I mean… did he even leave an impact in music? My research brings up almost nothing about him. Hell, he went practically unnoticed and wasn’t even a commercial success. His claim to fame is that other, more famous folk musicians covered some of his songs. He barely even toured. I’m so at a loss of what to say here. I might need a little help…

I asked a bunch of my friends what they could tell me about Fred Neil and this is the responses I got:

“Unfortunately not much… American Folk Singer born in 1936… I’m shocked I know that too… I absolutely did wikipedia that information, I honestly know nothing about him”

-Marc

 

“Never heard of him. I just had to Google him to even know who he was”

-Stephy

 

“Fred Neil? I have no clue. Never heard of him before”

-Vishesh

 

“Uhh never heard the name… He is a musician”

-Sandra

 

“Who?”

-Henry

 

“Nada”

-Sean

 

“Personally nothing. I don’t know him… Google him. I have no clue who he is… Tell you what?… I told you I don’t know him… He is old… Are you being silly? I told you I have no clue who he is”

-Mom

 

“Poop Emoji”

-Dad

 

“The one and only!… JK. I have no clue who the fuck that is”

-Graham

 

Fantastic… I received zero help from any of my friends, even the ones who have a vast knowledge of music. It seems like no one has heard of this guy. But he’s on the list… so someone must have heard of him… right? I mean, he must be good otherwise they wouldn’t have included him here, right? RIGHT?!

I’ll be honest, the reason I’m having such difficulty coming up with things to say about him is because this whole review can basically be summed up in three words:

“It’s Folk Rock”

That’s it. That basically sums up the entirety of the album. Whatever you’re thinking folk rock is, this is exactly what it is. Nothing more and nothing less. Just straightforward folk rock. If Bob Dylan was the spirit of Folk Rock than this album is the essence of it. It blends electric with acoustic seamlessly and he sings with a nice, deep voice to keep you listening tot he stories he’s telling. There’s some great harmonica in there and he even whistles rather nicely at one point. But… that’s it. That’s really all there is. He hits every point on the Folk Rock checklist and does it well. There you go. You know the album now. Whatever you’r picturing in your head is probably right on the mark (Unless you’re way off than don’t trust what you’re thinking).

I mean, I could try talking about each individual song, but what is there to really say? The opening song is called The Dolphins because… he fucking loves dolphins. No joke, he spent the later years of his life assisting the preservation of dolphins (Woah! Hey! An actual fun fact!). He just really loves dolphins. I could go on, but seriously, every song just went straight through my ears and I could barely even force myself to form any opinion on it.

But… if I really had to try, I guess I could muster one or two things. Here’s some fun trivia: Remember that song that played constantly throughout the movie Midnight Cowboy? Everybody’s Talkin’? Yeah? No, he didn’t play that version of it, Harry Nilsson did. But Fred was the original songwriter. I knew I recognised that song. The minute it played I had a feeling I had heard it somewhere and the first thing that popped into my head was visions of Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight. But… it didn’t sound the same, so it couldn’t be that. But my instincts were right and… that’s pretty cool, I guess.

Now, if I were to speak of one song, and that’s a big if, I would talk about the last song on the album. Don’t ask me to tell you the name from memory because it’s a beast of a fucking name. A name so absurd that I couldn’t even spell it out, I had to copy paste it. The song is very simply called: Cynicrustpetefredjohn Raga. Dear fucking lord, what kind of a title is that? Why would you ever name you’re song like that? What is this bat shit insanity of a title name? Is it even relevant to the song? NO! It’s not. It’s 8 minutes of pure folk rock instrumental. That’s what it is. And by god it’s one hell of a tune. It’s like Fred decided to just take a 180 with the end of the album and finish it off with a grand finale. Almost like the folk-rock version of a free-form jazz tune. It takes you on a journey that you don’t even expect, with twists and turns around every bend. You end in a place that you didn’t even start in. This song is a big surprise at the end of this album and catches you completely off guard. I am happy for this.

So that was Fred Neil. I hope you learned something today… even if it is wildly underwhelming.

God…

 

Song of Choice: Cynicrustpetefredjohn Raga

-Bosco