Friday, 4 August 2017
In the past I've criticised The Kinks for releasing albums that haven't aged well. This album is still brillaint though, even after having listened to it for ten years. When I was at university in the mid 2000s I saw Ray Davies live in concert and it was a very enjoyable night-out. I can't recall if I bought this album before or after that night, but it would've been around the same time. This is the Kinks at their best, and I think the lack of singles form the album help.
Favourite Track: Johnny Thunder
When you think of '60s psychedelia, your first thoughts are not towards Scotland are they? Admit it. This probably goes a long way as to explaining why the Scottish branch of this particular kind of hip music is nothing like what we've heard from our Californian and Carnabitian friends.
There was a song early on which is basically the inspiration for ‘The Lumberjack Song’. That was alright. I enjoyed the appearance of Sweep on backing vocals during ‘A Cellular Song’, the one with Bob Dylan style harmonica was pretty good and it wouldn’t surprise me if the Water Song genuinely features a sound-recording of somebody having a bath. I am not sure how to react to ‘Swift as the Wind’ as it seems they recorded it during a medical examination – ‘Open your mouth and say ‘Aaah’.
On a side note, I originally typed 'The Hangman's Beautiful South' on this. That would be an intersting project.
I would like to begin this post by confirming that it is not easy to search for Traffic on Google, unless I want to see what roadworks are on the A14.
From start to finish I was pleasantly suprised by this album. The first song was pretty cool with some nice country-guitar licks, and the final track reminded me of Paul Weller, so it's nice to see where he got his influences from. I'd listen to this again.
Favourite Track: Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring
Wednesday, 2 August 2017
In 1960s UK, there was an established hierarchy in pop-music. The Beatles were the kings of all they surveyed, untouchable and worshiped by most. On the rung below them were The Rolling Stones, led by the twin-talents of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards with support from Brian Jones, Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman.
Just as The Beatles were beginning their downward trajectory, the Rolling Stones were preparing to usurp their northern rivals. Beggars Banquet is the beginning of their golden age and features at least two of their best songs in 'Street Fighting Man' and 'Sympathy For The Devil'
Favourite Track: Street Fighting Man
In the infancy of pop music - as we know it now - there was an almost conveyor-belt release system. An artist could be expected to release at least one album per year, and possibly even two.
So we come to this, The Jimi Hendrix Experience's second album in 1967. The first was released in May 1967, the second in December. Of the two albums, this was the weaker of the two. There are relatively few stand-out songs on the album, and it doesn't seem to have aged as well as the previous release.
Favourite Track: Little Wing
Tuesday, 1 August 2017
Velvet Underground's second album, and their last with founding member John Cale. After poor sales of their first album, their relationship with Andy Warhol deteriorated so they fired him and found themselves working with former Dylan producer, Tom Wilson.
The album is a cacophony of feedback and discordant guitar, spoken-word stories and seventeen minute odes to heroin and fellatio. It's not as good as the first album, but nothing they did ever would be.
Favourite Track: The Gift
I've confessed before that I enjoy country-music. Not when it seems to parody itself, but when it's authentic. This is the second of two recent Country records, and like the previous offering by Merle Haggard, LSD and feedback had yet to reach Nashville. What we have here are twelve very good songs sung by one of Country music's legends and I think I'd be rewarded by repeated listens.
Favourite Track: Saint To a Sinner
Who the hell are the Electric Prunes I hear you say? And you'd be right to. According to sources, they were young band plucked from obscurity in the USA and handed some songs to sing. The title track became the band's signature tune, but there are equally memorable songs on here - 'Onie' is a lush, simple song for example. The problem we have though is that there are too many styles for one album. The band go from psychedelic rockers to novelty songs in less than half an hour. Mind you that's exactly what Cream did.
Favourite Track: Onie
Sunday, 30 July 2017
The Jimi Hendrix Experience were essentially Jimi Hendrix and two British musicians picked up from any old studio in London. Probably. Without Hendrix, they would've had to change their name and would've quickly faded into obscurity. As it is, Hendrix is often considered to be the greatest guitarist ever. Being a brilliant guitarist does not necessarily mean your albums are going to be great though. Luckily this album showcases just why Hendrix is so revered. Like all of these, I'm only listening to the songs that were on the original album and I thought #Are You Experienced?' was a weak finish.
Favourite Track: Foxy Lady
It's been a long time since a country album has cropped up on this list. Like Frank Sinatra before him, Merle Haggard was obviously ploughing his own musical furrow in 1967 whilst everybody else dropped acid. I listened to this album this morning, but although I enjoyed it, it hasn't really stayed with me throughout the rest of the day.
Let's be honest, this album wasn't very good. In fact, out of all the ones I've heard recently, it ranks among the worst. There is nothing redeeming about it except the title track. I was that disappointed with it that I'm not even going to bother writing anymore about it.
Favourite Track: Sunshine Superman
In 1965 The Kinks were banned from touring in the USA because they were all Muslim. This rejection from American influenced Ray Davies's songwriting and he moved on from the harsh-fuzz guitar sounds of the groups early hits (c.f You Really Go Me, All Day and All of the Night) to snapshots of English life (Sunny Afternoon, Dead End Street). Something Else follows on from their previous album, and is bookended by two of the group's best tracks - the homoerotic David Watts, and the beautiful Waterloo Sunset. Unfortunately, like Face to Face however. the album hasn't aged that well and they already seem a long way behind their peers.
Favourite Track: Waterloo Sunset
Label: RCA Victor
The Grace Slick fronted Jefferson Airplane were one the highlights of the Acid scene and Surrealistic Pillow was their best offering.
Favourite Track: White Rabbit.
Looking at the cover for this album, I imagine the Young Rascals to be a manufactured pop-band in the guise of The Monkees. It appears as though they were a semi-succesful band from New Jersey, whose 'Groovin' was a hit in the summer of 1967. It's one of those songs that you don't realise you know until you hear it. It's not the best song on the album though. This is one of those albums that is enjoyable to listen to, but it's rather forgetful also.
Favourite Track: A Girl Like You
Sometimes in history you get a band who are seemingly capable of evolving their sound without losing their appeal - think The Beatles or Radiohead. There have also been occasions where a band has tried to move away from the sound that made them successful and fallen off the cliff. In my opinion, The Byrds fall slightly into the latter category. They are brilliant when it comes to writing folk-rock tunes, but their attempts at psychedelia are not so promising.
Favourite Track: So You Want To Be a Rock n Roll Star
Bath-hater, Jim Morrison and his Los Angeles bandmates The Doors were an American rock band most famous for their cover of Will Young's sumblime single, 'Light My Fire'. On this album, The Doors manage to expand a 3 minute pop ditty into a 7-minute mindgasm. That is nothing compared to 'The End' however. If this was the first time I'd ever heard The Doors, I'd be getting the album tomorrow. As it is. I already own several of the tracks on offering so it'll depend on how much this is.
Favourite Track: Light My Fire
For those music fans in 1967 who liked to follow the lead of the Haight-Ashbury set and see things in technicolour, Frank Sinatra must've seemed an oddity from a bygone era. It has been a long time since I listened to Sinatra, yet here he is sandwiched between the likes of Captain Beefheart, Frank Zappa, the Velvet Underground and Jefferson Airplane with not a drug-reference in site. This album was pleasant enough, without offering anything mind-blowing. Often his voice makes a good song great.
Favourite Track: The Girl from Impenema
Another album I already own, so I didn't feel the need to listen to it again.It's one of my favourites from this period, I can even cope with Nico's vocals on this after slagging them off for her solo offering - 'Chelsea Girls' - The production is rough and raw, but it works.
Favourite Track: Venus in Furs
Saturday, 29 July 2017
The Who Sell Out was the third studio album from the My Generation Hitmakers, and the second of their offerings in this book - 'A Quick One' being deemed unimportant. I vaguely remember being slightly underwhelmed by their debut album and was hoping for something better this time. Luckily, that's exactly what I got (on the first half of the album anyway). Moving away from their RnB roots, the album contains well-written songs, cleverly interspersed with cod-radio jingles. Unfortunately they see to run out of steam towards the end of the album.
Favourite Track: Tattoo
While The Beatles were recording their forgotten masterpiece, Sgt. Pepper another quartet were in one of the adjacent studios laying down takes for what was to become their debut album. Their producer, Norman Smith, had been an engineer on The Beatles earliest songs but had since been promoted. The result of these sessions was 'The Piper at the Gates of Dawn' - named after a chapter in Kenneth Grahame's 'The Wind in the Willows'. That's a book I've never read. I have listened to this album many times though, and whilst it's not my favourite Pink Floyd album, it's not my least favourite either. It's Syd Barrett at his peak and simply because of that, it's worth buying. The only reason I haven't given it 9 or 10 stars is because I'm not too keen on Roger Waters' contribution to the tracklist
Favourite Track: Interstellar Overdrive.
Rock's first 'supergroup', Cream were a trio consisting of lover of toads, Ginger Baker, lover of friend's wives, Eric Clapton, and lover of dairy, Jack Bruce. This was their second album, and arguably the only one of those you'll ever need. I have a best of which I bought in 2005 but I could easily not listen to half of it. The best tracks on this were ones I was already familiar with, such as 'Strange Brew' whilst the worst was definitely 'Mother's Lament' which was a disappointing way to end what was actually a very good album.
Favourite Track: Strange Brew
It seems that no end of 'essential' albums were released in 1967. Continuing the never-ending swim in the waters of the Summer of Love we get to Tim Buckley - father of Jeff. Like his son, Tim was one of rock's young casualties and these are the only two reasons I'm aware of him. I assumed this was going to sound like an older version of 'Grace' but while it does have its similarities, the album is a lot more acoustic than I expected. The vocals are gorgeous, and the songs equally as impressive. However they do have a tendancy to meander.
Favourite Track: No One Can Find The War
Label: RCA Victor
The Monkees were a manufactured pop band, created for a TV show of the same name. Unlike similar concepts however, the prefab four could actually play instruments to varying degrees of ability. Fed-up of being puppets for their producers they decided to branch out on their own for this record. Whilst the band should be applauded for wanting to go it alone, sometimes it's better to stick with a winning formula. There are no 'Daydream Believers' on the album, nor any 'I'm a Believers', In fact the only song I'd heard previously was 'Randy Scouse Git' - which is probably the worst song on the album because you can't suggest 'Zilch' is a song. There are some good songs on the album, but they're outweighed by the naff ones.
Favourite Track: Shades of Gray
Thursday, 27 July 2017
Label: Warner Bros.
Back in the 80s the Pet Shop Boys release a song called 'What Have I Done To Deserve This?' which I can only assume was written about this album. It's called 'Triangle' but it would be much more preferable if there were no sides. I know nothing about the Beau Brummels - which is a terrible name, by the way - and Wikipedia seems to confirm that they didn't even have a hit in the UK.
Moby Grape were another psychedelic group from San Francisco, along with the likes of Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, Bruce Forsyth and Elise Dee and the Acid Pill Dropout Factory etc. In fact, guitarist Skip Spence was the original drummer for Jefferson Airplane before he went on to co-form Moby Grape. Out of all the 'classic' albums from this scene, this is one of those that had completely passed me by. I was expecting it to be similar to some of the recent albums I've heard by other bands who were influenced by chemical substances, but I was pleasantly surprised.
Captain Beefheart is one of those artists who you are expected to like if you are obsessed with music. If you don't understand him, then clearly you don't understand music and all you ever like is paint-by-numbers pop. At least that's the impression I've always had. Anyway, I've bought 'Trout Mask Replica' and it isn't very good. This is slightly better because it's shorter.
Favourite Track: Yellow Brick Road
Wednesday, 26 July 2017
Buffalo Springfield were half of CSN&Y and enjoyed a two-year career in the mid 60s. They only released three albums, but thanks to the work that Stephen Stills and Neil Young (especially) went on to do they are one of those bands whose influence has outlasted their initial success. I found this album a bit hit-and-miss to be honest. Some of the tracks - Expecting to Fly, Sad Memory are beauitful, whereas others - Broken Arrow are just bizarre.
Favourite Song:Sad Memory
Electric Music for the Mind and Body is another album from a band that were entirely unfamiliar to me until I listened to this. I vaguely think the name is one of those 'San Francisco' names that inspired Paul McCartney to come up with Sgt. Pepper. As for the album itself, it was good enough without being too spectacular.
A largely forgotten 'classic', The Beatles tribute to Sgt. James Pepper of the 14th Albion Regiment is a remarkable piece of work - combining everything from brass bands, Indian instruments, hard rock, psychedelia and references to the 1946 General Election manifestos (Getting Better). Paul McCartney is at his peak on this album, both with his songwriting and his bass playing.
Favourite Track: A Day In The Life