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Last updated: January 4th, 2017

NOTE: This page is under construction, so some older reviews might appear different from the newest ones. Some changes may also affect the layout of artist pages, and some links may not work.

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds

Year: 1966
Record Rating = 10
Overall Rating = 14

Best Song: GOD ONLY KNOWS

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Tonight, we'll be reviewing the Beach Boys' 1966 LP Pet Sounds, and by we, I do of course mean me, but you may read the review and – should you feel the need – comment on some insights I may have missed out on or bash the living daylights out of me for whatever I might say about your favorite album that you disagree with entirely (or on the contrary, lambast me for praising this "overrated heap of steaming garbage"). There isn't a doubt in my mind that this will be a troubling review for me to write; I'd hate to become victim of clichés, but it's no lie when people say it's difficult to put thoughts, emotions and opinions on this album. Usually, someone will comment on the atmosphere, the arrangements both vocal and musical, and whether they're in the "this is the greatest album of all time" camp or the "this is overrated rubbish" one.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Stevie Wonder – Up-Tight

Year: 1966
Record Rating = 7
Overall Rating = 11

Best Song: BLOWIN' IN THE WIND or UPTIGHT (EVERYTHING'S ALRIGHT)

Well this is a surprising change, and for the better. Perhaps I just got tired of putting down early Stevie Wonder albums, or, a more probable theory is that, during the interim where Wonder went album-less, the boys down at Motown finally figured out the intelligent thing to do with their youngest performer. With increased success in their labels' 1965 releases alone – Martha and the Vandellas' "Dancing in the Street", Smokey Robinson & the Miracles' "Going to a Go-Go", "Tracks of My Tears" and "Ooh Baby Baby", the Supremes' "Stop! In the Name of Love", the Temptations' "Since I Lost My Baby", the Four Tops' "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)", I don't really need to go on – it became clear that the distinctive Motown sound was the way to go, so the songs, some co-written by Stevie himself, are tailor-made to suit him and the style.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Rolling Stones – Aftermath

Year: 1966
Record Rating = 9
Overall Rating = 14

Best Song: UNDER MY THUMB or OUT OF TIME

Perhaps due to the success of their original singles like "The Last Time", "Satisfaction" and "Get Off My Cloud", the Rolling Stones decided to record an album consisting of a majority of their own compositions, although in the end the two covers from the sessions (Smokey Robinson's "My Girl" and Otis Redding's "I've Been Loving You Too Long") were abandoned. It was a wise choice, indeed, but I'm sure they didn't need to be forced into it. They could see that all those that relied on covers like Manfred Mann and the Animals were slowly becoming obsolete, while those writing their own songs (i.e. the Beatles) were dominating the charts and impressing the critics.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Beatles – Turn! Turn! Turn!

Year: 1965
Record Rating = 8
Overall Rating = 12

Best Song: TURN! TURN! TURN! or THE WORLD TURNS ALL AROUND HER

The Byrds were BIG: with the success of "Mr. Tambourine Man" and the album of the same name, they began to influence not only the creation of new folk-based pop groups or regular pop groups shifting to this new genre, like Lovin' Spoonful, the Turtles (who, believe it or not, were actually a garage-surf band initially), and Sonny & Cher, but they even influenced pop's Liverpool-born kings – do I need to tell you their name? – enough so that the Byrds were lucky enough to receive advanced copies of their album containing the song particularly Byrds-ish in nature. Basically, things started out pretty great for the band who misspelled the most recognizable avian race.

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Who – My Generation

Year: 1965
Record Rating = 9
Overall Rating = 14

Best Song: MY GENERATION

By the time the Who had begun to record what they hoped would be their first album, they had already released two singles that pretty much lit the fuse on a music revolution all on their own. "I Can't Explain" was an "introduction to the charts", as Pete humbly yet derisively put it, intentionally written in the style of the Kinks' "You Really Got Me" yet would acquire a very different intended audience. "Anyway Anyhow Anywhere" brought in the band's experimental live sound into the studio, and slapped a suitably daring and free title. Basically, a storm was a-brewing within this band's creative centers, and it was about time they let it all out, to put it somewhat crudely.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Beatles – Rubber Soul

Year: 1965
Record Rating = 10
Overall Rating = 15

Best Song: NOWHERE MAN

As a general rule, it's either from this album or the next album until their final album (not including Let It Be, which is closer to a commemorative foot note, albeit a musically satisfactory one) that it becomes quite difficult to say exactly which album is the Beatles' very best. I could easily argue that this fits the bill just right: on an objective level, it's defendable that it contains maturely written pop music with a growing interest in more actual topics, it's diverse in instrumentation, experimental, and so on. In fact, sometimes I wonder if this is my favorite Beatles album. It was the first album that truly converted me into a Beatles fan, that's for sure. Before that, I was the type that only liked them for their early hits (and a rare type that is indeed).

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Kinks – The Kink Kontroversy

Year: 1965
Record Rating = 6
Overall Rating = 11

Best Song: WHERE HAVE ALL THE GOOD TIMES GONE?

Well this is a little bit different from the first two Kinks albums; it manages, for the most part, to rise above good… to reach as high as very good. Not only that, there are no crappy covers of "Beautiful Delilah" or "Naggin' Woman" nor crappy rewrites of "Can I Get a Witness?" anywhere in sight. As a matter of fact, there's almost no covers at all – with just one, albeit very important, exception – as the material is either penned by Ray (10 of the 11 originals) or Dave (the remaining one), and some of them show a surprising amount of development.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Beach Boys – Beach Boys' Party!

Year: 1965
Record Rating = 6
Overall Rating = 10

Best Song: BARBARA ANN

Who's ready to party?! Well, we can't get you to a real party, but what we can do is give you a spin of this here record, oh so generously entitled Beach Boys' Party! See, with Brian's latest masterpiece (I don't know if it was called Pet Sounds yet) still in the works, and the Christmas season approaching, Capitol Records needed something to fill that niche and, consequently, fill their pockets. A live album wasn't an option – what with Bruce subbing for Brian on the big stage – and no way were the tracks for the new album to be sacrificed nor was there another Summer Days lurking inside Wilson's mind. That's when Brian had the crazy idea of hosting a party: a Beach Boy's party, that is, which is a simulated event where the band would record songs in stripped arrangements with a fake audience to make it sound like they invited their friends.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Rolling Stones – Out of Our Heads

Year: 1965
Record Rating = 7
Overall Rating = 12

Best Song: HEART OF STONE

Hmm… well I don't think this title is too accurate. Then again, I'm comparing it to their first two LPs and their two EPs, and they're by-the-book explanatory, the LPs and the first EP being self-titled and/or numbered and the second EP going by the number of tracks it has by the number of Stones who play it (although, in all honesty, it should be Five by Six… don't Ian Stewart's contributions count for anything?) Even on the cover, the boys seem surprisingly calm, although a rather intense calm. Maybe that's where the title stems from: they're just holding back until they're gonna beat your ass.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited

Year: 1965
Record Rating = 10
Overall Rating = 15

Best Song: LIKE A ROLLING STONE (but they all qualify!)

In case Bob's most ardent folkies had even the slightest glimmer of hope that their talented, yet defiant prodigy would one day return to his acoustic splendour – a hope perhaps brought on by the strength of the acoustic material on his first "electrified" album, though perhaps not given their surreal word choices – then it became pretty clear from the first few seconds that this album wanted nothing to do with pleasing them. While Bringing It All Back Home could be called a treading of waters, this album is a headfirst dive in a sea filled with garage guitars, layers of organs and pianos, and a thumping, jumping rhythm section. And in the mean time, Bob's lyrics are even more eclectic, imaginative, diverse (in humour, meaning and word choice), basically anything that would distinguish his poetry from that of a generic protest-anthem churner. In other words, it's a thinking rock fan's paradise.

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Beatles – Help!

by the Beatles
Overall Rating =
13

Best Song: HELP! or YESTERDAY

This album is a bit of a mystery to me. It came out a time when everyone was revolutionizing music: Bob Dylan with his latest LP and the Byrds with their first were busy officiating the marriage of folk and rock, the Rolling Stones were starting to pen their own innovative rock singles, making the whole yin-yang duality with the Beatles far more believable, and the Beach Boys made their first coherent album that basically turned rock/pop into art. For the first time, the concurrent Beatles' album ends up being the least cutting-edge amongst its peers (its peers no longer including the likes of Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, you understand), and that can't help but slightly hinder my opinion of the album.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Moody Blues – The Magnificent Moodies

Year: 1965
Record Rating = 6
Overall Rating = 10

Best Song: GO NOW… or FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART (I LOVE YOU) among the bonus tracks

If you know the Moody Blues for "Nights in White Satin" or "Tuesday Afternoon", you're not wrong (as those songs are definite highlights of their career), but before they became one of the pioneering art rock bands, they were actually a blue-eyed soul band. Yes, at a time when the Beatles were moving on from "She Loves You" to "Ticket to Ride" and the Rolling Stones from Chuck Berry covers to "Satisfaction", these guys were still giving it their all to covers of soul, R&B, jazz and blues singers. True, they weren't the only group to still be doing that in 1965: it was still the majority of the Animals' material at the time, even if powerful anthems like "We've Gotta Get Out of This Place" stood besides them.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Beach Boys – Summer Days (and Summer Nights!!)

Year: 1965
Record Rating = 9
Overall Rating = 13

Best Song: CALIFORNIA GIRLS

Ah nostalgia. It's a wonderful little thing, isn't it? Usually, it doesn't affect people until a sizable amount of time has passed, but lo and behold, the Beach Boys made their first nostalgic album – one that recalls their love of the beach, the surf (not explicitly on this LP, though), the sun, the summer, the fun and the girls – not in 1976, not in 1969, but in 1965! Before you Mike Love haters begin your rant, let me remind you that he was on Brian's side for artistic progress when Today! rolled around, and that it was Capitol Records who, upon holding a meeting with Wilson on his intentions with the Beach Boys name, determined that artistry and popularity don't mix, so Wilson must make an album chock-full of songs recalling their past glories with "Surfin' USA", "I Get Around" and "Don't Worry Baby".

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Byrds – Mr. Tambourine Man

Year: 1965
Record Rating = 9
Overall Rating = 13

Best Song: MR. TAMBOURINE MAN or IT'S NO USE

By the time 1965 rolled around, folk rock as a genre was imminent. In 1963, little known British Invasion group the Searchers helped pioneer the electric 12-string guitar jangle, which the Beatles popularized the following year. Meanwhile, the influence of folk singer-songwriters like Pete Seeger (on the Searchers, who covered "Where Have all the Flowers Gone?") and Bob Dylan (on the Beatles, especially John Lennon; on the Kinks, who started to betray signs of it early-mid '65 as well) on pop groups was growing. In mid-1964, the Animals broke big with their electrified take of the British-originated American folk standard "The House of the Rising Sun". The final straw that broke the camel's back was when Bob Dylan himself – granted, whose credibility with the more conservative-minded members of the Greenwich Village-bred folk spokesperson elite was waning – released an LP where the entire first side was played with a quickly assembled garage-rock combo.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Bob Dylan – Bringing It All Back Home

Year: 1965
Record Rating = 10
Overall Rating = 15

Best Song: IT'S ALRIGHT, MA (I'M ONLY BLEEDING)

Plug in your six-strings, folks, and tighten up your drums, our good friend Robert Zimmerman has gone electric! Yes indeed, the first side of his first 1965 LP is recorded with a garage-rock combo, with two pop-rock ballads – paired with a rhythm section and more decorative electric guitars rather than lambasting ones – in between for a bit of diversity. This is only a treading of waters, so to speak, since the second side has four acoustic songs, though purportedly the stylistic switch was intentional and in the end, beneficial: these four songs turn out to be the very peak of his acoustic years, and completely electrifying them might have taken away from some of the impact.

Friday, January 09, 2015

The Beach Boys – The Beach Boys Today!

Year: 1965
Record Rating = 9
Overall Rating = 13

Best Song: PLEASE LET ME WONDER

It's undeniable that, from 1962 to 1964, the Beach Boys made some pretty great music; take a selection of their early hits, some album cuts ("In My Room", for example) and All Summer Long, the LP that pretty much summarized all of the great aspects (and maybe a few lesser ones) of their early career, and their greatness becomes pretty clear. Unfortunately for them, they needed to be overworked to achieve this, which is why Mike Love ended up divorced after only three years and Brian Wilson suffered from an anxiety attack only days before the 1964 Holiday season. Usually, circumstances such as these have two possible consequences: 1) their emotional turmoil could lead them into making unwise career choices (somewhat unlikely at this age, but it happened more than a few times for artists in the '50s and earlier) or; 2) they could make a mature, perhaps even emotional masterpiece.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

The Kinks – Kinda Kinks

by the Kinks
Overall Rating =
12

Best Song: SOMETHING BETTER BEGINNING (or SEE MY FRIENDS among the bonus tracks)

Whether they wanted it to be or not, the Kinks' sophomore effort is quite an improvement over their debut, even without the support of Jimmy Page and Jon Lord (who then again, weren't that big a help, now were they?). For the most part, the covers are gone, with only two remaining. Nine of the remaining songs are Ray Davies-penned, and the tenth is co-written by Dave, and since the originals before at worst showed potential and at best were highly innovative, an improvement seems like a fair possibility. Of course, with more originals to write, this could have been a burden that could lead to a sacrifice in quality, but with the gift of retrospect, it turns out that yes indeed, a young Ray before his peak could pen a decent tune if he really wanted to, and in early 1965 he sure did.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

The Rolling Stones – The Rolling Stones No. 2

Year: 1965
Record Rating = 8
Overall Rating = 13

Best Song: DOWN HOME GIRL

The seemingly lazy title aside (of course, there are plenty of other album titles that could be accused of worse, ranging from the first four Peter Gabriel albums to any untitled albums, whether for artistic effect or not), this LP is a definite improvement over their debut, albeit not a major one. If you ask me, though, this is not only where the Rolling Stones completely mastered their early blues-rock game (this and surrounding singles like "Little Red Rooster"), but also where the Rolling Stones truly begin. Much as I adore their 1964 recordings, the only classics that managed to last were the non-album singles "Not Fade Away" and "It's All Over Now", whereas 1965 was the year of "The Last Time", "Heart of Stone" and "Satisfaction", among others. Granted, none of those songs appear here either, but their mastery of others' songs here just shows that they're ready to conquer the songwriter world next. So, even if it's far from the most innovative Stones album, it's easily the quintessential early Stones recording.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

The Beatles – Beatles for Sale

Year: 1964
Record Rating = 8
Overall Rating = 13

Best Song: WHAT YOU'RE DOING

The Beatles were tired, that much is sure. Just look at the title: like men in a mid-life crisis, they mock their musical prostitution, criticizing the fact that they are commercial puppets. Even more telling is the cover, where it looks like the photographer broke into their homes, dressed them up, drove them to Hyde Park, propped them up, yelled "wake up", and when they all opened their eyes (with only Ringo seeming completely awake, but extremely pissed off about it too), took the shot and called it a day. Or, if you're one of those "don't judge a book/album/movie/etc. by its cover" types, than perhaps the biggest hint that the album was a retread of sorts is that they return to the 8 originals/6 covers format of their 1963 records.

Monday, January 05, 2015

The Beach Boys – The Beach Boys' Christmas Album

Year: 1964
Record Rating = 5
Overall Rating = 9

Best Song: MERRY CHRISTMAS, BABY

Hey everybody! Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas or whatever! I know I'm publishing this review nearly two weeks after the actual day, but I wrote it a week before, so technically it all balances out. Now, if you haven't been annoyed by the overly excited punctuation and the repetitive italicization, prepare yourselves for a review of the Beach Boys' Christmas album, a little record called The Beach Boys' Christmas Album (possibly the most inventive Christmas title this side of Bing Crosby's Merry Christmas). Okay, now that my second double-espresso has worn off, I can actually get to reviewing this damn thing. As a rule, I'm not the biggest fan of Christmas albums. In 90% of cases, they rely way to heavily on tunes we've all heard a million times, all sung the same way, with the same intonations and same chords. I'd honestly rather take Der Bingle's original "White Christmas" than any cover (of course, I've surprisingly haven't heard it as many times as most people end up hearing it during the holidays).

Friday, January 02, 2015

The Beach Boys – Beach Boys Concert

Year: 1964
Record Rating = 6
Overall Rating = 10

Best Song: PAPA-OOM-MOW-MOW

Good Lord! I can't believe the record execs down at Capitol almost let three months go without a brand new Beach Boys album. Not to worry, they were smart lads down there, so they knew very well how to churn out a marking-time album. Instead of another car compilation like Little Deuce Coupe or a ridiculous amount of instrumentals like on Surfin' USA, they figured a live album would do the trick. The move wasn't nearly as dishonest as it might seem: some of the performances were actually recorded a year earlier, and it came out at a time when Brian would no longer be a constant in their touring unit. If you ignore the fact that "Fun, Fun, Fun" and "I Get Around" are obviously the studio recordings but sped up, this ends up being an actually interesting historical document.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Bob Dylan – Another Side of Bob Dylan

Year: 1964
Record Rating = 9
Overall Rating = 14

Best Song: CHIMES OF FREEDOM or MY BACK PAGES

The title cleverly reflects how this album is meant to be quite different from The Times They Are a-Changin', and these differences only help fuel my belief that the protest-folk of Bob's third album was throwaway to please his entourage (like fellow folk singer as well as his… er… "mistress", Joan Baez). This is about the extent of the accuracy in the title, though, since it's neither completely different than The Freewheelin' nor is it a direct sequel, in an obvious sense or not. In other words, the record is clearly a transitional one, but once again, even the definition of a transitional Bob Dylan album is very different from that of anyone else's. This record is where Bob's lyrics become far more obscure in their imagery. Even with stuff like "Blowin' in the Wind" and "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall", you had a fairly large sense of where he's coming from, but the poetry here is not meant to have particularly narrow interpretations, and even Bob himself has stated to not knowing in particular what every single line in the songs meant. What matters is that they fit in context, and a large number of them sound pretty brilliant on their own, but we'll get to all of that in a moment.