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~ Established 2011 ~

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.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Paul McCartney – The Family Way

Year: 1967
Record Rating = 6
Overall Rating = 10

Best Song: I'll get back to you on that one

This is hardly a Paul McCartney album, since Paul's not even in it, even if his name is slapped on the cover. His involvement in "composing" the music for the soundtrack to this British comedy film is not that much greater, as, per George Martin's recollection, it was limited to about 15 seconds of music for the main theme. Granted, there are only about three different themes running throughout the original soundtrack, presented in 13 "movements", each of which take one, two or all three of these themes. So I guess I have to consider it a Paul album either way.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Paul McCartney

INTRODUCTION:
I think, and this might offend some people, Paul McCartney's solo career is my favorite of the four Beatles' solo careers. Yes, even more so than the artistically more "valid" John Lennon. Obviously, I'm not impressed by his descent into generic schlock and synth-trash in the '80s, but then I don't enjoy Rod Stewart's ventures into this musical abyss, yet I enjoy his career highlights just fine. Where was I? Oh yeah. Prime Paul McCartney of the 1970s, and even Bronze Age Paul McCartney of the 1990s to today, can come up with melodies as fantastic and unique as his best ones in the Beatles, and experiment successfully in a variety of styles with a diverse cast of musicians and producers to help him out, yet that overall is quite accessible. I love weird stuff as much as the next person, sure, but John spent the late '60s with crappy noisefests with Yoko, occasionally fucked up with excess politics instead of musicality, and ended his career on what could have been his second or third best but that was marred with Yoko taking up have the time with her attempts at mainstreaming her… weirdness.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Jefferson Airplane – After Bathing at Baxter's

Year: 1967
Record Rating = 8
Overall Rating = 11

Best Song: WON'T YOU TRY/SATURDAY AFTERNOON

They could have taken the easy route and recorded something along the lines of Surrealistic Pillow, Vol. 2, but they didn't, which at least shows the band were not going to settle just because it brought them some kind of fame. Instead, they opted to amp up the experimental factor, and as their live jamming took on a heavy acidic tinge thanks to the changes in live music brought on by the Who, Jimi Hendrix, Grateful Dead and Cream, among others, as did their studio recordings, borrowing certain elements of their live sound yet "cleaned up" for studio release. The overall effect of combining studio experiments and improvisation pretty much justifies the LP's title: with "Baxter's" being a slang term the band used for LSD, it basically refers to some sort of acid hangover, and indeed the album sounds like it was recorded in such conditions.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Sly & the Family Stone – A Whole New Thing

Year: 1967
Record Rating = 8
Overall Rating = 12

Best Song: UNDERDOG

Well I'm not sure how "whole" or "new" this "thing" is – see what I did there? Pretty clever – but there is definitely something that sets it apart from contemporary R&B albums, not to mention preceding ones. I'd even say that, at this early stage, much like their commercially and critically more successful one, they're doing things that could be considered influential. Like other Sly & the Family Stone albums, everything here is written by Sly himself, but the key to making these tracks work beyond his songwriting abilities – which are just as great as on Stand! and the like, despite what some may tell you – is the band's ability to sing and arrange this stuff. And they definitely deliver. Four of the five prominent vocalists from their classic line-up (sister Rose wouldn't join until the next year) get a chance to bring these tunes to life, and their ability to turn in some funky rave-ups is just as strong.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Sly & the Family Stone

INTRODUCTION:
In the world of African-American music, there are few that are really quite as great as Sly & the Family Stone. Yet this group that was at the forefront of the funk movement, alongside James Brown but preceding the likes of George Clinton's Funkadelic and Parliament groups, had gone from a popular live act with a number of successful singles to a barely known footnote of the late '60s/early '70s music scene. It's kind of sad, really, when you think how much talent these guys and gals had, both vocally (with three great vocalists and two good ones) and instrumentally, and how their revolutions weren't just limited to music, but a bit socially as well, being (one of) the first rock band(s) of note to have a fully integrated line-up, with both black and white members (whose only significant precedent was Booker T. & the MG's, who were probably an influence) as well as men and women.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Procol Harum – Procol Harum

Year: 1967
Record Rating = 10
Overall Rating = 13

Best Song: A WHITER SHADE OF PALE (but they're all great)

If this isn't one of the greatest debut albums around, I don't know what is. And in many ways, it shouldn't have been this great; after all, it was recorded after "A Whiter Shade of Pale" had become a huge hit, and with a slightly different line-up to complete it, with a more prominent guitarist in Robin Trower and a subtly brilliant drummer in B.J. Wilson. Fortunately for us, these guys' playing talents wouldn't go to waste, because not only was Gary Brooker a good piano player and vocalist, but he was also a pretty good composer and melodist, and his co-writer, poet/lyricist Keith Reid, is like the Bob Dylan of the art-rock/prog-rock world, with a similar knack for clever wordplay, interesting introspective ideas and a perfect balance between seriousness and humour (though the humour element would be diminished depending on the album).

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Procol Harum

INTRODUCTION:
Of all the art rock bands, none were quite as consistent as Procol Harum were in their prime, from their debut in the late '60s through the early/mid '70s. It's actually quite rare for a band to be able to make a formula that's both consistent and consistently interesting, but these guys are definitely one such band. Besides, even if there is an easily distinguishable Procol Harum "sound", there are enough variations between albums and the playing styles (the latter mostly due to personal changes) for us to tell one record from the next, and when it comes to songwriting, despite not having as many writers as, say, the Moody Blues, they manage to achieve an even better balance than their fellow art rock pioneers' democratic approach.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Captain Beefheart – Safe as Milk

Year: 1967
Record Rating = 9
Overall Rating = 12

Best Song: DROPOUT BOOGIE

This title couldn't be more inaccurate: this album is neither "milky" (by which I mean pale) nor "safe". Dangerous as Drugs – because clearly this album was written and possibly recorded under the influence of some heavy stuff – would make a lot more sense. Yet in its own way, the title is also perfect. Perfect, because the standard logic of things does not apply to a man like Captain Beefheart. Heck, he justified the name "Beefheart" to the press by claiming it was because he had "a 'beef' with society in his heart"… How much weirder can you get? Maybe the title is short for something, like As Safe as Milk Is Green With Pink Polka-Dots.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Captain Beefheart

INTRODUCTION:
Is Captain Beefheart crazy? That's the question that pops into my mind every time I listen to this guy – and indeed, it almost seems natural to think this about the guy you listen to when Frank Zappa just doesn't seem weird enough, though perhaps you might think it more with the next artist on the weird scale, the Residents, after which I can't even imagine how much weirder you can get. And there's plenty about him as a person that would support the theory, from his made up stories of youth, his acid-induced breakdowns and the way he treated his band simply to achieve the sound heard in his twisted mind.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Eric Burdon & the Animals – Winds of Change

Year: 1967
Record Rating = 8
Overall Rating = 11

Best Song: SAN FRANCISCAN NIGHTS (or the first two bonus tracks)

For some reason, this has gone down as the worst studio album bearing the Animals' name (unless you consider their 1977 and 1983 reunions, which to me seem more likely to be dismissed as cash-ins rather than to be listened to and subsequently hated), and while it's plenty understandable, I'm not sure it's entirely fair, though I confess to having once fallen to the anti-hype. But then, how were we supposed to react to an album where Eric Burdon takes complete control of the band and practically throws out everything that gave them fame? Prominent organ? Nope. Notable blues and soul influence? Not particularly. Music that's good-timey (or bad-timey, if you consider the purpose of soul songs and ballads to feel sad or whatever)? Sometimes, but that's far from the purpose.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Janis Joplin – Big Brother & the Holding Company

Year: 1967
Record Rating = 8
Overall Rating = 11

Best Song: ALL IS LONELINESS or THE LAST TIME

It seems I've warmed up to this one quite a bit. Initially, I was only going to give this a 10/15 while dismissing at least a third of the tracks, but since then I consider two more tracks to be highlights and three less to be lowlights, I boosted it to an 11. That doesn't mean necessarily that my problems with the album have disappeared, just that I consider them to be part of the album's charm. The major difficulty behind this album is that it seems, for the most part, pretty clear that this is far from Big Brother & the Holding Company, on one hand, and Janis Joplin, on the other, at their individual and collective peaks. The root of the problem is probably the limitations of studio recording: while this is a band and a singer who got their reputation from their live sound, it's quite difficult to recreate that sound in the studio successfully, especially when they don't try that often.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Janis Joplin

INTRODUCTION:
Janis Joplin is probably best remembered for one thing: being the greatest – in the sense of long-run impact – female vocalist in the world of rock, and an important symbol of the free-loving, drug-taking hippie lifestyle of the 1960s. If you ask me, it's a bit unfair to categorize her, because, like any other member of the infamous 27 Club (musicians who died at only 27 years old), she's unjustly being remembered solely as an icon, not as an actual artist. The trouble with this is not the reverential way critics and fans treat these sorts, but rather the nasty backlash dismissing them as overrated trash simply because they're better remembered then their own preferred artist who have faded into oblivion, which isn't any fairer, granted, but is not the fault of the Jimi Hendrixes, Jim Morrisons and Janis Joplins of the world.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Pink Floyd

INTRODUCTION:
If not for Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd most definitely could be called THE band of the 1970's, much as the Beatles or the Stones (though most probably the former) could be called THE band of the '60s. Ultimately, I think Led Zeppelin merits the title a bit more, if only that they symbolized what rock musicians of the 1970's of all breeds stood for (pompousness, virtuosity, heaviness, showmanship), and as early as 1969 at that. As for Pink Floyd, their importance to the decade isn't any lesser for it; it says a lot that a conceptual art rock record chock full of sound effects managed to be one of the world's highest selling albums of all time, yet there's a lot more to Pink Floyd than their 1970's successes.

Friday, September 11, 2015

David Bowie – David Bowie

Year: 1967
Record Rating = 7
Overall Rating = 10

Best Song: LOVE YOU 'TILL TUESDAY

Has anyone ever noticed that album covers (in the '60s and '70s, at least) generally seemed to refuse to abide to the "don't judge a book by its cover" principle by normally matching the contents of the album with the cover? The only exceptions I can think of is those albums released in 1967/1968 that had little to do with psychedelia yet the labels released with some sort of (possibly hideous) attempt at keeping up with the times as far as visual image is concerned, though David Bowie's debut is no such exception. Just look at him on this cover: the British sneer, the clean-cut look, the cheesy turtleneck sweater, the psychedelics limited to the shade of green behind him and the shape of the letters, this is the same image the music hall-loving Kinks and the occasionally Kinks-imitating Rolling Stones sported at the time, and the contents within match quite well.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

David Bowie

INTRODUCTION:
From the beginning, there's nothing David Bowie (born David Robert Jones) wanted more than to be famous. In the early-mid '60s, David went through a number of groups, releasing singles trying to latch on to the latest big name's success, from the Beatles to the Stones to the Who and back, to rather minimal success. It was only by 1966, when he changed from his birth name – to avoid being confused with the Monkees' Davy Jones – to the soon-to-be more famous pseudonym that he started to be stylistically consistent for more than a month (about 16, if I'm to guess an approximate number) and even recorded enough material in said similar style to make an album out of it… not that it came with a whole lot of success (beyond one top 10 UK single).

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Jimi Hendrix

INTRODUCTION:

If there's one thing there seems to be a consensus on, it's that Jimi Hendrix almost came out of nowhere (and disappeared just as suddenly, if I might add). Before the grunge scene of the late '80s/early '90s, no one expected much of Seattle, Washington, yet there he was, a young boy named Johnny Allen Hendrix, later James Marshall Hendrix (after his father and uncle, if I'm not mistaken about the middle name… nothing to do with his eventual favored brand of guitar amplifier) who took up the guitar and, after his service in the US army, slowly began to revolutionize the instrument. His early performances were hardly noticed at large, yet his pedigree was quite impressive all the same: Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions (where he got his more subtle, soulful guitar and vocal skills), Little Richard (where he got his impressive showmanship), Curtis Knight, and his own band with future Spirit guitarist Randy California called Jimmy James and the Blue Flames. During the early '60s, he went from young, inexperienced kid to envied near-virtuoso, yet only those who were in the know could boast this.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Eric Burdon & the Animals – Eric Is Here

Year: 1967
Record Rating = 7
Overall Rating = 10

Best Song: MAMA TOLD ME NOT TO COME

Well this hardly sounds like the Animals at all, original or "new", as the later incarnation would sometimes be referred to. It shouldn't be all that surprising, though, given the fact that the only member of either incarnation to appear on the bulk of the album, aside from Eric, for whom this is practically a solo album, is drummer Barry Jenkins. That said, at least one track is known to have most of the final line-up of the Animals on it, and apparently some CD issues credit the Eric Burdon & the (New) Animals line-up for some reason. But anyways, the problem people have here is not the anonymity of the line-up, but rather the material. This isn't blues, this isn't rock, this isn't R&B or soul. This is pop. I know, I know, some of the classic Animals material could be called pop, or at least pop rock, and a good quarter of the tracks are written by the Brill Building tunesmiths that offered them three of their biggest singles, so it's not just the fact that it's pop, but rather that it's orchestrated pop, with sugary strings, loungy brass and mellow electric keyboards.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Grateful Dead – The Grateful Dead

Year: 1967
Record Rating = 9
Overall Rating = 11

Best Song: VIOLA LEE BLUES

When you put this record on, odds are you'll think "this doesn't sound a thing like Grateful Dead!" (that is, if you've already heard some of their music or at least have an idea what it's purported to sound like). Indeed, if it weren't for their recognizable voices – and even then, they take on a number of imitative voices to suit the style of song tackled – and Jerry's guitar playing talent, it's hard to believe this is the Dead. Yet it is; an earlier, explorative, impressionable version of the Dead, but the Dead all the same. For the most part, though, they sound like your average, somewhat psychedelic garage rock band, with bright combo organ (whether Farfisa or Vox… I still can't tell the difference) and loud, fuzzy guitars, only as played by musicians with folk, bluegrass and country backgrounds.

Friday, September 04, 2015

Grateful Dead

INTRODUCTION:
When it comes to the Dead, as they've come to be known, there seems to be this inescapable dissonance between their following and their actual abilities. They played neither soft enough to count as soft rock nor heavy enough to count as hard rock. Though they were one of the pioneering psychedelic rock groups, most of their category can be classified as roots rock, yet has too much hippie-like jamming to be authentic to either. As songwriters, they were no geniuses, and while their instrumental skills seems to be their highest achievement, I wouldn't really say any of them are "virtuosos" (though Jerry Garcia comes pretty damn close), and as vocalists, they all have a similar rootsy twang that can't really be called generic but isn't outstanding either (except, again, for Garcia, whose nasally voice is probably the most distinctive, although I guess Pigpen's pseudo-cock rock growling should count in this category too).

Thursday, September 03, 2015

The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground & Nico

Year: 1967
Record Rating = 10
Overall Rating = 13

Best Song: SUNDAY MORNING or HEROIN

Whatever you may think about the Velvet Underground, it would be pretty hard to deny that this particular line-up is their best, in terms of creating an unbeatably unique and innovative sound: understated drummer Maureen Tucker and guitar/bassist Sterling Morrison are the trustworthy backbone, of course, but the dueling leaders, Bob Dylan-admiring beatnik poet, proto-punk-meets-folk-guitar-bashing Lou Reed and European avant-garde, viola/keyboard/bassist John Cale, are what make the arrangements so interesting (and the former is responsible for all the songs, with songwriting contributions on a couple for the latter member). The picture is complete with German singer Nico to contribute her bizarre vocals to a couple of tracks for extra atmosphere, not to mention pop-artist Andy Warhol as producer and cover art designer – whose involvement almost makes it odd that this wasn't more of a success. People who are anti-Nico might want to respond to that comment by blaming Nico herself, but considering I think of all three songs featuring her to be among the LP's highlights, their arguments might not stand.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

The Velvet Underground

INTRODUCTION:
The Velvet Underground were a weird band – of course, any band in the '60s who names themselves after an S&M magazine has got to be weird – but they were a very important band. The cliché is for critics to quote Brian Eno and say that very few people bought the Velvets' records, but those who did would go on to form innovative bands (or already had formed bands that switched derivative Beatles and Stones copycatting to avant-garde stuff, my own personal addition to the cliché). While I do agree with that statement, it kind of limits the Velvets in the category of "artist's artist": people who make art that can only be enjoyed by those who deal with/create their own art. That's hardly fair, because impressing artists is, in theory, easier than pleasing fickle pop-oriented consumers, and that kind of diminishes the band's talents.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Jefferson Airplane – Surrealistic Pillow

Year: 1967
Record Rating = 10
Overall Rating = 13

Best Song: SOMEBODY TO LOVE or WHITE RABBIT

With Skip Spence and Signe Anderson out of the band, and with Spencer Dryden and Grace Slick in the band, things got really good. Drumming was never really a big focus in Jefferson Airplane's music, but Skip Spence was a guitar/songwriter, he had no business doing what he was doing for the Airplane (though his few songwriting contributions, before and after he left the group, are worthwhile), and Dryden seems to be a better partner in the Jack Casady-led rhythm section. And as for Signe, well, she had a mighty fine voice, but Grace Slick is, along with Janis Joplin, one of the greatest female rock singers bar none. And since Janis was still relatively unknown when this LP came out, I guess that makes Grace the first all-time great female rock singer.