Home

~ 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.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Green River

Year: 1969
Record Rating = 9
Overall Rating = 12

Best Song: WROTE A SONG FOR EVERYONE or LODI

CCR's second of three 1969 albums is clearly the best of the lot, and easily their second best album overall. With the bulk of the album made up classics or semi-classics on the level of their first two albums' best tracks, and without the lengthy filler of the previous one and only one poor cover choice, the rest of the tracks show an increased care in John Fogerty's songwriting, with the first seven selections being absolutely perfect as far as easy-going roots rock goes. In fact, that sequence of seven songs is stronger than any other sequence in the band's selection, which should say a lot about it considering I don't even consider it their best (even if, again, it's a very close second).

Friday, November 27, 2015

Jethro Tull – Stand Up

Year: 1969
Record Rating = 10
Overall Rating = 14

Best Song: BOURÉE (but many others qualify)

While Jethro Tull's second LP was pretty well received upon release – reaching no. 1 on the British album charts and even made it to no. 20 in the States, as well as receiving uniformly positive reviews – it hasn't really gone down as their best album, or one of their best. While it's not necessarily my favorite Tull album – although even at worst, it shares the top spot with Aqualung and Thick as a Brick – it's still an amazing feat that after a pretty good blues album, they were able to come up with something like this. It helps that Mick Abrahams left the group. As good a guitar player as he was, his desire of becoming the band's main songwriter and to strictly maintain a blues and/or roots rock sound was enough to lead to his dismissal. In his place came at different times two superior guitarists. One was Tony Iommi(!), who had left his band Earth to join Tull, appeared with them at the Rolling Stones' Rock 'n' Roll Circus and returned to Earth with a stronger work ethic that helped transform them into Black Sabbath. The other, the one who stuck around, was Martin Barre, and he's the absolute ideal choice for Tull. He's just a really solid player, who's able to play crunchy hard rock riffs, fluid melodic solos, Jimmy Page-like devil-ish ecstatic playing and charming folksy guitar playing. Most importantly, though, he wouldn't get in the way of Anderson when it came to songwriting.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Yes – Yes

Year: 1969
Record Rating = 8
Overall Rating = 12

Best Song: SWEETNESS

Well look at that, a Yes album where not a single track goes over seven minutes, let alone the 10-minute plus length you expect. Of course, it's still the late '60s, and the only ones concocting songs of that length aren't starting out their careers – think Procol Harum or Deep Purple – like Yes did in 1969. That's not to say that there aren't any prog elements: Chris Squire's robust, dexterous bass playing and Bill Bruford jazz-influenced drumming are every bit as solid as they would be in the group's prime, and while Tony Kaye's piano and organ and Peter Banks' psychedelic/jazz/rock playing aren't of the Wakeman and Howe variety, they fit the late '60s art rock vibe just right, and if you ask me, Banks is a pretty underrated player. And the strangest thing of all about their performances is that Jon almost sounds human here; none of his mystical shaman high-pitched tomfoolery (which wouldn't work outside of the stereotypical Yes context), but here he rather sounds like a highly talented '60s pop singer, both in the solo vocals and the harmonies.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Yes

INTRODUCTION:
While plenty of bands contend for this title, I would have to say that Yes are the quintessential progressive rock band, or at least tied for first place. Few of their numbers go below 6 minutes, a good portion of them go way over 10, and in their 1970s prime, they managed six side-longs, four of which were on the same (double) record(!), with lyrics implying some sort of fantasist universe that us "plebeians" would never be able to fathom, and in terms of consummate musicianship, look no further than a handful of the keyboardists that have passed through their ranks, both of the drummers, the original bassist and the guitarist, most of which find themselves at the top of a good number of progressive rock instrumentalist rankings, which is a highly competitive batch of musicians to begin with. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if, when the punks were "born" with the duty to destroy prog to bring rock back to its roots, among the first "victims" of the shifting music scene were Yes.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Doors – The Soft Parade

Year: 1969
Record Rating = 8
Overall Rating = 12

Best Song: THE SOFT PARADE

1969 wasn't a particularly good year for the Doors. With Jim's increasingly excessive alcoholic problems and disinterest in any future recordings, focusing more on his poetry, not to mention his arrest for exposing himself on stage – which he pleaded guilty to even if his bandmates insist it never happened – any chances of keeping the band afloat were up to Robby Krieger. Yes, the previous three albums credited the entire group for every track, but only Morrison and Krieger ever wrote lyrics, which usually formed the basis of their songs before they were set to music, so Morrison's absences (physical and mental) caused by legal issues, alcoholism and depression meant that Robby had a lot more work to do. It didn't help that Morrison demanded individual songwriting credits when he finally did start to contribute, because of issues he had with some of Krieger's lyrics. To top it all off, the band also decided it would be a good time to add some orchestration to their sound, costing them a pretty penny, which along with their personal problems and an increased burden on a less-prominent composer (or somewhat less talented, given his best songwriting contributions were on the first two albums two years prior) convinced critics to dismiss the ensuing album entirely. Talk about bad luck...

Monday, November 23, 2015

Procol Harum – A Salty Dog

Year: 1969
Record Rating = 10
Overall Rating = 13

Best Song: A SALTY DOG or WRECK OF THE HESPERUS

Procol Harum's third LP is often cited as their peak, or at the very least the peak of the first line-up, and while I still like their debut by a small margin, I can definitely see where they're coming from. While the balance of the three instrumentalists was a bit off on Shine On Brightly, with Fisher and Brooker dominating and Trower's guitar being relegated to second fiddle so they could focus on experimenting and developing their sound further, this one reinstates an equal partnership between the piano, the organ and the guitar, not just in arrangement prominence but in the fact that both Fisher and Trower get a handful of songwriting credits alongside Keith Reid, and they each get at least one lead vocal (with Fisher taking a whopping three) add to the fact that a couple of tracks introduce orchestration to their musical arsenal and the popularity of the title track (easily the group's second best-known composition), and it becomes pretty clear why Procol fans jump for joy on this one.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Deep Purple – Deep Purple

Year: 1969
Record Rating = 9
Overall Rating = 13

Best Song: I really don't know... something off of side one, I guess

Surrounding the recording of Deep Purple's third LP – their final one with the Mark I line-up – were plenty of hard times. While their live reputation in Britain was slowly gaining momentum, in that critics were positive about their performances, their overall reputation was still minimal due to a lack of hit or notable song that would make them outstanding compared to other British bands (which already existed in "Hush", but they weren't paying attention) and the overall dismissal of the band by the British underground for having had said US hits. Meanwhile, even in the States their popularity was starting to wane when they couldn't follow up their first two big hit singles with a third, no matter how hard they or their record company tried. And speaking of their record company, they were losing money and fast, with Deep Purple being the only artist on their roster that achieved hits, so the amount of money they spent on trying to get a third was leading them to a deficit. And finally, within the band itself, the members were kind of split as to which direction they wanted to pursue: Rod Evans and Nick Simper preferred psychedelic-pop, Ritchie Blackmore and Jon Lord wanted to explore more hard rock (even if the latter penned a good portion of the psych-pop tunes on all Mark I albums), and Ian Paice was pretty much waiting for the issue to be sorted out.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Grateful Dead – Aoxomoxoa

Year: 1969
Record Rating = 7
Overall Rating = 9

Best Song: ST. STEPHEN

I think these guys would have been better off sticking to the lengthy jamming thing. On their third LP, the Dead decide to write shorter songs, so the partially live, multi-parted nature of Anthem of the Sun makes way for short psychedelic and country/roots rock mixtures, and it makes the seams in their songwriting abilities that much more apparent. At least on the other one, they could take a bunch of half-baked ideas and squeeze them into a single song and come up with a winner, like they did with "That's It for the Other One". Fortunately, half of these tracks are pretty good, so my complaints are somewhat empty; if only these four or so good tracks could be extended just a bit, rather than to make room for more questionable ideas.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Captain Beefheart – Trout Mask Replica

Year: 1969
Record Rating = 9
Overall Rating = 12

Best Song: Let me get back to you on that one... in a million years

This is one weird album. Of course, everything from ol' Beefheart is weird to some degree, but there's a reason this is the centerpiece of his legacy: a double album, with 28 tracks, with his Magic Band rehearsing this album in some pitiful conditions with little food or drink, physically and mentally abused by Don Van Vliet until they cracked, everything about the making of the album and the immediate content of the album is the stuff of legends, and can be described in detail in countless other places. Once you put the record on, though, it's a whole other story. The cliché is to either hate it or love it, for the former group to claim it's just noise for the sake of noise and the latter group to claim you have to "get it". Given the relatively high grade I give this, you'd think I'd agree with the latter group, but I think they're both wrong. If you ask me, "getting it" was never quite the point of the album. The Captain's intent probably was permanent confusion, and in that regard, the album is a definite success.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Pink Floyd – Music from the Film More

Year: 1969
Record Rating = 7
Overall Rating = 11

Best Song: GREEN IS THE COLOUR or CYMBALINE

This album initiated two things for Pink Floyd: one is that their long and steady association to soundtrack albums – including their regular albums syncing up with films – officially begins, barring a couple of brief contributions to soundtracks in the Barrett days, and the other is, with convenient placement in this sentence, their first full-length release since Syd's departure. Like A Saucerful of Secrets, this album still captures them in a transitional period, but overall they seem to have a better idea of where they were headed: a handful of tracks retain elements from the instrumental texture of their first two LPs, and another handful has them exploring a perfectly valid and interesting path for them.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Elton John – Empty Sky

Year: 1969
Record Rating = 7
Overall Rating = 10

Best Song: EMPTY SKY or SKYLINE PIGEON

You'd think that Elton's debut's being ignored is something logically justifiable, like if it were to present an Elton who had yet to find his style, or was too busy exploring other ones. As it turns out, though, the only stylistic differences from his classic period are the notable folk and psychedelic influences and the handful of rockers that aren't like your average Elton John rocker. I guess you could blame the fact that it wasn't released in the US until 1975, but that doesn't explain why it was almost completely ignored in England in 1969. It's not like there's that much more filler than his classic period's lesser efforts.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Elton John

INTRODUCTION:
Reginald Kenneth Dwight, better known as Elton John, is something of an enigma to me: his musical reputation from 1970-1976 was one of the strongest in the business, but since then he's seen as nothing more than a washed-up sell-out of a dinosaur, yet while similarly once-revered British solo artists have had pretty strongly received and remembered comeback efforts (Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, David Bowie, what have you), Elton's current reputation is that of a cheesy balladeer penning soundtracks for Disney cartoons and "dead broads", as Keith Richards put it. Alright, so technically his classic period also prominently featured his trademark piano ballads, but then creating these songs when you're young and ambitious is in a whole other ballpark than an old guy singing sappy middle-of-the-road stuff.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Who – Tommy

Year: 1969
Record Rating = 10
Overall Rating = 15

Best Song: PINBALL WIZARD or WE'RE NOT GONNA TAKE IT/SEE ME, FEEL ME/LISTENING TO YOU

I should warn you all that this review is going to be a long one, my longest since The Beatles and Blonde on Blonde and any other post-Sgt. Pepper 15-rated album, inclusively, and will most probably be my second longest one altogether, as my second favorite album (Quadrophenia, my favorite album, will narrowly beat this one). The Who's luck as the '60s were closing to an end did not seem like it would be as great as when they began. Crippling debt was taking over, their singles stopped charting as high (with only one major chart success after "I Can See for Miles"), and with the growing dominance of the album market over the singles market, it was high time they figure out a way to dominate that area as well, even if artistically I insist they created some of the very best LPs of the '60s. Regardless, the Who needed a catalyst of an album that would catapult them to the top alongside the Rolling Stones and the Beatles as the greatest rock band from the UK to conquer the world. And that album is Tommy.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

George Harrison – Electronic Sound

Year: 1969
Record Rating = 2
Overall Rating = 5

Best Song: ...There are no songs...

Urggh… Why George? In the same year that you started recording this stuff, you were making fun of John Lennon's avant-garde tendencies with the infamous phrase "avant-garde a clue" and yet, here we are, listening to an avant-garde experiment made by George Harrison. It's basically two lengthy tracks – "compositions" these are not! – on which Harrison and Bernie Krause, an engineer or something from Moog, dick around with one of the infamous synthesizer company's machines for nearly an hour, but feels like an eternity. It hardly deserves points for originality, even if it's the very synthesizer you here the Beatles use on Abbey Road, since there were better uses of synthesizers in the preceding two years, like the Monkees' "Star Collector" or the Byrds' Notorious Byrd Brothers album.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Sly & the Family Stone – Stand!

Year: 1969
Record Rating = 10
Overall Rating = 14

Best Song: STAND! or I WANT TO TAKE YOU HIGHER or EVERYDAY PEOPLE

In keeping with the idea brought up in the last review that Sly & the Family Stone's album titles have a significant accuracy, one might concur that an album with a title like Stand! would either be a) a politically oriented album or b) a very powerful album. From the first listen, point B is very clearly the winner, but given the band's unique situation as one of the few (and definitely the most successful) fully integrated bands, and the heavy political climate of the epoch, there is a strong social awareness throughout the album, but unlike, say, Marvin Gaye's What's Going On? – recorded and released two years later – the music was not created as a means to reach the goal of social awareness, but rather that said awareness and the music should both be the goal. And in that regard, it's a definite success.

Monday, November 09, 2015

The Moody Blues – On the Threshold of a Dream

Year: 1969
Record Rating = 8
Overall Rating = 12

Best Song: DEAR DIARY

For the classic line-up of the Moody Blues' third album, they go for a notably stripped down sound compared to the first two. Obviously, the full orchestra of their "debut" won't be seen again until they become old and heavily nostalgic, but the Mellotron isn't quite as prominent as it was on either of them, and the instrumental diversity that made In Search of the Lost Chord such a treat is nowhere to be found either. As a matter of fact, I would even describe the sound they have going here as folksy or rootsy: lots of acoustic guitars, melodic electric guitars, pianos and those splendid Moody vocal harmonies that fit right in what that style. Yet even as far as conceptuality goes, I don't think I have a clear understanding of what the concept is supposed to be, and I'd even wager that the band themselves weren't all that sure about it, with only six of the eleven tracks dealing with whatever the concept is, and since two are poems, one's an instrumental and another is a reprise, there are really only two tunes with lyrics that could help you figure this out (with their poems being too cryptical and all).

Friday, November 06, 2015

Frank Zappa/The Mothers of Invention – Uncle Meat

Year: 1969
Record Rating = 9
Overall Rating = 13

Best Song: The KING KONG suite

After only three years into their career, and Frank and the Mothers of Invention are at it with their second double LP. The "concept" for this one, if you can even call it as such, was to serve as the soundtrack to a film/pseudo-band documentary of the same name that wasn't completed at the time, though a "making of" film did surface 18 years later –though unfortunately with some dubious "bonus" material on the album, forcing the 2LP into 2CD when it could have fit on one, so those with that edition must suffer through a collage of snippets of dialogue from the released footage and an idiotic early '80s "composition" of a guy proclaiming his [censored] to be huge in dialectal Italian. Needless to say, the high grade you see above has nothing to do with that lengthened edition of the album; like with Money and Ruben, I like the originals better, with no unnecessary or excessive tampering (I still feel bad for Roy Estrada and Jimmy Carl Black for having their performances dubbed over).

Thursday, November 05, 2015

The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground

Year: 1969
Record Rating = 10
Overall Rating = 13

Best Song: CANDY SAYS or PALE BLUE EYES

The Velvet Underground, if anything, ought to be attributed their greatness from the simple fact how different their albums are from one another. Their debut was innovative, drone-heavy, Cabaret-meets-Eastern madness, their sophomore effort was loud, in-yer-face, gritty noise-rock, and for their third album, they get rid of all of that for… a soft, folky pop-rock sound. Well, that's what it seems like on the surface. Such a shift could not have happened had John Cale stuck around, but his departure – taking his commanding pompous voice, his noisy ideas and his unique organ, bass and viola playing – and the recruitment of one Doug Yule – who also played bass and organ, and sang in a lovely folk-pop voice – is what permitted the band to let go of some of their artistic excesses and "settle down", if you will.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Genesis

INTRODUCTION:
Genesis is basically two bands from different time periods that just happened to share a name… and a few band members. Aside from the fact that Collins-led Genesis did flirt with the idea of continuing where Gabriel-led Genesis left off for at least three years, there's little to indicate that the band that did The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway and "Firth of Fifth" really is the same guys behind "Abacab" and "Land of Confusion". The usual debate is which version of the band has more of a right to live on in public memory/the public eye. Aside from the obvious claims of their prog era's defenders ("it's more intellectual, therefore infinitely superior!") and their pop era fans' rebuttals ("it's catchier and shorter, therefore more enjoyable"), there really shouldn't be any debate. Whether you like them or not, in their own way each version of Genesis is the true Genesis.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Jefferson Airplane – Bless Its Pointed Little Head

Year: 1969
Record Rating = 8
Overall Rating = 11

Well, the Airplane sure could rock if they wanted to. It's not quite clear under what circumstances it was decided that they should release their live debut, but my best guess is that, with three highly regarded LPs in San Francisco circles, all three top 20 Billboard albums, and their existing reputation as a premier live act, it was almost an inevitable choice; and besides, it made for a good way to have two albums in 1969 with over a year in between their last LP's sessions and their next one's (which was delayed, but it probably still suited their record label's budget planning just fine). The double live LP not quite being the benchmark for live rock releases in late '68 when these performances – some at the Fillmore East and others at the Fillmore West, not that you can tell the difference – were recorded and early '69 when they were released, it was inevitable that this would only be one disc of vinyl, although, even with the introductory track cut-out, it still goes notably over the 45 minute "limit" usually attributed to vinyl discs.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Led Zeppelin

INTRODUCTION:
Are Led Zeppelin overrated? In a certain sense, yes, they are, given that their fans load them with praise for being one of the greatest live rock bands and most innovative bands, if not the definitive example in both cases, and while Led Zeppelin is a band I highly respect for their pioneering aspects and terrific body of work, they are in no way THE band to end ALL bands, which to me is a senseless task anyways? How fun would it be if you could only listen to one band? On the other hand, their detractors make a point of constantly pointing out their flaws, which were big, it's true, but in the hands of the group's anti-fans are probably blown out of proportion: the intentional, and sometimes illegal, ripping off of not only old bluesmen, but even then-concurrent rock bands, the often times pretentious or just plain idiotic lyrics, the ballads that pale in comparison to their rockers, the poseur-ish nature of Robert Plant as a frontman and the show-off-ish tendencies of Jimmy Page and John Bonham in the form of 20-minute solos (whereas at least the Who would show off in the song, and collectively at that). These are all valid points from both sides, so I find myself quite comfortable sitting somewhere in the middle (which still ends up covering the Class A and lower ranges of my rating system, though; the way fans talk is more like class A+++, with 18/15 rating albums and suchlike).