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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.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Moody Blues – To Our Children's Children's Children

Year: 1969
Record Rating = 10
Overall Rating = 14

Best Song: GYPSY (OF A STRANGE AND DISTANT TIME) or CANDLE OF LIFE

While you can find a Moody Blues fan that will consider any one of the Core Seven albums (1967-1972) to be their best – well, I've yet to read glowing reviews of Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, but that's the only major exception I can think of – the two most common are Days of Future Passed and To Our Children's Children's Children. While today I consider them to be pretty much on par, with me slightly leaning more towards the former for its incredible innovative qualities, there once was a time I considered it to be the weakest of their 1960s releases (bar their debut, of course). I'm not sure quite what it was that made me think that; it's no more or less conceptual than the previous ones and the songwriting proportions are far more equally distributed than any of them in two years, and certainly production-wise it's one of their best sounding efforts.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Grateful Dead – Live/Dead

Year: 1969
Record Rating = 10
Overall Rating = 12

Best Song: DEATH STAR

On Live/Dead – and what a "clever" title, too, as captured by the front and back covers with the pleasant but not excessively psychedelic art – the Grateful Dead did what they should have already done to prove they were at the forefront of the acid rock movement: it's not heavily experimental mixing of their ordinary roots rock compositions or by mixing portions of such studio recordings interspersed with brief recordings of their live jams that would do the trick, but a full, honest-to-goodness live album befitting their reputation. And just as their future live albums would be, this one's a double, ordinarily the minimum they were willing to spring for in the live context. Whatever the case is, this album serves as a turning point: acidity should be reserved for the stage and the live album, with only their rootsy charm remaining for their studio albums, which helps for a consistently strong trio of albums ending their first decade and starting the next one.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

David Bowie – Space Oddity

Year: 1969
Record Rating = 7
Overall Rating = 10

Best Song: SPACE ODDITY

In a way, David Bowie's second LP is every bit his debut as his first one was. It most probably was intended to be that way, given that, after two years of inexistence since his actual debut, this LP would see the light of day as another self-titled release – not that this always implies some sort of reinvention, but we're not talking about Peter Gabriel's first four albums here. Of course, in the States they needed a new title (maybe they hoped to sell more if no one knew this "hack" that released the last David Bowie album was involved), coming up with Man of Words/Man of Music, but since 1972, when the song "Space Oddity" became a hit upon re-release coinciding with David Bowie's rise to fame thanks to his Ziggy Stardust character and rock opera, the album adopted that very name, and that's how it will be known as from now on.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Willy and the Poor Boys

Year: 1969
Record Rating = 8
Overall Rating = 11

Best Song: DOWN ON THE CORNER or FORTUNATE SON

The American music press really wanted an American album to be worthy of the title of their very own Sgt. Pepper; I don't think they really meant sound-wise, because otherwise Pet Sounds could most definitely apply. Besides, that one isn't very American. There's plenty of Bacharach influence, sure, but he doesn't necessarily represent the quintessence of American culture. My pick probably would have been the Band's self-titled album, although I can understand why it would be inaccessible in that sense due to the substantial academic flavour. So it took our favourite Californians masquerading as Southerners (as opposed to our favourite Canadians masquerading as Southerners) to come up with Willy and the Poor Boys and claim the title of American Sgt. Pepper.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Pink Floyd – Ummagumma

Year: 1969
Record Rating = 7
Overall Rating = 11

Best Song: CAREFUL WITH THAT AXE, EUGENE

If you think Piper at the Gates of Dawn is weird, it just means you haven't heard this album yet (and even its title is bizarre; supposedly it's a slang term for sex "created" by one of the band's friend and roadie). Basically, it's a double album with one live disc and one studio disc, but don't go confusing this for Cream's Wheels of Fire: the four live tracks, recorded in Birmingham and Manchester, may be lengthy, but this isn't heavy blues rock jamming, but groovy, surreal space rock, and the studio disc has each member contribute and play his own composition, most of which are in the weird avant-garde experiment genre. As you can tell by my tone, I far prefer the live side, and it's what brings the rating up so high. The live disc on its own would be a strong 12/low 13 whilst the studio one would be a solid 9 (i.e., something that peaks my curiosity but doesn't really grab me as an album).

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin II

Year: 1969
Record Rating = 9
Overall Rating = 13

Best Song: WHAT IS AND WHAT SHOULD NEVER BE

Led Zeppelin's sophomore effort – can the latter of two LPs released in the same year be called "sophomore"? – somehow managed to improve upon the formula of their debut and yet make it more noticeably formulaic. On one hand, the explicit blues rip-offs are basically condensed to about 10 minutes of music, otherwise they're more implicit for another five, and the folk influence spreads out to a little under 10 minutes. On the other hand, the rip-offs were the basis of their talent; rearranging rather than composing. Add to that the pressures of constant touring on Robert Plant's vocal cords, an uneven mix from inconsistent recording conditions (i.e. recording at whatever studio was available on tour) and a general lack of fully fleshed material, which was mostly pulled from the lengthy jams of their first LP's compositions/covers.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The Kinks – Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire)

Year: 1969
Record Rating = 10
Overall Rating = 15

Best Song: SHANGRI-LA

As much as I love Village Green Preservation Society, this album pretty much beats it for me. In fact, if I had heard this album first, I'm not sure they would both get a 15. Even if this album wasn't a big success, it was a definite step in the right direction in combining accessibility with Ray's artistic vision; it was good timing too, since the band's ban in the United States was soon to be lifted. Anyways, as the title of the album implies, there's not just one concept, but two thanks to the contrasting parenthetical subtitle. The original intent was for the album to be a soundtrack to a TV film, and while that secondary project fell through the cracks, the album manages to keep that film-like vibe without sounding filler-ish. As a matter of fact, I would say there's not a single filler track amongst the album's twelve. Like I did with the Who's Tommy, the year's other major story-based album with a titular character, I'll go through the songs one by one to describe anything of musical interest and how the different tracks fit with the concept.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King

Year: 1969
Record Rating = 10
Overall Rating = 14

Best Song: 21ST CENTURY SCHIZOID MAN

The common stereotype is that, from the beginning, Robert Fripp was an eccentric dictator, but with two of King Crimson's first album's tracks being exclusively credited to two other members and the remaining three being credited to the band as a whole, I hardly think that's a plausible argument. His despotism was a gradually acquired one, one that can only be witnessed by going through Crimson's catalogue. And as a whole, In the Court of the Crimson King is a clear group effort. Yes, Fripp's guitar, which alternates between soft, jazzy beauty and pure blissful, raucous noise, is one of its pillars, but so are Ian McDonald's complex layers of Mellotron overdubs and his counterpoint saxes and flutes, Greg Lake's full bass sound and even fuller, quasi-operatic vocals, Michael Giles' tight, acrobatic drumming and Peter Sinfield's most certainly pretentious, but also quite unique lyrics. To put it short, everyone involved made this the early pinnacle of progressive rock it's so frequently praised to be.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Giles, Giles & Fripp – The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles & Fripp

Year: 1968
Record Rating = 7
Overall Rating = 11

Best Song: ONE IN A MILLION

I don't know if you ever tried this, but writing out the tracklisting to this album is a long task. Upon first glance, such a tracklisting would be absolutely frightening: the original album has 22 of these buggers, and the CD reissue has six bonus tracks. Of course, amongst the original 22, only 13 are actual songs. The remaining 9 are portions of two sketches very much in the style of Monty Python's Flying Circus, or its troop members' earlier activities, most likely, and whatever your opinion on them is, they do make an amusing complement to the actual music, all silly and vaudeville-y like the Kinks and 1966-67 Rolling Stones, though most importantly like the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, who were musical backers of one pre-Monty Python show. Did I mention that all three members of the band would go on to be in King Crimson?

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

King Crimson

INTRODUCTION:
Although King Crimson are one of the pioneering progressive rock acts – up there with the Nice, who are probably the "first" progsters thanks to their 1967 debut – they seemed to somehow evade the biggest criticism/problem of the majority of progressive rock groups, both the innovative (Yes, Genesis, Jethro Tull, Van der Graaf Generator, Gentle Giant) and highly derivative (Styx, Kansas, Marillion). Despite the (highly talented) individuals' love of improvisation, jazz and classical leanings and dismissal of song structures they deemed "inferior", it's hard to consider their most ambitious efforts pretentious in the way you might consider Yes and Van der Graaf Generator's fantasist tendencies or Peter Gabriel of Genesis' elaborate costumes as such. My best proposal as to why this might be is simply that, for King Crimson, the lyrics never meant that much (even when Peter Sinfield was an official member of the group as lyricist), and the focus was always on the music, so unlike their peers, there was no illusion of the group being a higher power as spokesmen for some grand political statement or message. King Crimson were, in fact, the most no-bullshit prog rock act ever.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Frank Zappa – Hot Rats

Year: 1969
Record Rating = 9
Overall Rating = 13

Best Song: I don't know... maybe THE GUMBO VARIATIONS

Probably due to their financial issues, Frank Zappa decided to split up the Mothers – only to revive the name, but with few of the same people, the next year, but I can suppose at the time it was meant to be a permanent decision – and released his second solo album, which in my opinion is his second best record of the 1960s, and a close second at that. The album is surprisingly simple to sum up: six tracks, ranging from 3 minutes to 17 (actually that lengthiest track was edited down to 12 or 13 for the vinyl edition, but CD reissues restored the rest), stylistically in the ballpark of Zappa's newfound love/co-creation, jazz fusion. Actually, calling it jazz fusion, while not inaccurate, doesn't begin to cover the whole story. In these six tracks – I can't quite call them compositions, since only one was probably composed, the rest had a basic melody composed and lots of jamming – there's certainly elements of jazz and rock, but there's also classical, folk, funk bordering on proto-disco, Italian music, you name it.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Van der Graaf Generator – The Aerosol Grey Machine

Year: 1969
Record Rating = 8
Overall Rating = 11

Best Song: AFTERWARDS

Van der Graaf Generator are rarely seen as among prog's main pioneers, and yet their debut album was right up there at the forefront, only a month or so before King Crimson's debut and a coupe of years after the Nice's proto-prog and the Moody Blues' and Procol Harum's pioneering art rock efforts. Maybe it has to do with the fact that this LP began life as a Peter Hammill solo album since the rest of the band were having contractual issues with the record company and all, which I sort of guess is irrelevant to its long run reputation. Suffice to say, this ought to be just as well regarded as the Nice's first couple of albums in the world of pre-Crimson progressive rock. At the very least, it's a more accessible early prog offering than Keith Emerson's group, and it's definitely more accessible than Van der Graaf's "classic" period. Of course, it helps that, since it began as a Hammill album, he has a far more central role than on their more jamming-oriented LPs, so it has the singer-songwriter prog flare of his official solo albums, and given the time period, it also has a late '60s psychedelic influence, spanning both sides of the Atlantic, with touches of early Soft Machine and Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd especially, although it's every bit as influential as influence-filled; indeed, signs of David Bowie's early rambling style and Black Sabbath minus the cool guitar tones can be found on this LP.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Van der Graaf Generator

INTRODUCTION:
Theatricality and progressive rock are no strange bedfellows. Certainly guys like ELP – whose Keith Emerson was known for gouging knives into his Hammond organ – and Genesis – whose Peter Gabriel donned a multitude of elaborate costumes suiting the whimsical characters in his compositions – can tell you as much. And yet, for those who consider themselves progressive rock aficionados aren't all that fond of the theatrics, far preferring them for their complex compositions, impenetrable atmospheres and consummate musicianship. It shouldn't be a surprise, then, that amongst some hardcore prog fanatics and in prog-friendly circles (the kinds to extol the virtues of the lesser-knowns to the general public like Gentle Giant), guys like Van der Graaf Generator are dismissed as bloated, substance-less knock-offs – sometimes emphasized by the origins of their name; who names themselves after an electromagnetic generator anyhow? – of the real good stuff, where the theatricality isn't just one element, but the very foundation as to what makes the band work, at least at their peak.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Beatles – Abbey Road

Year: 1969
Record Rating = 10
Overall Rating = 15

Best Song: Pick one at random… it might be it

For all intents and purposes, I've always considered Abbey Road to have been the Beatles' last album, whilst Let It Be was nothing more than a – strong, mind you – afterthought. There is some foundation to that belief, though; the genesis of Let It Be stemmed back to Paul's Get Back project, which true to its word was meant to bring the Beatles back to their roots, with covers and live rehearsals and perhaps touring again, that ultimately led to irreconcilable differences that, against all odds, would be reconciled, but not around that project, but a completely brand new one that was probably the first planned swan-song (and off the top of my head, there are relatively few of these). In other words, despite how much they all hated each other, they planned something so that they could really go out with a bang.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

The Band – The Band

Year: 1969
Record Rating = 10
Overall Rating = 14

Best Song: KING HARVEST (HAS SURELY COME) or anything off side one

It seems pretty clear to me, and it's a common belief anyhow, that with their eponymous sophomore LP, the Band were reinventing themselves. Much like Bob Dylan with John Wesley Harding, this reinvention required a full embracement of their roots, and indeed, this is so very much the quintessential roots rock album it almost seems clichéd. And yet somehow it isn't. While I very, very marginally prefer their debut – what with all the incidental quasi-art rock trappings – it's easy to see why this is often considered the Band's absolute peak. As a playing unit, these guys are at their tightest on this record, so much so it's almost unbelievable this was recorded almost overdub-free, and speaking of overdubs, the diversity in instrumentation usually expected from such a recording technique, all in the "creative" roots rock vein, makes for a terrific listen even strictly instrumentally speaking. And in terms of songwriting, Robbie Robertson's despotic acquisition of that task most of the time (he's credited on every track, and only on four are there official co-write credits by one other, usually Richard Manuel) is akin to Paul McCartney becoming the ideological focus of the Beatles: "focus" becomes a keyword indeed, and while his peers might bitch, you really see him at his most creative, with his Dixies, and Cripple creeks, and pines and other Americana topics on the lyrical side, and various creative ideas on the structural side.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Fleetwood Mac – Then Play On

Year: 1969
Record Rating = 9
Overall Rating = 12

Best Song: RATTLESNAKE SHAKE (or one of the bonus tracks...)

Peter Green's third and final album with Fleetwood Mac was an unfortunate farewell to the band's unofficial leader – a title he refused even then, always insisting people not call the group Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac as they did and still do – but fortunately, it remains the peak of the first era of the group, although perhaps something better waited in the crevices of their minds. A shift in power had already begun in the singles preceding the album's recording; with Danny Kirwan's group Boilerhouse splitting up, and Green's inability to find suitable replacements for its rhythm section, he recruited Kirwan as a full-time third guitarist, and this was a wise choice indeed. After all, Spencer rarely played on Green's tracks, so when he needed a second guitarist, or slide guitar, he would have to do it himself. So, complementing Green's precise, emotional blueswailing was Kirwan's intricate guitar playing that fused fingerpicked jazz and country technique with classical guitar stylistics and of course, the blues. With that being said, it was clear that there was no chance of the ensuing album being straight-ahead blues like their first two albums, but rather a unique deviation of standard blues patterns that the preceding compilation showed on Green and Kirwan's numbers.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Odds & Sods #37

George Thorogood & the Destroyers (1977)
***

Given my strong preference for late '60s/early '70s heavy blues rock – especially the British bands in that employ like the Rolling Stones, Faces and Humble Pie – then George Thorogood's music should be a no-brainer for me; after all, he and the aforementioned British groups were all influenced by the same blues and rock greats like Muddy Waters and Bo Diddley and the like, not to mention they all used gritty guitar tones befitting their newer era. And yet, while the Stones are one of my favorite bands of all time, and the other two British bands have a handful of albums I consider favourites in the genre, I can't say the same for George and his Destroyers, at least not when it comes to their debut.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Odds & Sods #36

Up, Up and Away (1967)
**1/2

While the Fifth Dimension are somewhat known for being a Sunshine pop group – a combination of psychedelic idealism and non-acidic elements of the psychedelic music genre with Motown-esque soul-pop – thanks to hits like "The Age of Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In", their debut is a bit different. The group – as the name suggests, composed of five members, singers Billy Davis Jr., Marilyn McCoo (the two forming the group's "power couple"), Florence LaRue, Lamonte McLemore and Ron Townson – fancied themselves under their own genre title, "Champagne soul", which as the title suggests has plenty of soul, R&B and consequently gospel influence, as well as Broadway show tunes, traditional pop (i.e. Sinatra-crooning) and light opera. Clearly this was a more pretentious musical model to base oneself on, and while it's definitely not the main reason I look down on their first LP compared to their later, more popular ones, it would help if the material was more consistent.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Odds & Sods #35

The Electric Prunes (1967)
***1/2

A fairly probable first impression about the Electric Prunes is that, like a good number of groups at the time, were nothing but a garage one-hit wonder with little else going for them but one catchy hit under their belt. Aside from the fact that the Prunes actually had two fairly successful singles (the first hit and its fairly well-received follow-up), I would actually say they were one of the better garage rock groups of the epoch. At the very least, their debut LP is fairly solid, perhaps because the members of the group themselves weren't the main songwriters on here; thanks to the successes of their second and third singles, hired songwriter Annette Tucker (and either one of two co-writers) got to contribute 5 more songs (eight in total with the singles and one of the two b-sides), and the rest of the tracklisting consisted of two covers (not sure whether the group chose them or not), leaving only two songs to be contributed by vocalist/rhythm guitarist/harmonica player Jim Lowe and bassist/keyboardist Mark Tulin. In that regard, the Prunes were sort of like the Monkees of garage rock; their originals do show talent, but their consistency comes from the fact that there's a balance between covers, outside songwriters and such originals.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Odds & Sods #34

Down by the Jetty (1975)
***1/2

Whatever the term "pub rock" might mean today, it's a title that fits the sound of this album pretty damn well, in that it's just simple, easy-going, good-time beer-drinking music. It came out at the perfect time, too; in the mid '70s, not everyone was meant for prog rock or metal or roots rock or glam rock. They needed some good time rock 'n' roll that hearkens back to the days of the bluesier British Invasion bands without veering off into the four "advanced" genres that only borrowed from them. And that's what these rowdy bunch of Brits do, taking the general sound of the Yardbirds, the Animals and the like, or even earlier British bands like Johnny Kidd & the Pirates, update it for their times in terms of guitar tone – albeit while keeping the recording in mono.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Odds & Sods #33

Cliff (1959)
***1/2

It's funny how the first LP from the first successful British rock 'n' roll star is a live one. What's even weirder is, despite being a live recording in the late '50s, the sound is pretty damn good. It helps that it's not a real live recording, in the sense that it wasn't recorded at a stadium or concert hall; it's closer to the live-in-the-studio sound of BBC sessions for mid-'60s British rockers, since it was, conveniently enough, recorded "live" in front of a small audience at Abbey Road studios. Well apparently the acoustics of that studio were always great, because ten years before the Beatles' album named after it, it produces a sound that's the cleanest you can get from a 1950s recording.