Showing posts with label Classic Rock. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Classic Rock. Show all posts

Beach Boys - Pet Sounds - Review

Wouldn’t It Be Nice, You Still Believe In Me, That’s Not Me, Don’t Talk (Put Your Head O My Shoulder), I’m Waiting For The Day, Let’s Go Away For A While, Sloop John B, God Only Knows, I Know There’s An Answer, Here Today, I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times,Pet Sounds,Caroline No

Brian, Carl and Dennis Wilson grew up in the Los Angeles area, close to the Pacific Coast. Together with their cousin Mike Love and school buddy Al Jardine they started the Beach Boys in 1961. The Wilson brothers used to sing harmony at home as particularly Brian loved the vocal acts that were so successful in the States in the Fifties. Their first hit was Surfin’ (they were called the Pendletones at that time) and soon thereafter the band was renamed Beach Boys and signed a record contract with Capitol records. Their second single Surfin’ Safari hit the Top 20 in 1962 and helped starting the Surf Rock Craze in Southern California. The group launched a number of successful singles and Albums but by the end of 1964 Brian got tired from touring and wanted to concentrate more on writing and producing song material. His friend Bruce Johnston became his replacement in the band.
A lot of people may think that all music that the Beach Boys made before Pet Sounds was just throw- away happy but simple surf pop with texts about surfing and teenage daydreams. But in songs like Catch a Wave and In My Room and on the Album The Beach Boys Today from 1965 it’s clear that Brian Wilson was capable of a lot more than that.
In December 1965 Brian Wilson listened for the first time to the Rubber Soul Album from the Beatles. And this is the moment where the inspiration for Pet Sounds was born. But first, let’s have a look at my opinion on the Rubber Soul Album:

“ For most Pop bands this release would be their Greatest Hits Album and a fine one too! But actually it’s “just” another Beatles Album.  It’s really amazing isn’t it? There are shiploads of interesting hooks in the songs and they tend to stay in your head. Very few artists achieve that once in their career. The Beatles would do it time and time again. That’s why they are really one of the great, if not the best, Pop-Rock bands of all times.
The songs are mostly written by John and Paul. One song, What Goes On also gives credits to Ringo. Unfortunately it’s the weakest track on the album although it’s still not bad.
George emerges with two fine songs Think for Yourself and If I Needed Someone.
Some great ballads here like Michelle, Girl and the often-covered In My Life. Listen to Bette Middler´s version if you find it.
It’s still mostly Pop Music but the Sitar in Norwegian Wood and the slightly Psychedelic Sound of The Word point out to a new direction.”    

Rubber Soul is one of those amazing albums that do not contain filler. You have to realise that that was most uncommon in the late fifties and early sixties. The Record Industry was completely focused on Hit-Singles. Albums were nothing more than a collection of the latest hits of an artist together with a bunch of unimportant filler songs. You didn’t even have to play your own instruments!
I’m sure that must have irritated Brian Wilson already for some time and to him the Rubber Soul Album meant that times might be changing. Since the early days of Rock, there always has been a mostly healthy rivalry between artists from Great Britain and the USA. You had Elvis Presley and Cliff Richard, the Rolling Stones and the Doors and so on. So it was only natural that Rubber Soul challenged the musical genius of Brian Wilson.
Now Rubber Soul is mostly a collection of great songs. It’s not so much a musical statement and it’s not a Concept Album. There are a wide variety of songs on the album. This is logical as the songs were written by John, Paul, George and even Ringo.
Brian’s situation was different. He was basically alone. So he went to the studio and started working on his musical ideas. He found it sometimes difficult to write the lyrics in such a way that they really expressed his feelings. Therefore he invited his new friend Tony Asher to work with him on this and it proved to be a very lucky draw. 
Brian wanted to make a great Pop Rock Album, at least as good as Rubber Soul. But also something completely different and not primarily a commercial success. His musical background of Fifties vocal groups, some influences from Classical Music, the Surf Pop that was practically invented by the Beach Boys, his love for Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound and his abilities in the Sound Studio would ensure just that.
I’m not sure what exactly Brian had in mind when the started the project but I do believe he wanted to achieve at least two things. Firstly, to take harmony vocals to a whole new level. And secondly, to use a whole bunch of new instruments and studio effects.
Lyrically, he wanted to steer away from the simple summer teenager adventures and address the Teenager’s real feelings such as love and sadness and fear. And finally, he did want to maintain the basic strengths of the Beach Boys sound, harmonies and hooks.

The work started with laying down the instrumental tracks. Brian and Tony and a lot of studio musicians recorded layer upon layer of music using all kinds of instruments including but not limited to tympani, saxophone, trumpet, string bass, harpsichord, clarinet, vibraphone, organ, guitars, percussion, drums, violins, cello, viola, bongos, ukulele, piano, flutes, horns, accordion, harmonica and trombone and using bicycle bells, whistles, sounds of trains, Coca Cola cans, barking dogs etc.

It’s almost like working with a Symphony Orchestra. No wonder that during the sessions Pet Sounds more and more started to look like a Teenage Symphony reflecting Brian’s musical and personal views. I’m sure that the other Beach Boys had to swallow when Brian invited them to the studio to record the vocals. Because if you’re not the musical brain of a band, you are usually happy with the fun and the money and what have you that the success brings you and you’re afraid a change of musical direction will scare away your public. I’m sure they wondered as well if Brian’s drug use (LSD mostly) was getting the better of him. But Brian managed to convince them fortunately because Pet Sounds has some of the best harmony vocals in Rock History.
When the record was finally completed they sat down and listened to what they had achieved. What started as a bunch of musical ideas had become a Teenage Symphony. With lots of classical influences while maintaining the Beach Boys backgrounds. With songs that could not specifically be called ballads but were also not fully up-beat. With lots of rhythm changes within the songs. With hooks and moods combined in an unpredictable way. So while the texts were for teenagers, the music maybe wasn’t.
Surely it had become a coherent Album. You can even argue that there exists a certain similarity between the songs, specifically those that started with I. But it was Brian’s album in the end. Caroline No was even released as a Brian Wilson single.
Brian also wanted to include Good Vibrations on Pet Sounds but it wasn’t finished in time so it was left for the next album. That’s a pity. On the other hand I’m sure Brian did not want to include Sloop John B, as the song has nothing in common with the rest of the Album. But the Record company insisted as it was the group’s latest Hit Single that peaked at # 3 in May 1966.
You can also argue if it was a wise decision to include the instrumental Title Track. It was originally called Run James Run and was written as a possible Sound Track for a James Bond Movie. It’s not bad but it seems a bit out of place as well.

The Album was released on May 16, 1966. It remained in the Charts for 39 weeks and peaked at # 10 in early July. It was not such a commercial success as their other albums so far and it didn’t reach the Gold status in that year. The divine God Only Knows only reached # 39 as Flip Side to Wouldn’t It Be Nice. I’m sure that Carl, Dennis, Mike, Al and Bruce must have had some “ I Knew It” feelings. Even Brian wasn’t completely satisfied as he immediately started working on the ill-fated Smile project. Maybe he was looking for more variety on his next album, something the Beatles managed to do later on Sgt. Pepper and the White Album.

On the other side of the Ocean however, Pet Sounds was a huge success. God Only Knows for example was a Top 5 hit in the United Kingdom. And they were chosen Britain’s most popular vocal group in 1966, defeating the Beatles. Paul McCartney loved and still loves the Album. He also said that God Only Knows was the most beautiful Song ever written. It inspired the Beatles to explore new roads that would eventually lead to the Sgt. Pepper Album.

But the Beach Boys and Brian Wilson never were quite the same after Pet Sounds although they kept recording and performing with mixed success. Brian really got into drugs and was AOL for a long time.
Albums like Rubber Soul and Pet Sounds however changed the Record Industry. For a number of years the Album became a place where artists were allowed to explore their musical ideas. It’s not for nothing that the period 1967-1975 has produced most of the real Classic Rock music.

I’m not going to review the songs on a one by one basis. They are all good and some of them are great.  But most songs have their magic moments like the opening Harpsichord in Wouldn’t It be Nice, the heavenly vocals on God Only Knows and the remarkable Bass-Line in Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder).

But my absolute favourite on the album is the closing Caroline No. I’m really moved to tears by this Song and I also wonder what happens in the end. What is the meaning of the passing Train and the Barking Dogs? Are they only sound effects, maybe to suggest the loneliness of the boy? Or does he commit suicide because of love lost? Or did Caroline kill herself? Did she get on drugs?
I don’t know but the song fascinates me as few songs have ever done.

So that’s Pet Sounds. I’m not sure if the title only refers to Brian’s dogs that are barking at the end of Caroline No or that it represents this collection of songs that represent his musical ideas, his feelings, his Pet Sounds. I do know the songs on the album have the quality to make me feel genuinely happy or sad or confused.

In the end, Brian has left us a timeless record that has won the hearts of many listeners all over the world. It’s not fair to compare this record to one of the Beatles Albums simply because Brian alone couldn’t defeat the joined efforts of John, Paul & George. You can compare it though to George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass Album, released soon after the Beatles split up. Completely different music of course but in both cases it represented the best both Brian and George had to offer at the high water mark of their artistic abilities.

Rating: ********* (9 out of 10)
Black = Good Songs
Green = Great Songs
Red = Could Be Better

Jan van den Ende                                   March , 2012

Fleetwood Mac - Kiln House - Review

Today I would like to present to you an Album from Fleetwood Mac recorded in 1970. Not because it's such a great Album but because of its title Kiln House. No better way than to combine Classic Rock and Whisky. As you know the Kiln is used to dry the soaking wet and germinating barley. Today most distilleries use hot air to dry the barley but distilleries on a/o Islay, the Orkney Isles and in Northern Scotland still use traditional peat and coal fires to dry the malt and get the peat flavour in the whisky. Drying goes on until the barley, now called Malt,  has reached the ideal temperature for grounding.
So that's the Kiln House in a nutshell. Here's the Album:

Fleetwood Mac - Kiln House - 1970

Songs: This is the Rock, Station Man, Blood on the Floor, Hi Ho Silver, Jewel Eyed Judy, Buddy´s Song, Earl Gray, One Together, Tell Me All The Things You Do, Mission Bell.       

Type of Music: Early Seventies Eh…….. Music, I suppose.

This was the first album without founding member Peter Green who joined a religious cult. So we have the rhythm section Fleetwood/Mc Vie and guitarists Danny Kirwan and Jeremy Spencer. And we have some backing vocals from Christine McVie who would join the band right after the release of Kiln House. But it´s basically Jeremy who leads the way on this Album. But where does the road go to one wonders? We have a Carl Perkins pastiche called This is the Rock, a hilarious Elvis imitation in the country song Blood on the Floor and a Buddy Holly tribute called Buddy´s Song. Then there is some country-rock a la The Band in Station Man and, Oops we almost forgot we were a blues band, there is the Blues Rock of Tell Me All The Things You Do. Even an instrumental called Earl Gray which is not really my cup of tea but it´s not bad either.
Two insignificant songs are called One Together and Mission Bell. And all that remains is Jewel Eyed Judy. Hey, wait a minute! Now that´s a good song! Watch for those guitars. Best song on the Album without a shadow of a doubt.
So what´s the point of all the above. None I guess, the guys were just having fun!

Rating: ***** (5 out of 10)

Black = Good Songs
Green = Great Songs
Red = Could Be Better

Who should buy this Album: Well, nobody I suppose unless you’re a huge fan of Fleetwood Mac!

Creedence Clearwater Revival - Bayou Country - Review

Creedence Clearwater Revival - Bayou Country - 1969

Songs:  Born on the Bayou, Bootleg, Graveyard Train, Good Golly Miss Molly, Penthouse Pauper, Proud Mary, Keep on Chooglin’.

Type of Music: Late Sixties Blues (Swamp) Rock.

The second of the three albums CCR would produce in 68/69. And I like it a lot!! I know it´s too short with only 34 minutes of which 16 are used for the overlong jams Graveyard Train, a very slow Blues song, and Keep on Chooglin´  , a Suzie Q Rip-off.  And it´s got a cover of Good Golly Miss Molly that I don´t particularly like but that does point to future classics like Travelin Band  and Fortunate Son. And it does sound a bit sloppy from time to time and the album was probably recorded in a hurry. But the rough CCR sound is well established by now and John´s songs are getting better and better.
The best of CCR is yet to come and that says a lot when an album contains such absolute Classics like Born on the Bayou which is in the TOP 3 of my favourite CCR songs and the overplayed but still fresh sounding Proud Mary which would later be successfully covered by Ike and Tina Turner.
This is The place to start your Creedence collection. There is a remastered version waiting for you in the shops!!          

Rating: ******** (8 out of 10)

Black = Good Songs
Green = Great Songs
Red = Could Be Better

Who should buy this Record:  Everybody that loves John Fogerty´s Swamp Rock!!

Bruce Springsteen - The Wild The Innocent and the E-Street Shuffle Review

Bruce Springsteen  : The Wild, The Innocent & the E Street Shuffle (1973)                  
Songs: The E Street Shuffle, 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy), Kitty´s Back, Wild Billy´s Circus Story, Incident on 57th Street, Rosalita (Come Out Tonight), New York City Serenade.   

Type of Music: Early Seventies Rock/ R&B Influences.

Bruce´s second album is his own West Side Story, telling us Dylan like tales about the big city street life. With lots of Latin American influences both in words and in music. Living in a big city is like living in a great big Melting Pot. Lots of different cultures and influences. The same goes for the music on this Album.

Sometimes you will recognise bits and pieces of Dylan, Lou Reed, James Brown, Mink Deville or even Tom Waits. But all the songs have two common denominators: Balls and Soul!!
It is inevitable that one day all of this energy will lead to Born to Run.

It´s a very coherent album as well. Not really a bad song in sight although some songs are a bit overlong. I´m not too enthusiastic about the sound quality. Sounds a bit muddy.
The rhythms seem very odd from time to time during the songs but in the end it always just seem to work out fine. And that says something about the quality of the band although the drummer Vini Lopez is not always convincing.

On the other hand I really admire the organ and piano parts played by David Sancious. What a pity he left the band to start a career in jazz music. Absolute high point for me is his playing in Kitty´s Back, my choice for best song here. His playing reminds me of Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Also very good is his piano part on New York City Serenade.

Like Greetings from Asbury Park NJ, I find it difficult to listen to the whole album in one time without losing interest after about 25 minutes. I suppose it is because of Bruce´s somewhat monotonous voice. However, on an individual basis the songs are all okay.  

It´s a pity that Bruce would abandon these story like songs later in his career and would concentrate on short and to the point musical statements. But I´m looking in the future. Let´s end this little story by concluding that The Wild, The Innocent & the E Street Shuffle certainly is one of the best efforts by The Boss.        

Rating: ******** (8 out of 10)

Black = Good Songs
Green = Great Songs
Red = Could Be Better

Sgt.Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - Review

Sgt.Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - Beatles (1967)

Songs:  Sgt. Pepper´s Lonely Hearts Club Band, With a Little Help from my Friends, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Getting Better, Fixing a Hole, She´s Leaving Home, Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite, Within You Without You, When I´m Sixty-Four, Lovely Rita, Good Morning Good Morning, Sgt. Pepper´s Lonely Hearts Club Band Reprise, A Day in the Life.

Type of Music: Quality Pop with Psychedelic Influences.

It´s been called by some the greatest record ever made. Others consider it to be the first concept album. Many people regard it to be the best of the  Beatles Records.
Well, for me it´s non of the above. It´s not in my All Time Top 10 of Classic Rock Albums. And the fact that the title track is revisited at the end of the album is clearly not enough to consider Sgt. Pepper to be a Concept Album. There are too many styles represented here. And, for me at least, the best of the Beatles was still to come.     

Since we have now established what Sgt. Pepper is not, we can concentrate on what it does represent. First of all I consider it to be a Work of Art. Never before in my opinion was so much attention paid to the presentation of a record. I´m sure that many of you can at least partly describe the cover of the Album. The same attention was paid to the sound quality.

Sgt. Pepper is also a fine collection of songs. The variety of styles avoid the record to become boring even after many spins. There is the acid-rock of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, the Indian Chant Within You Without You written by George, the Circus Music of Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite, the Vaudeville of When I´m Sixty-Four, the power pop of Lovely Rita and the sad but lovely pop-ballad She´s Leaving Home.

There are a few minus points as well. Everybody who saw the Woodstock movie will agree that Joe Cocker made With a little help from my Friends his Song. Sorry Ringo!!
I also rate Good Morning Good Morning as a weaker song and the reprise of Sgt. Pepper is irrelevant.
And although I consider A Day in the Life one of the best songs on the record, there are inexplicable irritating flaws in the way John´s voice was recorded.

But these observations do not prevent Sgt. Pepper from being an essential Beatles Album. As such it should be part of any Pop/Rock collection.       

Black = Good Songs
Green = Great Songs
Red = Could Be Better

Rating:******** (8 out of 10)

Who should buy this Record: Everybody.